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(Un)Civil Societies Report: April 3, 2002


3 April 2002, Volume 3, Number 14
IN FOCUS
KIDNAPPING OF MOLDOVAN POLITICIAN ANOTHER WORRISOME DISAPPEARANCE IN EUROPE. Like the four missing prominent figures associated with the opposition in Belarus, and the critical journalist whose headless body was discovered in Ukraine, the abduction of Vlad Cubreacov, a leading member of the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) in Moldova has raised alarming questions about the fate of democracy in the new Europe. Cubreacov, who disappeared in mid-March, was said to be a driving force behind anti-Communist rallies in recent months.

President Vladimir Voronin told a meeting of the National Security Council on 27 March that Cubreacov's disappearance is "a challenge to the state by forces interested in Moldova's destabilization," Infotag reported. He said those forces "organized the kidnapping of one of the cleverest, calmest, and most reasonable leaders of the opposition." He also said the incident demonstrates the "weakness of the state and its inability to ensure the security of our citizens," which he blamed on the neglect of state capabilities "by those who were in power for a decade, and who were not interested in building a strong state."

About 3,000 Moldovans camped overnight on Chisinau's central square earlier this week outside government headquarters to demand the resignations of the ruling Communists and to protest Cubreacov's appearance. Last month, the number of demonstrators reached as high as 50,000 as protestors continued their call for early elections, angered by what they say are government attempts to take Moldova back into the sphere of Russian influence. The rallies were sparked in January by a dispute over the teaching of Russian in Moldova's schools and the portrayal of history in textbooks. When the decisions were reversed, the protests waned until Cubreacov's disappearance.

As with the disappearances in neighboring countries, naysayers have been quick to claim at the outset that the missing person has "disappeared" himself. The Moldovan Communist Party said on 27 March that Cubreacov's disappearance "can only serve the interests of destructive forces, among them the PPCD," whose aim is "to generate ever and ever again conflicts in Moldovan society." The party said Moldova has faced over the last months "action by extremist and nationalist forces, whose end objective is to overthrow the constitutional state power," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. It also called "pharisaic and aberrant," as well as "provocative," statements by PPCD leaders that Cubreacov's kidnappers "acted in the service of the Communist regime." There is reason to be concerned about a lack of impartiality in the investigation. Natalia Cubrea , the missing politician's wife, told journalists after being questioned by investigators that "they only take into consideration one scenario," namely, that the PPCD staged the kidnapping, although she discounted that possibility.

Responding to the Communists' claims, PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said on 27 March that their statement "shows a profound ill will, as well as hypocrisy verging on crime," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rosca pointed out that two days after President Voronin called on Moldova's security agencies to immediately launch an investigation into Cubreacov's disappearance, Voronin's party's leadership, which Rosca said "controls the investigation," told investigators that it knows who is responsible for Cubreacov's disappearance; namely, the PPCD. Rosca cited articles in publications such as "Moldova suverana," "Comunistul," and "Argumenty i fakty" claiming that "Rosca has kidnapped Cubreacov." This, he added, "makes me believe that neither Vladimir Voronin nor anyone else from the Communist leadership cares about the investigation."

As Moldova has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1995, and Cubreacov is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the council has been swift to respond. Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer told President Voronin in a telephone conversation on 26 March that the council has accepted his initiative to send a group of experts to Chisinau before the end of the month to monitor the investigation of Cubreacov's disappearance, Flux reported 27 March. Rene van der Linden, leader of the conservative European Popular Party parliamentary group in PACE, went further, saying on 28 March that Moldova's government "must be held fully accountable" for Cubreacov's disappearance, Mediafax reported. He said that if the disappearance of Cubreacov is due to "political motives," it is "evident" that "there are serious problems affecting [the freedom of] democratic institutions and the supreme rule of law in Moldova."

The U.S. has also threatened to consider suspending all technical assistance programs to Moldova, as well as those assisting Chisinau in its relations with international financing organizations and for achieving European integration, if Moldova diverges from the course of reform, Flux reported on 27 March, citing a "diplomatic note" sent to Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau by his U.S. counterpart Colin Powell on 20 March. In his note, Powell said the latest events in Moldova are reason for "concern that the intensity of the government's pledge" to pursue the course of democracy and market reforms "has been decreasing." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 March, " Moldova: Calls For New Elections Continue Round-The-Clock," rferl.org, 1 April)

ALBANIA
NETWORK OF CIVIL SOCIETY CENTERS ESTABLISHED. The last of a network of five Civil Society Development Centers located throughout Albania was officially opened today in Elbasan by the representatives of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Albania, the OSCE Presence in Albania and the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), osce.org reported on 26 March. The facilities, located in Durres, Korce, Vlore, Kukes, and now in Elbasan provide technical assistance to develop grass-roots programs in support of existing and future nongovernmental organizations and community-based groups. They will also assist local governments in strengthening their capacity and facilitating their dialogue with civil society actors, said an OSCE spokesmen at the opening ceremony. Other civic groups, such as trade unions, media, and professional associations, will also have access to the services provided as well. The Elbasan center has a library, a computer with e-mail access, and meeting space. Local organizations without office facilities will be able to schedule time on the computer, review resource material on-site, use the e-mail, fax and photocopier, and reserve meeting space for their activities. CAF

ARMENIA
DECEASED PREMIER IMPLICATED IN BEATING COUP SUSPECTS. Two police officers summoned to testify at the trial of former Armenian prison system head Mushegh Saghatelian said on 1 April that former Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian was among senior security officials who beat and tortured them during interrogation in June 1995, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two men were detained with some 20 colleagues on suspicion of planning a coup d'etat. They were released after spending several days in detention and never formally charged. Armenian Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian ordered an investigation into Sargsian's possible involvement in the beatings in what he insisted was an attempt to clear the latter's name. Sargsian, who in 1995 was defense minister, was one of the victims of the October 1999 parliament shootings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

