18 December 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies" will appear on 8 January 2003.
EU ENLARGEMENT PROCEEDS WITH SOME RESISTANCE AMONG NEW MEMBERS.
At a meeting in Copenhagen, the European Union and 10 countries mainly from Central and Eastern Europe jointly approved on 13 December the biggest enlargement in the bloc's history. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are expected to sign their accession treaties in the spring of next year and join the bloc on 1 May 2004. Parliaments of the 15 current EU member states must endorse the decision.
Difficult negotiations finally culminated in success after Poland and the other nine candidates were awarded a slightly increased financial offer from the EU to ease their entry into the union. While the subsidies to the new states will cost $41.8 billion, $15 billion will be returned to EU coffers in budget contributions by new members (see "EU: Enlargement Approved For 2004," rferl.org, 16 December 2002).
Resistance to EU membership has not been overwhelming, but has been significant enough to constitute a source of tension in East European politics this year, as liberal urban politicians interested in enhanced business opportunities and labor markets for their constituents find themselves pitted against conservative opposition concerned about national sovereignty and rural people worried about farm survival.
According to a poll conducted by the Central European Opinion Research Group Foundation (CEORG) in November, 62.4 percent of Czech respondents said they would vote for EU entry while 28.7 percent would oppose it. A public-opinion poll conducted by TNS Factum after the completion on 13 December of negotiations in Copenhagen showed that one in two Czechs considers the terms of accession bad, CTK reported, citing TV Nova -- even if a majority would vote for it. Some 73.5 percent of Poles would vote for EU accession and 17.7 would be against it. In Hungary, the proportion would be 75.1 percent to 14.3 percent. The portion of Czechs favoring a referendum before joining the EU increased to 77.4 percent in the most recent CEORG poll, up from 63 percent in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2002).
In some instances, public anger at the EU accession has spilled out into the streets. Czech farmers angry at insufficient subsidies blocked several key border crossings on 12 December, CTK reported the same day. For two hours, hundreds of farmers used tractors and other equipment to cut off roads to Austria and Germany, leaving trucks, buses, and tourists stranded on both sides of the border. "Is liquidation of Czech agriculture a ticket to [the] EU?" read a banner held up at the Breclav border crossing on the highway to Vienna. The EU has proposed phasing in income support for farmers, starting at 25 percent of the level received by farmers in the current member states and allowing new members to use cash from EU rural-development funds and national budgets to increase the payments to 40 percent or more (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2002).
In Hungary, former Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 14 December told reporters that while his country's EU accession is of historic significance, the Hungarian delegation conducted "weak and abortive talks" over the last few days with the EU, Budapest dailies reported on 16 December. Orban said that while Poland and the Czech Republic achieved considerable results at the very last moment, Hungarians "can present nothing." He added, "We only succeeded in getting approval to spend our own money." Opposition Democratic Forum deputy Sandor Lezsak said there is a danger that a considerable portion of Hungarian farmland will end up in foreign hands upon accession (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 2002).
In Estonia, despite widespread public opposition to EU membership, all the major political parties have declared their support for EU accession, ETA reported on 13 December. Right-wing parties, such as the Pro-Patria Union and Reform Party, have previously expressed their support. People's Party Chairman Villu Reiljan meanwhile said on 12 December that joining the EU is a better option than remaining outside the group, but he added that it is the lesser of two evils.
Many citizens of the new EU members hope the relationship will provide better employment opportunities for them abroad. While some human rights groups have been concerned that new barriers to migrant labor will go up given the huge demand, there are indications that accommodations will be made. British Prime Minister Tony Blair informed Lithuanian Prime Minister Antanas Brazauskas on 11 December that Lithuanian citizens will have the opportunity to work in Great Britain after Lithuania joins the EU in 2004, BNS reported. Foreign Minister Jack Straw said later that the opening of the U.K. labor market to Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Polish, Hungarian, Slovenian, Slovak, and Czech workers will be beneficial to the country's economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2002) CAF
HRW FOUNDER TESTIFIES IN THE HAGUE.
Jeri Laber, a founding member of Human Rights Watch (HRW), found herself facing one of the century's worst human rights violators in The Hague this week, international wire services and the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) reported on 10 and 11 December. At the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Laber testified that back in 1992, her organization attempted to visit then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and present him with their findings of atrocities committed in Croatia by Serbs starting in 1990. Although HRW researchers who had compiled evidence of violations of international humanitarian law had already testified before the ICTY, the purpose of Laber's testimony was to prove unfounded the claims of Milosevic and other top officials that they were unaware of allegations of grave human rights violations such as murder and rape on ethnic grounds (Milosevic refused to meet with the HRW team and the report was submitted to other high officials.) In a rare instance of an alleged perpetrator facing a human rights activist bent upon exposing crimes, Milosevic rambled on for hours on tangential subjects or specious claims, such as that Laber did not know the staff who had performed research for her organization, although she had hired them and edited their reports. According to the CIJ report, upon cross-examination, Milosevic said, "Those human rights you refer to, how can they be protected by provoking civil wars, by violent disintegration of a country, sanctions, aggression, bombing...?" Demonstrating that asking such rhetorical questions in a courtroom is likely to backfire, Laber adroitly responded, "I'd wanted to ask you that, Mr. Milosevic, for many years," CIJ quoted her as saying. The complete transcripts can be found at http://www.cij.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewOverview&tribunalID=1 and a video of the proceedings can be accessed at http://hague.bard.edu/video.html. CAFMINORITY RIGHTS GROUP CALLS FOR CASES.
