The Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are grateful for the frank dialogue we have had with the Foreign Ministry on the need for the E.U. presidency to initiate a resolution on Chechnya at the current session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Prior to the opening of the Commission, the E.U. presidency argued that it would be best to negotiate a chairman's statement with Russia. Even advocates of this position, however, predicted that Russia would never agree to a chairman's statement that would be even remotely accurate in its description of the grave human rights abuses being committed by Russia's forces in Chechnya or that would call for concrete and effective action to hold the worst abusers accountable.
From the outset, we feared that any document negotiated with Russia would be an empty gesture that would not contribute to an improvement to the human rights situation on the ground or to an accurate official record of abuse. The draft statement that has been circulated informally by the E.U. has confirmed our worst fears. It is a weak text that fails to condemn the severe violations of the Geneva Conventions being committed on a daily basis by Russian federal forces in Chechnya. Nor does it even acknowledge Russia's year-long refusal to comply with any of the key requirements of last year's resolution; in fact, the draft statement does not even mention last year's resolution. It is a disservice to those who worked hard to draft and cosponsor that resolution, to the Commission, and to the values it represents.
We understand that a draft resolution has been prepared and may be deposited by Tuesday 1:00 p.m. (Geneva time). We urge the Swedish presidency to table the resolution immediately and work for its adoption. Given the ongoing atrocities being committed by Russian forces in Chechnya -including torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances- as well as the absolute failure of the Russian government to comply with any of the provisions of last year's resolution, the resolution should:
Condemn ongoing human rights and humanitarian law violations in Chechnya; note the total failure on the part of the Russian government to implement the CHR's previous resolution; note the inadequacy of the domestic prosecutorial efforts; establish an international commission of inquiry that is mandated to investigate and document atrocities committed by both sides to the conflict in Chechnya. Such an international commission should be impartial and independent and operate in a manner consistent with the general principles outlined by High Commissioner Mary Robinson in her April 2000 background note on national commissions of inquiry.
Sweden played a key role in drafting and cosponsoring last year's resolution, which represented the broadest consensus among international actors that impunity would not be countenanced in Chechnya. One year later, there can be no question that the Russian government has blatantly defied the Commission: there have not been effective domestic prosecutions, no national commission of inquiry has been established, and because of this ongoing environment of impunity, many serious abuses continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis. In the face of this blatant non-compliance, it is inconceivable that the Commission would respond with something as weak and inaccurate as the draft chairman's statement.
We urge your government to work for a strong resolution, which is the only appropriate response given the scope and gravity of abuses being perpetrated by Russian federal forces and tolerated by the Russian government.
Europe and Central Asia Division Human Rights Watch
Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
cc: Ambassador Catherine von Heidenstam