29 May 2002, Volume
SATIRICAL CROATIAN NEWSPAPER FUELS MIDDLE EAST CONTROVERSY.
"Feral Tribune," a Croatian newspaper known for its satirical political coverage, whose editors were prosecuted under the Tudjman regime, has distressed many in the Jewish community, numbering some 3,000 in Croatia, with a pointed appeal to them in a recent editorial to criticize Israel's recent military actions against Palestinians, jta.org reported on 21 May. "Feral Tribune" blamed Croatian Jewish intellectuals for allegedly turning a deaf ear to dramatic events in the UN-administrated refugee camp of Jenin, where Israeli troops recently clashed with Palestinian gunmen, leaving 56 Palestinians, half of them civilians, as well as 23 Israeli soldiers dead.
In calling the incident a "mass killing," "Feral Tribune," like some other leftist papers in Europe, failed to note subsequent backtracking by major media on their initial claims as well as fact-finding reports from international human rights groups, which said a massacre as such had not taken place. A Zagreb Jewish community paper compared "Feral Tribune's" call to take a "politically correct" stance similar to the communist-era campaigns demanding Croatians of Jewish heritage to take positions on events in Israel, pressuring them to hew to the Soviet-era pro-Palestinian line.
The editorial has troubled some of the paper's long-time supporters, who had admired "Feral Tribune" for its principled stances and muckraking journalism in the Tudjman era. In 1996, editors Viktor Ivancic and Marinko Culic were indicted for two articles criticizing the proposal of President Franjo Tudjman to rebury the bones of World War II Croatian fascists, known as the Ustashe, together with those of their victims at the site of former concentration camp in Jasenovac. The pair were twice acquitted of seditious libel charges, punishable by imprisonment, but a prosecutor continued to appeal the verdict even last year. Later the paper was plagued by punitive fines from libel suits, one involving claims about the neofascist orientation of a former government official.
As in other countries around the world where Jews have been pressed to respond to events in the Middle East even as they have been targeted with a new wave of anti-Semitism, opinion in the Jewish community in Croatia illustrates a split between those appalled at Palestinian suicide bombings, who note that "Feral Tribune" failed to condemn Palestinian violence against Israelis in its editorial, and those angered at what they see as grave human rights violations committed by Israel. Slavko Sajber, a Holocaust survivor and former communist official who had agreed to be interviewed by the "Feral Tribune," condemned what he termed "Israeli state terrorism" and called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "a pathological killer," reported jta.org. Slavko Goldstein, a leading Jewish intellectual who heads the Memorial Council for the Jasenovac concentration camp, cautioned against moral equivalency but remained critical of Israeli actions: "One must not draw a line between Auschwitz and Jenin, as we can read in some articles today, but it does not mean that we can remain silent concerning the crime in Jenin, as crime is always crime," the agency reported.
Zarko Puhovski, head of Croatia's Helsinki Committee, has delivered some of the sharpest criticism of "Feral Tribune," telling journalists that he viewed "Feral Tribune's" editorial as "hate speech." Puhovski, a Zagreb University sociologist whose mother is Jewish, said the editorial implied a collective Jewish responsibility for Israeli military action. "This is a racist approach, the same as when you demand collective responsibility from whatever nation, from the Jews, the Croats, the Serbs, the Germans or any other nation, based on biological heritage," jta.org quoted him as saying. CAF
II WORLD CONGRESS OF ROMA ADDRESSES RACISM, HOLOCAUST RESTITUTION.
Some 30 European Romany organizations met in May in Lodz where Jews and Roma were killed and deported in the Holocaust, reported "The New York Times" on 10 May. The II World Congress of the Roma, who currently number approximately 12 million in Europe, have increasingly felt the need to set up a continent-wide European Roma Forum to press for housing, jobs, education and tolerance at a time when they are experiencing greater marginalization since the fall of communism. Rudko Kawczynski, chairman of the Romany National Congress, said with the Roma's rapidly growing population, "we will face a Palestinian problem in Europe. Young people cannot be patient forever. How long can they live in the poor settlements like in Slovakia? In 20 years we will be 20 million." Roma are increasingly worried by a resurgence of populist politicians with racist programs. At the congress, seven delegates were elected from Macedonia, Hungary (2), the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the International Romany Union, in order to form the European Roma Forum. They agreed to create an International Roma Foundation and a Holocaust Investigation Commission to assist in restitution. CAF
OSCE MISSION SEES NO CHANGES.
A delegation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, led by Bundestag deputy Uta Zapf, concluded its visit to Minsk on 23 May, Belapan reported. Zapf and other delegation members told journalists that they have not noted any advancements toward democratization in Belarus. The delegation also expressed its concern that the authorities have not made any steps to normalize the situation of the OSCE Monitoring and Advisory Group in Minsk. Belarus is refusing an entry visa to the group's new head, Eberhard Heyken, and pressing for a change of the group's mandate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)ANOTHER OSCE DIPLOMAT TO BE BOOTED FROM MINSK?
