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Guardian/CPF: Letter: Chechnya will be the test for Medvedev

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  • Norbert Strade
    07-05-08 Letter published in The Guardian Chechnya will be the test for Medvedev In the painful saga of Chechnya and the Caucasus, President Medvedev s
    Message 1 of 2 , May 9, 2008
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      07-05-08

      Letter published in The Guardian

      Chechnya will be the test for Medvedev

      In the painful saga of Chechnya and the Caucasus, President Medvedev's
      predecessor Vladimir Putin used an unyielding position to establish his
      domestic standing on the back of atrocities in the region. We call on
      the new president of Russia to implement the following five-point plan
      for Chechnya. First, to end the war, torture and suffering in the
      region. Second, to ensure the defence of human rights and the rule of
      law. Third, to permit a free and open media to cover events on the
      ground. Fourth, to allow the voice of political opponents to be heard,
      not suffocated, and permit unrestricted access of humanitarian
      organisations to Chechnya. Fifth, to implement democracy in Chechnya and
      promote self-determination by organising the first free and fair
      elections in more than a decade, under the close scrutiny of independent
      observers.

      Public opinion across the world will inevitably judge the new president
      on his commitment to reintroduce civil liberties and human rights in
      Russia. His actions in Chechnya will be a litmus test of his humanity
      and morality, and will indicate whether we are in fact seeing the
      emergence of a new Russia. The rule of law, peace and human rights in
      Chechnya can only be achieved if the Chechens' right to
      self-determination is recognised through free and fair elections. By
      allowing elections to take place, President Medvedev will help end the
      Chechen people's struggle, establish stability in the Caucasus and
      restore Russian dignity.

      Ivar Amundsen Chechnya Peace Forum, Andrew Motion, Anthony Giddens,
      Professor A. C. Grayling, John le Carre, Benjamin Zephaniah, Ken Loach,
      Peter Tatchell, Helena Kennedy, Peter Bottomley MP, Andre Glucksmann,
      John Lloyd, Lord Judd, Michael Moore MP, Danny Alexander MP, Chris
      Bryant MP, Jonathan Heawood, Andrei Babitski, Vanora Bennett, Professor
      Mohammad Shishani, Jo Hanssens, Lord Hylton, Lord Ahmed, Dr Alan
      Mendoza, Bill Bowring, Dr Brendan Simms, Lord Alton, Baroness Sarah
      Ludford MEP, Gary Titley MEP, Professor Martin Shaw, Thomas Bindesboell
      Larsen, Tøger Seidenfaden, Sue-Ann Harding.

      View letter online at:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/07/russia.chechnya

      http://chechnyapeaceforum.com/upload/news_media_home_26.pdf
    • Norbert Strade
      Dear list, I have a problem with this open letter, signed by a couple of well-known personalities and published in The Guardian and by the Chechnya Peace
      Message 2 of 2 , May 26, 2008
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        Dear list,

        I have a problem with this open letter, signed by a couple of well-known
        personalities and published in "The Guardian" and by the "Chechnya Peace
        Forum".
        While it might be reasonable to address the new Russian president about
        the continuing Russian-Chechen war, one should be very careful with the
        wording and always follow one's own thoughts to their logical end before
        going public.
        In this case the letter contains a couple of formulations which in their
        consequences might be able to damage instead of help the Chechen cause.
        Firstly, the letter calls on Medvedev "to implement democracy in
        Chechnya", and secondly to "organize" elections. What does this mean in
        legal terms? To claim that the Russian president can "implement
        democracy" means that he has the legitimate power to do so. This is in
        disagreement with the Geneva Conventions, which explicitly regulate that
        an occupying power does *not* have the right to change the political and
        legal system of an occupied territory. In the case of Chechnya, the
        Russian occupation has replaced an existing democratic constitution with
        their own imported one, implemented by force. To say that Medvedev has
        the right to "implement" anything and even "to organize elections" in
        Chechnya means that his predecessor Putin also had the right to organize
        his fake "elections" and to "implement" his fake referendum for a new
        "Chechen constitution". At the same time, the difference between Putin's
        "implementations" and the democratic moves proposed to Medvedev is
        reduced to a question of morals. The consequence of this sloppy thinking
        is that Chechnya is part of Russia, where the rules of the Geneva
        Conventions about occupied territories aren't valid. With other words,
        it is an accept of the Russian claim that the unilateral incorporation
        of the ChRI into the Russian Federation was legitimate and that a
        Russian president can autocratically wipe all agreements, peace treaties
        and presidential declarations off the table, if he is so inclined.
        The sloppiness of the argumentation is underlined by another formulation
        further down the text, urging that Medvedev should "allow" elections to
        take place. I.e., first he is asked to *organize* them, and then to
        *allow* them, which are two different things.

