Interview of the Russian President's Special Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya

Originally published

Interview of Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, the Russian President's Special Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya, with the Newspaper Izvestia, Published on March 11, 2003, under the Heading "Chechnya Is Going to Be the First to Do Away with the Democracy for Bureaucracy"

Less than two weeks are left before the referendum in Chechnya, and preparations for the vote are already nearing completion. The President's special representative for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, talks to Izvestia commentator Ilya Maksakov about the aims of the referendum and what awaits the republic after it.

Question: Abdul-Khakim Akhmedovich, the upcoming referendum in Chechnya is often called the beginning of a political process. Does this mean that the inhabitants of the republic will have yet to suffer a while?

Answer: The referendum is indeed the beginning of a political process of the creation of an effective legal field for the full-scale realization of the civil rights of population of the republic. The legitimate political process was interrupted in 1991 by the actions of extremist elements. The attempts for 12 years to solve the problem through belittling the generally recognized principles and rules of law only aggravated the tragedy. When we are speaking of involving in the settlement the Chechen people as the fundamental subject, then that's the legitimate political process. The forcible liquidation of the results of the expression of the people's will at the elections of 1990, the attempts to solve the problem through negotiations behind the Chechen people's backs, and the replacement of the expression of the people's will with the quasi-elections (in essence, a public opinion poll) in 1997 reproduced a civilian armed confrontation.

All is only beginning with the referendum. Submitting in an individual territory to the vote three laws at once - the Basic Law and those on the elections for executive and legislative authority - is an unprecedented case in all European history. This is more than an open and responsible stand held by the federal center. Everything is scheduled, even down to dates. Stage One is the referendum. The next is the election for President, which is actually a continuation of the referendum, because far more people will take part in it. Stage Three is the parliamentary elections. Even more people will participate in them, 40 persons will be elected. Then follow the elections to bodies of local self-government - a phase not less important than the previous three stages, because the specifics of Chechen society consist of maximum self-government, coupled with a minimum bureaucratic apparatus. Chechnya is going to be the first subject which within the framework of the Kozak reform will do away with the democracy for bureaucracy. Different sections of the population will be involved in each of the four stages, including the so called armed opposition, which as the democratic process advances will diminish.

Question: Can a civil war be taking place only on a part of the territory of the country? It turns out that the presence of its attributes gives Chechnya a special status, not saying "independence"?

Answer: In Russia the civil war began with the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. In Chechnya - with the dissolution of the legitimate Supreme Council and other bodies of authority. Local conflict is an entirely wrong characterization for the definition of what has happened in Chechnya. This isn't a local conflict, but a local civil war on a part of the territory of the country. The federal center intervened in this process, participating in it on the side of the forces which adhered to the idea of restoring law and order. In 1997 an erroneous attempt was undertaken to resolve the situation that stemmed from the absolute lack of understanding by officials from the former Nationalities Ministry of the essence of what was really happening. The conflict was regarded as a nonexistent conflict of the territory and the center, of the Chechen and Russian peoples. In 1997 we actually recognized the victory of one of the sides over the Chechen political opposition and the entire non-Chechen population, and in essence - over the entire intelligentsia and business elite.

We attempted to consolidate this in the public opinion poll in 1997. That cannot be called elections. It's another matter that people were elected to a representative body which was not a parliament in the legislative sense. Its activities were paralyzed by armed units, which did not see the difference between the elections for president of a state entity and that of a petroleum base. In Chechnya there was no separatism in the true sense of the word, for the separatists, while advocating secession from a state, do not deny the state as such. Moreover, a civil war engenders intervention. So was in Russia, so it worked out in Chechnya as well. As soon as the results of the first stage of the civil war were consolidated as the victory of one of the parties, the forces of intervention legalized themselves, forces which are today called international terrorism.

The way out of the local civil war lies in the restoration of law and order, and in the agreement of all the parties to return legitimacy to the Chechen people. Not to one person, not to an extremist or democratic group of people, but to the people. This presupposes civil harmony, a national reconciliation.

In the name of which the Agreement on Social Harmony has been prepared, the signing of which is actively going on today. The people for the first time now consciously make a choice in favor of transformation into a nation. People are becoming citizens and forming a political system and bodies of state power. Chechnya will have to have a special status, taking into account all the consequences of the tragedy that took place. The special status must already be broadly discussed now, become the subject of a national dialogue with the participation of all the parties to the conflict. Within the framework of a civil forum we should move towards understanding the formula of special status.

