Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev’s Call for More Use of Force Will Further Destabilize North Caucasus, Experts Warn

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 13 – President Dmitry Medvedev’s call for Russian siloviki to track down and kill militants in the North Caucasus will further destabilize this situation there, experts say, both because his words give a green light for even more violence by the force structures and because they highlight Moscow’s willingness to ignore the Russian Constitution.
Isalmagomed Nabiyev, a Daghestani rights activists and independent union leader, told yesterday that he was extremely disturbed by what Medvedev has said. Here is “the leader of the government, a professional lawyer, the guarantor of the Constitution” urging the siloviki to be more violent and to ignore the Constitution and its protections!
It is already the case, Nabiyev continued, that “even without the demands of Medvedev,” the siloviki have been killing large numbers of people. But now, having received his blessing, the number of victims will grow with all members of the population increasingly feeling themselves at risk of a violent death (
But this violence is only “one side of the problem,” Nabiyev says. These are extra-judicial killings, which run roughshod over Constitutional protections such as the presumption of innocence and the inviolability of the individual citizen in the absence of a judgment of a court of law.
That attitude, the Daghestani writer says, has implications not just for the North Caucasus. If Russians do not protest this violation of the Constitutional order, then, “a similar fate awaits all Russians since the powers that be are becoming ever more totalitarian, and Daghestan and the North Caucasus [represent only] a litmus test of public reaction.”
Ruslan Kurbanov, another specialist on the North Caucasus, agreed. “Unfortunately, for a very long time in Russia it has been accepted that the siloviki instead of catching and publicly trying criminals simply destroy them,” an approach that the force structures say they take lest the militants be found innocent.
“The imperfections of the judicial system are not a justification,” Kurbanov told the regional news portal, “for allowing the violation of Constitutional principles and laws.” That is because “tomorrow, any individual, citing the corrupt nature of [Russian] justice can get involved in extrajudicial punishments.”
In that event, he asked rhetorically, “who will explain [to the people of the country] difference between the extrajudicial actions of such people and the extrajudicial actions of the Russian force structures?”
But another analyst, with whom journalists spoke, offered a somewhat different take on Medvedev’s remarks. Denga Khalidov, a leader of the Congress of Russian Peoples of the Caucasus, observed that “the federal media” in their reports about the Russian president’s comment had “shifted the accent.”
“Medvedev,” Khalidov pointed out, “had stressed the poor social-economic condition of the region, a situation which needs to be corrected as rapidly as possible. This was the main point in his speech. As concerns his proposals about the struggle with the militants, one must not that in the Kremlin, there are advisor who consider” that force will improve the situation.
In presenting these and other comments, the portal pointed out that Medvedev has used tough language before as after the attack on Ingushetia President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in June 2009. At that time, he told representatives of the Russian security forces “not to stand on ceremony” in dealing with those behind that act.
But as the portal concluded, human rights activists who have examined the situation in the North Caucasus closely are convinced that Medvedev’s increasing proclivity to call for more official violence, an appeal that echoes that of his predecessor Vladimir Putin, means that the situation in that region will only get worse, whatever people in Moscow believe.

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