18 April 2002, Volume
BELARUS EXPELS OSCE MISSION CHIEF.
For the first time outside of an armed conflict zone, a participating member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is unilaterally expelling a mission chief deployed in its country, leading to speculation that the entire Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG), as the mission is known, will be shut down. The government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka refused to extend the visa of the acting head of the mission, Michel Rivollier, who left the country on 15 April, Belarusian and international media reported. Three people remain in the mission, their work paralyzed. The OSCE's Permanent Council was to meet in a closed session in Vienna on 17 April to discuss future relations with Belarus.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz, the OSCE chairman in office, has expressed "deep concern" about the refusal to extend the visa and diplomatic accreditation of Rivollier, Belapan reported on 15 April. "Consultations are currently under way within the OSCE on the future program of work of the Advisory and Monitoring Group," Martins da Cruz said in a statement. "An untimely decision affecting the status of the acting head of the group would undoubtedly have a negative impact on these consultations."
Rivollier's visa expired on 15 April. After hearing on official state radio that the government would not renew his visa, which has previously been renewed every six months, Rivollier decided to fly to Vienna. He had been serving as acting head of the mission after authorities refused to consent to the appointment of German diplomat Eberhard Heyken as the group's new head, insisting on the revision of the group's mandate before they would grant approval. In January, after he indicated his intentions to participate in a seminar to discuss Belarus's future, the government had also denied an entry visa to Ambassador Hans Georg Wieck, who headed the group from 1997-2001.
Deployment of missions requires a decision of the Permanent Council, and the "consensus-minus-one" formula applies. In the case of Belarus, Bronislaw Gieremek, the Polish foreign minister and OSCE chairman in office at the time, worked intensively for many months behind the scenes to persuade not only Minsk, but Moscow that the mission was needed. At that time, Russia conceded that the deteriorating situation after the 1996 referendum warranted it, and a deliberately vague mandate involving monitoring and "advising" about democracy and human rights was drafted. Finally deployed in 1998 after even further protracted delays on technicalities, the OSCE AMG had a troubled history, criticized by human rights activists and opposition leaders for perceived inaction and excessive "quiet diplomacy" but blasted periodically by the Lukashenka government for "meddling in internal affairs" and maintaining contact with regime opponents.
When many foreign diplomats withdrew their envoys from Minsk during the Drozdy affair involving disputes over envoys' residences in 1999-2000, the OSCE mission was an important foreign observers' presence in Belarus, filing the routine confidential biweekly reports, filled with tallies of detentions and reports of harassment of civil society activists. Wieck and his colleagues quietly organized educational seminars and roundtable discussions between government officials and opposition and NGO representatives, but the talks broke down after some independent party leaders were arrested, and Belarus refused to abide by four conditions established by the OSCE for recognizing elections, which involved freedom of association and the press and an end to the cycle of fear and repression.
When opposition leaders began to disappear in 1999, the mission did not publicly comment, preferring to work behind the scenes to intercede on behalf of families, although OSCE ambassadors in Vienna publicly denounced the abductions and the failure to investigate them properly. In the pre-election period of 2000-01, the mission began to encounter much fiercer resistance even to fairly mild programs, as the Belarusian Foreign Ministry demanded clearance of budgets and program content -- a practice not tolerated by the Permanent Council for other missions, including in Central Asia where conditions are more harsh.
Wieck's plans to organize and train an extensive election-monitoring network for the 9 September presidential elections were branded as support of "militants" and "interference in internal affairs," and he was accused of espionage. Rumors of the expulsion of the mission flourished throughout 2001, generally tied to the election-monitoring effort. It was after the OSCE Permanent Council ruled to remove missions from Estonia and Latvia in late 2001, however, that Russia retaliated by openly calling for a kind of reciprocity by putting time limits on all mission mandates and failing to use its influence to persuade Belarus to let a new mission chief be installed in Minsk.
Without Russian consent, and with both the EU and the U.S. needing Russia in the international war on terrorism, there is little perceived leverage with Minsk. Both Belarusian and Russian officials have indicated that they would be willing to consider an OSCE mission which merely reports to the other member states, and does not have the full complement of democracy, human rights, and election programming of other missions in the OSCE system. Meanwhile, NGOs and opposition figures, who have been critical of the mission as emblematic of what they see as the international community's failure to grapple effectively with the last remaining dictatorship in Europe, will miss the attention they once had from the mission's dedicated staff, and plunge into further isolation. CAF
OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION CALLS FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION.
Several thousand demonstrators staged a march through central Yerevan on 12 April to demand the return of the country's A1+ independent television station, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Organized by the increasingly united opposition, the demonstrators marched on the presidential residence and called for the resignation of President Robert Kocharian, accusing him of closing down a media outlet that could criticize his policies. The A1+ closure has emerged as the one issue capable of galvanizing the often-divided opposition, as evidenced by the 14 opposition parties that organized the demonstration. The opposition is planning to wage a campaign of "civil disobedience" with continued demonstrations in order to apply pressure on the Armenian government. A1+ has been off the air since early April after a state broadcasting commission awarded its frequency to an entertainment company tied to Kocharian's government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)
POLICE DISPERSE DEMONSTRATIONS IN FRONT OF U.S. AND ISRAELI EMBASSIES.
