24 April 2002, Volume
SKINHEADS TERRORIZE FOREIGNERS IN RUSSIA.
Foreigners and non-ethnic Russian citizens braced themselves throughout Russia for skinhead attacks last weekend around the time of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's birthday on 20 April, Russian and international wire services reported. In early April, two black U.S. Marines protecting a visiting U.S. official and his wife were attacked by a group of skinheads in the center of Moscow. In March, the South African ambassador's wife was burned by a cigarette during an attack by skinheads and the next day a South African government delegation was also attacked. Abdul Khakim Khakri, an Afghan father of four who held Russian citizenship and worked for the Russian Migration Service of the Interior Ministry, died of injuries he sustained from being beaten by skinheads on 15 April. The Afghan Embassy in Moscow sent the Russian Foreign Ministry an official protest about the murder, saying "citizens of our country are constantly being assaulted by nationalist youth and are also being victimized by the unlawful actions of law enforcement officers" Interfax reported 17 April. Other foreign embassies in Moscow received e-mail messages threatening to kill foreigners in Russia in celebration of the Hitler anniversary.
The problem of xenophobic attacks on non-Russians is not just limited to Moscow, and not just caused by young men with shaved heads. Ethnic Koreans also ran for cover in Sakhalin after anonymous threats against their community were telephoned to police. And Meskhetian Turks have already cringed from Don Cossacks, who said they will set up posts at local railway stations and at Rostov Oblast's border with Krasnodar to turn back any Meskhetian Turks sent there from Krasnodar Krai, izvestiya.ru reported on 18 April. The Cossacks had heard that Krasnodar authorities had given Meskhetian Turks train tickets to Rostov-na-Donu as part of an effort to relocate the Meskhetians, whose lawful Russian citizenship is not recognized. Earlier, Krasnodar authorities had escorted some families of Kurds to Rostov-na-Donu. Armenians have also been targeted. Police in Krasnodar have detained six young people between the ages of 15 and 18 for defiling Armenian graves in a city cemetery, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 18 April. According to the service, some 30 graves, the bulk of which were Armenian, were destroyed during a rampage by a group of youths on 16 April.
The threat of skinheads has become so great, through the media's chronicling of high-profile cases and direct threats to foreigners, that universities sent foreign students home early last week, reported izvestia.ru, embassies counseled their citizens to stay at home, and foreign representatives met with police to beg for protection, said ntv.ru. TimeEurope.com's Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich said in a 22 April column that while aggregated official data on skinhead violence does not exist, journalists and foreign embassies suggests that skinhead assaults have left more than a dozen foreigners dead and 100 hospitalized in Moscow since May 2000.
Domestic commentators and even some foreign scholars in discussions on Johnson's Russia List in recent weeks (see issues 6174-6187 at http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson) have begun to question whether Russia should look to Latin American or Asian models for "managed democracy" to govern its restless people during uncertain reforms, and whether liberalizing Russian society in recent years has in fact generated unruly grassroots activism just as capable of a pogrom as a peace march. The question is whether Russian authorities are taking enough action to prevent and prosecute such pogroms. Indeed, to take such action they would first have to see a clear and present danger, and distinguish among angry soccer fans, disaffected youth, and criminals with intent to main or kill.
Although Interior Ministry officials number the skinheads at 10,000 throughout the country, with some 1,200 on a watch list, just four were arrested for violent crimes this last week although police had announced to media a special operation dubbed "Whirlwind Anti-Extremist" to combat extremism, ntv.ru reported. Moscow police official Nikolai Kulikov, responsible for security in the capital, downplayed the threat of skinheads, saying police had enough power to repel possible planned attacks, and in any event, the young men with shaved heads "were not a real threat."
Sergei Zherebin, chief of the juvenile delinquency department of the Moscow police, said skinheads were a myth created by the media. The attacks were more related to overheated soccer matches and youthful vandalism, not racism -- or not a homegrown variety, at any rate. Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Chekalin said on 18 April that his agency has information that Russian neo-Nazis might be bankrolled from abroad, polit.ru reported, and RIA-Novosti quoted Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov as saying on 20 April that skinheads benefited financially from a mass-media campaign launched by an unknown group in an effort to push a law through the State Duma for combating extremism. Zyuganov said that the rationale for such crimes and conflicts should be found not in neo-Nazi sentiments but in the fact that Russian "youth have acute feelings of national humiliation and social injustice."
The absence of any mass hate marches or new wave of skinhead attacks this week seemed to confirm the perception that the threat was overblown. Yet the very real beatings and murders, as well as tangible threats to foreigners and vulnerable groups including Jews, Caucasians, African descendants, Turks, and Central Asians, have prompted human rights groups, including a network of activists committed to antiracism work, to press the government to do more to prosecute hate crimes and prevent new ones through public education, youth outreach, and tolerance-building programs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16-19 April). CAF
PROSECUTORS FAIL IN LAST-DITCH ATTEMPT TO IMPRISON JEHOVAH'S WITNESS.
