4 June 2010
Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North-Caucasus Region
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Dick MARTY, Switzerland, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights notes that the situation in the North Caucasus region, particularly in the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan, constitutes the most serious situation in the entire geographical area encompassed by the Council of Europe in terms of human rights protection and the affirmation of the rule of law.
In the Chechen Republic, the current authorities continue to maintain a generalised climate of fear, notwithstanding the undeniable successes in the sphere of reconstruction and the distinct improvement of the region's infrastructures, which had been laid to waste by two cruel and devastating wars. Nevertheless, the human rights situation and the functioning of justice and democratic institutions continue to give cause for the gravest concern: successive disappearances of the government's opponents and human rights defenders still remain widely unpunished and are not elucidated with due diligence.
In Ingushetia, constructive dialogue has been forged between the authorities and civil society since the new President came to power. It must nevertheless be pointed out that there has been a worrying resurgence of violence since 2009, resulting in some cases in assassinations and disappearances of opponents to the government and journalists, without any prosecutions to date.
Dagestan has also recently experienced a resurgence of acts of terrorism, prompting responses from the security forces that, unfortunately, are not always lawful and productive. The admirable tradition of peaceful secular cohabitation between Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities founded on mutual tolerance could be jeopardised by the rise of extremism and inappropriate responses from the authorities.
The Committee notes that the European Court of Human Rights has condemned the Russian Federation for serious human rights violations in the region in over 150 judgments and stresses the importance of the prompt and complete implementation of these judgments.
The Committee is making a number of proposals aimed at putting a stop to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of human rights violations and restoring the people's trust in the law enforcement agencies, without which it will not be possible to defeat the rise of extremism and terrorism, which the Committee condemns in the most resolute terms, expressing its solidarity with the victims on all sides.
A. Draft resolution2
1. The Parliamentary Assembly notes with relief the end of such acts of war as the bombing and shelling of inhabited areas which had devastating effects on the civilian population during the “two Chechen wars”; it commends the impressive efforts made by the authorities of the Russian Federation and of the Chechen Republic to rebuild towns often reduced to heaps of rubble, and to restore and improve the country’s infrastructures; this has indubitably bettered the living conditions of the inhabitants after so many years of severe hardship.
2. The Assembly recalls its Resolution 1479 (2006), in which it warned the Russian Federation against the danger of the entire North Caucasus region flaring up because of the widespread violence prevailing in the Chechen Republic; systematic human rights violations and the climate of complete impunity were bound to foster the rise of extremist movements and their propagation beyond the borders of the Chechen Republic. It must be acknowledged today that those fears were alas founded.
3. The Assembly has already firmly condemned terrorist acts on many occasions. There can be no justification whatsoever for having recourse to acts of indiscriminate violence against the civil population; these are dastardly and abhorrent deeds. The Assembly expresses its compassion and solidarity for the families of the victims of the recent Moscow Metro bombings and of the countless attacks continually made on the population of the Caucasian republics.
4. The Assembly observes that the situation in the North Caucasus region, particularly in the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan, constitutes today the most serious and most delicate situation from a standpoint of safeguarding human rights and upholding rule of law, in the entire geographical area covered by the Council of Europe:
4.1. In the Chechen Republic, the current authorities continue to nurture a climate of pervading fear despite the undeniable successes in the sphere of reconstruction and the appreciable improvement of infrastructures in this region torn by two cruel and devastating wars. The human rights situation, like the functioning of justice and democratic institutions, nonetheless continues to arouse the keenest anxieties: recurrent disappearances of government’s opponents and human rights defenders still remain widely unpunished and are not elucidated with due diligence, reprisals are taken against the families of persons suspected of belonging to illegal armed factions (setting fire to their dwellings; the close relatives of the suspect or suspects are abducted or receive dire threats), there reigns a climate of continuous intimidation of the media and civil society, and the judicial organs plainly do nothing about the misdeeds of the security forces. All this occurs in an atmosphere of personalisation of power which, given its disproportion, appears disgraceful in a democracy;
4.2. In Ingushetia, since the appointment of the new President, constructive dialogue has grown up between the ruling power and civil society. An alarming upsurge of violence since 2009 is nevertheless to be observed, notably murders and disappearances of opponents of the government and journalists which have to this day remained with no judicial follow-up whatsoever. The President himself has suffered a brutal assassination attempt and in circumstances which have hitherto not been fully elucidated. The Assembly encourages him to continue his policy towards a more stable situation in the Republic through dialogue with the civil society;
4.3. More recently, Dagestan also underwent a fresh outbreak of terrorist acts which have unfortunately prompted responses of the security forces which are not always lawful and productive. The admirable age-old tradition of peaceable cohabitation of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities based on mutual tolerance – the town of Derbent is a striking example of this – is likely to be imperilled by the rise of extremism and the inappropriate official reactions.
