The United States is leading a group of 16 states to urge an investigation into reported human-rights abuses in the Russian Republic of Chechnya, located in the northern Caucasus. This is being done under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They are using the Moscow Mechanism, which allows for the establishment of short-term, fact-finding missions to address human-rights concerns. A report of that investigation is normally prepared within a couple of weeks and is discussed by the Permanent Council before being made public. Such a step has been invoked only seven other times since the establishment of the OSCE in 1991. Up to three human-rights experts are expected to make up the fact-finding mission. None of them can come from the country under investigation.
In the statement (Nov. 2) to the Permanent Council invoking the mechanism, the group of 16 noted that these concerns are "centered around allegations of impunity for reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya from January 2017 to the present, including, but not limited to, violations and abuses against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others." Russia was given six days to say if it would cooperate or not.
The US State Department has supported the initiative. “The administration will continue to work with our European partners to expose Russia's human rights violations and abuses," stated deputy spokesman Robert Palladino. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent US government commission that works to monitor the OSCE, also threw its support behind the initiative.
The timing always offers a clue about the objective of the intended steps. The 25th OSCE Ministerial Council, the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE, is to meet Dec. 6-7. The “investigation” is a way to lay the groundwork to attack Russia, accusing it of all imaginable sins.
All the fuss about human rights in the republic mainly boils down to the plight of the LGBTI community. Very few such people have complained, and many of them said Europe was not any better than Russia. It should be noted that the issue was not important enough to be included in the agenda of the OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger during his visit to Moscow Nov. 2-3.
Are the invented stories about the violations of LGBTI rights in Chechnya really at the top of the OSCE’s human-rights agenda, eclipsing other problems and justifying the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism? What about the WWII veterans from the Nazi SS special forces who are openly marching in the streets of Latvia’s cities and towns? What about the rise of far-right nationalism in that country? Anti-Semitism in the Baltic states is a problem grave enough to prompt a response from the pope, but no, the OSCE does not believe that issue to be serious enough to investigate.
What about far-right vigilantes in Ukraine who are intimidating people, often violently, with the tacit approval of law-enforcement agencies? Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2018 that Ukrainian authorities had backtracked on important human-rights pledges in 2017. Torture and other ill-treatment, attacks by neo-Nazis against minorities, such as the Roma community, in that country are a matter of concern for Amnesty International, but not those who seek a larger role for the OSCE in improving the human-rights situation in Europe. Why isn’t Kirill Vyshinsky, a Russian journalist held behind bars in Ukraine, not a matter of concern for the OSCE?
“It sounds like the stuff of Kremlin propaganda, but it’s not.” These are the first words of the Atlantic Council’s report on far-right violence in Ukraine. It was made public last summer. Where is the OSCE? Why is it hushing up human-rights violations in Ukraine?
What about the European Court’s September ruling on the violation of human rights by the UK surveillance program? No investigation was launched by the OSCE. Nor did it initiate an investigation into the Spanish state’s human-rights violations that were publicized the same month. The OSCE deals with security. Is it investigating the reports on US biological military research in the OSCE member countries?
The Moscow Mechanism is being invoked to divert attention from serious and pressing problems that are beyond what the OSCE or any other Western-dominated institution can manage. This is another move to create a certain environment prior to the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council, at which Moscow will ask some awkward questions. The poor performance of the OSCE’s specialized institutions, such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, is one of the issues that will be raised. The OSCE world have done better to have set its double standards aside, in order to concentrate on real issues, such as the emergence of neo-Nazism in Europe and the human-rights violations in Ukraine.