7 February 2001, Volume
INTERNATIONAL COURTS AND TRIBUNALS SEMINAR.
The aim of this seminar is to illustrate to 40 practitioners from the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region how international courts and tribunals are used and accessed and how to create a local capacity to access and utilize them effectively. The seminar is being jointly organized by the Project on International Courts and Tribunals and the Institute for Political and International Studies, with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Coalition for an International Criminal Court. The deadline for applications is 28 March. For more information contact: email@example.com (MINELRES, 3 February)CALL FOR CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE PAPERS.
The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action invites people to submit papers for its 30th annual conference (29 November-1 December 2001, in Miami). Scholars as well as nonprofit organization executives, foundation staff, consultants, policymakers, and graduate students are eligible to participate. Proposals for papers, panels, or posters may be submitted at http://www.arnova.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline for proposal is 11 March. (Center for Civil Society International, 31 January)
OSCE PROTESTS POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST ALBANIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN.
The OSCE issued a statement in Tirana on 30 January in which it condemned the physical mistreatment of Democratic Party activist Azgan Haklaj while in police custody, dpa reported. The statement added that "the OSCE is able to confirm that Haklaj has received injuries, bruising, and lacerations, which are consistent with his allegation of police assault while in police custody." The OSCE called on the police to behave in a more professional manner. Haklaj was arrested in conjunction with an attack by opposition supporters on the police station in Bajram Curri, where he heads the local branch of the Democratic Party. He is charged with helping organize attacks on state institutions, which could lead to up to 15 years imprisonment. His trial is slated to begin shortly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
PRESIDENT SAYS NO TERRITORIAL CLAIMS ON TURKEY.
In an interview with prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand that appeared in the "Turkish Daily News" on 1 February, Robert Kocharian said that even if Turkey were to acknowledge the 1915 genocide, Armenia has no legal grounds for making any territorial claims on Turkey and will not do so. Nor, Kocharian said, will the Republic of Armenia request compensation from Turkey for the sufferings of the genocide victims. He said it is not even necessary for Turkey to admit to "genocide," simply "mass killings," saying such an acknowledgment is "a matter of honor" for Armenia... . ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)FORMER DISSIDENT INTERCEDES FOR DETAINED BUSINESSMAN.
Paruyr Hairikian said on 30 January that the presidential human rights commission of which he is chairman has concluded that detained businessman Arkadii Vartanian should be released, Noyan Tapan reported. Vartanian was taken into custody on 30 October following a march by his supporters to the presidential palace in Yerevan and subsequently charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership. According to Hairikian, as other participants in the march have already been released, there is no reason to detain Vartanian any longer. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
POLICE CONTINUE BLOCKADE OF WAR INVALIDS' HEADQUARTERS...
Police in Baku continued to surround the headquarters of the Society of Karabakh War Invalids on 2 February, refusing to allow anyone to enter the building where invalids are in the 12th day of a hunger-strike to demand a threefold increase in their disability pensions and allowances, Turan reported. Rei Kerimoglu, a spokesman for the society, said that the building in Saatli Raion where invalids are conducting a parallel strike has also been cordoned off, and the strikers are threatening to set fire to the building if police attempt to storm it. Meanwhile Azerbaijani officials have made conflicting statements on the protest. Parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov argued on 1 February that the invalids' allowances should be raised, while Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov told a press conference the following day that although the assistance provided to war invalids is inadequate, their demands are nonetheless "unreasonable" and "politically motivated." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)...AND INTERIOR MINISTER ACCUSES THEM OF PLANNING COUP.
Speaking in Baku on 30 January, Ramil Usubov accused Etimad Asadov, who heads the organization representing Azerbaijan's estimated 7,000 Karabakh war invalids, of attempting to destabilize the political situation with the aim of overthrowing the leadership, Turan reported. ... ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)AMNESTY LAW PASSED.
Azerbaijan's parliament approved on 1 February by a vote of 101 to one an amnesty law submitted two weeks earlier by President Heidar Aliev, Turan reported. Under that law, almost 2,300 prisoners are eligible for release and a further 800 will have their terms reduced. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)
OSCE IN MINSK SAYS ITS PROJECTS NEED NO GOVERNMENT APPROVAL.
The OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group said on 30 January that its projects in Belarus cannot be subject to the host government's approval, Belapan reported. The group noted that under the OSCE Permanent Council's decision of 14 December, OSCE missions "have to conduct consultations with their respective host governments on projects financed by the [OSCE] budget or by voluntary contributions from OSCE Member States." However, the group said the OSCE Permanent Council rejected the proposal to make such projects dependent on the agreement or approval of the host country. The group was commenting on the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's request that OSCE projects in Belarus be initially coordinated with the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)MINSK CRITICIZES VILNIUS OVER SEMINAR FOR OPPOSITION.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry summoned Lithuanian Ambassador Jonas Paslauskas on 30 January to express concern about a recent Vilnius-based seminar on "non-violent democratic resistance in Belarus" for some 40 Belarusian opposition figures, Belapan reported. The ministry noted that the seminar was of a "clearly destructive nature" and "aimed at creating unfavorable conditions" in Belarus before this year's presidential ballot. According to the ministry's press release, Paslauskas "shared the concern of the Belarusian side and gave assurances that the Lithuanian government had nothing to do with the event," noting that the seminar was organized by private individuals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)TRADE UNIONS COME UNDER FIRE.
The Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions is planning to stage a rally in Minsk on 14 February demanding that wages be increased to catch up with price hikes. The Federation's Presidium said on 31 January that the authorities have already taken measures to prevent the planned protest, Belapan reported. The Presidium noted that many plants in Minsk fully paid December wages to their personnel, the first such occurrence in several months. Moreover, the state media have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Federation and its leader, Uladzimir Hancharyk, who has declared his intent to run in this year's presidential ballot. The Constitutional Court on 30 January begun to determine whether the current system of collecting trade union membership fees conforms with the constitution. Hancharyk has recently signed a cooperation deal with Mikhail Shmakov, head of Russia's Federation of Independent Trade Unions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)
RULING PARTY DEPUTY SUBMITS ELECTORAL BILL.
Deputy Dimitar Abadzhiev of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) on 2 February submitted to the parliament a new bill on the elections due to be held later this year, BTA reported. The bill provides for a 4 percent electoral threshold, Abadzhiev told journalists. He said no political party will have a majority on the electoral commission, according to the bill's provisions. On 1 February the parliament approved a new law on political parties. Under the law, parties that would receive at least 1 percent in the 1997 elections will not be required to reregister, but those that failed to do so and formations established since then would have to register within three months to qualify for state subsidies. The bill also sets restrictions on the financing of parties by donations from corporations and individuals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
OFFICIAL ACKNOWLEDGES POLICE BRUTALITY DURING IMF MEETING.
Interior Ministry Inspection Office chief Mikulas Tomin told journalists on 5 February that police acted against the law when they roughed up several people while trying to quell demonstrations against the annual IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague in September. Tomin said his office was, however, unable to identify any of the violators. He said police severely beat up an "innocent Czech" and injured him after mistaking him for a protester. Tomin said up to four officers participated in the attack, but "no one knows their names and no one has admitted guilt," dpa reported. After the clashes, some 200 complaints against police brutality were lodged by people detained during the protests, in the course of which police detained some 900 demonstrators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)
GAMSAKHURDIA SUPPORTERS POSTPONE COLLECTIVE SUICIDE.
Supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who last month embarked on a hunger-strike in the Rustavi penal colony to demand the release of fellow Gamsakhurdia supporters whom they consider political prisoners, announced on 1 February that they have postponed until 14 February their collective suicide planned for 2 February, Caucasus Press reported. Parliament deputies had told journalists on 31 January that the legislature will debate whether to ask the Supreme Court to review the cases of 24 Gamsakhurdia supporters sentenced on charges of taking up arms against the state. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)ORTHODOX CHURCH, JEWISH COMMUNITY SIGN AGREEMENT.
Representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church and Georgia's Jewish community signed an agreement on 31 January at the Georgian parliament pledging mutual respect and support, Caucasus Press reported. The two denominations also vowed to cooperate in furthering democratization and peace and stability in Georgia and the entire South Caucasus. The Georgian Orthodox Church has signed similar agreements with the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholic Church in Georgia and the All-Caucasus Muslim Religious Board. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)
MINORITY FAITHS CHALLENGE NEW TAX LAW.
Minority religious bodies are challenging in the Constitutional Court an amendment to the tax law, stating that this rewards traditional faiths and might create a precedent for future discrimination. But larger religious bodies are broadly sympathetic to the amendment, considering it to have been made solely for financial reasons. (Keston Institute, 31 January)NEO-NAZI GROUP RECEIVES PERMIT FOR BUDAPEST RALLY.
The neo-Nazi Hungarian National Freedom Party has received a police permit to commemorate on 13 February "the heroic acts of the Allied Hungarian-German forces" during the occupation of Budapest by Russian troops in 1945. Police said there is no way to ban a function if the application satisfies legal requirements, "Magyar Hirlap" reports on 31 January. In other news, the Jerusalem office of the Vienna-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on the Hungarian cabinet to reject a request from the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party to retry war-time Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
ONE OPPOSITION POLITICIAN STEPS DOWN...
Gaziz Aldamzharov announced his resignation as deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan on 29 January, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 31 January. Aldamzharov told RFE/RL he had done it for the sake of his family and friends. He explained that his eldest son has been unemployed for three years and his youngest son for two years, and that both his wife and brother have repeatedly been unable to find work. Friends of his in Aqtau and Atyrau have also been sacked from their jobs because of their connections with him. The Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan is headed by former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who currently lives in the U.S. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)...AS ANOTHER IS STABBED.
Azamat Party Deputy Chairman Platon Pak was hospitalized in Almaty late on 30 January after unknown persons broke into his apartment and stabbed him, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)SOME RELIGIOUS LEADERS DEMAND MUFTI BE OUSTED.