Belarus is expected to expel another diplomat of the OSCE this week unless progress is made on settling a dispute over the scope of the OSCE's activities, reported RFE/RL's correspondent from OSCE headquarters in Vienna. The diplomat will be the third OSCE official to be barred from the country since the beginning of the year. The OSCE says negotiations on changing the OSCE's mandate are under way with Belarusian authorities, but officials are not willing to comment on any progress. OSCE officials are hoping for an agreement by 1 June, when the head of the Minsk mission, Andrew Carpenter, will have to leave the country because authorities have not renewed his visa. If he is forced to go, that will leave only two members of the international staff left in Minsk: a diplomat concerned with human rights and an administrative officer. ("Belarus: Minsk Expected To Expel Another OSCE Diplomat," rferl.org, 28 May)FORMER PREMIER AGAIN GOES ON TRIAL.
A district court in Minsk began the trial on 21 May of former Premier Mikhail Chyhir, who is facing charges of official negligence dating back to 1994, when he was the prime minister, and of tax evasion when he worked for a German firm in Moscow after resigning from the post of prime minister in 1996, Belapan reported. Chyhir has been persecuted since April 1999, when he took part as a candidate in the opposition-organized presidential election in Belarus. In May 2000 he was sentenced to a three-year prison term suspended for two years on charges of abusing his authority in 1995. The Supreme Court subsequently annulled this verdict and ordered a repeat investigation of the Chyhir case. Chyhir's legal persecution in Belarus is widely believed to be politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)YOUTH OPPOSE RADIOACTIVE WASTE-DISPOSAL SITE.
Activists from the youth environmental protest group Zubr (Bison), who oppose official plans to bury radioactive waste in the Brest district, placed signs on bulldozers parked near the construction site urging workers to halt the project, Belapan reported on 28 May. The posters featured caricatures of monsters asking the equipment operators, "Worker, Do You Want Raise Kids Like This?" Opposition activists also hung a radioactive danger sign on nearby trees. In the past year Zubr members collected several thousand signatures calling for a halt on construction of the burial site and forwarded their petition to a range of organizations and regional officials who ignored the plea and went ahead with the decision to build the site last year. The site is destined to accommodate radioactively contaminated turf from the No. 802 and Zapadny facilities in central Brest, where uranium ore has been stored for the past few decades. (zubr-belarus.com, 28 May)PREMIER PLEDGES TO PAY PENSIONS ON TIME.
Prime Minister Henadz Navitski promised President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 22 May that the government will pay pensions without delays and meet the economic targets of the second quarter of 2002, Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press office. Navitski said Belarus's GDP increased by 4.1 percent in January-April, in line with the government's socioeconomic development program that projects GDP growth of 4-5 percent for the entire year. The previous day, Labor and Social Security Minister Antanina Morava warned the cabinet that the problem of pension arrears may develop in the future. According to Morava, the government "has not delayed pensions so far, it [only] failed to meet the payment schedule." Last month, Lukashenka blamed Navitski and Morava for the accumulation of pension arrears totaling some $18 million. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service has reported the death from starvation of an 83-year-old pensioner in Zhodzina (east of Minsk) whose pension was delayed by six days. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
TWENTY-ONE POLICEMEN IMPLICATED IN MURDER OF CATHOLIC PRIEST, FAMILY.
Republika Srpska's Interior Ministry expects to arrest 21 officers suspected of participating in the killing of a Catholic priest and his parents in 1995, Hina wrote, citing a 23 May report in the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine." The paper cited anonymous police sources and noted that the list of suspects includes the head of the Prijedor criminal police, Mladen Munjiza. Authorities recently confirmed five arrests in connection with the killings. The ministry suspects the men of destroying and burglarizing the parish office in Prijedor in conjunction with the brutal murder of Reverend Tomislav Matanovic and his family. Republika Srpska law enforcement opened its investigation following heavy pressure from the international community, and the three bodies were found in a nearby well only last year. All three were killed by gunshots from close range. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
SCHOOLS STRIKE ENDS AS SIDES INITIAL COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT.
The most powerful labor union in the sector joined Education Minister Vladimir Strugar on 21 May in urging employees of secondary schools to return to work and end a two-day strike, Hina reported. The Independent Union of Secondary-School Employees on 22 May confirmed the deal allowing both sides to initial a branch collective agreement that union President Andrija Puljevic hailed as a complete victory. Teachers and other secondary-school employees returned to work on 22 May, and the agreement should be signed within two weeks, Hina added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)
COURT RULES ON FORMER RULING PARTY, OPPOSITIONIST CLAIMS 'ILLEGAL.'
A Tbilisi district court ruled on 20 May that the faction of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) that remains loyal to President Eduard Shevardnadze is the rightful successor to the divided SMK, Caucasus Press reported. That decision means that the rival faction headed by former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania must formally leave the SMK and found a new political party. Zhvania's faction has already been deprived of the right to contest the 2 June local elections under the SMK name, and its candidates will run on the lists of the Christian Conservative Party. Zhvania condemned the ruling as "absurd, illegal, and unprecedented," Caucasus Press reported. Caspian News Agency on 21 May quoted Zhvania as telling journalists in Tbilisi that he will quit the SMK and create a United Democratic Front aligning all those who oppose the present Georgian leadership. Meanwhile, the pro-Shevardnadze wing of the SMK has invited the president to run again for the post of SMK chairman, which he relinquished last fall. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May)UN ENVOY CALLS FOR RETURN OF GEORGIANS TO ABKHAZIA.
