Human Rights Watch World Report 1993 - The former Soviet Union
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||1 January 1993|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1993 - The former Soviet Union, 1 January 1993, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467fca70c.html [accessed 4 May 2016]|
Events of 1992
Human Rights Developments
The dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 has left human rights in a turbulent state. The Soviet system of rule had for many years been notorious for systematic violations of human rights. Although this system has been discredited and discarded, it has not yet been thoroughly dismantled: Soviet-era governments remain in place in many of the new states, as do certain features of the legal and criminal justice systems. The very uncertainty of this transitional phase is a cause for concern that the fledgling states will lack the will or capacity to protect human rights.
Ten of the former Soviet republics have united in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The three Baltic nations and Georgia and Azerbaijan have rejected that option.
All of the former Soviet republics have been admitted to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), binding their governments to respectthe human rights standards expected of member states. Some progress toward fulfilling this obligation has been made: constitutions are being written that promote basic rights and freedoms, freedom of religion is guaranteed in all of the states, some states have begun to reform their criminal justice systems and have granted broad amnesties to people serving criminal sentences, and nearly every state has allowed access for human rights fact-finding missions.
In many states of the former Soviet Union, government leaders have added their voices to the general call for a commitment to institutionalizing democratic principles and basic human freedoms. This process is lengthy and ongoing, and in 1992 progress was still measured in small steps. Meaningful progress has already been seen in the efforts of some new states to acknowledge past abuses and to review extant legislation to bring it into conformity with international standards.
The human rights situation has become as varied as the states themselves. Yet certain patterns of problems have emerged that are specific to the transition from Soviet rule. In the Caucasus, Moldova, and parts of Central Asia, struggles to maintain power in the face of political opposition, or to preserve territorial integrity in the face of separatist forces, have escalated into armed conflicts that have deprived thousands of basic freedoms.
The ousters of Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Tajik president Rakhmon Nabiev in 1992, both of whose administrations were responsible for reprehensible human rights violations, has brought on the implosion of both of these states, and the resulting political and social chaos has put basic civil and political rights in jeopardy. In three Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), governments are led by former Communists who continue old, Soviet-inherited practices of political repression – cracking down on the nascent free press and restricting the right to free speech and assembly – in an effort to fend off threats to their rule. Former communists, most of whom now bear the label of "democrat" or "nationalist," are also in positions of power in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, where they attempt to silence public criticism leveled against their governments.
Each state has also inherited certain human rights problems from the Soviet system. Throughout the former USSR, residence permits continue to limit individuals' choices of where they wish to live. Individuals everywhere must still request government permission in order to travel abroad. Laws designed to protect "the honor and dignity" of the president are still on the books and, in some places, still enforced. Speculation is no longer considered a crime, yet individuals in Russia convicted of this and other economic crimes continue to languish in prisons, overlooked by recent amnesties that have released persons jailed for violent crimes.
As a result of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the creation of new states, millions of individuals have now become ethnic minorities in foreign states. In some areas the lack of legal or political structures to guarantee minority rights – or the lack of will to enforce them – poses real and potential problems concerning, for example, language rights and language training, discrimination in employment and education, and protection from ethnically motivated violence. Moreover, the Soviet legacy of deportation and repression of certain nationalities remains a source of ethnic strife as demonstrated in the recent Ossetian-Ingush conflict.
The principle of self-determination and the notion of homeland have become powerful beacons for ethnic and national groups in the former USSR, and have been invoked in nearly all of the armed conflicts there. During 1992 groups in Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and in eastern Moldova fought wars seeking independence from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. The existing states, for their part, invoked the principle of inviolability of borders in their armed engagements with separatist forces.
In all of these armed conflicts, parties frequently violated rules of war intended to protect noncombatants that are set out in common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Second Additional Protocol of 1977 – both of which apply to internal armed conflicts – as well as other international instruments. Civilians have become helpless victims of indiscriminate shelling, summary executions, sniper activity, and hostage-taking. Roadblocks have madeneighboring towns, villages, and even neighborhoods inaccessible. Blockades of transport, energy and other supplies have left thousands of people in a state of desperation.
Azerbaijan: Nagorno Karabakh
Armed conflict in and around Nagorno Karabakh, an Armenian-majority enclave located within the territory of Azerbaijan, has been the bloodiest of the armed conflicts. It began in 1988 and escalated dramatically in 1992, causing hundreds of civilian deaths and creating 256,000 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 1992 the conflict grew far more lethal as both sides – the Azerbaijani National Army and free-lance militias fighting along with it, and ethnic Armenians and mercenaries fighting in the Popular Liberation Army of Artsakh – began using missile systems, armed personnel carriers, heavy artillery and comparable conventional weapons (all readily available through a very active and lucrative private arms market) and brought the armed conflict to a new, vicious intensity. The lack of any restraining force after the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the conflict. The conflict became a pivotal factor in the i nternal politics of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, intensifying nationalist rhetoric and hardening Azerbaijan's resolve to end the conflict through combat. Indeed, President Abulfaz Elcibey made a promise during his election campaign in June to solve the Karabakh problem within three months or resign.
Whichever side held the strategic advantage in Nagorno Karabakh at any given moment was the one that most egregiously violated the rules of war. While Azerbaijani forces held outposts in Shusha and Khojaly, they pounded the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, and other Armenian towns and villages with shells and grenades. The indiscriminate shelling and sniper shooting killed or maimed hundreds of civilians, destroyed homes, hospitals and other objects that are not legitimate military targets, and generally terrorized the civilian population. During the winter of 1992, Armenian forces went on the offensive, forcing almost the entire Azerbaijani population of the enclave to flee, and committing unconscionable acts of violence against civilians as they fled. The most notorious of these attacks occurred on February 25 in the village of Khojaly. A large column of residents, accompanied by a few dozen retreating fighters, fled the city as it fell to Armenian forces. As they approached the border with Azerbaijan, they came across an Armenian military post and were cruelly fired upon. At least 161 civilians are known to have been murdered in this incident, although Azerbaijani officials estimate that about 800 perished. Armenian forces killed unarmed civilians and soldiers who were hors de combat, and looted and sometimes burned homes. In its counter offensive, launched in the summer, Azerbaijani forces indiscriminately bombarded Armenian towns and villages from SU-25 aircraft and ground-launched missiles. The Armenian government does not categorize civilian casualties according to the circumstances of their death or injury. Based on interviews conducted in November with more than 50 civilians who were witnesses to or casualties of indiscriminate air bombings, Helsinki Watch estimates that at least 56 civilians were killed as a result of these attacks in August and September alone.
Both sides in the conflict seized and exchanged civilian hostages, and also held corpses hostage, so frequently that the practice became an institution involving private individuals and military and government officials. Both sides held hostages, including women, in prisons or detention centers and distributed hostages as "insurance" among private families whose members were being held by the other side.
Attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict have been unsuccessful. The CSCE made a valiant effort in the Rome talks during the summer, which were hampered by questions concerning the political status of the self-styled Nagorno Karabakh republic. The talks did not prevent the further escalation of the war.
Georgia: South Ossetia
The fight for control over South Ossetia began in the winter of 1990-1991 and has left more than 700 people dead and 1,500 wounded, many of them civilians. In the early winter of 1992 the armed conflict ebbed. However, when Russian Interior Ministry troops, deployed in the region since January 1991, withdrew in late April 1992, the conflict intensified as Georgian forces shelled the main city ofTskhinvali, and South Ossetian separatist forces renewed their shelling and strafing of Georgian villages inside the separatist region. The flow of refugees once again rose, and by May 1,500 new refugees were reported to have arrived in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia.
As in Nagorno Karabakh, hostage-taking was a common practice in South Ossetia. Both sides to the conflict openly admitted that they took hostages in order to secure the release of their own hostages or to raise money for arms. In addition, hostages were beaten, threatened and sometimes killed.
On May 20, a band of Georgian irregulars ambushed a bus and two vans carrying Ossetian refugees, shooting to death 36 and wounding 16. Among the casualties were women, senior citizens, and children between the ages of three and 12. The Georgian State Committee promised to investigate the incident, but reportedly clashed with South Ossetian officials, who did not want Georgian interference. No serious attempt was made to find the guilty parties, who are presumed to be based in Georgian villages within South Ossetia.
In early July, an agreement was reached between government officials from Russia, North Ossetia, Georgia and representatives of the self-styled government of South Ossetia. As part of this pact, about 1,500 joint peacekeeping forces, consisting of Russian, Georgian and Ossetian soldiers, were deployed in South Ossetia in mid-July and thus far have been successful in defusing the armed conflict in that region. The Georgian State Council formed a commission to rebuild villages ruined by the conflict and provide for the return of refugees.
During intense moments in the violence, Ossetian refugees in North Ossetia numbered as many as 140,000, according to the UNHCR. As the conflict wound down, Ossetian refugees began returning to their homes in South Ossetia. However, most Georgians who fled South Ossetia during the conflict have not returned, nor have Ossetians who left their homes in other parts of Georgia. The latter fled as a result of systematic anti-Ossetian reprisals that began in January 1991, when Ossetians were threatened, robbed, beaten and forced to flee. Most of these acts of violence were carried out by rag-tag paramilitary groups, who enjoyed immunity from local police.
