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Chechnya demands justice

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, December 16
A number of South Caucasus NGOs have conducted a mock trial, Chechnya versus Russia, with Russia as the defendant. The “Chechen” side, represented by Azeri lawyer Leila Mandatli from the Human Rights House Foundation NGO, demanded that the “Russian authorities” to establish an international commission to evaluate the events which took place in the Chechen republic during the First and Second Chechen wars and react to the violations of human rights which took place during that period.

“Both the national and international remedies applied to the Chechen-Russia conflict should meet international standards, particularly those of fairness and due process. Therefore activities aimed at monitoring, research, the preparation of databases and the gathering of evidence for future cases must be continued. In particular, special emphasis should be placed on the establishment of a truth-finding commission, which would be involved in issues such as truth identification and reconciliation, even as a quasi-judicial body entitled to consider the cases of low level perpetrators,” Mandatli stated at the trial. She noted that possibly the best option in the current situation would be a “hybrid” commission – one with both Russian and international representatives.

The “opponent” of Mandatli, Georgian lawyer Soso Papuashvili, who had agreed to represent Russia’s point of view at the mock trial, noted that Moscow would never agree to international involvement in the Chechen conflict. “Allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity remain ungrounded and unjustified. Although Chechen militants were the ones who blatantly violated the laws of war, none of the reports of so-called “independent observers” have given a realistic picture of the conflict,“ stated “Russia’s representative”, who also noted that Russia is a sovereign country and no foreign actor can force Russia to institute an international investigation of the events in Chechnya.

Papuashvili’s position was questioned by the public attending the mock trial with the reference to the recent Russian-Georgian conflict. “If Russia doesn’t respect the sovereignty of other countries, in this case Georgia’s, how can it demand respect for itself?” asked an attendee.

The judge of the improvised court asked the public in attendance to vote on the issue based on the positions outlined by the advocates and by 16 votes to 9 the Georgian attendees voted that Russia should take into the consideration the necessity of an unbiased investigation into what happened during the Chechen wars.

This is the third such mock trial Tbilisi has hosted. The initiative for doing so came from Azerbaijani NGO The Alliance of Women for Civil Society, which has proposed that Baku and Tbilisi conduct mock trials of different issues relating to current events in the Caucasus. Topics discussed by earlier “courts” include Georgia’s decision to leave the CIS and the integration of South Caucasus states with NATO.

Speaking to The Messenger after the hearing, Niazi Mehti, the Director of the mock trial project, noted that its organisers try to pick up topics that are important for all the Caucasus states which will help the region's democratic development. He also noted that the “trial” in Tbilisi was sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.