Denmark might sue Russia at the European Human Rights Court (Berlingske Tidende)
- 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.
LYKKETOFT ON A DIFFICULT MISSION
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
"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
COOLING OF DANISH-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
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.