5 October 2004, Volume
SEEKING PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY FOR BESLAN...
Some 2,000 Russian citizens have been killed in terrorist attacks in recent years, many by bungled rescue attempts during hostage dramas. A poll made by the Levada Center on 7-8 September in Moscow of 500 people found that 33 percent blamed the terrorists for the recent hostage crisis in a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, 34 percent blamed security services who cannot protect civilians, and 29 percent blamed the Russian leadership for continuing the war in nearby Chechnya. Inadvertently or not, the Russian government has sent a terrible message to the Russian people: "We can't protect you from terrorists. And when you do become the victim of a terrorist attack, you have a 20-30 percent chance or worse of being killed by one of our own forces during the rescue."
In concentrating on eliminating terrorists during attacks, authorities have failed to protect civilians. In 1995, when Chechen militants seized some 1,200 people in a hospital in Budennovsk, more than 100 were killed in the rescue attempt. During the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002, 130 out of 700 hostages died of gas poisoning. In Beslan, at least 335 have been declared dead out of some 1,000, with 600 injured, and more than 100 still missing.
These grim figures are causing some independent media and public groups to demand more answers about how such horrors as the attack in Beslan can be prevented. It is Russia's most heart-wrenching tragedy in decades. Half of those killed were children, and the death toll could grow higher with those missing and presumed dead. The public has been forced to switch their attention from the fault of the terrorists for creating dangerous situations in the first place, to the strategies the government has adopted for coping with these terror-induced crises.
While special forces have learned from the string of hostage dramas and changed some tactics, in Beslan the losses were even more devastating, with hostages killed by terrorists, vigilantes, and federal agents in the chaos that evidently ensued after an explosion went off on the terrorists' side. Public anger hinges on the perception that people were kept in the dark; in a survey of 1,600 people on 10-13 September, 56 percent said they believed officials only told them part of the truth about the Beslan attack, levada.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004).
At first, President Vladimir Putin refused calls for a public inquiry into Beslan. He brushed aside claims by some independent commentators that in fact federal troops had intended to storm the school where children and adults were being held, in the same fashion they stormed the theater during the play "Nord-Ost" in December 2002, where 130 were killed. While Putin called for "an organized and united civil society" to confront terrorism, this is the same civil society that Putin had so successfully sidelined over the past four years, along with reining in free media, "The Moscow Times" commented on 8 September. What Putin may mean by "civil society" is a citizenry that can produce noncorrupt policemen and raise people not to resort to terrorism. He is not interested in people who will dare to challenge how terrorist crises are handled or question the official corruption that contributes to terrorism.
Fearful relatives now worry about a storming more than anything during a hostage crisis, because they know they have terrible odds for seeing their loved ones emerge alive. The fear of the consequences of storming, and possibly the reluctance to continue negotiating with terrorists, prompted vigilantes to take up arms and try to deal with the attack themselves in Beslan. Their very presence on the scene and possible triggering of a worse tragedy is in part about the prevalence of weapons and blood feuds in the Caucasus, as some commentators have pointed out, but it is also about the failure of security services to do their jobs, and the kind of desperation that people reach when a government cannot protect them. They take matters into their own hands, with deadly consequences.
After some pressure abroad and at home, where figures such as former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called for a parliamentary investigation into the events, Putin reversed himself and authorized an inquiry into Beslan, to be performed by the parliament, now made docile since the last elections put parties supporting the Kremlin in the majority. The government was interested in receiving a "complete, objective picture of the tragic events," Putin was quoted as saying on 9 September by Russian and foreign media. Yet with most of the parliamentarians on the commission from the ruling Unified Russia party, there is little chance of getting a critical review (see http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/3248599A-E8EA-42AA-ACFB-C05426D4FEB5.html).
Independent deputies, as well as the opposition Communist Party, have criticized the recently formed Beslan commission. Communist Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin refused to join the panel, saying it would not work. He told gazeta.ru on 22 September, "All the commission will do is check who fulfilled or failed to fulfill their functions or the decrees from their superiors. But this is not what needs to be checked today. It is necessary to look into the roots of terrorism, to examine the socioeconomic situation in the Caucasus, the structure of the state." Ilyukhin wanted the commission to address issues of state corruption and the need to redistribute power. "Moreover, the true goal behind the move [to create the commission] is not to find the problems but to cover up what happened.... What needs to be discussed is that the president has usurped control over 16 ministries and government agencies and fails to run them properly," he said.
Past inquiries related to Chechnya, such as one by former Justice Minister Pavel Krashenninikov into human rights violations, stayed clear of controversy and hewed to the government line, and had no subpoena power in any event. There is also the ghost of the votes in the Duma on creating a parliamentary commission to investigate the series of apartment explosions in Moscow and other cities in 1999 that killed over 300 people. The motion failed twice, blocked by pro-Kremlin forces. Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, a staunch opponent of Putin who personally pushed for an investigation of the bombings, was assassinated in April 2003. In an interview published on 6 September 2002, Yushenkov told RFE/RL that while evidence was inadequate to draw conclusions, he believed that a sufficient amount of evidence existed to claim that the Federal Security Service (FSB) knew enough before the blasts to be able to prevent them, and that those who carried out the bombings had some connections to security forces.
The history of attempts by both nongovernmental and parliamentary forces to get real inquiries is a cautionary tale for any would-be independent investigators today, and most independent commentators do not expect much from the officially sanctioned commission made up largely of the Kremlin-controlled Federation Council....AS RIGHTS GROUPS CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY, PICKETERS CALL FOR RESIGNATIONS.
Expressing concern about the mishandling of the Beslan hostage crisis, eight Russian and international human rights groups including Memorial Society and Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 8 September, "We are seriously concerned that the authorities have been covering up the extent of the crisis, including by providing misleading data on the number of hostages, and urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into the full circumstances of the school hostage-taking incident encompasses an investigation into the way in which the authorities released information both to the public and the families of the hostages." They also called for the findings of the investigation to be made fully public.
Human rights groups themselves are unlikely to have the capacity to carry out their own investigation, and will face serious intimidation if they do. Journalists and civic groups that attempted to question the apartment bombings suffered intimidation, beatings, and confiscations of film and books. For now, civic organizations like the Moscow Helsinki Group are simply trying to record the aftermath of the terrorism, and raise the alarm about the consequences of both official ethnic profiling and the incitement of further ethnic tensions.
Out of a population of 30,000 with many extended families, every person has a personal loss, and the town is like "an open grave," the Moscow Helsinki Group says in a recent photo report on hro.org. The group warns that when the traditional 40-day period of grieving ends on 13 October, more unrest and violence could occur if people act on long-standing grievances between the Ingush and the Chechens and also face continued difficulties in finding the missing, identifying remains, and recovering from the trauma.
The tragedy is likely to force an accountability that goes beyond a parliamentary investigation of the immediate events, as both Russians and the international community are probing the deeper reasons for the ongoing Chechen conflict. Andrew Kuchins, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center said in an essay for "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 September, "These terrible events have demonstrated, unfortunately, that Russia's security and intelligence services are incapable of handling this problem [of terrorism]."
Public accountability often takes the form of demands for the resignations of officials associated with a tragedy, although officialdom sometimes reacts by protecting those in uniform. President Putin himself set the tone after the Moscow theater hostage taking in 2002, praising special forces and characterizing the rescue as a success. With Beslan, he has personally taken a sharper tone, saying corruption in the police was a contributing factor to terrorism, presumably because some guards at checkpoints accept bribes, or because information is leaked and facilities where explosives are manufactured are not secure. Putin has been vague about what this means, but "The Moscow Times" put it explicitly on 10 September: "Corruption and the outright recruitment of police officers by militants in the North Caucasus have emerged as a major security threat, with crooked or ideologically driven officers being linked to almost every terrorist attack from the 1999 apartment bombings and Dubrovka [theater in Moscow] to the Beslan school tragedy." The people of the North Caucasus endure numerous checkpoints in their region, and find it difficult to understand how terrorists slip through when they are inconvenienced. As a Beslan resident told AP on 11 September, "How could they [the terrorists] bring these weapons here if they [police] check tomatoes 20 times?"
Putin will hardly seek the resignation of the highest officials, polit.ru commented; FSB head Nikolai Patrushev has been in his post for five years, since he replaced Putin himself, and newly appointed Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev does not appear to be singled out for the tragedy.
Public opinion does not appear to be lined up against these top figures, but in Beslan and elsewhere in North Ossetia, people have been very clear about calling for the dismissal of their local leaders. Faced with a crowd of thousands chanting "resign!", North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov said he and his government would resign, and that an officer and a gentleman, he could not in good conscience remain in his position. Yet later, speaking on NTV, he was evasive about leaving, saying he had urgent tasks to solve and "must take into account the opinions of those people who did not take part in the demonstration," russiajournal.com reported on 9 September. Dzasokhov dismissed his government, but remained himself. He also claimed that he could not fire local security chiefs, who report to Moscow, jamestown.org reported on 14 September, thereby deflecting attention back to Moscow. "The heads of the Russian security forces must answer for their Beslan blunder," one of his loyal supporters, a famed Ossetian wrestler was quoted as saying by gazeta.ru on 9 September. On 11 September, Putin sacked North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiev and local FSB chief Valerii Andreev, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported on 15 September.
The calls for heads to roll take place against a larger backdrop of varying confidence in security forces, however. Special forces have a certain amount of respect, in part because of the propagandistic portrayal of their training and accomplishments on television. A Levada Center poll on 7-8 September in Moscow found that 77 percent of respondents did not think the security forces could protect civilians and prevent attacks like Beslan, and 19 percent thought they could. This attitude could vary outside the capital. The St. Petersburg-based Independent Analytical Center said only 12 percent of respondents to a survey believe that authorities are not doing enough to fight terrorism, Chechen war researcher Emma Gilligan wrote in the "Chicago Tribune" on 5 September. In this poll, 54 percent of respondents said the police were corrupt and 23 percent said they did not know how to do their job properly. According to another survey by the Levada Center in Moscow, 52 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the actions of the Interior Ministry and the FSB and 59 percent were happy with Putin, polit.ru reported on 13 September, although they contrasted with a similar poll taken after the Moscow theater tragedy, when 82 percent of those polled supported the security forces. Overall, Levada found that Putin's monthly approval rating fell to 66 percent, the lowest in the past four years, newsru.com reported on 22 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2004).
In a bizarre twist, the terrorists themselves are calling for a public investigation into the very events they themselves instigated. Radical Chechen commander Shamil Basaev, who claimed responsibility for Beslan, called on the UN and European Union to conduct a public investigation of the attack, claiming that criticism of the terrorists has been "one-sided." Yet Basaev admitted that he and his followers had no intention of releasing the hostages unless the Kremlin withdrew troops from Chechnya, and Putin resigned as president, and he also indicated that attacks would continue. No one disputes that the terrorists themselves bear full blame for the deaths and injuries of children and adults. What's at issue in fueling public mistrust appear to be that police and security forces are intertwined with terrorists.
"The Russian government has been confronted with the necessity of internationalizing the increasingly tangled problem of Chechnya," Kuchins of the Carnegie Moscow Center wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 September. Certainly, the Chechen problem has grown from an isolated one in the North Caucasus to a Russia-wide crisis. About 500,000 Chechen refugees have left Chechnya and settled elsewhere in the Russian Federation or in Europe, Gilligan reported the "Chicago Tribune." The UN has said that 20,000 still remain in Ingushetia and many thousands are still displaced and without permanent homes in Chechnya itself.
While Russia has been keen to internationalize the problem in terms of linking Chechen rebels to Al-Qaeda, it has been adamant about not internationalizing Chechnya in other directions, involving increased access to the region by international humanitarian organizations and multilateral institutions such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. In June, months before the three latest terrorist attacks in Russia, a group of nongovernmental human rights activists called in vain on the Council of Europe to try to use its good offices to arrange peace talks to end the conflict in Chechnya, saying that the Chechen resistance was radicalizing. They said the global terrorist network exploited the Chechen conflict, but that Russian armed forces also benefited politically and financial from the Caucasian wars. "The many years of war in Chechnya, which has virtually taken on the form of genocide, the impunity of war crimes, the monstrous acts of various virtually privatized special services, massive kidnappings, murders, torture, and mistreatment has naturally led to the appearance of a rapid ultraradical tendency in the [Chechen] fighters," they said.
Since the last three attacks culminating in Beslan, however, the EU's request to Russia to provide some kind of accounting was met with a vehement response from Russian leaders, as has any kind of private or public call to internationalize the human rights and humanitarian aspects of the conflicts in the North Caucasus, as well as the security and military aspects.
IS THE BLOOM OFF THE ROSE OR THE ROSE BETWEEN THORNS?
Renewed fighting in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia between Georgian troops and separatist forces in August also revived speculation that Georgia's democratic "Rose Revolution" of November 2003 is headed for trouble. Then the spotlight was off South Ossetia while attention was riveted on the hostage crisis in North Ossetia earlier this month, although the arrest of Georgian journalists trying to cover the crisis fueled ongoing tensions with Russia. The success or failure of Georgia's democratic revolution is often judged by the current state of relations with Russia and other external events, and it has been difficult to view Georgia's progress through anything but the prism of regional politics.