Abkhazia is one of two autonomous republics in Georgia. Its population of about 525,000 (according to the 1989 census) is 17.8 percent Abkhazian, 45.7 percent Georgian and 7.1 percent Russian. Georgian National Guard units were sent to Abkhazia supposedly to secure the release of Georgian state officials kidnapped by supporters of former president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. These units clashed with troops of the Abkhaz Ministry of Interior. Negotiations between the Abkhaz government and the Georgian State Council resulted in a cease-fire and the withdrawal of the Georgian National Guard on August 17. The next day, however, the National Guard re-entered Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, and a second secessionist war began in Georgia.
The war in Abkhazia is the culmination of 12 years of intermittent tension between Sukhumi and Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, which began in 1978 when the Abkhaz Autonomous Socialist Republic sought unsuccessfully to secede from Georgia and join the Russian republic. Tensions renewed in 1988 and erupted into ethnic violence in 1989 over the status of Abkhaz State University, and in 1990 when the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet declared independence from Georgia. On July 23, 1992, the same body suspended the 1978 Abkhaz constitution and reinstated the constitution of 1925, according to which Abkhazia had the status of a union republic.
Northern Abkhazia is now controlled by Abkhaz forces, supported by volunteers of the Federation of Mountain Peoples. The Georgian National Guard, along with Mkhedroni and other paramilitary groups, control Sukhumi. Hundreds of people have lost their lives in this conflict, many of them civilians who were victims of summary executions and sniper fire. Both sides to the conflict take hostages, burn houses belonging to members of the "enemy" ethnic group, and engage in marauding.
Georgian refugees from Gagra told Helsinki Watch that when Abkhaz forces seized the town in early October they basically forbade Georgian men from leaving. One female refugee told of Georgian men being forced to sign documents stating that they were prepared to fight against Georgia. Her neighbor, a 39-year-old Georgian man, was beaten and shot in the head, apparently after refusing to sign such a document. Other Georgian refugees from Gagra told Helsinki Watchthat Abkhaz forces shot elderly people attempting to flee the town, and that sniper shooting in the town and surrounding villages killed civilians and made people hostages in their own homes.
Although Helsinki Watch has not yet interviewed a significant number of Abkhaz refugees from the conflict zone, it learned from reliable sources that villages near Tvarcheli (populated by Abkhazians and Armenians in Georgian-controlled Abkhazia) have been burned, and that in the village of Kindgi, Georgian troops summarily executed two Abkhazian brothers, the younger of whom was nine years old. Abkhaz representatives also reported to Helsinki Watch that in October Georgian forces intentionally burned the Abkhaz Institute of Language and Literature in Sukhumi, where Abkhaz historical archives are kept. The Abkhaz representatives noted that the Georgian-controlled militia refused to let volunteers put the fire out.
Human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law were rampant in 1992 in Moldova, the western-most republic of the former Soviet Union, bordering Romania. They ranged from indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian structures, to the indiscriminate use of land mines, to acts of discrimination, including dismissals from work on the basis of ethnic origin and political conviction.
The post-World War II period saw a heavy influx of Russians and Ukrainians into Bessarabia and other parts of what is today the Republic of Moldova as part of a policy to dilute the native Romanian population living there. Though newcomers in a historical sense, many of the 562,000 Russians registered as residing in Moldova in the latest census (1989) have lived for large parts if not all of their lives on Moldovan soil. Having enjoyed the advantages of longstanding policies that promoted the primacy of Russian culture in the region, as indeed it was promoted throughout the Soviet Union, many Russians now fear a reduced status within Moldova as a minority community (they represent some 13 percent of the overall population). The struggle for cultural primacy in Moldova, involving not only Moldovans and Russians but also vocal minority groups such as the Gagauz, Jews and Bulgarians, is at the heart of ethnic tensions currently plaguing the republic.
Mounting tensions over cultural dominance, raised by the birth of a Moldovan-oriented republic in lands where the principal culture previously had been Russian, erupted in March 1992, claiming hundreds of casualties, many civilian. At issue was political and territorial control of the eastern areas of Moldova along the Dniester River, which resulted in a bloody conflict. At its peak, some 100,000 refugees and displaced persons are believed to have fled of the area of combat. The conflict pits supporters of the Moldovan government against backers of the secessionist insurgency that has laid claim to land along the river, supplemented by elements from Russian and other outside military formations. Attacks continued sporadically throughout the spring in the eastern areas, reaching a peak in June during a four-day rampage in the right-bank city of Bendery which was characterized by indiscriminate shooting at civilian structures. A cease-fire agreement was declared in July and , despite some technical violations, has succeeded in suspending the violence since early August. However, the republican leadership still faces the challenge of forging a political settlement with the leaders of the two separatist groups, the "Dniester Moldovan Republic" (DMR, formerly the "Dniester Soviet Socialist Republic," proclaimed in September 1990) and the ethnic Gagauz community, an Orthodox Christian Turkic minority (3.5 percent of the republic's population in 1989), which is seeking an autonomous status for areas in the south of the republic. The Moldovan government has refused to recognize the independence of either breakaway unit, although it is discussing granting a variety of forms of local autonomy.
The secessionist movements of the Gagauz and of the DMR began to take shape in the late 1980s when Moldovan authorities began to institutionalize the dominance of Moldovan culture, for example by adopting a series of legislative acts including declaring Moldovan (almost identical to Romanian) the state language and the Romanian tricolor the state flag. The laws were passed with such a rapid hand that some residents not integrated into Moldovan culture began to feel isolated and anxious, more particularly since the law on the implementation of the state language on the territory of Moldova threatened to remove thoseunable to prove a minimum fluency in Moldovan from their places of work by 1994, five years from the date of its enactment.
In the months leading up to the outbreak of sustained armed conflict in Moldova, secessionists rallied around the DMR which, as home to a proportionally high percentage of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians (23 percent and 28 percent, respectively) symbolized to some a bastion of Slavic culture in Moldovan lands. Elements of the Russian 14th Army, stationed in Moldova and most highly concentrated on the left bank of the Dniester, bolstered the war effort by exhibiting sympathy with the separatists.
In the increasingly tense atmosphere, civilians on both sides of the political debate began to arm themselves. The ad hoc military formations, including ordinary street police armed with pistols and rifles, gradually were joined by informal forces sympathetic to their causes. The affinities of the Russian 14th Army for the heavily Slavic DMR cause brought on a rapid escalation of the sporadic clashes that had characterized the conflict prior to 1992, as did the arrival of mercenaries for the DMR side, including Cossacks and volunteers from Russia and Ukraine. The Moldovan military force was enhanced by added weaponry obtained through barter from Romania.
Negotiations currently are under way between Moldovan and DMR representatives, as they are between Moldova and the Gagauz leadership, but national and ethnic tensions persist.
Russia: North Ossetia
Ingush and Ossetian informal paramilitary groups clashed on October 31 in a battle for control over the Prigorodny district of North Ossetia, a region of the Russian Federation that borders Georgia to the south. Although a cease-fire was declared on November 1, fighting continued. About 3,000 Interior Ministry troops and two battalions of paratroopers from the Russian Army were deployed to enforce a state of emergency, which the Russian Federation government declared on November 2 in both North Ossetia and Ingushetia. The number of Russian Federation military personnel in the region totals about 10,000. The number of battle deaths is between 150 and 250, according to ITAR-TASS and Russian television.
The Ingush claim a historic right to land in the Prigorodny district. In 1944, Stalin deported the Ingush population from Chechen-Ingushetia and granted to North Ossetia the Prigorodny district, which had made up a large part of original Ingush territory. Ossetians believe that the Ingush used the 1991 USSR law rehabilitating the deported peoples to justify the capture of territory that Ossetians believe is theirs. The district is a suburb of Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia.
Many of the villages in the district had a mixed Ingush-Ossetian population. Ingush claim that houses belonging to Ingush in 17 villages of the district were systematically destroyed and pillaged by Ossetian National Guardsmen and "auxiliary" fighters, and that the Russian Army facilitated this action by blocking off the villages and allowing the Ossetians to enter. Ossetian residents claim that Ingush fighters shot at their homes and forced them to leave. Both sides seized hostages, and by November 9, Ossetians held 450 Ingush, and Ingush held 120 Ossetians.
Nearly all of the approximately 40,000 Ingush who live in the district and in Vladikavkaz have been displaced by the conflict, many of them reportedly forcibly. Nazan, the capital of Ingushetia, is said to be overflowing with refugees. Both sides claim they are victims of ethnic cleansing.
Press access to regions under the state of emergency is limited. According to an order issued on November 14 by Sergei Shakhrai, the head of the temporary state of emergency administration in Vladikavkaz, all journalists in the region must obtain accreditation from the temporary administration or leave, and can send their work to be published only after the head of the temporary administration has had the opportunity to do a "preliminary review" of it. The state of emergency is to be in effect for one month.
Unlike the conflicts described above, armed clashes in Tajikistan stem not from separatist ethnic and national groups but from opposition to the communist-led regime that remained intact until May. The opening shots of the civil war now raging in Tajikistan were fired in late April and early May when massive ralliesof supporters and opponents of then-president Rakhmon Nabiev gripped the capital, Dushanbe, for nearly two weeks.
