ByCharles Bremmer in Paris
January 26, 2006
FIFTEEN years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Council of Europe last night became the first international body to condemn crimes against humanity committed by the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and other states.
However, in a vote that was bitterly contested by Russia and Western Europe’s left-wing parties, the 46-nation council failed to raise the two-thirds majority needed to approve a tougher resolution by a Swedish MP that called on former communist states to teach the truth about their former regimes and create days of remembrance. The council assembly, which includes MPs from all former European communist states except Belarus, voted by simple majority for a motion deploring that there had never been an international inquiry on the “crimes committed in these states”. “These have never been condemned by the international community as have been the horrible crimes committed in the name of (German) National Socialism”, said Göran Lindblad, a Swedish conservative MP. The failure to win the broader motion underlined the misgivings among parliamentarians over the wisdom of revisiting painful history and issuing blanket condemnations. The council was founded after the Second World War to protect human rights and the rule of law. The case made by conservatives for putting Stalin on a par with Hitler has fuelled a furious dispute in recent years in France, Greece and other Western European states where Marxist doctrines and communist parties enjoy strong sympathies. A Russian opinion poll last month suggested that 42 per cent of Russians believed that Stalin had played a positive role in their country. MPs from Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria and other former Soviet satellite states gave emotional backing to the vote. Russian MPs relayed the anger in Moscow over what is seen as a hostile act aimed at isolating their country and opening the way to lawsuits. Natalia Narochnitskaya, deputy chief of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, said that Europe should be denouncing the terror of the French Revolution. She added: “Oliver Cromwell has never been denounced.”
REGIMES OF DEATH
Conservative estimate of deaths attributed to Soviet and other Communist regimes in the European Council document presented yesterday (1917-present day): 94.5 million
Soviet Union (1917-89): 20 million victims (includes party purges, mass murder, deportations, starvation policy in 1930s Ukraine, wartime reprisals)
China: 65 million (under Mao Zedong and successors)
Vietnam: 1 million
North Korea: 2 million
Cambodia: 2 million
Eastern Europe: 1 million
Latin America: 150,000
Africa: 1.7 million
Afghanistan: 1.5 million
Victims of Nazi Germany and its allies; the military and civilian death toll from the mid-1930s to 1945: 56 million, including 6 million Jews.