Speaking on 21 May at a conference on human rights in Abkhazia's Gali Raion, UN special envoy for Abkhazia Dieter Boden said he believes the Abkhaz should create conditions to allow Georgian displaced persons to return to Gali by rebuilding Georgian schools and cracking down on crime there, Caucasus Press reported the following day. But on 23 May, the head of the Abkhaz government in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, said in Tbilisi that he has collected 100,000 signatures in support of his government's demand that the UN launch a Peace Enforcement operation to bring Abkhazia back under the control of the Georgian central government, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
INCOMING CABINET TO INCREASE TEACHERS' PAY, REVIEW STATUS LAW.
On 19 May, representatives of the Socialist Party and Free Democrats finalized the program of Prime Minister-designate Peter Medgyessy's incoming government, which includes an itemized listing of the next government's pledges for its first 100 days as well as its top priorities up to 2006, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The nearly 100-page document stresses that the new government firmly intends to restore a fair, transparent, and democratic governing process.. The cabinet will provide a 50 percent salary increase for teachers and introduce a 100,000 forint ($375) minimum monthly salary for university graduates. While it will support the implementation of the "status law," the new government will consider a review of the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on the law, according to the document. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)OUTGOING PREMIER SAYS DEATH PENALTY SHOULD BE RECONSIDERED...
Outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on 22 May that Hungary should seriously contemplate reintroducing the death penalty in the wake of the Mor bank robbery in which eight people were killed. During his final weekly interview on Hungarian Radio, Orban said he had considered capital punishment to be wrong, but changed his mind after meeting the next of kin of the victims of the robbery. Orban said he is aware that international conventions do not make it possible for Hungary to restore the death penalty just now, but added that the time will come when that position could change in Europe as well, particularly in view of the struggle against terrorism. He acknowledged that Hungary cannot join the European Union if the country restores capital punishment, but said the EU is also changing. The Hungarian Constitutional Court abolished capital punishment in 1990. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)...AND IS CRITICIZED FOR IT.
Justice Minister-designate Peter Barandy, addressing the parliament's constitutional commission on 22 May, called Orban's statement "shockingly irresponsible," Hungarian media reported. Barandy said it is most fortunate that Orban did not make those remarks when he had full powers, as "such a statement could call into question the country's accession to the EU." For her part, outgoing Justice Minister Ibolya David said that "the death penalty cannot be a yardstick of democracy," but added, "as a state approaching accession, we must consider the EU's position." Church leaders confirmed their opposition to capital punishment, with Gusztav Bolcskei, head of the Calvinist Synod, saying that "there is no ethical argument in favor of it." Andras Veres, secretary of the Office of Hungarian Catholic Bishops, said the Catholic Church's view is that the death penalty is forbidden. Gusztav Zoltai, head of the Jewish Religious Community in Budapest, said that "every act aimed at extinguishing human life is fully condemned by our faith." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
U.S. SENATOR URGES RETURN OF OPPOSITION LEADER.
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has called on the government of Kazakhstan to permit the return of opposition politicians currently in forced exile so that they may be active in national politics, reported "Voice of Democracy," an electronic bulletin published by the Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation, a Kazakh opposition group in exile with an office in Washington, D.C. In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, McCain called for the return of opposition politicians like former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to be made a key component of America's commitment to foster democracy in Central Asia. "One tangible expression of Kazakhstan's commitment to these principles," McCain wrote Powell, "would be for its government to permit Mr. Kazhegeldin and other peaceful opposition politicians to return from exile and participate freely and safely in their country's political process." The State Department replied in a letter that "Mr. Kazhgeldin [and the others] should be free to travel, speak their minds in public debate, and participate in the political process." ("Voice of Democracy," 28 May)OPPOSITION SLAMS NEW DRAFT LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES.
Participants in a roundtable in Almaty on 23 May criticized as "unconstitutional," and as "discriminatory and aimed at suppressing dissent" a bill on political parties drafted by the pro-presidential OTAN party, Interfax reported. They pointed out that the draft raises from 3,000 to 10,000 the minimum number of members a party must have to be eligible for registration, and empowers law enforcement agencies to suspend a party's registration for up to six months. In addition, a party must have 300 representatives in each of Kazakhstan's 14 oblasts and in Astana and Almaty. The bill also stipulates that a party may be abolished if it fails to register with the Justice Ministry within two months of its foundation, if it fails to participate in two consecutive elections, or if it polls less than 3 percent of the vote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
PARLIAMENT DEPUTY RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE.
