Accessibility links

Breaking News

(Un)Civil Societies Report: April 4, 2001

4 April 2001, Volume 2, Number 14
SECURITY CHIEF SEES SPY THREAT. Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namiq Abbasov said on ANS television on 31 March that his country is the object of "growing interest" by foreign intelligence services. He did not provide any additional details or name the countries involved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

MUSLIM BOARD AGAINST SELF-FLAGELLATION. The scientific religious council of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus has called on Azerbaijani Muslims not to engage in self-flagellation as they mark the martyrdom of Imam Husseyn on 5 April, Trend news agency reported on 2 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

CHECHEN REFUGEES APPEAL TO PRESIDENT. Representatives of Chechens who have fled to Azerbaijan have written to President Aliyev protesting the extradition of many of their number to the Russian Federation and arbitrary reprisals by Azerbaijani police against those still in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 27 March. The signatories, who include the late Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev's widow Alla, appealed to Aliyev as a fellow Muslim to ensure that they are treated with greater compassion. Glasnost-North Caucasus on 3 February estimated the number of Chechens in Azerbaijan at 8,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP VISITS FORMER EXECUTION CELLAR. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (HRCA) visited on 31 March a former execution cell, in Bayil prison in Baku, for those sentenced to death from 1923 until February 1998. Thousands were shot in this cell; some were later rehabilitated as innocent victims of political terror. Today, the four-room execution cellar is being restored and will serve as a museum. (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, 31 March)

POLITICAL PRISONER TOTALS ESTIMATED. The Human Rights Resource Center (MHRC) is compiling a general list of the country's political prisoners, reports "Turan." According to the MHRC director, the following political parties are represented in their ranks: two from the National Independence Party, 14 from Musavat, 26 from the Democratic Party, 41 from the "classic" wing of the Popular Front, 187 from the Committee to Defend the Rights of the OPON. There is no data available on the "reform" wing of the Popular Front. ("Turan," 26 March)

OPPOSITION LEADER JAILED FOR 15 DAYS. A Minsk district court on 29 March sentenced Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, to 15 days in jail for the organization of the unauthorized Freedom Day march last week, Belapan reported. Vyachorka denied that he was an organizer of the march, but the court took into account testimonies from two police officers who said Vyachorka incited the crowd through a megaphone. Belapan reported that participants of a similar Freedom Day rally in Hrodna will also go on trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST JAILED FOR 10 DAYS. Ales Byalatski, head of the human rights center Vyasna and deputy chairman of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for the organization of an unauthorized demonstration to mark Freedom Day on 25 March, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 2 April. "I think this sentence is unjust, but proceeding from the current situation in Belarus one should not expect anything else from our courts. These severe sentences for the 25 March [demonstration] testify to the fact that the authorities are trying to intimidate people and suppress the wave of vigorous spring protests that are now rising," Byalatski said of his punishment. BNF leader Vintsuk Vyachorka was handed a 15-day jail term, while Yuras Belenki, deputy chairman of the Christian Conservative Party, goes on trial on 3 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

'ALL' DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE TO THE HAGUE. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 2 April that the arrest of Milosevic is a necessary step but only an initial one, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the government will make available to The Hague tribunal "all" documents it has regarding specific war crimes committed on Croatian territory. In other news, Racan told a press conference that organized crime is on the rise and extending its links to the army and police, "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that the Interior Ministry has a job on its hands. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

COURT REFUSES TO CHANGE SENTENCE OF ROMANY ATTACKERS. A judge in Jesenik, northern Moravia, on 27 March again acquitted four out of six youths charged with a racial attack on a Rom in a local night club in July 1999, CTK reported. Two of the accused were given suspended sentences of 18 and 20 months. After the initial acquittal, the Supreme Court sent the case back, saying the attack was premeditated and each of those charged played a role in it. But the judge ruled that four of them "only formally met the legal conditions for being charged with conspiracy" and that "their behavior was not socially dangerous." The prosecution has again appealed the decision. Markus Pape, of the European Center for Romany Rights, said in reaction that it was "incredible" that the judge would defy a decision by the Supreme Court, which should be binding. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

ROMANY REPRESENTATIVES SET UP CRISIS COMMITTEE. A five- member crisis committee empowered to monitor and assess the situation of the Romany minority was set up on 2 April at a meeting of the Board of Romany Regional Representatives in Beroun, central Bohemia. Board spokesman Ondrej Gina told CTK that the deteriorating situation in Romany communities and poor communication with local authorities determined the formation of the committee. Gina also mentioned the recent acquittal of four people by a court in Jesenik, despite a Supreme Court ruling that they had participated in a racially motivated attack that led to the death of a Romany woman. Also on 2 April, CTK reported that the number of Czech Roma applying for asylum in the U.K. has significantly increased in the past three months and that British authorities are threatening to impose visa requirements on Czech citizens as a result. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

STB CHIEF FEELS HE IS BEING UNJUSTLY PROSECUTED. Alojz Lorenc, the former head of the Czechoslovak communist secret service (StB) who is now facing prosecution in Slovakia, on 2 April told the daily "Narodna obroda" that he intends to "defend my professional honor" in court. He said he faces the prospect of "ending like some kind of a swindler who has violated the law" and that the charge of "abusing power" is unjustified. Lorenc refused to tell the daily who was responsible for the order to have the StB intervene against students demonstrating in Prague in November 1989, saying only that he "knows exactly what orders were issued" and that he "personally forbade the StB to forcefully intervene." He also said that in 1989 the "orientation" of the StB had been toward "intelligence assignments" and that the organization had "saturated" the Charter 77 dissident movement with its agents and had no need to "intervene" against it, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

'TEMPORARY PROTECTION' TO CHECHEN WAR REFUGEES? The governmental Human Rights Council on 28 March proposed that the Czech Republic offer "temporary protection" to refugees from the Chechen conflict, CTK reported. The council said that such a measure would "provide reasonable and effective international protection to citizens of the Russian Federation and other persons who have fled from armed conflict-torn Chechnya and currently are on Czech territory." Refugees under "temporary protection" are issued special visas. There are at present some 200 asylum applicants from Chechnya in the Czech Republic, but the council said the real number of refugees is higher, because not all have applied for asylum. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

GOVERNMENT RAISES PENSIONS. The government on 20 March decided to raise pensions from 1,552 to 1,602 kroons as of 1 April, ETA reported. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 April)

