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What happens after ECHR’ ruling? (Part II)

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Igor Botan / July 25, 2004
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Transdnistria’s reaction to ECHR’ judgement

The first reaction of the Russian Federation to the ECHR’s judgement on “the case of Ilascu” paved the way for the Transdnistrian authorities’ saying. As it was to be expected, Transdnistrian reaction was far more radical. As usual, “indignation of the public opinion with the judgement of the European Court on the case of terrorist Ilascu” was staged. Moreover, Transdnistrian experts and analysts had their saying as well, regretting that “European Court judges are guided by the formal and not humanitarian law” and were disappointed by the European values, predicting even the “fall of the European civilization”.

At the same time, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the self-proclaimed Moldavian Republic of Transdnistria issued a statement reading that “Transdnistrian state was founded at the will of the people in compliance with the most advanced democratic standards and international law, and from the first days of its existence faced state terrorism from the Republic of Moldova against peaceful citizens. Transdnistria had to take necessary measures to defend its people from the terrorist actions and do everything in its power to punish criminals”. The statement also reads that “ECHR judges’ bias while exercising their professional duties has nothing to do with doing justice, setting a rather dangerous precedent and justifying terrorism in its worst forms”.

To back up their position Ilascu’s declaration made right “after his release” was cited, namely that “the terrorist confessed his relations with the Moldovan authorities, and the type of crimes committed on order”. This is an allegation reiterated by Ilascu at the press conference of July 13: “There was no military conflict in 1992, but a military aggression of the Russian Federation against the newly emerged independent state of the Republic of Moldova. I and my colleagues have never been criminals, because we were exercising our duties and orders from Chisinau”[1], being mobilized by the Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Moldova to “fight the enemy”.

Finally the declaration reads “Moldavian Republic of Transdniestria expresses its bewilderment at the ECHR judgement, considering that it is impossible to release the terrorists before the term and declares that it will not give up on the inevitability of the punishment. Terrorists have no nationality, nor dignity, they are not worth pardoning, whereas their crimes have no prescription term. Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to draw the attention of European institutions to the inadmissibility of manipulating democratic principles and the need to strictly observe the rights of each person, regardless of ethnic origin, the more so, of the state of residence”.

The fact that Transdnistrian regime refuses to comply with ECHR judgement and ventures in preaching to this pan-European institution how the justice should be done is very illustrative. The protectorate it enjoys enables Transdnistria to take a solipsist position, ignoring and contradicting everyone and everything they disagree with, including the formal logic, sequence of events and even the interests of the main guarantor of their existence. That is why, for them the only perspective to look at things is their self-interest.

Quality of arguments

The logic adopted by the Transdnistrian regime resumes to the formula: the regime exists de facto, that is why it should be recognized de jure. This is the logic adopted by the strongest, or to put it differently of the strongest protege, who believes that it has enough power and influence to create new realities and opportunities to justify them. This logic was behind the “separatist international” in 1992, “international” that was made up only by pro-Russian secessionist regimes such as Transnistria and Gagauzia in Moldova, Crimea in Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Abkhazia and South Osetia in Georgia, and even Serbska Kraina in Croatia. Chechen Republic also wanted to join the “international”, however it was denied membership on the grounds it did not met the main criteria. In the case of the Republic of Moldova, efficiency of the formula depends on whether it would be possible to avoid internationalization of the conflict, which was inspired and is mediated by Russia, which also should guarantee its final settlement. For almost ten years now Moldovan authorities have been the victims of this logic.

ECHR’s judgement brings down this logic, establishing that the Transdnistrian regime is illegal, and therefore is not entitled to do justice. Moreover, ECHR judgement opens the possibility for the most wide and efficient “internationalization” of the settlement of the Transdnistrian conflict. And this after Transdnistrian regime got the status of party equal to the Republic of Moldova in the negotiation process, whereas on May 16, 2001 President Voronin signed together with Transdnistrian leader Igor Smirnov a protocol, thereby damages that Republic of Moldova was to pay to Transdnistria for “aggression” were to be calculated.