On May 1, President Nabiev decreed the formation of a national guard to maintain order in the troubled republic. Violating both internal law and United Nations guidelines on police force, Nabiev implemented the decree by distributing approximately 1,800 automatic weapons to men who were participating in the government-organized pro-Nabiev demonstrations. When the rallies ended, the guardsmen returned to their home region of Kuliab (located in the south of the republic) with their weapons and reportedly drove out supporters of the opposition who had not already been intimidated and forced to leave the region. Since that time, Kuliab has refused to submit to the central government, and warfare between pro- and anti-Nabiev forces has battered Kurgan-Tiube (50 miles south of Dushanbe).
Loyalties on both sides of the armed conflict stem from a tangle of political, regional, and clan ties. Civilians have become victims of sniper shooting, indiscriminate shelling and blockades. The United States Committee for Refugees estimates that as many as 100,000 Tajiks are now internally displaced as a result of the conflict, and Russian sources report that about half of these individuals are from Kurgan-Tiube alone.
Many Nabiev supporters fleeing Kurgan-Tiube settled in Kuliab, where they believed they would be safe. The blockading of Kuliab by anti-Nabiev forces reportedly prevented the delivery of food, and subjected hundreds of thousands of people to hunger. By November, pro-Nabiev forces had surrounded the outskirts of Dushanbe, blocking the delivery of food, fuel, and other supplies.
The conflict in Kurgan-Tiube has aroused animosity against Uzbeks, who account for about one fifth of Tajikistan's population and who are frequently perceived as being loyal to Nabiev. In late August, hundreds of Uzbeks fled the region, some claiming that they were expelled by motley bands of anti-Nabiev fighters. Political and religious factions in Afghanistan have armed both sides in the Tajik conflict with relative ease because of the poorly guarded Tajik-Afghan border. Both sides have also attacked stores of Russian army weapons and Russian army troops, police stations, and prisons with impunity.
Ethnically Biased Attacks
During the Soviet period, national rivalries and antipathies were largely subsumed into collective antipathy for the political establishment. The communist authorities also conducted a highly effective propaganda campaign calling for the "friendship of the peoples" which mitigated open expression of ethnic tensions. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the bonds that kept ethnic hostilities in check, at least officially, were loosened, releasing much of the potent hostilities now fueling both the intensive, sustained military engagements described above and sporadic, largely spontaneous expressions of ethnic bias, such as street beatings and other forms of harassment.
Attacks on Russians
In many cases, Russians, as the representatives of the culture that dominated the Soviet Union for 70 years, have been the targets of these hostilities in areas outside their namesake territory.
Long-standing ethnic friction between Moldovans and Russians was exacerbated in 1992 by the outbreak of an armed internal conflict over control of a narrow territory in eastern Moldova, the self-proclaimed "Dniester Moldovan Republic." Although politics and territorial ambition are at least as much the cause of the armed conflict as are ethnic frictions, in most cases ethnic Moldovans are assumed to support the Moldovan government's anti-secessionist stance and Russians to support the insurgency. These stereotypes in many cases are erroneous. Nonetheless, in the charged atmosphere following the intense armed clashes in March, when hundreds were killed and wounded on both sides, there have been incidents of non-combat-related attacks against Russians, some mere harassment and some considerably more violent. The advocacy group Unity (Unitatia-Edinstvo), based in the Moldovan capital of Chişinău, has gathered information on such attacks and reports that since 1989 between 30 and 40 harassing attacks have been perpetrated in Moldova for what it defines as reasonsof ethnic bias. No statistics are available for 1992 alone, nor has Unity determined what percent of these alleged attacks were perpetrated against those believed to be Russians. Unity further charges that none of these attacks, all of which it claims have been registered with law enforcement authorities, has led to prosecutions.
One recent attack on an ethnic Russian in Chişinău may be illustrative of current tensions. On June 23, following four days of heavy fighting in the right-bank city of Bendery, Vitalii Balin, a 61-year-old economist, was attacked at his place of work by three men, resulting in a two-week hospitalization, lengthy convalescence, and partial loss of hearing in his right ear. According to the victim's wife, one of the men, who was known to Balin, had lost his brother in the war and was under the incorrect impression that Balin had been collecting money to help in the war effort. The men beat Balin and threatened to kill his family if he reported the incident. Local officials rejected the claim that was filed as a basis for initiating a criminal case against the attackers, and the Balins have decided not to pursue a civil case, according to the victim's wife, for fear of retribution.
There have been numerous attacks against Russians and other people of apparent European extraction in Uzbekistan. These individuals are conspicuous physically, distinct in physiognomy and dress (while many indigenous residents of Uzbekistan wear Western styles, it generally is not true that individuals of European descent wear Central Asian styles).
For example, in June, Elena L., a 23-year-old Russian woman who was born and raised in Uzbekistan, was attacked as she walked down a street in the capital city of Tashkent, itself a largely Slavicized city. She reported to Helsinki Watch that a group of young, apparently Uzbek men shouted "shameless Russian!," ripping her shirt, running after her and causing her to flee in terror. There have been numerous such attacks as a result, some speculate, of a raised consciousness of traditional Central Asian customs that are incompatible with the Western habits widely adopted under the Soviet system and maintained today by almost all Russians.
Attacks on Jews
The Union of Councils of Soviet Jews reported a rise in violence motivated by anti-Semitism in 1992. On July 8, for example, a Jewish cultural club in Penza, Russia, was desecrated. Sacred music was burned, and musical instruments and ceremonial candles were destroyed. Local police reportedly did not investigate the incident.
There have also been numerous reports of vigilante attacks on Jews in Uzbekistan. The Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews reported on April 2, 1992, that 15-year-old Tabob Kharanbaev, an Uzbek, was arrested for theft while visiting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; in custody he was beaten, robbed, threatened with rape and death, and abused with anti-Semitic taunts. The Union of Councils of Soviet Jews reported that on February 20 three men broke into the home of a Jewish family in Chilanzar, near the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent, beat several of them, and coerced them into relinquishing 50,000 rubles with threats of violence and anti-Semitic slurs, such as "Why haven't you left for Israel yet?" Much of the continued harassment of Jews in 1992 appears to be due to long-standing resentment toward their privileged opportunities for emigration and purported enrichment abroad.
Attacks in Kazakhstan
On October 19, the Regional Council of People's Deputies of Ust'-Kamenogorsk issued an order expelling Chechens, a Muslim minority originating in the Caucasus mountains, from the region of in the wake of the October 18 mob attack on Chechens in the village of Ovechii Kliuch. The onslaught was incited by rumors that Chechens had been responsible for the deaths of four ethnic Kazakhs in town, according to Commonwealth and Russian media reports and Western sources. Public outcry condemned the decision, and a delegation from Alma-Ata made up of government officials and members of social organizations immediately went to Ust-Kamenagorsk. Although as a result of this visit local officials repealed the order within two days of its adoption, it echoes the very policies of forcibledeportation of nations that originally brought many Chechen settlers to Kazakhstan in the 1930s and 1940s, and vividly reflects both the animosities that increasingly are surfacing in the form of inter-e thnic violence, and the local government's willingness, in some cases, to take legal action on the basis of these animosities.
Attacks in Russia
In 1989, Cossack regiments began to form once again in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, and by 1992 they claimed to have divisions in almost all of the more than 300 districts in the region. In late December 1991, and again in April 1992, the leader of these regiments sent an ultimatum to the Krasnodar regional government to deport non-Slavs such as Armenians, Kurds and Meskhetian Turks, who in recent years had fled to the area from other parts of the former USSR racked by ethnic violence. The Krasnodar regional government agreed to grant Meskhetian Turks only temporary permanent residence status until they have resettled in Georgia or Turkey.
Cossack bands reportedly have pressured individual families of Armenians to leave their homes. According to a representative from the Human Rights Center of Memorial (a Moscow-based group), in late April a group of Cossacks reportedly arrived at an Armenian family's home in Krasnodar, asked them whether they had a residence permit, and told them they had to leave. Several days later a band of 20 demonstrated in the family's yard.
In other parts of Russia, scattered attacks against Azerbaijanis in late July raised fears that such attacks are growing more systematic. The violence often involved vandalizing market goods sold by Caucasians. According to Russian sources, in the Siberian town of Norilsk a gang of youths vandalized market stalls belonging to Caucasians in order to settle scores of a previous, drunken brawl. In response, local authorities conducted residence permit checks in hotels and dormitories. Several days later in Saiangorsk, a city in southern Siberia, an anti-Azerbaijani attack swept a workers' dormitory and spread to hotel rooms and apartment buildings housing Azerbaijanis, causing some damage. Public transportation drivers in Briansk (in western Russia) threatened in late July to strike if Caucasians were not expelled within two days. Staking similar demands, a group of local merchants blocked the main road in Volgoda.
In St. Petersburg, efforts to fight organized crime (in which many Azerbaijanis and Chechens are reportedly involved) overstepped their boundaries during the summer and became a general anti-Caucasian crackdown. Russian newspapers reported attacks on Azerbaijanis in the markets of St. Petersburg organized by the Special Purpose Militia Units (OMON) to avenge the deaths of policemen apparently killed by Azerbaijanis.