5. The suffering of the close relatives of thousands of missing persons in the region and their inability to get over their grief constitute a major obstacle to true reconciliation and lasting peace. The International Committee of the Red Cross, armed with its recognised experience in this field, has made concrete and realistic proposals to the Russian authorities to cast light on the fate of as many missing persons as possible.
6. The Assembly takes note of the very numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights – over 150 decisions to date – finding grave and repeated violations of fundamental rights in the region, notably in the Chechen Republic. The Court has thus been compelled to assume a role of last-ditch protection for a very large number of victims:
6.1. In many cases before it, the Court has found that the Russian authorities were directly responsible for the violations of the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the prohibition of torture (Article 3);
6.2. It repeatedly noted the absence of a real and effective investigation, in breach of the Convention, in cases where representatives of the security forces were suspected of being responsible for abductions and torture;
6.3. In a large number of cases, it also held that the treatment meted out by the representatives of the security forces to the close relatives of the abducted persons constituted inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention;
6.4. Overwhelmed by a ceaseless influx of applications, the Court gives priority to the cases where its swift intervention can aid the protection and relief of the victims of the gravest violations, numerous applicants in the North Caucasus region among them.
7. Concerning the execution of these Court judgments, the Assembly welcomes the specific efforts made by the Russian authorities not only to pay promptly financial compensation which the Court awards victims – whose amount is far more symbolic than substantive – but also genuinely to actuate investigations in cases where the Court has ascertained neglect in that respect. It finds, however, that appreciable results in the matter are still awaited and regrets that the special departments set up in the investigative committees have not yet succeeded in solving the problems of collaboration and co-ordination between the various services.
8. The climate of impunity illustrated by the Court’s judgments, and the passiveness of the authorities which is condemned therein, especially in numerous cases of crimes against emblematic figures of civil society, seriously undermine the population’s trust in the security forces and the state institutions generally, and thus feed the nefarious spiral of violence.
9. The Assembly, as it stated in Resolution 1539 (2007) concerning the human rights violations committed by the United States and its allies in the name of combating terrorism, forcefully reaffirms its aversion to any act of terrorism, and remains convinced that terrorism can only be fought effectively while respecting fundamental rights and the tenets of rule of law:
9.1. In any law-based state, and with stronger reason in all Council of Europe member states, forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings and secret detentions committed by representatives of the state authorities, condoned or not prevented, much less combated by them, are unacceptable acts to be unreservedly condemned;
9.2. These outrages and omissions erode the very co-existence within society, as they destroy the population’s trust in the institutions, which dooms to failure any attempt to contend effectively with the terrorist threat and instead favours the rise of extremism;
9.3. Human rights violations committed by the authorities finally confer an aura of martyrdom on the terrorists, whereas in fact they are no more than criminals who should be treated as such;
9.4. The use of illegal, even downright criminal, methods against terrorists carries a strong risk of arousing an impulse of sympathy towards them, which can only strengthen them in their motivation and give them a sense of legitimacy, of fighting a state that resorts to unlawful methods;
9.5. The physical elimination of suspects who do not oppose any armed resistance is not only illegal but is also a counter-productive tactic. A lawful arrest in accordance with the procedural requirements and arrangements for encouraging co-operation with the justice system make it possible to combat and neutralise criminal organisations and terrorist networks more effectively;
9.6. The criminalisation and victimisation of many innocent people merely add further fuel to the spiral of violence. This is truer considering that the North Caucasus region is still marked by entrenched clan traditions, including the custom of vengeance.
10. The Assembly pays tribute to human rights activists, lawyers and journalists working in difficult circumstances and often in peril of their lives to help victims obtain justice and denounce abuses. It is deeply saddened by the violent death or the disappearance of personalities such as Anna Politkovskaia, Natalia Estemirova, Stanislav Markelov, Magomed Yevloyev, Maksharip Aushev, Zarema Gaisanova, Zarema Sadulayeva, Rashid Ozdoyev and many others, and expresses its perplexity and anguish at the fact that to date none of these cases has been elucidated by the investigating system.
11. The Assembly also expresses its concern over the deterioration of the situation of women in the Chechen Republic. In contrast with other Caucasian republics, a rigid interpretation of religious norms is imposed which, moreover, seems to be at variance with the religious and cultural traditions in the region.
12. It is also anxious that many Chechen exiles in several European countries have been pressured by envoys of the Chechen leadership to return home and submit to his power. There are strong indications that the Chechen power, or at least circles close to it, were directly implicated in the murder of Umar Israilov on the streets of Vienna.