A court in Kara-Kul handed down a one-year suspended prison sentence on 24 May to Azimbek Beknazarov on charges of abusing his official position as an investigator in 1995, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Beknazarov had failed to bring murder charges against a man who killed another in self-defense. Beknazarov told his supporters that the verdict, which automatically deprives him of his parliament mandate, was politically motivated and that he will seek through legal channels to have it annulled. He then traveled to Tash-Komur where he appealed with supporters not to resume their blockade of the main Bishkek-Osh highway. Some 300 supporters of Beknazarov staged a picket on 25 May in the southern town of Kerben to protest his conviction. His constituents in the southern raion of Aksy said on 25 May that they will refuse to elect a new parliament deputy to replace him. In Bishkek, Erkin Kyrgyzstan party chairman Tursunbai Bakir Uulu said that the sentence on Beknazarov was illegal and that it could exacerbate domestic political tensions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)
GENERAL STRIKE IN PUBLIC SECTOR.
Public-sector workers went on a nationwide general strike on 20 May, Macedonian media reported. State workers are demanding an increase of $20 per month to their minimum wage, which has been stuck at $70 a month for the past decade. The average salary throughout the country is $120 per month, according to AP. Vanco Muratovski, chairman of the Union of Trade Unions in Macedonia (SSM), told a press conference that, "[This] first general strike in the public sector in the history of the trade-unions movement in Macedonia [has been] extraordinarily successful." Muratovski added that the strikers will remain at their workplaces for the time being, though they will begin to stage protests on 23 May if they fail to reach an agreement with the government in the meantime. In accordance with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic-recovery plan, however, the government is under pressure not to exceed its budget, which is why it says it has not made a counteroffer. The SSM leadership hopes to convince IMF representatives of the necessity of raising the minimum wage at a meeting on 21 May. A new round of talks with the government is also scheduled for the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
RIGHT-WING SYMPATHIZERS STAGE ANTI-EU RALLY.
On 20 May in Warsaw, some 500 sympathizers of the right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR) and listeners of the Catholic radio station Radio Maryja staged a demonstration against poverty, unemployment, and the EU, Polish Radio reported. LPR leaders Antoni Macierewicz and Maciej Giertych spoke out at the rally against European integration and against "giving away Polish soil." Other speakers demanded the founding of a museum in Warsaw to commemorate murdered Poles and the implementation of a family-oriented policy by the government. Declarations of "love thy neighbor" intertwined with hostile chants directed against journalists, the president, the prime minister "and, traditionally, the Jews," Polish Radio reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE.
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission approved a draft report on 22 May expressing concern about the independence of the judiciary in general, and the extension of the prosecutor-general's prerogatives to appeal courts' final decisions (the so-called "recurs in anulare"), Mediafax reported. The commission also expressed concern at excessive use of force by police and infringements on the freedom of the media. The commission noted that Romania has made progress in coping with the problem of homeless children, and saluted Bucharest's decision to open all chapters in the acquis communautaire for negotiations by the end of this year. The draft will be discussed by the EU parliament in June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)SYNAGOGUE DESECRATED.
A synagogue in Falticeni has been desecrated and some religious items have been stolen, Mediafax reported on 20 May. The Suceava County police said sometime between 27 April and 18 May vandals entered the unguarded synagogue by breaking a window and wrote inscriptions such as: "Death and Gassing for the Jews" and 'Heil Hitler" and also stole a Torah scroll. The slogans were signed by an unknown organization calling itself "The Front for Anti-Semitic Struggle." The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania asked Romanian authorities to find the perpetrators and try to stop any anti-Semitic acts. The synagogue is on a list of 10 national Jewish monuments to be restored by the Romanian government in the near future. When the synagogue was built in 1862, the Jews made up more than half of the population of Falticeni. After World War II, most Jews emigrated to Israel and Western countries. Only around 50 Jews, mostly elderly people, still live in the town. Some 14,000 Jews live in Romania now, compared to 800,000 before World War II. Thousands of members of the Jewish community perished in death camps, many others emigrated after the war. The Romanian government has recently passed legislation imposing stiff prison sentences to punish anti-Semitic acts and pro-Nazi propaganda. (DIVERS/Mediafax, 20 May)GOVERNMENT AMENDS PENAL CODE.
The government on 23 May approved an emergency ordinance amending the Penal Code to bring it into line with European legislation, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ordinance abolishes the code's Article 238, which made possible jailing those found guilty of "offending authority." The ordinance also reduces the length of sentences for those found guilty of libel and for insulting public officials on duty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
'LAWS OFTEN CONTRADICT EACH OTHER' SAYS PUTIN.
The development of a democratic legal system and "the quality of power itself" in Russia hinge on the work of lawmakers in the regions, says President Vladimir Putin, RosBusinessConsulting reported on 21 May. Regional lawmakers often set an example of "bold and adequate lawmaking", and some regional bills became models, he stressed. At the same time, he pointed out that there were many problems in the sphere of lawmaking in Russia. "There are cases of legal carelessness, and laws often contradict each other," he said. Putin defined the following goals as priorities: the division of responsibilities among government agencies of different levels, the development of local self-administration, and bringing regional laws into line with federal legislation. He also pointed to the importance of a mixed system of forming regional parliaments. However, he noted, it would only be effective if "parties in the regions gather momentum." (RosBusinessConsulting, 21 May)INTERIOR MINISTRY TO INTRODUCE RUSSIAN 'GREEN CARDS.'
