22 January 2002
The conflict in the Chechen Republic
Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography
Rapporteur: Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Poland, Socialist Group
I. Conclusions of the committee
Recommendations to the Russian and Chechen authorities:
a. No forced returns;
b. Maintain the possibility of staying in the camps and benefiting from relief aid for all those who do not wish to return;
c. Create conditions for mass returns in security and dignity, and in particular increase accountability of the federal armed forces, step up investigations into the cases of human rights violations, increase civilian control over military actions;
d. increase efforts to promote the economic and social development and reconstruction of the republic;
e. involve representatives of the displaced population in the preparation of return programmes and projects;
f. consider joining the Council of Europe Development Bank with a view to benefiting from the financial opportunities offered by it for the reconstruction of Chechnya;
g. further simplify regulations concerning access for humanitarian agencies to the Chechen Republic;
h. consider alternative and more effective ways of the management of relief aid (for example payment of allowances instead of providing IDPs with food). Moreover, not oblige international humanitarian agencies to purchase humanitarian goods through a specialized Russian agency for higher prices than those on the free market;
i. exercise better control over the distribution of the relief aid and make that it arrives directly to those concerned;
j. exercise better control over the management of the camps and make camp managers more accountable in order to eliminate possible corruption and other irregularities;
k. consider the possibility of ensuring the presence of the representatives of the Prosecutor's Office in the camps;
l. promote the development of the civil society in Chechnya and facilitate the work of local NGOs
m. carry out regular visits by high ranking representatives of the Chechen administration to the Chechen refugee camps in neighbouring republics.
Recommendations to the international community:
a. increase the international presence in Chechnya;
b. step up assistance to IDPs in the Chechen republic and in Ingushetia;
c. step up financial aid;
d. promote the development of the civil society in Chechnya and cooperation with local NGOs.
II. Amendments on behalf of the committee
1. The committee proposes to complete para. 18 of the draft Resolution on the conflict in the Chechen Republic (Doc. 9319) by inserting after the words "to guarantee that the assistance is effectively and properly distributed", the following two sentences:
"In particular, the Assembly is deeply concerned by the alarming reports that up to 70% of relief aid does not reach directly those to whom it is addressed. These reports should be immediately verified and better accountability and transparency in the distribution of the assistance should be established".
2. The committee proposes to complete para. 21 of the draft Resolution on the conflict in the Chechen Republic (Doc. 9319) by adding in the end the following words:
"Consequently, the authorities should refrain from any kind of forced returns of refugees and displaced persons, and all those who wish to stay in the camps and benefit from relief aid should be given such a possibility."
III. Explanatory memorandum by Mr Iwiński
1. The present opinion is based on the information gathered from a number of sources including updated information received from relevant non-governmental organisations as well as international governmental and non-governmental organisations and associations. Moreover, the Rapporteur used the findings of his visit to Chechnya and Ingushetia which he carried out on 13-15 January 2001 (programme attached, cf. Appendix I).
2. Two years after the outbreak of the second armed conflict in Chechnya, the humanitarian situation continues to be difficult in the North Caucasus. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) accounts for almost 300 0002. Out of this figure, approximately 150 000 registered IDPs remain in Ingushetia, 130 000 in Chechnya and 13 000 in Dagestan, North Ossetia, Stavropol Krai, Kabardino-balkaria and Karachai-Cherkessia.
3. There is constant movement between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Despite the federal authorities’ efforts to encourage returns, no massive movements have been observed. To the contrary, new arrivals in Ingushetia are noted. For example, according to a UN survey, between August and October 2001, as many as 3220 new IDPs moved into Ingushetia from Chechnya. At the same time 1375 persons returned from Ingushetia to Chechnya.3
4. It is a matter of concern that since April 2001 there has been discontinuity in registration of IDPs in Ingushetia by the federal authorities. Thus, people displaced since that date, have no registration and consequently neither assistance nor rights linked to the status of the displaced persons. Their number is estimated at about 20-50 000.
5. Out of the total figure of 170-200 000 Chechen IDPs in Ingushetia, around 30 000 stay in camps, another 30 000 in “spontaneous settlements” and the rest are accommodated in private homes. They put a heavy burden on the local population which amounts to 300 000 people.