Currently Transdnistrian propaganda machine tries to convince the citizens that international forums are guided by some obscure interests and that there is still a chance for the Transdnistrian statehood to be recognized. That is why, a reference to “Transdnistrian state founded at the will of the people” is made in the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this respect it is worth mentioning that following the logic of Transdnistrian leaders, one year after the 1989 census that found that Moldovans, Ukrainians, Russians, etc resided on both banks of Dniester, the “genesis of the Transdnistrian people” happened, and right from that moment they were endowed with the right to self-determination. Moreover, absolute majority of the leaders of “Transdnistrian people” came from Russia and other former soviet republics so as to explain Transdnistrians what was their history and to help them exert the “right to self-determination”.

In this respect it is worth reviewing the arguments brought by the Transdnistrian regime. Throughout the 14 years of its existence, Tiraspol leaders justified the “right of Transdnistrian people to self-determination” by — opposing the linguistic policy pursued by “Romanian nationalists” and illustrated by the Law on the Status of State Language adopted on August 31, 1989 by the Chisinau Parliament, or defending “socialist motherland — URSS” that was to be rebuilt thanks to the efforts of the Transdnistrian regime, and finally that it was aimed at “promoting Russia’s interests in South-Eastern Europe”.

Now, it would be interesting to see how the leaders of Russian speaking community in the Republic of Moldova themselves assess the linguistic policy that inspired the secessionism in the first place. During last year’s debates on the Conception of National Policy of the Republic of Moldova one of the leaders of the Russian community in Moldova, also Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Vadim Misin, stated in an interview to “Accente” newspaper that he could not motivate his Russian-speaking friends to study state language as in such a tolerant linguistic environment and having profitable businesses, they simply did not see the point of studying it. In this respect, another leader of the Russian community in the Republic of Moldova, Chair of the Parliamentary commission on Human Rights, Mihail Sidorov, stated on NIT TV station that the 1989 Law on the Status of State Language had been and was in compliance with European standards.

The aforesaid examples illustrate that linguistic policies were just a pretext for secessionism. It is true that the quality and relevance of arguments on the one hand pleading for legalizing Moldovan/Romanian language as a state language, and on the other opposing it, did trigger some regrettable events and actions. Up till now Transdnistrian leaders justify their secessionism by citing slogans of the “nationalists’” rallies, forgetting to mention the slogans of the “international” that may still be read in the Chisinau public transportation. It’s hard to say which of those deeds or words stemmed from uncontrolled emotions and which from well-planed provocations. The important thing is that all the normative acts (available for anyone to consult) passed at that time by the Moldovan authorities, which contained nothing that would justify secessionism, fact confirmed by the leaders of the Russian community in the Republic of Moldova.

What Jupiter is allowed is forbidden to the…

Under the given circumstances and behaviour of the Transdnistrian regime simply undermine the prestige of the Russian Federation. Therefore, if Republic of Moldova’s actions in 1992 to “restore constitutional order” in Transdnistria are viewed by Transdnistrian leaders as aggression and “state terrorism”, how could then Russia’s actions to restore “constitutional order” in Chechnya be called? Firstly, Republic of Moldova was involved in the conflict as a result of a provocation staged near the Bender police commissariat, whereas Russian army entered Chechnya to “restore constitutional order” using “military tactics”, such as “taking enemy by surprise” when everyone was celebrating New Year in 1995.

Second of all, Russia entered with its military in Chechnya to “restore constitutional order” two years and a half after its military prevented Republic of Moldova to do a similar thing in Transdnistria. Thus, what Chisinau is not allowed in its fight with separatism, Russia is. Thirdly, in 1996 Russian leadership ordered liquidation of Chechen leader Djokhar Dudaev. Therefore, Russian pilots erased several villages together with their inhabitants until they completed the order. A question then arises — aren’t Russia’s actions in Transdnistria, and those in Chechnya a manifestation of double standards? Noteworthy, the aforesaid actions against Chechnya happened before the rebel forces’ terrorist attacks, which in fact triggered them. Therefore, following the logic of the Transdnistrian leaders, Russia’s actions represented genuine “acts provoked by aggression and state terrorism”.

