25 May 2011, 23:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 16 to 22 May
Protest actions of the opposition movement "People's Assembly" in Georgia; recognition by Georgian Parliament of Circassian genocide committed by Russian Empire; visit of Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, to Northern Caucasus; events within the European Action "Museum Night", - look these and other events in the review of the week of May 16-22, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
New spring peaking of Georgian opposition
On May 21, the opposition movement "People's Assembly", which unites several parties and NGOs, started a series of protest actions with the aim to force Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign. On the first day, oppositionists managed to gather about 10,000 supporters in Freedom Square in Tbilisi, where the "decisive phase of the struggle" was declared. By the evening, the crowd moved to the building of the Public Television, which conducted a direct broadcast from the protest action at the time, when Nino Burjanadze, one of the leaders of the movement, was speaking.
The Georgian MIA said that policemen would not prevent the actions of the opposition, but would stop any illegal actions; however, already on May 21, as reported by the opposition, in different regions of Georgia several activists of the movement were detained. In the morning on May 22 the police dispersed the oppositionists, who had spent the whole night in front of the Public Television of Georgia. As a result, one woman suffered. Later, a fight burst out there; according to preliminary reports, 10 persons were injured.
In Batumi, where the opposition is also holding its action, 12 persons were detained at night on May 22 in the office of the movement; the City Court has already sentenced eight of them to a two-month pre-trial arrest. According to the MIA, the activists were detained on May 21 after the protesters started throwing stones at the building of local television. Several other protesters, as reported by the MIA, were detained in Tbilisi for an attack on a police car in the morning on May 22. Besides, according to oppositionists, policemen used their truncheons to disperse the rally held in front of the local television.
Georgian Parliament recognizes Circassian Genocide by Russian Empire
On May 20, the Georgian Parliament unanimously adopted, at its plenary session, a resolution "On Recognition of Circassian Genocide Committed by Russian Empire". Ninety-five MPs voted for the resolution. The deputies of the country's supreme legislative body stood up and welcomed the decision with applause.
The resolution of the Georgian Parliament consists of the introduction and two points. The document notes that the Russian Empire pursued colonial policy against Circassians (Adygs), and conducted ethnic cleansings during the Caucasian War; the 147th anniversary of its end was marked on May 21 in South of Russia. During that War, as a result of repeated military expeditions over 90 percent of the Circassian population were killed or starved to death, the resolution states.
The appeal to the Parliament of Georgia to consider recognition of Circassian Genocide at the state level was addressed by the initiative group on the outcomes of the conference on the "Circassian Issue" entitled "Hidden Nation, Continuing Crimes: Northern Caucasus between Past and Future", held in November 2010 in Tbilisi.
Georgia intends to raise the issue of recognition of Circassian Genocide at all international organizations, where the country is represented. Activists of several NGOs, including Circassian ones, believe that recognition of Circassian Genocide by the Georgian Parliament is of politicized character; however, the ground for this decision was made by the reluctance of Russian authorities to seriously deal with the Circassian issue.
Thomas Hammarberg visits Northern Caucasus, collecting information on human rights
On May 15, Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, visited Kabardino-Balkaria, where he studied human rights issues at enforcement of judicial decisions, in actions of law enforcers, and the progress of the trial about the attack on Nalchik in 2005. On May 16, Mr Hammarberg visited North Ossetia, where he was interested in the fate of refugees and internally displaced persons, and in the investigation of the Beslan terror act.
On May 17, Thomas Hammarberg visited Chechnya, and on May 18 - Ingushetia, where he took part in the sitting of the Public Board under the Ombudsman of the republic and met the people, whose relatives had disappeared or had been killed after detention by power agents. The head of the local branch of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" Timur Akiev acquainted Hammarberg with Pyatimat Khashagulgova, the wife of Issa Khashagulgov, suspected of having links with terrorists. The Commissioner listened to Pyatimat and asked her and rights defenders to compile an appeal in writing and forward it to him for consideration, having promised that his office will consider the situation around Issa Khashagulgov's case in the near future and react to it.
On the outcomes of his visit to Northern Caucasus, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe will make a detailed report with recommendations on observance of human rights in the Russian Federation. The document will be submitted to the Council of Europe. However, already on May 20, speaking at a press briefing in Moscow within the International Sakharov Conference held there, Mr Hammarberg stated the absence of proper investigation of the crimes committed in the republics of Northern Caucasus, which, in his opinion, may set a dangerous precedent for future generations.
"Museum Night" in the Caucasus attracted thousands of people
The countries of Southern Caucasus and the regions of South of Russia took part in the international action "Museum Night" dated to the World Museum Day marked on May 18. Usually, on this day entrance to museums is free for all visitors; and museums remain open till late at night.
North Ossetia took part in the European campaign for the third time. According to the Ministry of Culture, this year on this day museums were visited by more than three thousand residents of North Ossetia. In other regions of the republic the action was held on the weekend. Thus, during the "Museum Night", on May 14, in the Rostov Region museums were visited by 3326 persons; of them, 2721 persons were students and schoolchildren. Over 500 persons took part in the action in Adygea.
In Armenia, which joined the action in 2005, this year's "Museum Night" was held under the slogan of "Written Heritage". In this context, museums presented exclusive written exhibits. While last year the participants of the "Museum Night" were forty museums from several regions of Armenia, this year 60 museums across the whole country took part in the campaign. On May 18, the most popular sights were the National Gallery, the Institute-Museum of Ancient Manuscripts Matenadaran, the Yerevan Museum of History and Sergey Paradjanov Museum.