Day: October 20, 2006

IHF Appeal

President of the Federation of Russia
Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin

President of the European Council
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen

October 20, 2006


Two weeks ago the highly respected and awarded journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in the centre of Moscow. This brutal act of violence was yet another setback to freedom of speech, democracy and the respect for human rights in Russia.

In addition to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, dozens of human rights activists are regularly faced by threats and acts of oppression. They are threatened by physical violence, by loss of job, by threats to their families, by politically motivated law suits and by shaming in the non-independent media.

Travel by individual activists abroad is prevented. Non-governmental organisations are increasingly facing official obstruction of their work and threats of non-registration under the new law. All the mentioned acts above are happening everyday somewhere in Russia.
The murder of Anna Politkovskaya should serve as a final opening of the eyes of those who have repeatedly denied that human rights are eroding in today’s Russia. It should serve as a final opening of the eyes for us in the European Union to see what really is going on under the surface in Russia.
Anna Politkovskaya spoke loudly for the rights of those who did not have any and those who were losing their rights in the midst of the war, i.e. “fight against terrorism”, as the government has described it.

She spoke for the need for rule of law in her home country. In her last article she wrote:
[In Chechnya and in Russia] prosecutors and judges are not acting on behalf of the law and they are not interested in punishing the guilty. Instead, they work to political order to make the Kremlin’s nice anti-terrorist score sheet look good and cases are cooked up like blinys. …
This is what a group of mothers of convicted young Chechens wrote to me: ‘In essence, these correctional facilities (where terrorist suspects are held) have been turned into concentration camps for Chechen convicts. They are subjected to discrimination on an ethnic basis. The majority, or almost all of them, have been convicted on trumped-up evidence.
* We appeal to you, President Vladimir Putin, that
• The Russian army and courts of law should respect the European Convention for Human Rights. The culture of impunity should not be allowed to live a day longer.
• The Russian authorities should immediately intensify ongoing investigations and start new ones into the disappearances and deaths of Chechen civilians.
• Independent observers should be allowed to visit prisons and refugee camps all over the territory of the Russian Federation to ensure that torture is not taking place.
• Urgent measures need to be put in place to stop the intimidation and to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders working in Russia.
• The full investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya including finding out who possibly ordered the killing should be pursued vigorously and the perpetrators should be prosecuted and tried in a open and fair manner.

In 2004 Anna Politkovskaya was asked whether she believed it might take generations for her country to become truly free. She answered: “I wouldn’t ever want to say it would take generations. I want to be able to live the life of a human being, where every individual is respected, in my lifetime.”
Unfortunately it is too late for her, but not too late for you, President Putin.

Prime Minister Vanhanen, we urge and encourage the European Union and especially the Finnish Government now holding the Presidency of the EU to raise these serious and urgent human rights concerns with the Russian Federation. The EU would be betraying its own core values if it failed now, when there is a momentum to take up these serious questions, to demand immediate action from the Russian government to uphold freedom of speech and to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders.
This autumn you, as the President of the European Council, have several opportunities to directly address these problems with President Putin.
We therefore appeal to you that these issues be prominently on the agenda at these meetings, in particular and in depth, at the EU-Russia summit in Helsinki on the 24th of November.

Amnesty International, Finnish Section
Finnish Helsinki Committee
Finnish Peace Committee
Finnish PEN
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Joachim Frank, Project Coordinator
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Wickenburggasse 14/7
A-1080 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 22
Fax: +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 50

Russia’s Vostok Battalion in Lebanon Despite Resolution1701

From Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 19 — In South Lebanon there are only Lebanese and UN troops, said Major-General Alain Pellegrini, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday. While reporters questioned him about still-alleged weapons smuggling, incursions by Israel and possible anti-aircraft responses by UNIFIL, another question arose. Inner City Press asked, do the soldiers who Russian army engineers brought with them to Lebanon as security comply with Resolution 1701?

No, said Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini, not if they are in South Lebanon.

