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Dissent of human rights activists about the situation in Chechnya


The Russian human rights community is split regarding the evaluation of the situation in Chechnya. Yesterday the president of the International Human Rights Assembly, Mikhail Arutyunov, stated that peaceful life has been reestablished in the Chechen republic, and that the mass media just doesnt want to acknowledge that. Human rights activists from Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group agreed that recently there have been fewer murders and kidnappings, but they think that Chechnya still has a long way to go to restore peaceful life.

Yesterday the president of the International Human Rights Assembly, Mikhail Arutyunov, together with the Representation of the Chechen Republic at the President of the Russian Federation, published the results of the roundtable Chechnya Today and Tomorrow, which was carried out at the end of June. From the document it would appear that the process of reestablishing normal life in Chechnya continues. Everywhere schools work, in Grozny three state universities were opened, in Gudermes eight private institutes and colleges. There are three TV channels, 16 newspapers, mosques are being rebuilt, and even the construction of an Orthodox church was completed. According to Mikhail Aryutyunov, journalists write in an extremely biased way about what is happening in Chechnya. They only write about riots of the federal troops and other armed forces, and the positive side, the movement forward, is either not discussed at all or discussed very poorly.

In the opinion of the speakers, of the three possible versions of a future Chechnya withdrawal of membership from the Russian Federation, withdrawal of Russian troops and administration by UNO and OSCE, or under any circumstances keeping Chechnya in the Russian Federation the third version was chosen. Chechnya should solve present and future problems by itself, with the gentle political and socio-economic support of the federal center. The press secretary of the Chechen representation in Moscow, Edi Isaev, explained that gentle support means a Chechen-prepared treaty about the limitation of power between Russia and Chechnya, which, however, is not convenient for the Russian side and therefore has not been signed yet. The Chechens mainly want to independently use the financial means that are provided for the restoration of the republic. The federal center disagrees. Regarding the future status of Chechnya, Edi Isaev claims that already in the times of Dudaev an unofficial sociological survey showed that 99% of the Chechens supported the idea that Chechnya stay a member of the Russian Federation.

Russian human rights activists who track the state of affairs in Chechnya do not share the optimism of Mikhail Arutyunov and Edi Isaev. According to a member of the human rights organization Memorial, Dmitriy Grushkin, only in the first half of this year 150 people in Chechnya were kidnapped, 86 of those without a trace until today. Of the others, 57 were freed, five were found killed, and two were found in prison. Information obtained by Memorial reveals that since the year 2002 altogether 1632 people have been kidnapped, 943 of whom havent been found to this day. The number of people killed in the course of cleansings in this time amounts to 3,000 people. However, Dmitryi Grushkin admits that recently the number of killings and kidnappings has dropped, but it remains the main problem.

In the opinion of the executive director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Tatyana Lokshina, all signs of an improvement of the situation in Chechnya are merely superficial. Examples include the recent reconstruction of some buildings in the center of Grozny or the new possibility for Chechens to talk by cell phone. Yet according to official data the level of unemployment has reached 75%, and the only way to earn some money for young people remains the war. The only choice for them is if they will fight in the mountains or for Ramzan Kadyrov. Still nobody believes that he or she is safe. The tyranny of the federal troops has been replaced by the tyranny of the local force structures. As for the status of Chechnya, according to this human rights activist, the overwhelming majority of Chechens do not care if Chechnya stays within the Russian Federation or becomes an independent state: The people just want to lead a normal life; everything else is not important to them.

[13.07.2005]

Source: The newspaper "Novye Izvestiya"

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