AZERBAIJAN
OPPOSITION CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST DEMONSTRATORS. Addressing a session of the opposition Democratic Congress in Baku on 25 March, Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar characterized the antigovernment demonstration in Baku two days earlier as the beginning of the crucial stage of the struggle against the present authorities, Turan reported. He claimed that the protest testified to "nationwide support" for the resignation of President Heidar Aliev. Arif Hadjiev, one of Gambar's deputies, said the same day that 50 Musavat members were arrested during the protest demonstration and over 100 were injured, some seriously, in clashes with police. A spokesman for the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party said 63 of its members were injured during the protest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

UNHCR RESUMES OPERATIONS. The office in Baku of the UN High Commission for Refugees has resumed its work after a temporary pause, Turan reported on 29 March. Office director Didier Ley told Turan that the closure was not the result of allegations by Chechen refugees that its staff demanded bribes in return for allocating aid, but admitted that its operations could and must be improved. He said that only 60 of a total of 5,400 Chechen families that have registered with the office have been granted the status of refugees, and that only 650 Chechen families are currently receiving financial aid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

BELARUS
GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO EXPEL OSCE MISSION. Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou told journalists on 28 March that the government sees no need for the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group "in its present form and with its current mandate," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "Unless the mandate of this group is reviewed, we will raise the question of stopping its activities," Khvastou said, adding that such a stoppage is only a "technical problem." Official Minsk has repeatedly accused the OSCE group of interfering in Belarus's domestic affairs, conducting political activities, and even training spies before the presidential election in September 2001. The Foreign Ministry has refused to allow Eberhard Heyken, the OSCE group's new head, into Belarus. Earlier this week, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin said he wants to discuss the controversy over the group with Belarusian officials. "We must stop talking about the normalization of relations between the OSCE and Belarus. We need to keep to the point. Severin...should talk with our parliament," Belarusian Television quoted Khvastou as saying on 28 March. According to Khvastou, the OSCE group in Minsk should become a "field mission" primarily responsible for writing reports to the OSCE leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

TRADE UNIONS PROTEST ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS, BUT FEEBLY. Only some 200 trade unionists in Minsk, 300 in Mahilyou, and 500 in Brest gathered on 28 March for rallies to protest the worsening economic situation in the country, Belapan reported. The Federation of Trade Unions initially planned to bring some 30,000 people for a protest rally at a stadium in Minsk that day, but withdrew after the authorities did not allow them to hold the action. "There is no unity among the unions. The approach to organizing such protests is wrong," trade union activist Alyaksandr Bukhvostau told Belapan. He added that the authorities have succeeded in making the trade union movement toothless by setting up pro-government trade union organizations at some plants. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

BOSNIA
ARRESTED BOSNIAN SERB ARRIVES IN THE HAGUE. Momir Nikolic, a former Bosnian Serb army major, arrived in The Hague on 2 April to face war crimes charges stemming from the 1995 massacre of Muslim males in Srebrenica, AP reported. SFOR troops arrested him the previous day in Repovac, near Bratunac, prior to which his indictment had not been made public. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in a statement in Brussels afterward that Nikolic's "detention serves as a warning that there will be no hiding place for anyone accused by the tribunal of those horrific crimes. Let me be crystal clear to those with guilty consciences: you have only two choices -- turn yourself in with dignity, or justice will be brought to you," Reuters reported. In related news, a 30-day deadline set by the Bosnian Serb government for war criminals to surrender came and went on 1 April without anyone having turned himself in, dpa reported. The government had promised to provide bail guarantees for anyone who surrendered voluntarily. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

CONSTITUTIONAL DEAL REACHED, THOUGH AGREEMENT STILL ELUSIVE. Political party leaders from the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska agreed in principle to constitutional changes giving all three ethnic groups equal rights in both areas, but whether the deal will actually be implemented remains uncertain, Western news agencies reported on 27 March. After all-night talks under pressure from UN High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, the three ruling parties from the federation -- the Social Democratic Party, the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the New Croatian Initiative -- signed the agreement, but the coalition of Bosnian Serb parties said they will sign only if certain articles are changed. The nationalist Croatian Democratic Union refused to sign the deal and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action walked out of the talks last week. The agreement will still need to be approved by the parliaments of each region. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

CROATIA
LOCAL COURT INDICTS EIGHT FORMER OFFICERS ON WAR CRIMES CHARGES. A district court in Split, Croatia, indicted seven former military officers in detention and another at large of war crimes in the killing of civilians and prisoners of war in 1991-92, AP and dpa reported on 27 March. Based on testimony by over 60 witnesses, the indictment alleges the men beat to death at least two Croatian Serb civilians suspected of armed rebellion and executed several Yugoslav army soldiers who surrendered to Croatian troops after fighting near Dubrovnik. If convicted, the suspects face up to 20 years in prison. Some of the seven embarked on a hunger strike, according to a statement delivered by the men's wives and cited by Hina on 28 March. The agency quoted "unofficial sources" as saying three indictees are refusing food. The women said their husbands are protesting "the unfounded extension of detention, double standards in the judicial system, and the unfounded indictment, which was issued because the current political situation demanded it rather than on the basis of investigation results." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 March)

BULGARIA
GOVERNMENT, TRADE UNIONS, AND EMPLOYERS' ORGANIZATIONS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and Social Affairs Minister Lidia Shuleva signed a cooperation agreement with trade unions and employers' organizations on 26 March, BTA reported. The agreement carries the signatures of the Podkrepa Labor Confederation (KT Podkrepa), the Civic Union for Business Activities, the Vazrazhdane Union of Private Entrepreneurs, the Industrial Association, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNSB), which recently organized mass protests, did not sign the cooperation agreement but said it will probably do so later. The agreement includes cooperation in the spheres of retraining, working conditions, social protection, as well as health care and education. It also creates control mechanisms for the legislative process regarding social and medical insurance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

CZECH REPUBLIC
SKINHEAD SENTENCED FOR KILLING ROM AS ROMANY FAMILIES CONSIDER EMIGRATION. Vlastimil Pechanec, a skinhead who stabbed a Rom to death in July 2001 was sentenced on 29 March to a 13-year sentence after a court in Hradec Kralove found him guilty of committing a racially motivated crime, CTK and AP reported. The murder took place in a bar in Svitavy, some 160 kilometers east of Prague. Pechanec appealed the verdict. Meanwhile, renewed threats by skinheads against Roma in Most, northern Bohemia, as well as unemployment, have recently led to the decision of several Romany families to leave the country, CTK reported on 28 March, quoting a spokesman for the local Romany association. Josef Sivak told the agency that a 10-member Romany family will soon leave for Sweden and that other families are considering leaving for New Zealand. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March and 2 April)

FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER TO RUN FOR UN COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. Former Czech Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, who was a dissident under the communist regime, will run for the position of UN high commissioner for human rights, AP and CTK reported on 29 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April). Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil confirmed that Dienstbier is to be the official candidate of the Czech Republic. Member states and regional blocs can put forth candidates to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will make the appointment of the new high commissioner to replace Mary Robinson, as she recently confirmed that she plans to step down in September. Human rights groups who lobbied to persuade the UN to reappoint Robinson are likely to be dismayed at the Czech candidate. Dienstbier is also known for his controversial service as the UN's former special rapporteur to the former Yugoslavia. In October 2000, Annan reprimanded Dienstbier for suggesting that then-President Slobodan Milosevic should be offered immunity from prosecution for war crimes in exchange for relinquishing power. On 4 October 2000, Annan's spokesman issued a statement emphasizing that special rapporters "act in their personal capacity as independent experts and do not represent the views of the secretary-general or of any intergovernment organ." Speaking of Milosevic's status, Annan told reporters: "He's indicted.... The [UN war crimes] tribunal is waiting for him and, if he's delivered, he will be tried," reported Toronto's "The Globe and Mail" on 5 October 2000. Only the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has the authority to withdraw indictments, reiterated Jim Landale, a spokesperson for the 14-judge ICTY, calling Dienstbier's remarks at the time "extremely disturbing." UN chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that Dienstbier had no authority to make such a proposal, reported "The Guardian" on 5 October 2000. CAF

ESTONIA
OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER SEES NO PROBLEMS. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus told Prime Minister Siim Kallas in Tallinn on 26 March that he does not see any major problems in Estonia and will focus his efforts in the country on supporting social integration, BNS reported. The two discussed the situation of education in the national minority languages, and the controversy over the registration of the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, which is nearing a settlement. During his two-day visit, Ekeus also met with President Arnold Ruutel, Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland, and officials of the Population Ministry, whose head Eldar Efendiyev has not yet returned to work after suffering a stroke two weeks ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

GEORGIA
DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN TO RENOUNCE CITIZENSHIP, STAGE NEW PROTESTS. The Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia who were forcibly evicted last week from Tbilisi's Botanical Institute staged a protest meeting on 27 March at which they announced that they will renounce their Georgian citizenship and seek to move to Russia unless the Georgian government provides them with secure accommodation, Caucasus Press reported. On 28 March, displaced persons and local residents from the west Georgian town of Zugdidi blocked the bridge over the Inguri River to protest the 25 March standoff between Georgian villagers and members of the Russian peacekeeping force, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27, 28, and 29 March)

UN PANEL FINDS CONTINUED TORTURE 'DISTURBING.' In a press statement on 19 March summarizing its deliberations in reviewing Georgia's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee said that Georgia had "made considerable progress since the submission of its initial report" to the treaty body, citing the abolition of the death penalty and new laws enacted by the Constitutional Court which would increase the amount of cases heard. But Georgia had failed to implement presidential decrees issued since 1997 and the new institution of the Office of Ombudsman, while laudatory, could not be effective because "its powers were unclear," said the committee. "The persistence of torture in Georgia was the most disturbing factor," the committee chair said. "The delegation had testified to measures meant to counter it, but an independent authority had to preside over the issue. The large number of custodial debts, the prevalence of tuberculosis in prisons, and the poor salaries and unclear provisions for removal of judges were also of concern," he said. The full text of the UN comments can be found in the news section at http://www.unhchr.ch and the final conclusions should be issued next week. CAF

HUNGARY
OFFICIAL SAYS ORBAN STATEMENT ON BENES DECREES WAS 'RESERVED.' In an interview with the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 28 March, Hungarian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth said he was surprised by the Czech criticism of Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban's call for the abolition of the Benes Decrees, CTK reported. Nemeth said the statement was made in response to a question by a member of the European Parliament and that Orban's reply was "diplomatic." He said Hungary does not demand more than "an apology" for the expulsion of ethnic Hungarians as a result of the decrees, and does not condition the Czech Republic's and Slovakia's joining of the EU on abolishing the decrees. However, he added that "Slovakia has pledged...to abolish legislation discriminatory on an ethnic basis" as part of the accession process, and that "this implies compensation of Hungarians, whether Slovakia wants it or not." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

MIEP LEADER WARNS AGAINST ISRAELI DANGER TO HUNGARIAN 'LIVING SPACE.' Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka said on 27 March that "Budapest is in great danger" because of the purchase of apartments by foreigners, particularly Israelis, Hungarian media reported. He said city leaders should inform residents of the extent of flat purchases and "to what extent that endangers the Hungarians' living space in Budapest," Csurka concluded. In other news, the Swiss daily "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" commented that MIEP's electoral performance will be crucial for the next four years, as it is a party of the socially desperate and especially the anti-Semitic sections of society. The paper, quoted by "Nepszabadsag," said anti-Semitism, as "the cement that holds the party together," is often openly displayed and for that reason MIEP "is not acceptable to the Europe of 2002." Its inclusion in a governing coalition would probably harm Hungary's bid for EU membership, the newspaper opined. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

KAZAKHSTAN
OPPOSITIONIST TAKES REFUGE IN WESTERN EMBASSY... French diplomats and Kazakh officials continued talks to break a deadlock over an opposition leader who took refuge in the French Embassy in Almaty. Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, a founding member of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and a former governor of the northern Pavlodar Oblast, took shelter in the French Embassy, located in a compound with other European embassies, on 29 March, fleeing an arrest warrant on corruption charges, reported Reuters. A statement released in Brussels said the EU "will not allow its representation and the member states' missions to be used as a political platform." ITAR-TASS on 30 March quoted the three ambassadors as saying that they will not force Zhaqiyanov to leave. Zhaqiyanov for his part addressed an open letter to President Nursultan Nazarbaev asking him to end what Zhaqiyanov termed illegal persecution by the law enforcement agencies, AP reported. But Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimenov described Zhaqiyanov as "a primitive criminal," and vowed that he will not succeed in leaving the country, according to Reuters. The Kazakh Foreign Ministry released a statement on 1 April denying that the moves against Zhaqiyanov and other former senior officials were politically motivated, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