RFE/RL reports from Almaty that some Muslim leaders have started a campaign to oust Absattar DerbisAliyev as Mufti of Muslims in Kazakhstan. DerbisAliyev never studied at Islamic schools before his appointment last year by the Kazakhstan government. Several religious leaders, led by the chairman of the "Attan-Qazaqstan" Movement, Amantay Hajji Asylbek, demand that DerbisAliyev be ousted from his position due to two personnel changes he made in religious leadership. Some Muslim leaders say that DerbisAliyev was not elected by local Muslims and that a special poll should be held for that purpose. (RFE/RL Kazakh News, 2 February)
"Thousands" of ethnic Albanians held a peaceful candlelight vigil in central Mitrovica on 3 February to honor nine fellow Albanians killed by Serbs in northern Mitrovica one year earlier, AP reported. There were no speeches, demonstrations, or incidents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
JAILED OPPOSITION LEADER'S FAMILY TO SEEK POLITICAL ASYLUM ABROAD...
Marsel Kulov, the younger brother of jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov, told journalists in Bishkek on 31 January that he and his other three siblings, together with their families, want to leave Kyrgyzstan for either Germany, the U.S., or Australia to escape political persecution, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The total number of family members involved is over 100. A former police colonel, Marsel Kulov was constrained to resign from the Interior Ministry last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)...AS HIS PARTY OUTLINES FUTURE PLANS.
Emil Aliev, a leading member of Feliks Kulov's opposition Ar-Namys Party, told journalists in Bishkek on 31 January that the party is continuing with preparations to participate in a round-table discussion proposed by President Askar Akaev, which government, opposition and NGO representatives will also attend, Interfax reported. Aliyev said Ar-Namys has a total membership of 10,000, and will not yield to harassment and pressure from the Kyrgyz authorities to abandon its activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)NO AMNESTY FOR JAILED OPPOSITIONIST.
Sabyrgul Turgunalieva, wife of prominent opposition politician Topchubek Turgunaliev, told RFE/RL that she had appealed to President Akaev for an amnesty for her husband. On 3 February, she was informed that TurgunAliyev himself must appeal; he is now in a camp near Bishkek. According to some experts, the security services fabricated the case. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 3 February)PUBLIC HEARINGS ON OMBUDSMAN.
The Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations held in Bishkek on 3 February public hearings -- some 70 political parties, NGOs and the chair of the parliamentary human rights commission took part -- on the newly introduced post of ombudsman. The meeting concluded that the ombudsman should be a specialist in human rights, not necessarily with juridical background, who speaks Kyrgyz and should be elected by the parliament. Meeting on the same day, NGOs in Osh reached similar conclusions. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 3 February)CODE OF ETHICS FOR GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL.
Kyrgyz President Akaev last month endorsed a code of ethics for civil servants and government personnel that forbids them from engaging in business or employing their relatives, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 30 January. On 31 January, a Kyrgyz Finance Ministry official told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that Akaev's 25-year-old son Aidar has been appointed an adviser to Finance Minister Temirbek Akmataliev. The government daily "Kyrgyz Tuursu" suggested on 5 January that Aidar Akaev may at some point succeed his father as president. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE INCREASES.
The Lithuanian Labor Exchange announced on 2 February that the unemployment rate increased by 0.5 percent in January to 13.1 percent on 1 February, ELTA reported. At the beginning of the month there were 235,100 registered unemployed, which is 22.7 percent more year-on-year. The highest unemployment rates were in the regions of Druskininkai (29.2 percent), Akmene (24.4 percent), and Pasvalys (23.7 percent), with the lowest in the regions of Anyksciai (7.3 percent), Kedainiai (8.7 percent), and Trakai (8.7 percent). In the major cities, the rates were 9 percent in Vilnius, 9.1 percent in Kaunas, 9.9 percent in Klaipeda, 16.4 percent in Siauliai, and 17 percent in Panevezys. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
'DIRTY WAR' CONTINUES IN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN.
The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) on 2 February rejected the demand of the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation (PRCM) to disqualify the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) from running in the 25 February electoral contest, Flux reported the next day. The PRCM said the PPCD had used "undeclared funds" to publish a booklet accusing some PRCM members of corruption. PRCM leader Mircea Snegur told the commission the "Black Book of Corruption" carries no indication as to where the booklet was printed and in how many copies, which indicates, he claimed, that the PRCM used other funds apart from those allocated by the state. The commission ruled that the PPCD specified the source of financing but asked the State Financial Inspectorate to inform it by 20 February if the party has utilized financial resources other than those specified. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
MAYORS OPPOSE NEW LAW ON LOCAL PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION.
The mayors of eight large Romanian towns, meeting in Brasov on 3 February, called on the government to amend the recently passed Local Public Administration Law, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The mayors say the law contravenes the constitution and the provisions of the European Charter on Local Autonomy. The mayors oppose the provision in the law granting prefects the prerogative to dismiss those mayors against whom a court case has been launched, and do so even before the court has ruled on the matter. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the cabinet will examine the possibility to abolish this prerogative. The mayors also said they oppose the provision in the new law granting national minorities the right to officially use their language in localities where these minorities make up 20 percent or more of the population. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)STATUE OF MARSHAL ANTONESCU TO BE ERECTED.
