28 February 2001, Volume
DEL PONTE BLASTS NATO FORCES IN BOSNIA.
Carla Del Ponte, who is the Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, told "Welt am Sonntag" of 25 February that she does not understand how and why NATO troops have been unable to arrest more Bosnian war criminals, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. She added that she is "not far" from feeling abandoned by NATO countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)STATE DEPARTMENT RIGHTS REPORT CRITICIZES RUSSIA, OTHER COUNTRIES.
See: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/index.cfm?docid=877 For a discussion of the report see the "End Note" below.RUSSIAN DUMA HEAD SAYS OSCE SHOULD FOCUS ON MORE THAN HUMAN RIGHTS.
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told ITAR-TASS on 23 February that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should deal with more than human rights issues. "Unfortunately," he said, "we are now observing a tilt towards the 'third basket' within our assembly and in the OSCE as a whole." As a result, "problems of security and cooperation in Europe are left in the background," Seleznev added. He further complained that the OSCE today is showing "interest only in the CIS countries and in the Balkans." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)HUMAN RIGHTS LEARNING CENTRE LIST.
For information on human rights training, Human Rights Learning Centre-List (hrlc-l), provides updates. Send message to: email@example.com or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Information is available in Arabic, French, German, Russian, and Spanish.INTERNATIONAL MINORITY RIGHTS LAW SUMMER SCHOOL.
From 23-30 June, the Irish Centre for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, at Lund University, Sweden, and the School of Politics, International Relations, and the Environment, at the University of Keele, U.K., is holding a course on International Minority Rights Law. Information and application forms can be downloaded at http://www.nuigalway.ie/human_rights/ Under the heading "summer school." Or email@example.com (MINELRES, 27 February)CIVIC ACTION FREE UNIVERSITY.
Individuals and organizations interested in non-profit civic action and community service programs of all types can explore The Civic Action Free University, at: http://www.tcafu.net For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org (Center for Civil Society International, 26 February)
CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST SIX WAR INVALIDS.
Six members of the Society for the Protection of War Invalids who were arrested during the clashes in Baku last week between invalids and police remain in detention and have been charged with violating public order, inciting public unrest and resisting the police, Turan reported on 26 February. The six men have been refused access to their lawyers and were transferred on 26 February from an investigation center to Baku's notorious Bailov jail. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)
TRADE UNION LEADER CRITICIZES LUKASHENKA'S RULE.
"The president's business is not to plow or sow but to consolidate society," Trade Union Federation leader Uladzimir Hancharyk said, commenting on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term in office, Belapan reported on 21 February. Hancharyk credited the government for achieving relative stability in society but slammed it for giving too many privileges to "bureaucrats" and for "alcoholizing" the population. Hancharyk, who is considering running for president this year, said Lukashenka has already begun his presidential campaign on Belarusian Television despite the fact that it has not been announced officially. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE INCREASES.
The National Employment Office said that unemployment in Bulgaria in January was 18.54 percent of the workforce, BTA reported on 21 February. This marks a slight increase over the previous month. The highest unemployment rate is in Turgovishte, in the northern part of the country, which has 34.96 percent unemployment. The lowest rate is in Sofia, with 4.77 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
PRESIDENT INVITES SERBS TO RETURN.
Speaking in Vienna on 21 February, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that the indictment of General Mirko Norac proves that Croatia is now a state based on the rule of law, "Die Presse" reported. He criticized many of the protesters who have demonstrated on behalf of Norac, charging that they are simply interested in protecting their privileges acquired during the years that the late President Franjo Tudjman was in power. Mesic suggested that a reconciliation with Serbia might be possible if that country undergoes a "catharsis" of its nationalistic political culture. He called on Serbian refugees from Croatia to come back to their former homes, "Jutarnji list" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT CRITICIZES POLICE, TREATMENT OF ROMA.
The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights around the world, released on 26 February, criticized the Czech Republic for occasional police violence and for discrimination against Roma, CTK reported. The report mentioned in particular police behavior in response to protests at the meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Prague in September. The report details the discrimination Roma face in Czech society in education, employment, and social and health care. The report's section on freedom of speech and the press lists the cases of Czech journalists prosecuted in connection with their coverage of state officials, as well as the strike at Czech Television and the conviction, which a court recently overturned, of Michal Zitko for publishing Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)
PRESIDENT NOTES HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT.
In his 24 February address on the 83rd anniversary of Estonia's declaration of independence, Lennart Meri expressed concern... about growing unemployment, "accompanied by an equally rapid decrease in the size of the workforce." The number of unemployed in Estonia was equal to 13.9 percent in January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)
VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM REMEMBERED.
