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(Un)Civil Societies Report: October 30, 2002

30 October 2002, Volume 3, Number 44

When 50 armed and masked Chechen men and women burst into the musical play "Nord-Ost" at the Dubrovka theater and took hostage more than 700 theatergoers this week in Moscow, the grisly role of non-state actors in causing human rights abuse in the world was thrown into stark relief on the world stage. "Non-state actors" is the technical term used to describe forces outside of government control; many of the world's conflicts are begun or fueled by such armed movements, and many if not most deaths in modern conflicts are those of civilians deliberately attacked by both rebels seeking attention for their cause and governments attempting to eradicate terrorists intermingled in civilian populations.

Yet unlike other leaders of other rebel groups around the world, Aslan Maskhadov, commander of the mainstream Chechen fighters, was once a legitimately elected president of the Chechen Republic, that is, a state actor bound by Russian and international human rights obligations. Even after the Maskhadov government went to war and was replaced by pro-Moscow Chechen officials, it followed the example of other separatist groups attempting to gain legitimacy in the world community, and attempted to lodge the Chechens' signed accession to the Geneva Accords at UN headquarters in New York. (They were politely but firmly turned away by the chief of security.) This act by the Maskhadov government, as well as Maskhadov's representatives' continuing call for peace talks, signify a responsibility to refrain from terror, and by implication, condemn terror by rogue forces not under its control.

While Russian public opinion in support of the war had dropped to 29 percent before the hostage drama, most Russians could care less about the rights of Chechen civilians, much less Chechen detainees suspected of terrorist acts, because they understandably view the indiscriminate mayhem and murder committed by Chechen terrorists as the greater violation of human rights, involving their very right to life and security. Whatever their long-term attitude toward war and peace, according to Reuters on 29 October, 85 percent of Russians backed Putin's handling of the theater siege, with just 10 percent sharply critical, according to a survey conducted by the VTsIOM polling agency.

Yet, dramatically at odds with majority public opinion, local and international human rights groups, even at times like the tragedy at Dubrovka, largely remain concerned with the responsibilities of the Russian government's international obligations under international humanitarian law (and tacit Western complicity in refraining from criticism), and tend to focus not on the effect of terrorist acts, but on the massive atrocities committed by government forces. They say these violations themselves engender terrorism, including torture, rape, disappearances, summary executions, and looting. Following the storming of the theater, they have focused on the violations committed against hostages while fighting terrorists, such as the gassing of the theatergoers, but they are not busy interviewing survivors telling a harrowing tale of living with the threat of death for three days.

This singular focus, seemingly unbalanced and inappropriate, occurs not only because violations committed by the government have generally been larger in scale and more numerous throughout the years of the conflict, but because it is governments, not armed rebels, that are charged with responsibility under international law not only to refrain from attacks on civilians but to guarantee law and order and freedom from crime for its citizens, and it is through exposure of government responsibility, not terrorists' responsibility, that human rights groups hope to bring about pressure for change.

Ultimately, human rights groups and Russian politicians critical of the war tended to blame the Russian government's brutal prosecution of the war in Chechnya for the desperation of Chechen rebels. Veteran human rights campaigner Yelena Bonner, in an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, said, "I believe that today's tragedy, no matter how we regard the seizing of hostages in general, is caused by the policy of the Kremlin and Moscow, and the only power which I accuse of today's thousand hostages, is the Kremlin." (For the full transcript of Bonner's interview and other current news and views on the crisis, see the special reports at .)

When angry citizens confront human rights advocates with such seeming one-sidedness, the advocates can only comment that they have no leverage with non-state actors because they have assumed no formal commitments, and do not wish to interact with them so as not to legitimize them. They can only send the relatives of the victims of terrorism back to the Russian government, which is ultimately responsible for preventing and prosecuting crime and terrorism, and maintaining just law and order in a democratic society.

The world system for protection of human rights has generally not been structured to review and prosecute the crimes of terrorists both due to the difficulty of defining "terrorism" and because of obstacles in holding non-state actors accountable. Of course, these refined distinctions are of little concern to the public at large, sparking irritation and even rage by some, especially during massive terrorist attacks when human rights considerations are thrust into the background. This cycle of a minority's criticism of human rights violations based on abstract principles and the majority's rage at terrorism based on pragmatic experience, as well as their willing acceptance of further restrictions of human rights in the name of security, is a vicious circle which human rights groups alone simply have not been able to break. Indeed, such a conundrum poses a significant challenge to their future success as respected social movements that can gain adherents for the project of establishing a just world. A virtually insurmountable challenge for all those applying humane principles both to terrorists and their supporters who themselves are not humane is to find ways to channel the rage of victimized movements seeking self-determination and justice toward solely peaceful protest. Yet work with local movements prone to terrorism is a challenge human rights groups believe to be outside their mandate, and for most of the conflict resolvers of the world, the region of the former Soviet Union is outside their interests. The result is that we can expect more Dubrovkas.

