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Western Press Review: Fortuyn Assassination, Mideast Diplomacy, Suu Kyi's Release, And The ICC

Prague, 7 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Editorials and commentaries in the Western media today center on the fatal shooting last night of rightist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty providing for the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court, and the release from house arrest yesterday of Myanmar's pro-democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. Other issues discussed include the dismissal of Georgian Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli and the situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.


Following the murder last night of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, an editorial in Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" remarks that many countries in Europe "are experiencing rare levels of voter disenchantment and political extremism. [There] is a new anger in political discourse," it says.

The editorial suggests that this trend may be, in part, a reaction to the attacks of 11 September. "From that moment," it writes, "the debate over immigration and multiculturalism took on a new immediacy." Right-wing politicians "sometimes crossed the line between being anti-immigration and being anti-immigrant. Left-wingers took to demonizing their opponents, accusing them of being not merely wrong, but malevolent." And both sides have "contributed to an inflammatory atmosphere," says the "Telegraph."

Fortuyn was often described as right-wing, but the paper characterizes him as a political maverick. He opposed further primary immigration but was also an advocate of gay rights and greater drug liberalization. "The truth is that Mr. Fortuyn, like other politicians around Europe, was chiefly protesting against the governing cartel."

The political systems of most European Union states tend to be run by a few established parties. Those outside this mainstream "found themselves isolated and stigmatized. The 20 percent of Dutch voters who had planned to back Mr. Fortuyn were protesting against all this."

The editorial suggests that Fortuyn's assassination is evidence that many voters in Europe "have turned, in frustration, against their political systems."


In Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," columnist Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger suggests that the United States' decision to withdraw from the treaty providing for the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court is a "diplomatic meltdown." But he says Washington is merely being consistent with its recent policy when it declines any involvement with the court.

It is "unimaginable" that an America that is militarily active around the world would support a statute allowing nations to rid themselves of its influence through legal means. It is similarly unlikely that Washington would heed calls for the extradition of U.S. soldiers to a criminal court on charges of genocide.

But Frankenberger says "there is a deeper constant factor underlying Washington's relationship to international organizations. There is more at stake with the criminal court, too -- maximum freedom of action and unrestricted sovereignty. What is self-evident to [U.S. President George W.] Bush and Congress is perceived elsewhere as a new example of unilateral arrogance."

Frankenberger concludes, "The real question is whether Washington has done itself any favors" by withdrawing from the treaty.


An editorial in "The Washington Post" today urges Western nations to be patient with respect to their policies on Myanmar, following yesterday's release of pro-democracy politician Aung San Suu Kyi from 19 months of house arrest.

The paper says that despite the move forward symbolized by Suu Kyi's release, trade sanctions imposed by the West should remain in place until it is clear that Myanmar's ruling junta truly intends to share power with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. The NLD won 82 percent of parliamentary seats in 1990 elections. The editorial says it remains to be seen whether Suu Kyi will be allowed to re-enter Myanmar's political life in any meaningful fashion.

"Perhaps the junta has come to realize that it cannot go on as before: that the repression, the deepening poverty, the shuttered universities, the slave labor and child labor and drug-running and killing of ethnic minorities -- that all this is not sustainable. If so, outside nations should be prepared to assist -- including, when the time is right, with humanitarian aid."

But the paper warns, "To give aid or resume trade before the NLD assumes a meaningful role in governance is to guarantee that the proceeds will be stolen [or] squandered" on military equipment as they have in the past.


In Germany's "Die Welt," columnist Nikolaus Blome says the decision of the current U.S. administration to withdraw former U.S. President Bill Clinton's signature from the treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court comes as no surprise. Yet, he says, Europeans had still secretly hoped that the U.S. would "overcome its own shadow" and, in lending its support, endow the tribunal with increased legitimacy to act as a deterrent against committing crimes against humanity.

