Human rights activists: Situation in the Caucasus is deteriorating, by Ivan Sukhov

Moskovskiye Novosti -- The Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights published the list of proposals made to Dmitry Medvedev at the meeting in Nalchik a week ago. The Council suggests a complete revision of Moscow's strategy in the Caucasus. 

REPORT
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SUGGEST AN ALTERNATIVE CAUCASUS STRATEGY


The Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights published the list of proposals made to Dmitry Medvedev at the meeting in Nalchik a week ago. The Council suggests a complete revision of Moscow's strategy in the Caucasus.

According to Emil Pain, Council member and Director of the Center of Ethnic-Political and Regional Studies, the pace of changes for the worst in the Caucasus is critical. Amelioration of the situation requires a revision of the principles of federative and ethnic-political structure of the Russian Federation and specific measures in the Caucasus. For example, it is necessary to conduct a systematic search for the people reported missing in the course of counter-terrorism operations. (The data compiled by Memorial estimates their number in Chechnya alone at nearly 3,000.) It is also necessary to establish rehabilitation centers for the families of those who perished in these operations (not necessarily gunmen), "reanimate" justice, and amend the social and cultural policy. Also importantly, it is necessary to establish permanent bodies to advise regional leaders, said bodies comprising both local human rights activists and siloviki.

"It's time we abandoned the penchant for "rubbing them out" and for basing performance reports on body-count," said Svetlana Gannushkina, Council member and the head of Civil Assistance committee.

Said Gannushkina, "All too frequently, counter-terrorism operations actually benefit those who carry them out. The higher the body-count, the better. Is it any wonder that people are killed who have nothing to do with gunmen? Performance reports ought to be based on reduction of crime. Gunmen ought to be persuaded to mend their ways and abandon resistance. They ought to be given jobs, preferably not on the police force."

Gannushkina said that the authorities of Ingushetia and Dagestan were working on it and complimented their respective governments on foresight. Unfortunately, some inexplicable and bizarre episodes went on occurring in Dagestan. Some unidentified persons kidnapped a young man in Kizil-Yurt on May 28. The man's father immediately went to the police, prosecutor's office, and local human rights organization. The Dagestani Interior Ministry officially informed the father that the fact of abduction had been logged on May 29 and that the abducted person had been killed in a special operation in Gudermes (Chechnya) on June 3. The republican prosecutor's office said a couple of days later that it knew of the abduction and that an investigation was under way. "What investigation were they speaking of when the Interior Ministry already knew that the abducted person had been killed in Gudermes?" said Gannushkina.

Pain said that performance of the authorities and security structures in the Caucasus was so chaotic because several manual control mechanisms at once had been installed in the Caucasus and, once installed, started interfering with one another to the extent where stability of the whole structure was in jeopardy. The example of Chechnya suggested an alternative. Everything in this republic was decided by a single person and federal power structures and law enforcers wielded no clout with what was happening. Pain actually questioned the presumed efficiency of the permanent bodies comprising human rights activists and representatives of security structures. "The human rights community believes for some reason that the problem will be solved the moment the authorities initiate a dialogue with society. I'm not sure that it will. Society itself is in so chaotic a state that there is no saying anymore what is better - this disorderly society or the powers-that-be that refuse to initiate the dialogue," he said. "In any event, isolated measures and efforts will accomplish nothing worthwhile because resistance of the system is so deeply entrenched that only a dramatic revision of the strategy may help now... More than 50% Russians believe that we should let go of the Caucasus. They say so just because it is a problem and nobody knows how to solve it. Even worse, nobody is even trying to solve it. Change this state of affairs, and people will change their opinion too."

Said Gannushkina, "The situation is so bad that even those who barely paid us lip service in the past do listen to us nowadays. I mean leadership of the Investigative Committee and prosecutor's office in Chechnya. There were special bodies comprising representatives of security structures and human rights organizations in Chechnya when the war was fought there. It seems that we are back to square one, time to start interaction all over again. This interaction was already established in Ingushetia and Dagestan. Try as I might, I cannot imagine it in Kadyrov's Chechnya but who knows?"

Medvedev promised to study the materials provided by the Council. Before the Council meeting in Nalchik, another one had taken place in Makhachkala in June. The president had met with human rights activists from the Caucasus in Moscow on May 19, 2010.

The president himself suggested ways and means of a dramatic amelioration of the situation in the Caucasus on at least two occasions. A new Caucasus Federal Region was established in early 2010. Development of spas and resorts in the Caucasus began in early 2011.

Moskovskiye Novosti