JUSTICE MINISTRY SETS UP ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE. Justice Minister Ibolya David on 29 March set up an Antidiscrimination Committee to examine whether a comprehensive bill against discrimination is necessary in Hungary, or if the existing legislation conforms to EU requirements, Hungarian radio reported. David held an informal meeting with Romany politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs to discuss how to improve the living conditions of Roma in Hungary. Meanwhile, "Nepszabadsag" reported that over 30 people from 10 Roma families in Komlo want to emigrate to Strasbourg, mainly because they cannot find jobs in Hungary. Another 150 Roma from the village of Jand intend to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Their spokesman, Otto Rezmuves, said the Roma "live under inhuman conditions," and unless those conditions change they also plan to go to Strasbourg. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

SURVEY REVEALS INCREASE IN XENOPHOBIA. According to a survey conducted by the Tarki polling institute and published on 2 April, the Hungarian population has never been so hostile to refugees as last month. The survey, conducted in March among 1,500 people, shows that 43 percent of the respondents would refuse refugee status to any asylum seeker. Last year that figure was 38 percent. The highest level of xenophobia was recorded among pensioners, unskilled workers, and among voters of MIEP. In other news, a country report of the Council of Europe's committee investigating torture and abuse says Hungarian police have physically and psychologically abused persons in their custody. According to the report, primarily foreigners, juvenile delinquents, and Roma are exposed to police brutality, Hungarian media report. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

SCHOOLS TO HOLD HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY. For the first time, Hungarian schools will commemorate the Holocaust by holding on 17 April a memorial day for the genocide, Education Minister Zoltan Pokorni told reporters on 28 March. "The memorial day symbolizes that the Holocaust is part of our national history," Pokorni said. "Our aim is not to arouse a guilty conscience, but a sense of responsibility in today's children," he added. The date marks the anniversary of the setting up of the first ghetto in Hungary in 1944. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AD PROTESTED. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry on 29 March protested against an advertisement by Amnesty International, aired on Slovenian television, which implied that Hungarian police use torture against the detained... However, Anne Burley, Amnesty International regional director, said she did not consider an apology necessary, as the ad's message "reflects the reality" and her organization has "specific information" on police brutality in Hungary. She admitted, however, that "there was no special reason to choose Hungary, examples could have been taken from other countries" as well. After the Hungarian protest, the Amnesty International Slovene branch pulled the ad off the air. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe has also criticized Hungary for police abuse. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

ROMA REFUGEES SUSPECTED IN MURDER. Justice Ministry Political State Secretary Csaba Hende on 27 March told the parliament that two of the Roma who were recently granted refugee status in France are suspected of involvement in homicide in Hungary. Hende said the Fejer County Court issued an international warrant for the two Romany men, and Hungary on 16 February asked France to extradite them before they were given refugee status. Lorant Hegedus Jr., deputy parliamentary group leader of the extreme-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, said it is "shameful" that France recognizes those Roma as refugees. Hegedus also accused some 40 Hungarian intellectuals who recently expressed support for the Roma group of harboring anti-Hungarian feelings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

GROUP CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANTI-SLOVAK GRAFFITI. A previously unknown group, calling itself the Radical Action Group, on 29 March issued a statement claiming responsibility for the spraying of anti-Slovak graffiti in Bekescsaba last week. In a letter sent to local dailies, the group said "we are not fascist" and claimed that it had reacted to similar anti-Hungarian acts in Slovakia. "We do not demand gallows for the Slovaks, but for those Nazis living in Slovakia who sprayed Hungarian institutions with racist, anti-Hungarian inscriptions," the letter said. Bekes County police have offered a reward of 100,000 forints ($340) to anyone providing clues about the group, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

VIOLENCE CONTINUES DESPITE CASE AGAINST PERPETRATORS. Despite the case being prepared by the Tbilisi procuracy against defrocked Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili, violence against religious minorities continues. Keston News Service has learned from Jehovah�s Witness sources in Georgia of three attacks since the Prosecutor-General ordered the case to be brought on 16 March. A meeting has been broken up, property damaged and stolen, and literature burned. (Keston News Service, 29 March)

DEPUTIES CONDEMN RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM. By a vote of 135 to four, the Georgian parliament on 30 March adopted a resolution against religious violence, Prime-News reported. The deputies called on law enforcement personnel to block any manifestations of religious intolerance or violence. At the same time, AP reported, the parliament approved a constitutional change that will grant the country's autocephalous Orthodox Church a special role. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

PRESIDENT SEEKS TO CURB ANTI-RELIGIOUS ACTS. President Eduard Shevardnadze has issued a decree aimed at intensifying measures to crack down on violent crime, including violent reprisals against religious sects, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 March. He noted that the recent upsurge in violent crimes against foreigners, hostage-taking, and attacks on passenger buses has negatively affected Georgia's international image. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

GAMSAKHURDIA COMMEMORATION ATTRACTS FEW IN GEORGIA. Only 250 people showed up for a meeting in honor of the 10th anniversary of the referendum on independence and in memory of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported on 31 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

MESKHETIANS IN GEORGIA. Addressing the Georgian parliament on 27 March, deputy speaker Eldar Shengelaia said that legislation -- drafted by the Association of Young Lawyers to create a legal framework for the repatriation of the Meskhetians to Georgia and approved by the Council of Europe -- will be presented to the Georgian legislature in August. When Georgia was accepted into membership of the Council of Europe two years ago, it was on condition that measures be taken to expedite the repatriation over a 10-year period of those Meskhetians who wished to make Georgia their permanent home. The Georgian leadership argued at that time that it did not have the financial means to allow thousands of Meskhetians to return immediately to their native villages. The Meskhetians, whose ethnic origins are disputed, were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin in November 1944 from their homes in the southern Georgian region of Meskhet-Djavakheti. Despite decades of intensive lobbying, only a few hundred have been permitted to return to Georgia; some who consider themselves ethnic Turks have either settled in Azerbaijan or emigrated to Turkey. But those who now wish to return to Georgia include both some who are convinced of their Georgian ethnicity and others who consider themselves Turks...That possibility of an influx of pro-Turkish Meskhetians into southern Georgia has generated concern not only among the present predominantly Armenian population of Djavakheti, but also in Yerevan. If the repatriation proceeds gradually, and if, as the Georgian government has proposed, the Meskhetians can be persuaded to settle in other regions of Georgia rather than converge on their native villages, the grounds for friction should remain small.. ("RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 30 March)

HOSPITALS USING PATIENTS AS GUINEA PIGS? In a report that recalls John le Carre's most recent novel, "Rezonansi" on 29 March claimed that on the initiative of Labor, Health and Social Security Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze, six cardiology clinics in Tbilisi are testing on patients an unlicensed preparation named herodine that in some cases has caused brain hemorrhaging and even death. The paper quotes a Georgian graduate of a U.S. medical school as saying that the Georgian doctors are providing their U.S. sponsors with false data on the outcome of the clinical tests in order to continue receiving funding from them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