...AS NEW CORRUPTION CHARGE IS BROUGHT. A new corruption charge has been brought against Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov who was still hiding in the French Embassy in Almaty, reported BBC World News on 2 April, citing "Ekspress K," a pro-government newspaper. Zhaqiyanov is accused of illegally writing off a fine to a business enterprise while serving as a regional governor in Pavlodar, "Ekspress K" said. Zhaqiyanov said he fled to the foreign compound because he feared persecution by the Kazakh security forces who are seeking him on corruption charges. He has reportedly begun a hunger strike, but no move has been made to eject him, nor has he asked for asylum abroad. "It is not in our practice to force someone to leave, so Mr. Zhaqiyanov is still there," the French ambassador told BBC World News on 2 April. President Nursultan Nazarbaev has resorted to pinning corruption charges on political opponents in the past, such as former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, and it is difficult to tell if the charges will stick, although the timing of such compromising accusations at certain critical political junctures often reveal they are politically motivated, and such cases are inevitably riddled with procedural flaws. CAF

FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER UNVEILS NEW STRATEGY. In a statement posted on the website forumkz.org on 25 March, former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin listed three priorities for forcing democratic change in Kazakhstan with the support of the international community. He argued that there is no longer any point in seeking cooperation with the present leadership, whose aim, he said, is to retain unlimited power for an unlimited period of time. He therefore advocated mobilizing the population to participate in the drafting, in consultation with international experts, of a new constitution to replace the present one that creates virtually insurmountable obstacles to a peaceful transition of power. Second, Kazhegeldin proposed creating independent supervisory boards to oversee the functioning of all mass media outlets financed by the taxpayer from the national budget. And third, he advocated creation, with the support of international oil companies engaged in Kazakhstan, of a "People's Oil Front," the objective of which would be to avert the embezzlement by the present leadership of the profits from the export of Kazakhstan's oil. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

KYRGYZSTAN
OFFICIAL DENIES POLICE FIRED FIRST ON DEMONSTRATORS... Deputy Interior Minister Keneshbek Duishebaev said in Bishkek on 25 March that police were not given orders to open fire on demonstrators in Djalalabad's Aksy Raion on 17 March, and that the police acted in accordance with the law, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Duishebaev said police only opened fire on the demonstrators after the latter began throwing stones and shooting at them. He said cartridges from hunting rifles and Molotov cocktails were found after the demonstrators were dispersed. Duishebaev also denied that police are attempting to create a false picture of the events surrounding the death of several demonstrators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March

...BLAMES FREED PARLIAMENT DEPUTY FOR CREATING 'TENSIONS.' Duishebaev went on to criticize parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, whose release from detention the demonstrators in Djalalabad were demanding, for "disturbing people" and creating social tensions, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 25 March. Also on 25 March, parliament deputy Tursunbek Akunov announced in Bishkek that he plans to sue Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev. AkmatAliyev had laid the entire blame for the 17 March clashes on Akunov and his supporters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DENIES DEMONSTRATORS OPENED FIRE ON POLICE. Mamasadyk Djakishev of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights rejected on 26 March as untrue Deputy Interior Minister Keneshbek Duishebaev's claim the previous day that participants in the protest march on 17 March in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion precipitated clashes with police by opening fire and stoning them, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 26 March, parliament deputy Beknazarov appealed to President Askar Akaev to stop the dissemination of "government propaganda" distorting the circumstances surrounding the bloodshed and Beknazarov's role as a catalyst for popular alienation from the present leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS DEPUTIES' STATEMENT. At the 1 April session of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament), several deputies condemned the appeal to the people of Kyrgyzstan signed on 27 March by 55 of the total 105 members of the legislature not to be "misled" by "intriguers" who seek "to foment tensions," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The signatories blamed the 17 March clashes in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion on the "illegal actions" and "political extremism" of those "intriguers," who, they said, coerced the people to resort to "unconstitutional actions." Opposition deputy Tursunbai Bakir uulu told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 30 March that many deputies signed the appeal only under pressure from the government, while filmmaker and opposition deputy Dooronbek Sadyrbaev said on 1 April that the initiative originated with former Communist Party of Kirghizia First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

FORMER PRIME MINISTER SUGGESTS DJALALABAD CLASHES HAD ECONOMIC COMPONENT. Amangeldi MurAliyev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 27 March that he believes the main reason for the clashes on 17-18 March between police and protest demonstrators in Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion was the level of poverty there. He added that he thinks calls for the president and government to resign in the wake of the bloodshed are premature. Also on 27 March, Djalalabad Oblast Governor Sultan Urmanaev met with the families of the six people who died after being shot by police during the clashes and presented them with 20,000 soms (about $415) in compensation. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev had said on 19 March that the families of the victims would be paid 50,000 soms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

GOVERNMENT TO RAISE SOCIAL ALLOWANCES. The Ministry of Labor and Social Services announced in Bishkek on 28 March that social allowances will be raised as of 1 April by an average of 20 percent to help counter the planned 25 percent increase in electricity tariffs that took effect on 15 March, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The monthly social allowance will be raised from 270 soms ($5.69) to 315 soms. The government has also allocated 78.9 million soms to be paid to 413,000 needy families to compensate for the rise in electricity tariffs. Meanwhile, Accounts Chamber head Azamat Kangeldiev told a government meeting in Bishkek on 28 March that at least 1.7 billion soms ($35 million) was embezzled from the state budget in 2001, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

