7 March 2001, Volume 2, Number 10
INTERNATIONALINTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CIS SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROCESSES CONFERENCE. An international conference, "International Relations for Developing Social and Economic Process in the CIS Countries," will take place on 7-8 June 2001, in Omsk. The conference will consider the important issues of developing social and economic process in different regions of Russia as well as in the former Soviet Union countries. For more information, http://www.omgpu.omsk.edu/international or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (Inter-Universities Center for International Cooperation and Academic Mobility, 5 March)
POLITICAL CULTURE AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE BLACK SEA REGION. An international conference "Political Culture and Civil Society in the Black Sea Region," sponsored by UNESCO and organized by the Centre For Black Sea and Central Asia (KORA), Middle East Technical University will be held on 18-20 October 2001 in Ankara, Turkey. For more, see: http://www.metu.edu.tr/index.html and http://www.metu.edu.tr/wwwkora. The conference will be held in English. All the proposals must be send to Leman Rzayeva, email@example.com, tel/fax: (90 312) 210 30 51. Deadline for the submission of proposals: 1 May 2001. (Center for Civil Society International, 5 March)
TURNER FOUNDATION GRANTS PROGRAM. The Turner Foundation is accepting proposals from NGOs from different European and NIS countries to participate in a new grants program designed to protect rivers, lakes, wetlands, and other water systems from pollution. Video and television films, books and journals, and other mass-media projects will not be funded. Turner Foundation does not finance private individuals, but helps NGOs obtain funding annually. For additional information, contact Peter Bahauth, Executive Director, Turner Foundation, Inc. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: http://www.turnerfoundation.org/turner/water.html (Center for Civil Society International, 6 March)
CALL FOR PROPOSAL BY OSI--NETWORK WOMEN'S PROGRAM AND NETWORK MEDIA PROGRAM. The Network Women's Program in cooperation with the Network Media Program is running a grant program to support Women NGOs in organizing national public awareness campaigns on violence against women as part of the internationally organized 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that runs from 25 November - 10 December every year. The application deadline is 25 March 2001. For additional information and to receive an application form by email, send a request to: Open Society Institute / Network Women's Program, email: email@example.com (Center for Civil Society International, 2 March)
ALBANIANEW ANTI-SMUGGLING CENTER. Interior ministers from Greece, Italy, and Germany said in Tirana on 1 March that they support Albania's plans to open a regional center in Vlora to combat smuggling and human trafficking, AP reported. The center, which will be located in a villa that once belonged to dictator Enver Hoxha, will be staffed by Albanian police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
ARMENIASCHISM IN JEWISH COMMUNITY. Financial wrangles and religious disputes have split Armenia's Jewish community -- which totals under 800 people -- in two. Each faction accuses the other of squandering international funds and failing to observe the fundamental teachings of the Torah. And each claims to be the only official representative of Armenia's Jewry in the international arena. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 23 February)
AZERBAIJANSTILL INCOMPLETE REFORMS. Azerbaijan has achieved many positive legislative changes as it has moved away from totalitarianism. But in many cases, the promise of these reforms has remained unfulfilled, either because officials subvert them or because some widespread assumptions about how to create a freer or more open society have proven to be untrue. That was the message delivered yesterday at an RFE/RL briefing in Washington by Eldar Zeynalov, the head of the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, and Agalar Agashirinov, the co-founder of the Azerbaijan Lawyers Association. Zeynalov stressed that there had been many positive changes in human rights legislation and practice in his country, but many of the reforms have remained decorative, he said. (RFE/RL Press Release, 2 March)
U.S. REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS REJECTED. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev said in Baku on 3 March that Azerbaijani officials have expressed verbally their disagreement with the annual U.S. State Department assessment of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, but will not lodge a written protest, Turan reported. Quliev said the report is not impartial and does not reflect the real situation. Presidential administration official Novruz Mammedov similarly described it as "tendentious and biased." The report notes corruption and inefficiency among the police and judiciary, the use of beatings and torture by police, violations during the November 2000 parliamentary elections, and restrictions on freedom of assembly, association and the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
BELARUSPRESIDENT PLEDGES TO ARREST SPIES. "We will arrest and jail spies. If they work under the cover of an embassy, we will expel them. No matter which [embassy will be in question], the U.S. one or some other," Interfax quoted Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying on 1 March. The Belarusian president was commenting on the previous day's television program devoted to the activity of CIA spies in Belarus. Lukashenka said "several people have already provided evidence" of the activity of foreign special services in Belarus. He added that he promised to release those people in exchange for the information they gave to the KGB. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
