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We had to leave the auditorium
Written by   
, 26 2007
On September 1314, 2007, a high-level meeting was held in Vienna to discuss the problems of terrorist victims. Representatives of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the EU, the UN, government delegations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) from 56countries participated in the conference. Buteven such an important event did not manage to take place on without some politicking, demonstrations, and even a public settling of accounts. Karaganda resident Svetlana Gubareva represented the Nord-Ost NGO at the meeting, and, on returning from Austria, shared her impressions with (Karaganda newspaper) Noviy Vestnik.
Svetlana Gubareva: “Participants in the conference heard our speeches and understood that we didn’t speak against the government. Noone stopped us, but Igot the impression that those present approved of our move.”
“The conference began with a scandal," Svetlana Nikolaevna recounted. The chairman told all present that one of the participants, the Russia-Chechnya Friendship Society had been refused registration. TheUS government delegation right then demanded an explanation. Participants from Canada and the UK supported the US. Thechairman explained that the 'Society' was refused registration because one of the participating countries and he was talking about Russia was against it. Representatives of the Russian governmental delegation explained their position that this society had been declared extremists and its activities were forbidden on court order. Andso as a sign of protest the Americans demonstratively left the meeting hall.”
Only after this demarche was settled could the conference begin.
Participants, government organizations and NGOs shared their experience. Theytold about assistance authorities in their countries provided persons who suffered as a result of the actions of terrorists. According to Svetlana Gubareva, the rights of hostages are defended best of all in Spain.
“We simply took part in the discussion, we were given five minutes each to speak. Iwas very nervous and my speech didn’t turn out how Iwanted,” said Gubareva. “But they listened very closely to our speeches (of the Russian victims of terrorism)! Whenother delegations spoke they were followed a bit absent-mindedly, someone would be talking in the background or else shuffling papers. ButElla Kesaeva from Beslan, Irina Khalai, who suffered in the Volgodonsk blast, and myself, they listened in complete silence, not even the rustling of a single sheet of paper!”
What do you think, why was their so much interest?
“Perhaps because it was the first time they had heard this at their level, and for them it was unexpected. Whenthe translators heard the specific numbers, exactly how much Russian hostages are compensated for injuries, their faces changed in expression and their eyes literally widened. Theysimply couldn’t imagine that anyone could live on this. Forexample, the Frolov orphans, who lost their parents at Nord-Ost are 5and 7years old, and they receive welfare in the amount of 250rubles that’s 7euros ($10). Andpeople reacted to these numbers. Everyone sat there and listened very attentively to what was going on in Russia, in that puzzling country.
The delegation of Russian NGOs demonstratively leaves the meeting hall: leaving the meeting are Dmitriy Milovidov (far left in white shirt), Sergey Karpov, Svetlana Gubareva, Nikolai Karpov, Karinna Moskalenko, Ella Kesaeva (Voice of Beslan), Marina Litvinovich (Terror Victim Assistance Fund), Lyubov Burban (in the first row) and Irina Khalai (head of the organization of victims of Volgodonsk blast).
On the conference’s first day the participants discussed whether it was necessary to create the status of victim of terrorism and what sort of assistance a government should provide victims of terror acts. Thenext day they examined laws relative to hostages and the role of citizens groups for terror act victims. Simultaneous translations were provided in six languages: Russian, English, German, Spanish, Italian, and French.
Every delegation, governmental and nongovernmental, spoke about the victims’ interests.
“I think that our participation in the conference was a great achievement. Finally, at such a high level, they learned about the existence of our organization, Nord-Ost, and our problems,” said Svetlana Gubareva. “Our goal is to draw attention to the problems of people who suffered from terrorist acts in Russia, the attention of worldwide organizations. Without the help of the world community, we would never be able to make the Russian government face our problems, because they stubbornly walk away from them. Butthe last law that was passed, that went into effect on January 1st, 2007, pretty much tossed us overboard. Therights and interests of victims of past terror acts were not addressed in the new law. I’m talking about a paragraph in the law that states that compensation for moral damages (pain and suffering) is to be the responsibility of the terrorists.”
The conference ended with yet another scandal. Thistime the Nord-Ost people were in the center of it, along with several other members of the unofficial Russian delegation. After the speeches with the compensation amounts that drew such universal interest, the head of the official Russian delegation, Vladimir Titorenko, rose to speak. Fromthe start he accused the Nord-Ost organization of “being incapable of taking part in the discussions and allowing itself to speak against the (Russian) government and authorities.”
After these words, as a sign of protest, the Nord-Ost delegation left the conference hall.