LATVIA
VICTIMS OF COMMUNIST TERROR COMMEMORATED. Events were held throughout Latvia on 25 March to commemorate the victims of communist terror, BNS reported. On that day in 1949, some 40,000 people were deported from Latvia to Siberia. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Lutheran Church pastor Guntis Kalme, and Latvia's Association of Politically Repressed Persons Deputy Chairman Peteris Simsons spoke at the ceremony at Riga's Freedom Monument. Vike-Freiberga said the deportations "were genocide against the Latvian people" committed without justification. Simsons expressed regret over the social discrimination of politically repressed persons, the inability of politicians to eliminate the consequences of the Soviet occupation, as well as the lack of a program for the repatriation of repressed persons. The same day at the Occupation Museum, the recently published book "Nation in Captivity" was presented. Based on documents in archives of Russia, Germany, and other countries, it states that Latvia lost some 325,000 people, or 17 percent, of its population from 1940-59. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

POLAND
ARCHBISHOP RESIGNS IN WAKE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. Archbishop Juliusz Paetz has resigned from his post of metropolitan archbishop of Poznan, PAP reported on 28 March. "To live and to develop, the [Roman Catholic] Church in Poznan needs unity and peace. And that is why, having in regard the good of this church, I have addressed the Holy Father with a request that he accept my resignation from the post of archbishop, and the Holy Father has accepted my resignation," Archbishop Paetz said during a mass in the Poznan cathedral. "Rzeczpospolita" wrote on 23 February that the archbishop has been accused by "numerous" clerics of sexual harassment. The daily claimed that Paetz's homosexual inclinations have been known in the Poznan Archdiocese for at least two years. Earlier this month, Paetz denied the sexual molestation allegations, saying they resulted from "a misinterpretation of my words and behavior." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

ROMANIA
FIRST DISMANTLING OF ANTONESCU STATUE IN ROMANIA. A bust representing Romania's wartime Hitler ally Marshall Ion Antonescu was dismantled in Piatra-Neamt on 28 March, Mediafax reported the next day. The agency quoted Deputy Mayor Adrian Chirila as saying the bust was removed "on orders from Bucharest." He added that the bust will undergo restoration, following which it will be "placed in a museum." Earlier this month, the cabinet approved an ordinance prohibiting the public display of statues and naming of streets in his honor. Marshal Antonescu was executed as a war criminal in 1946. The post-1989 "Antonescu cult" in Romania has been part of the larger campaign denying any Romanian participation in the Holocaust. Though mainly associated with extremists such as the Greater Romania Party, the cult was condoned in the 1990s by the country's current leaders. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

RUSSIA
RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN CRITICIZES CONTINUING VIOLATIONS. Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov slammed continuing human rights violations under President Vladimir Putin's rule. "The rights and freedoms of citizens are still being violated in all areas," Mironov said in an interview published on 26 March in "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Mironov directed most of his criticism on economic hardship, attacks against civilians in Chechnya, and the curtailment of press freedoms. Mironov said his office receives 2,000 complaints a month about rights violations. "They are denied the most important human right of all, the right to a dignified life," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES JUDGE... The Federation Council on 29 March approved Sergei Kazantsev, a lawyer from St. Petersburg, as a new justice on the Constitutional Court, Russian media reported. The upper house approved Kazantsev's candidacy, which was supported by President Putin, by a vote of 116 to four, with five abstentions. The vacancy on the court became available when 65-year-old Justice Tamara Morshakova retired. Kazantsev was a lecturer at the law faculty of St. Petersburg State University, Putin's alma mater, and also worked with Putin in the mayoral administration of Anatolii Sobchak. When Putin was serving as chairman of the city's Committee for External Relations, Kazantsev was chair of the Housing Committee ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 March)

...WHO SAYS UPPER HOUSE CAN INCREASE ITS POWERS. After his confirmation, Kazantsev said nothing in Russian law prevents the Federation Council "from enhancing its role within the framework of the current constitution," Russian news agencies reported on 29 March. According to Kazantsev, the Federation Council can enhance its role both politically and legally by amending existing legislation. "In my view, the constitution does not contradict this," Kazantsev said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

SUPREME COURT REINSTATES MILITARY SECRETS ORDER. Russia's Supreme Court on 27 March overturned a lower court's ruling that invalidated a Defense Ministry order defining military secrets, Russian and international news agencies reported. Human rights activists described the Supreme Court's action as a blow to free speech. The military order contained a secret list of issues that it deemed illegal to disseminate. Rights activists say the order was the basis for a recent spate of espionage cases against journalists, academics, and others who have contact with foreigners. In September, a lower court struck down the order after an appeal from Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired naval captain and environmentalist. Nikitin spent 11 months in prison for co-authoring a report on nuclear pollution by the Russian navy. "Every researcher and journalist...is in a risk zone because he may violate a secret order without knowing it," AP quoted Nikitin's lawyer Yurii Shmidt as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

SKINHEADS KILL AZERI MAN. A group of skinheads stabbed an Azeri man to death in Moscow on the night of 28 March, Russian and international news services reported. Witnesses told NTV television and Interfax that five teenagers with shaved heads and wearing paramilitary uniforms and boots attacked and killed the man in a pedestrian underpass. The man, an ethnic Azeri, was a Russian citizen from the city of Petrozavodsk, in Russia's northeast, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

NUMBER OF DRAFTEES DECLINES FASTER THAN ARMY PERSONNEL REDUCTION. The Russian military's spring draft that began on 1 April is expected to result in a record-low number of 161,000 conscripts, "Vremya novostei " reported on 2 April. Meanwhile, the head of the Defense Ministry's Main Organizational-Mobilization Department, Vasilii Smirnov, told the newspaper that although the army is drafting "all who meet at least the minimal health standards," it will still not be able to conscript the required number of troops. The reasons for this, according to Smirnov, are the demographic gap caused by the falling birth rate and the decline in health experienced by the country in the 1980s, and because 27,000 potential recruits avoided service this year alone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

TOP MUSLIM OFFICIAL SAYS RADICAL ISLAM SPREADING IN TATARSTAN... The Muslim leader for Kirov Oblast, Mufti Gabdelnur Kamaletdin, told reporters that Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam, is spreading in Tatarstan, endangering other regions of Russia including Kirov Oblast, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 March. Kamaletdin is subordinate to the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board chaired by Talgat Tadzhuddin, who previously made a number of statements accusing Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board of encouraging extremist branches of Islam. However, it has been reported that Tadzhuddin personally met one of Osama bin Laden's brothers during a visit to Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