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is currently launching an international project to provide legal support to cases before the international human rights courts or treaty-monitoring bodies, with the intent of broadening the interpretation of the law regarding the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples at the regional and universal levels. NGOs working on these issues are encouraged to identify strategic cases for MRG with potential for setting legal precedents for minority rights, including complaints currently before domestic courts. Information on such cases, including identification of legal mechanisms for successful remedies, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Minority Rights Group, 17 December)
OPPOSITION ALIGNMENT PLEDGES TO COMBAT ELECTION FRAUD.
Representatives of the 16 opposition parties that formed a loose alignment in August aimed at preventing President Robert Kocharian's re-election in February 2003 agreed on 12 December on a joint measure to prevent falsification of the outcome of the ballot, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Specifically, they agreed to set up joint bodies in all 55 electoral districts to monitor the vote and investigate reported irregularities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)
OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS OSCE ROUNDTABLE.
Azerbaijani opposition parties failed to attend a roundtable discussion of Azerbaijan's new election law organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office in Baku on 16 December, Turan reported. They had earlier said they would participate only if they were equally represented at that meeting with representatives of the Azerbaijani authorities and if journalists were allowed to attend. They also objected to the format of the discussion, which allowed an extensive presentation of the draft bill by pro-government officials, followed by five-minute speeches by other participants, Azerbaijani opposition politicians have condemned the new draft law as even more reactionary than its predecessor, and as not precluding malpractice. Also on 16 December, Turan reported that the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, together with the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, has released a preliminary assessment of the draft election legislation that comprises 210 comments and recommendations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 17 December)
DEMONSTRATORS ASK ABOUT UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES.
Some 250 people formed a "chain of concerned people" in Minsk on 10 December to demand the truth about the unaccounted-for disappearances of opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, Belapan reported. Demonstrators held portraits of politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, all of whom disappeared without a trace in 1998-2000. Last month, the Prosecutor-General's Office sent a letter to the lower house, the Chamber of Representatives, saying the investigation has found no evidence that Belarusian secret services or officials were involved in the disappearances of those figures. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)OPPOSITION GROUP REMAINS DIVIDED OVER 2003 LOCAL ELECTIONS.
The Conservative Christian Party (KKhP) of the Belarusian Popular Front, which is led by exiled Zyanon Paznyak from Poland, has called on Belarusians and the international community to boycott next spring's local election in Belarus, Belapan reported on 15 December. "The existing regime has established a system of control and falsification of elections that guarantees it the result needed irrespective of the outcome of any election," the KKhP said in a public appeal. According to the KKhP, the only way out of Belarus's political crisis is immediate presidential voting under the supervision of the UN and other international organizations. Meanwhile, the other wing of the Belarusian Popular Front, which is led by Vintsuk Vyachorka, has approved a list of 200 activists who will seek registration as candidates in next spring's local elections. "We regard the local elections as a good opportunity for a massive political campaign," Vyachorka's group said in a statement. The Belarusian Popular Front, the country's largest opposition group in the 1990s, split into Paznyak's and Vyachorka's factions in 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December)
HEARING FOR FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER BEGINS IN THE HAGUE...
The hearing for crimes against humanity in the case of former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic opened in The Hague on 16 December, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said the "hearing is of unusual importance in bringing to light what occurred during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina [in 1992-95]. It is the first time in the history of this tribunal that a senior figure in the former Yugoslavia indicted in a top leadership role has admitted responsibility for horrific crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina." Del Ponte added: "In her dealings with my office, the accused has not sought to gain personal advantage or to evade responsibility for what she herself has done. But the fact of the [guilty] plea in itself must be an important step towards reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December)...WHERE ALBRIGHT TELLS TRIBUNAL OF 'UNIMAGINABLE' HORRORS...
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the hearing for Plavsic at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 16 December that "a recognition of this court is essential, and what Mrs. Plavsic has done is to plead guilty and recognize the authority of this court. I think that is very important," RFE/RL reported. Albright added that "unimaginable" crimes took place in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war, noting, "There was more systematic effort in terms of getting rid of the non-Serbs" than there was against Serbs. She stressed that part of the function of the tribunal is to provide a deterrent against war crimes being committed in the future. Albright argued that Serbian behavior in the Bosnian conflict cannot be justified on the grounds that systematic atrocities were committed against Serbs during World War II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)...AND OF PLAVSIC AS A 'CONFLICTED INDIVIDUAL.'
