3 July 2002, Volume
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT COMES INTO FORCE.
The treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address war crimes and genocide went into effect on 1 July, signed by 139 countries and ratified by 69, including the 15 European Union member states, the United Nations press office and wire services reported. Sixty countries were required by 1 July to ratify the treaty for the ICC to come into force. The court will be able to try violations of international humanitarian law and crimes of war, but only those which take place after 1 July, and only those committed on the territories of the countries that have ratified the treaty or by nationals of the participating states if their national judicial systems fail to prosecute their crimes. Diplomats and NGOs refrained from speculating what the first case might be, but clearly regional issues like atrocities in Chechnya, disappeared politicians in Belarus, and murdered journalists in Ukraine are not eligible for the court.
According to the lists at the Coalition for an International Criminal Court website at iccnow.org, a worldwide nongovernmental campaign, few NGOs in Eastern and Central Europe and Eurasia were actively involved in the campaign. Possibly they knew that even severe and ongoing war crimes, such as those alleged to take place in the North Caucasus, would never reach the ICC. Nevertheless, 10 countries of the region signed and ratified the treaty by 1 July (Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Tajikistan); four never signed (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan); 10 signed but did not ratify, sometimes citing difficulties in harmonizing domestic law with the international norms, including Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Interestingly, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Tajikistan -- four countries ravaged by war in the last decade with troubled governments and shattered economies -- nevertheless found it possible to sign and ratify the treaty, while others with more social peace, better-functioning parliaments, and little likelihood of becoming the site of genocide became bogged down in contradictions between local and international law.
As the court came into force, however most of the world's attention was focused not on the exemplars of good world citizenship among countries in transition, nor on the potential cases taking place now in existing ratifiers, or on actual atrocities occurring in the world of nonratifiers from the Great Lakes region of Africa to the Northern Caucasus to the Middle East, but on the United States. The U.S. angered allies not only with a withdrawal of its initial signature to the statute; it also sought to place obstacles to the functioning of the ICC by proposing a special UN resolution to make UN peacekeepers exempt from prosecution.
NGO lawyers and former government officials have pointed out that many checks are in place to prevent politicized or frivolous prosecutions through the ICC, which is supposed to deal with suspects only if their national courts fail to cope. They believe that by participating in the early formation and prosecutions of the court, the U.S. could strengthen an institution which many hope will serve as a deterrent. But distrust in the UN, wariness of allies, and belief in the malicious intent of the non-Western world is high after the U.S. walkout of a disastrous UN conference on racism in Durban last fall as well as the failure of even friendly European democracies to vote for the U.S. in elections to the Commission on Human Rights last year, leaving the way clear for countries known as gross violators of human rights to distract from their own poor performance and manipulate the resolutions. Then there are such incidents as the recent claim of an Israeli forces' massacre of Palestinians in the UN-administered refugee camp in Jenin -- subsequently proven untrue -- which raise questions of impartiality. The U.S. can also cite reluctance by some powers to become active in the global war on terrorism and their readiness to rapidly magnify attention to conflicts where the U.S. is involved such as Afghanistan while responding slowly or ignoring others completely.
In that world context, the arguments for the ICC have not been persuasive for the Bush administration. Reluctance to submit to multilateral endeavors has now escalated to vehement opposition and created a crisis in the peacekeeping arrangements in which the U.S. is involved, foremost among them Bosnia. On 18 June, at a Security Council meeting to discuss the mandate for peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, U.S. diplomats presented two resolutions that would exempt peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the ICC. The first would exempt only the forces deployed in Bosnia; the second would exempt peacekeepers in all UN-authorized or -mandated operations. These proposals follow the unsuccessful U.S. effort in May to exempt peacekeepers in East Timor.
Failing to find support for its measures, the United States voted against a resolution in the UN Security Council on 30 June on extending the mission of the world body in Bosnia for an additional six months, international media reported. The Security Council then agreed to maintain the mission for a further 72 hours in hope of finding a solution (see "UN: U.S. Vetoes Bosnian Mission Extension," rferl.org, 1 July 2002).
On 20 June, the "International Herald Tribune" reported that "the United States' leading European allies, who have opposed U.S. efforts to limit the powers of the new international war crimes tribunal, quietly obtained written assurances [in January] that their troops serving as peacekeepers in Afghanistan would be immune from arrest or surrender to the court." Washington insists on similar, blanket assurances for its forces. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said in New York on 30 June, "With our global responsibilities, we are and will remain a special target, and cannot have our decisions second-guessed by a court whose jurisdiction we do not recognize," Reuters reported. French Ambassador to the UN Jean-David Levitte said that the U.S. troops can be protected through bilateral agreements with the countries where they are stationed, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)
U.S. diplomats at the UN said on 30 June that the veto is not "directed against the people of Bosnia" and that Washington will maintain its commitments in the Balkans, international media reported. But if no compromise emerges in the Security Council, the UN will immediately lose its mandate for the 1,700-strong international police force in Bosnia (IPTF), which the EU plans to take over on 1 January. The police force includes only 46 Americans. (A separate agreement between the Bosnian authorities and NATO also deals with the work of SFOR, which is made up of 18,000 military personnel from 25 countries, including approximately 3,000 Americans. See "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). "The New York Times" noted on 3 July that U.S. noncooperation with the court "presents America's partners and the world with a stark choice: If American military power is needed to quiet international trouble spots, the rules of that operation will be written by America." A senior Defense Department official was quoted by the "Times" as saying, "The very fact that countries do want to cooperate with us and do want our protection and do want our participation in peacekeeping and other missions gives us the ability to go and talk with them and be listened to." CAF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS BAKU OVER POLITICAL PRISONERS, NARDARAN.