CHARGES FOLLOW BAPTIST MISSIONARY ACTIVITY. Two Baptists from the western Kazakh town of Atyrau, who had been working in the village of Inderborsky in Atyrau region, face criminal charges which church members claim were initiated to halt their missionary activity. Pastor Oleg Ladygin of the Baptist church in Atyrau told Keston News Service on 30 March that Baptist work in the village will continue. (Keston News Service, 30 March)

FORMER OPPOSITIONISTS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST LEADERS. Former members of the opposition Republican Peoples' Party denounced the party's leader, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, at a protest in front of the group's Almaty offices, Kazakh Commercial Television reported on 30 March. The protesters read out a symbolic death sentence to the party and called its leaders "traitors and U.S. intelligence spies," the government channel said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

OPPOSITION PREPARES FOR PROTEST. Several opposition parties announced on 2 April that they would mount a major protest on 13 April in support of press freedom, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported the same day. That meeting will build on a 30 March demonstration that attracted some 200 people. Meanwhile, Tolekan Ismailova, president of the NGO coalition, told RFE/RL that her group is circulating a petition against Bishkek city efforts to prevent demonstrations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

KYRGYZSTAN PREPARES FOR ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF UZBEKISTAN INVASION. Talant Razzakov, the deputy chief of the Kyrgyzstan National Security Service, told Interfax-Central Asia on 2 April that Bishkek was preparing for an invasion by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, as it believes that group seeks to use Kyrgyz territory as a staging area against Tashkent. But on 1 April, Uzbek television showed the reinforced Uzbek-Kyrgyz border to be quiet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

PREMIER SEEKS TO COMBAT POVERTY. Finance Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev told a cabinet session on 27 March that 55.3 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population lives in poverty and a further 23.3 percent in "deep poverty," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. According to official statistics, the minimal monthly subsistence level is currently 1,205 soms (about $25), while the minimum salary is only 120 soms. Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev characterized the situation as grave, noting that Kyrgyzstan is among the five poorest CIS states. He said a minimum of 5 percent GDP growth for the next five years is needed to improve the situation. GDP growth in 2000 was 5.1 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

WOMEN PROTEST HIZB-UT-TAHRIR LEAFLET ARRESTS. Authorities in the town of Karasuu in the Osh region have broken up a second demonstration on 28 March by local women protesting the arrest of local residents on charges of distributing leaflets of the banned Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation). Speaking to Keston News Service in Osh, party members rejected government allegations that they are a violent group, and maintained they were being persecuted for their religious convictions. (Keston News Service, 28 March)

OSCE'S VAN DER STOEL MAKES FAREWELL VISIT. Prime Minister Andris Berzins thanked OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 22 March for his cooperation in Latvia's successful naturalization activities, LETA reported. While praising the fact that the number of naturalization applications was not falling, van der Stoel suggested that the Latvian language test be coordinated with the naturalization test so an individual would not be required to take two exams. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 April)

NURSES' WAGES TO RISE. Latvian Medical Care Trade Union Chairwoman Daina Bruvele said on 20 March that a reconciliation meeting would recommend to the cabinet that an additional 4.032 million lats ($6.4 million) be spent to raise the monthly salaries of nurses by 25 lats from the second half of the year, LETA reported. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 April)

FARMERS BLOCK HIGHWAY IN PROTEST. Several hundred farmers and workers of the Marijampole Sugar factory, protesting against what they consider to be the government's attempts to close the factory and set up a monopolistic sugar market, blocked on 27 and 28 March the segment of the Via Baltic highway to Poland leading to the Kalvarija customs post, "Kauno diena" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

PARLIAMENT AMENDS LABOR LAWS. The parliament, by a vote of 69 to 47 with seven abstentions, on 22 March passed amendments to the laws on Employment Contract, Wages, Holidays and Trade Unions, which are aimed at liberalizing the labor market and reducing illegal labor, ELTA reported. The amendments provide wider opportunities for an employer and employee to agree on employment terms, but reduce by three times the compensation an employer is required to pay when dismissing a worker. Businesses on the verge of bankruptcy would often retain workers on their payrolls because they did not have the funds to pay the required compensations, and would then seek a pretext to fire them and avoid having to provide compensation. The amendments also diminished the role of trade unions by requiring employers to get their approval only for firing its representative and not all workers. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 April)

KERIM: TURN CRISIS INTO OPPORTUNITY. Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of 29 March that it is not necessary to create a special constitutional status for the Albanians. He stressed that it is enough to make "the Albanians in Macedonia feel at home," adding that Macedonians living in predominantly Albanian areas should study the Albanian language in school. Kerim stressed that the choice is between "a society of citizens, or...a federation of various nations, which would then collapse and end in a bloodbath." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

VORONIN WELCOMES TIRASPOL'S REFUSAL TO ATTEND OSCE MEETING. Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir Voronin on 2 April said he finds "reason for hope" in the refusal of the Transdniester separatists to attend the OSCE Bratislava meeting before the election of the next Moldovan president and a meeting between him and separatist leader Igor Smirnov, Infotag reported. "Frankly speaking, I would like such meetings to be held in Chisinau and Tiraspol, not in Bratislava, Vienna, or anywhere else abroad. The Transdniester conflict is a domestic Moldovan problem, and it should be solved at home," Voronin said. He added that the "excessive internationalization" of the Transdniester negotiations may be "not only inefficient, but also lacking perspectives of success." He said he intends to personally be "very active" in the negotiations and "the Transdniester settlement is going to be one of my biggest priorities." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

PRESIDENT'S AIDE OFFERS TO RESIGN OVER ALLEGED ANTI- SEMITISM. Kazimierz Morawski, President Aleksander Kwasniewski's adviser for national minorities, offered to resign his post on 27 March after a newspaper accused him of having propagated anti-Semitism in the 1960s, PAP reported. "Gazeta Polska" wrote in the 28 March issue that Morawski had publicly warned Poles in the 1960s against "an attack of the Zionist fifth column." Kwasniewski said he will make a decision on Morawski after examining the newspaper's charges. Last week, Kwasniewski refused to fire his top international policy adviser, Andrzej Majkowski, who admitted to, and apologized for, contributing to anti-Semitic propaganda in the 1968 anti-Semitic campaign launched by the then-communist regime in Poland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

PROSECUTORS PROBE SECOND 1941 POGROM. The National Remembrance Institute (IPN) has initiated an investigation into the pogrom of Jews in Radzilow on 7 July 1941, which took place three days before a similar massacre in nearby Jedwabne. "According to initial findings, between 600 and 800 victims were murdered in Radzilow by being burned to death in a barn and also by being shot," Witold Kulesza, head of the investigations section of the IPN, told PAP. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