Police units in the Azerbaijani capital Baku forcibly dispersed participants in demonstrations at the U.S. and Israeli embassies on 11 April, according to ANS. The police arrested several of the more than 100 demonstrators in front of the U.S. Embassy after they tried to burn a U.S. flag. A smaller demonstration of 50 protestors was dispersed in front of the Israeli Embassy in Baku. The demonstrations, legally sanctioned by municipal authorities, were organized by small opposition parties and were staged to protest the Israeli incursion into Palestinian areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The arrested demonstrators were freed after three hours of interrogation by Baku police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES STILL DELAYED.
Adoption of a new law on political parties by parliament has been delayed, stalling party registrations, say party leaders. Stressing that the current law needed a lot of changes, parliamentarian Aydin Mirzazadeh, a member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) Political Council, said amended legislation would serve to reduce the number of parties, reported the Olaylar agency. Mirzazadeh said the claims of parties must be contrasted to their actual social bases. "Sometimes, even one person can present himself or herself as a party. But 30 parties cannot hold a rally of 2,000 people. An important issue is the financial sources of the parties," he said. Mirzazadeh said the new law should incorporate language about the transparency of party finances. "No party except YAP has revealed their financial sources to the public until now". Mirzazadeh also called for both registration and closure procedures to be spelled out in the new law. Another member of parliament, Khanhusein Kazimli, chairman of the Social Welfare Party, also supported making definite changes to the current law, in part to address claims of party leaders about the numbers of their members. "Only 1,000 people might be gathered only in Sumgait or Ganja," he said, noting that the new law should contain minimum numbers of members. ("Azerbaijan," No. 15 (317), 11 April)
SENTENCED OPPOSITIONIST REMAINS FREE, FOR NOW.
Professor Yury Khadyka, the deputy head of the Belarusian Popular Front, has returned to his home in Minsk from Hrodna after being sentenced to 10 days in jail for his participation in an unauthorized rally in Hrodna on 24 March, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 11 April. The court in Hrodna told Khadyka that he may serve his jail term in Minsk. "There is an ambiguous formulation in the verdict," Khadyka told RFE/RL. "It says that I should serve 10 days in jail beginning from the moment of my detention, but this detention is not specified. If it is the detention on 24 March [in Hrodna], then those 10 days have elapsed long ago. Possibly, I should expect another detention after which a countdown of the 10 days begins." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)COURT ORDEAL OF FORMER BELARUSIAN PREMIER CONTINUES.
Investigators have passed a criminal case against former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir to a district court in Minsk, Belapan reported on 8 April. This time Chyhir is being accused of official negligence dating back to 1994, when he was the prime minister, and of tax evasion when he worked for a German firm in Moscow after resigning from the post of prime minister in 1996. Chyhir has been persecuted since April 1999, when he took part as a candidate in the opposition-organized presidential election in Belarus. In May 2000 he was sentenced to a three-year prison term suspended for two years on charges of abusing his authority in 1995. The Supreme Court subsequently annulled this verdict and ordered a repeat investigation of the Chyhir case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
DUTCH STUDY SAYS MLADIC MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR SREBRENICA MASSACRE.
International media reported from The Hague on 10 April that the Dutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) has issued its long-awaited study on the 1995 fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of some 7,000 Muslim males. The report contains few surprises and was quickly criticized by survivors and some others as disappointing or a "whitewash." It stresses that Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic was most directly responsible for the killings. The study added, however, that it cannot be said with certainty that Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic or the political leadership in Belgrade knew about the massacre in advance. The 7,000-page report adds that Dutch peacekeepers at their base at Potocari, near Srebrenica, did not know that the men would be massacred when they obliged Serb requests to remove Muslims who had sought shelter at the base. The study assigns much of the blame to the Dutch military and civilian leaderships, noting that "humanitarian motivation and political ambitions drove the Netherlands to undertake an ill-conceived and virtually impossible peace mission." Prime Minister Wim Kok commented: "We fell short. It was the opposite of a success." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)PETRITSCH REJECTS BOSNIAN SERB CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES...
Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's outgoing high representative in Bosnia, said in Stolac on 8 April that the constitutional amendments recently passed by the Bosnian Serb parliament do not go far enough in establishing the full political equality of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in the Republika Srpska, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that only "100 percent compliance" with the "Sarajevo agreement" on full equality will be acceptable. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)...AS DO OTHERS.
After meeting in Sarajevo with Bosnian Social Democratic leader and Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija on 8 April, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Clifford Bond said the Bosnian Serb constitutional amendments do not meet the terms of the Sarajevo agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He stressed that the amendments do not sufficiently address the question of the representation of non-Serbs in the government. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, representatives of the Social Democratic Party, Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and New Croatian Initiative based in the Republika Srpska concluded that the amendments violate the "basic interests" of the non-Serbs in that entity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)BOSNIAN SERB LEADER OFFERS ONLY 'CORRECTIONS' TO CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES.