Not only because of public opinion, but because it was the right and moral thing to do, most human rights groups monitoring the war in Chechnya that are normally focusing more on the Russian government's behavior in the conflict were indeed quick to condemn the Chechen hostage takers. "This is a revolting, unjustifiable act," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, in a statement released on 24 October. "Chechen forces have the same obligation as Russian federal forces to uphold the Geneva Conventions," she said, citing Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which applies during internal armed conflicts. "Chechen civilians have suffered terrible human rights violations in this war," said Andersen. "But taking civilians hostage in response is utterly unjustifiable and can inspire only revulsion. The hostages must be released immediately."

Domestic Russian groups, repulsed by the horror and also ever mindful of government and public opinion that perceives them as "pro-Chechen," also swiftly condemned the outrage at Dubrovka. "This is an act of inhuman terrorism," said Memorial Society, a national nongovernmental organization, in a press release on 24 October. "It is a crime that has no justification and can never have any justification." Memorial's Human Rights Center has maintained an office in Nazran monitoring war crimes and has been a leading critic of the war in Russia. Groups working on peacemaking as well as human rights in the region were also clear about these distinctions, even as the communiques released by representatives of Maskhadov during the crisis were disappointing and vague, insufficient in their condemnation of terrorism and all too ready to assign blame to the Russian government even for the direct acts of Chechen terrorists.

The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, a group monitoring the conflict and assisting relatives to find their loved ones, said in a special 24 October issue of their electronic publication, "The massive crimes against humanity committed by the Russian war machine in the Chechen Republic cannot serve as a justification for those who threaten the lives of innocent people and thus stoop to the level of their executioners." Still, the theme of "state terrorism" was one such groups felt they had to sound even in the process of unequivocally condemning the hostage taking. "Terror in any manifestation is a crime against humanity, which can never have any justification," said the Friendship Society. "This concerns both Russian state terrorism and the terrorism committed by those opposing it, because it is rooted in the principle of collective responsibility which cannot be acceptable for the civilized individual or the civilized society. Both [Russian commander in Chechnya Lieutenant General Vladimir] Shamanov and [Movsar] Baraev [the leader of the Chechen hostage takers] have covered themselves with civilians as a living shield, which is equally repulsive."

"We can concede that the people who seized the hostages in Moscow are moved by a feeling of pain over the fate of their destroyed people, by despair, by grief for those killed and tortured," said the Friendship Society. "A terrorist act, however, is not a way out, but a dead end...just when negotiations between the federal government and President Maskhadov began to be set, the seizure of hostages, regardless of the declared purposes of the terrorists, is objectively a provocation, designed to bury the idea of a peaceful resolution of the conflict," they said.

Sadly, the invocation of the unnecessary deaths of hostages at the hands of special troops in Moscow, and the invocation of Chechen suffering of human rights atrocities from Russian federal troops at home are rendered ineffective in the face of the general population's fear for their lives and an official media barrage celebrating the heroism of the rescuers and demonizing the Chechens. Faced with this reality, liberal politicians, journalists, and human rights groups continue to hope for the tragedy to lead to peace talks rather than another round of violence.

When a previously scheduled World Congress of Chechens taking place in Denmark went ahead with plans to convene Chechen leaders to discuss how to galvanize peace talks, the Russian government condemned the gathering as "terrorists" and angrily told Denmark, currently the European Union president, that Russia would refuse to take part in a forthcoming EU summit originally planned for Copenhagen. A group of pro-government civic groups led by Sergei Markov called on Denmark not to allow the conference. Moved not only by considerations about the freedom of travel and assembly of persons not determined to be terrorists, Denmark resisted the pressure, and the congress proceeded and delegated former parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to press for talks with the government.

Given President Vladimir Putin's past intransigence in initiating peace talks with those he views as terrorists, and given the continuing attacks by rebels on Russian soldiers and the Russian federal troops' brutal sweeps of Chechen villages, the Dubrovka hostage-taking incident and aftermath will likely lead to further escalation of the conflict everywhere in Russia. Lev Gudkov of VTsIOM told RFE/RL's Russian Service on 25 October the hostage crisis would lead to "an explosion of anti-Chechen and anti-Caucasian sentiment...[and]...extremist groups will also become more active. It is entirely possible that we will see a wave of pogroms against Chechens and other Caucasians in Russia."

While human rights groups are now gearing themselves to handle complaints of numerous Chechens and other Caucasians who are now being harassed and checked and forced to leave Moscow and other large cities, for a time, the press and parliament are likely to be more preoccupied with the failure of President Putin to comment on the domestic aspects of the Chechen crisis and emphasize only the dimension of rebels' involvement with international terrorism, as well as the indiscriminate deaths of hostages themselves in the raid and the authorities' blocking of relatives from access to hospitals. As "The Times" of London commented on 30 October: "Even those who give him [Putin] the benefit of the doubt in the awful dilemma that faced him at the weekend find it hard to excuse the subsequent evasiveness, repression of information, and cavalier disregard of the rights of survivors' relatives. 'Izvestiya' puts it most clearly: 'Russian citizens are quite sane. In dealing with them one need not stoop to vulgar totalitarianism, police repression, or disparaging hushing-up and half-truths.'"