Armenia's Jehovah's Witness community has welcomed the 19 April ruling vindicating Jehovah's Witness Levon Markaryan. A six-member panel of judges at the Cassation Court in Yerevan unanimously rejected prosecutors' appeals to have Markaryan's acquittals by two lower courts overturned. The Cassation Court is the highest court in the land and there can be no further appeal. (Keston News Service, 19 April)
MORE ANTIGOVERNMENT PROTESTS.
Several hundred female members of the opposition parties aligned in the United Opposition Movement gathered in central Baku on 20 April to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev and the Azerbaijani government, Interfax reported. Police did not intervene to break up the protest. On 19 April, some 1,000 residents of the outlying village of Nardaran rallied in Baku to demand the resignation of city Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov on the grounds that he has not fulfilled promises he made earlier this year to improve living conditions in the village, according to the newspaper "Halq cebhisi" on 20 April, as cited by Turan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 28 February 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
MINSK SAYS OSCE UNLAWFULLY APPOINTED SPECIAL ENVOY.
Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka said on 18 April that OSCE Chairman in Office Antonio Martins da Cruz appointed German diplomat Eberhard Heyken as his special representative for Belarus in contravention of the 1992 Helsinki Summit Document of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Belarusian and international agencies reported. "[The appointment] also ignored the circumstance that a personal representative, including a special envoy, may be appointed only in the event of a crisis or conflict. There is obviously no such situation in Belarus," Belarus's representative to the OSCE Viktar Haysyonak said at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 16 April. Heyken, who was formerly proposed to head the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, got his new appointment after the Belarusian authorities forced the group's acting head, Michel Rivollier, to leave Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)FORTY-FOUR SENTENCED IN CRACKDOWN AFTER RALLY, LACK OF INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY CRITICIZED.
Trials continued on 22 and 23 April in three courts in Minsk of peaceful demonstrators detained by police during a protest march on 19 April dubbed "We Can't Go On Living Like This!" charter97.org reported. Judges in Tsentralny, Sovietsky, and Partyzansky districts meted out 44 sentences: 33 people were handed jail terms from 3-15 days and 10 were subjected to heavy fines. March organizers Dzmitser Bandarenka, Valery Shchukin, and Mikalai Khalezin were sentenced to 15 days in jail; and prominent film director Yuri Khashchevatsky was given 10 days, reported ntv.ru. (President Alyaksandr Lukashenka later reprimanded NTV correspondent Pavel Selin personally for his alleged "biased" coverage of police brutality against the marchers.) Meanwhile, at a seminar on 23 April in Warsaw on independence of the judiciary sponsored by the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, human rights lawyer Vera Stremkovskaya and NGO activist Boris Zvoszkov told 45 diplomats and NGOs gathered at a luncheon briefing about their difficulties in defending clients, including the young people staging protests at Stalin-era mass graves, political and labor demonstrators, and civic groups facing closure, given the severe pressures judges face in Belarus. CAFPOLICE ARREST FOUR DEFENDERS OF KURAPATY STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE, FIRE SEVERELY INJURES VOLUNTEER.
Plainclothes police officers on 16 April arrested four voluntary overseers of the Kurapaty forest near Minsk, where tens of thousands of people were executed and buried by the Soviet NKVD in the 1930s, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. The government's decision last year to expand the Minsk beltway in the immediate vicinity of the mass grave sparked protests and led to clashes between Kurapaty defenders and police in November. A handful of enthusiasts continued a round-the-clock vigil at the site, but on the night of 18 April, unknown assailants set fire to a tent where the volunteers were sleeping, injuring Ales Poklad, 24, who was rushed to intensive care with severe burns. The U.S. Embassy in Minsk condemned the attack and called for a credible investigation of this and other violent incidents involving peaceful demonstrators. CAFLUKASHENKA VISITS INTERIOR MINISTRY UNIT.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka visited the Third Detached Operational Brigade of the Interior Ministry Troops on 18 April, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka extolled the brigade and its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Dzmitry Paulyuchenka, for their contribution to maintaining social and political stability in the country, and singled out the brigade's rapid reaction force (SOBR) for special praise. In June 2001, two Belarusian investigators, who formerly fled to the U.S., alleged that SOBR commanded by Paulyuchenka performed a role of the regime's death squad and killed 30 people in total, including prominent opposition figures. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
PETRITSCH DECREES NEW CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER FOR BOSNIA.
In what some observers have called the biggest single change in Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton agreement, outgoing High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch announced in Sarajevo on 19 April new constitutions for the Croat-Muslim federation and for the Republika Srpska, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The changes make Muslims, Serbs, and Croats politically equal throughout Bosnia and will directly affect the allocation of government jobs. Petritsch took the initiative after the deadline elapsed for the parliaments of both entities to pass such legislation. He said, "This is not an outright imposition.... This is clearly a new approach...a partnership," Reuters reported. He stressed that the new system "fully represents [Bosnia's] multiethnic character and conforms with European values and internationally recognized human rights standards," AP reported. He added that he refuses "to accept obstruction from...nationalist dinosaurs who want to hold Bosnia's citizens hostage." He told "Dnevni avaz" of 22 April that he expects the measures to come into effect by the end of 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
PRIME MINSTER HONORS CONCENTRATION CAMP VICTIMS...