13. The Assembly therefore calls upon
13.1. the Russian central and regional executive and judicial authorities to:
13.1.1. combat terrorism by availing themselves of the instruments provided by the law-based state and to look for the causes of the ongoing radicalisation and of the growing hold of religious extremism;
13.1.2. bring to trial in accordance with the law all culprits of human rights violations, including members of the security forces, and to clear up the many crimes which have gone unpunished, especially crimes against the personalities listed above (paragraph 10);
13.1.3. intensify co-operation with the Council of Europe in enforcing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, especially where they concern reinforcement of the individual measures to clear up the cases of, in particular, abduction, murder and torture in which the Court has ascertained a lack of proper investigation;
13.1.4. be guided by the example of other countries which have had to contend with terrorism, particularly as regards the implementation of measures conducive to the suspects’ co-operation with justice in dismantling the terrorist networks and the criminal entities that exist within the security forces, and to prevent further acts of violence;
13.1.5. co-operate more closely with the organisations working on the ground in defence of human rights and of civil society as a whole, and to protect their staff members effectively against possible reprisals;
13.1.6. implement the proposals of the International Committee of the Red Cross to resolve as far as possible the serious problem of missing persons, and to create favourable conditions to renewed ICRC visits to detainees arrested and held in relation with the situation in the Northern Caucasus;
13.1.7. persevere in efforts to build up the regional economy with an equitable balance between the republics, paying close attention to the creation of steady jobs for young people, who have a very high unemployment rate, moreover one of several factors causing social unease, the ongoing radicalisation, and crime;
13.1.8. give their earliest consent to the publication of the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) concerning the North Caucasus region;
13.1.9. promote initiatives at every level to enhance intercultural and interfaith dialogue for marked improvement in knowledge about the Caucasian populations and in their integration into the Russian Federation;
13.2. both Chambers of the Russian Parliament to devote their utmost attention to the situation in the North Caucasus and to demand exhaustive explanations of the executive and judicial authorities concerning the malfunctions observed in the region and mentioned in this resolution, and to stipulate that the necessary measures be applied;
13.3. all other Council of Europe member countries to:
13.3.1. co-operate with the Russian authorities in the fight against terrorism, insisting on compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court’s judgments in all circumstances;
13.3.2. guarantee adequate protection to the Chechen exiles who have been harboured in their territory and are still in danger as a result of threats, and to co-operate with each other to neutralise the networks that target Caucasian refugees;
13.3.3. consider with the greatest care and caution extradition requests in respect of exiles from the North Caucasian republics who would risk being killed, subjected to torture or an unfair trial, or any treatment contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
14. The Assembly pays tribute to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) for their action in the North Caucasus, and invites them to maintain and further intensify their commitment. It urgently requests that the necessary resources be made available to them.
B. Draft recommendation3
1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution ... (2010) on legal remedies for human rights violations in the North-Caucasus Region and reminds the Committee of Ministers that it regards the situation in the North Caucasus region, particularly the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia and Dagestan, as the most serious and most delicate situation from a standpoint of human rights and the rule of law in the entire area covered by the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.
2. It therefore invites the Committee of Ministers to:
2.1. pay the utmost attention to the development of the human rights situation in the North Caucasus;
2.2. in enforcing the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights concerning this region, emphasise the prompt and complete elucidation of the cases in which the Court has ascertained an absence of effective investigation;
2.3. consider creating, within the Council of Europe and with the collaboration of non-governmental organisations working in this field, a record-keeping system for the witness statements, documents and evidence substantiating human rights violations committed in the region, in the firm belief that genuine lasting conciliation has to be attained through an effort of recollection and truth.
3. It recommends that the Committee of Ministers assign itself the monitoring of the Russian Federation’s commitments concerning the state of democracy, human rights and rule of law as regards the situation in the North Caucasus (Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on compliance with commitments accepted by member states of the Council of Europe of 10 November 1994, paragraph 1, third indent).
