11th Dec 2019

European Parliament removes controversial Chechnya exhibition

  • The European Parliament has removed an exhibition displaying Russian war crimes in Chechnya from its corridors (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament has removed an exhibition showing graphic pictures from the Russian war in Chechnya, leading its organisers to accuse the assembly of censorship.

The two MEPs who organised the exhibition, Lithuanian conservative MEP Vytautas Landsbergis and Polish MEP Konrad Szymanski from the rightist UEN group, said the move "brings shame and moral injustice" to the legislative body.

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"This is a dishonourable example of lawlessness and censorship applied by the quaestor responsible for the exhibitions inside the European Parliament", the duo wrote in a letter to the parliament's president.

The move to dismount and remove the exhibition was taken by a quaestor responsible for exhibitions, the Hungarian socialist MEP Szabolcs Fazakas, on 2 October, arguing some photographs were "disturbing" and against parliament's rules.

But Mr Landsbergis and Mr Szymanski opposed the reasoning, stressing that "to date Mr Fazakas has not objected to the content of the exhibition", while the exhibition had the blessing from the secretariat of the quaestors, which examined the content 30 minutes before the opening.

"Our first proposal to place controversial pictures in separate corridors was refused", the two MEPs wrote in a letter, adding "all 44 pictures which were recognised as controversial because of their brutality were covered as a result of an agreement with the secretariat".

"Despite this and without any attempt of contact with the organisers...Mr Fazakas decided to give a directive to remove the exhibition", they concluded.

Mr Fazakas, for his part, stressed that covering photographs "could not be considered as an appropriate solution and in fact would have resulted in attracting the attention of the public, thus exacerbating the situation".

The European Parliament president did not want to comment on the issue.

Chechen rebels have been fighting Russian forces since September 1999, when Moscow relaunched its efforts to rein in militants in the southern separatist region. Before that, the two sides had fought to a standstill in a 20-month war that ended in 1996.

The war was costly for both sides.

Conservative casualty estimates give figures of 7,500 Russian military dead, 4,000 Chechen combatants dead, and no fewer than 35,000 civilian deaths between 1994-1996.

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