17 April 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 10-16

Celebration of Easter by Orthodox residents of Northern and Southern Caucasus; final results of the presidential election in South Ossetia; decision pronounced by the ECtHR on the complaint filed by victims of the terror act in Beslan; election of the Speaker of the Abkhazian Parliament; two criminal cases instituted against top-ranking Dagestani officials; release of the updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 10-16, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Orthodox residents of Northern and Southern Caucasus celebrate Easter

At night of April 16, Orthodox residents of the south of Russia and Southern Caucasus began to celebrate Easter. All Orthodox churches held festive divine services. On the eve of the holiday of Easter, like in the past year, many cities enhanced security measures. One of the traditions of the holiday was the meeting of the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Stavropol became the first city in Northern Caucasus, which got the Holy Fire.

In Azerbaijan, where the total number of Orthodox believers reaches about 150,000 people, the Easter services were held in six churches. Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated Easter with divine services and the "Merry Easter" festival at the Dadivank Temple in the Shaumyan District.

Following election results, Anatoly Bibilov elected president of South Ossetia

On April 13, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of South Ossetia announced the final data on the results of the voting at the presidential election and the referendum on renaming of the republic, which was held on April 9. According to those data, the presidential election was won by Anatoly Bibilov, Speaker of the Parliament, who gained 54.8% of the votes (17,736 voters). Current Abkhazian President Leonid Tibilov was supported by 10,909 voters who came to the voting, and Alan Gagloev, an employee of the Abkhazian KGB, gained 3291 votes. 429 people voted against all candidates. 25,123 people, or 80% of the total number of voters, voted for the renaming of South Ossetia in the State of Alania. The total turnout at the presidential election and the referendum was 79.6% (33,812 people). The election has not been recognized by Georgia, the European Union (EU), Azerbaijan, and NATO, whose representatives declared support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. In response, the South-Ossetian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has stated that the voting is an internal affair of the country.

ECtHR pronounces decision on complaint filed by more than 400 victims of terror act in Beslan

On April 13, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recognized the violation of the rights of relatives of the people killed and injured in the seizure of the Beslan school in 2004. The ECtHR has recognized that Russia did not take all necessary measures to investigate the circumstances of the terror act and the assault, during which the hostages died. 409 complainants were awarded compensation in the total amount of 2,955,000 euros, as well as other amount of 88,000 euros to recover legal costs. The complainants from North Ossetia waited for the ECtHR's decision for ten years, since they appealed to the European Court yet in 2007. Relatives of the victims insist that the Russian authorities could prevent the terror act, and the mass deaths of the hostages could be actually prevented.

The decision of the ECtHR in favour of the relatives of the victims of the Beslan terror act is a victory. However, the compensations awarded by the European Court will not be tangible for the state and will remain symbolic. This opinion was voiced by Ella Kesaeva, the leader of the "Voice of Beslan". Meanwhile, according to the victims, the Court's decision gives grounds to seek the continuation of an independent investigation into the case of the Beslan terror act and the identification of the people actually guilty of the hostages' deaths. Journalist Alan Tskhurbaev shares the above opinion, and according to him, for the victims, the main thing in the verdict is the recognition that by their actions, the authorities failed to prevent the mass deaths of the hostages.

After the ECtHR's decision has been pronounced, the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has voiced the intention to challenge the verdict. According to Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian President, the ECtHR's decision contains "absolutely unacceptable" formulations concerning the statements that the authorities had failed to take enough measures to prevent terror acts and save lives of hostages.

Abkhazian MPs elect Valery Kvarchiya Speaker of Parliament

On April 12, in Sukhumi, the first meeting of the People's Assembly of Abkhazia of the sixth convocation was held, the voting on the elections of MPs of which was held in two rounds on March 12 and on March 26. At the meeting, Valery Kvarchiya was elected the Speaker of the Parliament. 20 MPs voted for him, while his rival Batala Tabagua was supported by 10 MPs. Ilya Guniya, the third MP proposed for the post of the Speaker of the Parliament, withdrew his candidacy with reference to the lack of experience in parliamentary activities. According to the experts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, Valery Kvarchiya is a supporter of the President of Abkhazia, but his election will be beneficial not only to the authorities, but also to the opposition.

In Dagestan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education involved in criminal cases

Last week, at once two top-ranking Dagestani officials became involved in criminal cases. On April 10, the Prosecutor's Office reported about the institution of a criminal case against Bilal Omarov, Deputy Prime Minister of Dagestan, on the forgery under the facts concerning the period of his activities by the director of the "Zapkasprybvod" in 2013. According to investigators, 6.9 million roubles were stolen as a result of the actions of Bilal Omarov and the general director of Limited Liability Company (LLC) "Stroitekhnoholding". On April 11, according to the Dagestani newspaper "Chernovik" (Draft), the Department of Initial Investigation of the Division for the city of Kaspiysk of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) instituted a criminal case on illegal storage of weapons against Shakhabas Shakhov, Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Dagestan. According to sources of the "Chernovik", on March 22, during a search carried out in the Shakhabas Shakhov's house, law enforcers discovered a Kalashnikov submachine gun, which, according to a Minister's guard, belonged to him.

Azerbaijani activists release updated list of political prisoners in country

On April 10, the working group, including Azerbaijani human rights defenders, NGO activists, journalists, and lawyers, published an updated list of political prisoners in the country. The list includes names of 147 people, and cases against other six persons are being monitored by the activists. It should be noted that the previous version of the list of political prisoners prepared by the same working group was released in November 2016, and it included the names of 119 political prisoners, and other 25 people taken under monitoring. The compiling of a united list of political prisoners is aimed to express the overall public position regarding persons arrested for political reasons. This was reported by Samir Kazymly, the coordinator of the "Alliance for the Protection of Political Freedoms", a member of the working group. According to Samir Kazymly, by compiling the list of political prisoners, the activists intend to increase the efforts within the country and from international agencies in order to release persons recognized as political prisoners.

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