PACE Considers Chechnya’s Ups and Downs

The Bureau of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly considered results of the referendum in Chechnya on Monday. A plenary session of the Assembly is to be held on Wednesday where delegates will listen to a report on human rights in Chechnya. As Germany radio Deutsche Welle reports, results of the referendum and prospects of peaceful settlement of the North Caucasus conflict have been on the PACE’s agenda within a whole week.

PACE Chairman Peter Schieder says that the Parliamentary Assembly supports “any initiative that guarantees peace and stability in Chechnya and that agrees with the norms and principles of the Council of Europe.”

Recently relations between Russia and PACE have revealed more understanding. Finally, after a heated discussion PACE lifted the recommendation to postpone the referendum on Chechnya constitution. Following the decision, Lord Judd declared about his resignation. In fact, a special commission of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly supported the draft of a new constitution of Chechnya right before the referendum. The commission thinks that adoption of the Chechen constitution “will allow to create a new category of institutions; this will be the first stage of handing authorities over to the republic on the basis of opportunities provided by the Russian Constitution.” (Nevertheless, PACE observers had no courage to go to Chechnya).

At yesterday’s press-conference Peter Schieder told PACE’s most ardent champions of democracy that in order to ask Russian authorities to postpone the Chechnya referendum some alternative decision was to have been suggested. By the way, parliamentarians agreed to this opinion at PACE session held in January. As Russia’s news agency RIA Novosti reports, PACE parliamentarians will focus on results of the referendum and on the voting process to give an estimate to the constitutional process in Chechnya.

In his turn, Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said in an interview to Deutsche Welle that “cessation of war and human rights observation in Chechnya are issues of top priority. We should find a stable compromise to Chechnya’s striving for autonomy and the necessity to save Russian Federation’s territorial integrity. Under the present-day situation it would be politically incorrect to demand that territorial and national independence must be given to Chechnya; that would intensify Moscow’s distrust toward European structures even more. And this is not PACE’s objective at all; the Assembly aims at contacts establishment, not inflammation of hostility.” Elmar Brok added that the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly could only “point out the defects. As the practical experience shows, pressure can never bring desired results. First of all, Russia itself must be interested in international recognition of its policy, PACE may only give recommendations how to be a success with it."

Recently member of the PACE legal affairs and human rights commission, Bundestag delegate Rudolf Bindig suggested that a so-called “international tribunal must be set up to investigate crimes in Chechnya”, this new institution must resemble the Hague Tribunal. But the suggestion arose strict criticism of Dmitry Rogozin, the chairman of the RF Duma committee for international affairs; he criticized Bindig as a bitter foe of Russia. Elmar Brok commented on the suggestion and said that “legally Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation”, that is why creation of any analogue to the Hague tribunal is out of the question in this particular case.

Meanwhile, Lord Judd once again emphasizes it’s necessary to conduct negotiations with Chechen separatists. However, he made a stipulation at that and stated “it is no use to have negotiations with some representatives of Chechen separatists”, with those people who can “be characterized as al-Qaeda terrorists.” Lord Judd says that terrorists are humans as well, some of them “are fighting for interests of the Chechen people.” His opinion is that it is still possible to conduct negotiations with such separatists. Obviously, the human rights activist hasn’t studied yet results of the referendum on Chechnya constitution; as it has been proved, majority of the Chechen population are against war in the republic, they support initiative of the federal center to strengthen the vertical of power and to preserve the Chechen republic in the Russian Federation structure.

At the same time, observers say that despite of the outlined positive tendencies in the relations between Moscow and PACE, objections of the European Parliament against referendum on Chechnya constitution are still very strong. In any case, it’s highly likely that PACE will issue its verdict on human rights in Chechnya very soon.

Besides the Chechen problem, European parliamentarians also focus upon the situation in Iraq. The Council of Europe Parliament Assembly thinks that it’s actually very important to put an end to the armed conflict in Iraq and start settlement of the problem with peaceful methods.

Sergey Yugov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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