6. The situation in the camps is difficult, in particular during the winter months. The tents in the camps were made in 1999 to last for eight months, but many face now their third winter. There is a shortage of warm clothing and shoes, in particular for children. Food is distributed regularly but its quality is often bad, there are neither vegetables nor milk for children. Similarly, there is sometimes lack of medicines, in particular antibiotics, and some cases of tuberculosis and hepatitis (type A) have been reported.
7. Since April 2001 the Ingush authorities have not been receiving any compensation from the Russian federal authorities including compensation for provision of electricity to the camps. Almost all humanitarian relief assistance comes from the international community.
8. The situation in the spontaneous settlements is much more dramatic. Ad hoc settlements are often shelters built with sticks and bricks made of clay and paper. Disastrous living conditions prevail with inadequate sanitation, no gas nor electricity, which means no heating. These places are often overcrowded and many inhabitants belong to the most vulnerable categories of population, some of them having war injuries and traumas. Although medical treatment in principle is free, many IDPs complain that the hospitals accept only patients who can pay.
9. Having said that, the Rapporteur believes that the situation in Ingushetia, however difficult, remains under control and has even improved since his last visit in November 2000. In particular, pensions and social benefits are paid regularly, payment arrears have been regularised, many tents have been replaced and all IDPs have been moved away from railway carriages in Karabulak and Svernovodsk. Moreover, the situation in the field of education has considerably improved. All children attend schools. The Rapporteur visited a new school pour 550 children in the refugee camps in Karabulak, opened in 2001 and run by UNICEF.
10. The Rapporteur was told that around 13 000 host families have received on two occasions the allowances of 100$ each from the Swiss Government. This assistance has been highly appreciated by the persons concerned.
11. Furthermore, a number of Chechens staying in Ingushetia (according to the estimations by the authorities around 30%) should no longer be considered as IDPs but rather as economic migrants. They have set up small businesses and most probably will not return to Chechnya at all.
12. Since April 2001, the federal authorities claim that the situation in Chechnya allows for the return of IDPs, and they have been using different incentives to convince them to go back. For example pensions and social benefits are paid in the place of residence and there is no possibility to register as IDP any more. Undoubtedly the vast majority of IDPs wish to return but not surprisingly, present security conditions seem to prevent them from doing this.
13. The precarious security situation in Chechnya has made the conditions for international humanitarian intervention particularly difficult. Only in May 2000, it became possible for international organisations to initiate distribution of food and provide other assistance to the population inside Chechnya on a large scale. In Grozny, substantial food assistance has been provided since September 2000. Until now no international humanitarian organisation has permanent expatriate presence in Chechnya – they usually operate from Ingushetia.
14. Unfortunately, the security conditions are not the only obstacles to international humanitarian aid. Lengthy bureaucratic procedures (for example the registration and visas), obligation to purchase humanitarian goods through the specialized Russian humanitarian agency for higher prices, transit permits, restrictions on radio communications etc. have prevented many international organisations from undertaking activities in Chechnya.
15. The question of purchasing of humanitarian goods for higher prices needs more clarification. The Rapporteur was told that a large proportion of goods aimed for the distribution among IDPs is resold (sometimes by IDPs themselves) on the free market which results in considerable decrease in prices of these goods in the regions inhabited by IDPs. There have been proposals made by IDPs themselves to provide them with money allowances and not goods. In their view, it would not only allow them to buy more goods (for lower prices) but also adapt the food to individual needs (for example buy vegetables and milk for children – which are dramatically lacking in relief aid delivered in the camps)
16. On 31 October 2001, a Letter of Understanding was signed by the Government and representatives of the United Nations and other NGOs. This document hopefully will resolve some of the above-mentioned problems. For example, humanitarian workers will now get passes, valid for at least three months and guaranteeing freedom of movement within the republic.
17. The Rapporteur visited two camps in Znamenskoje and he noted tangible improvements since his last visit in November 2000. New tents arrived before and after the New Year to replace the old ones, erected in 1999. He was told that people from these two camps who wish so would be able to return to Grozny during the first three months of 2002. He also visited newly refurbished accommodation for returnees in Grozny.