ACCESS TO PERSONAL SECURITATE FILES. The first four people who examined their Securitate files on 28 March said they were "shocked" to realize what a "senseless waste of money" the shadowing of suspects was under the communist regime. Gheorghe Onisoru, chairman of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives, said between one and two million Romanians had been shadowed by the Securitate, which had employed for this purpose not only its own staff, but also "up to some 700,000 informers, each submitting information on two to three suspects." Some 1,200 Romanians have so far applied to examine their personal Securitate files. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

LEADERS REACT CAUTIOUSLY TO MILOSEVIC'S ARREST. President Ion Iliescu on 2 April told journalists that the imprisonment of former Yugoslav President Milosevic "opens the road to stability and normalization" in Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the arrest is "an internal political decision, probably a painful one for a segment of Yugoslavia's population, but the only possible decision with regard to ensuring the country's future." Viewed from this perspective, Nastase said, "I believe the decision is politically correct." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who is also serving as OSCE chairman, said the arrest "is a step forward for the consolidation of democracy in Yugoslavia." Geoana said Yugoslav President Kostunica is "a legalist and a great expert in constitutional matters" and his decision to grant "preference to domestic law at the initial stage is wise." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

MAYOR DISMISSES ACCUSATIONS OF RACISM. Constanta Mayor Radu Mazare, reacting to allegations that he is promoting racial and xenophobic policies and views about Roma and the Turkish minority, told journalists on 28 March that the allegations stemmed from the fact that the mayoralty has taken measures against theft, begging, and illegal trading, and advised his critics to "take up honest work." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

STEEL WORKERS PROTEST PLANT SHUTDOWN. Steel workers in Resita on 3 April left the CSR steel-production plant in town and are marching to the Resita-Caransebes highway with the intention of blocking it, Romanian radio reported. The protest began on 2 April, with the workers urging the government to save their jobs. CSR stopped production in early March, after the U.S. firm Noble Ventures, which bought the steelworks last year, failed to pay electricity bills amounting to $4.71 million along with similar gas bills, causing the plant to be cut off from gas and electricity deliveries. The U.S. consortium agreed to take over the company's debts when it bought it. The protesters shouted "Down with the Americans" and demanded that Premier Nastase come to talk to them. Nastase said the government's power to intervene was limited, but ordered Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu to examine whether the privatization contract has been honored. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

PUTIN'S KGB PAST DOESN'T WORRY RUSSIANS. More than half of all Russians -- 52 percent -- do not care about President Putin's past career in the KGB or think it will have negative consequences for his performance as president, according to a poll by the Public Opinion Research Center reported in "Izvestiya" on 27 March. Only 6 percent of the sample were "seriously worried" by Putin's previous career. Moreover, the ratio of those who worry that Putin will institute a dictatorship is only one-sixth the number who think that he will not do so. But, the poll suggested, Russians are concerned that they do not yet know what Putin intends to do or how he will put an end to the Chechen war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

MORE CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS LODGED AGAINST VOLOSHIN. In its issue dated 26 March-1 April, "Novaya Gazeta" investigative journalist Oleg Lurie published another article detailing corruption allegations against presidential administration head Voloshin. Lurie, who was the subject of a severe beating last year, revealed that a website called displays a sample signature card for a bank account of an offshore company, Glynford Financial Services, of which Voloshin is reportedly the director. According to Lurie, millions of dollars were transferred through the account. He also implied that this money was likely the proceeds from the dodgy privatizations conducted by Voloshin when he headed the Federal Funding Corporation from 1995-97. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

PUTIN BACKS 'LIBERAL' AMENDMENTS TO CRIMINAL CODE. Following a meeting at the Kremlin chaired by President Putin on 30 March, deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak told reporters that participants in the meeting supported amendments to the criminal procedural code that will give the courts the exclusive authority to order arrests, searches, and detention. Currently, prosecutors may issue arrest or search orders. However, Kozak added that the amendments cannot be implemented before 2003, because "3,000 more judges and 6,000 more court workers" need to be hired. Last January, the Kremlin withdrew amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes 14 days after submitting them to the State Duma, saying that more work was needed on them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

'INHUMAN' PRISONS... Today's Russian prison system is in some ways better than the Soviet one, partially due to the tireless efforts of former political prisoner Valery Abramkin's Center for Cooperation on Criminal Justice Reform. Prisoners now have the right to make telephone calls, receive packages from the outside, and even to go on short "holidays." But prisons are still overcrowded and rampant with TB. In the Soviet era, amnesties often meant that prisoners had to work out the remainder of their sentences in Russia's most dangerous and unhealthy industries. Today, it is poverty which dictates amnesties. Some one million inmates live in appalling conditions in prisons that haven't been reconstructed for decades, on food rations that fall below any human criteria, and without basic sanitary conditions. Last December, the Justice Ministry -- in charge of prisons since 1998 -- pushed for the release of over 200,000, in the largest amnesty in post-communist Russia, lowering the prison population from over a million to a "mere" 990,000. (Transitions Online, 30 March)

...BUT PART OF TREADMILL. Over 12,000 amnestied prisoners have returned to prison, reports the Prosecutor-General's Office. According to Karina Moskalenko, a criminal lawyer and the head of the NGO Center for International Protection, only 0.07 percent of those who stand trial are acquitted. Even under Stalin, Moskalenko says, the acquittals reached 4-5 percent. Between 20 and 30 million Russians -- out of under 150 million inhabitants -- have passed through the penitentiary system, according to Sergei Vitsin, a member of the presidential pardons commission. Meanwhile, the Russian Justice Ministry recently advocated shortening pre-trial investigations to one year -- in contrast to the present system where the Prosecutor-General can permit investigators to hold a defendant for up to 18 months in disease-ridden, packed pre-trial detention facilities. However, after flying through the lower house of parliament, the amendment was defeated in the upper house under pressure from the Prosecutor-General's Office. (Transitions Online, 30 March)

MATVIENKO SAYS WORK WITH 3.5 MILLION ON PROBATION IMPROVING. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko said on 27 March that the Russian government is working more efficiently with the 3.5 million ex-prisoners now registered with the authorities. But she said that more needs to be done to reintegrate these people into society. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES CHECHEN RECONSTRUCTION. Chairing a session of the Russian Security Council on 29 March, President Putin affirmed that the Russian leadership aims to create "a peaceful and happy life" for the population of Chechnya, Interfax reported. Putin noted the need for better coordination between federal and local authorities in planning and implementing reconstruction in Chechnya. He also called for "strict accountability" to ensure federal funds earmarked for that purpose are not misappropriated. Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told the session that Chechen administrative structures will be identical to those of other federation subjects. He also noted that oil extraction in Chechnya has reached 1,000 tons per day and should rise to an annual total of one million tons next year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 March)