When they have a gun to their head, it is obviously hard for innocent civilians, let alone the governments that are supposed to protect them, to appreciate that torture and other massive human rights violations for which the state ultimately bears responsibility cause terror, which in turn engenders a new round of human rights abuse on all sides. In the coming weeks, both Russian media and Western politicians who have too long been silent about the awful consequences of the Chechen war may find their voices and help put an end to an even greater escalation of the human tragedies of all who have been swept into the conflict by persuading the Russian government that this is the case.

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY QUESTIONS REPORTED OUTCOME OF LOCAL ELECTIONS. Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 22 October, Artur Baghdasarian, chairman of the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) party, accused Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) of using its leverage with local officials to "distort" the outcome of the 20 October local elections in which the HHK won an impressive victory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Baghdasarian claimed that some voters cast two ballots for HHK candidates and that some ballots were cast on behalf of deceased voters. At the same time, Baghdasarian said his party is satisfied with the outcome of the poll, in which it appears to have won the second-largest representation on local councils after the HHK. In an interview with Armenian Public Television, Central Election Commission Chairman Artak Sahradian admitted the voting was marred by shortcomings, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

OPPOSITION MARKS THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS. Thousands of people attended a rally in Yerevan on 25 October to mark the third anniversary of the shooting of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament, which they blamed on Armenian President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Albert Bazeyan, chairman of the Hanrapetutiun Party, affirmed that the killings were intended to give Kocharian "unlimited" power and ensure his victory in future elections by removing his possible rivals, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

THOUSANDS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN. Azerbaijani opposition parties staged another mass demonstration in Baku on 27 October with the consent of the municipal authorities, Turan reported. Turan estimated the number of participants at "tens of thousands," while ITAR-TASS calculated it at 6,000-8,000. The participants demanded the resignation of President Heidar Aliev; concentration of the country's resources on solving the Karabakh conflict; the annulment of the outcome of the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments; an amnesty for political prisoners and the return to Azerbaijani of political emigres; the involvement of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in preparing for next year's presidential elections; airtime for the opposition on the state-controlled media, and permission to stage opposition demonstrations on Baku's Azadlyg Square; and the trial and sentencing of persons responsible for the use of force against participants in the standoff between police and villagers in Nardaran on 3 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

FORTY FEARED DEAD IN FERRY DISASTER. Up to 40 people are feared dead after a ferry of the Azerbaijani-owned Caspian Steamship Company (CASPAR) en route from Aqtau to Baku sank in stormy seas 130 kilometers northeast of Baku on the morning of 22 October, five hours after sending an SOS, Azerbaijani and Western news agencies reported. The ferry carried a crew of 42 and between eight and 14 passengers. Thirteen people have reportedly been rescued and three bodies recovered. The ferry, which like other CASPAR vessels was reportedly not insured, was carrying 16 railcar loads of Kazakh oil, which leaked and created an oil slick 8 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, Reuters reported. Azerbaijani political analyst Rovshan Novrozoglu believes that both the Azerbaijani ferry "Mercury-2" that sank in the Caspian on 22 October and the Azerbaijani tanker "General Shikhlinskii" damaged by an explosion in the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk) three months earlier were targeted by terrorists, according to the Azerbaijani paper "Hurriyet" on 24 October, as cited by Groong. On 25 October, an official from the Caspian Shipping Company that owned the vessel confirmed reports that neither the "Mercury-2" nor any other of the company's 75-strong fleet are insured. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 28 October)

CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO CLOSE DOWN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Rafik Aliev, head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, has said that his office will attempt to have the registration of the Jehovah's Witness community in Baku cancelled, accusing them of holding "illegal meetings" and involving children in "unhealthy religious services" which, he claims, is a violation of the country's law on religion and justifies initiating court action. Aliyev had earlier in the week pledged that the Jehovah's Witnesses had "nothing to worry about" and that legal action would not be taken to liquidate the community. Aliyev has also had closed down the Love Baptist Church and 22 of the country's 26 madrassahs. (Keston News Service," 24 October)

AUTHORITIES CLOSE CHECHEN CULTURAL CENTER IN BAKU. Azerbaijani authorities ordered the closure of a Chechen cultural center in Baku, Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Nikolai Ryabov said at a news conference in Baku on 26 October. Ryabov said that President Aliyev and the government made this decision on 25 October. The Russian ambassador expressed his gratitude to the Azerbaijani authorities and personally to President Aliev. Ryabov said that the Chechen cultural center in Baku was "in effect, an intelligence agency of Chechen elected President Aslan Maskhadov." He added that the center "conducted undercover work among about 8,000 Chechen refugees living in Azerbaijan." (Interfax, 29 October)