18. It has to be stressed, however, that the conditions of living for the residents in Grozny remain particularly difficult. The city was severely devastated and the population which in the 1980s mounted to over 350 000 people and in 1997 to 213 000 persons was reduced to less than 20 000 inhabitants during the height of the military campaign in January 2000. At present the authorities estimate that approximately 150-200 000 people out of 700 000 living in Chechnya, stay in Grozny. Over 30% of the present population of Grozny live as IDPs. Since May 2000, most housing in conditions acceptable for shelter has been exhausted and there are limited prospects for finding shelter for those still in displacement. Apart from an improvement of the general security environment, reconstruction of houses is therefore a major precondition for a continued return of IDPs to Grozny.
19. The food is distributed by the two main international humanitarian non-governmental organisations operating in Grozny: the Czech People in Need Foundation (PINF) and the Danish Refugee Council/Danish Peoples Aid (DRC/DPA). Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the American International Rescue Committee (IRC) also provide food and non-food emergency assistance while Médecins du Monde (MDM) delivers medical aid to Grozny. UNHCR is also very active. The provision of the humanitarian assistance as a whole is presently insufficient to cover the minimal needs of the population in Grozny.
20. The socio-economic situation is very precarious. According to the information received from the federal authorities, the Russian Government has elaborated and is now implementing the Programme to Restore the Economy and the Social Sector of the Chechen Republic, approved in January 2001. The budget for the Programme for 2002 has tripled as compared to 2001. In cooperation with the local administration, approximately 69 000 temporary jobs mainly in the field of restoration, rehabilitation and construction have been organized. The reconstruction of the infrastructure is underway. The authorities plan to destroy, in cooperation with the Germans, the buildings which are unsuitable for reconstruction and replace them by new living houses constructed between Grozny and Argun. Furthermore, two heat and power supply stations have been made operational, an oil refinery in Grozny (producing 3 000 t of oil daily), and the gas supply system have been restored, some settlements have been refurbished, transport infrastructure including buses in Grozny and railway connection with Moscow has been restored, and telephone communication as well as air transport are about to be restored. A number of schools including three universities have opened in September 2001 and hospitals are being reconstructed. More than 10 newspapers are distributed in the republic (they are printed outside Chechnya), and 80% of the population receive three TV channels.
21. Starting from 1 November 2001 the unemployed in Chechnya (150 000) receive unemployment allowance. The number of retired people receiving pensions is announced to be 160 000. The aid for unemployment and the pensions are in many families the only income. They are bound to be registered on the territory of the Chechen Republic.
22. However, according to the reports provided by the NGOs, there is little evidence of reconstruction progress in the city. Some international organisations have distributed aid in construction materials.
23. Despite these efforts, less than 50% of Grozny’s children presently attend school. This finding calls for the urgent attention of humanitarian agencies providing assistance in the sector of education. More generally, there is great concern about the increasing frustration among young people about unemployment and no prospects for the future. Drug abuse and alcoholism spread among the young. The situation of many young people is additionally aggravated by the fact that they have not had any schooling for the last few years.
24. However, the precarious security situation is one of the main reasons why people displaced from Chechnya, and in particular from Grozny are reluctant to return. As long as serious violations of humanitarian law including murder, disappearances and torture, and human rights abuses still occur, there will be no mass returns. In this respect, the Rapporteur believes it would be desirable to establish a presence of the Prosecutor's Office also in the camps, so that IDPs could more easily lodge their complaints concerning the cases of the human rights violation. The Rapporteur also stresses that under no condition there should be forced returns.
25. It is clear that the humanitarian situation will remain precarious still for a long time and most vulnerable IDPs will rely heavily on outside support.
26. There is a real danger of decreasing international donor support to humanitarian operations in the North Caucasus as the emergency continues unresolved. This should be avoided and the Rapporteur calls on the donors to continue, and even step up their financial support.