Andreas Gross, who is vice president of the Council of Europe's committee that monitors new members' compliance with their specific commitments to the council, said in Strasbourg that he sees no evidence that the Azerbaijani government is complying with its commitment to review the cases of "hundreds" of political prisoners and reduce their sentences, Turan reported on 29 June. Gross also criticized the Azerbaijani government's use of force against demonstrators in the village of Naradaran in early June. He said the villagers' protests were prompted by appalling social and economic conditions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)
POLITICIANS REACT TO RUSSIA'S 'SINGLE-COUNTRY,' 'EU' OPTIONS FOR INTEGRATION WITH BELARUS.
Syarhey Kastsyan, a lawmaker of Belarus's Chamber of Representatives, said on 24 June that Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal that Russia and Belarus form a "single state" with one government and one parliament is unacceptable, Belapan reported. Kastsyan went on to accuse Putin of acting in the interests of "the Jewish lobby" who, he argued, "get their orders from Washington." Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich said Putin's recent pronouncements on integration with Belarus mean that the Russian leader wants "to brush off the annoying integrationist." According to Statkevich, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will push for adopting a constitutional act of the Belarus-Russia Union as a pretext for holding a national referendum in which the president will "squeeze in a question about removing restrictions on the length of his presidency." Meanwhile, Belarus's Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich commented that by proposing either a "single-state" or "EU" model for integration with Belarus, Putin "saves Belarus's sovereignty." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)CHORNOBYL FALLOUT BROUGHT ON BELARUS TO SPARE RUSSIA?
Western nuclear scientists are at last coming to accept what people in Belarus have claimed for years -- that the radioactive contamination from the Chornobyl nuclear disaster on 26 April 1986 was deliberately "shot down" over Belarus in order to prevent it from blowing back on to Moscow. However, even 16 years after the event, they are unwilling to put their names to that theory, although they cite the convictions of both Belarusian and international experts. (End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)LEGISLATURE ADOPTS CONTROVERSIAL RELIGION LAW.
The Chamber of Representatives on 27 June voted by 85 to three to pass in the second and final reading a law on religion that gives the Russian Orthodox Church a dominant role in Belarus, AP and Belapan reported. The legislature on 26 June adjourned the second reading of the bill until the fall but put it back on the agenda the following day under what lawmaker Volha Abramava termed "unprecedented pressure on deputies." Abramava said Metropolitan Filaret, the Russian Orthodox Church's leader in Belarus, had invited some deputies to the bishopric and shown them a film entitled "Expansion" that "showed Protestant churches in a negative way." The law bans organized prayer by religious communities of fewer than 20 citizens and prohibits religions that have been in Belarus for fewer than 20 years from publishing literature or setting up missions. It has been harshly criticized by Belarus's Protestant communities. A leading evangelical Protestant, Alec Velichko, predicted that the new law would cause hundreds of people to try to emigrate to Western countries because of religious discrimination. Belarusian television commented that the law introduces "defensive mechanisms to separate citizens from spiritual aggression, influence of destructive forces, and occultism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June and 1 July)
NATO RAIDS KARADZIC'S HOUSE.
An unspecified number of NATO-led peacekeepers entered the home of Radovan Karadzic in Pale in the early hours of 2 July, AP reported. SFOR said in a statement that the house "is suspected of being associated with an illegal smuggling network in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The house is also associated with Radovan Karadzic." His wife, Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, said that the raid "is part of constant pressure against the Karadzic family." The family's housekeeper told reporters that about 30 peacekeepers arrived by helicopter shortly before dawn. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)
FIRST BIG GAY-RIGHTS DEMONSTRATION TAKES PLACE.
Several hundred people marched through Zagreb on 29 June to demand equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people, AP reported. Dorino Manzin, who heads the Iskorak gay-rights organization, noted that protesters did not engage in flamboyant behavior and "just wanted to be heard and accepted." The march followed a week of events aimed at reducing discrimination against sexual minorities. Interior Minster Sime Lucin told the marchers in Zagreb on 29 June to "love each other and fight for your rights." Police were nonetheless on hand to prevent any clashes with skinheads, but no serious incidents were reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)
SMOKE BOMB THROWN AT CHIEF RABBI.