Parliament held a special session on 25 February to commemorate the victims of communist dictatorships, Hungarian media reported. The memorial will be held annually on 25 February, to recall the day in 1947 when Smallholder parliamentary member Bela Kovacs was dragged away by Soviet units. Parliamentary Speaker Janos Ader said "we do not expect an apology, as it appears we have awaited one in vain, nor do we wish to pass sentence, as the history has passed its verdict on the communist world order." In his speech, Hungarian President Ferenc Madl said strong democracies can resist the return of dictatorships and "commemoration can turn pain into peace." Madl also paid tribute to the millions of victims of the Holocaust, Hungarian Jews and Roma alike. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)NEW CIVIL ORGANIZATION FOUNDED.
A civil organization calling itself the Third Side for Hungary (HOM) was founded in the Hungarian town of Balatonfoldvar on 24 February, following 18 months of preparations. The group has declared itself independent of political parties, but has stated its intention to field candidates in the next parliamentary elections, due in 2002. Istvan Gyenesei, the elected chairman of HOM, said the nation needs a political center, as "Hungary is too small for 40-50 percent of its citizens to be shunted aside after each election." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)BUCHAREST'S SUPPORT FOR MINORITY LANGUAGES HAILED.
Zsolt Nemeth, the state secretary at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said after talks with Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana in Romania on 21 February that Budapest is pleased with the Romanian government's support for minority languages, Hungary's Duna TV reported. Nemeth said the new Romanian law on public administration is of "great significance" for Hungarians in Romania and that it is an encouraging sign for building better bilateral relations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)U.S. REPORT SLAMS POLICE BRUTALITY.
The U.S. State Department report on human rights released on 26 February, points out the excess use of force by police in Hungary as one of the problem areas in the government's respect for the rights of citizens. The report states that the main victims of police excesses are Roma and dark-skinned foreigners. The report also highlights bad conditions in Hungarian prisons, and several cases of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries. Regarding freedom of religion, the report says that although all denominations are equal under the law, the government gives preferential treatment to certain churches. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)ROMANY LEADER GETS DEATH THREAT.
Miklos Pusoma, the leader of the Romany minority authority in the village of Erdotelek, received a written death threat accompanied by racist remarks on 22 February, one day after he had filed a request with the local mayor for an investigation into classes given at the local primary school. Pusoma's complaint was made against a biology teacher who allegedly told pupils that one characteristic of Roma is their "particular smell." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
SUPREME COURT REVOKES REGISTRATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES.
In a move that may not be appealed, the Georgian Supreme Court on 22 February revoked the registration of the Jehovah's Witnesses with the Georgian Ministry of Justice, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The Jehovah's Witnesses had appealed to the Supreme Court to revoke a ruling by the Circuit Court upholding the abolition by a Tbilisi District Court of the sect's registration. The Supreme Court stressed that the annulment of the registration is not a repressive move. Interfax quoted unidentified Georgian "experts" as pointing out that no other religious organization in Georgia is formally registered with the Ministry of Justice as no law requiring such registration exists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
NEW RESTRICTIONS ON RESIDENCE ABROAD IMPOSED.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov has approved new regulations making it mandatory for any citizen of Kazakhstan abroad to register with the Kazakh diplomatic representation in whichever country they are currently living in, even if they intend to remain in that country for only a few days, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 24 February. The rationale for that ruling, as cited by the newspaper "Vremya," is "to monitor the compliance of citizens of Kazakhstan with the laws of Kazakhstan and the implementation of their duties." The regulation empowers Kazakhstan's embassies to order citizens of Kazakhstan who are liable for military service to return to Kazakhstan "in the event of a [military] emergency." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)TOUGH NEW AMENDMENTS TO RELIGION LAW PROPOSED.
If adopted and implemented, the latest draft amendments to Kazakhstan's 1992 law on religion will place the country among those former Soviet republics with the harshest climate for religious freedom. The provisions go even beyond those of a draft discussed at a 17 January state-organized Almaty roundtable and condemned by some as "unconstitutional and discriminatory." The draft religion law was amended in October and again in January and February. In its most current version, the "40 extensive amendments contain forceful provisions significantly in excess of Russia's 1997 religion law," reports the Keston Institute. Some of the restrictions -- such as registration being made compulsory -- would violate Kazakhstan's international human rights commitments. (Keston News Service, 19 February)REINSTATED STATE COUNCIL FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS TO PROMOTE 'LOYAL' CONFESSIONS?
