30 January 2012, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 23 to 29

Summit of presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in Sochi on Karabakh settlement; presentation in Moscow of the Human Rights Watch report on human rights violations; end of inquiry into terror act in "Domodedovo" Airport; decision of the Russian Supreme Court on Sviridov's murder in Moscow; adaptation commission for militants set up in Kabardino-Balkaria, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of January 23-29, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Meeting on Karabakh conflict in Sochi brought no breakthrough, as experts hoped

On January 23, in Sochi, possible ways of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were considered at the meeting of presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, Dmitry Medvedev, Ilham Aliev and Serzh Sargsyan; the latter two recognized the need to move away from extreme positions, called for continued efforts to rapprochement, and turned to Russia for mediation in strengthening cultural ties of their two countries.

Azerbaijani politicians and experts were sceptical as to the summit results. According to political analysts, the events show that public diplomacy is unable to expedite the fair settlement of the conflict. Experts from Nagorno-Karabakh also gave a low-key assessment to the presidents' meeting, noting that, on the one hand, it can be viewed as an attempt to maintain peace and stability in the region; on the other hand, there had been no reasons to expect any positive outcomes from it. Their Armenian counterparts have treated the tripartite agreement to investigate incidents at the contact line as the main outcome of the Sochi summit.

HRW's world report indicates continuing human rights violations in Russia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

A presentation of the annual report of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on observance of human rights in the world took place on January 23 in Moscow. In Russia, it happened for the first time in many years. A separate chapter of the document is on Russia. Specifically for Russian media not only the chapters on Russia and the CIS, but also the materials on the Middle East and North Africa were translated into Russian.

Russia

Along with the concerns caused by last December's parliamentary elections in Russia, the HRW has expressed its concerns about the continuing human rights violations in Northern Caucasus.

Carroll Bogert, Deputy Director General of the HRW, who spoke about the situation in Syria, said that although Russia - unlike Syria, where the anti-government protests, launched in March 2011, resulted in thousands of killings and arrests, - is not a dictatorship, certain parallels are obvious. According to Anna Sevortyan, Director of the HRW's Russian office, certain positive changes are seen in Russia - like decriminalization of libel.

Tatiana Lokshina, Ms Sevortyan's deputy, said that Russia still witnesses the lawlessness of power structures. In particular, in the republics of Northern Caucasus, the people detained as suspects of terrorist crimes are often severely tortured.

Azerbaijan

The HRW's report states that in 2011 the human rights situation in Azerbaijan worsened 2011 - the government suppressed all forms of protest.

The authors of the report note that Azerbaijan wants to improve its international image by holding leadership positions in regional and international forums and hosting mega-events (last October Azerbaijan was elected to the UN Security Council; this May it will welcome the international song contest "Eurovision-2012"; and Azerbaijan has applied for hosting Summer Olympic Games-2020 in Baku); however, ensuring the rights of ordinary citizens is low; and the government must improve this indicator.

Georgia

The annual report of the HRW points out that the human rights situation in Georgia in 2011 remained ambiguous. In particular, the documents states that last May the government used excessive force to disperse anti-government protests in Tbilisi; dozens were made criminally liable without due observance of their process rights; while the authorities failed to ensure the effective investigation of these events, same as previous cases of excessive force. Other problems, as noted by the HRW, include restrictions on the freedom of association and mass media, as well as the forced eviction of IDPs out of state temporary accommodation centres (TACs).

Georgian human rights defenders note that the report has still failed to cover a number of significant aspects, including the killing of Sandro Girgvliani, absence of inquiry by the prosecutor's office of applications of the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia, and the problem of political prisoners.

One year after terror act in Moscow "Domodedovo" Airport, investigators say it is solved

On January 24, on the first anniversary of the terror act in the Moscow International "Domodedovo" Airport, which claimed 38 human lives (and wounded 173 Russian and foreign citizens), the investigation stated that charge in the final wording would be presented to four natives of Ingushetia: Ilez and Islam Yandiev, Akhmed Evloev and Bashir Khamkhoev.

As asserted by the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), in total, the organized grouping that committed the terror act in "Domodedovo" included about 35 persons; 17 of them were killed on March 28, 2011, during a special operation in Ingushetia, several others are searched. The investigation also verifies the information that Altemirov and Amriev, also accused of involvement in this terror act, were killed in Istanbul on September 16, 2011.

According to investigators, the terror act, of which the North-Caucasian militants' leader Dokku Umarov claimed to be the organizer, was committed by Magomed Evloev, a 20-year-old resident of the village of Ali-Yurt, Nazran District of Ingushetia.

SC gives small leniency to Caucasians sentenced for killing Yegor Sviridov

On January 24, the Russia's Supreme Court (SC) slightly reduced the imprisonment term of Aslan Cherkesov, a native of Nalchik, awarded to him for killing the Moscow football fan Yegor Sviridov in a mass brawl in December 2010: the term was shortened from 20 years to 19 years and 8 months. The rest of the convicts had a reduction from 5 years to 4 years and 8 months of imprisonment.

Cherkesov's defence gets ready to continue the litigation at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), claiming that the court had broken the defendant's right of access to independent justice and his presumption of innocence. However, Roman Kuchin, who is representing the victims, found the SC's decision lawful and justified, while the arguments of the defence advocate, in his opinion, are far-fetched, including the idea that the public utterances pronounced by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at Sviridov's grave about Cherkesov's previous conviction and his guilt could have affected the decision of the court.

Let us note here that on January 19 the judicial panel of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation also mitigated the sentence to the natives from Northern Caucasus convicted for another murder in Moscow - of Yuri Volkov. The Russia's SC justified its decision on this case, same as on Sviridov's murder by recent amendments to the legislation.

Kabardino-Balkaria helps militants who decide to stop criminal activities to adapt for peaceful life

On January 24, Arsen Kanokov, the leader of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR), signed a decree to institute a commission to assist the persons, who have decided to stop their terrorist and extremist activities, in adapting to civilian life. The commission will render legal, psychological, medical and other help, and assistance in housing and everyday problems, and in employment. It is headed by Ruslan Eshugaov, Secretary for Economic and Public Security of the KBR.

Let us remind you that similar commissions already operate in Ingushetia, where the decree to form it was signed on September 9, 2011, and in Dagestan, where such decree was signed on November 2, 2010. As of January 4, 2012, the results of the latter commission were as follows: about 50 members of the armed underground surrendered; in total, over 60 cases were considered; and over 40 militants were adapted to peaceful life.

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