The Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly adopted a statement on how to resolve the crisis in Chechnya
The Fifth Meeting of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly, held in Moscow on Monday 17 March 2003, focused on the situation in Chechnya and adopted the following statement:
The All-Russia Democratic Assembly
On our attitude to the referendum on a Constitution in Chechnya and the need to convene a peace conference.
We, the participants of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly state herein that the strategy resolving the crisis in Chechnya via military force has driven the situation into a deadlock.
The situation in Chechnya can only be resolved through a wide-ranging political process, involving all the interested parties.
We think that it would be a political mistake to hold a referendum in Chechnya without carrying out comprehensive preliminary preparatory work. Obviously sooner or later a referendum on the constitution [of Chechnya] will be required, but against the background of war such a referendum will not guarantee any resolultion of the Chechen crisis, and is most likely to have the opposite effect and can endanger the process of political regulation there.
The holding of any referenda in the present conditions in Chechnya - " the mop-up operations, road blocks and settlements by troops, the virtually functioning of a curfew - " all this is categorically prohibited, and for good reason, by international norms and Russian law today.
The long-term implications of an ill-timed and unprepared referendum and the decisions adopted after this referendum that can aggravate the opposition inside the Chechen community and play into the hands of the forces interested in civil war, are especially dangerous.
In such a situation it will be virtually impossible to restore the economy of Chechnya. A vicious circle of problems emerges: it is impossible to attract specialists and restore industry, financial and social institutions until there is a halt to terror in the Republic. The lack of jobs, social guarantees and education give rise in turn to crime and create a nourishing ground for terrorism.
It would also be wrong to exclude international participation from regulation of the situation in Chechnya.
Preparations for the referendum have already provoked tough measures for a [forceful] return to Chechnya of the refugees residing in Ingushetia, as well as compulsion to voting and pressure on many public organisations in Chechnya. There is pressure on the work of journalists, especially those who disagree at times with the official opinion of the interior, defence and security agencies.
We think that both the citizens living in Chechnya at present and also all citizens who had to leave the republic after 1991, irrespective of their present place of residence and nationality, should be allowed to participate in the referendum on the adoption of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic.
If the Constitution of the Chechen Republic is adopted at the referendum without discussion, not only by the votes of the residents of Chechnya of all nationalities, but also by a large number of votes by the federal group of forces, such an imitation of a referendum is unlikely to put an end to war. Obviously any Constitution adopted in this way will not be recognized by a considerable share of the population of Chechnya and the international community. Consequently the conditions for a continuation in military operations will remain.
The Democratic Assembly calls attention to the mass-scale disappearance of civilians detained by the federal troops and consequently expresses its concerns over the detention of two well-known human rights activists in Chechnya - Sulmbek Tashtamirov and Imran Ezhiyev - who conducted propaganda against the referendum and whose location is unknown at present.
In our opinion, the beginning of the peace process in Chechnya should include the following:
- The parties fighting in Chechnya agree to a cease-fire and conclude a truce which envisages both the termination of partisan actions and military operations by the federal troops, including mop-ups of Chechen settlements, as well as termination by both the sides of torture, executions, kidnappings, violence and robbery, and begin negotiations without any preliminary conditions to determine the principles and stages for implementing the peace process in Chechnya.
- The next stage of political regulation of the crisis in Chechnya could be a peace conference involving all the opposing and interested parties.
We, the participants of the All-Russia Democratic Assembly, think that such a peaceful conference (round-table talks, meeting) with the maximum broad framework of the discussions and range of participants, would be the best first public political step in the process of peaceful regulation in Chechnya. The correct approaches to continuing the peaceful process can be developed at such a conference, including the holding of referenda and other democratic procedures.
In the vote for the statement, the YABLOKO party, the Russian Joint Social-Democratic Party, the Republican Party and Leonid Batkin acting as an individual participant, abstained.
Under the regulations of the Democratic Assembly, if the majority votes for a decision and none of the participants vetoes this decision, it is considered adopted.
Explaining at a press conference the position of the YABLOKO party, Deputy Head of the Party Igor Artemyev said that "In general we support the adopted statement, but we think that a peaceful conference must be chaired by the President of Russia, as this is the only way to guarantee that the decisions adopted at the conference are real and will be implemented".
The Democratic Assembly is a forum which began its work in June 2001 and is convened at least once every six months. About 20 of the biggest democratic political and civil organisations, as well as individual participants, participate in the Democratic Assembly.
Composition of the Democratic Assembly:
Forward, Russia movement (leader Boris Fyodorov),
Choice of Russia movement (Pavel Medvedyev),
Democratic Russia movement (Lev Ponomaryov),
Democratic Union (Valeria Novodvorskaya),
Union in Defence of Human Rights -The Initiative Group –Common Action (Sergei Kovalyov),
Confederation of Consumer Unions (Alexander Auzan),
Coordination Council for Aid to Refugees and Forced Migrants (Lidia Grafova),
Farmers Party of Russia (Yuri Chernichenko),
Liberal Russia Party (Sergei Yushenkov),
Memorial (Oleg Orlov),
Party of Economic Freedom (Konstantin Borovoi),
Public organisation "The Right to Life and Civil Dignity" (Viktor Kogan-Yasny),
Republican Party of the Russian Federation (Vladimir Lysenko),
Russian Joint Social Democratic Party (Mikhail Gorbachev),
Russian Human Rights Research Centre (Valentina Melnikova) ,
Social and Ecological Union (Svaytoslav Zabelin),
Journalists Union of Russia (Igor Yakovenko),
Union of Right-Wing Forces (leader Boris Nemtsov),
Glasnost Protection Fund (Alexei Simonov),
Russian Democratic Party Yabloko (Grigory Yavlinsky),
Individual participants: Yuri Afansyev, Leonid Batkin, Yuri Ryzhov, Alexander Yakovlev.
See also:Democratic Assembly
War in Chechnya
AFP, March 17, 2003. Putin offers Chechens sweeping autonomy under new constitution.
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