ROAR: PACE considers resolution on human rights in North Caucasus

Moscow for the first time has not criticized the resolution on human rights in the North Caucasian republics, approved by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on June 22.

The summer session of PACE, which opened in Strasbourg this week, is discussing a report drawn up by Swiss deputy Dick Marty. The document describes the situation with protecting human rights and affirming the rule of law in the region as “the most serious and delicate” in the whole geographic area covered by the Council of Europe.

The document – called “Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North Caucasus Region” – highlights the situation in the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan. Marty visited the republics in March.

Deputies are considering the draft resolution on the report that says disappearances of human rights activists in Chechnya “remain widely unpunished” and “misdeeds of the security forces” are unanswered.

In Dagestan, the report says, responses by the security forces are “not always lawful and productive.” Ingushetia has seen “an alarming upsurge of violence since 2009,” the document noted.

Any act of terrorism can only be fought effectively “while respecting fundamental rights,” the report stressed, paying tribute to human rights advocates, lawyers and journalists working in the region.

The draft resolution also calls on the Russian federal and regional authorities to use “the instruments provided by the law-based state” in combating terrorism. It also stress that in this fight other Council of Europe members “should cooperate with the Russian authorities.”

Speaking at the session of PACE on June 22, Marty called President Dmitry Medvedev’s words about the need to fight corruption in the region’s law enforcement agencies a “positive signal”.

“For the first time Russia may vote for the PACE’s resolution on the North Caucasus,” Vremya Novostey daily said. The resolution is considered the most favorable to Russia “since the European deputies started to review the situation with human rights in the region,” it added.

“However, after high-ranking representatives of the European Union met with Medvedev at the Russia-EU summit in Rostov-on-Don this month, Europe has already expressed concern over Moscow’s refusal to react to criticism over the North Caucasus,” the paper said. “Thus, Russia’s expectations of a ‘mild’ report may not justify,” it added.

During his visit to the North Caucasus in March, Marty stressed that “the goal of the PACE’s work is not to criticize Russia, but to help it,” the daily noted. “But the final text is always tougher than words said during official handshakes in [the republics’ capitals] Magas, Grozny and Makhachkala.”

“In any case, the tone of the new report on the North Caucasus seems to be milder than before,” the daily said. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian delegation in the PACE, described the report as “fairly honest.” According to him, it does not contain “attempts to thrust schemes of normalizing the situation” there, the paper said.

The Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on June 22 briefed the assembly’s session on the situation in his republic. The regional authorities are doing everything “to normalize the situation and strengthen the fight against corruption,” he said.

Yevkurov described the report as impartial and balanced, but proposed to compare the current situation to what happened in the republic several years ago. The federal authorities, human rights activists and Europeans approve of the positive changes in the republic, Vremya Novostey said.

Russian human rights activists are satisfied with the report, the daily noted. “It is very important that the Russian authorities understand that the stabilization in the region is not impossible without strict observance of human rights,” Oleg Orlov, head of the human rights center Memorial told the paper.

“The report very clearly depicts the most hard and painful problems of this region, particular causes of violations of human rights and dangers that await Russia if it continues previous policies,” Orlov noted.

The current circumstances are “specific” because the Russian president has repeatedly expressed in public his concern over the situation in the region and the fact that the Russian delegation seems to be ready to vote for the resolution at PACE, he said.

“Human rights activists are warning of alarming trends in Ingushetia and Dagestan where murders and disappearances of people are continuing,” the paper noted. “They are also afraid that European deputies may distract their attention from humanitarian problems of the North Caucasus if Russia this time will agree with the criticism.”

“On the other hand, too harsh criticism may provoke a negative reaction from Dmitry Medvedev, who, undoubtedly, expressed good will, meeting on May 19 with representatives of the human rights community involved in humanitarian problems of the North Caucasus,” the paper stressed.

Another newspaper, Kommersant, described the current PACE meeting as “a goodwill session.” “Russia will not prevent the Parliamentary Assembly from adopting a resolution on Caucasus, and PACE will consider the closing of the Russian-Georgian dossier,” the paper assumes. The discussion of the dossier started after the events of August 2008 in the Caucasus.

There are two reasons why PACE’s summer session may bring surprises, the daily said. “First, the Russian delegation has decided to make an unprecedented step and for the first time in 14 years is not intended to vote against a tough resolution on the observance of human rights in the North Caucasus.”

“Second, Russia expects this session to put an end to the debates on Georgia, which invariably turned into scandals and demands that Russia is deprived of its vote in the PACE,” the paper noted.

According to the daily, sources in the Russian delegation were not nervous even back in spring when Marty visited the region and prepared his report. He returned from Russia “more balanced” despite the criticism, they noted.

“For the first time in history” Russia will not vote against such a report, Kosachev told Kommersant. “It contains enough faults,” he said. “But the situation in the region does not remain the same and is changing for the better. Now the question is not about people’s lives, but about the situation with human rights.”

Another member of the delegation, the Federation Council’s member Aleksandr Pochinok has described the report as “good work that reflects reality.” The criticism is “balanced” and the violations mentioned really “have happened,” he told the paper.

At the same time, the Russian delegation has managed to exclude several “unfavorable wordings” from the draft resolution, Pochinok said. One of them described the political regime in the Chechen republic as “a cult of personality,” he noted.

Kosachev, in turn, said that “it is too strong an expression, which evokes associations with the other period of our history,” referring to the Josef Stalin’s era. As a result, the “atmosphere of a cult of personality” wording was replaced by “an atmosphere of personalization of power.”

In a separate development, PACE’s committee on monitoring may decide to close the Russian-Georgian dossier. “More deputies of the assembly think it would be better not to continue with the dossier but to draw up separate reports,” deputy head of the Russian delegation Leonid Slutsky told journalists. This would make it possible to monitor Russia’s and Georgia’s observance of their commitments, he added.

“If this happens, reports of the PACE monitoring committee, which long ago became headache for Moscow, will remain in the past,” Kommersant said. This issue will be considered according to the scenario of Geneva negotiations, “the only result of which is scheduling the date of another round of talks,” the paper said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT