22 February 2010, 10:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 8-14

Appointment of new head of Dagestan; detention of human rights activists in Chechnya; special operation in Ingushetia, which entailed loss of peaceful residents; transfer of Armenian-Turkish Protocols to Parliament of Armenia for ratification; amendments to mass media legislation in Azerbaijan, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of February 8-14, 2010, in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Approval of new leader of Dagestan

On Monday, February 8, President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev brought in his nominee to the post of President of this republic. The event was long-awaited in the republic - the deadline was January 21. Mr Medvedev's offer for the President of Dagestan was Magomedsalam Magomedov, an MP of the National Assembly of the Republic Dagestan.

People in Dagestan were not unanimous in their attitude to Kremlin's offer; however, the candidate has assured that Deputies of the National Assembly of Dagestan will approve his appointment.

On Wednesday, February 10, the National Assembly held its extraordinary session and approved Magomedsalam Magomedov as their President. The new Dagestan leader made his programme speech and promised to consolidate the society and not to pursue his opponents.

Detention of human rights activists in Chechnya

Last week, a broad resonance amidst the human rights community was provoked by detention in Chechnya of three Russian human rights defenders - members of the Public commission for Chechnya set up in the end of last year created in the end of the last year: Vladislav Sadykov, Dmitri Egoshin and Roman Veretennikov. According to the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" in Grozny, they were detained on February 7 by power agents in the foothill Shali District of Chechnya, spent over 15 hours at a police station and were released on February 8.

Under assertions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Chechnya, the human rights activists were not detained but just brought to the Shali ROVD (District Interior Division) for "a check and a talk". However, according to Alexander Cherkasov, a board member of the HRC "Memorial", neither detention nor release of the Group members was duly documented and justified.

The international organizations Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line demanded from Russian authorities to hold an inquiry into the fact of detention of Russian human rights activists in Chechnya and to make those guilty responsible.

The situation was also commented by the Ombudsman in Chechnya Nurdi Nukhazhiev, who said in this context that "espionage methods are unacceptable in what human rights activists are doing".

After the incident with detention of its three members in the Shali District, the United Mobile Group (UMG) of human rights defenders expressed its intention to continue its work in Chechnya, in spite of the fact that "the principles of legality, presumption of innocence and personal immunity are unknown to a number of MIA bosses in Chechnya." At the same time, it became known on February 11 that Kheda Saratova, head of the Information-Analytical Agency "Objective", decided to quit the Group.

Kadyrov recalls his claims against human rights activists and journalists

On February 9, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov recalled, in answer to his mother's request, his legal suits against Oleg Orlov, head of the HRC "Memorial", Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and a group of Moscow journalists from the "Novaya Gazeta".

Oleg Orlov was confident in his comments on the news that the proceedings on the case initiated against him on the basis of Kadyrov's suit would have been soon stopped anyhow because of absence of any crime attributes, and made a statement to this end.

Special operation in Ingushetia: civilians perished

In Ingushetia, on February 11, fights burst out in the villages of Dattykh and Arshty, where the counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime was introduced with the aim to liquidate a grouping of suspected militants. The total strength of the grouping, supposedly subordinated to the leader of militants in Northern Caucasus Doku Umarov, on operative data, was about 25 persons.

The fights went on also on February 12. On that day, the PR Centre of the FSB reported that about 20 Umarov's militants were killed in the course of the special operation.

At night of February 13, in the website of the "Caucasian Knot" one of the users wrote, in his comments to the news about detection of the bodies of liquidated militants, that peaceful residents fell victim of the special operation. "You've killed peaceful residents who gathered ramson. Some of them were already buried," wrote the user.

In the afternoon on February 13, the information about the death of four peaceful residents who were shot dead in the cross fire was confirmed by the press secretary of the President of Ingushetia. He also reported that under updated information 18 militants were liquidated in the special operation.

On official data, there were no victims among federal power agents. It was reported about one wounded MIA employee.

Armenian-Turkish Protocols handed over to Parliament of Armenia

Last week was full of events related to normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations.

Despite the statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu that by bringing the resolution on the genocide of Armenians into the agenda of the US Congress, Washington disregards the interests of the USA, Armenia and Turkey, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan announced his decision to send the Armenian-Turkish Protocols to the parliament of his country with the aim to start the ratification process; and on February 12 he delivered the documents to the National Assembly of Armenia, and the first discussion of the Protocols is appointed on February 16.

On that very day, the Prime Minister of Armenia Tigran Sarkisyan stated that in the Armenian-Turkish process Armenia is supported by the USA, Russia and the European Union; while the European Parliament passed a resolution calling Turkey to open the Armenian-Turkish border. The document also calls Turkey to ratify the Armenian-Turkish Protocols without any preliminary conditions.

The Institute of the Caucasus held a presentation of a new book on Armenian-Turkish relations.

Situation with the freedom of speech in Azerbaijan

The passed week in Azerbaijan was notable for a number of events, which had to do with the freedom of speech and work of local mass media.

On February 8, Sardar Alibeili, editor-in-chief of the "Nota" newspaper, was released after expiry of his imprisonment.

On February 12, the consideration of the appeal complaint of the young bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Gadjizade at the Baku Appeal Court was again postponed; this time - because of absence of Milli's advocate. Earlier - for different reasons - hearings on the case had been postponed for three times in a row.

On that very day, the National Assembly of Azerbaijan adopted amendments to a number of legislation acts, which introduce restrictions on collection and distribution of information.

Last week, the Rapporteurs of the PACE for Azerbaijan made a statement with expression of concern of the life of the imprisoned journalist Einullah Fatullaev.

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