Local officials in Bacau said on 30 January that a statue of pro-Nazi leader Marshal Ion Antonescu will be erected in their eastern Romanian city, AP reported. Antonescu, who came to power in 1940 and was ousted four years later, is blamed for the deaths of some 250,000 Jews. He was executed by the communist government in 1946. Some Romanians consider him a hero for his opposition to the USSR and communism, and want him rehabilitated. Bacau Mayor Dumitru Sechelariu said "whatever the criticism, his merits in the fight for the country cannot be denied." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
RUSSIAN SECURITY CHIEF CLAIMS RUSSIA 'SAVING THE WORLD.'
The head of the Russian Security Council, Sergei Ivanov, startled top officials at an international security conference in Munich with a hard-line statement on 4 February, UPI reported. Introduced as the "number two Kremlin man," Ivanov made short shrift of U.S. congressional concern over human rights problems in Russia. He claimed that his country is "a front-line warrior fighting international terrorism in Chechnya and Central Asia, [Russia] is saving the civilized world from the terrorist plague, in the same way that it saved Europe from the Tatar-Mongol invasions in the 13th century," Ivanov insisted. "And we pay for it, in suffering and privation." (United Press International, 4 February)ONLY FUTURE IS 'DEMOCRACY FROM BELOW.'
"We can confidently assert: the time of 'democracy from above' in Russia ended together with the era of Boris Yeltsin and is unlikely to return again. From now on only 'democracy from below' is possible, and the present weakness of the democratic tendencies in Russia can be overcome only as a result of radical changes in society itself: in the consciousness and social and political behavior of the presently passive, fragmented, and disorganized masses of its citizens," said Professor G.G. Dirigensky, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economics (http://www.fom.ru, 18 January)PUTIN: 'DIVIDES PEOPLE INTO FRIENDS AND ENEMIES.'
Writing in "Novye Izvestiya" on 31 January...Vyacheslav Shishkin said..."Putin belonged to the most conservative and perfectly structured part of that system -- the secret services -- which do not have any ex-members or retirees, just an 'active reserve.'" Shishkin argues that Putin acts not on the basis of democratic values but rather "from a different political dimension...it divides people into friends and enemies. It is very simple to become an enemy: all it takes is not being an ally..." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)JUDICIAL COUNCIL PUSHES JURY TRIALS, PLEA BARGAINS.
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 February that the Judicial Council has suggested to President Putin that jury trials be introduced throughout the country, and it has suggested that plea bargains be allowed in cases for crimes carrying sentences of six years or less imprisonment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)PROCURACY PRESSURES PRESIDENT TO WITHRAW CONSTITUTIONAL STATUTES?
Late last year, the State Duma unanimously passed a bill reducing the maximum period of pre-trial detention from 18 to 12 months. The Federation Council on 31 January rejected the bill under pressure from Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov allegedly because it was "fraught with dangerous consequences for society," reported "The Moscow Times." A bill requiring court-ordered search and arrest warrants was withdrawn about a month before, reportedly also due to lobbying by prosecutors. That bill, the paper noted, "did little more than bring the Criminal Procedural Code into line with the constitution, leading to the bizarre situation of the law enforcement community defending unconstitutional statutes." ("The Moscow Times," 2 February)PROSECUTORS PROMISE TO BE POLITE -- UNLESS OTHERWISE REQUIRED.
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told ORT on 30 January that he had ordered his investigators and prosecutors not to use "coercive methods, if there is no need to do so." Actions that Muscovites now call "mask shows" -- in which prosecutors use masked and heavily armed men to seize evidence -- were denounced by President Vladimir Putin. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 February)PUTIN'S DRAFT PARTIES LAW SAID UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
Lawyers and politicians in the Independent Expert Legal Council said that President Putin's draft bill on political parties "is thoroughly and consistently unconstitutional," "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 2 February. The experts said that regional membership requirements ignored variations in populations among the federation subjects and thus precluded party registration for many groups. The draft does not include a paragraph on general principles or "forbid ideologies of supremacy based on racial, ethnic, social, religious, or other grounds." Moreover, its vague wording about "disbanding" parties "opens the door to political tyranny." Despite these problems, the experts said, the Duma will almost certainly pass the bill. "The Kremlin's desire to establish total control in the political arena is understandable," the paper said. "What isn't clear is how can other politicians possibly fail to notice this." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)FEDERATION COUNCIL SEEN BECOMING A 'HOUSE OF LOBBYISTS.'
The new members of the Federation Council, "Vedomosti" reported on 1 February, are converting the upper chamber from a place of regional representation into a "house of lobbyists." It cited an oil company executive as saying that "we control at least two-thirds of the new senators who have arrived here today. And we are not going to stop there..." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)MORE POLITICAL OPPRESSION REPORTED IN KALMYKIA.