Ivica Racan took part in a ceremony at the Jasenovac concentration camp on 21 April to honor the hundreds who died in an ill-fated break-out attempt by some 600 inmates on 22 April 1945, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Only 96 inmates survived the subsequent roundup by Axis forces. Racan stressed that the crimes committed at Jasenovac must never be repeated again, anywhere, "Jutarnji list" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)...BUT TELEVISION DOES NOT BROADCAST THE EVENT.
After the ceremony at Jasenovac on 21 April, the Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) protested the failure of Croatian Television (HTV) to broadcast the ceremony, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The HHO noted approvingly that HTV has regularly covered ceremonies honoring the Croats killed by the communists in 1945 and called for similar attention to be shown to the memory of the Jasenovac victims. Thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition Croats died there at the hands of the pro-Axis Ustashe during World War II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)ROMANY PARENTS TO SUE.
The Romany community of Cakovec is planning to file a lawsuit against the Education Ministry, alleging that their children are victims of racial segregation and have been relegated to "inferior school classes," dpa reported on 17 April. The Croatian Helsinki Committee said some 60 percent of Romany children in Medjumurje County attend racially segregated classes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
ORTHODOX CHURCH SUBORDINATE TO MOSCOW FINALLY REGISTERED.
The Interior Ministry officially registered the statutes of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate on 17 April, ETA reported. The church submitted a formal application for registration along with its statutes to the ministry on 12 April and the head of its Religious Affairs Department, Ilmo Au, found the documents to be in conformity with the law. The statutes do not mention legal succession but only canonical succession so that they will have no bearing on any property disputes. In 1993, Estonia recognized the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church subordinate to Constantinople as the legal successor of the Orthodox Church that operated in Estonia before World War II. The church subordinate to Constantinople has 59 congregations in Estonia while the Moscow subordinate church has 32. The dispute over the Moscow-subordinate church's registration had been often mentioned as a reason why Russia had not abolished higher tariffs on Estonian imports. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
OPPOSITIONIST DENIED PRETRIAL RELEASE.
The lawyer for Mukhtar Abliyazov, Kazakhstan's former energy minister who was arrested on 27 March, told a press conference on 18 April that the Almaty District Court has rejected her appeal to release her client from custody before trial, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The appeal was filed on 1 April, she said, and included a request, also denied, that members of the opposition Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) movement be permitted to visit him and help him prepare his defense. Abliyazov, one of the DVK's founders, is accused of abuse of power and embezzlement while working in the energy sector, charges he says are politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 4 April 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)WATCHDOG ORGANIZATION TO TRACK HYDROCARBON REVENUES.
Opposition leaders from western Kazakhstan's oil-producing regions announced they have created an organization called the People's Oil Fund in order to monitor the government's financial activities, RFE/RL reported on 15 April. The move follows Prime Minister Imanghali Tasmaghambetov's admission earlier this month that President Nursultan Nazarbaev created a secret foreign bank account in 1996 containing some $1 billion that the Kazakh government received from selling a stake in the Tengiz oil field, although he denied that any of the money was for Nazarbaev's personal use. The founders of the People's Oil Fund said they hope to promote transparency in the government and to expose any other secret hoards of public money held by "high-ranking bureaucrats in Astana," RFE/RL reported. The organization called on the government to make earnings from oil and gas projects public while maintaining that only about $300 million of an estimated $4-5 billion in annual revenues go into the national budget. Meanwhile, on 15 April, Nazarbaev received the visiting CEO of ChevronTexaco, David O'Reilly, and awarded him with the government Order of Kurmet (Respect) "for making a great contribution to developing Kazakhstan's economy," Khabar TV reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)
GOVERNMENT COMMISSION VISITS SITE OF CLASHES.
A government commission led by Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev set out on 15 April for Djalalabad Oblast's Aksy Raion, site of the 17 March clashes in which five demonstrators were shot dead, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau and the Kabar news agency reported. As part of its fact-finding mission, the commission was to investigate the social and economic circumstances in southern Kyrgyzstan that formed the backdrop to the antigovernment protests, Tanaev told journalists on 15 April. It was also to look into the legality of deputy Azimbek Beknazarov's arrest and detention, and the role of both state and nongovernmental actors in precipitating the tragedy, Tanaev said. No deadline for the commission to report its findings has been specified. President Askar Akaev appointed Tanaev to lead the commission on 9 April, replacing Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev after many Aksy residents and political opposition members complained that the commission would not be objective, since Abyshkaev himself was partially responsible for last month's bloodshed. Nevertheless, Abyshkaev remains a member of the commission and the opposition continues to accuse it of pro-government bias, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 15 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)ACTIVIST RETURNS HOME AFTER EXILE, RECEIVES COURT SUMMONS.
