Thursday, March 19, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Putin Should Be Tried for Genocide in Chechnya, German Jewish Leader Says [Corrected version]

NOTE: Below is a corrected version of a Window on Eurasia I put out yesterday. Because my German is far from perfect especially when the source is a video rather than a written text, I relied more heavily than I should have on the text offered by Kavkaz Center. That translation, several readers have correctly pointed out, was seriously defective, with the pro-Chechen site imputing to Michel Friedman its own views. I regret my error, I appreciate it being called to my attention, and I am reissuing this corrected version, with an indication of the differences, both because I want to be as accurate as possible and because I am convinced that Mr. Friedman’s basic point -- that Vladimir Putin is in fact guilty of genocide in Chechnya -- deserves to be more widely recognized. Paul Goble

Vienna, March 19 – A leader of the Jewish community in Germany, members of whose own family were victims of the Holocaust, said on that country’s First Channel television network this week that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was guilty of committing genocide in Chechnya and should face trial for that crime at the Hague.
This statement by Michel Friedman, the former president of the European Jewish Congress and a leader of Germany’s Central Jewish Council, is remarkable in and of itself and naturally attracted the attention of many concerned with the Caucasus and with Chechen groups, at least one of which expanded upon his remarks to the point of seriously distorting them.
But in reporting his remarks – the original is available as a German language video file at -- the pro-Chechen portal,, ascribed to Friedman its own views about the genocide, the court, and the reasons the world has not acted.
Friedman did say that what Putin had done in Chechnya was a genocide, but he did not say that it was a genocide of the most transparent kind. And the German Jewish leader did say that he should be tried in the Hague, but KavkazCenter ascribed to him views about the court and about the reaction of the international community that he did not espouse.
Thus, Friedman did not describe the court as “a farce [whose judges] decide whom to bring before it and whom not.” Nor did he say that “the earth is full of mass murderers and dictators but in the Hague, they judge only the pettiest of these” like the president
of Sudan and fail to do anything against “big criminals” like the former Russian president.
While he insisted that “Putin should be in the dock in the Hague,” Friedman did not make the comments KavkazCenter attributed to him about Western governments or officials. And while he sharply criticized Avigdor Lieberman, who is likely to be Israel’s next foreign minister, Friedman did not, as KavkazCenter said, criticize him for a position on Chechnya.

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