GEORGIASUPREME COURT LIQUIDATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CONDEMNED. A ruling by the Supreme Court to uphold the liquidation of two Jehovah's Witness organizations has been condemned by human rights activists and Jehovah's Witness leaders, as well as several senior politicians including the justice minister. Some fear it will encourage religious extremists to suppress minority groups. The minister pronounced the decision �dubious� and said that if the Jehovah's Witnesses took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg they would win. (Keston News Service, 26 February)
MAVERICK PRIEST ASSAULTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Excommunicated Georgian Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili and a group of his followers broke into a private home in Tbilisi on 27 February and physically attacked a group of Jehovah's Witnesses gathered there, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Mkalavishvili has physically attacked members of that sect on several previous occasions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
HUNGARYLEGAL STATUS OF HUNGARIANS FROM ABROAD APPROVED BY MINISTRIES. A meeting of state secretaries from various ministries on 1 March approved a bill on granting special status to ethnic Hungarians from abroad and submitted the bill to the cabinet. Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Nemeth discussed the issue the same day with Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Alliance of Romania. Marko said the bill would allow ethnic Hungarians to feel at home in Hungary without relocating there. EU Ambassador to Hungary Michael Lake voiced concern over the bill, saying the EU will request further information on whether the bill is compatible with EU regulations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
ROMANY GROUP ENCOURAGED BY RUSSIAN SECRET SERVICES? According to a report by "Jane's Intelligence Digest," the group of Hungarian Roma from Zamoly currently seeking political asylum in France have been encouraged by the Russian secret service to claim they are persecuted and their human rights violated in Hungary, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 3 March. According to the British publication, the aim of the operation is to discredit Hungary during ongoing EU accession talks. Hungarian Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter neither confirmed nor denied the news. Jozsef Krasznai, spokesman of the Zamoly group, told a press conference in Paris that he was unaware of any "Russian friends" and said Hungary's National Security Office itself is behind the "information." A Russian diplomatic source in Moscow described the report as "not serious." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
KAZAKHSTANANTI-RELIGIOUS DRIVE IN ALMATY SCHOOL. In a 19 December letter, the Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science withdrew three provisions from its September instructions outlawing any form of religious activity in schools. Keston News Service has learnt, however, that educational establishments have still not received this letter and are acting as if the ban were still in force. Teachers in one Almaty school, for example, have tried to stop pupils attending meetings run by a local Protestant church. (Keston News Service, 27 February)
ANOTHER DEMO IN SUPPORT OF WHISTLE-BLOWER BANNED. The city authorities in Shymkent, southern Kazakhstan, refused permission for a demonstration in the city center in support of Temirtas Tleulesov, author of two books detailing high-level official corruption in the city and Shymkent Oblast, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 1 March. It was the second time within two weeks that permission for such a demonstration was refused. Tleulesov went into hiding after a court sentenced him in early February to a two-year imprisonment on a charge of hooliganism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
KYRGYZSTANUN HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS. Head of a directorate in the Foreign Ministry Erkin Mamkulov held a news conference in Bishkek on 1 March, devoted to the first official Kyrgyzstan national report on economical, social, and cultural rights, submitted to the UN last year. According to Mamkulov, UN human rights officials are concerned about the non-independence of Kyrgyzstan courts, increasing unemployment, and violations of the rights of women and children. Mamkulov also said that the Kyrgyzstan Foreign Ministry had received from the UN Human Rights Committee a letter of concern about human rights activists Ramazan Dyryldayev and Albert Korgoldoev, who were forced to leave Kyrgyzstan to escape criminal prosecution. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 1 March)
SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER TURGUNALIEV'S APPEAL. The Supreme Court is expected to begin considering an appeal by prominent opposition politician Topchubek TurgunAliyev on 6 March. He was accused of "ideological leadership" over a criminal group having prepared a plot to assassinate President Askar Akayev in 1999, and was sentenced by a Bishkek district court on 1 September 2000 to 16 years of imprisonment. The Bishkek city court reduced his term to 6 years on 24 November. Several other people were sentenced to different jail terms together with Turgunaliev, but all of them were amnestied on 30 November and released later. TurgunAliyev was hospitalized and moved from the custody of Security Service to a medical unit of a camp near Bishkek earlier this year due to heart, kidney, and blood-pressure problems. According to him, a criminal case against him was fabricated in the Security Service. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 5 March)
30,000 PEOPLE LEFT KYRGYZSTAN LAST YEAR. According to the National Statistical Board, 30,000 Kyrgyz citizens left Kyrgyzstan last year. It is 2.3 times more than in 1999. 63 percent of the people who left were ethnic Russians and 5 percent were ethnic Kyrgyz, most of them headed to Russia and Western Europe. The Board also says 5,300 people came to Kyrgyzstan in 2000 to live permanently, half as much as in 1999. Also, according to the Board, 4,500 people from the countryside moved to Bishkek last year. However, according to local experts, internal migration is several times higher than registered by the Statistical Board. According to them, 26 percent of the population of the Issyk-Kul province and 19 percent of Naryn province have already moved to Bishkek. The Russian embassy announced late in February that 17,986 ethnic Russians left Kyrgyzstan for Russia in 2000 and about 11,000 in 1999. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 5 March)