OFFICIAL MASS GRAVE INVESTIGATION 'A CHARADE...' Human Rights Watch charged on 2 April that the Russian response to the discovery of more than fifty bodies in a village close to the main Russian military base in Chechnya has been absolutely inadequate. Evidence from the mass grave confirms that detainees were summarily executed and often tortured. As the international community gathers this week in Geneva for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch urged the adoption of a resolution to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate this mass grave, as well as other human rights crimes committed by Russian troops and Chechen rebel forces. The Russian government failed to mention that the area in which the grave was found had been under Russian control since December 1999, long before the vast majority of the bodies were deposited there. Human Rights Watch has obtained undisputable evidence that in many cases even a full description of the condition of the bodies was not made. During visits to the Ministry of Emergency Situations base in Grozny, researchers for Memorial Human Rights Center also learned that only a single forensic expert -- who had no other equipment than rubber gloves and a scalpel -- was conducting these examinations and that there was no equipment to cool the bodies for a longer period of time at the base. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 2 April)

...AS INTERNATIONAL BODIES KEEP SILENT... Human Rights Watch also criticized the international community for failing to react appropriately to the discovery of the grave. European governments and the U.S., along with most international organizations, failed even to respond publicly to the news of the grave, thus signaling to Russian officials that there would be no consequences for failing to conduct a proper investigation. The Council of Europe human rights commissioner did raise the need for a full investigation with the Russian authorities during a February 2001 trip to Russia and Chechnya, but inexplicably failed to visit the mass grave or view the sixteen bodies that had been recovered at the time. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, no international organization or individual government offered the Russian government technical assistance or expert staff to investigate the grave. Meanwhile, human rights organizations have been able to establish that almost all of the bodies identified were of people who had previously "disappeared" in the custody of Russian troops. All of the victims apparently had execution-style bullet wounds and at least some of the bodies bore clear signs of torture, including stab wounds, broken bones, scalped body parts, and cut-off ears. These human rights organizations have also collected photo and video materials that leave no doubt that the majority of the remaining thirty-four people whose bodies were found at the Dachny village had been summarily executed, and that many had been tortured. Many had had their hands tied behind their backs and had been blindfolded, and also showed signs of multiple bullet and stab wounds. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 2 April)

...AND APPEALS FOR END TO CHECHEN ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS. Human Rights Watch also sent a letter to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on 2 April expressing deep concern over serious human rights violations against civilians in Chechnya that have apparently been carried out by armed forces under his command. These violations have included direct attacks on individual civilians, and the circulation of so-called "death lists" containing names of other civilians who are to be executed. The letter urges Maskhadov to take appropriate measures to ensure an immediate end to these violations. Human Rights Watch is deeply troubled by a pattern of attacks and threats -- apparently by Chechen forces -- on people working for the civilian administration established by the Russian government in 2000. Throughout the past ten months, more than a dozen such individuals or their family members have died due to these attacks; many more were wounded. Human Rights Watch is furthermore concerned that the lives of other Chechens branded as "collaborators" may be in danger; human rights organizations have received copies of lists naming Chechens cooperating with the federal government who have been sentenced to death by a Shariat court solely for this cooperation. The letter urgently calls on Maskhadov to order his forces and take all other measures to cease the targeting of civilian administrators in Chechnya. (Human Rights Watch Press Release, 2 April)

FEW SCHOOLS FOR CHECHEN CHILDREN... At the end of last year, according to Russian authorities, there were 451 functioning schools inside Chechnya with a total of 190,000 pupils. In addition, there were 11 technical colleges including the Grozny Oil Institute (with 4,500 students), the University of Chechnya (9,800) and the Chechen Pedagogical Institute (4,200). During the first Chechen campaign, a total of 285 schools were damaged and 55 destroyed, reports the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Fierce fighting in late 1999 destroyed another 165 schools and most have not been repaired or rebuilt. In Ingushetia, where some 200,000 Chechen refugees live in tent camps or railway carriages, the situation is critical. As they try to cope with refugee children, many local schools work in two or three shifts. School children also lack textbooks and teaching materials -- 30 percent of the required amount in Chechnya and 40 percent in Ingushetia. Many parents refuse to send their children to school because they cannot afford decent clothes and shoes. Some help has come from private sources -- this year, fund-raisers in Krasnodar donated equipment for six computer classes to Chechen schools while the Astrakhan local administration sent 150 tables and 300 chairs. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 2 April)

...AS TEACHERS AND STUDENTS ARE TARGETS. In Chechnya, safety remains a major concern. Extremist Chechen groups have accused teachers of collaborating with Russian authorities. Schools may become targets for Russian federal bombardments even in areas the Russian forces are supposed to control. Last summer, Olga Klimova, head of Grozny's Middle School No. 10, was shot together with her family and Lyudmila Netsvetaeva, a university inspector, was executed last November, reports the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. In the same month, rebel snipers shot dead two school workers near Gudermes who were collecting wood to heat local classrooms. Reportedly, artillery bombardments damaged schools in Mesker-Yurt and Shali in December 2000. On 20 December, five students were killed and four others seriously injured when Russian mortar shells hit Grozny's Pedagogical Institute, sparking mass protests, and several colleges were temporarily closed. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 2 April)

RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS SET UP COMPLAINTS OFFICE... The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and the office of the presidential envoy to Chechnya have set up a joint working group to handle complaints by Chechen civilians of mistreatment by federal forces and police, ITAR- TASS reported on 2 April. Meanwhile, Presidential Representative for Human Rights and Freedoms Vladimir Kalamanov said that the general situation in Chechnya has improved since the FSB took over operations there, the Russian news agency said. The news agency also said that the Chechen government will move from Gudermes to Grozny by 15 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

...AND OSCE SAYS ITS RETURN TO CHECHNYA REMAINS UNCERTAIN. Aleksandr Kornya, chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Chechen mission, told ITAR-TASS on 2 April that the date of his mission's return to the North Caucasus "remains open, and will be solved only when a complex [set] of safety measures is solved." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

TERRORISM AT LARGE? Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said on 28 March that Moscow remains a prime target for terrorists and as a result the city must remain at a high state of alert, Interfax-Moscow reported. Meanwhile, federal Interior Ministry officials said that they have averted 100 terrorist actions across the country since 19 March, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