A smoke bomb was thrown at Czech Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon on 24 June in Liberec, northern Moravia, CTK reported on 26 June, citing the daily "Pravo." The daily wrote that the smoke bomb was thrown at Rabbi Sidon, who was holding a meeting with a journalist in a bookshop. It said the man who threw the device looked like a skinhead, and that he managed to run away after the incident. No one was injured. Sidon said he believes the incident was racially motivated and described it as "the most unpleasant" he has had to face thus far. "Sometimes people shout at me, but I got used to that," he said, adding that "people with shaved heads do not just by chance throw bombs when a rabbi is present." He also said he can "do nothing about it," since the matter is one of "ideology, organization, and above all, of the [Czech] society as a whole." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)
RUSSIAN PASSPORTS ISSUED TO ABKHAZIANS.
Abkhazians have infuriated Georgia by rushing to acquire Russian passports this month before Moscow tightens regulations on citizenship, says the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's (IWPR) "Caucasus Reporting Service." Since 1 June, the Congress of Russian Communities of Abkhazia has been collecting Abkhazians' Soviet-era travel documents. It has sent them to consular department specially set up by Russian Foreign Ministry officials in Sochi. By 25 June, an estimated 150,000 people in Abkhazia had acquired the new passports, joining 50,000 who already possess Russian citizenship; 70 percent of Abkhazians are now Russian citizens. The international community regards Abkhazia as an integral part of Georgia, although it has functioned independently of Tbilisi for nine years. The Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement insisting that Abkhazians were citizens of Georgia and calling the passport allocation an "unprecedented illegal campaign." Applicants say they want to receive Russian pensions, worth around 50 times more than one in Abkhazia, or else want to be able to travel abroad with a recognized nationality. Requests by the Sukhum authorities for their citizens to be given UN documents were turned down. "You get the impression that the bureaucrats of the UN and other international organizations are more worried about the territorial integrity of Georgia than observing the elementary rights of a whole people," said Tsiza Gumba, a human rights activist. ("IWPR Caucasus Reporting Service," No. 135, 27 June)PROTESTERS IN WESTERN GEORGIA DEMAND DISMISSAL OF LOCAL OFFICIALS.
Residents of the Tsalendjikha, Chkhorotsku, and Abasha raions of Georgia launched separate protests on 24 June to demand the resignation of local administrators, Caucasus Press reported. In Chkhorotsku some 400 people called for the dismissal of Aleko Pertaya, a member of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, whom President Eduard Shevardnadze named district administrator two years ago. Pertaya is suspected of having embezzled 300,000 laris ($135,000) intended to pay residents' pensions. In Abasha, some 300 residents set out to march to the regional center, Zugdidi, to protest the appointment as local administrator of Soso Chanturia, who was stripped of his mandate as parliament deputy for Abasha by the Georgian Constitutional Court last year. Police prevented the marchers from entering Zugdidi to picket the regional administration building, after which they blocked the main Zugdidi-Tbilisi highway, according to "Alia" on 25 June. Caucasus Press also reported that troops were used to break up the Tsalendjikha protest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June and 1 July)
FORMER MINISTER APPEALS FOR SUPPORT FOR OPPOSITION COLLEAGUE...
In an open letter posted on 28 June on forumkz.org, former Kazakh Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov admitted that he anticipates that Kazakhstan's Supreme Court will find him guilty of embezzlement and sentence him to prison He called on his friends and allies "not to despair," but to continue fighting for their shared goals of democracy, justice, and freedom for all. Abliyazov appealed to his colleagues "to continue fighting to save [former Pavlodar Oblast Governor] Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, whose health is in danger." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)...AS SUPPORTERS DETAINED.
Several dozen supporters carrying signs saying "Freedom for Abliyazov" who had gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Astana during the opposition leader's trial were dispersed by riot troops, reported the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law on 28 June. Police knocked protesters to the ground, seized their posters, and pushed them into buses, chasing after a few who tried to escape. All were taken and held for a time at the police station and questioned before release. CAFOSCE CRITICIZES NEW LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
In a 27 June press release, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe office in Almaty expressed its concern that the new law on political parties approved by both chambers of parliament and sent to the president for his signature this week may have serious consequences for political pluralism in Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. The statement noted that the new requirement that political parties have a minimum of 50,000 members in order to reregister with the Justice Ministry may lead to the disbanding of many opposition parties. It called for the law to be amended to bring it into line with international and OSCE standards, and offered to assist in doing so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)
PARLIAMENTARIAN'S SENTENCE QUASHED...
Meeting in Toktogul on 28 June, the Djalalabad Oblast court annulled the one-year suspended sentence it handed down one month earlier to opposition parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, Interfax reported. That decision means that Beknazarov will not be stripped of his deputy's mandate. Members of the Committee to Protect Beknazarov's Rights adopted an appeal on 28 June to President Askar Akaev, the speakers of both chambers of parliament, and senior law enforcement officials not to prosecute the participants of the protest march from Tash-Komur via Djalalabad to Osh, akipress.org reported. On 24 June, First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmanov accused the marchers of planning to enter the city and provoke mass disorder. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)...AS OPPOSITION, POLICE DENOUNCE AMNESTY.