NATIONAL COUNCIL ON GENDER PROBLEMS FORMED. President Askar Akayev signed on 5 March a decree on forming the National Council on Women, Family and Gender Matters. It is supposed to function as a non-governmental organization, replacing the state Commission on Women, Family and Youth Policy, eliminated last December. State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov has been appointed head of the Council. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 5 March)
MOLDOVAYOUTH PROTEST AGAINST APPROACH TO RUSSIA. A small group of Chisinau high school students burned the flag of the former Moldovan Socialist Soviet Republic on 1 March, Moldovan media reported. The burning was a protest against the intention of the Party of Moldovan Communists, winner of an absolute majority in parliament, to introduce Russian as the country's second official language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
POLANDSEJM CUTS WORKING WEEK... The Sejm approved the Senate's amendment to the Labor Code stipulating that two out of every seven days will be days off and the working week will be 40 hours as of 2003. The reduction in workweek hours will be phased in, falling to 41 hours in 2002 and 40 hours the following year. The decision marks the end of a two-year battle by trade unions in the parliament for a shorter working week. The measure was opposed by the centrist Freedom Union, which argued that a poor country like Poland with high labor costs cannot afford to reduce working time. Andrzej Wilk of the Polish Confederation of Private Employers said the reduction in working hours will prevent employers from raising wages for a long time, PAP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
...BUT APPROVES LATE NIGHT BEER COMMERCIALS. Also the same day, the parliament amended the country's law on preventing alcoholism by allowing beer advertisements. Under the amendment, beer commercials may be aired by television and radio stations as well as cinemas and theaters between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Legislators decided, however, that beer advertisements should not be associated with sexual attractiveness, free time, health, or success. Beer advertisements will be banned from video cassettes, youth magazines, front pages of magazines, announcement posts, and billboards. So far, the law only allows ads for non-alcoholic beer. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
POLAND'S LARGEST STEEL PRODUCER TO CUT 1,400 JOBS. Poland's largest steel producer, Huta Katowice SA, is planning to sack 1,400 of its 5,700-strong workforce in 2001, PAP reported on 4 March. Employment at Huta Katowice SA has decreased fourfold since 1996, when some 20,300 workers were employed. The company's annual production capacity is estimated at 5 million tons. The company seeks external financing sources and a strategic investor after talks with the British-Dutch steel concern Corus failed last year. Six investors declared their interest in the privatization of Huta Katowice SA. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
ROMANIAPRESIDENT ACCUSES JUDGES OF CORRUPTION. After reviewing the Romanian Justice Ministry's report for 2000, President Ion Iiescu on 28 February said the justice system is corrupt, Mediafax reported. He also criticized the "uneven practices" of the panels, as well as the drawn-out length of court cases. Judges and prosecutors at the meeting accused the media of presenting an unfair negative picture of the justice system. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the government is the judiciary's ally, adding, however, that in the process of property restitution, "under the justice system's tolerant eyes" mafia members were given property that never belonged to them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
PRESIDENT DECLARES ALL CITIZENS EQUAL. Ion Iliescu said on 1 March that all Romanian citizens are equal irrespective of their ethnic origin, Mediafax reported. Answering a question regarding the debate in the Hungarian parliament of a law on ethnic Hungarians living abroad, Iliescu said "any discrimination imposed by international regulations is certainly not welcome." Iliescu stressed that Romanian citizens "represent a whole" and they should have "the same rights and obligations." The law on ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary could provide preferential status for ethnic Hungarians travelling to Hungary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO CONDITIONALLY ABOLISH VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR ROMANIANS. The European Parliament in Brussels voted on 1 March in favor of abolishing visa requirements for Romanians, Romanian media reported. The deputies amended a Council of Ministers report that proposed the elimination of visas for Bulgarians, but put several conditions for eventually eliminating visa requirements for Romanians. These conditions included measures against illegal immigration from Romania and the repatriation of illegal Romanian residents in EU member countries. The EU's Council of Interior Ministers is to adopt an official visa regulation at its 15-16 March meeting. Should the ministers adopt the original version of the report, Romania would be the only candidate country whose citizens still require a visa for traveling to EU member countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
MINERS END STRIKE. Some 700 miners from the state-owned coal mines in Campulung and Filipestii de Padure on 4 March decided to accept a governmental offer of a 20 percent wage increase and ended a 70-hour strike during which they remained underground, AP reported. The agreement stipulates that additional wage increases will depend on raising productivity. On 2 March, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said that "the only way to get better wages is to improve work." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