The Yabloko press service reported on 2 February that opposition candidates running for seats on the city council of Elista, the capital of the republic of Kalmykia, have received death threats, Interfax reported. These candidates, who have criticized not only the policies of the city's leadership but also the policies of Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, have been receiving death threats by phone almost every day. The callers reportedly mention the fate of Larisa Yudina, a journalist who was slain for her investigations of official corruption in the region. Some opposition candidates have also been dismissed from their jobs, while others, such as Vladimir Kolesnik, who "according to public opinion polls would make the most realistic candidate for mayor of Elista," have been unable to register to participate in the elections scheduled for 4 February, according to the party's press service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)FEDERATION COUNCIL REJECTS LIBERALIZATION OF CRIMINAL CODE.
The Federation Council refused to approve a Duma-passed measure that would have reduced pretrial imprisonment and allowed ombudsmen to visit prisons without advance permission, RTR television reported on 31 January. Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said that the Duma had "twisted the law and offered protection to criminals and murderers." RTR reported that the Office of the Prosecutor-General had lobbied the senators to vote against the measure. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 February)DUMA COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN URGES SERIOUS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION...
In an interview published in the 1 February "Parlamentskaya gazeta," Duma anti-corruption committee chairman Nikolai Kovalev said...that according to official figures, 10 percent of organized crime groups now receive assistance from state officials, but he noted that a recent survey in St. Petersburg found that 98 percent of businesspeople there had suffered extortion attempts, and 96 percent admitted bribing officials. He noted that the Duma has been trying without success to pass an anti-corruption law since 1993, and expressed the hope that perhaps it will do so this year. Kovalev himself said that the fight must involve both raising the salaries of officials so that they will be less interested in taking bribes and imposing stiffer punishments on those who do. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)MIRONOV CALLS FOR MORE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.
Igor Lebedev, deputy Russian Human Rights Commissioner, said on 1 February that his boss, Oleg Mironov, has come "to the conclusion that many articles in the  law do not correspond to Russia's international obligations...on human rights and should be changed," Reuters reported. Lebedev said that Mironov believes that the Duma should amend the legislation to bring it into line with international human rights treaties and extend the time religious groups have to reregister by at least three years. But Vladimir Kartashkin, the representative of the presidential commission on human rights, does not believe the 1997 law contradicts Russia's international commitments, Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)PATRIARCHATE DENIES RELIGION LAW DISCRIMINATES.
Viktor Malukhin, a spokesman for the patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, denied on 2 February in a statement to Interfax that the Russian law on religion discriminates against non-Orthodox faiths. He said it is entirely "normal" that 30 percent of the country's religious organizations had been denied reregistration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)SUCCESSION STRUGGLE BEGINS EARLY IN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.
Aleksei II's rapidly deteriorating health has opened a struggle over who will be the next patriarch, polit.ru reported on 31 January. Among those most frequently suggested are Archbishop Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Archbishop Yuvenalii of Kutitssk and Kolomna, and Archbishop Filaret of Belarus. But President Putin appears likely to support Archbishop Vladimir of Ladoga and St. Petersburg, who is a close friend of presidential envoy Viktor Cherkesov, the website suggested. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 February)UNDERGROUND GREEK CATHOLICS?
All Greek Catholic parishes in Russia are underground, Bishop Yulian Gbur of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church told Keston News Service in Lviv in September. When the Moscow community attempted to register, he maintained, officials told them written support from their Catholic bishop was needed. Since the Greek Catholic exarchate in Russia is under a Vatican-imposed ban, Gbur said, the hierarch is the head of the apostolic administration of European Russia who refused to sign. He said it would be seen as proselytism by the Moscow Patriarchate, with bad consequences for the Catholic Church. Under these conditions it is difficult to have exact data on Greek Catholics, but apparently communities exist in Vladimir, Tula, Moscow, Perm, Samara, and St. Petersburg. (Keston Institute, 29 January)LARGEST EVER HUMAN RIGHTS EVENT.
The All-Russian Extraordinary Congress in Defense of Human Rights was held on 20-21 January in Moscow, the largest human rights event in the history of Russia. Further material on the congress is available at http://www.hro.org/ngo/congress or contact John Squier, program officer for Russia and Ukraine at the National Endowment for Democracy, Squier@ned.org (Democracy News List, email@example.com)KREMLIN SETS UP AN ECOLOGICAL MOVEMENT.
The Kremlin has created its own tame ecological movement after abolishing two state ecology monitoring agencies and initiating spy trials against environmental activists, "Itogi" reported on 31 January. "Izvestiya" on the same day suggested that the presidential administration has done so in order to improve Russia's image as one of the worst ecological disaster areas on earth. Without a new image, the paper said, international donors may stop sending Russia money. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 February)CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD SEEKS TO EXPEDITE DISPLACED PERSONS RETURN.