Albright told the tribunal in The Hague on 16 December that she found Plavsic "a conflicted individual...in terms of knowing that she wanted to make sure that Serb interests were protected but, at the same time, understanding the necessity of going through with the Dayton [peace] process, which...she really stood up for in many different ways. But I think she obviously was involved in horrendous things prior to that and then began to see that the Dayton accords were the best way to accomplish what was necessary," RFE/RL reported. Albright added: "I know what I heard, actually, in [Plavsic's] own words, of being a spokesperson for some of the policies that came out of Banja Luka and that represented [the policies of the] Republika Srpska.... I found them repugnant and didn't understand why she would be involved in things like that." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT STOPS JUDICIAL REFORM...
The Constitutional Court ruled on 16 December that a large number of the provisions in the Judicial Reform Act are unconstitutional, mediapool.bg reported. According to the ruling, the law unconstitutionally increases the rights of the executive power at the expense of the judiciary, such as the parliamentary control of the judiciary or the rights of the Justice Ministry to interfere in cadre decisions. The court also ruled unconstitutional the provisions regarding the professional hierarchy in the judiciary, and the role of the Supreme Judicial Council. One of the key provisions in the new law, the possibility that the Supreme Judicial Council could move for the lifting of the immunity of the prosecutor-general with one-fifth support, was also ruled unconstitutional. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)...AND RULING COALITION WANTS REFERENDUM.
Following the announcement of the Constitutional Court, Justice Minister Anton Stankov of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) said on 16 December that his party has decided to call for a national referendum on the judicial reform, "Sega" reported. Stankov said he hopes that the referendum can be held in the spring of 2003, adding that the possible answers in the referendum will be either "yes" or "no" to the judicial reform. Nadezhda Mihailova of the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) said the court's decision means that 500 days of work have been wasted and demanded constitutional amendments relating to judicial reform, noting that the ODS warned during the parliamentary debate that the provisions in the Judicial Reform Act were unconstitutional. Lyuben Kornezov of the opposition Socialist Party said the court's decision to halt the judicial reform is the result of the battle between the executive and the judiciary for predominance over the courts, the prosecutors offices, and the magistrates, including the government's attempts to restrict the judiciary 's influence on privatization processes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 December)
JEWISH COMMUNITY APPEALS FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION.
Jewish communities in the Czech Republic have appealed to the government in a bid to convince the state to return about 20 buildings owned by Jews in the past, CTK reported on 12 December, citing the Federation of Jewish Communities' secretary, Tomas Kraus. The structures include synagogues in Louny, North Bohemia, and in Slany, Central Bohemia, that currently house district archives. "We are not saying that they [the archives] cannot be there. We only want to own the synagogues; we would like to get a minimum rent for their maintenance," Kraus said. In Kolin, about 50 kilometers from Prague, local authorities have refused to return the local synagogue, saying no Jewish families live in that city. Kraus rejected that argument, saying that after the Czech Republic joins the EU, Jews might move into town. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)
METAL WORKERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE.
Some 800 metallurgists dismissed from the Irtysh copper smelter in Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast have begun an open-ended hunger strike to demand the payment of layoff allowances, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. The state-owned copper giant Kazakhmys with which the loss-making smelter is affiliated decided in August to close it. Kazakhmys is now engaged in talks with the Urals Metallurgical Company, which has expressed an interest in purchasing it and resuming production. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)JAILED FORMER MINISTER BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE.
Former Energy Industry and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, who was sentenced in July to six years in prison on what are widely regarded as fabricated charges of abuse of office and financial mismanagement, has embarked on a hunger strike to protest being sentenced to 15 days' solitary confinement, Interfax reported on 11 December. It is not clear why Abliyazov has been disciplined. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)
ANTITRAFFICKING NGO TO RECEIVE UN AWARD.
Lithuanian Support Center for Families of Missing Persons will receive this year's UN Vienna Civil Society Award, BNS reported on 11 December. UN representative Cihan Sultanoglu told a press conference in Vilnius that the UN representative in Vienna, in cooperation with the Austrian Foreign Ministry and Vienna city officials, selected the center among first-place winners from 220 nominees. The center -- which was founded in 1999 to combat human trafficking, assist with integrating victims into society, provide assistance to their families, and search for missing persons -- will be awarded a medal and split the $100,000 award with two individuals and another organization in official ceremonies in Vienna on 17 December. Sultanoglu noted that the Support Center is the first nongovernmental organization (NGO) to receive the award and should encourage the work of other NGOs in Lithuania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)
ROMA PROTEST DISCRIMINATION.
A group of 50 people, the majority of them Roma, held a meeting in downtown Bucharest on 10 December to protest police discrimination, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The meeting was organized by the Romani CRISS association after two Romany delinquents were shot dead by police in the northern Romanian city of Buhusi last week. According to police, the police officers fired in self-defense after they were attacked by the victims. Romani CRISS leaders charge that the police officers used their weapons unjustifiably and that the suspects were targeted because of their race. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)CENSUS SHOWS HUNGARIAN MINORITY DECLINING.
According to the results of the 2002 census, the Hungarian minority in Romania currently numbers 1.43 million people, Romanian Radio reported. This is a drop of 190,000 compared to the results of the 1992 census. The decline is considered to be partly due to a drop in birthrates and partly to emigration to Hungary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)
DUMA PUTS JURY TRIALS ON HOLD.