EU TO SUPPORT CHILDCARE SYSTEM. The chief of the European Commission delegation to Romania, Fokion Fotiadis, said on 28 February that in consideration of Romania's commitment to the reform of the childcare system, the EU will continue its financial and logistical support for childcare, Mediafax reported. Attending a conference on Romania's strategy regarding children rights, Fotiadis said the EU evaluation shows that a decision to decentralize the childcare system was correct. He said Romanian authorities should reduce the number of children entering the system by preventing child abandonment and aiding poverty-stricken families. He promised the EU's financial help in securing the program's success, in addition to a 25 million euro (some $24 million) Phare program that was just started. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
RUSSIAHUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER COMMENTS ON CHECHEN INSPECTION TRIP. Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, told journalists on 2 March that his 1 March inspection of the Khatuni Russian base in southern Chechnya showed that, contrary to claims by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, there is no filtration camp there for Chechen fighters, Russian agencies reported. Kalamanov admitted that he saw at the base five pits, in which Politkovskaya claimed detained Chechens were held, but he added that the camp's commander had explained that they were used for other purposes. Russian Prosecutor-General Chernov, who accompanied Kalamanov on his tour of the Khatuni camp, said on 2 March that "we found nothing resembling what the journalist described," according to Interfax. Russia's chief military prosecutor, Mikhail Kislitsyn, told Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles on 1 March that his office has begun an investigation of Politkovskaya's claims and will announce its findings by 8 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
CHECHEN PROSECUTOR REJECTS CLAIMS OF FILTRATION CAMP ON RUSSIAN BASE. Following a 1 March inspection of the Russian base at Khatuni, in southern Chechnya, by Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov and Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov, a spokesman for Chernov's office told ITAR-TASS that claims by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya that Chechen civilians are being held in pits at a filtration camp on that base are untrue. Politkovskaya was detained at that base a week ago, and described the brutal treatment to which she was subjected there in an article published in "The Guardian" earlier this week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
USE OF ANONYMOUS DENUNCIATIONS DECRIED. The National Movement for Human Rights has appealed to the Russian Supreme Court to ban the newly restored use of anonymous denunciations by Russian police and security agencies, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 2 March. The group said that under the current conditions, "an informer is absolved of all responsibility" for what he says and that as a result "anyone at all in Russia can easily become a suspect if they have enemies." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
MOSCOW DENOUNCES U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS CRITICISM. The Foreign Ministry said that Moscow will not tolerate either the tone or the content of criticism of Russian practices by the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report, Russian agencies reported. The ministry release was especially critical of U.S. findings about threats to freedom of speech. It said that "in Russia, no one is afraid to speak aloud about still existing problems." And the release suggested that Americans should not be so critical given the problems in their own political system revealed by last year's presidential elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN SAYS FORCES SEEKING HIS DISMISSAL. Oleg Mironov, the Russian human rights ombudsman, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskie vesti" on 1 March that a powerful campaign has been organized against him in the media and is intended to drive him from office. He did not name those he believed are responsible but said the effort could reflect either disagreements with his actions and statements or simply the desire on the part of current Duma members to be able to choose their own ombudsman. Mironov was selected by the preceding convocation of the Duma. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
LESIN WANTS COMPETITION FOR BEST PROPAGANDA IDEAS. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin on 1 March announced that a competition among advertising agencies for the best plan to project a positive image of Russia in the U.S. will not begin earlier than September, Interfax reported. But Vladimir Kulistikov, the head of RIA-Novosti, was quoted by "Izvestiya" on the same day as saying that he had doubts about the effectiveness of any such effort: "Trying to change the minds of the U.S. Congress, the American people or journalists is a waste of time. I think Russia's image will change only when Russia itself has become a European democratic state, with a truly liberal economy. And at that time, we will not have to spend money on propaganda efforts." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
RUSSIAN PUPILS TO BE TAUGHT TO MAKE CHOICES. The Education Ministry has approved the introduction of a new curriculum for middle schools that includes a 12-hour course designed to teach students how to make independent choices in any situation and then to take responsibility for those choices, "Segodnya" reported on 1 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
GREENPEACE CHARGES ADAMOV WITH CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The Russian branch of the environmental group Greeenpeace said on 2 March that Atomic Energy Minister Yevgenii Adamov has a conflict of interest concerning the import of nuclear wastes into Russia because he earns $15,000 a month from front companies he established to work in this sector, AP reported. The group urged the Duma not to vote for such imports when the bill authorizing them comes up for a second reading on 22 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
