Russian National Committee
FOR THE TERMINATION OF WAR AND RESTORATION OF PEACE IN THE CHECHEN REPUBLIC
ABOUT UNACCEPTABILITY OF CONDUCTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM AND ELECTIONS IN CHECHNYA IN CONDITIONS OF MILITARY ACTIONS
of Great Britain
Right Honorable Tony Blair
Cabaliero Silvio Berlusconi
Mister George Bush
The President of the USA
We would like to bring to your notice our deep concern and anxiety in connection with the plan of the President and the government of Russia to conduct a referendum on the draft Constitution of the Chechen Republic on the territory of the Chechen Republic this May and after that – in the end of 2003 – elections to various state bodies of the Chechen Republic.
We consider that conduction of such referendum is prematurely due to the fact that military actions and clashes with armed opposition have being continuing in Chechnya for three and a half years. During this period mass cruel human rights violations, tortures and killings of civilians and representatives of the administration are taking place, there are strict limits on move within territory of the Republic for the Chechen citizens, limits on Russian and foreign international press representatives’ access to Chechnya, there are no conditions for public political discussion and freedom of expression of the citizens. Hundred of thousands of permanent citizens have left the territory of Chechnya – the Chechens, the Russians, representatives of other nationals – without whom definition of the Republic’s fate is unacceptable.
Preparation for the referendum has already caused strict measures aimed at returning the refugees who were in Ingushetiya back to the Chechen Republic and pressure on many public organizations located on the territory of Chechnya and founded in accordance with the Russian legislation.
We share and support the position of the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe reporter Lord Judd who established impossibility of the referendum on the Constitution of Chechnya in March 2003 and called to its postponement. The same opinion is being expressed by many Russian and Chechen politicians and also representatives and activists of decades of Russian and Chechen public organizations which work in the Chechen Republic.
We suppose that conduction of the constitutional referendum in the Chechen Republic in March 2003 will inevitably turn into parody to freedom of expression, will lead to extending of civil confrontation in Chechnya, will provoke strengthening of armed opposition’s activity.
Criticizing intention of the Russian authorities to conduct the referendum in the Chechen Republic in March 2003 we think, and have repeatedly said that before, that the very people of the Chechen Republic have a right to define the political future of their Republic and that the best way for that is a referendum under an international control. But such referendum can be conducted in Chechnya only after a ceasefire agreement is signed and agree of the representatives of all basic forces of the Chechen society (including supporters of Aslan Maskhadov, the legally elected in 1997 President of the Chechen Republic Ichkeriya) to admit its results. We assume that not only citizens who live in Chechnya but also all citizens who were forced to leave the Chechen Republic after 1991 regardless to their present place of living and nationality should have a right to participate in the referendum on the Constitution of the Chechen Republic. International observers should be attracted to the process of peace settlement including the process of organizing and conduction of the referendum.
Our critics of the Russian President’s plan – to conduct referendum in the Chechen Republic in March 2003 – is aimed not at disparaging the Russian sovereignty but is conditioned by the aim and intention to achieve real political settlement of this extraordinary and severe conflict.
We suppose that governments of the democratic states of the West should not let Russian authorities simply ignore the fact that conduction of any referendum in the conditions which in fact now exist in Chechnya – “mopping up operations”, blocking roads and localities by troops, going on curfew – are completely forbidden by the international norms and current Russian legislation.
We appeal to the Heads of the states who are interested in termination of war in Chechnya with a call to use all your influence to bring warring parties to immediate beginning of real process of peace settlement and in hope that you will express your support to the idea of the Constitutional referendum in Chechnya – as a final stage of political settlement of the military and civil conflict.
Your actions in this direction will save thousands of lives of civilians of the Chechen Republic and Russian soldiers.
Subscribed to by the undersigned members of the Russian National Committee for Ending the War and Securing Peace in the Chechen Republic:
Deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation: Sergei Kovalev, Yuli Rybakov, SergeiYushenkov
Alexander Tkachenko, the Russian PEN-Center
R.N. Badalov, Chair of the “Chechen Committee for National Salvation”
Zuleikhan Bagalova, actress, Honored Artist of the Russian Federation
Elena Bonner, Chair, The Andrei Sakharov Foundation
Lidiya Grafova, Chair of the Migrant Organisations Forum
Svetlana Gannushkina, Chair of the Refugee Committee “Civil Assistance”
Lev Gudkov, Doctor of Philosophy
I.G. Yakovenko, Doctor of Philosophy
Oleg Orlov, member of the Human Rights Center of the Memorial Society
Lev Ponomarev, Chair of the All-Russian Movement “For Human Rights”
Yuri Samodurov, Executive Director, The Andrei Sakharov Public Center and Museum.