In a message e-mailed to colleagues on 15 April, Ramazan Dyryldaev, chairman of the Kyrgyz Human Rights Committee, said he was returning home to Kyrgyzstan after 2 years living in exile in Austria in order to attend an opposition congress called to discuss the shooting of five demonstrators last month in Aksy during a wave of unrest over the case of a popular jailed parliamentarian. Dyryldaev had previously secured a letter dated 11 March from Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann, head of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, to Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, reminding the minister of a previous pledge to permit Dyryldaev to return unhindered and move freely throughout the country. Shortly after his arrival, Dyryldaev was slapped with a court summons related to an alleged debt. Subsequently he was tailed by secret police as he traveled to the congress and "Vecherny Bishkek," a paper close to the president's family, ran an article accusing him of criminal activity. Opposition leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, chair of the congress, also received a subpoena and was followed. CAFGOVERNMENT STAGES PARALLEL RALLY.
A government-sponsored forum titled "Peace and Concord Are the Basis for Society's Development" was held in Bishkek on 16 April to commemorate and discuss the 17 March clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Among those in attendance were writer Chingiz Aitmatov and Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov, who heard pro-government parliamentarians attribute the incident in Aksy to provincial authorities' lack of sensitivity to the local people's needs and frustrations. Meanwhile, the leaders of all the major opposition parties boycotted the rally, although they were invited, saying that the organizers themselves were responsible for last month's bloodshed and that the event was meant to steal the thunder away from an antigovernment congress arranged for 17-18 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)ANTIGOVERNMENT RALLY ENDS IN KYRGYZSTAN.
On 18 April, the final day of the People's Congress that brought some 500 opposition activists together in Bishkek to discuss last month's clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion, the organizing committee issued a list of political demands adopted by the delegates, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The first of 12 points called for the resignations of President Akaev, the prime minister, interior minister, the prosecutor-general, and others. Further demands included an end to the trials against former Vice President Feliks Kulov and deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, early elections, and a referendum of border issues. It was Beknazarov's criticism of Akaev for negotiating border treaties with China without consulting the parliament or people that drew nationwide attention to him last year. No government representatives attended the congress, nor has there been any official reaction to the demands. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
OPINION POLL SHOWS POPULATION IN FAVOR OF COMMUNISTS.
An opinion poll released by the Bucharest-based IMAS institute on 16 April revealed that 73 percent of voters would elect the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) if elections were held now, the BBC reported. The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) would garner only 6 percent of votes, while other parties would receive less than the 6 percent parliamentary threshold. The same poll showed that 55 percent of respondents think that the PCM is doing a better job than the previous government, while only 30 percent contradict this view. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)PROPOSAL TO RESOLVE POLITICAL CRISIS FAILS.
Three Moldovan parliamentary groups met with Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer in Strasbourg in a bid to resolve the current political crisis in Moldova. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca presented a set of 12 proposals, including new parliamentary elections, the cessation of amendments to the constitution, and President Vladimir Voronin's resignation as chairman of the PCM, Flux reported. But PCM leader Victor Stepaniuc refused to sign a joint declaration text at the meeting, Flux reported. Upon his return to Chisinau, Rosca said most of PPCD's proposals were included in the joint declaration proposed by the council. He added that Stepaniuc conditioned the signing of the proposal on the PPCD ending the protests in the capital's National Assembly Square. Stepaniuc said, for his part, that he refused to sign the document because he did not agree with all of its points. He promised, however, that the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church will be registered and measures to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes in schools will be postponed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 April)ECHR AGREES TO URGENT EXAMINATION OF PPCD COMPLAINT.
The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) agreed in Strasbourg on 19 April to examine "in urgent procedure" the PPCD's complaint against the Moldovan government's infringements of the European Convention on Human Rights, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The PPCD claims the government has infringed on the convention's articles providing for equality, the right of assembly, and the right of appeal against judicial decisions, in connection with the prohibition of the demonstrations at the Grand National Assembly Square in Chisinau. Vitalie Nagacevschi, who will represent the PPCD at the ECHR debates, said that although the examination is to take place "in urgent procedure," the court may take a long time to rule on the complaint. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)PROSECUTOR-GENERAL WITHDRAWS DEMAND TO LIFT PPCD DEPUTIES' IMMUNITY.
Prosecutor-General Vasile Rusu on 19 April withdrew his request for lifting the parliamentary immunity of PPCD deputies Viorel Prisacaru, Valentin Chilat, and Eugen Garla, citing "lack of sufficient evidence," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Chilat said in response that the decision is "an attempt by the Communist leadership to present an improved image" at the forthcoming PACE session in Strasbourg. Rosca dubbed Rusu's decision a "perfidious communist game" ahead of the Strasbourg session. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
YUKOS GETS INTO THE CIVIL SOCIETY BUSINESS.