        This is what happens if you are trying to collect some "big names" for
        an undoubtedly well-intended initiative to remind the new Russian
        president of the war in Chechnya. Such attempts always end on the
        "lowest common denominator". A look at the signataries shows a majority
        of people with an unblemished record of support for Chechen rights, but
        also a few others who represent quite different interests. Nothing
        useful can be built on such a basis.

        It is an illusion, in my opinion, to believe that you can find an
        intersection between international law and universal human rights on the
        one hand and "constructive criticism" based on Russia's own "legal"
        claims on the other, since the two approaches are mutually exclusive.

        The minimum that Medvedev must do if he doesn't want to inherit Putin's
        status of an international criminal is
        - to recognize Chechen sovereignty and the legitimate Chechen authorities;
        - to reinstate all agreements and treaties which Russia has signed with
        the ChRI but broken unilaterally;
        - to begin negotiations with the legitimate Chechen authorities and the
        international community about the swiftest possible withdrawal of
        Russian occupation troops from all of Chechnya, the dissolution of the
        local collaborationist units and the creation of conditions for a
        peaceful transfer of power back to the aforementioned authorities.

        The conduction of democratic elections in Chechnya can only happen after
        the complete termination of the occupation regime and is none of
        Russia's business.

        Norbert





        Norbert Strade wrote:
        > 07-05-08
        >
        > Letter published in The Guardian
        >
        > Chechnya will be the test for Medvedev
        >
        > In the painful saga of Chechnya and the Caucasus, President Medvedev's
        > predecessor Vladimir Putin used an unyielding position to establish his
        > domestic standing on the back of atrocities in the region. We call on
        > the new president of Russia to implement the following five-point plan
        > for Chechnya. First, to end the war, torture and suffering in the
        > region. Second, to ensure the defence of human rights and the rule of
        > law. Third, to permit a free and open media to cover events on the
        > ground. Fourth, to allow the voice of political opponents to be heard,
        > not suffocated, and permit unrestricted access of humanitarian
        > organisations to Chechnya. Fifth, to implement democracy in Chechnya and
        > promote self-determination by organising the first free and fair
        > elections in more than a decade, under the close scrutiny of independent
        > observers.
        >
        > Public opinion across the world will inevitably judge the new president
        > on his commitment to reintroduce civil liberties and human rights in
        > Russia. His actions in Chechnya will be a litmus test of his humanity
        > and morality, and will indicate whether we are in fact seeing the
        > emergence of a new Russia. The rule of law, peace and human rights in
        > Chechnya can only be achieved if the Chechens' right to
        > self-determination is recognised through free and fair elections. By
        > allowing elections to take place, President Medvedev will help end the
        > Chechen people's struggle, establish stability in the Caucasus and
        > restore Russian dignity.
        >
        > Ivar Amundsen Chechnya Peace Forum, Andrew Motion, Anthony Giddens,
        > Professor A. C. Grayling, John le Carre, Benjamin Zephaniah, Ken Loach,
        > Peter Tatchell, Helena Kennedy, Peter Bottomley MP, Andre Glucksmann,
        > John Lloyd, Lord Judd, Michael Moore MP, Danny Alexander MP, Chris
        > Bryant MP, Jonathan Heawood, Andrei Babitski, Vanora Bennett, Professor
        > Mohammad Shishani, Jo Hanssens, Lord Hylton, Lord Ahmed, Dr Alan
        > Mendoza, Bill Bowring, Dr Brendan Simms, Lord Alton, Baroness Sarah
        > Ludford MEP, Gary Titley MEP, Professor Martin Shaw, Thomas Bindesboell
        > Larsen, Tøger Seidenfaden, Sue-Ann Harding.
        >
        > View letter online at:
        > http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/07/russia.chechnya
        >
        > http://chechnyapeaceforum.com/upload/news_media_home_26.pdf
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