In Bishkek, opposition deputies condemned the amnesty law passed on 28 June by the Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) on the grounds that it exonerates officials responsible for the deaths of five people in clashes in Aksy Raion on 17-18 March between police and Beknazarov's supporters, Reuters reported. On 29 June, police in Djalalabad staged a strike and dispatched an open letter to the national newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" demanding that the identity of the officials who ordered police to open fire on protesters in Aksy be made known, AP reported. The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights claimed in April to have ascertained that it was President Akaev who gave verbal orders to Interior Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev that police should open fire. Some 5,000 people also participated in a demonstration in Kerben in Djalalabad Oblast on 29 June to demand that those responsible for issuing the orders to open fire be named. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)
DEPUTIES FACE NEW INQUIRIES IN CRIMINAL CASE.
During the 27 June session of the Moldovan parliament, the offices of Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) deputies Iurie Rosca and Valentin Chilat were visited by a representative of the Chisinau Prosecutor's Office to deliver a summons regarding their roles in the antigovernment protests in Chisinau earlier this year, Flux reported. PPCD Chairman Rosca declared that such moves were attempted earlier in a tentative indictment, but that proper procedure for bypassing the deputies' parliamentary immunity was not respected. In addition, the parliament's Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Andrei Neguta (Communist) has informed Council of Europe rapporteurs that the criminal investigation against the two PPCD deputies has not yet been filed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS WORRIES OVER MOLDOVA ARE JUSTIFIED.
"Our worries with what is going on in the Republic of Moldova, the political situation, are fully justified," Council of Europe (CE) Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer declared on 28 June in an interview with Moldovan national radio, Flux reported. The council wants to offer assistance that would allow Moldova to overcome its problems and fully integrate in Europe, Schwimmer said, with full respect for human rights. "I hope we will persuade the Moldovan officials to conform with these recommendations, through respect for the European Convention for Human Rights," Schwimmer declared, according to the agency. He also expressed concern regarding Moldova's ability to fulfill the requirements for assuming the presidency of the CE's Ministerial Committee in May 2003: "We will be disappointed if the Republic of Moldova does not take over the presidency, because it would be the first country to lose this chance." Schwimmer said the Council of Europe is ready to offer constitutional assistance for the political settlement of the Transdniester conflict, expressed hope that Moldova will consider the expertise and advice offered by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and stressed that "democracy cannot exist without freedom of expression, because the contrary would be proof of a very dangerous power abuse...and of the government monopolizing the media," Flux reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)COUNCIL OF EUROPE SAYS POLICE USE TORTURE.
A recent report published by the Council of Europe's Anti-Torture Committee said that the use of torture by police in Moldova has increased, AFP reported. The report says police use electric shocks, thrust needles under fingernails, push the heads of detained persons under water, and indulge in other forms of torture. It also said Moldovan prisons are filthy and overpopulated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)
SHIPYARD WORKERS CONTINUE PROTESTS OVER UNPAID WAGES.
Workers from the Stocznia Szczecinska shipyard held a sixth consecutive protest march in downtown Szczecin on 27 June, demanding the payment of back wages, Polish media reported. Several hundred of their colleagues gathered the same day in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw to protest the government's refusal to rescue their company, AP reported. Stocznia Szczecinska, which was privatized in 1993, slipped into financial trouble last year when it reported a loss of some $25 million. The shipyard filed for bankruptcy last week after creditor banks refused to forgive the bulk of its debt as part of a restructuring plan. The failure of negotiations with creditors caused the government to drop its plan to take over the shipyard to save it from bankruptcy. Deputy Economy Minister Maciej Lesny told the protesters in Warsaw that Stocznia Szczecinska workers will receive part of their overdue wages on 1 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 28 June)LUSTRATION COURT SAYS WALESA'S AIDE WAS SECRET-SERVICE AGENT.
The Lustration Court on 27 June ruled that 54-year-old lawyer Tadeusz Kwiatkowski was formally registered as a communist secret police agent in 1974-75 and did not reveal this fact in his lustration statement, PAP reported. The court added that in the years 1969-70, when Kwiatkowski was a student, he delivered information to secret services but was not registered as an agent. The ruling is subject to appeal. If Kwiatkowski fails to appeal or loses his appeal, he will be banned -- under Poland's lustration law -- from practicing law for 10 years. Former President Lech Walesa appointed Kwiatkowski to the National Radio and Television Board, a supervisory media body, in September 1994. In May 1995, Kwiatkowski was named chief of Walesa's presidential office and served in that post for three months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES PASSES CONTROVERSIAL BILL ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
On 27 June, the Romanian Chamber of Deputies adopted a draft law on political parties that could further contribute to the aggregation of smaller parties, Mediafax reported. The original bill, initiated by the National Liberal Party (PNL), stipulated that parties be composed of at least 30,000 members, but the chamber accepted an amendment proposed by a deputy of the ruling Social Democratic Party raising this number to 50,000. The opposition Democratic Party and the pro-government Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) complained that such a high figure is unrealistic and unnecessary. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Emil Boc said, "the era of mass parties has disappeared." UDMR deputy Erwin Szekely claimed that more than half of the current parties would disappear if such legislation is implemented. The deputies also rejected a proposal that members of parliament be stripped of their positions in parliament if they switch parties during their term. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)SENTENCED MINERS' LEADER CLAIMS TO HAVE REJECTED DEAL WITH FORMER PRESIDENT...