SAKHALIN KOREANS PROTEST JAPANESE GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM. Members of "Repatriation," a public organization of Koreans living on Sakhalin Island, picketed the Japanese consulate in the capital of that oblast, Yuzho-Sakhalinsk, on 1 March, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Repatriation is protesting against a Japanese government program for repatriating Koreans to their historic homeland. Kim Su Yen of Repatriation told the agency that Koreans in Sakhalin Oblast were brought to the island by the Japanese military some 50 years ago for forced labor, and under the current program only older Koreans are being offered the opportunity to return -- not their children or their grandchildren. In addition, according to Kim, most of the Korean diaspora on the island wants to remain there, and the Japanese government should instead offer compensation for the material, physical, and moral damages caused by forced migration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
SOVIET PASSPORT HOLDERS NOW STATELESS. As of 1 March, individuals who have only Soviet passports and who have arrived in the Russian Federation from former Soviet republics are to be considered as stateless and must seek residence permits and undergo naturalization procedures, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 February, citing a Foreign Ministry announcement. Meanwhile, Russian and Georgian diplomats continued to discuss visa arrangements between the two countries, "Tribuna" reported the same day. Approximately 300,000 Georgians want to remain in Russia and most will do so illegally, the paper said, noting that "Russia doesn't need 300,000 illegal aliens." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
2002 CENSUS TO ASK ETHNIC QUESTION. The special commission charged with conducting the all-Russian census in 2002 has confirmed the program for that process, Interfax reported on 28 February. The basic census will include 14 questions, including native language, citizenship, and nationality. An additional eight questions will be given to every fourth Russian family. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
NEW ASSISTANCE PLANNED FOR THOSE LEAVING FAR NORTH. The Russian government on 1 March decided to allocate 500 million rubles ($17 million) to the regions to help provide housing and other resettlement costs for those people who are leaving Russia's Far North, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
OLIGARCHS GAIN CONTROL OF INDUSTRIALIST UNION. "Vedomosti" reported on 28 February that the "oligarchs" had ousted the "red directors" as the main force in the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. They had done so, the paper said, by shifting the election of the union's leaders away from the group's congress and allowing the president to be chosen by the executive council, which is dominated by big business. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
450,000 TEACHERS TAKE PART IN PROTEST. Interfax reported on 28 February that 450,000 teachers and students nationwide took part in demonstrations the day before in support of better pay and working conditions for teachers. In fact, the number of participants may have been even higher as the news service said its data reflect reports from only 52 of the subjects of the federation. Meanwhile, in the wake of these protests and complaints about funding cutbacks for higher education, representatives of both the Fatherland-All Russia and the Communist parties said they will demand increased government funding for schools and universities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
MOSCOW MORTALITY RATE RISES. From 1999 to 2000, the number of deaths per 1,000 people in Moscow increased from 14.8 to 15.1, Interfax-Moscow reported on 1 March. At the same time, Moscow medical officials reported that there had have been more than 4,800 new cases of HIV infections in the city in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
SHRINE BUILT FOR DEAD ROMANOVS AND LIVE PUTIN. An Orthodox congregation in the Krasnyi Sad settlement in Rostov Oblast has built a shrine in honor of the Russian royal family and the election of Putin as president of the Russian Federation, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 February. Both Putin and the local authorities have provided support for this enterprise, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
SERBIAU.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION LOOKS AT SERBIA AFTER MILOSEVIC. A United States Helsinki Commission briefing, "Serbia After Milosevic: A Progress Report," took place on 6 March and assessed the progress made in the five months since democratic forces came to power in Serbia. The briefing focused on Yugoslav cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Belgrade's evolving stance toward Bosnia and other neighbors, and the effect of internal reform measures in correcting Milosevic abuses, including the continued imprisonment of hundreds of Kosovar Albanians in Serbia. These issues are particularly relevant in light of congressionally imposed conditionality on U.S. assistance to Serbia after 31 March. (Helsinki Commission News, 1 March)
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: NO MONEY FOR BELGRADE WITHOUT MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION. Amid Belgrade press reports to the effect that the arrest of former President Slobodan Milosevic may be imminent, Human Rights Watch said in New York on 1 March that Washington should make future aid to Belgrade contingent on the extradition of Milosevic to The Hague. Executive Director Holly Cartner said in a statement that "the U.S. government must be firmer than ever about the need to cooperate with the international tribunal. The Bush administration must send a clear message to the authorities in Belgrade that no money except humanitarian aid will flow from Washington until they start handing over indictees to The Hague," AP reported. The EU has indicated that it will not link assistance to cooperation with the tribunal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