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told Interfax on 5 February that he has instructed the Chechen government to take the necessary measures to facilitate the return to their homes of all who fled to avoid the war in Chechnya. To that end, Kadyrov said, all refugee camps in both Chechnya and Ingushetia should be closed by the end of this year. He said the Chechen administration will provide money and building materials to families whose homes were destroyed. Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev welcomed Kadyrov's statement but expressed doubt that it will prove possible to repatriate all displaced persons by the end of 2001, Interfax reported on 5 February. Aushev noted that both the Chechen administration and the federal government had pledged to do so by the end of last year, but that there are still 146,000 officially registered displaced persons from Chechnya in Ingushetia and an additional 12,000 who are not registered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)RUSSIAN SUSPICIONS ON AID GROUPS HIGHLIGHTED.
Writing in "Itogi" on 30 January, Dmitrii Sabov suggests that "the feeling [among Russians] that all these 'humanitarians without borders' over there in Chechnya are helping 'them' rather than 'us' dates back to 1994 and 1996." He continued that "it is hard to say now who is to blame" for this situation because some aid workers have criticized Russian policies there and even called, as in the case of Doctors without Borders, for sanctions against Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)PUBLIC WELCOMES TROOP REDUCTIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Most Russian citizens (68 percent) welcome the Russian leadership's decision to reduce the federal troop contingent in Chechnya and transfer command from the Defense Ministry to the Federal Security Service, while 23 percent disapprove, according to a poll of 1,600 adults conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Center on 26-28 January. The poll also shows that 57 percent of Russian citizens do not think that resistance has been decreased and that order in Chechnya can be kept without a large military contingent, while 30 percent of respondents disagree. Moreover, 58 percent of those polled think that rebels will regain control over Chechnya and troops will again have to be sent; 26 percent disagree. (Interfax, 29 January)MOSCOW COMPLAINS ABOUT U.S. VISA PLANS.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 January said that an American plan to introduce new transit visa requirements will represent "a considerable limitation on Russian citizens' rights to freedom of movement," ITAR-TASS reported. The Foreign Ministry statement said that it hopes Washington will take Russia's position into account. If that does not happen, the statement said, Moscow reserves the right to "take proper measures against U.S. citizens." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)MOSCOW MAY EXTEND EASED CITIZENSHIP PROCESS FOR CIS CITIZENS TO 2006.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 January that the Duma will soon have to decide whether to extend the 1992 law that made it easier for citizens of other CIS countries to become citizens of the Russian Federation. The 1992 law expired at the start of the year. If the measure is not extended, CIS citizens will have to follow the same naturalization procedure as anyone else hoping to become a Russian citizen. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)SOUNDING OFF ON MIGRATION POLICY.
Vladimir Beketov, chairman of the legislative assembly of Krasnodar Krai, on migration policy in Russia: "We have laws but actually they do not successfully manage the situation. And as a result it is not a country but a revolving [prokhodnoi] door...For example, the Meskhetian Turks settled down at the entrance to [the port of] Novorosiisk, which is strategically important for all of the Kuban...[They are coming here] not just for the remarkable climate. Characteristically, one of the governments of a neighboring country is actively helping these emigrants to firmly consolidate their hold over this place...The government of Russia somehow once decided to provide help to these emigrants returning to their historic homeland [in Georgia.]...Only some 30 families have moved. They buy their home with federal money. They leave, then soon they return to the Kuban. They take in their many relatives and legally and illegally undertake the construction of new housing. They have large families; 10-12 children is the norm. And the Slavic population is decreasing...It is no secret that migrants inclined toward trade in weapons and narcotics...The chief problem is the future of the country, its unity. Of course, this situation is being controlled, but if all migrants are given registration for a place to live -- and they are demanding this more insistently -- then everything will become even more unpredictable. These Meskhetian Turks will certainly get hold of the real levers of power and head the local organs of self-rule. What then? Welcome to the Islamic Republic of the Kuban?" (Source: "Parlamentarskaya gazeta" 27 January) ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January)CHANGED ATTITUDES TOWARDS AZERBAIJANIS IN MOSCOW.
The "Yurddash" political party was addressed on 5 February by Azer Guliev, who had just returned from Moscow meetings with the Azerbaijani community and with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Procuracy. According to Guliev, several hundred Azerbaijanis in Russia have been killed in recent years due to discriminatory policies. After Russian President Putin's recent visit to Baku, Guliev claimed, police engage in fewer arbitrary actions against Azerbaijanis -- stopping them on the street and engaging in the trashing of their market stalls. Guliev expressed hope that an official bilateral agreement on the status of Azerbaijanis in Russia will serve as a legal defense of their rights. ("Ekho," 6 February)ONE-THIRD OF RUSSIANS SUFFER 'PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS'...
The Russian Health Ministry estimates that more than one-third of all Russians now suffer from "psychological disorders" of varying degrees of severity, "The Chicago Tribune" reported on 1 February. That figure is roughly 20 percent higher than in Europe and the United States. In 1999, the last year for which statistics are available, some 3.5 million Russians were treated for these illnesses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)...BUT PSYCHIATRISTS TOO ARE NOW AT RISK.