C. Explanatory memorandum by Mr Marty, rapporteur
Table of contents
3. General points
4. The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights
4.1. Key figures
4.2. Typical nature of the violations found
4.3. Reprisals against applicants
4.4. Implementation of the Court's judgments
5. Some frightening figures
6. The problem of missing persons – a role for the Red Cross
7. Some exemplary cases
8. Additional considerations
Appendix I: List of cases transmitted to the Russian authorities
Appendix II: Presentation of cases illustrating the malfunctioning of the judicial system
Appendix III: Programme of the Rapporteur’s visit to the Russian Federation, 22-27 March 2010
1. Let us begin by outlining the path travelled by this report. The problem of the human rights situation in the North Caucasus has already been the subject of past Assembly reports. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the rapporteur would have liked to re-examine the issue before now, given the situation in the region. For reasons beyond the control of the Committee and the rapporteur, the presentation of this report has been somewhat delayed. An initial motion for a resolution was referred by a Bureau decision of 2 October 2006 to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for a simple information report,4 and not for a normal report. The committee initially appointed Mr Paschal Mooney (Ireland, ALDE) as rapporteur; following Mr Mooney's withdrawal, it appointed Mr Dick Marty (Switzerland, ALDE) as rapporteur on 8 June 2007. On 12 March 2007 the Committee took note of an introductory memorandum5 and decided to invite the Russian delegation to submit to the rapporteur the comments of their country's authorities on the questions raised in the document.6 On 26 June 2007, the Committee heard a statement by the rapporteur and authorised him to travel to Moscow and, where applicable, the North Caucasus region by the end of 2007. On 13 December 2007, the Committee requested the Bureau to refer the matter to it for a normal report. On 15 April 2008, the Committee approved and declassified a supplementary introductory memorandum7 and decided to forward it to the Bureau. On 23 June 2008, the Bureau referred the matter to the Committee, this time for a normal report, on the understanding that it would adopt the report in time for the Monitoring Committee to be able to take it into account for its forthcoming report on the Russian Federation. On 25 June 2008, the Committee held an exchange of views with human rights defenders from the North Caucasus region and confirmed Dick Marty's appointment as rapporteur, authorising him anew to make a fact-finding visit to the North Caucasus region. On 11 September 2009, the Committee held an exchange of views on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights relating to the region and the execution of the Court's respective judgments. On 30 September 2009, the Committee examined and declassified a second information report on security and human rights in the region.8 After several postponements for various reasons, the rapporteur managed to make a fact-finding visit to Moscow and the North Caucasus region between 22 and 27 March 2010.9
2. It is not the purpose of this report to put forward a socio-political analysis of the North Caucasus region. However, an assessment of the human rights situation does require us to take account of the cultural, socio-economic, political and historical context. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we will therefore attempt to portray, at least in outline, the special characteristics and circumstances which, in our opinion, provide a clearer understanding of the situation.
3. By their very nature, Parliamentary Assembly reports are in no way intended to pass verdicts of guilt or absolution. Any criticism voiced is always made constructively, with the intention of asserting the Council of Europe's values and, if necessary, advocating improvements in the application of the European Convention on Human Rights, the fundamental charter to which all the member states are committed. These reports, and the resolutions and recommendations which accompany them, ultimately pursue one sole objective: to uphold and protect the fundamental rights and dignity of the women and men who live on our continent. A constant and united drive to defend this common heritage of values is the prerequisite for ensuring peace, justice and prosperity on our continent, in the belief that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (Martin Luther King).
4. Before travelling to the Caucasus at long last, we made contact with numerous individuals with good knowledge of the region or special links to this highly complex situation. We travelled to Moscow and the three Caucasus republics – Ingushetia, the Chechen Republic and Dagestan – from 22 to 27 March 2010. It was a particularly intense and very enriching visit, impeccably organised, from all points of view, by the Russian Federation Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. The Caucasus hospitality and human warmth afforded to us were extraordinary, of a kind we have rarely experienced on similar visits and which we found deeply touching. Special thanks are due in particular to our colleague, Ilyas Umakhanov, member of Russia's Council of the Federation, who accompanied us throughout the visit, ever attentive and willing to cater for our every request and desire. Our colleague Leonid Slutsky travelled with us to the Chechen Republic and facilitated our dealings with people on the spot. Also providing a discreet but ever efficient presence was the secretary of the Russian Federation Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, Valery Levitsky, to whom we express our thanks. Thanks are also due to Konstantin Kosachev, Chair of the Delegation, who made our visit possible. We were able to talk at some length with the Presidents of the three republics, the judicial, police and prison authorities, the human rights Ombudsmen and several NGOs, at both regional and federal level. In Moscow we also held talks with the Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandr Khloponin, the Russian President's plenipotentiary representative in the North Caucasus region. Our visit, which entailed numerous journeys, called for substantial security arrangements and we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who ensured our safety with great professionalism.
5. Before going on to the subject-matter itself, mention should be made of the last two reports by our former colleague, Rudolf Bindig, on "The human rights situation in the Chechen Republic" of 13 March 200310 and 20 September 200411 and "Human rights violations in the Chechen Republic: the Committee of Ministers’ responsibility vis-à-vis the Assembly’s concerns" of 4 January 2006.12 We believe that these remarkable documents are required reading for a better grasp of the complexity of the current situation.