The Duma on 11 December voted to postpone the introduction of jury trials by as much as four years, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Although Russia's 1993 constitution guarantees trials by jury, only in 2001 was a law passed calling for the introduction of such trials nationally by January 2003. However, by a vote of 263-92, deputies approved a Kremlin-proposed bill that would phase in jury trials gradually by 2007. Under the measure, jury trials will begin in Bashkortostan and about a dozen other subjects of the federation in January and in Moscow and about another dozen additional subjects on 1 July. All other regions except Chechnya will have jury trials by 1 January 2004, and Chechnya will have them by 1 January 2007, lenta.ru reported. AP quoted Duma Legislation Committee Deputy Chairwoman Yelena Mizulina (Union of Rightist Forces) as saying that the delay is necessary because of financial and technical difficulties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)CONTROVERSY SIMMERS OVER ORTHODOXY COURSE IN SCHOOLS.
Schools will not be forced to include in their curricula a course on Orthodox culture, nns.ru reported on 11 December, citing Deputy Education Minister Aleksandr Kiselev. Inclusion of the course will be exclusively on a voluntary basis, with the decision to be made by the administration of each school. Schools will, however, be able to require that students take the course. Last week, Kiselev said, schools received a letter from Education Minister Vladimir Filippov recommending that they adopt the ministry's draft course "Foundations of Orthodox Culture." Kiselev added that the ministry's proposal merely corresponds with existing practice, as schools in about 40 federation subjects are already teaching Orthodox culture. He said the ministry is primarily interested in improving the quality of that instruction. Nevertheless, a group of protesters picketed the Education Ministry on 12 December, demanding Filippov's dismissal and saying that such a course would constitute religious discrimination, which is prohibited under Article 14 of the federal constitution. Education Ministry officials defended the course, saying it is "culturological" rather than religious, and is also voluntary for schools, according to a special report by the Keston News Service on 4 December. However, the Keston report noted that the document on the course that Filippov sent to regional education departments in October "does not specify that [the course] is optional, nor that it is a purely 'culturological' subject." "Novye izvestiya" argued on 10 December that the course could not be implemented in schools anyway because of a lack of qualified teachers. There are hundreds of thousands of schools in Russia but only about 20,000 Orthodox priests, most of whom have no teaching experience, the newspaper reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 December).DRUG PROBLEM CONTINUES TO ESCALATE.
The illegal drug trade in Russia is estimated to be worth $15 billion to $20 billion this year, up substantially from an estimated $1.5 billion in 1996, $7 billion in 1999, and $8 billion to $11 billion in 2001, the weekly "Profil" reported in its 9 December issue. Official statistics show there are some 500,000 drug addicts in Russia. In 1996, the estimated number was fewer than 40,000. However, officials tacitly acknowledge the real number of drug addicts is probably between 3 million and 4 million, according to "Profil." More than 60 percent of drug addicts are under the age of 30, and some 20 percent are school-aged children. Up to 99 percent of the narcotics circulating in Russia come from Central Asian countries, especially Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)KAMCHATKA LEGISLATORS APPEAL FOR PRESIDENTIAL INTERVENTION...
The Kamchatka Oblast Council of People's Deputies appealed to President Vladimir Putin to step in and resolve a strike of municipal workers that began in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 25 November, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 11 December. More than 1,100 workers in the Far Eastern city are striking for wage arrears, salary increases, the restoration of benefits guaranteed by the law on northern territories, and the dismissal of several municipal officials. "In the peninsula's capital, a critical situation has developed in connection with the ill-advised policies of Mayor Yurii Golenishchev in the area of communal-services reform," the appeal states. Striking workers met on 10 December with Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev, who stated that more than 12 million rubles ($387,000) has been released from the oblast budget to pay the wage arrears. For the second day in a row, Golenishchev did not show up for negotiations, newsru.com reported. Instead, he issued a statement saying that the strikers' economic demands have been met by the oblast's actions, and the city administration does not intend to consider their "political demands." The governor and the strikers appealed to Golenishchev to repeal his communal-services reform. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)...BUT KAMCHATKA STRIKE ENTERS FOURTH WEEK DESPITE CONCESSIONS.
The number of striking municipal workers in the Far Eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii continues to grow despite concessions on the part of the Kamchatka Oblast Council, Russian news agencies reported on 16 December. On 16 December, the oblast council voted to transfer responsibility for the workers from the city to the oblast administration and to finance a 5.3 million-ruble ($171,000) wage increase in 2003 from the oblast budget, gazeta.ru reported. On 9 December, the legislature had also allocated 12.3 million rubles from the oblast budget to pay the wage arrears. Nonetheless, on 16 December workers from the Tsentralnyi Municipal Enterprise joined the strike and those from the Dalnyi Municipal Enterprise announced they will begin striking on 19 December. According to a spokesman for the Kamchatka Oblast governor's office, electrical-sector workers might also join the strike in the near future, as the city owes Kamchatskenergo 33 million rubles. The spokesman said that Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii's embattled Mayor Golenishchev has refused to provide the oblast administration with any information about the status of the municipal budget, gazeta.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December)COURT DECLARES PLANNED AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS' STRIKE ILLEGAL.