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said in Banja Luka on 11 April that the Bosnian Serbs will not revise the constitutional amendments that the parliament recently passed on the political equality between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported He said all that will be possible are "certain corrections," but did not elaborate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)
PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CONCRETE MEASURES TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION OF THE ROMA.
On the occasion of International Roma Day, Georgi Parvanov on 8 April demanded that concrete measures be established for improving the situation of the Romany minority in Bulgaria, BTA reported. He made the comments to representatives of Romany organizations, prominent intellectuals, musicians, and athletes of the Romany community assembled in Sofia for the occasion. "On this day, we should categorically demand more and more efficient alternative employment programs among the Romany populations, and that the state and municipalities find a way to provide the Roma who live in villages with land," Parvanov said. He also stressed the necessity to raise the level of education among Romany children. Different sources place the Romany population in Bulgaria at between 370,000 and 500,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)CLOSURE OF KOZLODUY NUCLEAR POWER PLANT PROTESTED.
Some 5,000 people peacefully protested on 11 April against government plans to shut down two blocks of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, BTA reported. The meeting was organized by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) and the Kozloduy Defense Committee. VMRO leader Krasimir Karakachanov said at the meeting, "We have gathered to call for a referendum -- Bulgarians must choose today between higher electricity prices and economic development." The organizers handed parliament speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov a petition signed by more than 400,000 citizens for a referendum on the future of the power plant. Gerdzhikov told journalists, "I share President Georgi Parvanov's view that it is essential to take into consideration the national interests and Bulgaria's commitments to the international community." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)
SIX OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS ARRESTED.
Police in Almaty detained six opposition representatives who had intended to meet at Almaty's Ankara hotel with Western journalists on the morning of 8 April, navigator.kz reported. The six oppositionists and an eyewitness have been charged with maliciously ignoring police directives, which carries a 15-day jail sentence or a fine of 50 times the minimum wage. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)OPPOSITIONIST SEIZED, FLOWN TO PAVLODAR.
Kazakh Interior Ministry forces stormed into the Almaty home of opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov on 10 April, handcuffed him, and flew him to the northeastern city of Pavlodar, AP and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Zhaqiyanov, whom authorities accuse of abusing his power while he was governor of Pavlodar Oblast, had been under house arrest since 4 April after leaving the French Embassy where he had taken refuge. His supporters said the government had broken a written promise to the ambassadors of the U.S., France, Germany, and Britain that Zhaqiyanov would not be removed from his house during the course of the investigation, Interfax reported on 10 April. But the Foreign Ministry said his transferal to Pavlodar, the scene of his alleged crimes, was necessary for the police's work. The ministry also complained that representatives from EU member states were continually visiting Zhaqiyanov during his house arrest in Almaty and hindering the investigation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April).
PARLIAMENT'S LOWER CHAMBER SOFT-PEDALS ON AKSY INVESTIGATION...
The ongoing discussion of the circumstances of the 17-18 March clashes in Djalalabad's Aksy Raion in which five people died triggered a split in the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament) on 9 April, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Thirty-six of the 60 deputies voted in favor of asking President Askar Akaev to take under his personal control the government commission investigating the clashes. They also proposed that the government adopt a special program to improve social and economic conditions in Aksy. Deputies from the "Kyrgyzstan" group and the Communist Party faction walked out in protest prior to the vote and convened a press conference at which "Kyrgyzstan" group leader Ishenbai Kadyrbekov called for the resignation of Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev, Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev, and Djalalabad Oblast officials believed to share responsibility for the fatalities. Abyshkaev heads the government commission investigating the clashes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)...WHILE UPPER CHAMBER DECRIES 'DOUBLE STANDARDS.'
During a 9 April debate on the state of law and order, the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of the Kyrgyz legislature) noted that the Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies are guilty of double standards, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputies adduced the criminal case brought after an interval of seven years against parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, which they contrasted with numerous decisions to drop criminal proceedings brought against senior government officials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)AKAEV VISITS DJALALABAD...
On 10 April Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev made his first trip to Aksy Raion since antigovernment demonstrators clashed with police there three weeks ago, AKIpress reported. In a surprise visit, Akaev attended a session of the Djalalabad regional council and told deputies that he was personally overseeing the investigation into the 17-18 March incidents. He promised that the guilty would be rooted out and punished. But he did not meet anyone wounded in the disturbances or relatives of the victims, saying that he was too busy on this trip but would come again, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Meanwhile, parliamentary deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, whose inconclusive trial sparked the riots in the first place, told RFE/RL on 10 April that Akaev had committed a political blunder by showing himself insensitive to the victims' plight, and that the president should not merely have met with ordinary people in Djalalabad Oblast but begged their pardon for what happened. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)...AND FIRES REGION'S TOP OFFICIALS.
