Peace for our time?

The former Foreign Minister of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, is holding talks with representatives of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow dictator, Ramzan Kadyrov. The talks are part of Kadyrov’s grand plan for consolidating his grip on power in the republic.

For Kadyrov, the “consolidation of the Chechen society” is a top-down process, along the power vertical, aimed at cementing his rule and suppressing opponents of “peace” and “stability.” Kadyrov will want to portray himself as the great peacemaker and leader of all Chechens.

Kadyrov has spread his net wide and large in Europe, trying to engage various international organisations in joint projects. The magic word acting as bait seems to be peace; who would be against Peace?

In the meantime, the war has escalated far beyond the borders of tiny Chechnya to all over Russia’s North Caucasus. Across the region, most notably in Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia and Dagestan, disappearances, murders, and other human rights violations have continued unabated.

International actors, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and several non-governmental organisations, have chimed in with various degrees of commitment in trying to engage the different parties to the conflict in Chechnya. Since the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999, however, Moscow has always rejected any talks with the armed resistance.

Kadyrov and the Kremlin have nothing against such international forums, provided they do not interfere with their claim to political power in the region. However, Putin and Kadyrov do not seem very enthusiastic about the idea that those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought before an independent international tribunal.

Through all the efforts to engage the regime in Grozny in dialogue, one thing has remained constant: the continuing stream of reports about extrajudicial killings, abductions, disappearances, and other grave violations of human rights in Chechnya.

It is as if the purpose of the various international peace forums on Chechnya is for the applause of the participants to drown out the sound of gunfire directed against justice and human rights.

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Peace for our time?
Kerkko Paananen, 18.08.2009

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