...AS WAGE ARREARS RISE BY ALMOST A QUARTER... According to Tatarstan's State Statistics Committee on 25 March, wages arrears to employees of state-owned and private companies has reached 935.7 million rubles ($30.2 million), while in January they were owed 761.7 million rubles in back wages, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 26 March. The major portion of this debt is reportedly owed by companies that are not funded by the republican or federal budgets. Also on 26 March, presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko said the problem of fully raising budget-sector employees' wages in the district has not yet been resolved, and in certain regions of the district the backlog of wages to those workers has increased, Interfax-Eurasia reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

...AND HOUSING, UTILITY PRICES SET TO JUMP 5-10 PERCENT. Marat Khusnullin, Tatarstan's minister for construction and the housing/public utilities sector, has announced that as of 1 April the prices for housing and public utilities in the republic will rise by 5-10 percent, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He also noted that a large number of enterprises in the sector appear to be bankrupt, and that last year the branch lost about 600 million rubles. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

MILITARY WANTS HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVED DURING SEARCH OPERATIONS. Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the combined Russian forces in Chechnya, issued special regulations on 28 March obliging the Russian military to observe human rights while conducting search-and-detain operations in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Those instructions require that representative of the local authorities and Interior Ministry should compile a list of all persons detained during such operations, which is to be submitted to the local Prosecutor's Office. Meanwhile, a Federal Security Service official in Grozny told Interfax on 28 March that 11 such large-scale search operations are currently underway in Grozny, Gudermes, and the Nozhai-Yurt, Kurchaloi, and Shelkovskii raions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

BODIES OF THREE CHILDREN FOUND IN CHECHNYA. The naked bodies of three children aged between nine and 13 were found near the village of Chervlennoye on 22 March, ITAR-TASS quoted Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov as saying on 25 March. All three had been shot several days earlier. Chernov said the children may have been abducted for ransom, and that their parents have not yet been located. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

EIGHTY DETAINED AS CHECHEN 'SWEEPS' CONTINUE. The search operations that began late last week in Grozny and villages in the Urus-Martan, Shali, and Argun raions resulted in the detention of over 80 suspected Chechen fighters, AP reported on 31 March, quoting an unidentified Chechen administration official. Meanwhile, a group of gunmen forced their way into the homes in the village of Avtury in Shali Raion of two sisters of slain Chechen politician Adam Deniev and shot them both, Interfax reported. Deniev was killed by an explosion while reading Friday prayers in a television studio one year ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

SLOVAKIA
BRATISLAVA WILL NOT EMULATE BUCHAREST ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW. After talks in Bucharest with his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase on 26 March, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said Slovakia will not follow Romania's example on the Hungarian Status Law and will not sign with Budapest any memorandum on its implementation in Slovakia. "We shall continue to demand either a change of the law or its cancellation," he said, according to CTK. Dzurinda explained to journalists that Romania and Slovakia are undergoing transformation that might be similar in some respects, but different in others. "The principles of extraterritoriality and of discrimination on ethnic grounds cannot be valid in Slovakia," he emphasized. Both premiers agreed that the recommendations of the Venice Commission on the Hungarian law should be heeded, but Dzurinda added that Bratislava and Budapest interpret those recommendations differently. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

POLICE DETAIN SKINHEADS. Police detained 15 people in a weekend raid on a skinhead concert near Zvolen, CTK reported on 26 March, citing a Zvolen police spokesman. The concert was part of a meeting of the Slovak Skins Action Group during which participants used the Nazi salute and shouted racist slogans. Police also seized several CDs and the magazine "People for Racism," which contained anti-Jewish articles and called for mobilization against Slovakia's joining of NATO and the EU. Among those detained are several Czech citizens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

JEWISH COMMUNITIES CALL GERMAN GOVERNMENT'S STATEMENT 'CYNICAL.' Jozef Weiss, head of the Central Union of Slovak Jewish Communities, on 27 March called a statement made by the German government the previous day "cynical," CTK reported. The government in Berlin said the union was not entitled to demand compensation for the deportation of the 58,000 Slovak Jews exterminated in Nazi camps. The union is demanding that Germany pay to it the current equivalent of the 500 Reichsmarks paid by wartime Slovakia's government to Germany for each Jew transported to the camps. The German government says it has settled 3,278 individual claims and that the union is not entitled to compensation. Weiss called the statement "cynical," stressing that it was made on the day the Jewish community marked 60 years since the first transport left Slovakia. A German court has also rejected the claim, but the union has appealed that ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

FIRST SLOVAK ROM RECEIVES HOLOCAUST COMPENSATION. A Romany man recently became the first member of that minority in Slovakia to receive compensation from Germany for having been forced into slave labor at a concentration camp, AP reported on 27 March, citing the daily "Pravda." Jozef Balogh served as a slave laborer at the Dachau concentration camp in 1944 and received 3,834 euros ($3,363) -- half of the total compensation to which he is entitled -- through the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM has taken upon itself to represent those Holocaust victims (such as Roma, homosexuals, or the physically or mentally handicapped) who are not represented by Jewish and other East European organizations in submitting claims for persecution suffered under the Nazi and pro-Nazi regimes. Some 4,000 Slovaks have applied for compensation through the IOM, but apart from Balogh only 27 have had their requests approved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

TAJIKISTAN
GOVERNMENT TO CREATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. The Tajik government has resolved to create a special commission to monitor the human rights situation, presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov told ITAR-TASS on 26 March. The commission will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Saidamir Zukhurov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

DISPLACED PERSONS ENCAMPED ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER RETURN HOME. The estimated 12,000 Afghan displaced persons who have been encamped for the past 18 months on islands in the Pyandj River that marks the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan have begun to return to their homes with the encouragement of the interim Afghan government, Russian agencies reported on 1 April. The Afghans fled fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces in late 2000, but the Tajik authorities consistently refused to allow them to enter Tajikistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