Blaming local authorities for the 17-18 March clashes on the grounds that they should have been more sensitive to the people's social and economic needs, Kyrgyz President Akaev fired Djalalabad Oblast's top three officials on 10 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. At an extraordinary session of the Djalalabad regional council attended by Akaev, Governor Sultan Urmanaev was replaced by Jusupbek Sharipov, who had been the governor of Issyk-Kul Oblast. The region's chief prosecutor, Zootbek Kudaibergenov, and the head of the local branch of the Interior Ministry, Kubanychbek Tokobaev, were also sacked, Kabar news agency reported. Although the dismissals were announced on 10 April, the decree about them, which claimed the officials were stepping down voluntarily, had apparently been signed the previous day, despite the council's show of voting on the decision. While in southern Kyrgyzstan, Akaev said the root cause for the demonstrations had been social discontent due to economic hardship; he also distributed about 250 tons of food and sugar that he had brought with him, RFE/RL reported on 10 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)NEW SUPPORT RALLIES FOR JAILED OPPOSITIONISTS.
Some 5,400 people in Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion rallied on 12 April to demand that the government drop its case against parliamentarian Beknazarov, which they said is politically motivated, and open cases against four former district officials whom demonstrators blamed for ordering police to fire into crowds on 17 March, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They further demanded a review of the case against Djaparaly Kamchybekov, a friend of Beknazarov's who was jailed last November for a crime of which he was absolved in 1995 (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 21 March 2002). Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz newspaper "Rif-Obozrenie" reported on 12 April that Beknazarov is preparing to sue Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev and Interior Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev for wrongful arrest. In a separate but parallel development, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported that about 150 people gathered on 13 April in northern Chui Oblast to demand that former Vice President Feliks Kulov be released from prison, saying that the charges against him were politically motivated. Kulov was sentenced in January 2001 to seven years in prison for abuse of power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)TRIAL AGAINST FELIKS KULOV RESUMES.
The Pervomai district court resumed on 16 April the trial against Feliks Kulov and Aleksander Gasanov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. It began on 25 December and was interrupted in mid-March due to the shooting of demonstrators in Aksy. Kulov and Gasanov, who headed a construction company in Chui Oblast when Kulov was the province governor in 1993-97, are accused of embezzlement. In a separate case, a military court in January 2001 convicted Kulov of abuse of power when he was the minister of national security in 1997-1998. The same court acquitted him of the same charges in August 2000. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 16 April)
EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT RULES AGAINST LATVIA.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Latvia violated the European Convention on Human Rights by forbidding Ingrida Podkolzina from participating in the parliamentary elections in 1998 owing to her alleged inadequate knowledge of the Latvian language, LETA reported on 9 April. She had obtained the required language certificate from the State Language Center, but one of its examiners later decided that she was not sufficiently proficient and her name was removed from the list of candidates. The ECHR awarded Podkolzina 7,500 euros ($6,563) plus 1,500 euros for legal costs and expenses. Kristine Malinovska, Latvia's representative for human rights institutions, said the verdict was expected and showed that the current measures to protect the Latvian language in the parliament are inadequate. She expressed satisfaction that the court recognized Latvia's right to determine the working language of its parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AGAINST PPCD MEMBERS...
The Chisinau city Prosecutor's Office has launched a criminal investigation into Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca's and PPCD deputy Valentin Chilat's involvement in a tussle with police on 6 April, Flux reported. On 8 April, Chiril Motpan, the head of the Public Relations Directorate of the Interior Ministry, denied Rosca's claim that the two men had been brutally treated by two police officers. He also denied that the police officers had refused to identify themselves, claiming that one of them had done so. In addition, he clearly stated that the ministry's employees are not obliged to identify themselves to anyone while operating on the street, but have the right to request identification from others at any time. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)...WHILE PPCD MEMBERS APPEAL TO EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS OVER SUPREME COURT DECISION...
On 10 April, the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) submitted a complaint against Moldova to the ECHR, Flux reported. The complaint pertains to the Moldovan Supreme Court's 15 March decision to stop the antigovernment protests that began on 9 January. According to lawyer Vitalie Nagacevschi, who will represent the PPCD at the ECHR, the Moldovan court's decision infringes on the protestors' rights to freedom of assembly and free speech. In addition, Nagacevschi said the protestors were not granted a fair trial because the organizers of the protest were not summoned for the trial, and because the protestors were consistently refused an appeal. PPCD is asking the ECHR to acknowledge the breach of the petitioners' rights as laid out in Articles 6, 10, 11, and 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and to tell the Moldovan government that the use of force is inadmissible as long as protests are peaceful. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)...AND TAKES COMMUNISTS TO COURT.
The PPCD filed several lawsuits against Communist leaders on 11 April, Flux reported. The PPCD has filed two libel suits against President Vladimir Voronin. The charges stem from the president's claim that PPCD leader Rosca is a political terrorist and that the PPCD leaders are willingly provoking street violence and making provocations in order to destabilize the political situation in Moldova. Bogdan Ciubotaru, the lawyer representing the PPCD, said on 11 April that the first hearing will be held on 23 April. The PPCD has also filed a suit against the leader of the Communist parliamentary group, Victor Stepaniuc, who declared that street protests initiated by the PPCD are fascist and that the PPCD initiated the 1992 war. Another Communist leader, parliament Vice Chairman Vadim Misin, is facing a lawsuit for comments he made in a television interview that Rosca and other protesters were paid millions of dollars for their actions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR RESTRAINT.