After the new law on citizenship comes into effect at the end of this year, the Interior Ministry (MVD) will introduce a new immigration card that will be obligatory for all foreigners permanently residing in Russia, Deputy Interior Minister and chief of the Federal Migration Service Andrei Chernenko told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 21 May. The new document will be used to track all movements of foreigners around the country. According to official statistics, about 340,000 legal immigrants currently live in Russia, while there are from 3.5 million to 5 million illegal foreign immigrants in the country, according to the newspaper. In Primorskii Krai alone, there are about 150,000 Chinese citizens and that figure is constantly increasing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)MOSCOW POLICE CALL FOR MORE COOPERATION IN FIGHT AGAINST SKINHEADS.
Major General Vladimir Pronin, chief of Moscow's police, said that his department has stepped up efforts to prevent ethnically motivated crime, but complained that foreign diplomats are not extending sufficient cooperation, AP reported on 23 May. "We have created a department to fight extremism and terrorism and have established files on every extremist groups," Pronin told a press conference. He added that foreign embassies are frequently not forthcoming with information about incidents involving their citizens. On 18 May, representatives of more than 100 foreign missions met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss measures to curb such incidents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)MOTORIST LOSES EYE IN ANTI-SEMITIC BOOBY-TRAP.
A woman who pulled onto the side of a highway near Moscow on 27 May to tear down an anti-Semitic sign was severely burned and lost an eye when a bomb went off, fsumonitor.com reported, citing ntv.ru on 27 May. The sign read "Death to the yids." Tatyana Sapunova, 28, was in stable condition at a hospital after the incident on the Kyiv highway, about 20 miles south of Moscow. In an unusual step, police are treating the explosion as a hate crime under the penal code. Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov announced that he has taken the investigation of the explosion under his personal control and condemned extremism and intolerance. Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said during a radio interview that he was not sure that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism, but instead could have been simple hooliganism, reported NTV. Rabbi Beryl Lazar called the incident a terrorist attack and compared it to the recent Victory Day bombing in Kaspiisk. The Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Movements in Russia issued a statement praising Sapunova and calling for the swift arrest of the perpetrators. (fsumonitor, 27 May)MORE SKINHEAD ATTACKS COMING TO LIGHT.
Three skinheads beat a musician and his son for playing Jewish songs in the Russian city of Voronezh, reported the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union (UCSJ), citing strana.ru on 15 May. The attack took place during Victory Day celebrations on 9 May. The musician received "moderate" injuries, according to a police source, who added that a criminal investigation has been started. On 13 May an Iraqi student was hospitalized in Voronezh after being attacked by skinheads, one of whom hit him in the head with a brick. Police sources told Interfax on 14 May that several attackers have been detained and an investigation has begun. UCSJ has compiled an extensive report on skinhead attacks based on reports from its network of local monitors in Russia. The study belies Russian police assurances that anticipation of skinhead activity was exaggerated around the time of Hitler's birthday on 20 April and subsequently. Still, in localities where police took threats seriously and provided protection to Jewish communities, incidents were averted, maintains UCSJ. A new troubling phenomenon is that in some communities, minorities are responding to extremist attacks in the face of police passivity by taking the law into their own hands, says UCSJ. In Pyatigorsk, up to 250 mostly Armenian men armed with baseball bats took to the streets after hearing rumors of imminent skinhead attacks. Many were looking for revenge after an earlier desecration (reportedly by skinheads) of Armenian graves in nearby Krasnodar Krai. After not finding any skinheads, some of the men took out their frustrations on a passing Russian motorist, overturning his car, reported "Stavropolskaya pravda" on 23 April. The complete UCSJ report is available at http://www.fsumonitor.com/stories/051002SkinheadReport.html. CAFPATRIARCH READY TO MEET THE POPE BUT PROSELYTIZING MUST STOP.
Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleksii II is "fully ready for a meeting" with Pope John Paul II, "but only after the churches achieve a common position on key issues," he told "Izvestiya" in an interview published on 13 May. The two churches "should discuss proselytism in all its forms, as well as ban the Uniate Church as a method for achieving unity, and not violate the jurisdiction of this or that church," the patriarch said. "In other words, the focus should be put on finding a final solution for the long-standing conflict between the Greek Catholics and members of the Orthodox Church in western Ukraine, where the Lviv, Ternopol, and Ivano-Frankivsk Orthodox dioceses were virtually destroyed. In addition to this, the Vatican should abandon its practice of proselytism among the traditionally Orthodox population of Russia and CIS countries." He concluded that "we have no reasons for concern about the sizeable growth of Catholicism's influence in Russia. We only seek mutual respect and constructive relations with the Catholic Church." ("UCSJ Bigotry Monitor," Vol. 2, No. 19, 16 May)FORCE USED IN FAR EAST AGAINST WORKERS PROTESTING WAGE ARREARS.