“We didn't even listen to him all the way to the end. WhenTitorenko said that the meeting organizer of the meets should have a better approach to selecting participants, Iunderstood right then that he was talking about us. Andthen he declared that, supposedly, we couldn’t dialogue against the government, and we were moving things backwards,” said Svetlana Nikolaevna loudly. “The insult was so great that we just got up and left. Atthe exit we left the conference chairman a note. Init we explained that it was not possible to listen to such an unprecedented lie, that we express our respect to all other participants in the conference, but we simply had to leave the auditorium. Weweren’t able to tell them that Mr. Titorenko was lying, so this was our only way to express protest. Participants in the conference heard our speeches and understood that we didn’t speak against the government. Noone stopped us, but Igot the impression that those present approved of our move. Thedeclaration by this representative of the Russian governmental delegation demonstrated just how they treat us in Russia, just how haughtily they talk to us, they don’t want a dialogue, and they don’t want to follow the laws. SoI hope that the conduct of Mr. Titorenko gave them a feel for what the life of terror victims in Russia is like. Andthe international community understands that our problems are really quite serious. Butthe conflict didn’t end with this.
“On September 20th, at a meeting of the permanent commission of OSCE, Mr. Borodavkin, the Russian representative, made a statement about our participation. Hesaid: ‘We know that the OSCE-BDIHR (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) approved certain NGOs to participate in a high-level meeting about terrorism victims, I’m not misspeaking, they literally approved, paid for, and even gave instructions for speeches, and such participation by an NGO makes it not independent, but acting on orders.’ But at the conference we never said anything that the authorities never heard before, we’ve been saying the same thing for 5years, but they just don’t want to listen! It’s now thought that now they’ll look for an excuse to shut us down.
“By the way, an official delegation from Kazakhstan came to this conference. Itincluded 9persons, almost half from the armed forces or security service. There were no speakers, though. Fortunately, we can still afford to be just listeners.”
Representatives of our delegation had nothing to say, since there has not been a terror act in Kazakhstan (and hopefully never will be). Victims of terror acts outside the country can be counted on one hand, and there is no experience in providing assistance. Certainly, it would not be a bad idea to learn from the rest of the world and provide legislation just in case.
The Vienna conference was the first such high-level meeting dedicated to the problems of people who had experienced all the horrors of terrorism. Theresult of this meeting will be known only after the organizers the OSCE publish their report. AndSvetlana Gubareva is hoping that the final decision will change the plight of terror act victims in Russia.
“Certainly, such decisions often have an objective character,” she stressed at the end of our talk. “It should be such that all countries agree. Therefore, more than anything, the result will be a combination of common recommendations.”
But even these recommendations can provide hope that the government will remember those who lived through the seizure of the Theater Center, the blasts in Volgodonsk, and the nightmare in Beslan, and that it will care for the families of those who died at the hands of terrorists.
By the way, the UN is planning on holding just such a meeting in 2008, dedicated to the problems of terror act victims.
Suggestions approved by the terror victims and requested for inclusion in resolutions coming from the high-level meeting in Vienna:
We, the representatives of public organizations that defend the interests of victims and survivors of victims of the Moscow and Volgodonsk apartment building blasts, the seizure of the Moscow theater center, the Moscow subway blasts, the destruction of the Moscow-Volgograd and Moscow-Sochi airliners, and seizure of Beslan School #1, ask the OSCE when making their resolution consider the following suggestions:
1. Weask that the OSCE make a special resolution expressing their concern at the absence of active measures to provide welfare assistance to victims of terror acts in Russia, as well as the absence of effective investigations of terror acts.
2. Tocreate at the OSCE a plenipotentiary organ (commission) to investigate terrorist acts in those cases when an investigation carried out by national authorities does not meet the criteria of effectiveness and objectivity.
3. Towork out an international law governing the status of Terror Victim, and make known to those persons who are injured, whether morally, materially, physically, or psychologically, in a terror act or as a consequence of a terror act. Toensure that this law applies to all victims of terror, independent of when the terror act occurs, either before or after the passing of this law.
4. Wesuggest that the OSCE work out a convention (agreement) on standardizing assistance to victims of terror acts, including procedures, amounts, and length of continuation, and in doing so ensure that there is a mechanism of providing assistance to those who become victims of terror while outside their home countries.
5. Weask that the OSCE issue a special resolution on the persecution of organizations or unions of terrorist victims, and those who defend their interests.
P.S.Speeches by participants of the Vienna Conference can be read online at www.nord-ost.org under the section titled “Justice, international meetings materials”.

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