Walter Schwimmer has called on the Moldovan government to refrain from using force, Flux reported on 8 April, citing a message Schwimmer sent to President Voronin. In the letter, Schwimmer insisted on the need for the Moldovan authorities to find solutions to the ongoing political crisis through dialogue, in conformity with the values of the Council of Europe. The secretary-general wrote that the council is observing with great attention and concern the situation in Moldova, and particularly the disappearance of PPCD Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Schwimmer also emphasized that the council is examining the report recently provided by the Moldovan government regarding the effective implementation of the European Convention of Human Rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)CE RAPPORTEURS HOLD TALKS WITH MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL.
Moldovan Prosecutor-General Vasile Rusu met on 9 April with Council of Europe (CE) rapporteurs for Moldova, Flux reported. Josette Durieu of France and Lauri Vahtre of Latvia were particularly interested in judicial procedures regarding the arrest of the Gagauz-Yeri leader Ivan Burgudji, and the measures authorities are taking regarding the ongoing protests in Chisinau. Rusu told the rapporteurs that the antigovernment protests in Moldova are clearly in violation of current legislation, and that the authorities must act to mitigate such violations. They also discussed the investigation into the disappearance of PPCD Deputy Chairman Cubreacov. Rusu assured the envoys that "all efforts" are being made to find Cubreacov. However, the discussions revealed that no political personalities have been investigated thus far. The rapporteurs are to compile a preliminary report on the situation in Moldova, which will be part of a full report to be discussed at a PACE meeting on 24 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 April)JEWISH CEMETERY VANDALIZED.
Up to 50 tombstones in a Chisinau Jewish cemetery were vandalized during Passover, according to Yakov Vayselbukh, president of the local Jewish community, whose statement was published by "Nezavisimaya Moldova" on 9 April. Many of the tombstones are damaged beyond repair. Vayselbukh said not only did the attack take place over Passover, but close to the anniversary of the infamous Chisinau pogrom of 1903. ("Bigotry Monitor," Vol. 2, No. 14, UCSJ, 12 April)
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ENDORSES PARTY BAN IN PUBLIC SERVICES.
The Constitutional Tribunal ruled on 10 April that the current ban on the right of employees of the judiciary, army, police, Border Guard, State Protection Service, Supreme Audit Chamber, and other public services to unite in political parties is in keeping with the constitution, PAP reported. At the same time, the tribunal said the current exemption from this rule for members of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Council -- who are only required to suspend party affiliation during their term in office -- is unconstitutional. The ruling means that they will have to give up their respective party memberships in order to remain in office. The tribunal's decision followed a motion from the Polish ombudsman who claimed that the ban violates civil rights and freedoms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)TRADE UNIONS HOLD 'HISTORIC' PROTEST RALLY.
Some 400 trade unionists from Solidarity and the leftist National Trade Union Alliance protested against unemployment and planned amendments to the Labor Code in front of the Labor Ministry in Warsaw on 11 April, PAP reported. The unionists described the event as a "historic manifestation" that brought the two hitherto irreconcilably opposed trade unions together, and vowed to jointly fight against changes to the Labor Code. The demonstration ended peacefully after Labor Minister Jerzy Hausner was handed the unionists' demands and addressed the protesters, pledging that the government will support the solutions agreed by unionists and employers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)
ETHNIC ROMANIANS ASK BUCHAREST FOR HELP.
A delegation of ethnic Romanians from Hungary (representing a community of about 15,000) recently brought to Bucharest a five-page list of unresolved problems falling under the jurisdiction of the Hungarian state but also including requests for help from Romania, DIVERS reported. The ethnic Romanians asked Romania's authorities for financial support for publishing Romanian-language newspapers and for materials to promote their native language, and also urged the establishment of a high-ranking Romanian institution similar to the Office for Hungarians Beyond the Borders. Among unresolved problems they noted that 40 percent of the council members of their minority self-government bodies are not actually ethnic Romanians, and Romanian Orthodox Church assets have not been returned to them by the Hungarian state. Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said Bucharest would contribute 26 billion lei ($800,000) for the renovation of the Romanian Orthodox chapel in Budapest. ("Romania: Ethnic Minority Briefs," No. 2, divers.ro, 8 April)
FOREIGN CITIZENS IN MOSCOW ON GUARD AFTER DEATH THREAT.
The Japanese Embassy has informed the Russian Foreign Ministry of the reception of an e-mail message on 11 April from a man describing himself as "Ivan" and threatening to kill foreigners in Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. The Japanese Embassy has issued a warning to all Japanese citizens in the city to avoid walking in Moscow at night and to stay clear of suspicious-looking groups of youths. The threat was also sent to embassies of African and Asian countries in Moscow, according to the news agency. A diplomat serving in the Japanese Embassy said, "The Russians have expressed the most serious concern about this and have promised to take necessary measures." The e-mail message said that, to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday, Russian fascists intend to "murder all of the foreigners they come across," and advised Japanese citizens to leave Russia immediately.("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)SKINHEAD ACTIVITY RISING.