What’s striking is the cynicism of the Tiraspol leaders’ logic, who are citizens of Russian. They engage in condemning terrorism, preaching to ECHR how to do justice at the time two of their fellow citizens, officers of Russian secret service, were condemned to life in prison by the Qatar court for murdering another former president of Chechnya, Zelimkhan Iandarbiev. In this case, Tiraspol leaders show no signs of compassion towards their fellow citizens, who simply executed the order given by their superiors, or do they apply double standards?

In fact, separatist leaders are concerned with their interests only. That is why, they announced they would not comply with ECHR. In line with their logic, complying with ECHR’s judgement would equal to acknowledging the inconsistence of the separatist cause. Their defying position on ECHR’ judgement probably wants to demonstrate that Transdnistrian regime is not under the influence of Russian Federation, which stated it would conform with the judgement. Indeed, the behaviour of Transdnistrian leaders shall thrive as long as they enjoy economic, financial and political support from Russia and while Russian military forces are still stationed in Transdnistrian.

Their logic now implies that deteriorating relations with Republic of Moldova is their last ditch. Transdnistrian propaganda is working full force non-stop to consolidate the syndrome of “fortress under siege” attacked by “Moldovan nationalists” supported by “world imperialist forces”. That is exactly why, last week immediately after OSCE Commissioner on National Minorities, Rolf Ekeus, had visited Chisinau and Tiraspol, the plan to shut down Moldovan schools in the region was contrived. In the eyes of Transdnistrian leaders those schools represent “the fifth pylon” seeking to undermine Transdnistria’s statehood. And this because the heads of Moldovan schools in Transdnistria refuse to register at the State Registration Chamber of Transdnistria.

OSCE Mission to the Republic of Moldova views shutting-down the schools as “linguistic cleansing”. Then followed critical remarks from Council of Europe Secretary General, Walter Schwimmer and heads of western diplomatic missions accredited in the Republic of Moldova. However Russia’s reaction was perfectly in line with its status of guarantor and mediator, calling “Transdnistrian leaders to refrain from administrative measures, and show a balanced attitude”. Russian Foreign Minister pointed that the issue of schools is a “consequence of unsettled conflict”, hinting that the incident with Moldovan school is a direct consequence abandoning “Kozak Memorandum”.

Now, Transdnistrian authorities are applying the formula tested long ago, i.e. they are independent from Russia in decision-making, on the hand Russia is the only one able to mediate the conflict. Transdnistrian authorities count on the fact that on the eve of parliamentary elections Chisinau would not risk to take some wide scale measures, on the contrary their electoral interest would be to get on good terms with Russia. Rhetoric on Russia’s acceptance to sign the Stability Pact for the Republic of Moldova and the need for the reintegration of the country would take centre stage.

Meanwhile, during the October census Transdnistrian authorities intend to prove that citizens residing in the region identify themselves as “Transdnistrians” and that such a nation really exists and it has the right to self-determination. Moreover, separatist leaders already decided that in parallel with 2005 parliamentary election in the Republic of Moldova, a referendum on the right of private property on land shall be held in Transdnistria. The latter would be yet another incentive for the propagandistic machine to exploit the thesis on the exclusive interest of Moldovan authorities to take over the privatized property of the “Transdnistrian people”.

In conclusion, while Tiraspol regime creates new opportunities for strengthening its positions, Republic of Moldova together with Russian Federation would look for a federalist formula to legalize the former in compliance with the Basic Treaty signed in November 2001.

What happens after ECHR’ ruling? (Part I)

  1. Jurnal de Chisinau, nr. 298, 16 July 2004
What happens after ECHR’ ruling? (Part I) Concerns on the eve of elections