RE-REGISTRATION FIGURES FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS. According to as-yet-unpublished official Ministry of Justice figures, 20,215 religious organizations were re-registered in Russia by the deadline of 31 December 2000, Keston News Service has learned. The Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has the largest number of organizations, at 10,912. There are 3,048 re-registered Islamic organizations, but taken together Protestant Churches account for approximately 3,800 organizations, and Protestantism may thus be considered to have overtaken Islam as Russia's second largest confession. Considered separately, the largest Protestant Churches are the Pentecostals (1,323 organizations), the Evangelical Christian-Baptists (975), and evangelical Christians (612). Next come the Adventists (563) and the Jehovah 's Witnesses (330), whom Keston has not included in the 3,800 figure. Three traditional Churches, the Old Believers (278), Roman Catholics (258), and Lutherans (213), follow. Russia's two so-called traditional confessions besides Orthodoxy and Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, come next, with 197 and 193 re-registered organizations respectively. The only other groups to have more than 100 organizations re-registered are the Presbyterians (192), non-denominational Christians (156) and the Hare Krishnas (106). If one compares the rate of increase over the past five years for those confessions who currently have 15 or more re-registered organisations, a different but no less interesting picture emerges. Compared with registration figures for 1 January 1996, the fastest growing groups are indigenous Russian sects. - the Church of the Last Testament based in Krasnoyarsk region and the Church of the Sovereign Mother of God. Although both of these groups are small -- with 15 and 28 organizations respectively -- they have grown sevenfold since 1996. The next fastest increase has been enjoyed by the pagans, whose organizations have increased by almost sixfold to 41. (Keston News Service, 2 April)

NEO-NAZI GROUP REGISTERED. The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) sent an appeal to the Presidential Representative for the Central Federal District Georgy Poltavchenko on 2 April requesting that he issue a public statement condemning regional officials in Voronezh and Tver for registering the neo-Nazi group Russian Rebirth -- a successor to the notorious Russian National Unity (RNU), which split apart late last year. The appeal also calls on Mr. Poltavchenko to instruct federal law enforcement agencies to investigate possible ties between local officials and Russian Rebirth. The organization was registered in Tver in January 2001 and in Voronezh in February 2001, a region known for denying registration to religious minority congregations. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews Press Release, 2 April)

RANKS OF NEO-NAZIS SWELL TO 30,000. Neo-Nazi groups across Russia have been targeting nonethnic Russian students with increasing frequency, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported in its No. 13 issue. The most recent attack occurred in Moscow on 15 March, when about 20 teenagers attacked students of primarily Armenian descent. According to the weekly, April 1998 marked an important phase in the groups' history: they sent faxes to a number of Moscow newspapers promising to kill one black person every day to mark Hitler's birthday. Most newspapers did not take the threat seriously, but the Foreign Students Association found that after 20 April four black students on average were attacked every day and one was killed. The ranks of the neo-Nazi groups have also been increasing since the early 1990s. According to the weekly, there are about 3,800 neo-Nazis in Moscow, about 2,700 in St. Petersburg, more than 2,000 in Nizhnii Novgorod, and thousands more across Russia, which adds up to a total of some 30,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

MORE FUNDS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION URGED. Participants in a roundtable organized in the Federation Council on 27 March said that the government should spend more, not less, on protecting the environment, ITAR-TASS reported. Because of cuts in such spending over the last several years, the participants said, the federal budget now allocates only 0.4 percent of total expenditures for that purpose, far less than the U.S. and many other countries spend. Those who took part in the roundtable also said that there needs to be a concept paper prepared on the subject, and recommended that the government use both bonuses and subsidies as well as fines to induce companies to improve their environmental records. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

PUTIN VETOES BILL THAT WOULD HAVE INCREASED NUMBER OF FEDERAL WORKERS. President Putin vetoed on 2 April a bill that would have increased the number of staff that each federal legislator is allowed from 30 to 50. According to Interfax, in a letter to the Duma Putin expressed his belief that such an increase is unnecessary. The president also stated that the government is opposed to the fact that all of the legislators' staff currently have the right to ride free of charge on public transport, because such a privilege raises government expenses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

PATRIOTIC EDUCATION MAY BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. A survey of 1,276 young people and adults reported by "Vremya MN" on 27 March found that "the overwhelming majority of young Moscovites think that no state directives and measures will 'make' an ordinary, psychologically normal individual a patriot, an atheist or an internationalist." Instead, they suggested spending money on such a plan may have just the oppose effect. In support of that view, those in the survey pointed to the ways in which atheistic education in the USSR promoted interest in God and internationalist training contributed to interethnic hostility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

YOUNG PEOPLE COMMIT ONE CRIME IN TEN. Aleksandr Bigunov, the official in the Office of the Prosecutor-General responsible for following youth crime, said on 27 March that during 2000, young people committed approximately 178,000 crimes, some 10 percent of the national total, Interfax reported. He said that young people are especially likely to be involved in prostitution and pornography. Among the causes for this increase in youth crime, Bigunov said, are increases in the number of unsupervised children and children deserted by their parents. Meanwhile, a United National Human Rights commission report issued a report on 28 March noting that sexual exploitation of children is widespread in Russia, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

70 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN YOUTH SAID UNHEALTHY. Officials at the Health Ministry on 27 March said that 70 percent of Russian young people aged 10 to 15 now suffer from chronic diseases, Interfax reported. They added that the death rate for children aged 10 to 17 had risen to 213.4 per 100,000, a level they said is "extraordinarily high." Some 13 percent of girls now suffer from gynecological diseases, the officials noted. In other health news, the Health Ministry doctors said that in 2000 the number of infections of hepatitis A increased 83.5 percent over the year before. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

ONE MILLION AIDS DEATHS BY 2010? Vadim Pokrovskii, the head of the Federal Center on the Prevention and Struggle with AIDS, said that the center's projections show that the number of AIDS deaths in Russia will reach one million by 2010, Interfax reported. Pokrovskii added that the true number of HIV-infected persons in Russia is some 650,000, more than six times the official number. He noted that the largest number of HIV infections are in the Moscow region, the city of Moscow, Irkutsk, and St. Petersburg, but he pointed out that there are now HIV cases registered in 86 of the country's 89 regions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

210 DEATHS FROM CHEMICAL WEAPONS LEAKS IN CHUVASH TOWN. "Nezavisimaya gazeta-regiony" reported on 27 March that in recent years some 210 people have died in Novocheboksarsk, a small town in the Chuvash Republic, as a result of chemical weapons production and storage. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