KGB EXPELS RUSSIAN POLITICAL LEADER FROM MINSK... The Belarusian KGB detained Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov on his arrival at a Minsk airport on 23 October and promptly put him on a plane back to Moscow, Belarusian and Russian media reported. Nemtsov, accompanied by State Duma Deputy Speaker Iryna Khakamada (SPS), planned to attend a conference on Belarusian-Russian integration in Minsk. Khakamada, although not detained, chose to return to Moscow with Nemtsov. An unnamed KGB official told Interfax that more than $50,000 and "literature aimed at destabilizing Belarus" were confiscated from Nemtsov. "We received a phone call today in the morning warning that Nemtsov is going to bring a large sum of money in hard currency into the Republic of Belarus to support his allies," KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau commented. "I think there is no need to name these allies. Everybody remembers the well-known conversation about overthrowing the legitimately elected president of our country by joint efforts," he added. Kotau was apparently referring to the transcript of a telephone conversation between Nemtsov and Belarusian opposition leader Anatol Lyabedzka -- published in Russia and Belarus in September -- in which the two politicians seemed to discuss plans to oust President Alyaksandr Lukashenka with assistance from the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 September 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

...AND NEMTSOV SAYS EXPULSION FROM BELARUS WAS KGB PROVOCATION... Nemtsov told ORT on 23 October that his expulsion from Belarus that day was "a large-scale provocation against the Russia-Belarus Union." Nemtsov said that he and fellow SPS leader Khakamada were separated from the rest of an SPS delegation at the Minsk airport by Belarusian KGB officers. The KGB officials showed them a folder of documents and a package of U.S. dollars and accused them of bringing "subversive literature and money to the anti-Lukashenka opposition." Nemtsov said he had never seen the file or the money before and charged that Belarusian President Lukashenka bears responsibility for the "provocation." Last month's transcript of a telephone conversation between Nemtsov and Lyabedzka in the Moscow newspaper "Sovetskaya Rossiya," causing a small political sensation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

...AS FOREIGN MINISTRY EXPLAINS WHY. "The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Belarus thinks that representatives of the Russian Federation's political circles should visit Belarus with comprehensible goals," Belarusian Television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka as saying on 23 October. "Belarus's Foreign Ministry has [already] drawn attention to Boris Nemtsov's repeated inadmissible, insulting statements and actions with regard to the Belarusian state, which is friendly to Russia. Boris Nemtsov's efforts to complicate the development of Belarusian-Russian relations [and] to halt the integration processes [as well as] his categorical disagreement with the policy of the building of a union state are damaging not only Belarusian-Russian relations but also prospects for building the union," Latushka added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

CONVICTED HEAD OF STRIKE COMMITTEE OF BUSINESSMEN GOES ON HUNGER STRIKE. Valery Levonevsky, head of a Belarusian strike committee of businessmen unregistered by the Justice Ministry, went on a protest fast on 26 October to challenge the 15-day sentence of administrative arrest for organizing an unauthorized rally. He is serving his sentence in a detention center at the Ockyabrsky District Police Department in Hrodno, sources in the strike committee told Interfax. Levonevsky said: "It was not a rally. People just stood and waited for representatives of the regional executive committee to come out and clear up the situation." The strike committee says the arrest "is a reprisal and an attempt to shut up a disliked politician." The businessmen staged a protest against administrative pressure and interference in their vending at outdoor markets in September. (Interfax, 28 October)

SCHOOLGIRL, SEEKING INSTRUCTION IN MOTHER TONGUE, PLAYS HOOKY. Maryya Karalkova, a fifth-grader from the town of Horki (Mahilyou Oblast), has skipped her classes for the past two months to protest her school's inability to ensure instruction in the Belarusian language, Belapan reported on 22 October. Maryya's parents told the agency that in previous years it was sufficient for the girl to miss school for a couple of weeks to make local authorities open a Belarusian-language class. "We have been promised that our demand [to educate Maryya in Belarusian] will be satisfied as soon as [local authorities] get an instruction 'from the top,'" Maryya's mother said, according to Belapan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS HEAVILY FINED FOR ANTI-INTEGRATION PICKET. A district court in Minsk has fined Pavel Sevyarynets the equivalent of $900 and Syarhey Markoyts and Alena Lazarchyk some $120 each for staging a picket in Minsk on 23 October to protest Belarusian-Russian integration, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 October. "This shows that the Lukashenka regime is not going to change," Sevyarynets said. "As before, it punishes [individuals] for [displaying] the slogans 'No to Union with Russia' and 'Belarus into Europe.'" The picket took place in front of the International Educational Center, where some opposition leaders were participating in a conference on Belarus's possible integration with Russia. Boris Nemtsov planned to take part in the conference but was prevented from doing so by the KGB. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

GOVERNMENT ORDERS OSCE MISSION'S LAST MEMBER TO LEAVE MINSK. The Foreign Ministry on 28 October notified Alina Josan of Moldova, the last remaining international member of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) in Belarus, that her diplomatic accreditation has expired, Belapan reported. "The Belarusian authorities have kindly given me 36 hours for preparations [to leave the country]," she told the news agency the same day. Belarusian authorities have "phased out" other international members of the AMG by denying visa extensions to them. Josan said the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna is to decide on further activities of the AMG. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