Soon after President Mikheil Saakashvili's election as president in January 2004, following a triumphant civic movement that peacefully removed Soviet-era leader Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian and international media began to ring the chimes on the metaphor of the rose, chosen to symbolize Georgia's peaceful revolution much like the word "velvet" was used by the Czechs. "The Rose Has Thorns: Georgia's New President Tries to Rein In Breakaway Region," wrote "Time's" Europe edition on 21 March. More recently, during an outbreak of hostility between Georgia and Russia over fighting between Georgian government troops and rebels in South Ossetia, Russia's pravda.ru ran an article on 4 August, "Georgia: Every Rose Has Its Thorns," bemoaning the annual award by the American Bar Association to Saakashvili for his contribution to the rule of law. "Although the festive roses are still standing on the Georgian revolutionaries' table, their petals have fallen off and only thorns remain," pravda.ru complained. "Georgia's new leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, is driving his democratic revolution to the edge of an abyss" by reasserting control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Ira Straus wrote in "The Washington Times" on 10 August.
Analysis of the success or failure of Saakashvili's democracy has been pinned to his handling of the threats to central power from the rebellions of Adjara, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. While the autocratic Aslan Abashidze was forced to step down and Adjara was brought into the fold, the consensus is that quelling unrest in South Ossetia and Abkhazia will be far more difficult due to Russia's interests in the regions and popular belief that Russian intervention there is a guarantor of autonomy.
Commentators often speak of the "nationalists" in Tbilisi and invoke the specter of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a former political prisoner who brought the country to civil war and ultimately committed suicide. Yet educated urban professionals who do not consider themselves as rabid chauvinists have backed Saakashvili, a U.S.-trained lawyer, because they see him as capable of putting an end to corruption, restoring international confidence, and defending human rights and market reforms inside Georgia. They believe that Saakashvili still represents an optimistic alternative to the past regime, despite the very real pressures he faces now. They see him as caught between Russian pressure on the Caucasus republics, U.S. caution about riling Russia, and the reluctance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to push for international monitors on the scene to watch issues such as illegal arms flows in the face of Russian obstruction. They reason that any country has the right to retain its territorial integrity, and they point to the successful outcome of the clash with Adjara. Foreign policy has definitely shaped the attitude within the breakaway regions of Georgia. Much of the coverage of Saakashvili has been influenced by Kremlin-backed TV, seen throughout the region of the former Soviet Union.
Most nonviolent democratic revolutions are given a grace period by a relieved international and domestic communities, but at a certain point, international agencies become restless, and watchdog groups, eager to keep their credibility, begin to subject the new leaders to the same if not greater scrutiny than their predecessors. Indeed, the more a Western-trained liberal reformer proclaims his intentions for democracy, the more he is likely to be subjected to the high standards of the more developed democracies. Soon after Saakashvili's election in January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on 24 February, "Agenda for Reform: Human Rights Priorities After the Georgian Revolution," and called on U.S. President George W. Bush to raise the issue of human rights during Saakashvili's visit to Washington that week. "The new government must take up this opportunity [for human rights progress] by making respect for human rights the core of its reform program," HRW warned. "Without this emphasis on human rights, abuses common during the 10-year Shevardnadze period risk becoming entrenched," HRW added.
Since then, both domestic and international groups have kept an eye on Georgia. Their first concern has been for the protection of civilians during armed clashes in the troubled areas. So far, only combatants have been killed in the latest flare-ups, but doctors at the central hospital in Tskhinvali complained during recent fighting that both sides in the conflict appear not to respect medical neutrality, as the bullet-riddled walls of their clinic demonstrate. Staff filled the windows with sacks and struggled to carry on operations on wounded soldiers and rebels. Georgian officials evacuated women and children from Eredvi amid shellings and placed about 50 civilians in various Georgian resorts, the "Civil Georgia" website (http://www.civil.ge) reported on 17 August. Even when fighting dies down, people are not always able to return home immediately after such displacement, adding to the country's difficulties.
Past wars have left many people still displaced. The UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in July that 130,000 internally displaced people remained in western Georgia from the conflicts of a decade ago and are still in "temporary" shelters such as schools, barns, and factories. Twelve years later, they live in tiny rooms with no access to clean water and electricity, with abysmal education and health-care services. CARE was able to help some 800 displaced people move into more permanent shelters recently but much remains to be done.