The Center for Interethnic Cooperation, a Moscow-based NGO tracking hate crimes and promoting tolerance, reports what it describes as an "abrupt increase" in skinhead activity in Moscow and other Russian cities. The center believes the rise in attacks by fascist youth groups on non-Russians is attributable to media portrayals of migrants as being to blame for economic problems. Other monitors tied the surge in skinhead assaults to Hitler's birthday on 13 April. Police estimate about 10,000 skinheads are active in Moscow, reports the center. Young boys aged 12-18 with shaved heads have made a number of attacks on migrants, targeting mainly African descendents, including officials of African embassies and their families. Last January, African ambassadors appealed to the Russian Foreign Ministry in protest against physical attacks on Africans in Moscow. The center's reports in Russian can be found at http://webcenter.ru/~cemes/. CAFKRASNODAR EXPELS KURDS TO NEIGHBORING REGION.
The first people to be deported from Krasnodar Krai following the enactment of a new law restricting immigration were two families of ethnic Kurds, RFE/RL's Krasnodar correspondent reported on 13 April. The families, who had lived in a village in the krai for several years, were sent by escort to Rostov Oblast. According to the correspondent, the expulsion of several dozen more families is expected when the registration of a number of immigrants expires on 15 April. The leader of the local Kurdish community, Ishkhan Khudoryan, has said that he intends to appeal to the Russian Supreme Court and international human rights workers to defend the rights of his community. According to ITAR-TASS on 13 April, more than 1 million people who have fled wars and economic hardship have settled in the krai, and every fifth resident is a migrant. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)ALEKSII II HINTS THAT POPE CAN VISIT WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.
Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Aleksii II said in a recent interview with the Italian monthly "30Giorni" that as the head of the Vatican state, which maintains diplomatic relations with Russia, Pope John Paul II has the right to visit Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 April. However, Aleksii II continued, "There is an ancient tradition that a church head should coordinate his visit with the local church." In the magazine, Aleksii II also stressed his personal opposition to a visit by the pope, especially in the wake of a recent Holy See decision to elevate the status of Catholic dioceses in Russia Finally, he mentioned that his position regarding the Vatican "is also shared by the Foreign Ministry, parliament, and average citizens," the news agency reported, citing "30Giorni." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)CATHOLIC PRIEST EXPELLED.
Russia has barred a Roman Catholic priest from returning to his parish, international news agencies reported on 10 April. The move comes amid heightened tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. Reverend Stefano Caprio, who has lived in Russia since 1989, said that after he landed in Italy on 5 April he realized that border officials in Moscow had ripped his visa out of his passport. Caprio was refused a new visa and was told he was on a list of banned foreigners compiled by Russian security services, AP reported the same day. "Every nation has the right to determine who can stay on its territory," Russian Border Service spokesman Sergei Ivanchenko said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)CHECHNYA WAR ATROCITIES A LONG WAY FROM DAY IN COURT.
The treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's first permanent court to try crimes against humanity gained its final necessary signatures on 11 April, RFE/RL's UN correspondent and wire services reported on 12 April. Ten countries, including Bosnia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania, simultaneously deposited at the UN their instruments of ratification of the Rome statute creating the court, bringing the total to 60, the number required for the court to begin functioning in July 2002. Although Russia signed the Rome statute, it has not ratified the ICC treaty, nor is it likely to do so in the foreseeable future, Russian human rights activists and law professors say, indicating that justice for Chechnya is only a distant theoretical possibility through the ICC. International law experts explain that in order for crimes against humanity to be addressed by the ICC, a number of criteria must be met. First, they must have been committed after the court enters into effect, i.e. after July 2002. Second, perpetrators brought before the court must either be nationals of a country which has ratified the ICC, or the crimes must have been committed on the territory of a country that has ratified the statute. Third, given various safeguards against frivolous suits built into the statute, the court's prosecutors would have to find that national courts had already failed to try the crimes, or the UN Security Council would have to make a special authorization for the case to go to the ICC. As Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, it would likely block such an effort to deal with war crimes in Chechnya. CAF
EXTREMISTS SAID TO NUMBER 3,400.
According to the latest police estimates, there are 3,400 extremists and sympathizers of extremist groups in Slovakia, the SITA agency reported on 8 April. Fewer than 1,000 are leftist, and the rest belong to the extreme right. The core of the far-right movement is made up of some 500 people, including skinheads, neo-Nazis, and fascists. Fewer than 100 left-wing extremists are active. According to the police, the far right is most active in the Presov region, eastern Slovakia. In 2001, Slovak police registered 40 racially motivated crimes, of which more than half were resolved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)CUSTODY PROLONGED FOR POLICEMEN CHARGED WITH ROM DEATH.