Miners' leader Miron Cozma on 26 June told members of the Senate's Commission on Investigation of Abuses that former President Emil Constantinescu offered to pardon him if Cozma were to agree to sign a declaration implicating President Ion Iliescu in the events for which Cozma was sentenced to 18 months in prison, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Cozma claims he rejected the offer and does not seek a pardon. Instead, he said the sentence must be quashed by the prosecutor-general through the procedure known as "extraordinary appeal," and complained to the commission that his repeated letters to the prosecutor-general were never answered. Cozma has been sentenced for his role in the September 1991 miners' rampage in Bucharest, which triggered the resignation of the cabinet headed by former Prime Minister Petre Roman. He also claimed that the trains that brought the miners to Bucharest were placed at their disposal by orders of the then-premier. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)...TRIGGERING PREDICTABLE RESPONSES.
Former President Constantinescu on 27 June rejected Cozma's claims as "a gross lie, typical of the Greater Romania Party [of which Cozma has for some time been a member]," Mediafax reported. Constantinescu said Cozma should have brought up his allegations during his 1999 trial and added, "It is not my intention to comment on the declarations of a sentenced delinquent." He also said the Senate parliamentary commission's investigation amounts to interference in the independence of the judiciary. Former Prime Minister Roman similarly said that Cozma is "lying." At the other side of the political spectrum, President Iliescu, who returned to power in 2000, said that "only Cozma can say" who ordered the miners to descend on Bucharest, and added that the affair "had been a deal [presumably struck between Roman and Cozma]." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)
DUMA GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO ANTI-EXTREMISM BILL...
The State Duma on 27 June adopted in its third and final reading a controversial bill on combating extremism that includes in its definition of extremism any actions that impede the functioning of the federal authorities by force or other illegal means, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. The bill contains prohibitions on "extremist activity" and "extremist organizations," which it defines as any organization so recognized by a court. If the bill becomes law, it will be the first time that Russia has outlawed the use of Nazi symbols, the promotion of any kind of ethnic or religious hatred, and the bankrolling of any such activity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)...AS BILL CONTINUES TO RAISE QUESTIONS...
A number of the provisions in the anti-extremism bill continue to concern human rights activists. One of the most controversial sections is the ban on "inciting any social animosity," which activists fear could be used to crack down on trade unions or other kinds of social activity or protest. The bill also imposes strong restrictions on Internet providers that activists feel could be easily used to restrict many forms of political expression. Likewise, activists are concerned by one definition of extremism that includes the phrase "any attempt to humiliate human dignity." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)...AND PUZZLE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES...
Law enforcement officials who will be charged with enforcing the bill if it becomes law expressed bewilderment over some of its language, ntvru.com reported. Larisa Maslennikova, deputy director of the Interior Ministry's Research-Organizational Directorate, said that her agency considers the bill "too abstract." The bill "does not contain definitions of the subject and the object of extremism and, therefore, cannot be enforced," Maslennikova said, according to the website. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)...AND ANALYST IMPLIES THIS LAW IS NOT NEEDED.
In an article in "Vremya MN" on 26 June, Valerii Solovei, a political analyst with the Gorbachev Foundation, argues that fascist or right-wing groups in Russia are very disorganized, and that unlike unofficial presidential adviser Gleb Pavlovskii, he does not feel that Russia is threatened by a large number of extremist organizations. According to Solovei, there are only several dozen organizations in Russia that consider themselves parties or unions, and their total membership numbers no more than several hundred. Solovei suggests that the only more or less serious fascist party is Russian National Unity, but that its "historical chance has passed." Solovei acknowledged that there are according to Interior Ministry data some 10,000 to 15,000 skinheads, but these people in general dislike discipline and therefore cannot be included in any political party structure. Solovei concludes that "Russia has enough laws" to stop groups of young men from getting drunk and beating up people on the street. "A different matter is how these laws are observed, but this is a problem not with skinheads but with the indulgence of the police," Solovei said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)DUMA ADOPTS TOUGH VERSION OF ALTERNATIVE CIVILIAN-SERVICE LAW.
The State Duma on 28 June approved in its third and final reading a law on alternative civilian service including hard-line amendments proposed by the General Staff and strongly opposed by liberal deputies and human rights activists, Russian and Western news agencies reported. One amendment removed a provision that would have allowed those fulfilling alternative service to do so near their homes. Another demands that conscripts prove their moral convictions require them to complete alternative service rather than be inducted into the military. A third amendment strikes down the right of conscripts to choose whether to complete their alternative service at civilian or military installations. Deputies rejected, however, a military proposal that alternative service last four years. The bill stipulates a maximum term of 3 1/2 years for alternative service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)CIVIL WAR TOPS LIST OF FEARS.