International organizations that are now getting more cooperation from Georgia prefer to praise commitments and progress, and not focus on shortcomings. In a recent report, the Council of Europe said: "Authorities have put an end to the feeling of impunity and have embarked upon a very active campaign against corruption and organized crime. The recent ratification of the anti-money-laundering European convention is of particular importance in this context." Even the conciliatory Council of Europe cautioned in no uncertain terms: "However, this welcome active fight should fully respect the principles of human rights and rule of law, in particular, as regards presumption of innocence, banning of any form of violence, and full respect of the principle of legality of procedure."EU RULE-OF-LAW MISSION DEPLOYED, AS NGOS CRITICIZE RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
International organizations concerned about human rights in Georgia realize that democratic revolutions often need a lot of help after they prevail. The EU has deployed its a one-year "rule of law" mission to Georgia, civil.ge reported on 23 July. Sylvie Pantz, a French prosecutor and judge with experience in the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, will live in Tbilisi and supervise training of Georgians and provide expertise on such projects as a new Criminal Procedure Code.
While the mission will be engaged in more theoretical efforts like helping the Georgians to produce a new concept and strategy for justice-system reform, staff also plan fact-finding missions to areas that face more problems than the capital, civil.ge reported. Pantz also said the mission will closely follow cases of reported human rights abuses by law-enforcement agencies, civil.ge quoted her as saying.
With foreign experts establishing a presence some nine months into the consolidation of the revolution, local NGOs, some at the head of the "Rose Revolution," are also increasingly making their concerns known. They fear that the anticorruption drive, whatever its successes, has cut too many corners and struck arbitrarily at potential sources of resistance to President Saakashvili and his chosen deputies. The French NGO International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together with the Georgian Human Rights Information and Documentation Center (HRIDC), took the occasion of the EU mission opening in July to begin to vocalize concern about what they characterized as a gap between declarations and the reality of human rights in the autonomous republics. Legislative and constitutional changes made in February by parliament strengthened the president's powers, allowing the president both to dissolve parliament and to appoint and dismiss judges, "thereby increasing the president's influence over a judiciary that already suffers from a lack of independence," they said. They said constitutional amendments were rushed through without discussion.
What most disturbs human rights activists are sharp statements threatening violence that appear to be designed to intimidate, which are sometimes later repudiated, but which set a tone of lawlessness with impunity. Such was a statement of Saakashvili's quoted on 12 January by Rustavi-2 TV regarding prison riots, to "shoot to kill and destroy any criminal who attempts to cause turmoil" and "not spare bullets against these people." On 3 February, a similar statement was quoted calling for anticrime efforts to "eliminate and exterminate them [criminals]" if they met resistance. In this context, Saakashvili's threat to fire on Russian tourist boats in August, albeit with subsequent qualifiers, added to the sense that the president was continuing to use violent rhetoric for political impact.
Human rights groups have found a number of cases of unnecessary violence against criminal suspects, but it is unclear if there is enough of a pattern to claim that the practices are far worse than under previous administrations. They also point to incidents of police abuse against civilians exercising the right to freedom of assembly. In the last six months, police dealt harshly with several street protests by vendors asked to move on to sidewalks following a 1 February prohibition on street trading. The manner in which religious extremists were arrested in March, when a church was stormed, has also provoked concern, although human rights groups are mindful that the state has to address the problem of religious incitement to violence. On 9 June, special police forces dispersed a protest against the construction of an oil pipeline in Krtsanisi and detained two protesters. Police wielding clubs also dispersed a 1 July protest by earthquake victims seeking additional relief, FIDH and HRIDC reported.
The HRIDC continues to make allegations of torture in detention, saying victims are beaten, hanged, and shocked to extort confessions just as they were under Shevardnadze and previous Soviet leaders. At least one instance, the death of a prisoner on 31 May, raised concerns about torture. Activists acknowledge that the kinds of cases they have documented were present in the Shevardnadze era, yet they expected them to diminish under Saakashvili and their impression is that the anticrime crusade has increased the use of such brutal methods.
Georgia's need to address incursions in the Pankisi Gorge has also entailed crackdowns on Chechens, and in the case of two men who disappeared after extradition to Russia, human rights groups believe there was foul play, because a Tbilisi court acquitted them in February. FIDH and HRIDC are also concerned about the treatment of Chechen refugees in Georgia and the return of Chechens against their will to Chechnya.