"Novye izvestiya" reported on 16 April about the activities of a regional public organization called "Open Russia" that was created by Yukos shareholders. The goal of the organization is to create a liberal-democratic organization "that could only be an instrument for the creation of a civil society." According to the daily, this initiative differs from many others because of its clearly "apolitical approach" with Yukos, as a philanthropic organization backing the effort. Open Russia is aimed at young people primarily in the regions, the daily reported. According to Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, one goal is to prepare Russia for 2100, when the share of natural resources will drop and Russia will have no other choice but to export more "liquid" products, such as intellectual goods. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)RUSSIANS REMAIN POSITIVE ABOUT LENIN.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion polling agency among 1,500 respondents throughout Russia, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) believe that Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin played a positive role in Russia's history while only 17 percent of respondents believe otherwise, RBK and RosBalt reported on 20 April. The poll, conducted in the run-up to Lenin's birthday on 22 April, also indicated that those respondents with higher educations and young people were the most negative regarding Lenin, 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)RUSSIA EXPELS ANOTHER CATHOLIC PRIEST.
The Russian Federal Border Service (FPS) has refused entry to Jerzy Mazur, the head of the Catholic diocese in Irkutsk, and annulled his multiple visa, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 21 April. The FPS officers stopped Mazur, who is a Polish citizen, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport and sent him back to Poland. Before his departure Mazur told RIA-Novosti that his expulsion could be linked to the fact that the Catholic diocese under his supervision bears the name it had when it was Japanese territory -- Karafuto (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2002). Meanwhile, Deputy FPS Director Aleksandr Yeremin denied on Ekho Moskvy radio the same day that the incident was related to recent conflicts between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. "To prohibit entrance to the country is the right of any state," he said. Earlier this month, Catholic priest Stefano Caprio was also barred entrance to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 11 April 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)ST. PETERSBURG ACTIVIST DIES.
Veniamin Iofe, a well-known human rights activist and historian, has died, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 21 April. Law enforcement authorities believe Iofe, 64, suffered a heart attack while on the escalator at a city metro station. In 1965, Iofe was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for working on the banned journal, "Kolokol." From 1989, he headed the St. Petersburg branch of the Memorial Society. Last month Iofe was hit on the head by an unknown assailant as he emerged from a showing of "Assassination of Russia," the controversial film about the Moscow apartment explosions sponsored by self-exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Colleagues in St. Petersburg discounted any connection between the assault and Iofe's death, and said they could not prove the mugging last month was in fact related to the film. CAFCITIZENSHIP BILL RECEIVE FINAL NOD.
The presidential bill on citizenship passed in its third and final reading in the State Duma on 19 April, Russian agencies reported. The vote was 252 in favor, with 152 opposed and two abstentions. Under the bill, to earn Russian citizenship persons must have lived in Russia for five years without interruption after receiving a resident permit, according to Interfax. Candidates also need to have a legal source of income and know the Russian language. Yabloko and the SPS voted against the bill in part because they opposed the Russian-language requirement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)JUDGES TO GAIN POWER TO OKAY ARRESTS.
Also on 19 April, deputies gave their preliminary approval to a bill that amends the new Criminal Procedure Code so that to make an arrest police need the approval of a court and not a prosecutor, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. The amendments were prompted by a 14 March Constitutional Court decision requiring that the code be amended so that judges gain this right this year rather than in 2004 as the law originally read, according to the service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)LEGAL-REFORM BILL GIVEN PRELIMINARY APPROVAL.
Another element in the presidential administration's reform of the legal system cleared a legislative hurdle when State Duma deputies approved on 18 April the law on lawyers' activities and lawyers in its second reading, RIA-Novosti reported. The vote was 294 in favor with 108 against and two abstentions. The deputy chairman of the Committee on State Construction, Oleg Utkin (Unity), told ITAR-TASS that more than 470 amendments were offered to the bill, of which 240 were recommended for acceptance. He added that the main innovation of the bill is that it provides the opportunity to form federal and regional chambers of lawyers, which will provide better legal help to poorer members of the population for free and will defend lawyers' interests in organs of state power. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)DUMA ADOPTS BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE.
The State Duma approved a bill on alternative military service in its first reading on 17 April, abnews.ru and rosbalt.ru reported. The vote was 245 in favor, according to Interfax and RIA-Novosti. Deputies considered three versions, one drafted by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Deputies Eduard Vorobev and Aleksandr Barannikov, Russian Regions Deputies Vladimir Lysenko and Oleg Shein, and independent Deputy Yulii Ryabov; another by Deputy Vladimir Semenov (SPS); and the other by the government. Deputies opted for the government's version, which requires youths to serve four years of alternative military service compared to the other versions calling for only two years. According to Interfax, under the government bill those young men who have received a higher education must serve only two years of alternative military service. In addition, the government bill stipulates much more rigid requirements for enlistment in alternative service than the other proposals. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told RIA-Novosti on 17 April that he is satisfied with the bill, although he believes that the term of alternative service should be six years rather than four. The current term for conventional service in the Russian army is two years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)INTERIOR MINISTRY REPORTS ON CORRUPTION IN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.
