Putin Should Be Tried for Genocide in Chechnya
by Paul Goble
A leader of the Jewish community in Germany whose own father died at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz said on that country’s First Channel television network this week that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was guilty of committing genocide in Chechnya and should face trial for that crime at the Hague.
But Michel Friedman, the former president of the European Jewish Congress and a leader of Germany’s Central Jewish Council, said he holds out little hope that this will happen because of defects in the tribunal itself and because the international community is not prepared to bring charges against the leader of a major country, however guilty he may be.
The international court, Friedman said, “is a farce. [Its judges] decide whom to bring before it and whom not. The earth is full of mass murderers and dictators but in the Hague, they judge only the pettiest of these” like the president of Sudan and fail to do anything against “big criminals” like the former Russian president.
What Putin “did in Chechnya,” the Jewish activist said, “is genocide of the purest kind,” but instead of expressing outrage, “the whole world is silent. But I will not stay quiet,” he continued. “My father died at Auschwitz, and I will always struggle with genocide” -- and “in Chechnya was the clearest form of genocide, a nightmare, hell.”
“Putin should be sitting in the dock at the Hague,” Friedman said, “but traitors, Western governments and politicians like [Germany’s] own former Chancellor Schroeder, have made bloody deals with dictators” to advance their personal interests above those of humanity. “This is a shame!” the Jewish leader said, adding that he “will never forget Chechnya.”
In other comments, Friedman sharply criticized Avigdor Lieberman, who is likely to be Israel’s next foreign minister, for defending Putin’s “genocide in Chechnya only because the Chechens are Muslims. Such a figure,” the German Jewish leader said, “is a heavy burden for the Jews in Israel.
(The program on which Friedman made these comments can be viewed online at
mediathek.daserste.de/daserste/servlet/content/1852954?pageId=487872&moduleId=311210&categoryId=&goto=1&show= A Russian language translation of the key passages can be found at
On the same news program during which Friedman made these remarks, Peter Scholl-Latour, a longtime German journalist and commentator, offered some related observations about “the nightmare” that “bloody partisan wars” like the one in Chechnya and others around the world present the international community.
“The United States,” he argued, “is suffering defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia will be beaten in the Caucasus. And will lose in Kashmir.” The reason for that, Scholl-Latour said, “is that “when even the simplest people can have arms, military victories like those of decades or hundreds of years ago are already impossible.”
“If today you want to end a war,” he said, “you must conduct negotiations with [your] real opponent and not try to impose a marionette government. [Doing the latter] is not a resolution but only part of the problem” and something that will ensure that the fighting and the dying will go on.
Most governments, he continued, do not understand that reality, and the international community is not yet in a position to provide effective instruction to the major powers. But it is a lesson that all should learn, and consequently, the decision of the Hague court to issue an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president is a step in the right direction, even if it remains a small one.
Paul A. Goble is an American analyst, writer and columnist with expertise on Russia, Eurasia, public diplomacy and international broadcasting. Goble publishes his articles on his blog "Window on Eurasia" (windowoneurasia.blogspot.com).