Press-freedom groups have also scrutinized any changes to media policies. Georgia enjoys robust freedom of expression on TV, radio, and the Internet in comparison with its Eurasian neighbors. But the rescheduling or cancellation of some previously hard-hitting political talk shows have caused intellectuals to question whether the media is now falling to political manipulation.
Police detained Revaz Okruashvili, editor of "Sakhalkho gazeti" on 2 August, civil.ge reported on 4 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2004). He was charged with illegal possession and sale of narcotics and was sentenced to three months of preliminary detention, yet human rights groups said they believed the evidence was fabricated
Since Saakashvili came to power, attacks on civil society representatives continue as under Shevardnadze, NGOs say. Human rights groups, while not necessarily accusing the government of complicity, believe the issue is one of failure to prosecute such attacks. On 4 May, Levan Sakhvadze, head of the Rustavi branch of Political Prisoners for Human Rights, was attacked; Zurab Kashlishvi, editor of "Objective," was beaten on 10 May after writing about misspent funds in the local administration.
NGOs have been willing to engage in dialogue with the government about their concerns, but are not always happy, even with high-level contact. On 6 July, NGO leaders met with Saakashvili to discuss problems in the judiciary and police. Saakashvili told them reforms were being implemented, and violations of human rights would gradually be eliminated. "This answer by the president did not satisfy us," NGO leader Davit Usupashvili told civil.ge. For his part, Saakashvili said he felt the NGO sector was "in a crisis" and needed a "transformation to cope with new realities."
A real problem for civic groups has been the drain of staff into the government, as those who were once in the opposition and in various civic groups move into positions of power. Several cabinet members and many high-ranking officials in various ministries are former NGO representatives, advocacy.ge reported. Sozar Subeliani, a human rights activist and journalist, said the process was favorable, because it means cooperation with former colleagues from NGOs was easier than with past officials. "The major problem faced by the nongovernmental sector is that they lost Saakashvili as an opposition activist and received him as a president," he said.
A positive outcome of the meeting between NGOs and the president was the appointment of Subeliani for the position of ombudsman, which has been open since the revolution began. Saakashvili also acknowledged that excessive use of force had been used by police in breaking up a rally of protesters complaining about housing. He offered to include NGOs in monitoring the spending of assistance funds given to Georgia by international donors, as civic groups have long been calling for more transparency in this area. Saakashvili also called on NGOs to "embrace all of Georgia," a reference, NGOs believed, to the lack of an independent civic sector in Adjara.
While ongoing problems like poor prison conditions, torture, and excessive force against demonstrators may continue as in the past, the increasing struggle to rein in autonomous republics are likely to cause the greatest strains on Georgia's fledgling democracy. The rhetorical pressure Georgia finds itself under from Russia is high. While Russia invokes the inviolability of frontiers in dealing with its own unstable southern republics, Georgia's counterpart efforts are characterized as despotic. Russian commentators have called Saakashvili a "fuhrer" or invoked Stalin's birthplace in Georgia as an analogy for Saakashvili. The problems are not going to be easily internationalized, as Russia has been unwilling to let in more OSCE monitors, following a long-standing belief that the admission of monitors often leads to greater autonomy, as in the Balkans.
NGOs are playing a key role in Central Asia and Afghanistan as they seek to overcome decades of authoritarianism and war (a two-part series):
"NGOs Helping to Develop Civil Society" http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/521AE994-DBF2-4EA3-A36A-C9D3215EA1F4.html
"NGOs Face Rising Tide of Suspicion From Governments" http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/4AD7F4C1-8AAD-481A-A6B3-D7D3201DC023.htmlGEORGIA.
A portal site for Georgian NGOs.(English and Georgian). http://www.advocacy.geKAZAKHSTAN.
Kazakhstan held parliamentary elections on 19 September and will hold presidential elections in 2006. http://www.rferl.org/specials/kazakhelections/
"Central Asia: NGOs Face Rising Tide Of Suspicion From Governments (Part 2)" http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/4AD7F4C1-8AAD-481A-A6B3-D7D3201DC023.htmlRUSSIA.
Photo essay on the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Beslan made by the Demos Center of the Moscow Helsinki Group (Russian). http://www.hro.org/war/beslan/2004/09/22.php
"Putin's 'Managed' Investigation After Beslan." A commission is to be appointed with 11 Federation Council members and 10 State Duma members but critics say the panel is compromised by proximity to the Kremlin. http://www.rferl.org/newsline/2004/09/5-NOT/not-220904.asp#343564