"It's a rare year that passes without a forensic psychiatrist being killed" in Russia, Tatayana Dmitrieva, the director of the once- notorious Serbsky Institute, told AP on 2 February. She added that the 400 forensic psychiatrists working in the regions are particularly at risk from those who disagree with their findings about the competence of particular individuals to stand trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
PRIME MINISTER SENDS MIXED SIGNALS ON HAGUE IN WASHINGTON.
Zoran Djindjic said in Washington after talks with Powell on 2 February that the Serbian government faces a "huge task" in preparing evidence against former President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. "In 12 years he has done many criminal things, and it will be a problem to find a point," Djinjdic said, at which to stop and say "that is enough" in order to prosecute and try the former dictator. Djindjic added that he hopes to "connect" with the Hague- based war crimes tribunal "in a few months." He also noted that extraditing Milosevic to The Hague "is not a priority" for the government, the BBC reported on 3 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)MILOSEVIC UNDER POLICE WATCH.
Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic confirmed on 1 February that he has placed former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic under 24-hour police surveillance at a Belgrade residence. RFE/RL has learned that the number of Milosevic's loyal bodyguards serving at the residence has been reduced. But both the Yugoslav and Serbian governments deny reports that Milosevic is under formal house arrest. No Serbian or federal Yugoslav criminal indictments have been issued against Milosevic. Mihajlovic, appointed last week as part of Serbia's new reformist government, had promised to place Milosevic under round-the-clock surveillance because of his indictment by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Batic told RFE/RL on 1 February that Belgrade's governing coalition has agreed upon a group of experts who will draft legislation that could clear the way for Milosevic to be transferred to The Hague. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)
MORE ISLAMISTS DETAINED.
Police in Dushanbe arrested 11 members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir party on 30 January, Reuters and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. They had reportedly been engaged in spreading banned Islamic propaganda over the past two years. Eight members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir were sentenced to various prison terms on 14 January and two more were arrested in Dushanbe on 24 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February)
DETENTION, THEN DEPORTATION FOR RETURNING BAPTIST.
On 26 January, after a short visit to Turkmenistan, a Russian Baptist pastor was detained at Ashgabat airport by border guards who said that his passport had expired. Pyotr Kashin, who formerly lived and worked in the city of Turkmenbashi, told Keston News Service that after being questioned about his church work by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, he had been put on a plane on 29 January and deported. His residence permit was revoked, with no reason given. (Keston Institute, 31 January)BAPTIST PRISONER PREPARES FOR DEATH.
Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is reported to be in such poor physical condition that he is preparing for death, following repeated beatings and a heart attack. Local Baptists believe the authorities of the camp in the town of Seydy in northeastern Turkmenistan where he is being held are now carrying out instructions "to break him morally or destroy him physically. They have decided to finish him off." (Keston Institute, 5 February)AUTHORITIES HUNT FOR FUGITIVE PROTESTANT PASTOR...
Police in Ashgabat arrested Protestant Christian Nikolai Ognev on 29 January, possibly believing that he knows the whereabouts of fugitive Pastor Shokhrat Piriev, Keston News Service reported on 1 February. Piriev went into hiding late last year after he and two colleagues from the Bezmein church in Bezmein near Ashgabat were tortured by Turkmen security officials and evicted from their homes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)...BUT BACKTRACK ON CONFISCATION OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH.
The Ashgabat City Court on 31 January returned to a lower district court for review of a ruling handed down four weeks earlier that the home of Pentecostal Pastor Viktor Makrousov be confiscated, Keston News Service reported. The city court termed that ruling, against which Makrosuov had appealed, "flawed." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 February)
NO PLACE FOR ONE GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH...
Despite being registered for 10 years, there still is no church building for the 200 parishioners of a Greek Catholic community in Sevastopol. The city council has consistently refused to grant the church a building site in the city center, although it has allocated the building of 99 Orthodox churches. In June, Pope John Paul II will visit Ukraine in the hope of helping promote dialogue with the Orthodox in the country. Orthodox obstruction has also prevented the Greek Catholics from joining the Inter- confessional Council of the Crimea, of which a Roman Catholic priest, Father Roman Derdzyak, is a permanent member. Reportedly, Crimean Greek Catholics were twice refused admittance on the grounds that they were a "non-traditional" denomination in the region. (Keston Institute, 2 February)...WHILE ANOTHER CRIMEAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOT RETURNED.
After battling unsuccessfully for the return of its church for over five years -- including a rejection by the Ukrainian Supreme Court -- the Roman Catholic parish of St. Clement's in the southern Crimean city of Sevastopol has taken its case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The city administration believes the Catholics' demands are within the law but the city council, which has the final say, is refusing to return the church, which now houses a cinema. (Keston Institute, 29 January)
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON EAST EUROPEAN ETHNIC RELATIONS.