The Moscow City Court on 11 December ruled that a 24-hour strike planned by air-traffic controllers for 30 December is illegal because it threatens public safety, NTV reported. However, Federation of Air-Traffic Control Trade Unions President Sergei Kovalev vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and warned of further protests if workers and management cannot reach agreement on wage increases in the coming weeks. If controllers are not permitted to strike, Kovalev said, "they will be forced to take up other forms of protest," such as hunger strikes, which would "halt the work of enterprises." A recent nine-day hunger strike by air-traffic controllers disrupted air travel in many parts of the Russian Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)JUSTICE MINISTRY STARTS CHECKING REGISTERED POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS...
The Justice Ministry has begun checking officially registered political organizations to make sure they meet the requirements of the law on political parties, NTV reported on 11 December. The goal is to avoid numerous court appeals shortly before next year's elections to the State Duma. In order to participate in elections, political parties must clear three stages of the registration process, Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko explained in an interview with "Vremya MN" on 11 December. After receiving initial registration from the Justice Ministry, parties have six months to register regional branches in at least half of the 89 regions of the Russian Federation and then one additional month to show the Justice Ministry evidence that they have registered enough regional branches. Sidorenko noted that, so far, 47 political parties have passed the first stage but only 20 of them have confirmed that they have the required number of regional branches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)...AS OFFICIAL DEFENDS REGISTRATION OF NATIONAL POWER PARTY.
In his interview with "Vremya MN" on 11 December, Deputy Justice Minister Sidorenko defended the registration of the National Power Party of Russia (NDPR), which has ignited controversy because of anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments by its leaders. Sidorenko said the Justice Ministry closely scrutinized the NDPR and had no legal reason to deny registration to it. The party may have "odious personalities," but "a person's activities before a party's formation and his activities as a party leader are different things," Sidorenko reasoned. He added that some media have "distorted" the facts by quoting from alleged NDPR documents that are not the official documents submitted by the party to the Justice Ministry. According to Sidorenko, the documents highlighted by the media have been referred to the Prosecutor-General's Office, since investigating "what was said and where it was said" is not in the Justice Ministry's jurisdiction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)NATIONAL POWER PARTY LEADER EXPLAINS VIEWS ON 'NON-NATIVE PEOPLES.'
Boris Mironov, co-chairman of the NDPR, discussed nationality questions in an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 10 December. He acknowledged that he dislikes Jews, asking rhetorically, "What [ethnic] Russian person can like them after what they did to Russia?" But Mironov rejected the slogan "Russia for ethnic Russians," which in his view sets Russians and other "native peoples" (such as Tatars and Buryats) against each other. He defined "non-native peoples" as groups represented by foreign states, such as Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia. Mironov advocated depriving "non-native peoples" of the right to vote, even if they were born in Russia and their ancestors lived in Russia for centuries, on the grounds that they are "genetically disloyal." Mironov chaired the State Press Committee early in Boris Yeltsin's first presidential term but was sacked in 1994 after making controversial statements such as, "If Russian nationalism is fascism, then I am a fascist." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)CONGRESS MULLS NATIONALITY ISSUES.
Speaking at the opening of the seventh annual World Russian Peoples' Congress in Moscow on 17 December, Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II called for a revival of business and work ethics, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. The patriarch added that periods of reform are often accompanied by moral decay. Archbishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill called on the state to redistribute the national wealth to benefit "the have-nots and those who cannot work." Deputy Duma Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that the congress should clearly declare that "Russians are a state-forming nationality and that empire is the Russian system of government." He added that by the term "Russian" he means all those who acknowledge Russian culture. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called for the transformation of the nonprofit, arts-oriented Kultura television channel into a "Russian television channel." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)IMPRISONED CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER DIES MYSTERIOUSLY...
Salman Raduev, one of the most notorious Chechen field commanders, died suddenly on 14 December in a labor camp in Perm Oblast from "internal bleeding of uncertain origin" after a one-week hospitalization, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported. Raduev, 35, was captured in Chechnya by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of terrorism, including 1996 raids on Kyzlyar and Pervomaiskoe, during which several dozen civilians were killed. Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin said an autopsy revealed "no evidence of violence." He added that he does not know the cause of Raduev's "internal bleeding," but speculated that it might have been caused by his numerous combat wounds or by a blood disease from which he reportedly suffered since childhood. An unidentified Justice Ministry official said the fatal illness might have been brought on by Raduev's strict observance of the fast during the month of Ramadan. He also said Raduev's body will not be turned over to his relatives, but would be buried in the prison camp's cemetery. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister and National Security Minister Turpal-Ali Atgeriev died in prison in August, reportedly of leukemia, although prior to his conviction he had enjoyed perfect health. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December)...AMID MEDIA SPECULATION THAT HE WAS KILLED.