Unlikely as it may seem, fear of civil war was the greatest among the nation's threats, cited by 57.4 percent Russian citizens, in a poll conducted by the Institute of Complex Social Studies in Moscow, reports the "Jamestown Foundation Russia and Eurasia Review." They also feared a reduction in quality of personal life (47.1 percent, despite the growth of the economy), and the mafia (33.3 percent). Relative stabilization and even some improvement in the social and economic environment have apparently not given the citizens of Russia any greater feeling of safety or assurance. Andrei Kolganov, senior research at Moscow State University, said that after civil war and crime, public concerns, expressed as percentages, were as follows: polarization of society (30.4), the potential break-up of Russia (23.1), environmental problems (17.9), growing foreign influence in Russia (16.7), long-drawn-out reforms (14.0), cultural deterioration (13.0), transition to a dictatorship (12.7), and increasing numbers of refugees and homeless people (6.8). Putin's top priorities, the polls say, are ending the war in Chechnya (56.9 percent) and dealing with poverty (53.6 percent). Apart from these, they also list: stamping out corruption among authorities (41.9), imposing order on the authorities (29.5), and limiting the influence of the oligarchs (22.7). When asked what type of government best serves the country, Russians answered differently in polls from 1994 and 2001: fully centralized management of the economy and price control (15.5 in 1994 and 18.2 in 2001), minimum interference in the economy and maximum freedom for the private sector (12.5 and 8.0), a state economic sector and increased private economic and political opportunities (39.5 and 37.2)0, a leader with total responsibility who conducts a decisive economic policy (20.8 and 23.2), and don't know (11.7 and 13.4). ("Jamestown Foundation Russia and Eurasia Review," Vol. 1, Issue 3, 2 July)STUDENTS BAND TOGETHER TO PROTECT THEIR FOREIGN COHORTS.
Voronezh State University has established a special detachment of student volunteers to protect the almost 700 foreign students studying at the university from attacks, ntvru.com reported on 25 June, citing NTV-International. Foreign students at the university had been subjected to a series of attacks by local skinheads, and the special detachment appears to be maintaining order on campus. The volunteer students patrol every evening and for this work receive only coupons for food and small cash awards twice a year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)MESKHETIAN TURKS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE IN KUBAN.
Another 150 Meskhetian Turks have joined a hunger strike that was initiated by 26 families in Krasnodar Krai on 20 June, Interfax reported on 24 June. Yusuf Sarvarov, head of the Vatan international community of Meskhetian Turks, told the agency the Turks took this step because they have been deprived of their rights by local authorities to register at their place of residence, to register real-estate contracts, and most recently, they have been refused the right to lease farmland. According to the agency, there are about 20,000 Meskhetian Turks in the krai. Some analysts believe that pressure on the Turks has arisen in part because of the State Duma's consideration of legislation that would regulate the buying and selling of agricultural land; the Turks survive primarily by farming (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 June 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)PUTIN ACKNOWLEDGES THAT NOT ALL CHECHENS ARE TERRORISTS.
In a clear differentiation between the Chechen field commanders still engaged in a guerrilla war against Russian forces and the civilian population, President Vladimir Putin remarked during a 24 June press conference: "As far as the negative image of Chechens is concerned, the Chechen people are not to blame for anything. I think this is the fault of the federal center that the Chechen people were left to the mercy of fate at some point [...] Our task is to destroy this image [of Chechens] as terrorists," RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Putin said that the ongoing "sweep" operations in Chechnya must be ended as soon as police and legal system are strengthened, according to Interfax. Then, possibly at the end of this year, Putin continued, Chechnya could adopt a constitution. Politika Foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov noted that Putin failed to rule out the possibility that Chechnya and Ingushetia might at some point again be merged into a single federation subject, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 April 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)COMMANDER CALLS FOR MORE BUT SELECTIVE 'SWEEPS.'
Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the combined federal forces in Chechnya, called on 24 June for continuing search operations, Interfax reported. But he added that in villages where the population has demonstrated its loyalty to the Russian-backed administration such "sweeps" will entail only passport checks, whereas in locations where Russian forces have been fired on the search will be more "rigorous." Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov was barred by Russian troops on 23 June from entering the village of Chechen-Aul where a search operation has been under way since 11 June, chechenpress.com reported on 25 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June)FORMER SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY URGES PUTIN TO BEGIN CHECHEN PEACE TALKS...
In an open letter dated 27 June and carried by grani.ru and chechenpress.com, former Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin appealed to President Putin to accept Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's recent proposal to begin peace talks. Rybkin argued that "the policy of a blitzkrieg and war to the final victory has failed yet again," that the war in Chechnya is consuming human and material resources Russia needs for other purposes, and that "it is senseless and dangerous to struggle against the will of a nation by military means." He offered his services to help achieve peace in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 28 June)...FOR WHICH HIS PARTY SUSPENDS HIM AS CHAIRMAN...
The Unified Socialist Party (Spiritual Heritage) has suspended Ivan Rybkin as its chairman following his open letter urging President Putin to embark on peace talks Maskhadov and offering to act as a mediator in such talks, ntvru.com reported on 29 June. Russian presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii told journalists in St. Petersburg on 28 June that Rybkin is not competent to do so, and that past experience should have taught the Russian leadership that any such mediation is counterproductive. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)...AS YELTSIN'S CHECHEN POLICY COMES UNDER SCRUTINY.