The Council for Links with Religious Associations (CLRA), a government agency created by a 27 July 2000 statute, will likely play a major role in regulating religious life in Kazakhstan. If the current draft law on religion is adopted, the "CLRA is almost certain to be the 'authorized state agency' charged with implementing a series of state controls over religious organizations," notes the Keston Institute. (Keston News Service, 26 February)AUTHORITIES BAN PLANNED MASS DEMONSTRATION.
The municipal authorities in Shymkent banned a planned 22 February demonstration in support of Temirtas Tleulesov, author of two books detailing corruption in the city, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tleulesov was tried in absentia by the Shymkent City Court earlier this month and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for "hooliganism". His present whereabouts are unknown. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)ECOLOGISTS URGE OIL CONSORTIUM TO COMPENSATE FOR DAMAGE TO CASPIAN ECOSYSTEM.
The organization "Caspian XXI" has asked the OKIOC consortium engaged in exploiting off-shore Caspian oil to draft and implement a program to compensate for the damage that organization claims OKIOC is inflicting on the Caspian ecosystem around the town of Atyrau and the health of the region's population, Interfax quoted Caspian XXI's chairman Ibragim Kushenov as telling journalists in Almaty on 22 February. Kushenov said OKIOC is dumping tons of unfiltered sewage and other byproducts from its drilling in the sea each day, raising the level of toxic substances in the waters around its Sunkar rig to levels far above what is permitted. OKIOC rejected 18 months ago claims by the Atyrau Environmental Protection Agency that its drilling was polluting the sea. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF ORTHODOX GRAVEYARDS.
Orthodox graveyards in Kosova have suffered sustained attacks by extremist Albanians, which international peacekeepers seem powerless to prevent despite complex arrangements for the protection of believers visiting cemeteries. A video produced to document the damage was presented by its makers in Belgrade on 15 February. (Keston News Service, 21 February)
NEW LAW TO STEP UP CONTROL OVER RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY?
Unnerved by armed incursions by the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Taliban on the Afghan-Tajik border 400 miles southwest of Bishkek, Kyrgyz authorities plan to introduce a "tough new law on religion as part of their armory for dealing with the spread of radical Islam," reports the Keston Institute. The text of the latest draft could, however, have "negative repercussions for all religious organizations in Kyrgyzstan." The draft includes a number of highly restrictive provisions that violate the country's international human rights commitments, including compulsory registration of religious bodies, prohibition of unregistered religious activity, lack of an alternative to military service, and tight control over religious activity deemed destructive and with links abroad. (Keston News Service, 20 February)DEADLOCK OVER REGISTRATION OF CATHOLIC PARISH.
The activity of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Bishkek -- the country's only non-European Catholic parish -- is illegal, according to a decree on the registration of missions and foreign religious organizations. Failure to resolve the parish's legal status -- whether it is a mission or a local church -- has obstructed the construction of a new church in the city center. (Keston News Service, 23 February)ALARM AT EXTENT OF CORRUPTION.
According to a poll of 2,100 people conducted by the independent center Vox Populi, which receives some funding from the U. N. Development Program, 90 percent of respondents said they consider the police the most corrupt agency in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 21 February. Some 40 percent said the country's leadership is powerless to stem corruption, while 15.5 percent said economic reforms in Kyrgyzstan are unlikely to succeed because of widespread corruption. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)PARLIAMENT FINALLY APPROVES AMNESTY LAW.
The Legislative Assembly on 22 February approved by a two-thirds majority the amnesty law it first adopted on 26 December, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 22 February. The second vote was necessitated by the bill's rejection on 19 February by the People's Assembly, the upper chamber of the legislature. The law provides for the release from jail of some 3,000 of the 15,560 people currently serving prison sentences in Kyrgyzstan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
COMMUNISTS WIN MAJORITY...
The Moldovan Communist Party (MCP) received just over 50 percent of the votes in the elections held 25 February and will have a substantial majority in parliament, Infotag and RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Central Electoral Commission Chairman Dumitru Nidelcu told a news conference early on 26 February that, with returns from 100 percent of the polling stations counted, the Communist Party received 50.2 percent of the votes, the Braghis Alliance (headed by Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis) 13.45 percent, and the right-wing Christian Democratic People's Party (formerly Popular Front) 8.18 percent. Voter turnout was unexpectedly high, at 69 percent. Two prominent political parties failed to clear the 6 percent barrier for representation in parliament: the Party of Revival and Accord, led by former President Mircea Snegur, polled 5.69 percent, and the Democratic Party led by outgoing speaker Dumitru Diakov and former Premier Ion Sturza 4.92 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)...BUT SAY THEY WILL NOT 'MONOPOLIZE' POWER...