(via chechnya-sl)

The Exiled Muse

Just as in the years of the Cold War, many Russian authors, poets and writers continue to make their home in the West – whether in Europe or in North America. The fall of the Communist system does not seem to have had much effect in this regard. An essay in Haaretz by Shiri Lev-Ari examines the new wave of Russian literary talent, and notes how in many cases Russian authors choose to abandon their own language in favour of the language of the country or countries they have moved to. Examples include the Berlin-based Vladimir Kaminer, the slightly older André Makine, who writes in French and has been awarded the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Medicis, and U.S. and Canada-resident authors such as Lara Vapnyar and the Russian-Latvian David Bezmozgis. In addition to the writers mentioned in the essay, one could also list the Finland-based Zinaida Lindén, who writes in Swedish (though she also continues to publish work in Russian). As the essay makes clear, the Russian literary scene in Israel constitutes something of an exception to the rule, as there most Russian-speaking authors still choose to write and publish their work more or less exclusively in Russian.

A Russian-Israeli literary critic quoted in the essay notes that both the “exiles” and those authors who still remain in Russia share a preoccupation with fantasy and post-modern styles of writing, perhaps, she suggests, because “in Russia, the reality is so fantastical…that realist literature can’t quite capture it anymore.”

“…Russian writers are absolutely up to date on what’s happening in the world. They’re not nostalgic at all. The fondness for science fiction that always existed in the Soviet era has only grown since then. Back then, it was the only way to do satire, and it still exists today, because satires about the Soviet government are still successful. This happens because Russia has not been truly freed from dictatorial government. Vladimir Putin is still thought of today as a dictator in disguise.”

In Search of Justice

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.)

Nazran picketers intend to sue for justice

By Umalt Chadayev

NAZRAN, Ingushetia – On October 16 a picket was held in the city of Nazran in honour of the slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. However, the picket was broken up, and several of its participants were arrested by Ingush police. As the participants were being dispersed, a Memorial Human Rights Centre worker, Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, was severely beaten. Physicians later confirmed that she had suffered cerebral concussion and a fracture of the nose.

The picket’s organizer, Magomed Mutsolgov, who is chairman of the NGO Mashr (the Association of the Relatives of Missing Persons), together with representatives of Memorial, the Chechen National Salvation Committee, and the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Displaced Persons delivered statements to the Ingushetian Procurator, the Russian Procurator-General and the Russian Federal Human Rights Ombudsman with a request that those who are guilty should be identified and brought to justice. In the opinion of the human rights activists, the actions of the Ingush police were illegal.

“The picket in honour of Anna Politkovskaya which was due to take place in Nazran at 4pm on October 16 did not pursue any political aims. By holding it, the representatives of the human rights organizations and NGOs wanted to pay a tribute of respect to this courageous woman and honest journalist, who was one of the few who wrote the truth about what is happening in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Similar events have taken place in many cities of the world, in other countries. Moreover, on the afternoon of October 16 a picket in honour of Politkovskaya was also held in Grozny, and there were no excesses there at all,” says Aslambek Apayev, who is an expert of the Moscow Helsinki Group on the North Caucasus and head of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Displaced Persons.

“There is only one word to describe what took place in Nazran on October 16, and that is lawlessness. In spite of what the Ingushetian police authorities claim, there was absolutely no dispersal of the picket, as the action had not yet even had time to begin. A large number of police officers and a ’backup group’ composed of local youth who had previously been involved in provoking conflicts at refugee settlements, were moved to the site of the proposed picket in advance,” he says.

“In my view, this was a provocation that had been devised and planned in advance. The picket in honour of Politkovskaya was broken up before it had even started. Police officers and men in plain clothes surrounded our colleagues and the representatives of other organizations who arrived at the site of the picket near Bazorkina Street. They shouted insults at the participants, beat them, pushed them, tore the photograph of Anna Politkovskaya out of their hands and stamped on them,” says a Memorial member.

“Several men in plain clothes began to beat our colleague Shamsutdin Tangiyev, and when Katya Sokiryanskaya (also a Memorial worker) tried to intercede for him, one of them punched her in the face, breaking her nose. The police officials took no measures to stop these rampaging thugs.”