Rybkin also disclosed in his open letter to Putin that in early April he was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning about his activities while serving as Security Council secretary, a post he held from October 1996 to March 1998. He was asked about Yeltsin's Chechen policy in general, and in particular about the circumstances surrounding the drafting and signing of the May 1997 Russian-Chechen peace accord in which Rybkin played a decisive role. Rybkin notes that he is the only one of three successive Security Council secretaries responsible for implementing Yeltsin's Chechen policy to whom the prosecutor-general still has access: the other two are the late Aleksandr Lebed and exiled oligarch Boris Berezovskii. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July)U.S. AMBASSADOR ADVOCATES CHECHEN PEACE TALKS, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REJECTS THEM.
Stressing that Washington considers the war in Chechnya Russia's internal affair, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow told journalists in Moscow on 27 June that he nonetheless believes that political moves are needed to bring about an end to the fighting, Interfax reported. He added that it is up to the Russian leadership to select the most appropriate interlocutor, but that Maskhadov is still a key player in Chechnya. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 25 June rejected a proposal by Maskhadov to President Putin to suspend hostilities on 15 July and begin peace talks, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Maskhadov made that offer in an open letter to participants in the G-8 summit in Canada. Ivanov said that talks with Maskhadov can only be conducted after he lays down arms, and then by the prosecutor-general. Ivanov further claimed that documents confiscated in Chechnya definitively prove Maskhadov's ties with "international extremists," according to Interfax. He also claimed that federal troops succeeded in thwarting a major offensive by Maskhadov's forces timed for 25 June, the aim of which was to seize Grozny. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 June)INGUSH PRESIDENT SAYS DISPLACED PERSONS WILLING TO RETURN TO CHECHNYA.
Some 10,000 Chechen displaced persons have already volunteered to return from Ingushetia to Chechnya, and the number wishing to do so is increasing daily, Ingushetia's President Murat Zyazikov told Interfax on 30 June. He said a new database is being compiled in order to clarify the large discrepancies in the estimates of the total number of Chechens currently living either in refugee camps or other temporary accommodation in Ingushetia. ("RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 June)CHECHNYA'S DUMA DEPUTY CALLS FOR END TO SEARCH OPERATIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 26 June, former police General Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Duma, called for a ban on further "mop-up" operations in which Russian troops search Chechen villages for suspected freedom fighters, Interfax reported. Aslakhanov said such searches are marred by flagrant human rights violations. He said survivors of the recent searches in Mesker-Yurt and Chechen-Aul informed him that 30 residents were arbitrarily killed during those searches and in many cases their corpses were left in pieces, rendering identification almost impossible. Dozens more villagers are missing, Aslakhanov said. He added that it impossible to determine who was responsible for the killings because the perpetrators are invariably masked. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)MIGRATION SERVICE REPORTS ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.
Deputy Interior Minister and Federal Migration Service head Andrei Chernenko, said on 28 June that Russia has become a transit point for illegal immigrants on their way to Western and Central Europe, Russian news agencies reported. He added that there are currently 1.5 million to 5 million illegal immigrants in the country, and that in some Russian regions immigrants have formed "ethnic communities that have begun to displace the indigenous population." He also said that the illegal immigrants are "supplying members to criminal organizations." In addition, he claimed that fighters from militant armed organizations from Islamic countries are residing in some large Russian cities. Chernenko said that in an effort to stem illegal immigration, the Interior Ministry has created a unified national system for controlling immigration and has strengthened its contacts with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)DAGHESTAN LEADER REINSTATED IN SOVIET-STYLE ELECTION.
Magomedali Magomedov, leader of Daghestan, Russia's largest North Caucasus republic, swept back into power on 25 June with communist-era efficiency in an almost unanimous vote, testimony to the veteran politician's survival skills and reward for his reputation as a loyal friend of Moscow in the turbulent region, says IWPR's "Caucasian Reporting Service." Multiethnic Daghestan, with a population around 2 million, is the only region in Russia whose leader is not elected by popular vote, but appointed by a Constitutional Assembly made up almost equally of members of the regional parliament and representatives of local administrations. All proposed candidates for the assembly's presidium were voted in unanimously without any questions asked. The State Council, whose 14 members were also elected on 25 June, is the republic's principal executive body and functions as a sort of collegial president. Each of its members represents one of the major ethnic groups that are entitled to hold office under the region's 1994 constitution. Other local ethnic groups, including Jews, Georgians, Tatars and others, are barred from the top echelons of power. ("IWPR Caucasus Reporting Service," No. 135, 27 June)SECURITY GUARD GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR ANTI-SEMITIC RAMPAGE.
A security guard was given a four-year suspended sentence for inciting ethnic hatred in the Republic of Komi, according to a 27 June report by the Provincial News Agency citing the Komi-Inform news, translated and distributed by the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ) agency. Yanis Kanev was convicted for an incident on 1 January 2001 at the sanatorium where he worked as a security guard. After getting drunk on the job, Kanev heard the sounds of New Year's celebrations happening at a Jewish youth club on the premises. When he entered the club, he demanded that the youths there end their party and go away, but they refused. Kanev then went on a rampage, calling the youths "Yids," beating up two of them, throwing their plates of food around, tearing up Jewish books, and ripping Jewish symbols off the walls. The terrified youths called the police, who found Kanev hiding in the bathroom, demanding that "police who won't defend Yids" come to the scene. This last statement is what reportedly made it easy for the Syktyvkar Federal Court to convict Kanev, though the fact that the sentence was suspended was viewed as merely a slap on the wrist. Kanev is not allowed to work as a security guard for the next two years. (UCSJ, 27 June)HUMAN, FINANCIAL TOLL KEEPS RISING IN FLOODED SOUTH.