HAGUE PROSECUTOR AGAIN CALLS FOR CROATIA TO EXTRADITE GENERAL BOBETKO... Speaking in Zagreb on 23 October, Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, again called on the Croatian government to extradite former General Janko Bobetko, AP reported. "Justice must be done in [an] equal manner for all our accused," she stressed. Del Ponte added, however, that Croatia's behavior has "not reached [the] stage of non-cooperation" and that she will not formally report Zagreb to the UN Security Council, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

...AS TRIBUNAL REJECTS APPEAL. The war crimes tribunal turned down a request by Croatia that it reconsider its indictment of former General Bobetko, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from The Hague on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 October 2002). The tribunal called on Croatian authorities to arrest and extradite him immediately. In Zagreb, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said he regrets the tribunal's decision. In Sarajevo, Del Ponte said she is unhappy that Croatia has not arrested and extradited Bobetko and General Ante Gotovina. She added that cooperation with the tribunal by the various Balkan states has never been worse during the past three years than it is now. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

REPORT: PRAGUE WILL MAKE 'MORAL GESTURE' ON BENES DECREES. The Czech government is planning to make a "moral political gesture" to address German and Austrian concerns about the post-World War II Benes Decrees, dpa news agency reported on 22 October. The gesture would include a joint declaration of regret by Prague and Berlin, similar to the 1997 declaration issued by the Czech and German governments. Despite demands from politicians in Germany and Austria, the Czech government has refused demands to repeal the decrees, which expelled ethnic Germans and Hungarians and resulted in the confiscation of their property while also amnestying crimes against them at the conclusion of the war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

OPPOSITION REJECTS PROPOSED BUDGET. The opposition Pro Patria Union and the Moderates, supported by the People's Union, succeeded in defeating the first reading of the proposed 2003 budget submitted by the government by a vote of 46 to 45 on 23 October, ETA reported. The Pro Patria Union, which has proposed an alternative budget, criticized the government for submitting a deficit budget and being unfriendly to children, education, and culture. The government held an extraordinary session by phone after the vote and decided to resubmit the same budget with no amendments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

ILLEGALLY ISSUED PASSPORTS WON'T BE CANCELED. The cabinet on 22 October endorsed amendments to the citizenship law that allow people who were ineligible for citizenship but were given passports 10 years ago due to administrative errors to keep them, BNS reported. The amendments also would authorize new identification cards for those whose passports have expired. At least 1,500 passports were issued on the basis of defective documents or unchecked data, according to research by the Citizenship and Migration Board. The board sent letters to these individuals telling them they will have to apply for naturalization again and pass language tests to gain citizenship. Prime Minister Siim Kallas said people who acted in good faith should not suffer because of mistakes by officials, but added that this will not apply to people who knowingly submitted false information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES FROM ADJARIA FAIL IN BID TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT. The opposition Aghordzineba (Revival) faction collected only 30 signatures on 22 October in support of its bid to impeach President Eduard Shevardnadze, less than half the minimum 79 required, Caucasus Press reported. Faction head Djemal Gogitidze argued that Shevardnadze's "weak" and "criminal" policy has resulted in the central authorities' loss of control over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Caucasus Press observed that other factions are unlikely to support the impeachment initiative, which they consider an extension of the ongoing standoff between Shevardnadze and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze over Adjaria's systematic withholding of the tax revenues it should transfer to the central Georgian budget. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

NEW OPPOSITION PARTY UNITES SUPPORTERS OF FORMER PRESIDENT. The founding congress of the Union of National Concord and Justice took place in Tbilisi on 28 October, the anniversary of Zviad Gamsakhurdia's election in 1990 as Georgian parliament chairman, Caucasus Press reported. The union is headed by Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia's former Prime Minister Nemo Burchuladze is a member of its political council. Absandze was sentenced in August 2001 to 18 years in prison on multiple charges, including involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze, but that sentence was subsequently reduced for lack of evidence of his role in that assault. Shevardnadze pardoned him in April 2002 ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

STATUS LAW AMENDMENTS IN THE OFFING. A Hungarian intergovernmental working group is recommending mostly technical but also some substantial changes to the country's Status Law, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 29 October. When proposing the changes, the group has taken into account comments made by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and by the OSCE, as well as objections leveled by neighboring Romania and Slovakia. Regarding education benefits to ethnic Hungarians abroad, the proposal would considerably expand the number of those eligible for educational support. Institutions rather than people would be granted educational subsidies. The chapter on employment would be removed from the law. Instead, general laws pertaining to the employment of foreigners in Hungary would prevail unless an international treaty stipulates otherwise. In line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the issue of Hungarian certificates would be also modified. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

PARLIAMENT COMMEMORATES 1956 UPRISING. The Hungarian parliament on 23 October staged a special session to honor the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising and the 13th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Hungary, Hungarian media reported. The opposition FIDESZ party boycotted the session, citing the fact that representatives of 1956 freedom fighters' groups were not allowed to contribute. Parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili in her address emphasized the need for unity, saying anyone who "expropriates" 1956 not only makes a mockery of the anniversary but weakens the principles underlying the republic. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy called 23 October "a holiday of freedom, democracy, and commitment to the nation." Opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David attended the session and read out a moderately toned message from veterans of the uprising, but only seven of her party's deputies were present to hear it. David quoted Gergely Pongratz, commander of one of the rebelling forces in Budapest in 1956, as saying "the left wing was unable to forgive us for the crimes it committed against us in 1956 and afterward." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

OFFICIAL CONCERNED OVER INFLUX OF CHECHENS. Vladimir Bozhko, the first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, told a recent session of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly's Commission for Defense, Security, and International Cooperation that the number of Chechens entering Kazakhstan has risen sharply, "Vremya novostei" reported on 25 October. In November 1999, Kazakhstan temporarily suspended ferry traffic with Azerbaijan to curb the influx of Chechen refugees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

OPPOSITION DEPUTY ELECTED HEAD OF OPPOSITION PARTY. Azimbek Beknazarov, whose arrest in January 2002 sparked mass public protests, was elected chairman of the opposition Asaba party at a congress in Djalalabad Oblast on 22 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the following day. Former Asaba leader Doelet Nusupov now heads the party's coordination council. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

DEMONSTRATORS KEPT AWAY FROM UN SECRETARY-GENERAL. Opposition and human rights activists slammed the government after they were prevented from meeting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) reported from Bishkek. The secretary-general's first visit to Kyrgyzstan, part of a tour of Central Asia, prompted a series of demonstrations in Bishkek about political persecution. Some independent journalists claimed the authorities did everything in their power to make sure the UN chief remained unaware of the protesters, who were driven back, arrested, and then released as soon as he left the country. The Kyrgyz police and special forces were well prepared for Annan's arrival, cordoning off the area around the local UN office where Annan was due to meet officials. According to a report from the opposition Ar-Namys (Dignity) party, whose leader Felix Kulov has been in prison since the beginning of 2001, the police arrested 22 of its members who tried to force their way through into the building. ("IWPR Reporting Central Asia," No. 155, 25 October)

OFFICIAL RESULTS OF PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED. The Central Election Committee said on 22 October that official results of this month's parliamentary elections differ slightly from the preliminary results, LETA reported. The left-wing For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) was awarded an additional seat, raising its total to 25, which the rightist People Union lost to put the number of its deputies at 20. Of the 100 deputies -- 82 men and 18 women -- 33 served in the previous parliament. Four deputies chose not to list their nationalities, while the others declared themselves as Latvian (79), Russian (14), Polish (1), Karelian (1), and Jewish (1). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

OFFICIALS SEE NO GROUNDS TO CLOSE DOWN CHECHEN MISSION. A Vilnius municipality representative said that Vilnius's local government sees no reasons why an unofficial mission of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Lithuania should be closed down, local media reported on 29 October. Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with the mission's activity. A public institution, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria information and culture mission, was registered with the Vilnius municipality register office back in 1998 under a private person's name. "No rules were broken during the years since 1998 and we see no reasons why it should be closed down, unless politicians intervene," Vilnius Deputy Mayor Algimantas Vakarinas said on 28 October, commenting on media reports saying that the Chechen information center in Vilnius would be closed down if Russia demanded it. Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Yurii Zubakov, in an interview for Lithuanian media, expressed dissatisfaction with Lithuania's permission to "Aslan Maskhadov's representatives" to operate in Lithuania. A Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that monitoring the Chechen information center is not within the scope of the ministry. "The Chechen information center is a public institution headed by a Lithuanian citizen, signatory of the 11 March 1991 [Lithuanian] independence act, Algirdas Endriukaitis. For this reason, the institution that issued a permit to establish the public institution should explain what activity the center is engaged in and whether it complies with laws," the head of the Foreign Ministry's press division, Daiva Rimasauskaite, said. Vakarinas said the Chechen information center is engaged in transparent activity, namely, publishing books, trading in newspapers and stationery, films and videos, and organizing concerts or other entertainment events. Gediminas Kirkilas, the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said he did not believe Russia would seriously raise the matter of closing down the center on an official level. CAF

FIVE ARRESTED IN STUDENT PROTESTS. Several thousand high-school students staged nationwide protests on 23 October against the recent killing of an ethnic Macedonian student in a drive-by shooting in Tetovo, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. High School Union President Aleksandar Nikolovski told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters: "There are two reasons for the protest: first, the murder of Vanco Josifovski in Tetovo; and second, the Albanization of education [through] the nomination of a [former member of the] terrorist [National Liberation Army] UCK and the attempts to change the names of high schools in Tetovo, as well as the setting up of busts of Albanian terrorists [in the schools]" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2002). At least two ethnic Albanian bystanders were wounded and several Albanian-owned shops in Skopje were looted when the protests escalated, Reuters reported. Police arrested five protesters, dpa noted. A spokesman for the Social Democrats (SDSM) blamed the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) for "misusing minors" and trying to "score points out of ethnic tensions." The protesters' slogans included "Death to the Albanians." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