Raduev died as the result of a severe beating, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 16 December. According to unidentified sources within the labor camp's administration, Raduev failed to obey a prison warden's command and was severely beaten with a nightstick, dying several hours later. The daily noted that Raduev's death comes shortly after he gave testimony against Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev that was used as part of Russia's unsuccessful case to secure Zakaev's extradition from Denmark. Russia is currently seeking Zakaev's extradition from the United Kingdom, and the loss of such an important witness could seriously hamper Russia's case as Zakaev's defenders will now argue that the Russian secret services forced Raduev to testify and then killed him to prevent him from changing his story, the daily commented. The website strana.ru said on 17 December that the death was politically motivated, linking it with the equally unexpected and mysterious death in prison of former Chechen Deputy Prime Minister and National Security Minister Atgeriev on 18 August from "internal bleeding" that was attributed to leukemia. Both Raduev and Atgeriev were involved in the same criminal case concerning the 1996 raid on the town of Kyzlyar. Moreover, Atgeriev twice told journalists that he had warned then-FSB Director Putin in 1999 of an imminent incursion by Chechen fighters into Daghestan. Strana.ru speculated that both men might have possessed information that influential people in Russia and Chechnya would like to conceal. As for "internal bleeding," it is often caused by severe beatings, the website added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 December)PUTIN PROMISES TO STOP FORCED EVICTIONS OF CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONS.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting between President Putin and human rights activists to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December, Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva said the president promised that displaced persons from Chechnya currently living in tent camps in Ingushetia will not be forced to return to their homes, despite Kremlin statements that the camps will be closed down by the end of the year, RTR reported. According to Alekseeva, Putin twice confirmed that no one will be forced to leave the camps and the government will not take any steps to evict the displaced persons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)CHECHEN OFFICIALS HAIL PUTIN'S DECREE ON REFERENDUM.
Chechen officials on 12 December expressed approval of the decree signed earlier that day by President Putin providing for the holding of a referendum in Chechnya on a new draft constitution and draft laws on electing a new president and legislature, Russian news agencies reported. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said the Chechen authorities will make every effort to comply with the time frame set out in the decree, ITAR-TASS reported. But he also warned that it is important that the Russian military desist from committing "crimes" against the civilian population in Chechnya in the run-up to the vote, according to Interfax. Presidential human rights commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov termed Putin's decree as " a dramatic step toward resolving the so-called Chechen problem," but declined to forecast when the referendum is likely to be held. Russian Minister for Chechen Affairs Stanislav Ilyasov predicted that once Chechnya adopts a constitution and elects a president and parliament it will cease to lag behind other Russian republics, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)COURT RULES THAT ACCUSED ARMY COLONEL IS INSANE...
The trial of Colonel Yurii Budanov, who is accused of murdering a Chechen girl, Elza Kungaeva, in March 2000, resumed on 16 December in Rostov-na-Donu after a six-month break, Russian news agencies reported. Budanov has consistently pleaded temporary insanity and claimed that he believed Kungaeva was a Chechen sniper. In June 2002, the prosecutor proposed that Budanov be acquitted on grounds of diminished responsibility, after which the case was referred for a second time to the Serbskii Institute of Psychiatry in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 19 June 2002). Kungaeva's father cast doubt on the court's ruling, saying he will seek an independent examination of Budanov, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)...AS CHECHEN OFFICIALS FEAR BACKLASH AGAINST BUDANOV RULING.
Chechen administration officials expressed concern on 16 December that the Rostov court ruling that Colonel Budanov is insane will cause widespread anger in Chechnya, Russian news agencies reported. Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Sultygov told ITAR-TASS that "people in Chechnya are convinced Budanov is a criminal, a murderer. Such a mild verdict -- de facto acquittal -- will disturb Chechen society." Deputy administration head Tauz Dzhabrailov pointed out that "it will be difficult for the republic's leadership to explain to the population why Budanov, if he is really [mentally] ill, was appointed a regiment commander," according to Interfax on 16 December. Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev condemned the court ruling as a classic Soviet-style cover-up. He suggested that Russian "national patriots" supported Budanov's efforts to escape criminal responsibility for Kungaeva's murder. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)ACTIVISTS PROTEST CHECHEN WAR.
About 400 Muscovites participated in a downtown demonstration against the war in Chechnya organized by the Committee for Antimilitarist Action, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, and the Sakharov Center, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 12 December. Human rights activist Lev Ponomarev addressed the gathering and appealed to the government to begin peace negotiations with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. President Putin on 12 December signed a decree ordering a referendum on the new constitution of Chechnya to be held before March 2003, dpa reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)
GOVERNMENT APPROVES LABOR MIGRATION PROGRAM.
The Tajik government has approved a three-year program for regulating the temporary employment of Tajik citizens abroad, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 December. That program envisages reducing the number of people who travel abroad to work, ensuring that they have the requisite permits to work abroad, and training them in additional skills. Tens of thousands of Tajik men, some accompanied by their families, travel to Russia and Kazakhstan every year to take up menial and poorly paid jobs, often in the construction industry and often without the necessary permits. Russia forcibly repatriated several dozen such illegal workers last month, a move that President Imomali Rakhmonov decried as a violation of human rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)
POLL SAYS JUST 8.6 PERCENT OF UKRAINIANS TRUST PRESIDENT.
