Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rights Groups Criticize Britain Over Chechnya

Britain, as the EU's presidency, recently issued an optimistic statement about the Chechen "elections" held on November 27, despite all the evidence that suggested this was inappropriate. Now Russian and Western rights organizations are making their protests known:
In an open letter to British Foreign Minister Jack Straw dated 7 December, the groups say the assessment "calls the EU's commitment to human rights, democracy, and rule of law into question."

Britain, as EU president, welcomed the 27 November polls as "an important step towards broader representation of a range of views in Chechen society." It also said that "the further strengthening of democratic institutions, as part of an inclusive political process, is essential for the sustainable and peaceful long-term development of Chechnya as well as to peace and stability in the North Caucasus region as a whole."

The rights groups, which include the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Russia's Memorial, say what Britain calls Chechnya's political process "is a tightly-controlled cosmetic measure that has resulted in the establishment of a brutal regime, responsible for systematic and grave human rights abuses." They also say that "the loyalist regime established in Chechnya [by Russia] depends on fear and violence to make up for its lack of legitimacy."

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