This volume is the second, updated and enlarged version of the Bibliography on Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe on ethnicity, nationalism, ethnic conflict, conflict resolution, institutions, political participation of minorities, and managing multiethnic co-existence. This new version is a selection of post-1989 literature in English, Russian, German, and in local languages. Most material is drawn from local contributors, the library of the Central European University in Budapest, and the Sociological Abstract and other bibliographies. For more information, see: http://www.osi.hu/lgi/ethnic or e-mail Petra Kovacs at firstname.lastname@example.org (MINELRES, 31 January)
ICY SPIRES OR GRASSROOTS?
By Catherine Cosman
From afar, Russia seems icy and monolithic these days. Yet, on closer view, many "grass-roots" activities are pushing through the ice. These initiatives -- ranging from human rights and charity work to media and microfinance projects -- are starting to take root in various parts of Russia. While the Kremlin seems increasingly obsessed with restoring state power and glory, civic initiatives have begun to touch the lives of some one million ordinary Russians. Feeling the Kremlin's icy hand, fragmented groups are starting to recognize and defend common values and interests. Even the power elite -- the business community and local governments -- sometimes now initiates cooperation with its erstwhile civic opponents. In short, Putin's vertical power politics may result in unusual social consolidations or political alliances in the future.
News reports on the January "extraordinary" congress in Moscow of some 1,000 human rights activists from throughout Russia focused on Sergei Kovalev's stirring speech on the dangers of having a "rezident" as president of Russia. Much less attention was paid to Lyudmila Alekseeva's description of human rights initiatives -- all of the country's regions (except Chechnya) last year contributed towards a national report, sometimes in parallel with regional governments' human rights commissions. In other areas, such as Rostov or Yaroslavl, local groups cooperate with regional governments on efforts to improve conditions in prisons or orphanages. Alekseeva, head of the 25-year-old Moscow Helsinki Group, noted that even the Russian Federation procuracy has expressed interest in human rights lawyers working with its officials to sort through thousands of citizen appeals and helping to decide which merit closer attention.
The Russian business community -- not just the oligarch Boris Berezovsky -- has organized funds to assist human rights groups, Alekseeva reported. Legitimate Russian businessmen now have begun to understand that it too may need to turn to the human rights community expertise on legal defense of individual rights. The Russian Women's Microfinance Network (RWMN), organized by three prominent Russian business people in 1998, shows the business sector's greater involvement in social issues. The private RWMN has affiliates in Kaluga, Tver, Kostroma, Vidnoe, and Kazan and provides three-month loans to sustainable microenterprises. While RWMN loans are not restricted to women, so far most loans have been to women-owned businesses in the service sector, with a repayment rate of well above 90 percent.
"Memorial," a good example of a national civic organization, was founded in 1988. Today, the organization has over 100 affiliates throughout Russia and other countries of the former USSR. While best known for its work with victims of Stalinist repression, "Memorial" also conducts timely human rights monitoring of "hot spots," such as the breakaway Russian enclave in Moldova and continuing brutalities by Russian troops against civilians in Chechnya. In addition to research in its extensive historical archives on Soviet dissent, "Memorial" provides practical assistance to former political prisoners. Today, the local government in Komi -- an Arctic area where many Stalinist camps were located -- works with "Memorial" in maintaining a network of social services for thousands of camp survivors and their families.
Much has been written about the Kremlin's steady onslaught against the Moscow-based broadcast media, particularly its campaign against NTV and the Media-MOST group. Yet the Russian regional media have long been subjected to threats, reprisals, killings, attempted and actual censorship, and various administrative pressures at the hands of powerful local authorities or criminal business groups. Less well known is media monitoring by the Russian Union of Journalists, Index on Censorship, the Glasnost Defense Fund, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations and Internews Russia. Their reports include timely and accurate information on violence against journalists, various problems faced by the media in all the countries of the former Soviet Union, and training seminars and materials.
Recently, several of these media watchdogs produced an 800-page review for the year 2000 of the state of media freedom in 87 of Russia's 89 regions -- except Chechnya and Ingushetia. The report found that "each region violates media freedom differently but each does so." Moscow and St. Petersburg were rated the most free, with non-Russian ethnic republics getting the worst ratings. Another useful new project is a Russian-language textbook on investigative journalism produced by a St-Petersburg-based NGO, the Center for Investigative Journalism. Internews in Russia, trains journalists and supplies news to 162 independent broadcast entities throughout Russia with a potential total audience of at least 40 million, and plans to organize an Internet portal for Russian journalists this spring.
The Kremlin -- and some Westerners -- are quick to dismiss Russian non-governmental groups as having only marginal support from the Russian public. Admittedly, these organizations do not have mass backing, but they do express the interests of many educated groups and serve the needs of thousands of disadvantaged people in Russia. Russian civic organizations are accused of depending on Western foundations while the independent media are supposedly in the pay of Russian oligarchs. Russian business tycoons often are the deep pockets behind the media -- just as they are for thousands of corrupt Russian government officials. And many Russian civic groups depend on funding from Western foundations -- just as the Russian government is deeply in hock to the Paris Club.
But on balance, it appears likely that Russia's civic organizations are likely to pay a much larger future social dividend than the current Kremlin ever will.