Strasbourg, 29 June 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has strongly condemned the refusal by its member governments to sanction Russia over Chechnya.
Following a debate today in Strasbourg, the assembly voted overwhelmingly to support a resolution saying that Russia's efforts to address human rights abuses in the breakaway republic have yet to produce, in the resolution's words, "convincing and tangible results." The assembly insisted that suspending Russia from the council should remain an option.
International human rights organizations have gathered evidence of widespread abuse of human rights by Russian forces in Chechnya.
The Parliamentary Assembly said it is "totally unacceptable" that the council's Committee of Ministers has not denounced Russia's handling of the conflict. The council's Parliamentary Assembly is made up of parliamentarians from member states, while the Committee of Ministers is made up of the states' foreign ministers.
The Parliamentary Assembly has frequently criticized Russia over Chechnya, and two months ago, it suspended Russia's voting rights because of concerns about human rights abuses. But the ministers, representing member governments, have mostly failed to back the assembly. And the council's secretary-general, Walter Schwimmer, said yesterday that he believes Russia has made progress in Chechnya. He predicted the assembly would probably allow the Russian delegation to resume full participation as early as September.
The committee's chairman-in-office, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, seconded that opinion and said he believes Moscow is taking measures to prosecute those guilty of crimes against civilians.
But many speakers at today's Parliamentary Assembly session countered that Russia has done little to address concerns of the international community.
The parliamentarians' criticism aside, the soft line taken by most European governments allows Russia to avoid expulsion from the council for the time being. But Russia will be unable to regain its voting rights without the assembly's consent.
Most of the Russian delegation has been boycotting assembly sessions since their voting rights were taken away. Two Russian deputies, however, have not been observing the boycott, and they participated in today's discussion.
Aleksandr Shishlov of the liberal Yabloko party criticized the assembly's resolution, saying his country's "full participation" in the council would contribute to a political solution to the Chechen conflict.
But his Duma colleague, prominent human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalyov, fully backed the resolution, accusing the administration of President Vladimir Putin of trying to "dupe" the Council of Europe.