Chechnya after the elections
Delivered in Plenary - 18th January 2006
Russia clearly faces a serious criminal and terrorist threat in Chechnya, and the surrounding northern Caucasus remain unstable, with daily killings of both the security forces and criminals. There are also frequent civilian kidnappings that go unpunished and are carried out by unaccountable ugly paramilitary units. Everyone remains conscious of the tragedy of Beslan. And I still have had no satisfactory reply from my Government, the British Government, as to why it grants refugee status to Ahmed Zakayev, who is part of the same so-called Chechen Government-in-Exile as the wanted terrorist Shamil Basayev, who was behind Beslan. There is nevertheless still also a westward flow of genuine innocent Chechen refugees caught up in this brutal war. So, the EU has every interest in calling for human rights to be respected, as well as becoming more critical of the democratic standards of the elections in November 2005.
There is current concern, for instance, at the decision of a local court to shut down the operations in Ingushetia of the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development, a Russian-British humanitarian group. It is also considering a request to ban another charity, the United States-based International Medical Corps. This shows the degree of hostility to foreign presence of humanitarian NGOs operating in the region. It illustrates the phenomenon of increasing authoritarianism across the whole of Russia, as has been well documented recently by Freedom House, and as we have seen over the recent Duma bill on foreign NGOs, where even the final version still permits refusal of registration to any foreign group that threatens Russian sovereignty, cultural heritage and national interests – grounds which are vague and open to local administrative interpretation.
Our resolution today aims to keep the pressure up on the Russian Federation for higher standards of human rights in this tragic region which has been so besieged by conflict for so long.