As of 26 June, the death toll from flooding in the Southern Federal District had reached 84, ntvru.com reported, citing data from the Emergency Situations Ministry. The number of people affected by the flooding is as high as 288,000. More than 80,000 people have been evacuated, and more than 130 population centers remain without electricity. According to the ministry, material damage from the flooding is currently estimated at 12.7 billion rubles ($363 million). Speaking to reporters in Rostov-na-Donu, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, charged that the negative consequences of the flooding have been so severe in part because "of a series of disagreements between federal ministries and departments, in particular, the Agriculture Ministry and the Natural Resources Ministry." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June)
ROBERTSON HAILS KOSOVA'S PROGRESS.
Speaking in Prishtina on 27 June, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that "the fact that [NATO] can now reduce the number of troops in Kosovo is a testimony to the progress that is being made by the forces here but also by the democratic institutions," RFE/RL reported. But in New York, the UN Development Program released a study noting that Kosova continues to be plagued by poverty, corruption, and discrimination against Serbs and other ethnic minorities, dpa reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)MORE ATTACKS ON ORTHODOX GRAVEYARDS AND MONASTERIES IN KOSOVA.
As attacks continue on Serbian Orthodox sites in Kosova, the Orthodox Church has again requested the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR to protect the remaining Serbian patrimonial sites, Keston News Service reported on 2 July. In recent weeks more Orthodox cemeteries have been desecrated, with hundreds of tombstones defaced, the monastery of the Pec (Peja) Patriarchate has been stoned and its nuns verbally abused. A leading Orthodox monk in Kosova told Keston that by tolerating the desecration, UNMIK and KFOR are seen by the Serbian people and the Church as directly responsible for it. (Keston News Service, 2 July)
U.S. NOT TO SACRIFICE HUMAN RIGHTS IN ANTITERRORISM FIGHT.
Three officials of the U.S. Defense and State departments say the United States is not sacrificing its commitment to promoting human rights and democracy in Central Asia. During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 27 June, the witnesses acknowledged that Washington was quick to accept varying offers from all five former Soviet states in the region to help mount the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in nearby Afghanistan. They said the U.S. government is concerned that, since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, it is working in close cooperation with some nations with poor human rights records. One witness -- Lorne Craner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor --said: "11 September dramatically changed the focus of United States foreign policy. We are now engaged in a global struggle against terror that requires working in close cooperation with an array of governments, some of which have, as you mentioned, by our own accounts, poor human rights records and with whom we have not had close relations in the past." Lynn Pascoe, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Central Asia, testified that reforms are central to achieving greater stability in Central Asia and promoting international security. Pascoe said he remains optimistic but realistic about these countries' futures. He acknowledged that these governments have begun to improve human rights by releasing prisoners, convicting corrupt police officers, and establishing human rights and other nongovernmental organizations. But he added their leaders still need to do more. ("Central Asia: Washington Seeks To Balance Security, Human Rights," rferl.org, 1 July)AIDS RAGES THROUGH EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA.
In a report released by UNAIDS before an international conference in Barcelona was to open on 7 July to discuss the growing world AIDS epidemic, international experts say countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are experiencing the fastest-growing AIDS epidemic in the world. New reported HIV cases in Russia are doubling annually, and the disease has begun to spread from intravenous drug users to the wider population in the region. In Ukraine, where the epidemic was once spread mainly by drug users, almost 25 percent of infections have occurred through heterosexual contact. Russia leads the region, with diagnoses almost doubling annually since 1998, and a reported 173,000 cases in 2001, up from nearly 11,000 in 1993, although actual numbers are believed to be quadruple these figures. In Estonia, reported infections have soared from 12 in 1999 to 1,474 in 2001; Latvia, too, has seen a surge from 25 in 1997 to 807 in 2001. AIDS is spreading in Kazakhstan, with 1,175 HIV infections reported in 2001. The epidemic is also racing through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Ukraine is the most affected country in all of Europe, with an estimated 250,000 cases. While 75 percent of the cases are drug-related, more people, mainly women, appear to be catching the disease through sexual transmission. "The Sunday Herald" (U.K.) said on 30 June that prostitutes, coupled with drug abuse, are the driving engine of AIDS in the region. The worst-hit cities lie on the drug routes from Afghanistan via Russia to the West: Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. Western intervention in Afghanistan is said to have exacerbated the problem -- the Taliban had cracked down for a time on poppy farming but now it is flourishing again and the Russian trade routes are reportedly thriving, says the "Herald." The biggest problems Russian health officials face are social attitudes, lack of education, and denial, the "Herald" added. CAF