PRIME MINISTER-DESIGNATE DEFENDS 'GUNS AND ROSES' COALITION. Prime Minister-designate Branko Crvenkovski of the SDSM told the private TV Telma that there is no alternative to forming a coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 24 October. Crvenkovski tried to dispel mistrust of the BDI among the Macedonian population. "Some 140,000 [ethnic Albanian] voters stand behind the BDI, and the [SDSM-led] coalition will respect their position," Crvenkovski said. "Without the participation in government of that commands the most respect [among the Albanians], we will have much bigger problems," Crvenkovski said. Dpa reported that the coalition has been dubbed "Guns and Roses" in an allusion to the guerrilla pasts of many BDI members and the presence of a rose in the Social Democrats' emblem. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. The Sejm on 28 October voted 286-105, with five abstentions, to reject a no-confidence motion in its speaker, Marek Borowski (Democratic Left Alliance), Polish media reported. The motion was opposed by the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union coalition, the Peasant Party, and the opposition Civic Platform, and backed by the opposition Law and Justice, Self-Defense, and League of Polish Families (LPR). The motion was filed by the LPR. The LPR charged Borowski with violating parliamentary regulations by ordering Sejm guards to remove LPR lawmaker Gabriel Janowski from the session hall when he staged a sit-in to protest the sale of a state-owned energy company. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

SOLIDARITY PROTESTS GOVERNMENT POLICY IN SHIPYARD INDUSTRY... Some 5,000 Solidarity trade unionists led by Solidarity's newly appointed head, Janusz Sniadek, staged a protest in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw on 22 October against what they call the government's "bad policy" in the shipyard industry, Polish media reported. Demonstrators demanded a comprehensive rescue plan for Polish shipyards. Protesters threw firecrackers and set several tires alight during the rally. A small group clashed with riot police, who cordoned off the government office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

...AND STRIKES COOPERATION DEAL WITH LEFTIST TRADE UNION IN SILESIA. Solidarity and the left-wing National Trade Union Accord (OPZZ) in Silesia Province have agreed to cooperate in defending jobs and employee rights, PAP reported on 22 October. An accord to this effect is to be signed by leaders of the regional branches of Solidarity and OPZZ "soon," the news agency added. "This kind of [cooperation] is taking place in this country for the first time," said Henryk Moskwa, chairman of the OPZZ in Silesia. "[It is a signal to the authorities] that, in the face of threats, we are capable of pushing the divisions of the past away and standing together above those differences in defense of our mutual union and employee interests," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

CRISIS IN CNSAS INTENSIFIES. On 28 October, two groups in the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) accused each other of impeding the council's activity, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The group led by CNSAS Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru and his deputy Mihai Gheorghe, which is considered to be close to the ruling Social Democratic Party, told journalists that the rival group -- particularly former Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, former anti-Ceausescu dissident poet Mircea Dinescu, and essayist Horia Roman Patapievici -- are "creating tensions" by pursuing "chimerical solutions" in their quest to unmask all who worked with the former "political police." The Onisoru-led group -- a minority within the CNSAS -- said it seeks to inform the parliament about the situation that has developed and to prompt it to intervene. CNSAS members are appointed by the legislature. The rival group, which comprises six CNSAS members, said Onisoru, Gheorghe, and three others have boycotted CNSAS meetings ever since the initiative to publicize the names of former Securitate members was launched. The group also claimed that Onisoru and his deputy boycott the CNSAS meetings to avoid being dismissed by the majority. Chamber of Deputies speaker Valer Dorneanu, who met with Onisoru, said the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate judicial commissions will examine the situation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

FURTHER MASS CLOSURE OF MOSQUES. Over the past three months, the local authorities in a northern Tajik region have closed down 33 of the district's 152 mosques. Government officials have told Keston that many of the mosques were closed because they did not have state registration and that the district had "too many" mosques. Tajikistan's religion law says nothing about a requirement to register religious associations. Article 14 of the law only explains the procedure for registration for those religious associations wishing to do so and states that registration is undertaken "so that a religious community can receive the legal status of a juridical person," i.e. not to receive permission to carry out religious rituals. However state officials interpret this article of the law as a requirement to register. (Keston News Service, 21 October)