A regional court has agreed to prolong the pretrial custody of four former policemen for an additional six months, as the initial six-month custody was to expire on 9 April, TASR reported on 8 April. The policemen from the Revuca and Jelsava districts in eastern Slovakia are charged with the killing of Slovak Rom Karol Sendrei on 6 July 2001. The Prosecutor-General's Office is still studying the case file regarding Sendrei's death, and a trial date has not been set. Three additional policemen are being investigated while free. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
EBRD TO WITHHOLD AID OVER REPRESSIVE POLICIES?
Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), says his bank will pay more attention this year to the nations of Central Asia, but he says this new attention will not apply equally to all five countries. In a conversation recently with RFE/RL, Lemierre singled out Turkmenistan as a country that has lost the active support of the EBRD for projects in the public sector because of the repressive policies of its government. But he says the door is still open to projects in the private sector. "I have written to the president of Turkmenistan to express concern about the democratization process, to say that we have stopped every operation in the public sector in Turkmenistan. And [that we will maintain] operations in the private sector [only] on condition that there is no public interference. In practice, we are not doing anything [in either sector]." ("Turkmenistan: Will Repressive Policies Hinder EBRD Aid? (Part 2)," rferl.org, 10 April)
ANTI-KUCHMA LAWMAKER FIGHTS TO INVALIDATE ELECTION IN HIS CONSTITUENCY.
Lawmaker Oleksandr Zhyr, the chairman of the temporary parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has appealed to the Supreme Court to invalidate the election in single-mandate constituency No. 35 (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), UNIAN reported on 11 April. According to intermediate results during the vote count, Zhyr (supported by Our Ukraine) appeared to be winning the election in the constituency, but the protocol of the district election commission stated that another candidate outpaced Zhyr by 720 votes. Zhyr's proxies passed to the Supreme Court a videotape that reportedly shows representatives of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administration instructing the heads of polling station commissions in the constituency to rewrite their protocols to Zhyr's disadvantage. Our Ukraine said in a statement that the ballot in constituency No. 35 represented a "mockery of the very idea of democratic elections." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April).YOUTHS ATTACK SYNAGOGUE.
About 50 youths attacked the central synagogue in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after a match of the Kyiv Dynamo team, beating worshippers with stones and bottles and destroying property, UNIAN reported 14 April. Kyiv's chief rabbi, Moshe-Reuven Azman, said the mob marched down the capital's main boulevard shouting "Kill the Jews!" before attacking the synagogue late on 13 April. Reuters quoted Kyiv's chief rabbi as saying that the attack was an anti-Semitic act sparked by tension in the Middle East. "During evening prayers about 50 young men...came with stones and then shouted 'Kill the Jews!' They broke 20 windows and after prayers they beat our people," the rabbi said. However, police denied it was an anti-Semitic attack, saying it was a case of soccer-related hooliganism. Azman called the act a pogrom. Police arrested eight soccer fans and started an investigation. The Interior Ministry said the attack was not motivated by anti-Semitism, but was an act of brutal hooliganism. ("Ukraine: Youths Attack Synagogue," rferl.org, 14 April, "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)FOREIGN MINISTER PROMISES PUNISHMENT FOR SYNAGOGUE VANDALS.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko has assured Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Anna Azari that the people responsible for the attack against the central synagogue in Kyiv will be held accountable for their actions, Interfax-Ukraine reported 16 April. Zlenko said over the phone with Azari on 14 April that law enforcement agencies will do everything to punish the organizers of the raid and that the probe into the incident had been conducted promptly, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sergei Borodenkov told reporters. Interfax reported only four people directly involved in the attack were detained; two are 21 and two are 15 and 16, respectively. Another attacker, a Kyiv resident, who hit the Jewish school rector in the face, is currently at large. (Interfax-Ukraine, 16 April).
MINES KILL MORE CIVILIANS, SHEEP.
Two Tajik citizens, aged 15 and 25, were killed and two more wounded earlier this week when they strayed into a minefield near the Sokhibnazar checkpoint on the Tajik-Uzbek frontier in northern Sughd Oblast, Asia-Plus and Interfax reported on 10 April. The minefield was one of many laid by Uzbek troops along Uzbekistan's borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, without the permission of those countries, to discourage incursions by Islamist militants. Since they started mining the border with Tajikistan in August 2000, 53 Tajik civilians have been killed and dozens injured by the mines, but Tashkent refuses to heed requests to remove them, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 10 April. An investigation into the latest deaths has been opened by the Tajik side. Before this week's incident, the most recent victims of Uzbek's mines intended for terrorists were seven sheep that were killed on 4 April, also in Sughd Oblast, the Varorud news agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)
PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTROVERSIAL WAR CRIMES LEGISLATION...
The chamber of the republics, the upper house of parliament, voted on 10 April to approve controversial legislation on cooperation with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The lower house broke off debate after opposition deputies charged that the legislation contained passages that the Constitutional Court has already ruled unconstitutional, but then approved the legislation on 11 April, AP reported. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that the law will resolve "all the problems we had with The Hague court and the American administration." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said, "It can be expected that all the suspects will be handed over to The Hague tribunal by 1 May." It is not clear, however, whether the legislation goes far enough to meet the demands of Washington and The Hague. It applies only to persons who received public indictments, and not to individuals indicted in secret or to those who will be indicted in the future ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12 April)...DESPITE MANY RESERVATIONS.
Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroslav Labus told the legislature in Belgrade on 11 April that it is necessary for the country to swallow its pride and cooperate with the tribunal, even if most Serbs believe that many more non-Serbs should be in the dock too, Reuters reported. He stressed: "I agree completely that the law being adopted today is an insult to our nation's dignity. It very clearly is. But it's not the end of history or the end of Serbian spirituality," Labus said amid applause from the chamber. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)GENERAL READY TO GO TO THE HAGUE VOLUNTARILY.
Former Yugoslav Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic told the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" on 14 April that he is prepared to turn himself in to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague out of a sense of duty. Ojdanic was indicted by the tribunal for his alleged role in war crimes as chief of the army's General Staff during the crackdown in Kosova in 1999. The recently passed law on cooperation with The Hague went into effect on 12 April. In New York, the NGO Human Rights Watch warned that the law will have little meaning if Belgrade does not extradite indicted war criminals or provide the court with the documents it wants, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. On 15 April, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said that Nikola Sainovic, another prominent indicted war criminal, is also prepared to turn himself in, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)SIXTEEN UN POLICE INJURED IN CLASH WITH KOSOVA SERBS.
UN officials said in Prishtina on 8 April that at least 16 international police were wounded -- some by grenade shrapnel and others by stones -- during a clash with hundreds of angry Serbian protesters in Mitrovica, AP reported. At least some of the police were Poles who were called in to support their embattled French colleagues. At least two Serbs were injured when police used stun grenades. Reuters reported that police arrested a Serb who belongs to a group of radicals that "guard" the bridge dividing the Serbian and Albanian halves of the town. The clash began when Serbs started throwing stones at a newly established UN police traffic checkpoint near the bridge. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
ALBANIAN EXPERTS QUESTION EFFECTIVENESS OF NGOS
By Alban Bala
The number of nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, active in Albania is estimated to be in the thousands. Many were established during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia three years ago, when more than 350 domestic organizations -- offering food, medicine, and counseling services -- applied for funds at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mission in Tirana. Specialists at the Albanian Ministry of Labor and Social Assistance say the number of NGOs may be as high as 3,000.
But the concept of civil society is still poorly understood in Albania, and many of the NGOs do not have a clear idea about how they should function. Despite their large numbers, the NGOs' impact on daily life is limited.
Capajev Gjokutaj is the executive director of the Soros Foundation in Tirana. His organization has played a key role in trying to promote civil society in Albania.
He said that 50 years of communism and forced collectivization are still influencing people's thinking. But he also said the ways in which NGOs function in Albania -- competing with each other for limited resources -- has limited their appeal to the general public.
"I find that the historic roots of civil society in Albania are weak, owing to the feeble representation [of the past]. There's no need to go back in time very far. Under communism, we had a chain of organizations which pretended to be representative, but this representation was a farce. Perhaps this experience is still influencing us. On the other hand, if we see the problem from today's perspective, in my opinion, there are several reasons why NGOs appear closed to the general population. [NGOs] are only funded by foreign donors, but there are not enough donors to satisfy all the NGOs' needs. There is a wild competition, and the limited resources lead NGOs into narrow schemes," Gjokutaj said.
Ilira Gjika heads Legal Clinics for Minors, an NGO that is helping to reintegrate and rehabilitate minors with short-term prison convictions. She said that, in a bid to attract funding, NGOs frequently imitate each other's programs -- often without paying attention to the needs they are serving.
"My opinion is that these 'ready-for-use' models are used indiscriminately in all areas, Muslim and Christian, in urban areas, as well as backward rural regions. They are not our models. It's not us who shaped them. These prefabricated models are, in my view, the main obstacle to communication -- the creation of this community. If we go on imitating each other, then we won't be building [society], but rather we'll go on destroying ourselves," Gjika said.
But she also said it's unfair to say that NGOs have been completely unsuccessful in Albania. She said blaming NGOs for poor results is unfair, given the enormous tasks that are expected of them.
"I can't say the NGOs have had no benefit. It's not true. Also, no one can say they have fully accomplished their mission, for when one thing is over, 10 other duties come up, 10 other requests," Gjika said.
Aldo Bumci of the Albanian Institute for International Studies said the main problem is a misguided vision among those -- mainly foreigners -- who finance the projects.
"When one speaks of civil society in Tirana, one finds out that there are no popular movements, but rather institutions -- a sort of bureaucracy. [Here,] the civil society does not mean popular movements. How did the women's associations set themselves up without an [indigenous] feminist movement? They were fashioned according to the [availability of] foreign donors' funds, which were intended to have them develop movements out of the associating process. But communism destroyed the capabilities for collective movements," Bumci said. Experts say the future of NGOs in Albania remains largely contingent on the country's developing a stable middle class to sustain and support them.
Alban Bala is a correspondent for RFE/RL's Albanian Unit.