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Civil rights activists offer support to the �helpless� Office of the Public Prosecutor regarding Chechnya

As an IA REGNUM correspondent told, today in Kislovodsk (Stavropol� Territory) the international conference �Strengthening of the Role of Law-Enforcement Organs in the Protection of Human Rights in the Chechen Republic� , which was opened on July 28th, is concluding its work.

Representatives and experts from the Council of Europe took part in the work of this conference. Participants in particular were: The Commissioner for Human Rights from the Council of Europe, Alvaro Hil-Robles, the Ambassador of the European Commission in Russia, Franco Marc, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, the Chairman of the Russian Presidential Council for Development Assistance for Civil Society Institutions and for Human Rights, Ella Pamfilova, the well-known human rights activists Lyudmila Alekseeva, Sergei Kovalev and Oleg Orlov, representatives of the Russian Presidential Executive Office, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor, the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment , and also representatives from key ministries and departments in the North Caucasus.

In the course of one and a half days the participants were to develop ways of cooperation between the authorities, power structures and human rights organizations in order to solve the main problems in the area of human rights in Chechnya.

The first day of the conference was presided by the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin. In his address to the participants of the forum he declared that the ultimate goal of society is that every man and woman in Chechnya feel safe. He also stressed that in Russia it is necessary to separate human rights movements from political activities.

Ella Pamfilova remarked that in spite of some positive changes, the situation in Chechnya remains difficult. According to Ms. Pamfilova, the biggest problem is still that people just disappear. She consulted the following data: In the period from 2000 to 2005, 1,834 criminal cases were charged about the disappearances of 2,547 people. Only 547 of these cases ended up in court, and only in individual cases were there defendants.

The Commissioner for Human Rights from the Council of Europe, Alvaro Hil-Robles, expressed his hope that the human rights violations, which continue to occur in Chechnya, will be successfully overcome with the help of joined forces. The Commissioner added that the problem in Chechnya is not merely an intra-Chechen problem, but Europe considers it to be her problem, too.

The evaluation of the Ambassador of the European Commission in Russia, Franco Marc, was more rigid. He said that the lawlessness that has existed in Chechnya up until now, must finally come to an end. In order to achieve this he thinks it necessary to combine the power of the Russian authorities, society and European institutions.

The report of the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of the Russian Federation in the Southern Federal District, Nikolai Shepel�, caused a lively reaction among the participants. As an example of the successful work of the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Chechnya, Nikolai Shepel� informed the participants about the liberation of the Magomedov family (21 days in captivity) and of relatives of Maskhadov (5 months in captivity). This evoked a variety of reactions from the human rights activists, but the Deputy Chief Prosecutor preferred not to go into details.

In the course of Nikolai Shepel�s report the subject of the Cossack village Borozdinovskaya, whose Avar population left Chechnya because of oppression by forces from the Ministry of Defense, was also mentioned.

The Chechen president Alu Alkhanov addressed Nikolai Shepel� with complaints: Why do representatives of the Public Prosecution and the militia not take part in special war operations? Shepel� answered that the Office of the Public Prosecutor has no access to control on special operations which are carried out by sub-departments of the Ministry of Defense in Chechnya, as happened in Borozdinovskaya when members of the Public Prosecution and the militia were not allowed to come near the village.

The �Memorial� representative, Oleg Orlov, presented information about the extremely low level of success in investigations of crimes connected with the disappearances. He declared that work of human rights structures in this area has not been helpful for society or for the victims� relatives. In the opinion of Oleg Orlov, one of the reasons for the lack of success in this field is the lack of safety guarantees for witnesses and the impunity of people and structures whose implication in the vanishing of people is commonly known in Chechnya.

This topic was continued by the �Memorial� lawyer Kirill Koroteev, who proposed an initiative about the foundation of a joint commission consisting of members of law-enforcement structures and human rights organizations. The commission will be entrusted with the investigation on the ten most difficult cases of disappearances in Chechnya. In the course of this work the human rights activists want to reveal at what stage the investigation stops being effective, what the reason for stagnation is. On the basis of this work the commission is to create algorithms and to develop investigation models.

The suggestion from �memorial� caused an argument among the participants of the conference. The representatives of the law-enforcement organs of Chechnya considered that an investigation carried out together with non-governmental organizations would be contrary to Russian legislation and would not lead to any success.

The director of the Institute for Human Rights, Sergei Kovalev, and the chairwoman of the board of directors of the center �Demos�, Tat�yana Lokshina, supported the initiative from �Memorial�. In their opinion, this would not be contrary to the Russian constitution and could, if both sides show some goodwill, lead to a serious breakthrough in the investigation on cases about vanished people and, as a result, to a considerable decline in the number of kidnappings in Chechnya. They called the present situation catastrophic and estimated the Public Prosecution to be helpless under the given conditions in Chechnya.

The Grozny representative of �Memorial�, Natal�ya Estemirova, suggested that the militia data on people who have been found killed be accessible to the victims� relatives. �We understand that this would immediately decrease the number of people missing by several times, and by the same amount increase the number of people killed and tortured to death, but this is a necessary measure�, Esterimova said. Furthermore, she informed the participants that since 2003 in Chechnya a secret ban on the topic of disappearances has been put into effect in the state mass media. As a rule, only the relatives of victims are engaged in the investigations.


Source: IA Regnum

� 1993-2003

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