ONE MILLION IMMIGRANTS A YEAR NEEDED? Zhanna Zyonchkovskaya, the head of the laboratory for the analysis and prediction of migration of the Institute of Economic Forecasting, said in an interview published in "Segodnya" on 28 March that Russia will need to attract more than a million immigrants a year in order to forestall economic decline. She said that ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics are neither numerous enough nor willing to return. In 1991, she said, there were 22.5 million Russians living in these states, of whom 3.5 million have now returned. But most of those still abroad live in Ukraine "and our investigations show that Russians will not come from there." She said that Kazakhstan is also unlikely to be a good source and suggested that Russia will likely have to look to China for such influxes of population. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

YUGOSLAVIA'S KOSTUNICA: MILOSEVIC SHOULD NOT GO TO THE HAGUE... Asked about a possible extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told the "New York Times" of 3 April that "it should never happen". Kostunica added that "other presidents are not being sent to The Hague. I must make some compromises [with the West], but there is a line I cannot cross. Even among those people in the Serbian and Yugoslav governments who don't think about legitimacy but about what might be politically useful, the prevailing view is that it would be unacceptable" to send Milosevic to face war crimes charges in the Dutch city. Kostunica argued that the tribunal is anti-Serb and based on shaky legal foundations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

...AND NOBODY SHOULD PRESSURE SERBIA. Warning the U.S. against applying political pressure against Serbia because of Milosevic, Kostunica added in remarks to the "New York Times" of 3 April: "If pressure did not work with Milosevic in power, and now he is no longer in power and we are having a horrible situation in Serbia, what is the sense of such threats now?" Kostunica nonetheless said that he understands the view in Washington that Milosevic's arrest just before a 31 March aid cut-off deadline is proof that "pressure works." "But that is incorrect thinking, even when Milosevic was in power," Kostunica stressed. Yugoslavia does not need more foreign pressure "but patience, to let us cope with these problems, especially when one considers that the stability of Yugoslavia and Serbia is very important for this unstable region.... How can our people and courts become competent to deal with questions like war crimes unless you're given a chance?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

KOSTUNICA: SERBIA WILL 'SUFFER' IF MONTENEGRIN DECISION IS DELAYED. Referring to Montenegro, the "New York Times" of 3 April reported that Kostunica believes that "an independent Montenegro would produce more regional instability, noting that more refugees live in Serbia -- about 800,000 -- than the 650,000 people in Montenegro. But he strongly opposes a moratorium or delay on Montenegro's deciding its future, saying Serbia would suffer from any further period of uncertainty." For their part, Montenegrin pro-independence leaders believe that Montenegro can manage its affairs efficiently and economically precisely because it is small. They warn that Montenegro will "suffer" if it remains in a state with a Serbian leadership that has attitudes toward the mountainous republic similar to those of Milosevic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: AID DECISION 'PREMATURE.' "The decision to certify [Belgrade] is premature," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued in New York on 2 April. She stressed that "this is not the moment to let the pressure off Belgrade. Slobodan Milosevic would not be behind bars today if it were not for international pressure." Cartner argued that the Bush administration is correct in deciding to withhold support for a donors' conference until the Yugoslav government has exhibited real cooperation with the tribunal. But the administration should set down specific benchmarks, including the transfer of Milosevic and other indictees to the tribunal, in order for the donors' conference to go ahead, the statement added. Cartner also urged the administration to link future support in international financial institutions to the transfer of indictees, including Milosevic, to The Hague. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

MILOSEVIC ADMITS ARMING REBELS IN CROATIA, BOSNIA. In a denial of embezzlement charges, Milosevic's attorney wrote in a statement that some of the money the former president is accused of stealing was actually used to provide weapons for Serbian rebels in Croatia and Bosnia a decade ago. The statement noted that "these sums could not be publicly presented in the draft budget for reasons of state security as the top state secret," the "Daily Telegraph" reported on 3 April. This is the "first official confirmation from Belgrade that the actions of the Serb rebels in...Croatia and Bosnia...were stoked by Milosevic," the daily added. Elsewhere, Florence Hartmann, who is the spokeswoman for The Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL that the tribunal is preparing charges against Milosevic stemming from the Bosnian conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

MILOSEVIC AIDES 'SINGING LIKE CANARIES' IN INQUIRY. London's "The Independent" of 3 April quoted an unnamed source close to the investigation of several of Milosevic's top aides as saying that the former officials have "started to sing like canaries." They include former security chief Rade Markovic, customs chief Mihalj Kertes, banker Jovan Zebic, and former Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic. The source told the daily that the men saw nothing wrong in what they did. "You asked for money and you got it. And it worked for years," the source added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

CONCERN OVER 'ANTI-SLOVAK, ANTI-HUNGARIAN PROVOCATIONS.' Prime Minster Mikulas Dzurinda said he is "very concerned" about the recent anti-Hungarian and anti-Slovak graffiti on buildings housing Hungarian institutions in Slovakia and the Slovak Cultural Center in Bekescsaba, Hungary. He described as a "political mistake" the participation of Slovak politicians in ceremonies in Budapest honoring Count Janos Esterhazy, whom he described as a "controversial figure." Dzurinda said the graffiti could be "merely ill-considered minor provocations" that should not lead to losing sight of the good relations between the two countries and "Slovak-Hungarian coexistence" in his own country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

ROMA MURDER TRIAL OPENS. A soldier currently doing compulsory military service on 28 March admitted in a court in Banska Bystrica having participated in the murder of a Romany woman and mother of eight, who died in August 2000 after being clubbed by four young men, CTK and AP reported. Petr B. denied any connection to the skinhead movement, though he admitted the murder occurred after a skinhead concert he and his friends attended in Bolesov, central Slovakia. He said the action, in which the four attacked the family during the night and injured other members who were asleep, was taken "in revenge" for a knife injury that "some Roma" caused to a friend of the assailants some time earlier. "On the way from the concert we decided to beat the Roma...but it developed into something else," he said. A lawyer representing the Roma family is demanding 55 million crowns ($1.17 million) in compensation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

BERLIN COURT REJECTS JEWISH LAWSUIT. A court of justice in Berlin on 28 March ruled that the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia does not have the right to demand compensation on behalf of Slovak Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, CTK and AP reported. The organization sought 140 million German marks -- the sum paid by the Nazi puppet Slovak government to the Germans as "deportation fees" for Jews transported to the extermination camps. Slovakia was the only country formerly allied with Nazi Germany to make such payment. The union said it intended to use the compensation money for the repair of long-neglected synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia. The court ruled that the Jewish organization cannot be regarded as legitimately representing the victims and that the matter can only be settled "within international legal framework." Spokesman for the organization announced they will appeal the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March)

SCHOLARS RESTORING BUDDHA STATUE. Tajikistan's scholars are restoring a 14-meter-long statue of a reclining Buddha, Interfax reported on 2 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

