Russia’s imprisoned tycoon Khodorkovsky gets human rights award
calls the draft a breakthrough, even though it stops short of threatening Syrian President Bashar Assad with force. CAPTIONS Syrians protest against the U.S. Hundreds gathered in Damascus to protest against the U.S. threats to launch a military strike against Syria. (EPA /September 9, 2013) By Paul Richter and Shashank Bengali September 26, 2013, 8:40 p.m. UNITED NATIONS The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia, agreed Thursday to back a resolution that demands that Syria relinquish its chemical weapons by mid-2014, but stops short of threatening President Bashar Assad with military force if he doesn’t comply. The Obama administration hailed the draft agreement as a breakthrough despite the U.S. failure after nearly two weeks to persuade Russia, Assad’s strongest international backer, to support a resolution that would invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and could authorize the use of force or other action if Syria doesn’t hand over its chemical arms. If Assad doesn’t comply, the decision on how to punish him would go back to the Security Council, where Russia has veto power, for further consideration. Moscow has steadfastly opposed military intervention in Syria and has questioned a U.N.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an “understanding” had been hammered out, but gave no details. A major sticking point had been Russia’s opposition to writing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the council’s authority to enforce its decisions with measures such as sanctions or military force. The compromise draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, makes the measure legally binding, but provides for no means of automatic enforcement as the United States, Britain and France originally wanted. Power said the resolution was groundbreaking because the council, which has been deadlocked for years on the Syrian civil war, formally endorsed for the first time a plan for a political transition in Syria that was agreed on at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012. ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ The only reference to enforcement in the draft is a threat that if Syria fails to comply with the resolution, the council would impose unspecified punitive measures under Chapter 7, which would require a second resolution that Russia could veto. A U.S. State Department official hailed the deal as a “breakthrough.” “The Russians have agreed to support a strong, binding and enforceable resolution that unites the pressure and focus of the international community on the Syrian regime to ensure the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons,” the official said. Diplomats from the permanent Security Council members – China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain – had been haggling over the details of a resolution to back the American-Russian accord announced on September 14 in Geneva to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad agreed to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons amid an international outcry over a sarin gas strike in the suburbs of Damascus last month – the world’s deadliest chemical attack in 25 years. Washington has blamed Assad’s forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people, and President Barack Obama threatened a U.S. military strike in response. Russia and Assad have blamed the attack on rebels battling to overthrow him in a civil war that, according to the United Nations, has left more than 100,000 people dead. British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he was pleased the draft resolution called for “accountability” for those responsible for the chemical attacks, although he added he would have liked a direct reference to the International Criminal Court in The Hague – something diplomats said Russia opposed. TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS In a speech to the U.N.
U.S., Russia agree on Syria U.N. chemical arms measure
Once Russias richest man, Khodorkovsky has been convicted in two separate trials in Russia of evading taxes and stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds. He is due for release in 2014. His case is seen as President Vladimir Putins punishment for Khodorkovskys political ambitions and support for the opposition. The European Court of Human Rights has said that Russia unfairly charged Khodorkovsky huge tax arrears, and unfairly sent him to a far-away penal colony in eastern Siberia to serve his sentence, thousands of miles from his family. The board of the $100,000 Walesa award said that Khodorkovsky is being recognized for courage in promoting civil society values, building foundations of economic freedom and his unwavering struggle for justice and human dignity. The annual award was founded in 2008. Former Polish president and Solidarity movement founder Walesa said that Regardless of all the injustice suffered, (Khodorkovsky) has never stopped believing in the sense of his actions, persevering with his dream of a country open to the world, and a country in which human rights are respected. Khodorkovskys son Pavel is to receive the award on Sunday in Gdansk, where Walesa founded Solidarity in 1980. It later ousted communism from Poland, and Walesa won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. The ceremony falls on Walesas 70th birthday. Pavel Khodorkovsky, who lives in New York and heads The Institute of Modern Russia think-tank , plans to donate the money from the award to an organization chosen by his father. We value respectful and thoughtful discussion. Readers are encouraged to flag comments that fail to meet the standards outlined in our Community Code of Conduct . For further information, including our legal guidelines, please see our full website Terms and Conditions .
In Strasbourg, France, a leading European human rights watchdog that counts Russia among its 47 member states said the law “raises serious issues” under its 60-year-old human rights convention. The Council of Europe’s committee of ministers released a statement Thursday that “invited” Russian authorities to take measures to raise awareness about the fundamental rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Russia was urged to submit a plan toward that end as soon as possible. President Vladimir Putin signed the ban on propaganda into law in late June. In August, he signed an additional decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi for two and a half months around the time of the games, a measure seen as intended to thwart protests by gay rights activists. Killy said the IOC commission was pleased with the ongoing construction ahead of the games, which with a total cost of $51 billion will be the most expensive Olympics in history. Much of the city still looks like an enormous building site, with unfinished hotels and debris from construction scattered across the Black Sea coast, but the Olympic venues are impressive. The coastal venues, where the skating events will take place, are sprawled like beached metallic whales across what used to be a residential coastline. The structures themselves are both sleekly elegant and intimate, providing for a close proximity between athletes and spectators. The mountain venues, about an hour by car or train from the coast, are similarly spectacular. A network of gondolas, like pulsing veins up the mountainside, whisk visitors up to 2,320 meters (7,650 feet), while the smooth wood of the bobsleigh track zigzags across the lush forest.