About 200 employees of the Dalmoreprodukt seafood company on 17 May blocked a central street in Vladivostok for more than three hours, demanding payment of several months of back wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported. A local police officer who hit a female protester who was carrying a child in her arms has been suspended, and a criminal case was launched against Dalmoreprodukt, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported. As of 1 April, the wage arrears had reached 148 million rubles ($4.6 million).. Presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights Oleg Mironov told Interfax on 18 May that he considered the use of police force against the demonstrators "very irresponsible," concluding "even if the rally had not been sanctioned, the authorities should not have used force." Evidently as a result of the nationally televised workers' protest and lawsuit, Dalmoreprodukt began paying wages to its workers again on 21 May, ORT reported. According to ORT, the company's management complains that local court bailiffs are ruining the company by sequestering its ships and property. However, Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin told members of the company's workers collective that the enterprise's management has performed unsatisfactorily and that was why he, as governor, had to interfere in the workings of a private company, Interfax-Eurasia reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 22 May)CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD SAYS FEDERAL TROOPS VIOLATE NEW SEARCH REGULATIONS.
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on 20 May that Russian troops are ignoring the instructions issued in March by Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the commander of the joint federal forces in Chechnya, to avoid excessive force and violations of the law during search operations to identify and apprehend Chechen fighters, Interfax reported. Kadyrov also criticized the conclusion of a team of psychiatrists that Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov was "temporarily insane" when he raped and then murdered an 18-year-old Chechen girl. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)CHECHEN NGO, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH APPEAL TO U.S. PRESIDENT...
The Independent Consultative Council of Chechen NGOs and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have issued separate appeals to U.S. President George W. Bush to raise the issue of Chechnya during his summit this week with President Putin. HRW urged Bush to "speak plainly" about human rights abuses in Chechnya; to press for a list of criminal investigations into crimes against civilians; to allow all relevant UN bodies to visit Chechnya; to make it clear to Moscow that the United States will press for the renewal of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya's mandate; and to urge Russia not to coerce Chechen displaced persons to return to Chechnya as long as threats to their security exist there. In a statement carried on 22 May by chechenpress.com, the Chechen council recalled that five years ago Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and then-President Boris Yeltsin signed a Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Mutual Relations which, the council claimed, is tantamount to Russian recognition of Chechnya's independence. In violation of that treaty, the statement continued, Putin is trying to reincorporate Chechnya into the Russian Federation. The statement reaffirmed the Chechen people's commitment to building an independent and democratic state, and appealed to Bush not to accept Russia's version of the genesis of the present conflict, and to demand a cease-fire and political negotiations with Maskhadov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)...WHO URGES RUSSIA TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHECHNYA.
U.S. President. Bush called for Russian troops to show restraint while conducting military operations in breakaway Chechnya, so that civilians are not harmed, RFE/RL reported. Bush said Russian forces could learn a lesson from the way the United States and its allies are conducting their antiterror operations in Afghanistan. Bush said the war against terrorism "can only be won by simultaneously protecting the rights of the population, particularly ethnic minorities." After the speech, a group of Chechen mothers gave Bush a list of 10 male relatives they say disappeared during a Russian security sweep south of the Chechen capital Grozny. They said they hoped Bush would bring to the Russian president's attention what they called "unprecedented" human rights violations in Chechnya. ("Russia: Bush Urges Russian Respect for Human Rights in Chechnya," rferl.org, 24 May)
GOVERNMENT REJECTS EUROPEAN CODE OF SOCIAL SECURITY.
The government on 21 May decided against signing the European Code of Social Security in what Labor Minister Peter Magvasi said was "a mistaken decision," CTK reported. Magvasi was to sign the code during a conference of European ministers in charge of social security that is taking place in Bratislava from 21-23 May. The code is a recommendation, but not an obligation, for EU members and candidates. It defines norms for social security coverage and establishes minimum levels of protection in area such as medical care, and illness, unemployment, and old-age benefits. Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos said that signing the code now would have been irresponsible, since the government would be burdened by obligations it might be unable to meet. Miklos said that the potential costs of signing the code must first be assessed. This is the first time that Slovakia has rejected a recommendation of the European Commission. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)
SALE OF RAIL TICKETS LIMITED IN CRUSH OF WOULD-BE MIGRANT WORKERS.
Tajikistan has established a special commission of parliament deputies and Interior Ministry representatives to control the sale of railway tickets, Tajik Railroad Director Asror Rahmonov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 21 May. That decision was prompted by an incident at Dushanbe's main railway station on 18 May, in which a man was crushed to death in the struggle to buy tickets, according to unconfirmed reports. Thousands of people, many of them seeking to travel to Russia in search of seasonal employment, congregate daily at the station in the hope of buying tickets for the twice-weekly Dushanbe-Astrakhan service. Only 700 tickets are sold for that train. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)PRESIDENT UNVEILS DEMOGRAPHIC PROGRAM.
President Imomali Rakhmonov on 21 May endorsed a government concept for demographic policy for the period 2003-15, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Over the past decade, Tajikistan's population has grown by 14 percent, from 5.5 million to 6.25 million, despite a four-year civil war. Presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said that the program will focus on improving the general socioeconomic situation, reducing disparities in the distribution of wealth, and trying to persuade the population of the advantages of smaller families. It does not provide for the use of coercive methods. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF PRESSURING LAWMAKERS.