RAKHMONOV RAISES PENSIONS, MINIMUM WAGE. President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a decree on 25 October raising pensions, state-sector salaries, student grants, and the minimum wage by 20 percent, effective 1 April 2003, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 28 October. The new minimum wage will be 5 somonis ($1.7). Rakhmonov decreed a similar increase 11 months ago. In order to fund next year's increase, Rakhmonov ordered a 5 percent reduction in the staff of national and local government bodies. Asia Plus-Blitz reported in July 2002 that in the southern oblast of Kulyab, workers in the agrarian sector receive on average 15 somonis per month; in the education sector, 17 somonis; in health care, 8 somonis; and in the culture sector, 11 somonis. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER FINDS REFUGE. At the end of September 2002, Gulgeldy Annaniyazov was granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International (AI) reported in a statement on 9 October. The former political prisoner was reportedly in imminent danger of being forcibly returned to Turkmenistan, where he would have been at risk of torture or ill-treatment, the statement said. Local and international groups pleaded with their governments and with the UNHCR to take action on the case. On 1 October, Interfax reported that the U.S. was prepared to accept Annaniyazov as a refugee once he had received medical treatment. He was flown to Norway on 4 October, where he is receiving treatment for tuberculosis, possibly for two months. He has reportedly been in poor health since his imprisonment in Turkmenistan between 1995 and 1999. In a statement to AI, Annaniyazov thanked those who worked on his case and said he would have been arrested if returned. "The Turkmen authorities sent an official request to the Kazakh authorities asking them to deport me to Turkmenistan," he wrote. "The director of the investigation-isolation prison where I was kept in Kazakhstan said to me, 'Who are you that the president of Turkmenistan is so interested in you?'" By not returning Annaniyazov to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan complied with international obligations under human rights law, according to AI. CAF

PARLIAMENT MULLS POLITICAL CRISIS... The Verkhovna Rada on 23 October discussed the current political situation in the country, as demanded by the caucuses of Our Ukraine and the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Socialist Party, and Communist Party, UNIAN reported. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said Ukraine is closer to a "dictatorship and a clannish political-system model" than it has ever been, adding that lawmakers contribute to strengthening this model with their "helplessness and passivity" in the parliament. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said the opposition's main goal is to change the current political system into a parliamentary-presidential republic. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko announced that his party will continue organizing street protests against what he called the "social genocide" perpetrated by the current authorities. Lawmakers from the pro-presidential caucuses that form a fragile parliamentary majority appealed to the opposition to stop leveling accusations against the authorities and return to normal legislative work. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

....AS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FAILS TO HALT CASE AGAINST KUCHMA. The Supreme Court on 22 October rejected an appeal by Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to rule the criminal case initiated against President Leonid Kuchma earlier this month illegal, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. On 15 October, Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko opened the case against Kuchma in which the president is charged with violating 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Piskun argued that the constitution grants Kuchma prosecutorial immunity, but the Supreme Court sent his appeal to the Court of Appeals, which is expected to proceed with the case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

MORE THAN 100,000 UKRAINIAN CHILDREN SAID TO BE HOMELESS. Valentyna Shevchenko, chairwoman of the State Committee for Family and Youth Matters, said on 22 October that there are more than 100,000 homeless children in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Shevchenko noted that nearly 20 percent of these children have lost both of their parents. She also said there are nearly 70,000 families in Ukraine that are poorly provided for. "We need to work with such families, since most homeless children and child beggars come from families that are socially dysfunctional, have many children, or have lost at least one parent," Shevchenko said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

HAGUE TRIBUNAL CALLS FOR 'ALL MEASURES NECESSARY' TO GAIN COOPERATION. Claude Jorda, president of the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, told the UN Security Council in a letter on 23 October that Yugoslav authorities are not cooperating with the tribunal, Reuters reported. He noted: "Yugoslavia is not cooperating in tracking down, arresting, and transferring to The Hague certain of the accused. For all these reasons, the prosecutor and I request that you take all the measures necessary in order to force the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to assume fully its international obligations." Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said, "It's up to the Security Council to determine what [action] is appropriate." In Belgrade, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic denied that his government is not cooperating, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October)

PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF HOLDING UP THE ARREST OF MLADIC. Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, said in Sarajevo on 22 October that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is holding up the arrest of former General Ratko Mladic and his extradition to The Hague, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Earlier that day, she said in Prishtina that she expects to have an indictment against an unnamed member of the ethnic Albanian Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) ready by the end of the year. This would be the first indictment from The Hague of an UCK member for crimes committed during 1998-99 conflict in Kosova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October)

PRESIDENT'S PARTY LEADS IN KOSOVA VOTE... Officials of the OSCE said in Prishtina on 29 October that 54 percent, or 713,000, of the 1.32 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the 26 October local elections, Hina reported. With 87 percent of the votes counted, President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) is ahead in 19 of 30 municipalities. Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) leads in seven municipalities, while Ramush Haradinaj's smaller Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) is ahead in an unspecified number of municipalities but will not have an absolute majority. Serbian parties appear to have won in three northern municipalities and one southern one. Final results are expected by 1 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)

...WHICH WAS MARRED BY A LOW TURNOUT. Dpa reported from Prishtina on 28 October that Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has postponed plans for a meeting on 1 November to discuss his local self-government plan aimed at giving the Serbian minority a degree of autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2002). He reportedly dropped plans for the meeting because of the low turnout among Serbian voters, which was not higher than 20 percent. Steiner previously told the Serbs that they must vote if they want a say in the running of Kosova. Many Serbs did not vote because they are angry over the low rate of refugee returns and their poor security situation, AP reported. Some have difficulty accepting their status as a minority in a province whose political life is dominated by Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). For their part, many Albanians did not vote because they are disappointed by the political parties' failure to improve the economy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)