CROATIA FILES AGAINST MILOSEVIC IN THE HAGUE. Croatia has filed documents with the International Court of Justice -- which is located in The Hague but is separate from the tribunal -- demanding that the Belgrade authorities extradite Milosevic. The Croatian government charges that Belgrade is violating "the international convention on genocide by not punishing perpetrators of genocide" in Croatia between 1991 and 1995, Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR SKEPTICAL OF MILOSEVIC'S ARREST. UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte called Yugoslav President Kostunica a man of "the past" on 3 March and said she holds out little chance that former President Milosevic, an indicted war criminal, will be sent to The Hague for trial, Reuters reported. Del Ponte, in comments to the French radio station RFI, said: "Kostunica is the past and that country needs the future, a great future." She said she will visit the UN Security Council in May and will call for punitive measures to be imposed on Yugoslavia if it fails to cooperate with The Hague tribunal. Del Ponte said that during her visit to Belgrade in January she was impressed with many reformist ministers but disappointed in Kostunica, who, she said, spent 90 minutes making "declamatory statements about Serbia and the Serbs as victims." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
SLOVAKIAPREMIER SAYS ECONOMY NEARING STABILIZATION. Mikulas Dzurinda said in Brussels on 1 March that "the Slovak economy is now in the final stage of stabilization," CTK reported. "The deficit of the state budget as well as foreign trade have been stabilized, the banking sector has improved, and the process of privatization successfully continues," the agency quoted him as saying at a conference devoted to the impact of EU enlargement on small- and medium-sized businesses. Dzurinda noted that the businesses (which employ no more than 250 people each) contribute 58 percent of the country's GDP compared with 60 percent in the EU, and that their employment share is 60 percent compared with 66 percent in the EU. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
TRADE UNION BLOCKS BORDER CROSSINGS OVER WAGES, UNEMPLOYMENT. The KOVO trade union of metal workers on 2 March blocked five border crossings with the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary to protest low wages and high unemployment, CTK reported. KOVO leaders said if the blockades fail to persuade the government and employers into launching talks with trade unionists, they will start sit-in strikes at selected companies. Slovakia's national unemployment rate is 21 percent, while in some regions it reaches 30 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
PRESIDENT 'UNDERSTANDS' PROTESTING UNIONS. President Rudolf Schuster, reacting to the blockage of five border crossings by members of unions representing engineering and metallurgy workers said in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, that the cabinet should have "long ago listened" to the unions and opened negotiations with them, CTK reported on 2 March. Schuster said the unions had been forced into an "extreme action" that "benefit none of us, and particularly not the government." Schuster said he cannot support demands that are "unjustified," a definition that can only be established at the negotiating table. Labor Minister Peter Magvasi said the government is not a party to the labor dispute and the unions must negotiate with the employers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
ROMANY PARLIAMENT MEETS IN BRATISLAVA. The first meeting of the World Romany Union Parliament in Bratislava on 3 March decided to set up a Romany Court, which will rule in matters affecting the Romany communities and do so in line with the Romany tradition, CTK reported, citing Radio Twist. Union Chairman Emil Scuka said the court will sit only over cases of "moral offenses" involving members of the communities. He commented that he considered lies, rude behavior, and theft to belong to this category of offenses. The judges will not deliver jail sentences, but could exclude offenders from the communities or sentence them to fines. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
TURKMENISTANBAPTIST PROTESTS ABOUT KNB RAID. A Baptist in the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi has written to the city prosecutor to complain about the confiscation from her home of religious books by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB). In her letter -- a copy of which was passed to Keston News Service by the U.S.-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries -- O.M. Dvornikova calls on the prosecutor to ensure an end to such actions. (Keston News Service, 26 February)
PENTECOSTAL CHURCH CONFISCATION CASE POSTPONED. The hearing due to have taken place on 1 March in an Ashgabat court in the local authorities' suit to confiscate the Pentecostal church has been postponed until 14 March, Judge Redjep Ilyasov told Keston News Service by telephone from Ashgabat. He declined to confirm reports that the postponement was to allow time to consider new materials presented in the case. (Keston News Service, 2 March)
AUTHORITIES STRIP CLOSED BAPTIST CHURCH. The authorities of the Niyazov district of the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 2 March have broken their own seals on the doors of the city's Baptist church and confiscated everything inside. Keston News Service has been able to find no official prepared to discuss the confiscation, despite repeated telephone calls. The closure of the Ashgabat church represents the destruction of the last remnants of the Baptist Union's institutional life in Turkmenistan. (Keston News Service, 2 March)
