Picketing Russian consulate in Kharkiv


22 November from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection, the Kharkiv working group of the Ukrainian section of the international organization of human rights and the Kharkiv Union of soldiers’ mothers conducted picketing of Russian consulate. The slogans of the picket were; ‘People!? Stop the war!’, ‘The war with Ichkeria is the shame for Russia!’, ‘Russian mothers, do not let kill your sons!’. The participants of the picket intended to pass their appeal through the Russian consulate to the President of Russia Boris Eltsin. Besides, they wanted to pass the appeal of the annual meeting of the international organization of human rights, held in Bratislava on 7 November. In what follows we publish the press-release which was distributed during picketing.

A humanitarian catastrophe is happening in Chechnya. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful people had to leave their homes and escape from rockets and bombs. Old and ill die on the way, children perish from explosions, refugees live in beastly conditions. Hundreds of peaceful people have already perished in military operations. Violation of human rights in any country is not an internal affair of this country. Such violation is everybody’s matter. In our opinion, the main source of violations of human rights in Chechnya is the ‘antiterrorist operation’ started by Russia. That is why we consider it admissible to appeal the Russian authorities to stop the military actions and to begin negotiations with the government of Chechnya. We have come to this conclusion, basing on the following statements.

Two legal assessments of the events in Chechnya are possible. The first is argumented as follows: there are no legal reasons to start the military actions. The Russian power does not acknowledge the independence of Chechnya. Russia speaks only about the liquidation of gangs and terrorist groups in one of the regions of Russia and declares that this is an internal affair of Russia. The reason for the use of the armed forces inside the country, according to the Russian law ‘On defense’, is the state of war or emergency. Russia cannot conduct a war with Chechnya since the former considers the latter as a part of her territory. The state of war or emergency has not been declared. The use of bombs and rockets against the population of its own country is not stipulated legally and cannot be stipulated by any law. Bombardment of residential districts, medical establishments, mosques, maternity hospitals or markets entails gross losses among peaceful population. That is why fighting in Chechnya is qualified by Russian and international legal norms as a crime against mankind. If to regard Chechnya as an independent state, then Russia violated the Khasav-Yurt treaty of 1996 about the peace and interaction between Russia and Chechnya, in which the countries promised to interact according to the norms of international right. So from this standpoint the war is illegal too.

Another assessment of the situation is such: the Constitution of Russia stipulates the main values: constitutional order, rights and freedoms of individual, and integrity of Russia. The Constitution does not answer the question, what must be done if one of these values contradicts the other. The subject of Russia has no right to move away from Russia, because it will violate the principle of integrity. That is why the government of Russia has the duty to apply all methods stipulated by law to stop the process. There is no law about the details. The juridical acts and legal reality have their restricted sphere and no state may act according to some law, since there are also political ways and, under extreme situations, military ways too.

Logically, the both arguments are right, and they provide a good illustration of the profound conflict between the right of a people for autonomy and the principle of territorial integrity. The both principles belong to the fundamental values of human rights. However, international legal tools say nothing about this conflict of principles.

Thus, the legal arguments do not work in this conflict. Political measures can be applied, but the government of Russia for the second time gives the preference to forceful, not to diplomatic, methods. They declare that they fight with terrorists while the Russian army and special units of the Ministry of Interior fight with the Chechen people as a whole. Already for two centuries first the Russian Empire, then the USSR and now Russia do not change their policy against Chechnya. Is it not time to stop?

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