The consolidated mandate of the people will become the foundation for the elaboration by an elected parliament of a draft treaty between the Chechen Republic and the federal center.

Question: That approach is the exact realization of the idea of a maximally broad autonomy. Is it true that Moscow presumes that Chechens will vote "correctly"?

Answer: In Chechnya the referendum is being suggested in order that all the parties to the conflict may worthily uphold their political views, including separatist.

These forces must recognize the results of the referendum, but this does not mean that they must give up their political views. A different path means the elimination of one of the parties. What the vote will end in is, of course, unknown. I think that the people will vote correctly. If correct is taken to mean the answer to one question: "Do you want to live next to a military range?" The absolute majority of the population understands what they have to vote for - for their own civil rights.

Question: And if the Constitution is rejected in the referendum, but the laws on presidential and parliamentary elections are supported?

Answer: Different combinations of answers are theoretically possible, but practically that's unlikely. But if this or that combination does occur, the federal center will proceed just from it. The three questions make it possible for the first time to measure the line-up of sociopolitical forces.

Question: The election campaign in Chechnya coincides with the Russian...

Answer: Immediately after the referendum will be the false start of an election race. The so called Chechen problem, and to be more precise - establishment of the Russian constitutional system on the entire territory of the country - will be one of the central issues of the election campaign. All the political parties will devote attention to this, bearing in mind that the democratic rights of the people of more than one million will not be called into question by speculation about the possibility, through negotiations, of encroachments on the constitutional system of Russia. No party and no candidate for President will be able to call into question the constitutional system. They will immediately be removed from the race.

There will be many candidates for President of Chechnya, I hope. The more, the better. This will be a sociopolitical tribunal for all the forces which one way or another are connected with the tragedy of the people. People will express themselves on each candidate.

Desirable is the participation of all the sociopolitical forces, including people who share the separatist views. A candidate for President of Chechnya will run in a bloc with a candidate for deputy of the State Duma and the prospective premier.

This will be a team. The Russian parties will be interested in seeing precisely their candidate pass through at the elections in Chechnya. The party whose candidate will win will be the ruling party or stand next to the ruling party.

Question: Does the danger of a destabilization of the situation in the country exist in the event of failures in Chechnya, and how to prevent it?

Answer: Throughout the Chechen conflict Chechnya has been associated with an encroachment upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. But the reverse side of this is interethnic and inter-confessional peace. One cannot fight for territorial integrity by fomenting interethnic strife, hostility towards this or that religion. The issue is essentially not about the elections, but about the re-registration of Russia as a multiethnic, multi-confessional, sovereign, independent and integral state.

The essence of the Russian national idea may be briefly formulated thus: one God, one federative country, one president. Then we will remain as a nation, as a state, as authority. It is important that political correctness should be rigidly emphasized, for this is directly connected with national security. Here the laws can and must be toughened to any degree.

As if this toughening were being introduced in a state of emergency or under martial law. All that directly or indirectly humiliates the dignity of one of the peoples of the Russian Federation, of one of the confessions, must be outlawed. Who does not like it must realize that otherwise the entire country will find itself in the Nord-Ost situation.

Question: The Russian problem of Chechnya is linked to the world problem of international terrorism. But a common understanding of the threats facing the world still has not been reached.

Answer: America has endured an act of direct aggression by the forces of international terrorism. Russia in Chechnya has repulsed a systemic aggression: a real territorial and ideological occupation, an attempt to extend this regime. Terrorism positions itself as a third center of force - primarily a counterweight to Russia and the US. This is not a war with Islam, which is the possession of all humanity. Any such associations in practice mean for Russia and the US the end of their existence as states. This is, by the way, what the international terrorists want. By calling them Muslims, Islamists and supporters of the jihad, we make a gross mistake. They are representatives of the newest man-hating ideology. The very raising of the question of the possibility of a victory over international terrorism is impossible unless the question of its ideological disarmament and of its separation from religion is solved. Unless this is done, no antiterrorist campaign will lead to anything, but a total catastrophe.

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