Everyone is going to lose, Blome predicts. First, the Americans will suffer a setback for demonstratively rejecting a tribunal established in the spirit of American values. Secondly, American allies will find it more difficult to laud the U.S. as the only qualified "world policeman."

Blome says there are no grounds for the U.S. to fear that the international tribunal will take part in anti-American ruses against the United States. He concludes that the U.S. decision to renounce the treaty, and thus the court, will ultimately do more harm than good.


In "Eurasia View," free-lance journalist Ken Stier discusses Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's decision to abruptly dismiss Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli on 1 May.

Stier says many observers suspect the president is consolidating his cabinet ahead of local elections on 2 June. Stier says Shevardnadze "had apparently concluded that Nogaideli's sympathies rested too firmly with former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, who has emerged as one of the president's key rivals. But by removing the finance minister, Shevardnadze may be assuming tighter control over public works budgets and combating efforts to expose and fight Georgian corruption," efforts Nogaideli has supported.

Nogaideli had held the position of finance minister for close to two years, "and had earned a reputation as standing up to persistent bribery efforts and, as best he could, to politically inspired directives from his superiors," Stier writes.

Following Nogaideli's dismissal, the Georgian president used the opportunity to reshuffle his cabinet. The executive director of the Anti-Corruption Council, Mirian Gogiashvili -- who Stier calls "well-regarded if inexperienced" -- was appointed finance minister, and was replaced by the Anti-Corruption Council's chief of staff, Kaha Ugulava, in the post of executive director. Stier cites Levan Ramishvili of the Liberty Institute -- a New Delhi-based free-market and rights-advocacy group -- as saying that these moves have only one aim -- to weaken Georgia's anticorruption efforts.


Staff writer Robert Malley writes in "The New York Times" of the need for an international mission to rebuild the Palestinian infrastructure following the latest round of incursions into the territories by the Israeli army. He says even while Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounces Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "for seeking to draw the international community into the conflict, Israel's actions push inexorably toward that result."

"As the ability of the Palestinian Authority to deliver basic social services or ensure law and order declines, the prospects for more robust international intervention increase." International involvement may be necessary "to help the Palestinian Authority provide shelter, restore water and sewage systems, and deliver basic government functions like security and law and order."

Malley continues: "Ideas once considered far-fetched -- a peacekeeping force, an international trusteeship or protectorate over the Palestinian territories -- suddenly are being taken seriously. The question is no longer whether the conflict will be internationalized, but how. The challenge is to intervene in a way that accelerates rather than impedes the search for an enduring solution."

However, Malley emphasizes the political end game of involvement "must be clearly stated." Its goal should be "to restore the Palestinian Authority's capacity to operate -- not to replace self-government, but to support it."

And ultimately, says Malley, the international mission should use this opportunity to lay the foundation for "a truly modern Palestinian state."


In a contribution to "The Washington Times," Bruce Fein of the Center for Law and Accountability, a U.S.-based public-interest law group, says that Afghanistan is not yet prepared for democratic self-government.

Thus, he says, the Loya Jirga council meeting scheduled for June to outline Afghanistan's next government should be canceled. "The inevitable poverty of self-government credentials within the Loya Jirga will be a recipe for disaster," Fein writes. "The delegates will never have experienced or practiced democracy as understood in the West. Their cultural mores will generally salute hierarchy, patriarchy, and Pavlovian obedience, not majority rule, equality and freedom to dissent. None will be steeped in the science of self-government...."

Fein advises that plans for what he calls the "Loya Jirga farce" should be cast aside. Instead, he says, the United Nations "should impose an indefinite protectorate over Afghanistan. United Nations civil servants bolstered by UN troops should govern the nation. Democracy should be cultivated through education and textbooks, the media, indigenous advisory councils and political training...."

Fein proposes that "more than a decade of protectorate government will probably be needed to erect an Afghan democracy from the prevailing rubble and lawlessness." He notes that United Nations protectorates have succeeded in East Timor, and may well succeed in Kosovo.

"It is not too late to avoid jumping off the Loya Jirga cliff," he concludes.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)