Speaking in parliament on 21 May, Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz accused government authorities of pressuring Verkhovna Rada deputies into joining the pro-government United Ukraine bloc, UNIAN reported. Moroz said cabinet members offer "some enterprises" or help in resolving "debt problems" to some lawmakers in exchange for affiliating themselves with United Ukraine. Moroz also said some lawmakers are invited to the Prosecutor-General's Office where they are "discreetly warned that [prosecutors] have dossiers on all deputies." Earlier the same day, lawmaker Leonid Hadyatskyy announced his decision to leave the Socialist Party caucus and join United Ukraine. According to Moroz, Hadyatskyy divulged the previous day that he would be joining United Ukraine in order "to save himself and his family." United Ukraine has 178 deputies following Hadyatskyy's transfer. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)PROSTITUTES SHUN LOW-PAID OFFICE WORK.
Most Ukrainian prostitutes say they are in the business to avoid working in an office, a recent survey showed. The Ukrainian Institute of Sociological Research interviewed 636 prostitutes working in 12 cities, Interfax reported. Some 73 percent said they chose prostitution "in order to not work for kopecks in some office". Sixty-one percent said it was a way to save money. Only 21 percent said they sold themselves because they had no other way to earn income. Ukrainian pimps allow prostitutes to retain some 20 percent of the money they earn, the report said. The average monthly income of a Ukrainian factory worker is around $60. A prostitute is paid on average between $20-30 per customer. Some 250,000 Ukrainian women work as prostitutes, the report said. (dpa, 14 May)
GOVERNMENT BACKS SUFISM TO COUNTER WAHHABISM.
In an attempt to counter the influence of independent Muslims, the Uzbek authorities are giving support and backing to the local Sufi Naqshbandi order of Islam, Keston News Service (KNS) found on a visit to the city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan from 15-20 May. The Uzbek government is primarily afraid of supporters of fundamentalist Islam, which has been imported from Arab countries and which calls for religion to be purified of regional and local customs. Sufism, which in Central Asia has close links with local customs, appears at present to be the Uzbek authorities' preferred alternative. They are using Sufism as a distinctive counterweight to those Muslims who are independent of the authorities, the so-called Wahhabis (the name given in Central Asia to Islamic fundamentalist groups, which often have little in common with the Islam that predominates in Saudi Arabia) and the international Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the unification of Muslims throughout the world into a single caliphate. The special report on Uzbekistan can be accessed at http://www.keston.org. (KNS, 24 May)
U.S. PRAISES BELGRADE'S COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE, BUT NO DECISION ON RELEASING AID.
Referring to the surrender of Bosnian Serb Dusan Knezevic to the UN war crimes tribunal on 18 May, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it was "a helpful step toward Yugoslavia's full cooperation with the tribunal," Reuters reported on 20 May. However, he added, "We urge the authorities in Belgrade to continue their efforts to improve cooperation with the tribunal by taking indictees into custody and transferring them to The Hague as soon as possible." According to a recently published list of 23 people wanted by the tribunal, only six have turned themselves in or indicated they will do so. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 21 May to try to convince the United States to certify Yugoslavia as cooperating with the UN tribunal and free up $40 million in aid frozen on 31 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)BUSH ADMINISTRATION 'PREMATURE' IN CERTIFYING AID.
The Bush administration is seriously premature in certifying Yugoslavia for renewed U.S. aid, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said 21 May in a statement published at hrw.org. Although Secretary of State Powell said Belgrade had satisfied conditions set by the U.S. Congress for the resumption of American aid, suspended in March pending Yugoslav cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, HRW says the Yugoslav and Serbian governments "continue to withhold crucial evidence necessary to try those alleged war criminals." HRW said the U.S. should press the Belgrade authorities to show clear progress on access to documents and witnesses by the time of a donor conference for Yugoslavia scheduled for late June. Although recertified for aid by the U.S., the human rights group said, "How much and when aid flows should depend on further progress on the key issue of access to documents and other relevant evidence." (hrw.org, 21 May)
TWO-PART REPORT ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN EASTERN EUROPE AND EURASIA.
Domestic violence affects women around the world, but it is a particularly challenging problem in postcommunist countries, RFE/RL reported in a two-part report on 24 May. In many countries in the region, governments have made strong statements about defending women's rights and have promised to abide by international conventions protecting women from discrimination and abuse. But in practice, few states acknowledge that domestic violence exists or have laws against the abuse in their criminal codes. While statistics on spousal and partner abuse of women are unavailable, a UN official cites the number of women killed by their spouses in Russia for example -- 12,000-14,000 -- as indicative of the terrible toll taken by the silent epidemic which long predated the collapse of communism. Human rights activists say women who are abused by their husbands in Uzbekistan have little hope of protection from the government. Instead, Uzbek authorities often force women to remain in violent marriages and block their access to divorce. Active NGOs in some countries, including Lithuania and Tajikistan, have helped raise awareness and curbed the rate of violence against women. Part 1 of the report is available at http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/2002/05/24052002102214.asp and Part II at http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/2002/05/24052002102708.asp. ("Domestic Violence -- An Unspoken Problem In Many Postcommunist Countries (Part I), Saving the Family But Sacrificing Women (Part II)," rferl.org, 24 May)
KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER, CABINET STEP DOWN
By Adam Albion
After 13 days of antigovernment activities throughout Kyrgyzstan that included unsanctioned rallies, acts of civil disobedience, hunger strikes, pickets of government buildings, and a blockade of the main Bishkek-Osh highway by thousands of protesters, the Kyrgyz government resigned on 22 May. That move was forced by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, who submitted his resignation, saying, "people in the government who are responsible for the [March Aksy] tragedy have not taken the decision to resign. While the demonstrations are continuing, I want to force these people to resign." In accordance with Kyrgyzstan's Constitution, the resignation of the premier necessitates that the entire cabinet follow his example.