Despite winning a clear majority in the 25 February parliamentary elections, Moldovan Communist Party (MCP) leader Vladimir Voronin told Infotag that "We are not going to monopolize power in the country," and that his party will form a "government of technocrats manned on the principle of professionalism, not party affiliation." With 70 or 71 seats in the 101-seat parliament, the MCP will have a large enough majority not only to elect the president, but also to make changes to the constitution. Voronin said his party will not seek to change the political system. The parliamentary republic is "a European model which we are striving for. This is a democratic variant. We reject as unfit the Central Asiatic models of the personality cult being developed in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and some other countries," said Voronin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)IMMIGRANTS COMPLAIN ABOUT DISCRIMINATION.
Stefan Uratu, chairman of the Chisinau-based Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, said on 22 February that the rights of immigrants in Moldova are often violated, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Participating at a seminar on immigrant problems, Uratu said there are no well-defined laws for immigrants and that gaps in the legislation lead to them violating the law. Official data show that last year there were nearly 8,000 immigrants in Moldova, many of whom reported racial discrimination. Moldovan emigrants often found themselves in the same position, as some 600,000 Moldovan citizens are said to be working abroad, mostly illegally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
TUDOR ACCUSES NASTASE OF SECURITATE COLLABORATION.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who also heads the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM), on 23 February accused Prime Minister Nastase of having collaborated with the Securitate, Romanian media reported. Admitting he has no evidence to support these allegations, he said confirmation may come from a former Securitate officer who is now a Romanian diplomat. Nastase replied saying that the National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives had already checked his and all government members' Securitate files. Tudor alleged that Nastase's file may have been destroyed during the Ceausescu regime. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)
U.S. FINDS 'SERIOUS PROBLEMS' IN RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD.
In its annual Human Rights Report released on 26 February, the U.S. State Department said that "serious problems remain" in Russia's observance of human rights, Western agencies reported. Among the most pressing, the report said, are problems involving "the independence and freedom of the media and the conditions of pretrial detention and torture of prisoners." It added that Moscow's record is poor in Chechnya, where Russian security forces demonstrate little respect for basic human rights. It also suggested that government institutions "remain largely unreformed" and that government leaders remain "mostly silent about violations of human rights and democratic practices." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)TESTIMONY AT SPY TRIALS.
Lieutenant General Nikolai Volbuev, who heads the counterintelligence department of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said on 26 February at the trial of former Institute of U.S. and Canada researcher Igor Sutyagin in Kaluga that "those Russians who work with shady foreign organizations evidently need to think about possible clashes with the law and stop their activities before they reach the courtroom," Reuters reported. Former Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev said at the trial of six paratroopers for the 1994 murder of Dmitrii Kholodov that he did not give the order to kill that journalist, AP reported. Meanwhile, the chief military prosecutor protested a decision vacating the conviction last year of former Russian diplomat Platon Obukhov, Interfax reported, and, Sweden released a suspected Russian spy on the grounds of insufficient evidence, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 23 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)LESS THAN HALF OF RUSSIANS GIVE FSB A POSITIVE RATING.
A poll conducted by monitoring.ru and summarized by Interfax on 22 February found that 42 percent of Russians positively assess the Federal Security Service (FSB), while only 19 percent gave it a negative evaluation. Some 39 percent found it difficult to express an opinion on this subject. At the same time, 77 percent of those polled said that Russia needs an institution like the FSB, and roughly half want it to work primarily against terrorism, corruption, and organized crime. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)U.S. NGOS CALL FOR SUPPORTING CHECHEN REFUGEES.
On 16 February, eight U.S. NGOs -- including Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, International League for Human Rights, and the U.S. Committee for Refugees -- called on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to block IMF assistance to Russia until it changes its approach to Chechnya and to direct the State Department to "disburse the $10 million appropriated by Congress for aid to Chechnya both to U.S.-based and to foreign organizations providing or capable of providing assistance in the region." They also called for high-level bilateral talks on the issue and U.S. support for a new UN resolution. (International League for Human Rights Press Release, 16 February)PUTIN MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF CHECHEN, INGUSH DEPORTATIONS.
President Putin sent telegrams to Ingushetia's President Ruslan Aushev and to Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 23 February to mark the 57th anniversary of the Stalinist deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported. Putin wrote to Aushev that "the crimes that harmed all peoples of our country cannot be justified," adding "may interethnic and civil accord and a worthy life for the peoples of the North Caucasus be the best remembrance of those who experienced the hardship and pain of banishment." Putin asked Kadyrov to convey "sincere sympathy with everyone who experienced the bitter road of exile," adding that "no one will ever separate us or sow the seeds of mistrust" between the various Russian ethnic groups. Some 5,000 Chechens and Ingush gathered in Nazran, the former capital of Ingushetia, to commemorate the deportations and call for the full rehabilitation of those involved. Also on 23 February, Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said in Moscow that federal troops had thwarted attacks by Chechen fighters planned for that day in Grozny, Gudermes, and other locations in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)MASS GRAVE DISCOVERED IN CHECHNYA.