Programme of the visit of Mr Iwiński to the Northern Caucasus, 13-15 January 2002
January 13, Sunday
Arrival in Moscow
18.50 Departure from Moscow to Mineralnye Vody
20.50 Arrival in Mineralnye Vody
Arrival at Yessentuki
Accommodation in the hotel, dinner
January 14, Monday
9.30 Departure from Mineralnye Vody to Znamenskoye (Chechen Republic)
10.30 Visit to the Center for the temporary displaced persons and one of the objects of winter accommodation for the temporary displaced persons in Znamenskoye
13.30 Meeting in the Office of Mr. Kalamanov, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic and with the representatives of the OCSE mission in the Chechen Republic
15.30 Departure to Grozny
18.00 Departure from Grozny to Mozdok
19.00 Departure from Mozdok to Mineralnye Vody
Dinner, accommodation for the night
January 15, Tuesday
9.00 Departure to the Republic of Ingushetia (Karabulak)
14.00 Departure to Moscow
19.00 Meeting with the media
Meetings hold by the Rapporteur during his visit to Chechnya and Ingushetia
1. Persons who accompanied the Rapporteur during the visit
– Mr L. SLUTSKY, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Committee on International Affairs;
– Mr V. VASILYEV, Deputy Minister of the Interior of the Russian Federation;
– Mr B. KHAMTCHIEV, Chairman of the Liquidation Commission of the Ministry on Federation, National and Migration Policy of the Russian Federation;
– Mr S. ILIASOV, Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic;
– Mr A. KOROBEYNIKOV, First Deputy to the President's Plenipotentiary to the North Caucasus;
– Mr A. TRETIAKOV, General;
– Mr Ahmar ZAVGAEV, Member of the Council of Federation;
– Mr G.T. KHRIPEL, Member of the Council of Federation.
2. Meetings in Znamenskoye
– Mr V. KALAMANOV, President’s special representative for the human rights in the Chechen Republic;
– Mr Ahmed ZAVGAEV, Head of administration of Nadterechnyj Region;
3. Meetings in Grozny
– Mr G. TROSHEV, General, Commandant of the army in the North Caucasus;
– Mr V. MOLTENSKOY, General, Commandant of the army in the Chechen Republic;
– Mr A. YESHKOV, FSB;
– Mr V. CHERNOV, Prosecutor of the Chechen Republic.
4. Meetings in Ingushetia
– Mr A. MALSAGOV, Acting President, Prime Minister of the Ingush Republic;
– Mr M. MAHREYEV, Deputy Prime Minister of Ingushetia.
Council of Europe parliamentary envoy: refugee situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia still difficult, but some ‘tangible improvements’
17.01.2002 - Although the humanitarian situation of refugees and displaced persons in the Chechen Republic and Ingushetia is still very difficult, there have been some “tangible improvements” as compared to the last visit, according to a Council of Europe parliamentarian who has just returned from a two-day visit to the region.
Tadeusz Iwiński (Poland, SOC), rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography and its chairperson, visited camps for displaced persons in Znamenskoye, Chechen Republic, and in Karabulak, Ingushetia, between 14 and 15 January. He said new tents had arrived in Znamenskoye, some of which had been erected, while the railway carriages used for accommodation in Karabulak and Sernovodsk - criticised in earlier reports for their terrible living conditions - had now disappeared.
“I was told that accommodation for all the people in the two refugee camps in Znamenskoye who would be willing to return to Grozny will be ready within the first three months of 2002,” said Mr Iwiński. “We saw some of this newly-refurbished accommodation in the city, and my impression is that people want to return - but only if they are sure they will be safe and security conditions allow. There must be no forced returns.” The parliamentarian added that he believed around 30 per cent of the refugees and displaced persons in Ingushetia could now be considered as economic migrants. “Some have set up small businesses there and cannot be expected to return to Chechnya,” he said.
Mr Iwiński will report to the 602-member Parliamentary Assembly during its plenary session in Strasbourg next week (21-25 January 2002). A debate on the conflict in the Chechen Republic is scheduled for the morning of Wednesday 23 January (see the Assembly’s website, http://assembly.coe.int, for a live webcast).
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee (Doc. 9319).
Committee for opinion: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography.
Draft opinion approved by the committee on 22 January 2002.
Secretariat of the Committee: Mr Lervik, Mrs Nachilo, Ms Sirtori.
1 See Doc. 9319.
2 Figures come from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the basis of statistics provided by the authorities, registration exercise, NGOs etc. They are subject to rapid changes.
3 Survey conducted at the checkpoint Vladikavkaz 1.