July 17, 2003
Humans Rights Leader 'Explodes' at Foreigners' Chechnya Criticisms
Report by Dmitriy Vladimirov: "Western Human Rights Campaigners Offend Pamfilova"
Unexpectedly sharp debates about the current international situation and the West's relations with Russia flared up yesterday (16 July) between Russian and foreign human rights campaigners at the All-Russia Conference for Leaders of Human Rights Commissions of Heads of Executive Power of Russian Federation Components.
The conference was attended by representatives of a large number of public nongovernmental organizations, including foreign ones. The event itself was chaired by Ella Pamfilova, head of the Russian Federation Presidential Human Rights Commission.
The speeches of the Russian and foreign delegates at the conference differed greatly: While Russian human rights campaigners spoke mainly about abuses by members of the law enforcement agencies and officials, their foreign counterparts spoke only about Chechnya. When the representative of the Moscow branch of a very large Western human rights organization let it slip that Russia does not in general have the moral right to criticize other states for violating the human rights of their citizens, Pamfilova literally "exploded."
"You should actually pay attention to what is going on in your own countries! Stop applying triple standards to Russia! Unlike the good old Americans who started a war in Iraq, we have never after all taken the liberty of violating international law," Pamfilova stated angrily.
From the part of the auditorium where the foreign human rights campaigners were sitting came responses to the effect that Iraq cannot be compared with Chechnya. In their view, a war is in progress in Chechnya while in Iraq a "counterterrorist operation" is being conducted. This claim caused indignation in the other part of the auditorium where the Russian human rights campaigners were sitting. At this point, the well-known pediatrician and member of the Russian Federation Presidential Human Rights Commission, Leonid Roshchal, mounted the podium and laid down a basic general theoretical framework for the dispute. He stated that the West will always regard Russia negatively.
"Despite everything, our country is rapidly changing for the better and becoming more and more free. However, the West still treats Russia like a naughty child at k
indergarten -- we are continually being slapped in the face. Stop telling us what to do! We will figure out for ourselves how to fight the terrorists in Chechnya and establish order there. What ever we do, we will never hear a good word from you," Roshchal said addressing the representatives of the foreign human rights organizations.
A row was about to break out in the auditorium again but the representative of the foreign human rights organization who uttered the careless words about Russia immediately said she was busy and left ostentatiously. Pamfilova quickly calmed the inflamed passions: She invited to the podium a fellow commission worker who gave a lecture on sexual slavery and the lowly position of women in Russia.
The all-Russia conference of human rights campaigners adopted recommendations to the Russian Federation Presidential Staff to make every effort to extend cooperation between the organs of power and human rights organizations. Aside from this it was proposed to establish new bodies -- human rights coordination and consultative councils -- under the Russian Federation presidential plenipotentiary representatives in the federal districts.