A grave containing the bodies of several dozen people, most of whom had died of gunshot wounds, has been found near the Russian military base at Khankala, southeast of Grozny, Russian agencies reported on 24 February. Russian military officials said the bodies were those of Chechens killed during the defense of the city in January 2000, and that the bodies had been mined, but a spokesman for Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov told AFP that they were civilian residents of the capital who had been detained by Russian troops and then killed. The dead include women and children, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 25 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DENY ANY KNOWLEDGE OF CHECHEN FILTRATION CAMP.
Vladimir Kalamanov, who is Russia's commissioner for human rights in Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 23 February he has no knowledge of a filtration center allegedly located on the territory of the 45th Russian Air borne troops regiment near Khatuni in Chechnya's Vedeno Raion. Lieutenant-General Ivan Babichev, who is Chechnya's chief military commandant, told Interfax the same day that no such filtration centers exist. Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was detained by Russian troops in the vicinity of Khatuni last week, had said on her release that she had been taken to the filtration center where she saw Chechen detainees being held in six-foot deep pits in freezing temperatures, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported. Interfax quoted Politkovskaya as telling Ekho Moskvy that the Chechens in question were hostages whose relatives are required to pay $500 for their release. Kalamanov's spokesman Lema Khasuev told Interfax on 24 February that Kalamanov will travel to Chechnya this week to investigate Politkovskaya's allegations. Khasuev added that Kalamanov's office had earlier received complaints about prisoners being held in such pits but that their existence has not yet been confirmed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)FIRST RUSSIAN OFFICER TO BE TRIED FOR MURDER OF CHECHEN GIRL.
On 28 February, the North Caucasus District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don will start the trial of Colonel Yuri Budanov, charged with the abduction and murder of Kheda Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen girl in March 2000, Human Rights Watch reported. It is unclear if the trial will be open to the public; it is the first and only case when Russian authorities promptly and publicly acknowledged a crime perpetrated by Russian federal forces against civilians in Chechnya. Although the Russian military has portrayed Budanov's behavior as an exceptional example of wanton criminality, it reflects a pattern of violations perpetrated by federal forces that has been exhaustively documented by Human Rights Watch. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 25 February)PUSHKIN SQUARE DEMO AGAINST MOSCOW'S ACTIONS IN CHECHNYA.
Approximately 100 Moscow residents assembled in Pushkin Square on 22 February to protest Russian actions in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Lev Ponomarev, the co-president of the For Human Rights movement, told the group that the actions of federal forces in the North Caucasus are "illegal and threaten democracy in our country." The demonstration came on the eve of the 57th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechens. Meanwhile, Moscow police announced the detention of a Chechen carrying grenades and explosive devices in the Russian capital, the Russian news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)'KURSK' MOTHER SAYS SHE WAS DRUGGED TO KEEP HER QUIET.
Nadezhda Tylik, the mother of a sailor who died in the "Kursk" submarine disaster in August 2000, said in Moscow on 22 February that the authorities had drugged her to keep her from telling her story to the media, AP reported. She said that her son had told her before his last voyage that the "Kursk" had serious problems. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)SLAVERY SAID 'FLOURISHING' IN RUSSIAN ARMY.
An article in the 21 February "Moskovskii komsomolets" said that "slavery in the Russian army has become a usual thing." The paper said that sometimes commanders sell soldiers to work for others or pocket money that is supposed to go to soldiers for the work the latter do. The article detailed a case in which about 60 Russian servicemen were sold as slaves in the Menchinovka settlement near Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)PUTIN THANKS ORGANIZERS OF SOCIAL MILITARY FUND.
President Putin on 21 February thanked the social, religious, and economic supporters of the new fund set up to help those who have suffered during military actions and while fulfilling their official duties, Russian agencies reported. He said that the government's ability to help is limited and therefore "we could not deal with the situation without the help of society, religious confessions and business circles." Leading Russian businessmen have pledged to collect 1.5 billion rubles ($53 million) this year alone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)RUSSIANS OPPOSE IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTE.
Despite the money it might bring their country, 93.5 percent of Russians are against the import of nuclear wastes from other countries, according to a ROMIR poll reported by "Vremya MN" on 22 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)DETENTION CENTERS OVERCROWDED.
The number of people being held in investigation detention centers is now twice the intended capacity of those institutions, prison officials told Interfax on 22 February. Many of those being held, the officials said, have been charged with relatively minor crimes, but they remain in detention pending an often long wait for trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)WAGE ARREARS INCREASE IN JANUARY.
