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Denmark might sue Russia at the European Human Rights Court (Berlingske Tidende)

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  • Norbert Strade
    Dear all, There has been an interesting development in Denmark. A majority in the Danish parliament has demanded from the minority government to sue Russia in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2001
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      Dear all,

      There has been an interesting development in Denmark. A majority in the Danish
      parliament has demanded from the minority government to sue Russia in the
      European Human Rights Court. At this point, it isn't quite clear what will
      happen, since the government seems to be reluctant, but on the other hand the
      Foreign Minister has now promised steps to investigate how such a suit could be
      realized. Stay tuned....
      I'll add here my translation of an article from Berlingske Tidende, Denmark's
      leading Conservative newspaper, which gives a good explanation of the details.

      Best regards,




      State suit: Foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft will try to find countries which
      can support a case at the European Human Rights Court against Russia for
      violations in Chechnya. But that's a difficult task, Lykketoft points out.

      By Ole Damkjær

      Foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft (Soc.Dem.) has a difficult task when he now
      -as he told Berlingske Tidende yesterday- is going to try to collect support
      among other countries for a case at the European Human Rights Court in
      Strasbourg against Russia's violations in Chechnya.
      "So far there hasn't been any support for such a step, e.g. in the EU circle",
      Mogens Lykketoft confirms.
      And it is correct that history would be written if it ends with a suit against
      During the 50-odd years the human rights court has existed, there have been only
      8 cases when a state or a group of states has sued a country.
      Denmark has been involved in two of them: In 1967, when Denmark, Norway, Sweden
      and the Netherlands sued Greece after the military coup, and in 1997, when
      Denmark sued Turkey because of the torture by the Turkish authorities of
      Danish-Kurd Kemal Koc.
      But there is one country which would be the most appropriate for Mogens
      Lykketoft to seek support from: the Netherlands, where the parliament according
      to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has asked the government to
      work for having Russia sentenced because of atrocities against the civilian
      population in Chechnya.
      It is a similar call on the Danish government by a majority in the Folketing
      [Danish parliament] that now has caused the Foreign Minister to get into contact
      with other countries.
      The initiator of the parliamentary pressure on Mogens Lykketoft, Søren
      Søndergaard from the Unity List [Leftist Socialists] stresses, though, that
      Denmark in the end would have to sue Russia alone, if no other countries support
      a case.
      "This, too, follows from the request which a broad majority outside the
      government has sent to Mogens Lykketoft", Søndergaard clarifies.
      Additionaly to the Unity List, it's the Socialist People's Party, the Liberals,
      the Conservatives, the Christian People's Party and the Danish People's Party
      which are behind the demand to sue Russia.


      Mogens Lykketoft doesn't conceal that he personally doubts if a human rights
      suit against Russia is the best thing to do at the moment. Referring to a
      parliamentary debate in the middle of May about Chechnya, the Foreign Minister
      "As I said in the Folketing on 17 May, one shouldn't exclude the usefulness of
      an instrument like a case against Russia in the human rights court. But it was
      my opinion as well, on the other hand, that we at this point ought to wait for
      the results that might emerge from the cooperation with Russia - not least in
      the Council of Europe (an organization for the advance of democracy and human
      rights that has Russia and 42 other countries as members, ed.)"
      Nevertheless, the Foreign Minister will now raise the question with other
      "Based on the request I'll now renew contacts, among others with the EU
      circle. It would also be useful to hear the precise opinion of the different
      instances of the European Council and of persons like Lord Russell Johnston
      and human rights commissioner Gil Robles about the question how we could
      promote a case in the best way. I agree that viewpoints from that side have
      great weight," Mogens Lykketoft explains.
      Especially Lord Russell Johnston, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of
      the Council of Europe, has on several occasions and with strong words complained
      that not a single country among the members of the Council of Europe has been
      ready to have Russia's violations in Chechnya investigated by the European Human
      Rights Court.


      The Russian embassy expressed yesterday that it wouldn't comment on Lykketoft's
      step, which they only know from the press.
      "As long as we haven't been contacted officially in this case, we don't have any
      comments", press secretary Boris Zhilko says.
      But there isn't much doubt that the clear demand by the Folketing to sue
      Russia, as well as the subsequent initiative by the Foreign Minister, will lead
      to a cooling of Russian-Danish relations.
      The Danish criticism of the Russian war conduct in Chechnya has already caused
      hard counter-reactions from Moscow during the last year.
      E.g. when Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Soc.Dem.) in a speech last August
      compared the war in Chechnya with the mass exterminations during the Second
      World War and the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda.
      And when Russia half a year ago indirectly accused Denmark of "flirting with
      terrorism", because the Danish authorities had allowed a demonstration in front
      of the Russian embassy in Copenhagen against the war in Chechnya.
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