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#12
From: "Catherine Fitzpatrick" <catfitzny@earthlink.net>
Subject: Reply to Ware (7052) and Garner (7054)
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003

Robert Bruce Ware mistakenly believes I was oblivious of attacks on humanitarians in between the wars that forced them to leave Chechnya, although I took that harsh reality as a given to this discussion. After the peace accords of August 1996, the ICRC remained, but only until December 1996, when six of its workers were murdered in their beds, evidently by Chechen bandits. My point was that Ware's blanket characterization of *no* presence after that was exaggerated. Memorial Society didn't leave the region; they stayed. Human Rights Watch continued to send missions, some staying for many months (they never established any kind of permanent presence). HALO and others remained until they became victims. From OSCE's website, we can learn the following: "The OSCE AG to Chechnya began working in Grozny on 26 April 1995 and operated from there until 16 December 1998, when the AG's international staff was evacuated to Moscow due to the deteriorating security situation. In subsequent months, the AG conducted several working visits to Grozny. Renewed armed hostilities required the remaining AG local staff to be evacuated to Ingushetia in October 1999. A year later local staff moved to the new AG office in Znamenskoye in Northwest Chechnya." Even if they had a skeletal staff, OSCE is hardly a small humanitarian group. Although MSF and some others had to pull out temporarily on different occasions, they stayed involved in the region, although sometimes that meant operating only in Ingushetia, and sending only local staff into Chechnya. These groups - highly represented among the victims of Chechen bandits precisely because they were there between the wars never excuse Chechen atrocities or minimize them for the sake of making some anti-Russian claim; they merely record the overwhelming number of Russian atrocities along with also condemning Chechen atrocities. And they did not return in larger numbers to this area after 1999 because they now had Russian troops to ensure their safety; they returned because those same Russian troops had brought about massive displacement of some 200,000 people into Ingushetia and even more brutal atrocities against Chechen civilians in Chechnya when the second war began.

Ware also seriously misrepresents Mary Robinson's trip to the region in 2000. Her extensive report is available at www.unhchr.ch under the documents from the 54th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Ware implies her Russian hosts (including the GRU escort) were so incensed at her lack of balance that they deliberately delayed her plane to force her to go to Dagestan, seemingly unaware of the implications that such strong-arming would constitute a gross attempt to influence her findings or imply they had something to hide. Prior to coming to Dagestan, Robinson was denied access to several facilities believed to be filtration camps in Chechnya and also efforts were made to derail her meetings with groups like Memorial Society in Nazran; she kept insisting that she should gain access as agreed. When she left Chechnya, her party's helicopter was kept circulating around in the air for hours despite good weather, apparently a clumsy effort to soak up time and keep her from gaining access. But far from ignoring Dagestan, she did in fact go there, at the strong request of the Russian government, even though it cut time from the Chechen trip, which is generally where the reports of the allegations pertinent to her mandate were located. In Mkhachkala, in fact she did meet with officials and displaced persons, women's groups, and so on for many hours, including people from the border region. She did not refuse any meetings. To be sure, she did not travel to the border region as the Dagestanis wished, but in fact the trip was cancelled due to the previous delay in her schedule and for weather reasons, and she did not leave for Moscow in the evening as scheduled, but at 5:00 a.m. the next day, where she barely made it to her appointments with high-level official meetings in Moscow that day. Both her official report and news accounts of this trip indicate these facts, which would also be checked with the office of the president of Dagestan, with whom she met.

Ware emphasizes how important it was for Robinson to hear the accounts of victims of Chechen incursions near the border areas, and complains that Human Rights Watch failed to interview them. The fact is, Mrs. Robinson heard them out in Mkhachkala. In any event, compiling still more reasons for why the Russian army/police had to intervene in the border areas is not her job, but the job of the Russian government. Whatever local groups may say, no international institution or human rights organizations disputes the right and indeed duty of Russia to control crime and battle terrorism within in its borders and at and near the borders of its own republics. Indeed, it is Russias duty. Had Mary Robinson or any other international official compiled a dossier about Chechens crime against Dagestanis, their recourse would only be to say to Russia not "my, aren't you justified in crushing Chechnya!" but "you should have gone in there earlier" or "you are not doing a good job in protecting your own citizens". Their mandate is limited to monitoring states' responsibility for compliance with human rights obligations, as much as people angry at Chechen crime would like it to be otherwise. (Such international bodies are also not going to characterize even numerous kidnappings as the same thing as institutionalized slavery, under their definitions).