Wage arrears in Russia increased by 1.8 percent in January 2001, Interfax reported on 21 February, citing the State Statistics Committee. Now employers in that country owe a total of 32.264 billion rubles ($1.16 billion) to their workers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)CRIME UP IN MOSCOW, MORE ILLEGAL RESIDENTS EXPELLED.
Moscow police officials said on 21 February that some 15,000 people from outside the Commonwealth of Independent States live in Moscow illegally, Interfax reported. The officials said that approximately 150,000 foreigners in the Russian capital violated residence rules in 2000 and that about 4,000 of them were expelled from the city. In addition, officials reported, the number of crimes in the Russian capital jumped by 23.4 percent between January 2000 and January 2001. Also on 21 February, Moscow city deputies voted not to agree to the assignment of Viktor Shvidkin as head of the city administration responsible for the police, Interfax-Moscow reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)ORTHODOX CHURCH SAYS TAX NUMBERS NOT SIGN OF ANTI-CHRIST.
A meeting of senior Russian Orthodox churchmen said on 21 February that the use of tax numbers is no sin and that the chance appearance of 666 in the sequence of 12 numbers every Russian tax payer will be assigned is not the mark of the anti-Christ, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES WIN MOSCOW COURT CASE...
The Moscow community of Jehovah's Witnesses on 23 February won the long-running court case against their activity in the capital. The judge ordered the prosecution to pay costs for the expert commission which has been considering the evidence for the past two years. The prosecution has 10 days to appeal against the verdict. (Keston News Service, 23 February)...WHILE RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD REJECTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESS DEPORTEE FROM TURKMENISTAN.
An attempt by the Turkmen political police to deport a Jehovah's Witness to Russia last month failed after Russian border guards refused to allow him entry, in the first case known to Keston News Service where Russia has refused to accept a religious deportee. Konstantin Vlaskin is a citizen of Turkmenistan, making his deportation illegal under Turkmen law and its international human rights commitments. (Keston News Service, 23 February)BUDDHISTS MARK NEW YEAR.
Buddhists in Buryatia began the 30-day New Year's celebration on 24 February, ITAR-TASS reported. That day has been a day off in Buryatia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)POLITICAL OPPOSITION CONTINUES TO FACE HARASSMENT IN KALMYKIA.
The political opposition to Kalmykia's President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov intends to oppose a third term for that leader, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 20 February. Ilyumzhinov recently announced that he will seek a third term during elections scheduled for 2002. Tamara Marlaeva, member of the movement, "People Against the Regime of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov," charges that Ilyzumzhinov's rule has been "ruinous" for the local population. She told RFE/RL that the unofficial level of unemployment in the republic is more than 23 percent and the average wage is only a little more than 50 percent of the average wage for Russia as a whole. While gathering statistical information about the republic, Marlaeva and her sister, Gulnara, were beaten by unknown men in masks who demanded that they stop such activities. Former editor of the opposition newspaper "Sovetskaya Kalmykiya" Gennadii Yudin told RFE/RL that Ilyumzhinov has taken over the publication, which recently published 15 photographs of Kalmykia's president on the occasion of his birthday. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)
EX-HEAD OF SECRET POLICE ARRESTED.
Police officials in Belgrade announced on 24 February the arrest of Rade Markovic, who headed Milosevic's secret police from 1998 until January 2001. Belgrade dailies suggest that up to 15 other top Milosevic-era police officials may have been arrested at the same time, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 February. Serbian Justice Minister Vla dan Batic said in Kragujevac that Markovic is a link in a chain of officials that could lead to Milosevic himself. At issue are "several cases involving mysterious deaths" of prominent people. Under Milosevic, the worlds of politics, the security forces, organized crime, and business often merged together in a shadowy realm of power and influence that remains greatly resented by ordinary Serbs. Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic told the BBC that he wonders why Belgrade's new leaders did not arrest Markovic in October and instead gave him over three months in which to destroy or manipulate evidence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)
TOWN NOT WILLING TO HAVE 'FOREIGN ROMA.'
More than 2,000 inhabitants of the town of Medzilaborce have signed a petition against the resettlement in their town of five Romany families living in slums between the nearby villages of Nagov and Rokytovce, CTK reported on 26 February. The petition was also signed by Roma from Medzilaborce, who criticize the state administration for solving problems of "foreign Roma" while avoiding the solution of those faced by those already resident in the town. Medzilaborce is famous for being the native town of the parents of pop-art founder Andy Warhol. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)YOUNG NATIONALISTS PROTEST HUNGARIAN FACULTY.