In Moscow on February 24, the OMON raided a hotel where many Chechens had taken up residence, allegedly to verify residence permits and arrest racketeers. The OMON reportedly beat up a number of Chechens whom they had detained, some of whom required hospitalization. In response to pressure from the Human Rights Committee of the Russian parliament, which had investigated the incident, the Moscow city administration issued an order to stop the expulsions. The Law and Order Committee of the Russian parliament began an investigation of the beatings that took place during the raid, but no result has come to light.
Attacks in Tajikistan
The chaos and civil war in Tajikistan has instilled deep fears among Russian, Uzbek, Jewish, Afghan and other minorities living there. Afghan families who sought refuge in Tajikistan from the civil war at home claim that increasingly they have become victims of beatings and robberies. A recent report of the U.S. Committee for Refugees suggested that it is not clear whether pure ethnic animosity motivated these attacks. Regardless, the local police have not responded adequately to the victims' appeals for help when attacks do occur.
Attacks in Ukraine
An anti-Gypsy pogrom took place on May 13 in the Odessa district center of Tartarbunary. According to Izvestia, rumors had circulated that Gypsies were responsible for the brutal murder of a family in nearby Ivanchenko. A mob of 2,500 descended on a group of 21 houses inhabited ostensibly by "relatives" of the Gypsy suspects and demolished 16 houses, leaving scores homeless. To date noone has been charged in connection with the attack.
The political tug-of-war over possession of Crimea has aroused anti-Crimean Tatar sentiment in Ukraine. According to local sources, on October 1 unidentified individuals attacked a settlement of Crimean Tatars on a state farm in Krasnyi Rai, destroying several homes.
Excessive Use of Force
In 1992, law enforcement officers continued to display a lack of knowledge of – or willingness to use – nonlethal crowd-control methods. In Tajikistan, security troops subordinate to the Committee for National Defense (KNB, or formerly the KGB) deployed near the former KNB building used excessive and lethal force against a column of anti-Nabiev protesters at a demonstration on May 10. A group of about 1,000 marched to the former KNB building to demand that President Nabiev fulfill his promise to address them. When the crowd began dismantling a barbed-wire barricade in front of the building, KNB security troops, perched on the roof of the building and in windows of high floors, opened fire using automatic weapons. Eleven people died as a result of their wounds, and scores were wounded. One law enforcement official was wounded. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Helsinki Watch and Memorial, most of the people in the crowd were unarmed, although some people in the middle of it had hunting rifles. However, these people did not fire their guns at the security troops, most of whom could not be seen from the street. OMON troops (who were deployed at one end of the street and were visible to the demonstrators), fired one round of machine-gun warning shots before the KNB opened fire. No tear gas or other nonlethal form of crowd control was used, nor was an attempt made to address the crowd to appeal for calm. The incident provoked a brief clash a few minutes later between anti-Nabiev forces (who arrived on the scene in an armed personnel carrier) and the security troops.
In Uzbekistan, a student demonstration on January 16-17 protesting the simultaneous rise in food prices and delayed issuance of stipends from Tashkent State University was forcefully dispersed by Interior Ministry troops, leaving two students dead from gunshot wounds and scores injured. No criminal charges have been brought against the troops.
In Russia, riot police in February violently beat unarmed communist protestors as the protesters tried to force their way on to the main square in Moscow. According to The Washington Post, several troops severely kicked and beat with truncheons a 16-year-old boy in military garb, who had climbed to the top of a barricade and waved a red flag with Lenin's portrait on it.
In August, The Los Angeles Times reported that riot police severely beat African demonstrators who were protesting the killing of a Zimbabwe student by a Moscow police officer. The police apparently "chased the fleeing students and surrounded several of them, then began kicking them in the groin and beating them with fists and rubber truncheons." Police claim the demonstration was blocking traffic.
Freedom of Speech and of the Press
Fragile governments concerned about future political and ethnic stability frequently silenced critics in 1992 by closing or dismantling media sources, confiscating or banning newspapers, and detaining, arresting, harassing and even physically attacking perceived opponents of the status quo.
The Azerbaijani government has set restrictions on press coverage of the war in Nagorno Karabakh. On July 10, as the Azerbaijani counter-offensive was getting under way, the Azerbaijani government announced that press access to Nagorno Karabakh and environs would be limited to those journalists "working for the analytical information center of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, Azerbaijani television, ... Ostankino [CIS television], and 'Vesti' [CIS television]." The measure was aimed at preventing "subjective interpretations of events and the divulging of military secrets."
Apart from its reporting on Nagorno Karabakh, the press in Azerbaijan is not subject to government restrictions. However, the suspicious deaths during the summer of a Baky journalist and his wife is cause for concern that informal paramilitary groups will exert pressure on the press. In one incident in late August, Salim Mamedov, editor of the newspaper January 20, and his wife Firangizreportedly were killed by unknown gunmen, one of whom was in military uniform. According to the Baky newspaper Vyshka, the bodies were found in Mamedov's home with multiple knife and gunshot wounds. Few believe that the murder was an ordinary common crime. The Azerbaijani parliament, in response to pressure from local journalists, promised a full investigation.
In another incident, Minister of Interior I. Hamidov on October 1 severely beat members of the staff of Mirror in response to an article in it that had said that the Interior Ministry in Nakhichevan (an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan) lacked leadership. According to Turan, President Elcibey met with a group of 36 journalists who had protested the beatings to "express his solidarity" with their concerns about the free press in Azerbaijan.
The Georgian government's attempt to quash the movement supporting ousted president Zviad Gamsakhurdia has included a crackdown on the press. Radio Liberty reports that on June 25, the day after a coup attempt failed to reinstate Gamsakhurdia, Georgian Procurator Vakhtang Razmadze closed temporarily two pro-Gamsakhurdia newspapers, Iveria Express and Tavisupali Sakartvelo.
Paramilitary groups loyal to the government are reported to harass pro-Gamsakhurdia journalists repeatedly. For example, the editor-in-chief of Tavisupali Sakartvelo and one of its correspondents claim that in February they were brought to a Tbilisi police station and told they should not attend any pro-Gamsakhurdia rallies. The office of Iveria Express was ransacked at least four times after its closure and re-opening.
Largely because of the tense atmosphere created by the armed secessionist movement and military efforts to quell it, the right to express views dissenting from both the "Dniester Moldovan Republic" (DMR) and the Moldovan government was restricted in both the media and public life in 1992. Authorities of the secessionist DMR have closed or dismantled (by, for example, removing editorial boards) at least four Dneister newspapers, including Slobodzeiskie Novosti, and have established central control over radio and television broadcasting. Jamming of Moldovan radio in the territories nominally under the control of the DMR, begun in 1991, continued in 1992. Likewise, distribution of the printed media on both sides of the political divide has been impeded.
Although the armed conflict along the Dniester River unquestionably has exacerbated violations of free speech sharply, the entire span of media in Moldova is plagued by the legacy of continued economic dependence on government subsidies, which often impairs unbiased reporting. This problem, compounded by an inadequate system of professional accountability, has resulted in a press that in some cases has played a role in intensifying rather than helping to explain tensions in Moldova. Helsinki Watch interviewed many individuals involved in the armed struggle who indicated that they had joined the fighting in response to reports – many inaccurate and alarming – of atrocities being committed in the disputed area and elsewhere.
Some individuals in the region of the DMR professing opposition either to the de facto existence of the DMR or to the Moldovan government's failure to recognize it were harassed, dismissed from work and physically attacked. Systematic, organized raids on doctors and teachers trained outside the DMR were carried out apparently as punishment for their presumed position to the DMR.
The number of available newspapers and journals professing a wide variety of views inspires some confidence that freedom of expression is on firm ground in Russia. However, political speech that is critical of the Russian parliament or impugns the Yeltsin administration is on much shakier ground.
In the most controversial media issue in 1992, the Russian parliament voted on July 17 to take over ownership and control of Izvestia, the leading newspaper of the Russian Federation. Izvestia had been openly critical of the parliament and its chair, Ruslan Khasbulatov. At the same time in July, the parliament postponed voting on a measure creating a media oversight committee that would have been empowered to impose censorship on radio and television stations. The Press and Information Ministry refused to re-register Izvestia as theparliament's newspaper, and Mikhail Poltaranin, Press and Information Minister, announced that he was prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional Court of Russia. In August the Court requested that parliament cease its efforts, and so far the parliament has not succeeded in taking over the newspaper, which is now protected from further takeover efforts by a presidential decree.
The parliament claimed that the Izvestia takeover was purely a property issue since Izvestia previously had been in the possession of the USSR Supreme Soviet. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a journalists' collective assumed control of the newspaper and its facilities. Although the property claims of the Russian Supreme Soviet may have some validity, political motivations pervade the controversy.
Some attempts have been made to accommodate opposition views on government-owned television. In early July, for example, Ostankino (CIS television) agreed to meet some of the demands of nationalist right-wing groups who had staged demonstrations in front of the television studio for one month. In response, Ostankino granted time to three opposition political parties for a bi-monthly television program.
