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Was the Council of Europe fenced off from legal Experts?

RUSSIA, Nizhniy Novgorod. (Info-center Society of Russian-Chechnyan Friendship SRCF). On September 7th in Nizhniy Novgorod the Council of Europe began its conference on intercultural dialogue. However this forum appeared to be closed to Russian nongovernmental organizations. The NGOs themselves estimate that this is unprecedented practice in the carrying out of such international events.

The international conference on questions of intercultural and ecumenical dialogue is organized by the Russian Federation within the framework of its presidency of the Council of Europe. According to the official press release of the Council of Europe, nearly three hundred officials, experts, and leaders of religious communities from different countries of Europe took part in the conference. Other participants included Vladimir Jakovlev, the minister of regional development of the government of the Russian Federation, Ren van der Linden, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Thomas Hammarberg, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe.

However, none of the social or preventative organizations which deal with the question of interethnic tolerance in Russia were permitted to take part in the conference and therefore did not receive detailed information on this forum.

The SRCF received the initial information on the conference from a dispatch released by the Council of Europe during the summer. However, all further attempts at finding out how it would be possible to take part in the conference yielded no results. Neither Ella Pamfilova, the chairman of the Committee of the President of the Russian Federation for the development of a civil society and human rights, nor the office of the Russian Federation�s ombudsman Vladimir Lukin received any such information. Likewise, none of the Russia- Chechnya Information Agency (RCIA) Nizhniy Novgorod organizations working in the field of tolerance who were questioned had been invited to participate in the work of the forum.

The editorship of the RCIA has had direct communication with Strasbourg and an explanation is sought for why such a closed form of action has been taken with regard to this painful theme for Russia. According to received information, the 4th board of directors of the Council of Europe dealt with the preparation of direct action on questions of education, culture and cultural heritage, youth and sports. However they came to an agreement with the Russian Federation that the question of the notification and the invitation of participants to the conference should remain the responsibility of Russia.

According to the agency 'Nizhniy Novgorod', the international conference of the Council of Europe � Dialogue of Cultures and Inter-Religious Cooperation � should take place on September, 7-8 in accordance with the program of action carried out within the framework of the Russian Federation�s presidency of the Committee of ministers of the Council of Europe as one component of the forum�s theoretical part �Russia United�.

Our Commentary:

The Statement by Prima-News that representatives of public organizations did not take part in the conference of the Council of Europe on intercultural dialogue is invalid. Amongst the participants at the conference were Ashot Ayrapetyan (the Center for Interethnic cooperation), Alexander Verhovsky (the Information-Analysis Center "OWL"), Alexander Brod (the Moscow Office for Human Rights), and also heads of national public organizations of Moscow, Nizhni Novgorod, Kazan, Perm, Saratov, etc. Of course the organizers of the conference had their own ideas about who should be present at the conference. The discussions carried out at the conference as well as the final outcome bear testament to the fact that there were no fundamental disputes or disagreements between the Russian and the foreign participants. Hence, the selection of participants chosen from among the nongovernmental organizations has had no affect on the outcome of the conference.

Source: Prima-News

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