The underlying cause for the public's outrage remained the 17-18 March clashes in Aksy Raion that left six people dead after police fired on citizens protesting the trial of parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, and the government's subsequent refusal to take responsibility for the tragedy. The proximate cause that triggered the latest spate of demonstrations that brought down the government, however, was the ratification of the controversial 1999 Sino-Kyrgyz border treaty on 10 May by the lower house of the Kyrgyz parliament. One week later the upper house also voted to ratify the treaty, which cedes some 95,000 hectares of disputed territory to China, after two previous failures to muster the required two-thirds majority. Demonstrators' demands that the government take responsibility for the Aksy bloodshed, that it annul the ratification of the border treaty (which oppositionists say was signed illegally by Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev), and that it close the criminal case against Beknazarov (whom they say is being politically persecuted for criticizing Akaev for signing it) have become complementary and interchangeable insofar as they each spring from a common source: popular indignation at what is seen as high-handed and authoritarian behavior by the Kyrgyz president.
The state commission formed on 9 April to investigate the Aksy incidents gave its report to Akaev on 17 May. The commission blamed government authorities on all levels and law enforcement bodies for "political shortsightedness" in their failure to recognize the rising political temperature in Aksy Raion as Beknazarov's trial proceeded. At the same time, it said that "tendentious coverage" of the trial by state television and radio "aggravated the sociopolitical situation" in the region. It criticized the Aksy administration for forbidding pro-Beknazarov rallies, which, it implied, would have provided a safety valve for people's passions rather than letting them reach the boiling point. Finally, it stated that the police's use of live ammunition to control the crowds was illegal. By way of recommendations, it called for a reassessment of how the local authorities and police work, a revision of the operations of state television and radio, and "the swiftest possible examination of the criminal case against Beknazarov" by Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court. It also named a list of local officials suspected of acting unlawfully, foremost among them the former prosecutor of Djalalabad Oblast, Zootbek Kudaibergenov, who will face trial for sanctioning inappropriate administrative measures and the use of force against demonstrators.
However, a separate, harsher report prepared by a separate parliament commission headed by Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights Chairwoman Oksana Malevannaya recommended that Akaev dismiss Prime Minister Bakiev, State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov, head of the presidential administration Amanbek Karypkulov, and Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev for their role in the Aksy tragedy.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were growing in Bishkek and elsewhere. On 16 May, police physically attacked some 200 activists, led by Beknazarov, who were picketing the parliament building. Police dragged and kicked demonstrators, breaking the ribs of one 16-year-old participant, and arresting 87 protestors. Three people were hospitalized as a result of the crackdown, 11 people were fined, and the rest were let go with warnings from the police. But the next day, police in Bishkek arrested another 70 people, while on 20 May, 30 more protestors who demonstrated in Bishkek's Panfilov Park were quickly cordoned off by police.
Meanwhile, near Tash-Komur in Djalalabad Oblast, an estimated 8,000 people blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway for eight consecutive days until 21 May, demanding that the border treaty be scrapped, the case against Beknazarov dropped, and those responsible for the bloodshed in Aksy be punished. Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov appealed to the lower house of parliament on 20 May to allow law enforcement officials to open the Bishkek-Osh highway by force, but deputies voted against the idea by a large margin.
As late as 20 May, Akaev argued in a televised address to the nation that the blame for the disturbances in Kyrgyzstan lay with oppositionists intent on destabilizing democratic society for their ends. Without the "illegal actions" and "calls for insurrection" made by forces "trying to split society," Akaev said, there would have been no bloodshed in Aksy. Akaev had adopted this approach at least twice before in the days immediately following the Aksy clashes, accusing "a small group of provocateurs and demagogues" of instigating violence and trying to undermine a government that was fighting back to maintain order.
But on 22 May, at a closed meeting of the presidential Security Council to discuss the state commission's report on the clashes, Prime Minister Bakiev handed in his resignation, automatically triggering the resignation of the entire cabinet. Russian and Western agencies reported. Presidential administration head Karypkulov, who according to Bakiev issued instructions to local officials in Aksy on 17-18 March, also tendered his resignation, and several top police officials were fired. First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev was named acting prime minister until parliament confirms a replacement and charged with forming a new coalition government including opposition representatives. Security Council Secretary Ashyrkulov told journalists late on 22 May that the situation is well on the way to being normalized: "The protestors' demands have been fulfilled," he said. Not so, oppositionists replied, not as long as the top demand is still outstanding: the resignation of President Akaev himself.