KUCHMA, OPPOSITION TO DISCUSS MORATORIUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM? Presidential administration staff chief Volodymyr Lytvyn on 2 April said talks between the authorities and the opposition could focus on a moratorium on last year's constitutional referendum results. Lytvyn suggested that President Kuchma could address the nation with an appeal to postpone the implementation of the referendum for some time. Lytvyn noted that the opposition, in turn, could withdraw its proposals to change the constitution. Lytvyn added that the sides could also discuss adopting laws on political opposition, political parties, and parliamentary elections under a proportional system. According to Lytvyn, the best candidates from the authorities to conduct talks with the opposition are Anatoliy Kinakh, head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Viktor Musiyaka, leader of the "Forward Ukraine!" party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

GOVERNMENT SEEN AS MORE REPRESSIVE. A leading Uzbek human rights activist told an RFE/RL briefing this week that the Uzbek authorities are staging "continuous criminal trials" as part of their effort to take total control of society. Talib Yakubov, the general secretary of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, said that the Soviet-era holdovers who rule Uzbekistan have arrested tens of thousands of young people since 1997, typically justifying these actions by claiming a threat from Islamic fundamentalism. Then, the authorities put on show trials to try to intimidate others. "Groups of 10 to 30 individuals are tried at once," Yakubov said, "with a trial of 108 persons about to start in the city of Termiz." Yakubov's group has succeeded in monitoring several of these trials, he said, and it has found that the courts convict people without any evidence at all. In response to questions, Yakubov said that "at least half of the security agents [in Uzbekistan] are also Russia's security agents." But on its own, he added, the government of President Islam Karimov has created a "huge machine" which fields 40,000 security police in Tashkent alone, recruits as many as 2,500 informers per month nation-wide, and "now controls the president himself." Despite this repression, Yakubov said that human rights groups continue to work in Uzbekistan because "we are blessed by God with brave individuals" and receive help from international organizations concerned with human rights. Yakubov said he was convinced that U.S. government intervention has kept the Karimov regime from closing his group altogether. He also said that international broadcasting, including by the Voice of American and RFE/RL, played an important role in helping Uzbeks to resist repression. (RFE/RL Press Release, 29 March)

OFFICIAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP DRUGS COMPLAINANTS? Rather than being permitted to talk to Akmal Saidov, director of the National Center for Human Rights, according to Lidiya Dunaeva, he summoned three men who "gave her injections against her will and strange medicines." After this apparent drugging, the complainant was "made to write a paper where I had to agree that I never ever complain again." (Press Center of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 17 March)

...WHILE OFFICIALS MOVE AGAINST ACTIVIST. Vladimir Lucenko, who publicized the plight of some 14,000 people in Uzbekistan who had assisted in the effort to contain the Chernobyl disaster, "the government through its law enforcement bodies tried to remove him by force from his home in Tashkent." The activist claimed that Uzbekistan officials were diverting funds intended for their medical treatment and social support. (Press Center of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 17 March)

ZOROASTRIANS AND OLD BELIEVERS LACK REGISTRATION. Many religious communities are denied registration in Uzbekistan, either because they lack 100 adult citizens or because the government does not like them. Keston News Service has learned that the Zoroastrians have been unable to raise the fee needed to register an individual community, which is set at 50 times the minimum monthly wage. Another unregistered group is the Uraltsy Old Believers. Lack of registration makes all communal activity illegal. (Keston News Service, 30 March)

PERVASIVE STATE CONTROL OF RELIGIOUS LITERATURE. Despite its international human rights commitments to allow the free publication, import, and dissemination of religious literature, the Uzbekistan government obstructs this right for all religious groups, Keston News Service learnt from religious believers in interviews in Tashkent. Government censorship of all religious literature is enshrined in law and is conducted by the government's Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA). Foreign Islamic literature is treated with great suspicion, as is Uzbek-language literature on faiths other than Islam. The government also controls communication by requiring that all email messages go through the government Internet company Uzpak, and reportedly uses computer equipment from the German company Siemens to search for keywords in emails in Uzbek, Russian, and English. Believers of many faiths told Keston that it is impossible to bring into the country more than two copies of a religious book; such import is forbidden if the religious group is not registered in the country. (Keston News Service, 27 March)

FOUR BAPTIST CHURCHES FACE REGISTRATION OBSTRUCTION. Four churches which belong to the Baptist Union have been obstructed in their registration applications despite meeting legal provisions, Union leader Pavel Peychev told Keston News Service in Tashkent on 16 March. In one case local police have sealed the church and forbidden the congregation to meet. Registration is vital, as unregistered religious activity is a criminal offence under Uzbek law. (Keston News Service, 26 March)

BAPTIST CHURCH TOLD TO HALT WORK WITH CHILDREN. Local khokimiyat (administration) officials have told the registered Baptist church in the town of Navoi in central Uzbekistan to halt its religious work with children, the head of the Baptist Union Pavel Peychev told Keston News Service in Tashkent on 16 March. Published Uzbek law does not ban the teaching of religion in registered religious organizations and the Baptist Union is trying to resolve the difficulty with the Ministry of Justice. (Keston News Service, 26 March)

ANTI-CORRUPTION WEBSITE. For updated news on corruption in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, available in English and Russian, visit (Center for Civil Society International, 31 March)

NEW HUMAN RIGHTS WEBSITE FOR GEORGIA. Since March, the new website of the ISHRG (Independent Society Human Rights in Georgia) is available at

NEW PARTY TO SUPPORT FORMER KING. The recently established Conservative Union (EKIP), headed by former Union of Democratic Forces dissenters Hristo Biserov and Yordan Tzonev, in a statement released on 2 April said it "unconditionally supports" former King Simeon II's "expressed will" to "take part in Bulgarian political life," Reuters reported. Observers said that if the EKIP fails to win the endorsement of the former monarch, it has little chance to get into the parliament due to be elected on 17 June. Simeon II is expected to arrive soon from Madrid and clarify his intention to participate in Bulgarian politics. In February, he said he will seek a political role despite being banned by the Constitutional Court from running for president. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April)

MUSLIMS 'STORM' UN BUILDING. AP reported from Sarajevo on 2 April that "several hundred" survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre "stormed" the UN building amid rumors that Naser Oric, former Bosnian army commander at Srebrenica, was about to be arrested for war crimes or had turned himself in. It is not clear where Oric is. Many Muslims consider the controversial Oric a hero, while others argue that he unduly provoked neighboring Serbian communities and then escaped the town to avoid the massacre. Many Serbs regard him as a war criminal because of the brutality of his troops against Serbian civilians in the early stages of the Bosnian war. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)