UKRAINE
EUROPEAN MONITORS NOTE PROGRESS, FLAWS IN ELECTION DEMOCRACY. The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) -- which was formed by the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament -- said in a preliminary statement in Kyiv on 1 April that the 31 March parliamentary election indicated progress over the 1998 parliamentary ballot toward meeting international commitments and standards but also included major flaws. According to the IEOM, the ballot took place under a significantly improved election law and was efficiently administered by the Central Election Commission. Simultaneously, the IEOM recorded many campaign drawbacks and violations of the election law, including the use of administrative leverage by the authorities for promoting the election bid of the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine bloc. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

CANDIDATE KILLED ON EVE OF BALLOT. Mykola Shkriblyak, the deputy governor of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast and an election candidate from the Social Democratic Party-united, died of gunshot wounds on 30 March resulting from an attack the previous night by unidentified gunmen, Ukrainian media reported. Governor Mykola Vyshyvanyuk commented that the killing was of "a clearly political character." Rival parties publicly condemned the killing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

UZBEKISTAN
U.S. SENATORS VISIT TASHKENT. Members of a Congressional delegation that visited Tashkent on 24-25 March met with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov, and President Islam Karimov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, regional security, international terrorism, bilateral cooperation, and economic reform and human rights, Russian agencies reported. They told journalists in Tashkent on 25 March that the U.S. will not turn a blind eye to human rights violations, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. They also expressed concern at the possibility that terrorists may try to steal biological weapons, including anthrax spores, stored at a facility on Uzbekistan's Vozrozhdenie Island. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

YUGOSLAVIA
UN HAGUE TRIBUNAL MAKES YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT FEEL ILL... Vojislav Kostunica told viewers on Serbian TV on 27 March that "I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the [the UN war crimes court]," AP reported. Kostunica added that there is "a horrific degree of prejudices" at The Hague court. Kostunica has frequently criticized the court and the idea of extraditing Yugoslav citizens because he says it goes against the country's laws. He said on TV that he's "had enough" of the court and that he is "absolutely against the extraditions to The Hague tribunal." Kostunica's comments contradict pledges made by his foreign minister the previous day. Some observers think that Kostunica's appearance on Serbian TV was designed to increase the pressure on Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic, who must extradite indicted war criminals to The Hague to satisfy conditions set by the U.S. for the continued flow of some $40 million in aid. Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic said on 28 March that extraditing Yugoslav citizens to The Hague will not destabilize the federal government, the daily "Novosti" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

...BUT TRANSFERS OF SUSPECTED SERBIAN WAR CRIMINALS EXPECTED. Speaking to journalists in Belgrade on 1 April, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said the federal government has held an "extraordinary session...in which we have brought a unanimous decision that as a member of the UN, we are obliged to fully cooperate with [The Hague-base war crimes tribunal] and have asked all state bodies to fully cooperate. We have also supported the decision made by the Serbian government that also refers to direct cooperation with the tribunal," RFE/RL reported. He did not elaborate except to say that "all state bodies are now obliged to cooperate with the tribunal, which means that [war crimes] investigators must be allowed access to all archives...and to arrest all those indicted," AP reported. The meeting took place after the expiration on 31 March of a deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress for Belgrade to cooperate with the tribunal or lose some $40 million in U.S. aid. Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic said on 2 April that the first transfers of suspected Serbian war criminals to The Hague international tribunal could be expected in a day or two. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April, " Yugoslavia: Transfers Of Alleged War Criminals To Begin," rferl.org, 2 April)

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT'S JOKE FOR 1 APRIL? Kostunica said in Belgrade on 1 April that Belgrade first needs a "clear law regulating such cooperation" with the tribunal, AP reported. Observers note that the Belgrade authorities have been stalling on cooperating with the tribunal since they came to power in October 2000, promising but not introducing comprehensive legislation on cooperation. In 2001, the Serbian authorities nonetheless extradited former President Slobodan Milosevic despite the opposition of Kostunica, who regards the tribunal as an anti-Serb instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Most voters appear to agree with him, which explains the reluctance of the Belgrade leadership to make good on statements like the one Svilanovic just made. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

POWELL DEFERS DECISION ON AID CUTOFF TO BELGRADE. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 1 April that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has deferred ruling on whether Belgrade is cooperating with The Hague, Reuters reported. Reeker noted in a statement that "although Yugoslavia made significant progress with respect to the certification criteria, the secretary has determined that it would be premature to certify at this point. We have communicated our decision to Belgrade authorities, and have reiterated to them our desire to see further progress on certification issues." The progress he referred to was in implementing the rule of law and respecting the peace settlement in Bosnia. An unnamed "U.S. official" said on condition of anonymity that "the authorities in Belgrade know what they need to do. We're not going to tie aid to one person [such as General Ratko Mladic]. We're saying they know what they need to do, and we're waiting for them to do it." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SLAMS BELGRADE OVER HAGUE. Milo Djukanovic told Serbian state-run television on 1 April that he considers it "inexplicable and irresponsible" that Belgrade has not passed legislation on cooperating with the tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He warned that Belgrade's failure to meet the conditions set by the U.S. could have serious consequences for both Serbia and Montenegro because of Washington's influence in the World Bank and other international bodies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

LAST GROUP OF ETHNIC ALBANIAN PRISONERS TRANSFERRED... Some 145 Kosovar Albanians were bussed from Serbia to Kosova on 26 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Yugoslav Justice Minister Savo Markovic said the transfer "is a good sign for future relations between Yugoslavia and UNMIK [the UN Mission in Kosovo] and shows their resolve to respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244," Tanjug reported. UNMIK's chief administrator, Michael Steiner, said that "this brings to a [close] a painful legacy of the war. I am extremely happy that after intensive talks in Belgrade, all Kosovo Albanian prisoners were returned." U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the event "an important step forward in the establishment of the rule of law in the region." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

...TO A WARM WELCOME IN KOSOVA. Thousands of people clapped and cheered as the seven busses carrying the Kosovar prisoners crossed from Serbia proper into Kosova on 26 March before proceeding to Prishtina, AP reported. The prisoners were then taken to a UN-run prison in Dubrava, about 70 kilometers west of the provincial capital, for processing. UNMIK head Steiner said that international judges have reviewed most of the prisoners' cases and that many of them will be released, "most of them tomorrow, the rest within weeks, not months. Those who have committed a crime will serve out their sentences not in Serbia but here in Kosovo." Many of those transferred were jailed on terrorism charges during former Yugoslav President Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosova in 1999. Some 104 of the prisoners were being held in a prison in Nis, while 41 were kept in a jail in Sremska Mitrovica. Seven ethnic Albanian prisoners declined to be moved to Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

END NOTE
NEW RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL RULING REQUIRES PARLIAMENTARY ACTION, FUNDING

By Elena Topilskaya

Criminal justice has been carried out in Russia under a code created more than 40 years ago, during a period when the offense known as "theft of socialist property" carried a greater punishment than murder, and at a time when lawyers, judges, and prosecutors were all in one Communist Party organization together. All that is supposed to change on 1 July 2002, when for the first time, judges rather than prosecutors are supposed to have the right to issue arrest orders.