The Interior Ministry announced on 16 April that it has investigated more than 7,000 cases of bribes and misuse of funds by national education institutions in 2001, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. According to Iskander Galimov, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's main directorate for combating economic crimes, the most prestigious Russian higher-education schools commonly accept money from members of organized crime groups who offer bribes for enrolling their children or receiving higher grades, Galimov said. The sums of bribes vary from several hundred to thousands of dollars, according to Galimov, and the total sum of bribe-taking was 120 million rubles ($4 million) last year alone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)PUTIN SAYS WAR IN CHECHNYA OVER, RIGHTS OF CHECHENS TO BE PROTECTED...
In his annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly broadcast live on Russian television on 18 April, President Vladimir Putin said, "Regarding Chechnya, the military phase is over thanks to the bravery of the army and special task forces," Russian and international media reported. "A year ago, we were counting how many there were fighting against us, how many rebels, how many terrorists: 2,000, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000. Today it's not important to us how many there are, what matters is where they are," AFP quoted Putin as saying. He added that there are many social and economic issues that need to be solved in Chechnya, and that while "bandit outings" threaten peaceful life there, those actions should not be cause for infringing on the rights of the entire Chechen population. "Every inhabitant of Chechnya should consider himself a full-fledged citizen of Russia," ITAR-TASS quoted the president as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)...AS MORE POLICEMEN HEAD OFF TO CHECHNYA.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced on 17 April that the assignment of policemen from various parts of Russia to Chechnya for terms of 180 days may be reduced at the end of the year, Russian television (RTR) reported. On 12 April, the State Duma turned down a request from Gryzlov to reduce the tour of duty for policemen to three months, "Izvestiya" reported on 13 April. According to RTR, more than 14,000 police personnel have been assigned to Chechnya. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported that 100 police officers from Tatarstan were sent to Chechnya on 16 April. According to "Vechernyaya Kazan," the policemen earn 200 rubles ($6.4) per day from the federal Interior Ministry on top of a monthly wage of 4,000 rubles from the government of Tatarstan. The average salary for an officer is usually only 1,500-2,000 rubles. Meanwhile, soldiers have been complaining about prompt payment of their combat pay. According to "Izvestiya," Aleksandr Polezhaev, the head of engineering intelligence at one of Grozny's military command centers, said that soldiers there "have been cheated out of [their] combat pay for a long time. We are underpaid by at least four or five days each month." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP SLAMS FAILED RESOLUTION.
A European Union-sponsored resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights on 19 April urging Moscow to halt abuses by Russian troops in the republic, including disappearances and extrajudicial killings, failed by a vote of 15 to 16, with 22 absentions, reported Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned the UN body's failure to censure Russia. Both HRW and Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center had provided the commission with fresh evidence of atrocities against civilians during military sweeps, including violence against women, along with official unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators. The resolution acknowledged the need to combat terrorism, and called for access for UN special rapporteurs and an independent and credible national commission to investigate allegations of human rights violations. The EU, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, and Mexico were among those supporting the resolution. Although not a member of the commission this year, the U.S. co-sponsored the measure. Armenia, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, and Venezuela were among the states opposing the resolution along with Russia; Algeria, Chile, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Syria were among the abstainers. CAFTROOPS DON'T FOLLOW ORDERS.
Less than two weeks after announcing new orders to safeguard civilians during military sweeps, the Russian military launched a large-scale operation in Chechnya marked by beatings, looting, electric-shock torture, and at least two extrajudicial killings, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 23 April, citing residents and human rights workers. Order 80 announced on 29 March was supposed to prevent soldiers' abuses by allowing local officials to observe operations and requiring soldiers to identify themselves and keep public lists of detainees. At least two civilians were reported shot and killed in the operation, which began on 11 April. Some village leaders complained they were denied participation in the operations and were forced to sign statements claiming their rights were not violated. Russia's human rights representative for Chechnya, Viktor Kalamanov, discounted their charges. Memorial Human Rights Center said a man returned home after detention for two days with bloody bruises and hearing loss allegedly from electric shocks. "The military is a state within a state, they don't want to obey orders," the "Los Angeles Times" quoted Memorial as saying. CAFANALYST SUGGESTS MORE MASS PROTESTS AGAINST HIGHER RENTS POSSIBLE IN FUTURE.
Igor Bunin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technology argued on the center's website (http://www.politcom.ru) on 15 April that the recent protest that took place in Voronezh over higher rents could be repeated in other cities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2002). According to Bunin, the protest in Voronezh was the "first significant act of protest against the reform of the housing and communal-services sector." Estimates of the number of persons participating in the protest range from 7,000 to 20,000 -- either of which would mark a significant turnout even for Moscow, let alone Voronezh. According to Bunin, the Voronezh protest showed that the population has not only a pained reaction to higher rents, but could even be provoked to take radical actions. He also noted that it is not simply a matter of the amount of the increase in rent or utility payments, but that the heart of the matter is the reaction to the potential loss of "one of the most important...legacies of socialism," which the population had taken for granted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RAPPORTEUR VOICES EU'S CONCERN OVER HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT IN SLOVAKIA.