The debate around the roles of state and non-state actors is a relatively new one (precisely because of decolonialization, failed states, communist transition, and burgeoning violent non-state movements throughout the world). In an age where many perpetrators of wars and terrorist acts as well as their victims are non-state actors, shouldn't we care about them more? Yes! Capt. Garner Chechen wants to hold civilians to "the same" standard of accountability, and wishes Chechen criminals could made responsible for their crimes. Don't we all! Societies evolve all kinds of methods to hold people accountable religious, moral, legal, political. There isnt a universal legal or moral standard that could hold *both* states and non-states *equally* accountable *in the same way*, the standards for accountability of states and non-states are different in kind and means. The Ten Commandments dont have an international tribunal in our world, but only in the next. Reporting this fact of our sinful world should not be viewed as undermining any standards, and certainly doesnt mean I or anyone else excuses atrocities on either side. The ways in which both states and intergovernmental mechanisms can deal with non-state crime is what is relative; not the problems themselves. It shouldnt imply any excusing of Chechen atrocities to point out that the proportionality of Russian war crimes is greater, nor to explain that the tools available to hold non-state actors accountable *on the international arena* (given their absence locally) are extremely limited. International institutions are forced to yield pride of place to local law and law- enforcers-- even when they are ineffective; in fact, the UN response to Chechen atrocities has been to push for national, not international justice. Indeed the basic anti-crime work that could have been done in Dagestan in 1999 or in Chechnya between the wars was not done, with Russian military and oligarchs and Chechen warlords profiteering from the post-war and wartime chaos. International human rights groups can hold states accountable because they signed human rights treaties. It is far more difficult to work with non-state actors precisely because the international security system is based on the concept of the primacy of state actors, their states' sovereignty, and the responsibility of *states* for ensuring order within their borders by their own citizens who must obey local law. Would Capt. Garner have it any other way?

Afghanistan recently signed the statute of the International Criminal Court in the hopes that warlords which it cannot control could be tried in it. The U.S. government itself has not ratified the statute of the ICC (Capt. Garner has mixed up the ICC and the ICJ) precisely because of their fear of trivialization and politicization of the ICC by other states which they believe could misuse it to try U.S. peace-keeping soldiers or focus obsessively on U.S. allies such as Israel. The political realities and real limitations of the international legal system belong solely to those institutions (they are not "Ms. Fitzpatrick's bureaucratic legal categories" but finite realities all their own). Capt. Garner thinks someone should rise to the challenge to engage non-state actors in dialogue and hold them accountable. Let me ask the same question I asked rhetorically about any supposed community activists who could take on the Russian police's failures: "Any volunteers?" Clearly I know from all my years of either living and working in Russia or traveling there and in the region that even in non-war-zones like St. Petersburg, the prospects for community anti-crime groups being able to survive violence themselves is pretty dismal. If U.S. or European human rights groups were to venture into territory controlled by boyeviki not only would they risk being called terrorist sympathizers (by those already believing them to be excusing terrorism) for even engaging in a discussion with such combatants, they would face grave dangers to their staff and would also have to convince frightened civilians to give testimony about those very same warlords intimidating them nearby -- and have no way of protecting such informers after they left. Chechnya is not about to become an international protectorate, when the Russian government won't even let a handful of OSCE monitors remain in the area.

Capt. Garner says "the bottom line is that non-state actors are taking on an increasing political role in a post-Cold War world and human rights organizations need to adapt to this fact of life rather than ignore it. If that means changing international law to reflect this dynamic, then so be it." Who could disagree? States change international law; NGOs can only call for its change. It will be politically difficult, however, for the U.S. to lead the charge on changing international law when its current position (rightly or wrongly) is not to participate in a wide range of international legal efforts, from the ICC to obtaining UN authorization for attacking Iraq to the Kyoto treaty. And it would also pose many political and ethical dilemmas to turn human rights watchdogs that monitor states into groups that monitor other groups in societies - and to keep them from turning into vigilantes. Yes, you don't need a degree from Harvard to stop blowing up theaters and hospitals, but the people with degrees from Moscow State University don't seem to be able to distinguish between military targets and villages where people live, either. The point about Western degrees is that if you create an urban intellectual elite with some shared universal values it can become easier to build a society of democratic institutions where teenage males are attracted to more peaceful enterprises than Islamicist terrorism. And surely we can make a distinction between violent, uneducated and radicalized Chechen terrorists who commit crimes and non-violent Chechen intellectuals and NGO activists, including a few educated in the West, as well as ordinary citizens who do not support or commit terrorism.

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