Some 300 people from the Slovak National Youth Organization on 23 February demonstrated against the planned establishment of a Hungarian Pedagogical Faculty at Nitra University, CTK reported. The demonstrators chanted "Hungarians Get Back Over the Danube," and "Slovakia for Slovaks" during the rally. Establishment of the Hungarian faculty at Nitra University was recently approved by the Slovak government, in fulfillment of a promise to the country's 500,000-strong Hungarian minority contained in its policy statement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)TRADE UNION THREATENS BORDER BLOCKADES.
The KOVO trade union, which unites some 100,000 employees of steel plants and engineering companies, has threatened to stage a series of protests in early March to demand higher wages and a reduction in unemployment, CTK reported on 22 February. KOVO chairman Emil Machyna said the trade union is ready to block the 20 most popular border crossings as well as some companies' premises. "In the event that our demands are not met, we will stage long-term protests including sit-in strikes," Machyna added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)TRADE UNION LEADER SAYS MOST LIVE ON SUBSISTENCE MINIMUM.
Confederation of Trade Unions President Ivan Saktor told the Czech daily "Pravo" on 23 February that more than 60 percent of Slovaks live on the subsistence minimum. "The difference between incomes and expenditures in a typical Slovak family is some 500 Slovak crowns ($10) per member. It means that the Slovak family does not save money, [but] lives from pay to pay -- if there is any," Saktor added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN LABOR CAMPS.
In what is the longest sentence imposed on any religious prisoner in Turkmenistan since 1991, 21-year-old Kurban Zakirov is serving an eight-year term of imprisonment in a labor camp. He had just completed a one-year sentence for refusing compulsory military service and was due for release when he allegedly attacked a prison officer, on an allegedly trumped-up charge. Most Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in Turkmenistan are serving sentences for refusing military service on grounds of conscience but three are serving sentences on other charges which local believers allege are false. In an echo of Soviet-era practice, two of these three were given new sentences for their alleged bad behavior as they completed earlier sentences. (Keston News Service, 20 February)PROTESTANTS, DETAINED AND FINED.
After the 2 February raid on a meeting of Ashgabat�s New Life Church, all 24 attendees were detained overnight and warned not to attend future church meetings. Five detainees were reportedly fined the equivalent of one month's average wages under Article 205 of the Administrative Code, a Soviet-era provision which punishes unregistered religious activity. (Keston News Service, 22 February)BAPTISTS: BARRED, DETAINED, AND BEATEN.
Two Baptists were detained in the eastern city of Turkmenabad and reportedly severely beaten by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the Keston News Service reported on 15 February. Aleksandr Frolov was forced to watch as Yevgenii Potolov was subjected to repeated and sustained beatings during 14 hours of interrogation. Potolov was told he is to be deported, a common fate for foreign citizens active in religious communities in Turkmenistan. Local authorities in Ashgabat on 17 February sealed the last Baptist church still functioning in the country, the Keston News Service reported. (Keston News Service, 19, 22 February)AUTHORITIES DENY BAPTIST PRISONER TORTURED.
In a statement to Amnesty International, Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister Yolbors Kepbanov has categorically denied that Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been tortured in custody. The OSCE has told Keston News Service that this "sounds like the standard official line" and confirmed that it is still waiting for permission to visit Atakov in the prison hospital in Mary to which he was transferred in early February in critical condition. (Keston News Service, 27 February)
'POPULAR TRIBUNAL' PRONOUNCES GUILTY SENTENCE ON PRESIDENT...
Some 7,000 people took part in an anti-presidential march in downtown Kyiv on 25 February and in a subsequent mock trial of President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. In the trial called a "Popular Tribunal," protesters dressed as judges told the crowd that they found Kuchma guilty of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's disappearance, harassment of politicians and the media, corruption, and abuse of power. Later the crowd carried Kuchma's effigy in a cage to Ukraine's Supreme Court where some protesters tried to hang it from a gallows. This was the largest protest in the recent series of "Ukraine Without Kuchma" demonstrations in Kyiv. Considerably smaller anti-presidential demonstrations were held the same day in Lviv (600 people), Odesa (200 people), and Dnipropetrovsk (300 people). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)...WHILE FORMER BODYGUARD ACCUSES HIM OF TAKING $1 BILLION.
Mykola Melnychenko, who released secret recordings of conversations in the Ukrainian president's office, told the 26 February "New York Times" that Kuchma pocketed at least $1 billion for personal or political use. Melnychenko added that the full transcript of recordings made "since at least 1998" in Kuchma's office will establish that "there is no greater criminal in Ukraine than Kuchma." Prior to this disclosure, it was widely believed that Melnychenko bugged Kuchma only for an unspecified period in 2000. "My goal is to totally expose the level of corruption in Ukraine as an independent Don Quixote and ensure that thieves will never come to power again in Ukraine," Melnychenko told the newspaper. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)COMMUNISTS TO HOLD ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN MARCH.