UKRAINEOPPOSITION APPEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY. The "Ukraine Without Kuchma" Public Committee and the Forum for National Salvation have called on the world's democratic communities, parliaments, and governments to support democracy in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 2 March. A joint statement accuses Ukrainian authorities of failure to conduct a civilized dialogue with society; "grave crimes against man and humanity;" as well as corruption and embezzlement of state property. The statement notes that President Leonid Kuchma is "the obstacle upon Ukraine's path to democratic Europe [and] the free world." Addressing the Ukrainian people, the anti-Kuchma opposition appeals to "create structures of resistance in every town and village, on every plant and at home." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
MOROZ SAYS DEMOCRACY AT RISK. Ukraine is now at "a turning point in its national history" and may either move toward a criminal dictatorship or become a democratic state, according to a major participant of the ongoing political drama in that country. Oleksandr Moroz, the chairman of the Ukrainian Socialist Party and one of the leading opponents of current Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, described the current political crisis in Ukraine to a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office this week. Moroz suggested that the case of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, a journalist who many suspect was killed on the orders of people surrounding Kuchma, was "just another stroke in the picture" of the emerging nature of political power in Ukraine. Moroz, who unsuccessfully ran against Kuchma in the recent election and now seeks to replace him, said that the current Ukrainian president has blocked reforms in the economy, cultivated an authoritarian political style, and actively interfered in the country's national and religious life. A longtime Communist Party official in Soviet times, Moroz provided few clues as to what kind of Ukraine he would like to see. But he was clear on one point: he insisted that Kyiv must have the closest possible ties with Moscow. "The Russian Federation is Ukraine's greatest and closest partner," he said. (RFE/RL Press Release, 2 March)
POLICE DISMANTLE TENT CITY, ARREST ANTI-KUCHMA PROTESTERS. Some 400 policemen on 1 March cordoned off the tent city erected by opponents of President Leonid Kuchma on Kyiv's central Khreshchatyk Street, dragged some 100 occupants out of the tents, and dismantled the camp, Reuters and AP reported. Opposition activists and witnesses said some 30 protesters were detained. "This is the beginning of Kuchma's solution to this problem [of anti-presidential protests] by force," AP quoted opposition lawmaker Yuriy Karmazin as saying. "It was an absolutely correct decision by the authorities to show that they are the authorities, and everyone should remember that for the future. Nobody is against the opposition sitting in tents. They have a specific site allocated to them, as all civilized nations do, and let them sit there as long as they like," Kuchma commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
SOROS CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN. In an article published in the 2 March "Financial Times," international financier George Soros urged Leonid Kuchma to stand down pending an inquiry into his alleged role in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "If Mr. Kuchma cares about Ukraine's survival as an independent democratic state, he must take responsibility for his actions and hand over his duties to the prime minister," Soros noted. Soros also urged the West to take a clear position by denouncing Kuchma's behavior and discontinuing doing business with the Ukrainian president until an impartial investigation has been completed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)
UZBEKISTANMEETING HIGHLIGHTS THE TRIALS OF WOMEN. Governmental officials and representatives from local and international NGOs met in the United Nations offices in Tashkent on 20 February to discuss the situation of women in Uzbekistan. Women face a myriad of challenges in Uzbekistan, largely because of strict interpretation of Islamic law and traditional values. In autumn 2000, a Gallup poll revealed that 50 percent of respondents called for the restriction of women's rights. Suicide rates for women are high. Last year, 209 women in the Samarkand region attempted to commit suicide; 71 died. (Center for Civil Society International, 3 February)
REGIONALSEMINAR ON IDPS, REFUGEES, AND NATIONAL MINORITIES. A seminar for NGOs and specialists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia working with IDPs, refugees, and national minorities, "The Human Rights Underpinnings of IDPs, Refugees, and National Minorities," will take place in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 6-12 May 2001. The seminar is organized by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC), and the International Association of Lawyers of the Caucasus (IALC) and financed by the Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute (COLPI) in Budapest. The seminar will concentrate on IDPs and refugees, as well as on national minorities from the perspective of international human rights legislation. Organizations and specialists in the field of IDPs, refugees and national minorities are invited to apply for participation in the seminar. The deadline for application is 9 March 2001. For more information contact Barbara Henkes, Project Coordinator, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, at email Bhenkes@techno-link.com (MINELRES, 1 March)
NEW PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITESLOCAL PUBLIC MANAGEMENT OF MULTI-ETHNIC COMMUNITIES. The LGI Managing Multiethnic Communities Project (MMCP) publication "Diversity in Action: Local Public Management of Multi-Ethnic Communities In Central and Eastern Europe" (March 2001) offers theoretical and policy-oriented perspectives on local management of ethnically heterogeneous communities throughout Central Europe. The volume highlights problems faced by ethnic minorities in education, access to public services and media outlets, local level public participation, and linguistic rights, plus policy recommendations to encourage public administration reforms on multi-ethnic issues in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine. To receive this publication, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit http://lgi.osi.hu/ethnic (MINELRES, 3 March)
END NOTECAN A NATIONALITY BECOME AN ETHNIC GROUP?