“There are two points of interest concerning what took place in Nazran on October 16. One is that the guardians of law and order declared that the picket was not sanctioned by the authorities, though the law only says that the organizers of an action only have to notify the city authorities of it in advance (which, by the way, was done). In the case of unforeseen circumstances they, in their turn, can recommend that it be held elsewhere, but they certainly have no legal authority to disperse it by force,” says Shakhman Akbulatov, director of Memorial’s Nazran office.

“The other point is that the Ingushetian police authorities stated that this was a rally and that a fight allegedly broke out among the participants, so that the police had no option but to intervene and pacify those who were doing the fighting. But for some reason it was only the representatives of human rights organizations who were arrested: four of our colleagues and the chairman of the Mashr human rights organization, Magomed Mutsolgov. They were held until late at night at the police station building, and three young female Memorial workers had their fingerprints taken, as if they were suspected of some criminal offence.”

“We have video film of what took place in Nazran on October 16, and it clearly shows everything that happened. There is footage of Tangiyev and Sokiryanskaya being beaten, and of the police, including a high-ranking officer, taking no action to stop it. Soon we plan to make this material public. We also intend to take legal action for the beating of our colleagues and demand that those who are guilty are punished,” he says.

Translated by David McDuff.


Talking Politics

“…Take the British policy. England’s need to secure the Indian glacis is legitimate. But what will be the consequences of it? Edward knows as well as you and I that Russia has to make good her losses in Manchuria, and that internal peace is as necessary to her as daily bread. Yet—he probably can’t help himself—he forces her to look westward for expansion, stirs up slumbering rivalries between St. Petersburg and Vienna—”

“Oh, Vienna! Your interest in that ancient obstruction is due, I presume, to the fact that her decaying empire is a sort of mummy, as it were, of the Holy Roman Empire of the German people.”

“While you, I suppose, are Russophil out of humanistic affinity with Cæsaro-papism.

“Democracy, my friend, has more to hope from the Kremlin than she has from the Hofburg; and it is disgraceful for the country of Luther and Gutenberg—”

“It is probably not only disgraceful, but stupid into the bargain. But even this stupidity is an instrument of fate—”

“Oh, spare me your talk about fate! Human reason needs only to will more strongly than fate, and she is fate!”

“One always wills one’s fate. Capitalistic Europe is willing hers.”

“One believes in the coming of war if one does not sufficiently abhor it.”

“Your abhorrence of war is logically disjointed if you do not make the state itself your point of departure.”

“The national state is the temporal principle, which you would like to ascribe to the evil one. But when nations are free and equal, when the small and weak are safe-guarded from aggression, when there is justice in the world, and national boundaries—”

“Yes, I know, the Brenner frontier. The liquidation of Austria. If I only knew how you expect to bring that about without war!”

“And I should like to know when I ever condemned a war for the purpose of realizing national aspirations!”

“But you say—”

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924), tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter


More anti-Israel hatred from Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad:  

October 20, 2006 (RFE/RL) — Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said today that Israel no longer has any reason to exist and predicted it will soon disappear.

“I say it with a loud voice — the [Israeli] regime has, with the grace of God, lost the [reason] for its existence,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Tehran marking Quds Day (Jerusalem Day), when anti-Israeli demonstrations are held in Iran.

He also said any government that stands by Israel will feel the “hatred of the people” in the region.  

Iranian media report that tens of thousands of people attended today’s demonstrations throughout the country and shouted slogans against Israel.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Iran on October 19 that there will be “a price to pay” if Tehran doesn’t back down from its nuclear ambitions.

(IRNA, ISNA, Radio Farda) 

Queen Elizabeth in Tallinn

In spite of the chilly weather, thousands of people gathered on Tallinn’s Raekoja (Town Hall) Square this morning to greet Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their state visit to Estonia, Postimees reports. The crowd waved British and Estonian flags. The proceedings began with a song specially written in the Queen’s honour, conducted by choral director Aarne Saluveeri, and this was followed by a greeting from Tallinn’s mayor, Jüri Ratas. Accompanied by Mayor Ratas and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (pictured left, above), the Queen then went among the crowd and talked to people, who regaled her with large quantities of flowers and cards. A choral concert is taking place on the square, given by some of Estonia’s leading singing groups.