To: the Commissioner for Human Rights
Of the Council of Europe
Mr Alvaro Hil-Robles
Dear Mr. Commissioner,
At the meeting in Grozny on February 13, we informed you about the continuing mass violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic. We thought that the issues related to finding ways for political resolution of the armed conflict are beyond your mandate; this is why during our brief meeting we did not touch upon the question of the upcoming Referendum on the Constitution of the Chechen Republic.
Nevertheless, Russian news agencies and mass media, commenting your visit, paid much attention to your positive evaluation of the Referendum. Thus, the Russian news agency 'News' reported that from your point of view the referendum which will take place on March, 23 is 'a beginning of the new process in the Republic'. The Internet news site “The Chechen Republic” reports that in your opinion, the above mentioned Referendum is 'the beginning of the political process'.
We are not sure that the news agencies quote you precisely. Moreover, we are not sure that your statements are interpreted correctly. But it is quite obvious that both the representatives of Federal authorities and the authorities of the Chechen Republic actively use your visit to achieve their political goals.
In connection with this we have to address you with the following open statement.
We perfectly agree that a Referendum, which would give a chance for the population of the Chechen Republic to freely express their will could become a real step toward peace. But is not what you have heard and seen during your visit to Chechnya not sufficient for an obvious conclusion that there are no conditions for free and open plebiscite there?
What kind of honest referendum can be carried out in a situation of continuous violence committed against the civic population, kidnapping and murder of people?
You know of complete impunity of those representatives of the Federal authorities who commit those crimes.
You know that for 'improper results' of the Referendum any city or village can at any moment be punished by a punitive raid – a so called 'zachistka'?
You know that in fact the Republic is living in a state of emergency, only without any legal background to it, without any control over the actions of the military, the police and the secret services.
We hope that the Russian mass media, news agencies and some Russian politicians are distorting the meaning of your words. We are very disappointed that in their presentation the main result of your visit to Chechnya was your support of the upcoming Referendum, while the question of continuous outrageous human rights violations was not even in the second, in the third or the fourth succession.
Representatives of Human Rights Center 'Memorial':
Eliza Musaeva, Nazran'
Lipkhan Bazaeva, Nazran'
Ahmet Barakhoev, Nazran'
Tamerlan Akiev, Nazran'
Shakman Akbulatov, Nazran'
Dokka Itslaev, Urus Martan
Natal'ya Estimirova, Grozny
Lida Yusupova, Grozny
Shamil Tangiev, Grozny
Edgar Aliev, Grozny
Oleg Orlov, Moscow