By Paul Goble
Tatars in the Russian capital of Moscow are attempting to transform their community from a Soviet-defined 'nationality' to an ethnic group of the kind familiar in Western democracies, but as the leaders of that community admit, their success in this effort remains far from certain.
Rasim Akchurin, the president of the regional Tatar national cultural autonomy, described in an interview published 24 February in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" both the aspirations of his community and also the difficulties it faces in making this transition. Akchurin's organization was created on the basis of a 1996 Russian law "on national cultural autonomy." That legislation was designed to give groups either lacking a state-defined territorial entity or living beyond the borders of the one listed as being theirs the possibility of creating ethnic institutions such as schools and social service agencies to support their community.
That law marked a major break with the Soviet past. As set up by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the Soviet system gave with a very few major exceptions language and other cultural rights to non-Russian nationalities only on the territory of the republic or entity bearing its name. That is, a Tatar living in Tatarstan could attend a Tatar-language school only in Tatarstan. (The Russians were the exception; Russian-language institutions were provided for them everywhere.)
Tatars or other groups who lived over widely dispersed areas or who moved out of their ethnic republics were given little or no cultural or linguistic support and were in the Soviet understanding expected to assimilate to the dominant nation, typically Russian, among whom they lived.
For the Tatars, this was a particular problem to the future of their nation because three-quarters of its members live beyond the borders of the Republic of Tatarstan in the Middle Volga. Hence, they have been among the most active in taking advantage of the provisions of the 1996 act.
They have organized district and regional committees, one of which Akchurin heads. They have set up schools, special courses, and social clubs. And they have sought to maintain their national identity in much the same way that ethnic communities do in democratic societies.
But they face several major obstacles in transforming themselves from a Soviet-style nationality to a Western-style ethnic group.
First, the Tatars of Moscow have to follow the provisions of the law which rigidly set registration requirements but to do so without the financial support of the government. Akchurin said that the city and regional authorities had provided help but that the federal government has not.
Second, the 1996 law prohibits the Tatar community from engaging in politics. Consequently, it cannot seek to pressure the government or promote candidates for office as other social groups in a civil society are allowed to do. Instead, ethnic communities, like religious communities, are precluded from legal political participation, a prohibition that may lead to the politicization of these groups in ways the state cannot control.
And third, the 1996 law and those who implement it continue to use Soviet-era terminology. Akchurin said last week that he did not like his community to be called a Diaspora or even a national cultural community. He pointed out that Tatars have been living in Moscow "since the moment of the founding of the city" and therefore cannot be properly viewed as a Diaspora.
The Tatar leader said that he believes the community should be called what it calls itself, a community, one not interested in standing aside from the life of other groups in the Russian capital but also committed to maintaining its sense of individual and collective identity.
Akchurin suggested that all 'nationalities' in the Russian Federation should have the same rights as his group seeks, including ethnic Russians living among non-Russian communities in various parts of that country. If Akchurin's vision triumphs, then the Russian Federation will have made an important step forward toward the creation of a civil society defined by more than just the existence of non-governmental organizations.
The fact that he is in a position to give this interview is a source of hope. But the survivals of past Soviet thinking on this subject to which he refers indicate that he, the Tatars, and other groups in that country face an uphill struggle in transforming themselves from nationality to ethnic group and their country from a state-defined organization into a civil society.