Conference for Justice in Torino
Oksana Chelysheva informed our editorial staffes that on May 17, a conference was held in Torino about the presentation of “International Tribunal for Chechnya” named research.
On May 17, in Torino, the capital of the Italian province of Piemonte, Salveniemi Institute (Istituto Salvemini) and Antonio Gramsci Foundation (Fondazione Istituto Gramsci) held an event to present “International Tribunal for Chechnya“, a two-volume research into grave human rights violations and war crimes in the course of the war in Chechnya accomplished by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.
Two of the three authors of the study, Bogdan Gvareli (Memorial Human Rights Center) and Oksana Chelysheva (the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society) participated in the event.
More than a hundred people came to attend the discussion which lasted for more than four hours. It began with the addresses of Sergio Chiamparino, representative of the municipality of the city of Torino and Marco Brunazzi, Istituto Salvemini, and Sergio Scamuzzi, Antonio Gramsci Foundation.
It was pointed out that the city of Torino has been involved into the issue of civil rights at the international level for long. They mentioned high-profile visit of His Holiness Dalai Lama as example of the city’s commitment to stand up for civil rights.
Pietro Marcenaro, the chair of the commission on human rights of the Italian Senate, expressed his personal regret that human rights are not the key issues with Italian authorities. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the civil society to keep these issues on the agenda and remind the authorities about the duty to comply with international law. He also pointed out that human rights can’t be regarded as entirely internal matters of any state.
Dick Marty, the chair of the Monitoring Committee at the PACE, shared his impressions on the current situation in Chechnya after his visit there. He told that his official stand would become public knowledge after May 31 when his report on the North Caucasus is discussed with the authorities of the Russian Federation. At that, he told that he was never deceived with the bright façade of the reconstructed Grozny, “This is the picture and I know that people continue to be disappeared at the back stage”. Dick Marty compared the situation in three republics of the North Caucasus, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. In his view, the level of violence and impunity is similar in all of them. What is different is the attitude of the local authorities. Ingushetia and Dagestan still have some hope for justice being restored there. He also compared the current state of things with what Italy experienced in the 70s when the Red Brigades started to terrorize the country. Dick Marty told that after Aldo Moro’s assassination, there were sentiments to introduce torture as a way to extort confessions. He reminded the audience of the straightforward statement of the Italian chief prosecutor who was pressurized not to limit the investigation in interrogation techniques, “Italy will survive Aldo Moro’s death. It will never survive legalization of torture. It will destroy the state”. Dick Marty appreciated attempts of the small cohort of the Russian human rights defenders. He expressed his astonishment with the activities of Nizhny Novgorod Committee against Torture and those groups who joined mobile teams working in Chechnya now. “Can you imagine? These people jump into cars and drive to the site. They do what the state should do”. He also told about his personal worry of the level of security for human rights defenders working in the area.
The Italian judge at the European Court of Human Rights Vladimiro Zagrebelsky stated that Russian has not done anything to change the roots of numerous human rights violations committed by state agents that have been fixed with ECHR rulings. At that, he pointed out that judged at the Court representing Russia are still independent and their decisions are hardly ever politicized. “If they see an obvious breach, they never hesitate to confirm the state responsibility”. Zagrebelsky spoke highly of the research carried out by Russian human rights defenders in the tough circumstances. At that, he told that apart from the four ways to combat impunity via international mechanisms of justice that Bogdan Gvareli and Oksana Chelysheva spoke about, there is the fifth way: any state can lodge a suit against another state. Zagrebelsky answered the question himself by telling that the only obstacle for that is lack of political will as Russia feeds the whole Europe with their natural resources.
The co-authors of the “International Tribunal for Chechnya” research told the about the principle they used to conduct it. They also pointed out that the research into international criminal law and their applicability to the Chechen cases has never been a goal in itself. It is one of possible ways to consolidate activities of various human rights organizations that collected vast amount of information on specific cases of violations perpetrated in Chechnya, lawyers dealing with international laws, politicians and national civil society groups in various countries of Europe who can join in the network of combating impunity for the crimes committed in the Russian Federation like it happened with “Coalition against Impunity” network the goal of which was suing former Argentinean military officers in German courts. The purpose of conducted research is to provide a documentary basis for exercising justice via international mechanisms. The authors write that they carried out the research not only with the aim to judge past events, but to speak up on matters that continue to harass the Caucasus region and, as evidenced by repeated acts of violence, has spread beyond Chechnya, touching Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia.
The presentation of the book in Italy will help to mobilize the international attention. The organizers of the event emphasized its important for helping establish links between groups of Russian human rights defenders and those secular and religious associations that deal with human rights in Italy.