In a 27 November-5 December poll among 1,200 people, some 8.6 percent of respondents said they fully trust President Leonid Kuchma, UNIAN reported on 16 December. Another 54.7 percent said they distrust him, according to the results of the Democratic Initiatives Fund and Taylor Nelson Sofres Ukraine group survey. According to the poll, presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk is trusted by 5.4 percent of Ukrainians and distrusted by 42.1 percent; 5.4 percent trust Premier Viktor Yanukovych and 24.7 percent distrust him; and Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn is trusted by 4.8 percent and distrusted by 32.9 percent. Among opposition politicians, the best "balance of trust" is enjoyed by Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko (25.2 percent and 33.8 percent), followed by Communist Party head Petro Symonenko (14.8 percent and 46.6 percent). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)U.S. AMBASSADOR WARNS KYIV AGAINST 'ISOLATION.'
Speaking to students and lecturers of Ukrainian private universities in Kyiv on 12 December, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual said President George W. Bush and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma are "unlikely to meet in the near future," UNIAN reported. Pascual said Ukraine is threatened with finding itself in "isolation" now, as practically every European country is either a member of NATO or the EU, or has been invited to join one of those two organizations. He stressed that demonstrating adherence to the Euro-Atlantic choice would be the only right decision for Ukraine. The ambassador also said Ukraine's Ministry of Economy has so far failed to permit the registration of two U.S. institutions -- the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute -- in Ukraine despite a year of talks on the issue. "The U.S. Congress considers [this failure] a sign that Ukraine fears transparency," UNIAN quoted Pascual as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)
SERBIAN COURT REJECTS ELECTION CHALLENGE...
The Serbian Supreme Court on 10 December rejected a challenge by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) regarding the voters' lists approved by the Serbian Republican Election Commission (RIK) for the recent Serbian presidential ballot, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The court ruled the commission compiled the lists correctly on the basis of information supplied to it by local government bodies. The DSS complained that the list of 6,525,760 voters included up to 450,000 invalid entries, such as the deceased or emigrants. If one subtracts 450,000 from the RIK's electoral rolls, the turnout of 2,947,748 voters still fell short of the 50 percent requirement for the vote to be valid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)...AS FINAL ELECTION FIGURES ARE ANNOUNCED.
The RIK announced on 10 December that Kostunica won 1,699,098 votes, or 57.66 percent, in the invalid race for the Serbian presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His leading challenger, Vojislav Seselj, received 1,063,296 votes, or 36.08 percent, followed by Borislav Pelevic with 103,926 votes, or 3.53 percent. A total of 80,396 ballots were declared invalid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)UN ADMINISTRATION APPOINTS JUDGES WITHOUT KOSOVAR ASSEMBLY'S APPROVAL.
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), appointed 44 judges and prosecutors, 21 of whom are from the province's Serbian minority, which makes up less than 10 percent of the population, dpa reported from Prishtina on 12 December. UNMIK is legally authorized to make such appointments from lists of candidates put forward by the Kosovo Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (KJPC) and endorsed by the parliament. The legislators did not endorse the appointments but asked for more information on some of the Serbian appointees' backgrounds, particularly regarding their activities during Serbian rule in Kosova and the 1999 war. UNMIK went ahead with the appointments, saying in a statement, "In the absence of any objections from the Assembly, the candidates were appointed according to the recommendation of the KJPC as they stand." Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic hailed the appointments as the start of a new relationship between UNMIK and the Serbs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December)
USING INTERNATIONAL LEVERS FOR CHANGE IN CENTRAL ASIA
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Frustrated with a lack of progress on human rights in Central Asia despite a year of opportunities for intervention engendered by the need for cooperation in the international war on terrorism, Western democracies as well as human rights groups are moving to the next level, attempting to use international institutions to effect change in Central Asia. As chronic human rights problems persist and the cynicism of local despots grows bolder, diplomats and activists are casting about for ways to remain engaged with the strategically important region and assist transition nations in painful development, and yet extract some concessions from officials reluctant to cede power to alternative political forces and grassroots citizens' movements yearning for faster reform.
Despite controversy, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is proceeding with plans to hold its annual meeting in Tashkent next year after gaining pledges from the Uzbek government to provide freedom of speech and access for NGOs to the meeting, EBRD President Jean Lemierre told reporters at a press conference in London on 17 December, Reuters reported. "I trust what he says to me when he says 'I promise free access.' I know we have to monitor this," Reuters quoted Lemierre as saying.
The decision to hold the annual meeting in Tashkent was originally taken in 1999, long before the tragedy of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath rebounded throughout Central Asia. Now, with a spotlight on Uzbekistan's repressive practices, particularly in its places of detention, international human rights groups have complained anew about the choice of venue and cited last month's finding of "systematic" use of torture by the UN special rapporteur on torture. Yet Lemierre said only "in exceptional circumstances" will the EBRD cancel the meeting in Uzbekistan, although human rights monitors are urging the EBRD to hold the government of Uzbekistan accountable to a set of benchmarks such as release of political prisoners, an end to persecution of nonviolent Muslims functioning outside of state control, and legalization of NGOs and independent newspapers.