There were several reported incidents in 1992 of suppression of critical voices in Turkmenistan, both in politics and in the media. In February, several leaders of the political opposition in Turkmenistan were detained by authorities and otherwise discouraged from attending their scheduled meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who was in Ashgabat on a diplomatic mission. Among them was Akhmukhamed Velsapar, a writer and activist in the banned Agzybirlik (Unity) movement who had publicly criticized the republic's social ills, such as high unemployment and infant mortality. Velsapar and some ten others were placed under house arrest on October 24 and November 1, and two of their apartments were ransacked following meetings with visiting representatives of Amnesty International.
Mukhammedmurat Salamatov, who is the founder and editor of Daianch (Turkmenistan's first independent journal), was arrested on March 11 at Ashgabat airport, and some 24,500 copies of the journal found in his possession were confiscated. He was tried three times on charges of violating the republic's press law, and although charges were eventually dropped, he was beaten by unknown individuals on October 3 and he reports that he and his family continue to be harassed and threatened. He believes the incidents were an attempt to silence the journal's criticism of President Niyazov and the republic's Minister of Internal Affairs.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk attempted to quell open disapproval of the fragile Ukrainian government. On August 26, he issued a statement threatening foreign visitors with expulsion from Ukraine without the right to return if they "carry out activity that undermines the country's unity, political stability, and ethnic harmony." The statement was aimed at intimidating members of the World Forum of Ukrainians, a diaspora organization, which during its meeting in Kiev had criticized the Ukrainian government and called for its dissolution. No deportations have been reported.
In October, the Ukrainian government began to investigate two individuals on charges of slandering the state. According to The Moscow Times, one of them, Vladimir Kniazhitskii, had been quoted in a Ukrainian newspaper calling President Kravchuk "a cog" in the old Soviet bureaucracy. The other, Valentina Yerofeeva, had described both Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin as "degenerates," impugning them for having turned their backs on the Communist Party.
The year 1992 has seen a crackdown on critics of the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov that is unprecedented in the area in recent years. Abuses range from the broad use of detention and arrest, to strictures on public gatherings, and physical attacks on opposition leaders, their offices and homes. As a result, several leading figures in Uzbekistan's political opposition, particularly Birlik (Unity), and its human rights community have fled therepublic.
The violent attack of June 29 on several members of the Birlik popular movement was perhaps the crudest incident of repression of free speech. Abdurakhim Pulatov, co-chair of Birlik, and Miralim Adilov, legal consultant and member of the Birlik central presidium, were both hospitalized with serious head injuries, and two other Birlik members were wounded, when a gang of unidentified men attacked and beat them with metal rods outside the Tashkent procuracy building, in full view of law enforcement officials who had just finished interrogating Pulatov and Adilov. On October 19, upon his return to Tashkent from Turkey, where he had been receiving medical treatment, Pulatov was again assaulted. According to Birlik and Western sources, the attackers, who were armed, were turned over to the police. According to police officials, the attackers were KNB agents who were assigned to protect Pulatov. No charges have been brought.
Other leading Birlik members were also harassed in 1992. According to a Birlik co-chair, the chair of the Khwarazm chapter, Abdulla Iusupov, was beaten near his home on January 12; Pulat Akhunov, former member of the USSR Supreme Soviet and currently deputy chair of the Birlik political party (an unregistered party which is separate from the Birlik movement), was attacked at the Tashkent airport on January 21 by three unidentified assailants, and later arrested on July 29 in the city of Shakhrikhan, Andijan oblast', on what are believed to be trumped-up charges of assault; and Bobir Shakirov, chair of the social organization "National Mejlis" and a former political prisoner, was attacked and beaten twice in July. On August 15, Shakirov's apartment was ransacked and he was arrested. He is now in pre-trial detention on charges of organizing an unsanctioned meeting.
Erk is the only registered opposition political party in Uzbekistan. According to Erk chair Muhammad Solih, however, Erk too suffers from government harassment: in 1992 its bank account was confiscated and its newspaper banned. Solih resigned his seat in parliament in July to protest what he perceived as the undemocratic conduct of President Karimov's administration. No progress was made in 1992 in Birlik's series of efforts to become registered as a political party. The highly restrictive Law on Public Organizations, adopted in February 1991, outlaws all parties that promote a religious platform; as a result, the Islamic Renaissance Party, for example, which exists in other republics, remains banned in Uzbekistan. According to a report in Nezavisimaia Gazeta, at least 19 activists from the Islamic Center and Birlik movement were arrested on March 17-18 in the eastern city of Namangan, considered a center of Islamic revival, for reasons that have yet to be explained.
The expression of dissenting political views in the press has also been restricted in Uzbekistan. The newspaper Erk frequently has been denied access to newsprint and has appeared with the telltale marks of censorship – sections blocked-out – although its namesake movement is legally registered. The newspaper's funds and equipment, such as its computer, were confiscated. Like the popular movement Birlik's newspaper, which appears in independent Uzbek- and Russian-language versions – Mustaqil Haftalik and Nezavisimyi Ezhenedel'nik, respectively – is unregistered and must be published outside the republic (in Russia) and illegally distributed on Uzbekistan territory. Birlik leaders have reported that the newspapers have been confiscated at the airport as they enter Uzbekistan.
Ukraine and some Central Asian governments use anti-defamation laws to stifle criticism and intimidate political opposition. Modeled on the 1990 USSR law criminalizing slander of the USSR president, laws defending the honor and dignity of the president and, in some cases, members of other executive bodies were enforced in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in 1992. In Kazakhstan, existing legislation limits criticism of public officials other than the president as well, and they carry penalties of fines and up to two years of detention either under house arrest or in prison. The law on the protection of the honor and dignity of public officials adopted in March, and its apparently wide application, has effectively removed checks on the power of politicians and lawmakers.
Several individuals are currently under arrest on charges of violating Article 170-3 of the Kazakhstan criminal code, which protects the "honor and dignity of the president of the republic." On August 19, publicist Karishal Asanov was charged and arrested under subsection 2 of the Article for his book Thoughts About a People's Fate or A Word About the Spectre of "Sovereignty," excerpts of which appeared in an article entitled "Don't Believe the President's Smile" in the third issue of Haq (Truth), the newspaper of the outlawed radical political party Alash. In it he questions President Nazarbaev's competence to govern Kazakhstan and states that "the habits of a dictator do not allow Mr. N.A. Nazarbaev to hide even under the cover of presidential power." Bolatbek Akhmetaliev, one of the Alash leaders, has been held since December 15, 1991, for violations of this same subsection, allegedly committed during a public demonstration.
Akhmetaliev is also being charged under Article 170-4 subsection 2 of the Kazakhstan criminal code, allegedly for having "publicly slandered the honor and dignity of a people's deputy," Mufti Ratbek Haji Nysanbai-uli in December 1991. In view of these and other criminal charges, Akhmetaliev underwent psychiatric analysis, scheduled for April 27, 1992, and was diagnosed to have a "psychopathy" that the President's office claims will be accounted for in considering the criminal act for which he is incriminated.
On August 14, Demokraticheskaia Rossiia Press reported that the editorial board of the newspaper Birlescu (Unity), was facing charges, among other things, of insulting the Kazakhstan prime minister and the mayor of the Kazakhstan capital, Alma-Ata. Birlescu is the publication of the independent trade union confederation of the same name, which came under heated attack in 1992. On September 15, the People's Court of Petropavlovsk reconfirmed an earlier decision to ban the newspaper Voznesenskii Prospekt for insulting the honor and dignity of President Nazarbaev, according to a report in The Express Chronicle.
The Procuracy of Tajikistan brought charges in February against Mirbobo Mirakhimov, the former leader of the Tajik political movement "Rastokhez," and Shodmon Iusupov, chair of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, for insulting the honor and dignity of then-President Rakhmon Nabiev. Iusupov had spoken out at a demonstration in January, stating that Nabiev's politics "were not intelligent but very stupid politics." Charges against Iusupov were dropped in the spring, and Mirakhimov's case was suspended until further notice.
The Khar'kov chapter of "Memorial" reports that several of its members have been fined heavily, in one instance as much as 40,000 rubles, for apparent violations of the law protecting the dignity and honor of members of executive bodies.
According to Birlik leaders, a Tashkent lawyer named Suleimanov was sentenced this year to six months of deprivation of freedom for allegedly slandering the Uzbekistan president. Charges were brought in connection with articles he published in Komsomol'skaia Pravda in which he criticized the procuracy and other government bodies in Uzbekistan.
Freedom of Association and Assembly
Regulations limiting freedom of association and assembly are widely applied in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia. Several organized groups have been banned in Kazakhstan, including Alash, allegedly for their involvement in violent activities, and most trade unions, whose newspapers have also been closed by government order. According to the Kazakhstan President's office, Bolatbek Akhmetaliev and other Alash members are currently imprisoned, among other things, on charges of organizing an unsanctioned meeting and demonstration on October 1, 1991, allegedly "with the goal of preventing the meeting of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan with other leaders of other republics of the CIS," in purported violation of Article 183-1 of the Kazakhstan criminal code.
The new Turkmenistan constitution, adopted on May 18, 1992, bans all political parties that claim an ethnic or religious platform. Moreover, theconstitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to hold meetings, demonstrations or assemblies, but permits such gatherings only "within the framework provided by the current legislation."