The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) is going to hold a nationwide protest action from 12-17 March under the slogans "Down with the Regime of Kuchma and Yushchenko" and "All the Power to the Working People," Interfax reported on 26 February, quoting the KPU web site. The goal of the action is "to tell people the truth about what is going on in Ukraine, and to rouse them for an organized, conscious struggle for their human rights." The KPU declares its intention of correcting the "main mistake" of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" rallies by expanding anti-regime protests to include wider social strata. KPU leader Petro Symonenko told the agency that the "ultrarightist nationalists," who actively participate in ongoing anti-Kuchma protests, "are destroying the idea of social justice and diverting the people from the understanding that [Ukraine's] economic reform has no prospects in essence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)
BALKAN LEADERS STRESS SECURITY CONCERNS.
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje on 23 February that one "should not underestimate" the danger of regional destabilization, dpa reported. Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta noted that the ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic makes easier the "struggle against extremism in the Presevo Valley, Mitrovica, and other places." He appealed to Kosovar Albanians to improve "cooperation and their common life with the Serbs and other peoples," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meta also called on Kosovar Serbs to take part in the development of "democratic institutions." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)RUSSIA WANTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Moscow on 22 February that the tribunal should be shut down in the interest of promoting "stability" in the Balkans. Ivanov argued that "the tribunal was formed at a time when Bosnia and the Balkans were in a state of war, when there were no democratic institutions or institutions of justice. Today this is passing into history. Today Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, and Yugoslavia have democratic leaders," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February)
DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS, DEFENDING SOVEREIGNTY
By Paul Goble
Efforts to defend the human rights of people living in other countries often have been criticized as an attack on the sovereign rights of those countries. But in fact, such defenses of human rights protect state sovereignty by removing the causes of secessionist challenges and emigration.
The U.S. State Department made public on 26 February its annual survey of human rights practices around the world. As has been true since the first such report was issued in 1977, this year's edition seeks to chronicle both the progress some countries have made in meeting internationally agreed-upon standards of human rights and also the failures of other governments to live up to these obligations.
The report this year surveys the state of human rights in terms of democracy, integrity of the person, press freedom, religious freedom, the status of women and children, worker rights, trafficking in persons, and corporate responsibility.
The report's introduction notes that 2000 "saw a number of advances in human rights, democracy, and fundamental freedoms." It singles out progress in Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mexico, and South Korea for special mention. But, the report says, China's "poor human rights record worsened during the year" and conditions in Burma, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, Belarus, and Turkmenistan remained very bad.
Moreover, the report says that violence in Israel and the occupied territories, Columbia, the Congo, Sudan, Indonesia, and Russian actions in Chechnya remained extremely troubling. Each of the sections on individual countries includes information on both progress made over the last year and shortcomings that the State Department says must still be overcome.
Past history suggests that the governments of those countries which are criticized can be expected to complain loudly. In general, they are likely to argue that the report on their country is wrong, biased, or is the product of a political process in which Washington is rewarding its friends by ignoring what they do and punishing its enemies because of what they are engaged in.
Because human rights reports are used to determine how much assistance can be given to a particular country or countries, both the governments criticized and their supporters in the United States have in the past and will certainly now and in the future seek to revise the findings or at least prevent the findings from becoming the basis of policy.
But in addition to these special pleadings, both the criticized governments and many others are likely to bemoan the way in which such reporting about human rights violations represents a threat to state sovereignty. Those who believe that are certain to suggest that every state has the right to determine its own rules of the game domestically and that no other government should be in a position to pass judgment on what they do.
Such arguments when made by the worst offenders are likely to be dismissed, but when they are made by those less immediately subject to attack, then they must be taken seriously, if only to be rejected. Since World War II and the United Nations documents signed shortly after the end of that conflict, the international community has held up human rights standards for all.
Overwhelmingly, people view such human rights reporting simply as a means to improving the condition of individuals and groups even if such progress comes at the cost of reducing or redefining state sovereignty. Indeed, that observation certainly captures much of what is taking place.
But there is another and potentially more profound consequence of this kind of report, one that may defend state sovereignty in some areas even as it redefines it in others. By calling for the elimination of precisely those conditions that often power secession or emigration, these reports may promote the stability of the existing state system.
And consequently, some of the countries that are likely to complain the most this year may ultimately discover that they like their own citizens will benefit if they correct the abuses such reports describe.