European Parliament member Jan Marinus Wiersma said the EU is concerned over the high unemployment in Slovakia as well as over the large differences in social and economic development among the country's regions, the daily "Sme" reported on 19 April. Wiersma is the European Parliament's rapporteur on Slovakia. After talks with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster Wiersma noted that Slovakia is successful in the negotiation process, but "there are some things that need to be finished and then there is the question of the elections." Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September, and the polls predict a victory for the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which disqualified the country from EU accession in the past. In related news, Slovakia's main negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, announced that the country is about to close the chapter on transport and to open the 30th and last chapter on institutions in the accession negotiations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
MORE ISLAMISTS ARRESTED.
Tajik police arrested Khudoynazar Asoev, 44, in northern Tajikistan's Soghd Oblast for heading a cell of the banned Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, AP and RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau reported on 16 April. He is the third person to be detained this year in Soghd Oblast on suspicion of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Fifteen alleged extremists were arrested in Tajikistan in 2001. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 15 April that two men were arrested in the southern Kazakh town of Turkestan for distributing Hizb-ut-Tahrir literature. They were caught carrying 78 leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia and a holy war against Israel. It was the third time since mid-2000 that activists had been arrested in southern Kazakhstan while passing out the outlawed party's leaflets, Reuters said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)LAST AFGHAN FUGITIVES LEAVE TAJIK BORDER.
The last of the estimated 12,000 Afghans who took refuge in late 2000 on islands in the Pyandj River that marks the Afghan-Tajik border to escape fighting between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces have set off for their abandoned homes, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 April. They have been supplied by the UNHCR with flour, soap, and materials to build temporary dwellings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
RARE PUBLIC PROTEST.
Some 300 Turkmen demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Committee for National Security (KNB) in Ashgabat on 15 April, and about 50 turned out the following day to protest how KNB officers treat ordinary citizens, RFE/RL's Ashgabat bureau reported. The demonstrators demanded that malefactors in the security services be punished, following widespread revelations of abuse of power, including drug smuggling and the raping of Turkmen citizens by KNB officers. President Saparmurat Niyazov began purging the ranks of the KNB with mass firings on 4 March (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 14 March 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)
ATTACKS ON SYNAGOGUE, FOREIGNERS PROMPT PROTEST IN KYIV.
A group of youths attacked the main synagogue in Kyiv, beating worshippers, smashing windows, and shattering an atmosphere of relative religious tolerance in the country. The authorities blamed the incident on rowdy soccer fans who would have set upon anything in their way. But the attack brought more than 2,000 people onto the streets on 17 April to show their opposition to anti-Semitism. Leonid Finberg, director of Kyiv's Institute of Judaica, said, "Investigators should consider several scenarios. A reaction to events in the Middle East, and the possibility that this is an expression of solidarity with Arab terrorists. That's one. Another is that it could be marginal youth groups that are connected with football fanatics and which incorporate extremist ideological groups. One thing I know for sure -- it was not a spontaneous action. In history, there were never any unorganized pogroms. This was not a pogrom, but it's a demonstration of an anti-Jewish action, and somebody was behind it." ("Ukraine: Attacks on Synagogue, Foreigners Prompt Protest in Kyiv," rferl.org, 19 April)LOCAL RABBI ATTACKED.
Attackers, seemingly marking the 113th anniversary of Hitler's birth, threw a paving stone at a rabbi on 19 April as he sat in his synagogue office, dpa reported, citing Interfax. An unknown assailant hurled the brick-sized rock through the synagogue office window of Mykolaev Rabbi Sholom Gottlib. Two panes of glass were broken and the computer damaged, but Gottlib was not hurt. Gottlib attempted to apprehend the thrower, but the young man ran off. Gottlib said it was the second such attack in Mykolaev this year. Unknown assailants had previously broken most of the windows in the synagogue and wrote anti-Semitic slogans on the building walls during the night of 27 January. Police have yet to arrest any suspects in connection with either incident, Gottlib said. (dpa, 22 April)
MILOSEVIC LOSES GROUND IN COURT AS SERBIAN GOVERNMENT YIELDS TO U.S. DEMANDS
By Tanya Domi
The Serbian government appears to be moving more deliberately in recent days as it yields reluctantly and belatedly to U.S. demands to increase its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in order to obtain badly needed foreign assistance for this war-torn country.
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djinjdic has apparently acted upon the political premise that the country's dire financial situation overrides any other domestic political concerns about giving up its "Serb heroes" to The Hague. These unprecedented developments -- including the Serbian government's demand last week that 23 indictees turn themselves in to the government or face arrest -- are actions that no one would have believed or predicted a year ago, let alone six months ago.
U.S. demands have stipulated that Serbia must surrender specific indictees to ICTY in The Hague. Other U.S. demands require that Serbia provide records, documents, and further information on fugitives, including the whereabouts of two of the most wanted --- Bosnian Serb army General Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. These demands appear to be more problematic due to legal prohibitions under its newly adopted law on cooperation. Some officials, including the Serbian minister of justice, also deny they know the whereabouts of Mladic and Karadzic, who face some of the most egregious allegations since their indictments in 1995. Yet journalists have reported that Mladic may have recently left Belgrade for Montenegro and ICTY officials have said they know of his whereabouts. NATO forces have recently conducted searches for Karadzic, who is believed to be in eastern Bosnia or in the rural areas just inside Serbia and Montenegro.