Uzbekistan enforces particularly restrictive laws on assembly, requiring permission from local authorities not only for public demonstrations but also for gatherings in private homes. These regulations have been applied on numerous occasions in 1992 to prevent public displays of criticism. Most illustrative of violations of this basic freedom are the police activities and subsequent mass arrests that followed a series of attempted demonstrations scheduled to protest the opening of the session of the Uzbekistan Supreme Soviet on July 2. On this date, Birlik and Erk planned a series of joint public demonstrations to be held in several cities throughout the republic. According to witnesses, in the early hours of that day, Ministry of Internal Affairs (mvd) and other law enforcement officials blocked the main square in the capital and closed major arteries of traffic that would have allowed people to congregate in the city. Scores of arrests were carried out in Tashkent, Bukh ara, Kokand, Namangan and Samarkand.
On January 16-17, Ministry of Internal Affairs troops were sent in to calm a demonstration on the campus of Tashkent State University. In the ensuing chaos, two students were killed and tens of others wounded by shots apparently fired by mvd troops. According to students enrolled at the university at the time, in the immediate aftermath of the violence, measures were taken to make organized protests difficult: most classes at the university were suspended for approximately two months, and students living in dormitories were forced out of them and ordered to re-enroll at educational institutions in other cities, while students from outlying areas were brought in their stead.
Criminal Justice System
Right to Counsel
The right of detainees to timely access to legal counsel was violated on a regular basis in those areas of the former Soviet Union that saw armed conflict in 1992. This occurred especially in circumstances surrounding the apprehension of suspected criminals during times of a state of emergency or other war-like situations.
In Moldova, several inmates and former prisoners with whom Helsinki Watch spoke reported that they were advised by prison wardens and investigators that they should defend themselves and not hope ever to have legal counsel. As a result, Igor' Yermakov, arrested for illegal possession of a weapon by Moldovan government authorities in the war-torn city of Bendery, has been in prison since June 20 and has not had access to counsel.
In Kazakhstan, Bolatbek Akhmetaliev, an Alash leader, at first was denied the right to engage a Moscow attorney for his defense. The investigation went on without Akhmetaliev's counsel of choice, but once the investigation was finished he was allowed to hire a Moscow lawyer. The attorney claimed he was permitted infrequent access to his client, despite the fact that by law the accused has the right to meet his lawyer every day.
In Tajikistan, Dushanbe Mayor Ikramov, who was arrested and detained in March in connection with alleged corruption, was consistently denied access to his lawyer. At one point the lawyer, Igor' Naumkin, was prevented from meeting with his client for 31 consecutive days. Subsequently, Mr. Ikramov was moved from Dushanbe to a jail in northern Tajikistan without the knowledge of his lawyer.
Administrative detention, the legal practice of holding individuals for up to 15 days for such misdemeanors as petty hooliganism and participating in unsanctioned gatherings is an abusive practice left over from the Soviet era. No successor states to the former Soviet Union have repealed the laws authorizing this practice, which exceeds accepted international norms, and indeed some periodically have extended the detention to one month. In practice, administrative arrest and detention are used to restrict the movement and communication of individuals who voice opinions contrary to those of the government, and as such has proved a legal instrument for violating the freedom of speech.
Attempts to curb use of administrative detention suffered a setback in Azerbaijan in 1992 when acting president Isa Kamberov issued a decree on June 3 granting "internal department chiefs" the right to double the length of stay under administrative detention, according to an Interfax report, "due to the tense situation in the republic, to the escalation of aggression on the part of the Armenian armed forces, and to the need of the disarmament of the unlawfully formed detachments." As a result, many individuals were held in prisons for one month – and in some cases well beyond that time – without being charged. The same decree, which was enforced for one month, also granted the Internal Ministry the authority to conduct searches of private homes without a warrant.
During the period of rule by the Georgian State Council, Gamsakhurdia supporters were widely and routinely subject to harassment in the form of administrative arrest primarily for participating in unsanctioned gatherings. Police and Mkhedrioni, a paramilitary group that is not directly under government control, took suspects to police stations, subjected them to degrading treatment and sometimes beatings, and in some cases in the autumn, detained them longer than 15 days, apparently to keep them off the streets during the October 11 elections.
Pulat Akhunov, deputy chair of the outlawed Birlik party and an activist in its movement of the same name, was detained twice in June. According to a report in The Express Chronicle, Akhunov was arrested during a traffic check and held for ten days beginning on June 26 on charges of "offending a police officer," an event which coincided with his efforts to conduct a joint meeting of the leaders of the oblast' chapters of the Birlik popular movement and Erk. His detention was extended by ten days for his apparent participation in a prison brawl. He was arrested again on July 28 on what Birlik co-chair Abdurakhim Pulatov believes are trumped-up charges of assault. Deputy chair of the Society for Human Rights of Uzbekistan, Mikhail Ardzinov, was held for ten days apparently without formal charges, during which he held a hunger strike in protest. Birlik supporters K. Akhmedov and N. Eshniiazov were held under administrative arrest for ten and fifteen days, respectively . Following numerous stints in administrative detention, Yadgor Obid, a member of Birlik's central council, fled Uzbekistan.
According to the Russian Ministry of Justice, since 1989 some 17,000 persons have been convicted under article 154 of the Russian criminal code for speculation. About 5,400 were convicted in 1991. Speculation, which carries a sentence of between three and seven years of imprisonment, was made legal by a decree of January 29, 1992, yet thousands of these individuals remain in prison. A general amnesty issued in June allowed the release (subject to certain restrictions) of, among others, inmates who had served 20 months of sentences of up to five years. Some "economic prisoners" were accordingly released under this amnesty, but no special provisions were made to speed the release of all people convicted of speculation.
The death penalty remains in place in all of the former Soviet republics except Georgia and Armenia, where it was officially rescinded in previous years. (In Georgia, however, summary executions reportedly take place to punish Georgian troops who engage in marauding in Abkhazia.) During the Soviet era, death penalty cases, which were usually tried at first instance in republic supreme courts, could be appealed to the USSR Supreme Court. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, death penalty cases continue to be tried in the first instance in republic supreme courts, leaving defendants without a separate court of judicial appeal.
In January, President Boris Yeltsin established a clemency commission to review death sentences. Since then only one execution has been carried out, and all others are under the commission's consideration.
Responding to international pressure, the Azerbaijani government in May suspended the execution of five Armenian men charged with murder. The case is now under consideration by President Elcibey.
On February 7, the last 10 individuals charged during the Soviet era with political crimes were released from Perm-35 prison. Sadly, new names were added to the rolls of political prisoners in individual former republics.
During the past few years efforts have been made on the part of the rsfsr and now the Russian Federation to seek out and identify cases of illegal imprisonment. In 1992, this job fell largely to the Human Rights Committee of the Russian Supreme Soviet. In a meeting in September during a visit to New York, committee chair Sergei Kovolev, responding to the question of whether there were still political prisoners being held in Russia, answered "yes and no." He explained that he did not know of any, but did not exclude the possibility that some remained behind, bypassed in the amnesties of the late 1980s and early 1990s that released political prisoners en masse, or imprisoned on non-political charges. Kovalev reported that his committee was flooded with letters of inquiry which, because of the lack of manpower, were largely neglected, but that the committee was investigating certain particularly compelling cases. To date, no cases have been found to be political.
In Moldova, several individuals who protested against the conduct of the self-proclaimed Dniester Moldovan Republic (DMR) or who were active in those political groups that were known to oppose the DMR, primarily the Christian-Democratic Popular Front, were arrested by DMR authorities on criminal charges during the course of the armed conflict in Moldova's eastern territories. It is believed that their arrests were politically motivated and that criminal proceedings against them were initiated as a cover-up.
The most egregious arrest was that of Stefan Urîtu, former chair of the Tiraspol' branch of the Popular Front and dean of the Physics and Mathematics Department at the Shevchenko Pedagogical Institute in Tiraspol'. On June 2, in a sweep that brought into municipal detention centers at least three other activists from the Popular Front on similar charges, Stefan Urîtu was arrested in his home, beaten by arresting officials, and charged with having committed a "terrorist act" as defined in Article 63 of the Moldovan ssr criminal code. Depending on which part of the article under which he is being charged (the DMR Procurator General has not clarified this point), Urîtu could face the death penalty. He was held without access to legal counsel for over two months, and then released on September 6, although charges against him have not been dropped. Urîtu has maintained his innocence, and it is widely believed that the charges against him were a fabrication used to silence his dissent.
Numerous individuals who are active in opposition movements and the opposition media in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were also detained as a form of political harassment on charges ranging from traffic violations to illegal assembly.
Rehabilitation of Victims of Soviet Oppression
The successor states continue to make progress in rehabilitating victims of abusive and punitive Soviet policies. The biggest breakthrough in this process in 1992 was the opening to public scrutiny of the long secret KGB files, allowing the nature and extent of such abuses to come to light. As documents are unearthed in archives, including warrants for execution, issues that have long plagued the Soviet Union's international relations are being resolved. Most dramatic among these revelations this year were documents released on October 14 proving Soviet responsibility for the massacre of 20,000 Poles in Katyn forest. Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, had little success in 1992 in gaining access to the files, and have much longer to wait before archival facilities can accommodate all those pursuing inquiries.