Veronika Szente Goldston, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Europe and Central Asia Division, believes the EBRD is aware of both human rights and economic problems in Uzbekistan but feels a need to "mark its presence" and "send a strong signal about commitment" to the region, she told "(Un)Civil Societies." "They think they will help make progress and don't want to follow the policy of isolation versus engagement," she said, noting that she and her colleagues had been in a number of meetings with the EBRD in the last year as they campaigned about deplorable conditions in Uzbekistan's prisons. In a September 2002 letter to the bank supported by other international NGOs, HRW set out specific cases and issues which they believe could be remedied "within weeks," said Szente Goldston, although they acknowledged that some systemic changes, such as judicial review of cases where confessions appeared to have been obtained by torture, will take much longer to achieve (see http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/uzbekistan/).
At the Ebara's annual meeting in May 2002 in Bucharest, HRW enlisted more than 50 local groups throughout Eastern and Central Europe and Eurasia, such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, Legal Aid Society and Mazlum in Uzbekistan, the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, the Romanian Helsinki Committee, and the National Ecological Center of Ukraine. They called on the bank to be far more forceful in gaining concessions from Tashkent. HRW found that some local groups were reluctant to call for canceling the meeting or pressuring states to boycott it; they did not want to appear either to harm their impoverished country's ability to get much-needed aid, nor to lose an opportunity for international attention to their plight. Critics of the human rights advocacy approach say that poverty programs benefiting large populations, especially such urgent projects as securing water for the Ferghana Valley, are too important to hold up over suppression of the civil rights of the relative few who challenge the regime. "Of course we would like to see cash flowing to those in need," said Szente Goldston in reply to such arguments, "but the funding will not be effective in a closed, repressive society without transparency and accountability" to the public and international donors.
"While we welcome the EBRD taking seriously these modalities [regarding free access], that doesn't replace the responsibility to attach to the meeting as such tangible progress in the run-up period [to the annual meeting] on specific benchmarks" such as release of imprisoned human rights defenders, Szente Goldston said.
Pressure from the U.S. and the EU have brought about some concessions this year, human rights activists say, such as registration for one human rights group, access for the UN's investigator, and prosecution of some policemen guilty of torturing suspects. It's not enough, say activists as well as relatives of prisoners who have suffered torment or have died in prison even as the West increases aid.
Turkmenistan's staunch refusal to bend to the West's human rights pressure this year has also pushed diplomats into more forceful measures. In response to a crackdown on opposition figures, journalists, and their relatives in Turkmenistan in the wake of the 25 November assassination attempt against President Saparmurat Niyazov, in the last month the U.S. and the EU have invoked the so-called "Vienna and Moscow mechanisms" of the OSCE, procedures for human rights interventions, diplomatic sources said.
Under the OSCE's Vienna mechanism, if other participating states request information about an urgent human rights matter, a member state must respond in writing within 10 days and may hold optional bilateral meetings within one week of a request to bring situations and cases to the attention of another state. On 21 November in Vienna, in a public speech to the Permanent Council, deputy mission chief Douglas Davidson expressed concern about the manner in which suspects were being investigated and also the failure to provide consular access to an American citizen charged in the attack on Niyazov's motorcade. He also requested further information about the former Turkmen OSCE Ambassador and Foreign Minister Batyr Berdiev, who was well-known to the Vienna diplomatic community and who has reportedly been tortured into confessing to involvement in the assassination attempt.
Evidently after Turkmenistan failed to issue a sufficient reply to Western queries, on 12 December the U.S. and EU (and on behalf of most of the associated states but not Turkey) next invoked the Moscow mechanism, a procedure that enables states to request a mission of three experts to investigate and attempt to resolve a human rights problem. If Turkmenistan refuses to permit such a mission to enter the country, it could be forced to accept increasingly intrusive actions including receiving a rapporteur mission immediately if 10 participating states agree it must proceed.
Drafted in the heady days following defeat of the August 1991 Soviet coup, and promoted by Soviet dissidents like parliamentarian Sergei Kovalev, who was serving in the official Russian delegation to the OSCE conference held in Moscow at the time, the Moscow mechanism has only been used a few times in the last decade, including for the Balkans conflict in 1992 and by self-invocation on the part of Estonia in 1992 (to resolve nationality and judiciary issues) and by Moldova in 1993 (regarding the language, citizens, and religious-freedom laws). Since then, the Vienna and Moscow mechanisms have fallen into disuse, and even been discredited to some extent in the eyes of the West in 1999 when Russia attempted -- after trying other procedures for emergency situations -- to invoke the Vienna mechanism against NATO member states for allegedly committing mass violations of human rights on Yugoslav territory. The next few weeks will tell whether a standoff similar to the one over the OSCE mission in Belarus will develop between the OSCE and Turkmenistan.