General Dragoljub Ojdanic, the Yugoslav army chief of staff during the Kosovo crisis in 1998-99, announced last week his intentions to surrender to the court. Serbian officials have also indicated in recent days that not only would Ojdanic surrender, but also indicated the surrender of six others also indicted for war crimes. Ojdanic was among six who reported to the Yugoslav Justice Ministry on 23 April.
Djindjic has been the main force driving overall Serbian efforts to turn over war criminals. Djindjic's insistence on the extraditions has brought him into conflict with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, once seen as the solution to the Milosevic problem, but now viewed as a nationalist who insists Serbia's sovereignty legally trumps international law and who has resisted the submission of Serbia's sovereign authority to the UN war crimes tribunal. Kostunica had also opposed the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, but had come to recognize its utility, given the realities of cash-strapped, post-Milosevic Yugoslavia.
These actions follow the refusal of the U.S. to award continuing foreign aid to impoverished Serbia. The U.S. required the Serbian government to step up its cooperation with The Hague by 31 March as a precondition for continuing aid. The Serbian government missed this deadline, as the parliament took belated action to adopt a cooperation law on 10 April. To date, the U.S. has withheld Congressional certification.
While the moves to prosecute war criminals are welcomed by human rights groups and court supporters, many have expressed disappointment with the lack of initiative by the government of Serbia. A Belgrade-based human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Center, observed that the Serbian government has only acted in response to U.S. deadlines for continuing aid as they are anticipated. Some observers have wondered whether prosecuting war crimes can be effective in deterring future atrocities and building public opinion to dispel a climate of impunity when handovers to The Hague only come under the threat of withholding aid.
All of these significant events are directly or indirectly related to the historic trial of Milosevic. Recently, the prosecution was notified by Judge Richard May, the senior judge, that it has one year (until 10 April 2003) to present its case, adding further tension to the proceedings, already taking place against a backdrop of constant drama. While the tribunal's prosecution has presented a little more than half of its case on the Kosovo indictments of Milosevic at The Hague, other dramas continue offstage, including the resignation of the Dutch government on 16 April, following the 10 April publication of a report on Dutch peacekeepers' role during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. Human rights activists quickly pointed out that the government would have to step down in a month anyway for general elections, so it remains unclear if the government's collapse reflects a moral example of state accountability for human rights abuses. However, the Muslim-Croat Federation government in Bosnia cautiously welcomed the mass resignation.
During the past month of the Milosevic trial, the trial judges directed the prosecution to summarize written statements of its witnesses and provided for Milosevic or his designated amici curiae lawyers -- "friends of the court" lawyers -- to cross-examine for longer periods of time, according to court proceedings. Milosevic continues to handle his own defense, even as court analysts say he appears to be failing in his efforts to mount effective cross-examination, reports the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (see "Tribunal Update," No. 256, 25 February-2 March 2002). They ask rhetorically, "With a defense like this, is there a need for a prosecutor?"
These appointed defense lawyers are reported to be taking on a more central role in his defense by questioning prosecution witnesses more closely due to Milosevic's legal missteps and gaffs, despite his training as a lawyer. Their increased participation was reflected in cross-examination last week of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Ciaglinski, a member of the Kosovo Verification Mission on the staff of General Karolyn Drewienkiewicz in 1998-1999. Also presented in recent days were expert witnesses Andras Riedlmayer, a Harvard archivist who testified about the destruction of Kosovo cultural sites, and General Drewienkiewicz, who is expected to return to the witness stand in his eyewitness account of the massacre of Kosovar Albanians at Racak in early 1999.
Milosevic cross-examined all of these witnesses and did not challenge Riedlmayer's precise testimony about the destruction of predominantly Islamic cultural sites in the province. Milosevic had also previously faced a similar witness with not much success -- the testimony of Patrick Ball, a human rights activist who utilized statistics and charts reflecting high death rates of Kosovar Albanians which occurred at the same time as high refugee outflows, according to Wire News. Ball also documented through statistical means that as refugee flows plummeted, deaths also decreased.
While the world watches the court drama and ponders the implications for prosecuting other abusive former heads of state, events during the past week seemed to have registered little on the Serbian public. A recent opinion poll released by Southeast Europe Democracy Support reflected that The Hague tribunal garnered a mere 8 percent level of trust with Serbs. While not surprising, Srdjan Bogosavljevic, executive director of SMRI, the Belgrade-based public opinion research institute which conducted the poll in Serbia, said that "concerning trust in Milosevic it is notable that many people simply didn't want to answer questions about him." According to Bogosavljevic, this lack of response is a significant reversal in that "Serbs were taught that Milosevic was the greatest." Perhaps this indictment is much more of a personal rebuke to Milosevic than the litany of charges he now faces from the dock in The Hague.
Tanya Domi is the former OSCE spokeswoman in Bosnia. She is currently completing an advanced degree in human rights at Columbia University in New York.