The successor states acknowledge but do not assume responsibility for past crimes, and have failed in their legal obligation to compensate adequately victims of these injustices. There is little likelihood that the successor states will make full compensation of victims a priority in the foreseeable future since state coffers are largely empty during this transitional time, and economic demands are more than the nascent economic structure can satisfy. Moreover, on a symbolic level, there is clearly an unwillingness on the part of the newly independent states to pay for the abuses of the former USSR.
Systematic, government-sponsored abuse of psychiatry for political reasons appears to have come to an end in the former USSR. Progress has been made in instituting legal provisions for humane and responsible health care for the mentally ill, although it has been pursued more successfully and vigorously in some regions of the former Soviet Union than in others. In Russia, for example, the mental care legislative act "On Psychiatric Care and the Citizens' Rights With Regard to Such Care" was passed on July 2, 1992, setting minimum standards for humane treatment of psychiatric patients, including limitations on how long a patient may be incarcerated before being allowed access to legal counsel, and rights to correspondence, visits, and informed consent before treatment is given. The principles articulated in "On Psychiatric Care" improve on those laid out in Russia's mental health care law adopted in January 1988. Georgian authorities are preparing a similar draft law, as may be other former republics. Despite such progress, there is still no effective review system, and no standardized mechanism for issuing accreditation to psychiatric facilities.
The American Psychiatric Association has noted a general improvement in the attitude of former Soviet psychiatrists and mental health professionals and administrators toward patients in 1992, but bemoans the fact that the profession remains largely discredited by its past record of abuse and lacks the education necessary to reverse its legacy of mistrust and ignorance. This process is further impeded by the slowness of the system to replace those authorities who are responsible for past abuses with enlightened, appropriately trained cadres.
One of the most notorious restrictions on mentally ill patients from the Soviet era that persists today is the existence of a register of individuals who have been released from mental facilities and who as a result are stigmatized and deprived of certain rights, including the right to drive a car, travel abroad, and hold some jobs. Before the glasnost period of reform, there had been millions of individuals on the register. There is no information available on the current size of the register. Legislative bodies in most of the former republics are discussing amending the practice, although the prospect for progress on this issue in the immediate future is unclear.
Much work remains to be done in the legal sphere. Except in Russia, there are no laws in the former Soviet Union that guarantee minimum humane treatment of mental patients. In the absence of any standardized methods for disseminating legislation, even those laws that do exist to protect the rights of mental patients rarely find their way into the hands of mental health professionals or, more important, the patients themselves. Moreover, there are no provisions for enforcement of the guarantees enshrined in the current law.
In a departure from the experience of past years, only a handful of cases of punishment for conscientious objection have reached the attention of advocacy groups in 1992. This may be explained in part by a lack of information on cases of imprisonment of conscientious objectors, and in part by the relative enthusiasm with which men of conscription age are willing to serve in national as opposed to "Soviet" armies. To date, only Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine have ratified laws on alternative service. Armenian legislation provides options for individuals whose religious beliefs conflict with state requirements, but the republic has not yet passed a law concerning enforcement of this option or for accommodating pacifist objections. Turkmenistan issued a decree, reported by Interfax on July 16, approving alternative service on construction sites. Draft laws on alternative service in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Russia are expected to come before legislatures in 1993.
An added complication is that not all new states have adopted citizenship laws, and even in those that have, many residents have not yet declared their intention to adopt a new citizenship. Thus, there are many officially stateless individuals whose obligations to serve in the military are unclear.
According to the Moscow Helsinki Group, local procuracies in the Russian Federation are currently pressing criminal charges against more than 400 people who have refused to begin military service. While it is not known how many of these are currently in pretrial detention, 41 are currently serving sentences handed down in 1991 and 1992 for refusing to serve.
The Moldovan parliament passed the law "On Alternative Service" on July 9, 1992, featuring provisions for males between the ages of 18 and 27 to refusemilitary service "due to religious or pacifist convictions" (Article 3) on condition that they instead perform "government service ... that has a civil and socially useful character" (Article 4). The Chişinău branch of "Memorial" reports that several men of German origin who had decided not to adopt Moldovan citizenship were obliged to serve in the Moldovan Republican Army, and some sustained casualties. Their objections to military service apparently were neither religious nor pacifist but political, a category not accounted for under the new law.
Armenia and Ukraine have adopted legal provisions permitting alternative service on the basis of religious objection. In Armenia, the "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations," adopted on June 17, 1991, grants the option of civil service to individuals whose religious beliefs prevent their involvement in the armed forces. The Ukrainian law, passed in 1992 based on a draft prepared in December 1991, also makes alternative service available only to those who exhibit "genuine religious conviction" (apparently not defined in the law), and in addition mandates service in non-combat capacities of double the length of those who serve in the military.
Although most successor states have shown increased sensitivity to the issue of conscientious objection, in some states there has been legislative backsliding, particularly in those regions embroiled in regional armed conflict. Article 9 of the law "On the Armed Forces of the Azerbaijani Republic," adopted in October 1991, offers 24 months of alternative civil service to men between the ages of 18 and 25 "for reasons of conscience," six months longer service than a regular tour in the armed forces. On June 11, 1992, however, in the heat of the bloody escalation of the fighting in the disputed enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, the Azerbaijani parliament suspended this alternative; it is unclear when it will be reinstated. The Acting President of Tajikistan, a republic burdened with the demands of a civil war, issued a decree on October 14 declaring that "resolute measures" would be taken against individuals evading conscription. Though not facing the pressures of armed internal conflict, Turkmenistan, too, took a harsher stand on the issue by stiffening penalties against deserters and threatening them with criminal charges.
The Right to Monitor
The Memorial Human Rights Center reports unimpeded access in its monitoring activities, which have taken place in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. In the summer of 1992, the Moscow Helsinki Group, together with other human rights groups specializing in prisoners' rights and prison reform, abuses in the military, and abuses in psychiatry and the rights of the mentally ill, opened the Moscow Human Rights Center. The Russian government facilitated this endeavor by making office space available in downtown Moscow, and it is to be hoped that the Russian government will continue to support this and other human rights projects.
Governments in Russia, Central Asia and Georgia have been less cooperative in granting local activists access to prisons. For example, a planned visit to prisons that was part of an international conference on prison reform held in November in Moscow was disrupted by the Russian authorities' decision to allow only the foreign visitors access to prisons. The authorities reversed this decision only in response to pressure from the conference organizers.
In Uzbekistan, members of the Birlik movement attempted to form a human rights organization in the spring of 1992 but were denied registration by the government. Although the movement has a political agenda, that should not have impeded their freedom of association.
International human rights monitors worked and traveled almost unimpeded in the former Soviet Union in 1992. A notable exception was the expulsion of two representatives of Amnesty International from Turkmenistan on October 25 on the pretext that they had been traveling on invalid visas. They were also forbidden to leave the republic through Russia, and thus were forced to travel out by way of Azerbaijan.
The U.S. government has provided diplomatic and financial support for the fledgling states that were established following the December 1991 Minsk agreement that effectively dismantled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.U.S. policy, on the whole, has been nurturing and benign.
In an address in Princeton in December 1991, Secretary of State Baker defined the principles on which the U.S. government would base its relations with the successor states to the Soviet Union as "respect for human rights, particularly respect for equal rights for minorities; adherence to democracy and to free markets; and of course nuclear safety." The dizzying speed with which the successor states have adopted, rejected and revised their own social and political experiments has made it difficult to ascertain how well these states are adhering to Baker's principles during a chaotic period of transition. Because U.S. policy has been largely reactive rather than forward-looking, it has been only marginally effective in curbing violations of rights by the new governments and in mitigating the internal strife that threatens the freedoms of millions of individuals.
Many remnants of the former Soviet infrastructure, including organs of state security, remain in place today and continue to function as they used to, inviting arbitrary and sometimes corrupt implementation in the area of law enforcement. In addition, many members of the Soviet bureaucracy remain in their previous jobs or have been reshuffled for the sake of appearances but retain their previous responsibilities. Former communists remain as president in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Moreover, several leaders who came to power by exploiting nationalist sentiments have proven to be at least abusive as their communist predecessors. Most egregious was Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who came to power in Georgia in May 1990 and was ousted by force in January 1992, in part because of widespread dissatisfaction over his violations of freedom of speech. In addition, Abulfaz Elcibey who was swept to power in Azerbaijan on a groundswell of popular support in June 1 992, has since launched a counter-offensive in Nagorno Karabakh that has caused an escalation in the conflict with many new civilian casualties.
U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union in 1992 suffered most from an apparent belief that the shedding of communism and the turn to a market economy would necessarily be accompanied by democracy and a respect for human rights. In his statement of April 9 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Baker repeatedly linked the concepts of "building democracy" and "building free markets." During his week-long whirlwind tour of the newly independent states in early February, Secretary Baker seemed satisfied with those who paid lip service to this simplistic yardstick. For example, following his February meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who won in an election in which several opposition parties were forbidden to participate, Mr. Baker stated: "The President in our meetings in effect recited those principles [relating to democracy, the free market and human rights] back to me today. I am well pleased by what I heard." The same sentiment was echoed in Baker's warm speech during his visit to Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 25, when he praised the work of State Council member Eduard Shevardnadze while ignoring violations of free speech in the troubled republic, which have silenced many real and alleged supporters of ousted president Gamsakhurdia.