Of course, since the 1960 Code of Criminal Procedures, certain changes have been made to incorporate some human rights into the criminal justice system. For example, a law permitting detainees to complain to a judge about arrest and prolongation of detention was incorporated into the code back in 1992, even before the adoption of the new constitution. Then the constitution extended this right by establishing that arrest, detention, and imprisonment may only be made on a judge's order, and no one could be detained for more than 48 hours without a court decision. The problem was only that the lawmakers in the parliament postponed putting this law into effect "until the Russian Federation legislation on the Code of Criminal Procedures could be brought into compliance with constitutional provisions." Is there such a thing as a reasonable length of time for "bringing a law into compliance?"

In fairness, we should note that the draft code was sent for legislative review within a year after the passage of the constitution in 1993, and was even submitted for public discussion. But it was only passed into law seven years later, and then, only in a halfway form that actually preserved the very "transitional" provisions used at one time to postpone the adoption of the constitutional requirement of arrest on a court order rather than a prosecutor's warrant.

If the gap between the constitution and the laws in force were not addressed, 2003 would mark the 10th anniversary without compliance with court-ordered arrests. But three Russian citizens who were suffering in prolonged detention got tired of waiting for "bringing a law into compliance," and appealed to the Constitutional Court. They asked whether it was right, given the concept of direct self-execution of the constitution, that the prosecutor was continuing to issue arrest warrants, whereas Article 22 of the constitution called for court orders for arrests.

As a practicing lawyer, I would have to add that in Russia, with its many centuries of experience in extracting confessions through torture (and our jail cells are ideal places for this), it is simply a crime to procrastinate in separating these two powers -- the agencies responsible for criminal prosecution, and the agencies guaranteeing civil rights. The Prosecutor-General's Office, which has played an active role in this grim historical experience, is not a panacea for human rights violations, although it is supposed to have supervisory function over compliance with the law. The people working in this institution have certain views of their own, however. While the Prosecutor-General's Office has its own investigative divisions and authorizes the investigators' decisions, it alone exercises oversight of itself.

Recall that Russia has already endured an unprecedented (at least during the period of democratic reform) presidential decree of 14 June 1994, fervently supported by the Prosecutor-General's Office, which allowed detention and jailing without charge for a period of 30 days (forget about 48 hours!). Back in the mid-1990s, the government decided to coordinate the operations of the prosecutor's offices and the courts in its war on crime. Only in the new code was it finally put in black and white: the court is not an agency of criminal justice, it was not to take the side of either the prosecution or the defense, but is only to create the necessary conditions for the execution by both sides of their procedural obligations and the exercise of their rights.

The Constitutional Court, as often happens, was put in a difficult situation with the complaint of the three citizens. It was faced with having to comment as to whether provisions within the constitution itself violated constitutional civil rights -- that is, because the sections about the length of the detention period were vague, the previous arrest procedure remained in effect. And as often happens, the Constitutional Court, found an honorable way out of this dilemma by reiterating that if there was a right enshrined in the Russian Constitution which required the passage of a law in order to defend it, such a law "should be put into effect quickly and furthermore cannot be postponed for an unlimited time."

Essentially, the Constitutional Court took a stand, saying that the absence of strict time limits for introducing court-ordered arrest within the "Final and Transitional Provisions" would mean refusal to comply with the constitution's own protection of the judicial defense of civil and human rights and liberties.

This is what can be read between the lines of the Constitutional Court's 14 March ruling, although naturally, it is not expressed in so categorical a form, as is acceptable in polite society. The court "saved face during a bad game," that is, the court's face has been saved even with the "bad game" of the legislature, which for 10 years has not found time to pass one of the most important laws for a democratic society.

Thus, the Constitutional Court pronounced a phrase that that should have been made 10 years ago -- "without delay." The Federal Assembly must immediately introduce amendments to the law on court-ordered arrest and detention for a period exceeding 48 hours. Starting 1 July 2002, this is how it should be.

The press has called the Constitutional Court ruling "revolutionary," and courts and prosecutors' offices have begun to discuss the organizational back-up required to comply with this decision. Under current law, judges are prohibited from taking part in a case with two different roles, that is, both making a decision about an arrest at the pre-trial stage, and also reviewing the substance of the case later. Now judges will also have to prepare themselves for a significant rise in their workload, given the increase in their arrest decisions, and they will not only have to work weekdays but on weekends and holidays, when normally courts are not open.

Organizational decisions alone to change the system's functions will not be sufficient to put this law into practice. The law on jury trials, for example, has existed on paper and should be in force everywhere, yet is operating only in nine federal court districts. The reason is lack of funding. A closer look at Article 14 of the federal Law On the Enforcement of the Code of Criminal Procedures of the Russian Federation reveals that the Russian government is mandated, in drafting the federal budget for 2003, to set aside funds for putting this new code into effect, particularly given the new powers of the court to issue arrest warrants. It also envisions these happy times will come about no earlier than 2004. After all, the budget for the year 2002 has already been approved.

But lack of funding and the sluggishness of the legislature are not the main issues. The main issue is to have judges and prosecutors forget, by 1 July, that they used to be in the same party organization together, and to begin to function separately and independently.

Elena Topilskaya, who has a Ph.D. in law, is deputy chairwoman of the Commission for Human Rights of the Governor's Office of St. Petersburg, Russia. This essay was translated by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick.

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