Human Rights Defenders Condemn Russia’s Operation in Georgia

Sergei Kovalev. Source: grani.ruIn an open letter, some of Russia’s most prominent human rights activists, including Soviet dissident Sergei Kovalev, have called on the international community to stand up to Russia’s “aggression” and to go as far as removing the country from the Group of Eight. The letter, below, was first released on August 10th.

Other public figures have called on both sides to stop the violence, and start negotiations. According to the latest media reports, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has ordered a halt of military operations, although fighting continued.

Declaration of human rights activists on the war in South Ossetia

On August 8th, under the pretense of “defending Russian citizens” in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, Russia started an act of aggression against Georgia.

According to media reports, planes from Russia’s Air Force dropped bombs on Gori. Georgian public figures asserted that Russian planes bombed Poti, Senaki and Tskhinvali. Russian media reported that airborne troops had entered Tskhinvali.

The evening of August 8th, at a meeting of the Security Council of the UN, Russia’s representative to the US, Vitaly Churkin, openly acknowledged the bombardment of Georgian territory.

On the eve of the aggression, Russia intensified the propaganda war against Georgia. Pro-Kremlin media announced only the military operations from the Georgian side in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, keeping silent on the shelling of Georgian towns from the side of the armed formations of the Eduard Kokoity regime. On August 8th, the internet-sites of Georgia’s organs of power and the Rustavi-2 television-channel were disabled.

On August 8th, the international “Memorial” society condemned the introduction of Georgian troops into Tskhinvali, which the Georgian leadership characterized as “Constitutional means for bringing peace and legal order.” But whatever may happen in Georgia, Russia does not have any right to use armed forces on foreign territory. The status of Russian peacekeepers in Georgia was defined by intergovernmental agreements. However, Russia lost the moral right to peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, when in circumvention of the leadership of sovereign Georgia, it openly allied itself to the authorities of these self-appointed formations. Now, having cast away all appearances, having introduced airborne units into Georgia, having bombed territory that wasn’t part of the former South-Ossetian autonomous oblast, Russia has entirely turned into a party in the armed conflict.

Russian President [Dmitri] Medvedev stated that he “was obligated to defend the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be.” However, the Resolution of the General Assembly of the UN of 12.14.1974, the “Definition of Aggression,” underscores: “No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.” It is particularly appropriate to recall that in 1938, Nazi Germany reasoned the seizure of the Sudetenland belonging to Czechoslovakia as a defense of the interests of the Germans living there.

Historical experience shows that the interference of our country in someone else’s affairs inevitably, and contrary to any claims of “assistance,” leads to innumerable misfortunes.

In 1979, the ruling establishment of the Soviet Union sent forces to sovereign Afghanistan under the pretext of “rendering brotherly assistance”; hundreds of thousands of residents of the country became victims of the Soviet military. Today, the ruling chekist-bureaucratic faction in Russia –the successor to the Soviet leadership –has perpetrated aggression against independent Georgia.

The incursion into Afghanistan led to many years of unceasing widespread violence and human rights abuses, as well as flare-ups of war again and again. The historical development of Afghanistan turned completely around: from a secular government it turned into a theocratic one. The actions of the Soviet leadership led to a sharp rise in the popularity of Islamic fundamentalism not only in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan and Arab countries as well. (Remember the alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda).

If the international community does not stop Russian aggression, and if Georgia, realizing its lawful right to self-defense, cannot fend it off, Russia may capture not only the former South-Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, but other parts of Georgia as well. After all, many irresponsible Russian politicians are announcing claims to Crimea…

We call for the immediate stop of aggression against Georgia. We consider that Russia’s leadership, having set another bloody stain to the country’s reputation, finally made its presence in the Group of Eight unacceptable from a moral point of view.

We call on the General Assembly of the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other international institutes to assess the actions of Russia’s leadership against Georgia.

Sergei Kovalev, chairman of the Russian “Memorial” society, chairman of the A.D. Sakharov Fund.

Dmitri Belomestnov, journalist, Moscow

Stanislav Dmitrievsky (Nizhny Novgorod), chairman of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

Tatyana Monakhova, human rights defender, Moscow

Yelena Maglevannaya, copy editor, Volgograd

Mikhail Kriger, chairman of the Anti-War Committee, Moscow

Ivan Simochkin, Oborona [Defense] Youth Movement, Moscow

Alexei Manannikov, President of the Siberian Inter-regional human rights foundation “Vienna-89”, Novosibirsk

Edward Glezin, Coordinator of the Russian “Oborona” Youth Movement, Moscow

Dmitri Shusharin, historian and journalists

Igor Drandin, RPDU [Russian People’s Democratic Union]

Vladimir Shaklein, Inter-regional Center for Human Rights – Ural division of the “For Human Rights” All-Russian Civic Organization

Vladimir Sirotin, national socialist

Larisa Volodimerovna, human rights defender, Holland

Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director, All-Russian Civic Organization “For Human Rights”

Vladimir Panteleev, political prisoner 1970-76, invalid of the 2nd group after political repression, chairman of the board of directors of the Nizhny Novgorod Society for Victims of the Communist Terror

Sergei Sorokin, chairman of the Movement Against Violence, Moscow

Felix Balonov, Doctor of Philosophy, St. Petersburg

Dmitri Vorobyevsky, editor of the Kramola newspaper, member of the Democratic Union, Voronezh

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