On October 26, President Bush approved the "Freedom for Russian and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets Support Act" (Freedom Support Act), which provides for the distribution of $410 million to the new states in humanitarian aid and development programs. Secretary Baker has characterized the Act as "every bit as much a policy statement ... as a legislative package." The Freedom Support Act contains a crucial provision whereby aid and other economic benefits can be withheld from any of the countries that violate human rights.
The U.S. Congress exercised its prerogative to withhold aid to successor states on human rights grounds. An amendment to the Freedom Support Act denies aid to Azerbaijan beginning January 1, 1993, to protest human rights abuses committed by Azerbaijan during the protracted conflict in Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan's blockade of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia. The amendment (which the Bush Administration repeatedly opposed) is laudable but lacks even-handedness with regard to Armenia, which is unofficially supporting the Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh who are also responsible for human rights abuses.
In the course of 1992 the State Department took the lead in the international community by opening a far-flung network of embassies in the newly independent states. By the end of the year, U.S. embassies were operating, with varying degrees of efficiency, in the capitals of all of the former Sovietrepublics. A new consulate, in Vladivostok, Russia, was also opened on September 22. Ambassadors were approved for all countries except Armenia. In addition, some 500 Peace Corps volunteers are expected to be in place throughout the former Soviet Union by the end of fiscal year 1993.
Mobilizing qualified cadres of foreign service officers with backgrounds in development and the local cultures is a colossal task and, given time constraints, has been met admirably by the State Department. To date, however, there is only one U.S. foreign service officer in the entire former Soviet Union who is charged with the responsibility of monitoring violations of human rights on a full-time basis: the second secretary at the U.S. embassy in Russia. Because human rights violations continue on a large scale in the former USSR, the State Department should increase the attention paid to human rights within the diplomatic service.
One of the most important steps toward bringing the twelve former Soviet republics into conformity with international human rights standards was taken in January 1992 when all new states (except Georgia, which was admitted in March) joined the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). During 1992, the U.S. government's Helsinki Commission (also known as CSCE) sent congressional and staff delegations to all of the successor states where, according to their August report, they "paid special attention to human rights issues and the process of democratization in the new states."
The U.S. Congress in 1992 initiated the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship Program, which provides $7 million from 1992-1994 to offer citizens of the successor states a higher education in the United States in the fields of law, business, public administration and economics. Students are selected on the basis of academic merit, and must return to their home countries for at least two years upon completion of their American education. The program, which is desperately needed, should be expanded, in the view of Helsinki Watch, to include journalism and human rights training in addition to the law.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, U.S. government-funded radio stations that for decades have broadcast alternative programming into the former Soviet Union, came under attack again in 1992 as legislators were assessing the stations' continued usefulness. It is to the credit of the U.S. government that the level of funding for these important services has been maintained in 1992. Until legal mechanisms for ensuring freedom of speech are established and implemented in all of the new states, the U.S. government should continue to provide uncensored views and information through the radio broadcasts and research institutes.
In January 1992, President Bush pledged $645 million in economic aid to the newly independent states during 1992 and 1993. Government agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development have greatly expanded their previous development interests in the former Soviet Union. One such effort is "Operation Provide Hope" and "Operation Provide Hope II," through which massive humanitarian aid was delivered throughout the former Soviet Union. The human rights aspect of this program lies in its commitment to educational training in the legal and judicial systems, manifested in joint projects for study of the rule of law in which judges and legal experts will be brought to the United States for training, and in programs to provide U.S. legal experts to assist in revising legislation to conform to international standards.
The Work of Helsinki Watch
In 1992, Helsinki Watch maintained its traditional monitoring on the territory of the former Soviet Union and, thanks in large part to the opening of its Moscow office in November 1991, has extended and made permanent its presence in areas that previously were accessible only by sending occasional fact-finding missions. The loosening of restrictions on foreign visitors that has taken place in the last few years, particularly on international human rights monitors, has given Helsinki Watch the opportunity to work as an integral part of the human rights community in Russia and elsewhere in the region. The office is engaged in the vital exchange of information and mutual support with local human rights groups and with those in need.
One of the most important advances in 1992 has been the promotion of cooperative relations with local human rights groups, a dream long thwarted during the Soviet era. In June, a Helsinki Watch representative completed a jointmission to Tajikistan with members of the Human Rights Group of the Moscow-based organization "Memorial," which has branches throughout the former Soviet Union; a joint report will be issued on their findings in December. In November another joint Helsinki Watch-Memorial mission visited Georgia to investigate reports of police abuses and violations of free speech.
In 1992, Helsinki Watch representatives traveled on one or more occasions to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and issued or will issue reports on the findings of each mission. The missions to Armenia and Azerbaijan in April, May and October investigated abuses committed in connection with the internal battle for territorial and political autonomy in Nagorno Karabakh and included a follow-up mission to look into evidence of reckless air bombings in the beleaguered territory. The missions to Tajikistan in June gathered information about the May demonstrations, and the mission to Moldova in August explored allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated during the bloody conflict over the secessionist movement in the eastern areas of the republic as well as the increased tensions among ethnic groups living in the region. A November mission to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan investigated police harassment and the crackdown on free speech and press . Each of these missions widens Helsinki Watch's network of contacts with local journalists and the human rights community and strengthens future work in the region.
Helsinki Watch has dedicated much of its resources to investigating the tragic turmoil in the Caucasus mountains – in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Protests against suppression of free speech and concomitant violence generated two related newsletters, "Conflict in Georgia: Human Rights Violations by the Government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia," in December 1991, and "Human Rights Violations in the New Georgia" in January 1992, following Zviad Gamsakhurdia's ouster. In March, Helsinki Watch published Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Violations of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in the Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict, concerning violations in the ongoing battle for control of South Ossetia. In June, Helsinki Watch issued a newsletter, called "Helsinki Watch Deplores Murder of Refugees in South Ossetia," about the brutal murder of some 36 refugees by Georgian irregulars as they fled the theater of conflict in South Ossetia on May 20.
On the basis of its two-week mission in April and May to Armenia and Azerbaijan, including Nagorno Karabakh, Helsinki Watch published Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Escalation of the Armed Conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, which details the latest phases in what may be the most long-lived armed conflict to have scarred the face of the former Soviet Union. The report includes information concerning the notorious "Operation Ring" campaign, and the slaughters in Khojaly and Maraga, sites of some of the most brutal fighting in Nagorno Karabakh.
As violence increased in the spring of 1992, Helsinki Watch issued a newsletter, "Overview of Areas of Armed Conflict in the Former USSR," outlining the nature of the abuses and giving background on the areas of greatest concern. The August Helsinki Watch mission to Moldova resulted in a report, Borders and Bloodshed: Human Rights Violations in Moldova, in December.
In addition to the continued monitoring of these "hot spots," Helsinki Watch has also maintained a strong hand in protesting abuses that result from the legacy of the inadequate Soviet political and legal systems. Reviving the debate on a problem with which the organization has taken issue for many years, Helsinki Watch released a newsletter, "Russian Residence and Travel Restrictions" in August, which challenged the abusive practice, born of the Soviet period, of limiting internal and external travel, a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of movement.
In April, Helsinki Watch sent a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Nikolai Fyodorov protesting the continued imprisonment of individuals serving terms for speculation and requesting further information on the subject. The letter has gone unanswered.
On July 9, a letter was sent to Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov protesting the brutal beatings of several leaders of the political opposition movement Birlik on June 29, including Abdurakhim Pulatov, co-chair of the popular movement, and Miralim Adilov, his legal counsel and a fellow member of Birlik. In its reply, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized Uzbekistan's right to deal with internal problems as it deemed fit.
In response to reports that Bolatbek Akhmetaliev, a leader of the outlawedAlash party, was being mistreated in detention, among other things on charges of slandering the Kazakhstan president, Helsinki Watch sent a letter of inquiry and concern in August. The President's office confirmed that Akhmetaliev had been handcuffed in the hospital and was under psychiatric care.
Helsinki Watch sent a letter on November 5 to Turkmenistan President Niyazov condemning the house arrests of individuals who expressed dissenting opinions and urging an immediate end to systematic violations of freedom of movement and speech in the republic.
Helsinki Watch representatives have also participated in international conferences on prison reform and on women's rights, both of which took place in Moscow in November. In addition Helsinki Watch has continued to provide a forum in the U.S. for visiting and resident specialists in the field of human rights, and has met with diplomats from the region stationed in the United States. Guests have included Sergei Kovalev, chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Russian Supreme Soviet, and Lydia Semina, staff director of the human rights committee and a member of the Russian Human Rights Project Group; Andrei Kozyrev, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation; Abdurakhim Pulatov, leader of Uzbekistan's Birlik movement; Lydia Grafova, founder of Civilian Assistance, a refugee advocacy group, and observer for Literaturnaia Gazeta; Evgenii Zakharov, co-chairman of the Khar'kov (Ukraine) branch of Memorial; Seyran Bagdasarian, deputy to the parliament of Armenia; and R evaz Gvarliani, a Georgian film director and producer of human rights-related films.