30 May 2001, Volume
ANTI-TORTURE COMMITTEE LAUNCHES DATABASE.
For documentation relating to anti-torture issues, see http://www.cpt.coe.int/en/press/20010517en.htm or http://hudoc.cpt.coe.int (Center for Civil Society International, 21 May)KARADZIC DENIES WAR CRIMES.
In a letter published in the Belgrade tabloid "Nedljni Telegraf" on 23 May, Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic denied involvement in alleged war crimes for which he has been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Reuters reported. Karadzic's letter, addressed to Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, reacted to accusations in the European Parliament that the church failed to condemn wartime atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs. He also claimed The Hague tribunal acts for political reasons, not legal ones. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF DETAINEE.
On 13 May, Ilqar Djavadov, 28, was killed by police at the Sabayil district police station in Baku. While waiting for a taxi, police demanded to see his identity papers which he did not have on him. He was taken to the police station where a bribe was demanded for his release. One hour later, when the bribe was taken to the police station, Djavadov was dead: his neck, four ribs, and right arm were broken. The local police chief claimed that he had tried to escape. The Prosecutor-General has opened a criminal case against the three police who arrested Djavadov. A new Criminal Code article against torture by officials was not used in the initial bill of accusations. (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, 24 May)
OPPOSITION POLITICIAN NOT PERMITTED TO SUE LUKASHENKA FOR SLANDER.
The Minsk City Court has rejected a slander suit by Anatol Lyabedzka, head of the United Civic Party, against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 24 May. In January, Lukashenka suggested on television that Lyabedzka was a foreign spy, saying that he was trained by a Western foundation dealing with espionage. "Our home-grown Lyabedzkas and others were trained for several months or several weeks, all the opposition has been trained [by that foundation]," Lukashenka asserted. The court rejected the suit, arguing that Lukashenka's statement only partly referred to Anatol Lyabedzka. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)WHO WILL CONTROL TRADE UNIONS IN MINSK?
Some 300 delegates gathered in Minsk on 23 May to set up an organization for coordinating the activities of some 600,000 members of trade union branches in the Belarusian capital, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, the gathering witnessed confrontation between the authorities and the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB), which are competing for control over Minsk's trade unions. The FTUB scored a success in this competition when the delegates elected Mikalay Belanouski, an FTUB representative, as head of the organization uniting Minsk trade unions. FTUB Chairman Uladzimir Hancharyk has declared his intention to run against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in this year's presidential elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)OSCE MISSION IN MINSK REJECTS ANTIGOVERNMENT ACTIVITY CHARGES.
The OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk on 22 May rejected as "unjustified" Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou's accusation that the group is conducting "destructive" activities in the country, Belapan reported. "In the light of consultations held with the [OSCE] chairman in office on 18 May 2001, the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group is quite ready to continue cooperation with the [Belarusian] government in support of the democratic transformation process of the country," the group noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)LEAFLETS URGE MUSLIMS TO LEAVE BOSNIAN SERB TOWN.
Two leaflets displayed in the town of Doboj in Republika Srpska on 23 May warn Muslim residents to leave, and call on Serb residents to prevent the reconstruction of the Trnjak mosque, SRNA reported the next day. One leaflet urges "all Muslim nationals to leave the Serb town of Doboj, especially those who have recently moved into the area around the mosque and set up their shops there." The leaflets are signed by the "Serbia as far as Tokyo" and Greater Serbia organizations, neither of which are known to have previously operated or existed in Doboj. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)EXILE FOUNDS HISTORICAL LIBRARY IN SARAJEVO.
In keeping with Bosnian Muslim tradition of the wealthy building public works to be remembered by, Bosnian exile Adil-Bey Zulfikarpasic on 24 May opened a library and art center in Sarajevo, AP reported the same day. The $10 million complex of galleries and libraries will be the most complete archive of Bosnian history to date. "I have built this institute...with the intention to allow every Bosnian with good will and curiosity to accept it as his own," Zulfikarpasic said, adding that he hopes Bosnia's Croats, Muslims, and Serbs will find evidence of their common identity through his memorial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
82 BODIES EXHUMED FROM MASS GRAVES.
According to a Croatian judge, the bodies of 82 people have been exhumed from suspected mass graves near the town of Knin, dpa reported on 23 May. Judge Ivo Vukelja, who is working with forensic experts from The Hague war crimes tribunal, said the bodies are undergoing DNA analysis in Zagreb. "We want to determine if war crimes have been committed or not," he added. Knin was the capital of the Krajina region held by Croatian Serbs and taken by the Croatian army in 1995. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)ISTRIAN LANGUAGE LAW TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
The Croatian government has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the Istrian county assembly's attempt to make Italian the county's second official language, Reuters reported on 22 May. The Justice Ministry had already suspended the decision which was criticized by the ruling coalition as a unilateral politically motivated act that could raise ethnic tensions in the country. Istria was part of Italy from 1918 to 1945, when many ethnic Italian residents of Istria and Dalmatia left or were expelled after World War II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
ROMA DIVIDED OVER ETHNIC MINORITIES LAW.
Spokespersons for Czech Roma are divided over the Ethnic Minorities Law approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 23 May, "Mlada fronta Dnes," cited by CTK, reported on 25 May. The law stipulates that the officially recognized 12 minorities may display bilingual signs in localities where they constitute 10 percent or more of the population, if 40 percent of them demand it. Minorities are granted the right to use their mother tongue in official contacts with state and local administration in those localities, and the right to be educated in their mother tongue from nursery-school level. But Hradec Kralove Romany adviser Marian Erimias said it is more important for Roma to learn Czech in order to integrate in society. Romany historian Bartolomej Daniel welcomed the law, while an expert from the Brno Museum of Romany history said the law "complicates problems" because "there are many dialects in the Romany language and there are no language rules." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
MOSCOW PATRIARCHAL ORTHODOX CHURCH WILL NOT CHANGE STATUTES.
Nikolai Balashov, acting secretary for interconfessional relations at the Moscow Patriarchate, declared that the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will not change its name or statutes to obtain official registration, BNS reported on 23 May. He claimed that the recent decision by the Interior Ministry to refuse registration was political, as the final version of the statutes had been drawn up in contact with ministry officials who did not express any objections at the time. Balashov said that in 2000, after the ministry had refused to register the church, it had rewritten its statutes and submitted a new application in January 2001. He also stated that the ministry's recommendation to rename the church the "Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia" is not acceptable, since more than one-fourth of its clergy is made up of ethnic Estonians. Balashov argued that "it cannot be that in a civilized European country in the 21st century the second largest church by the number of members after the Lutheran Church is outside the law." Balashov intends to achieve registration by pressuring the Estonian authorities via such international organizations as the European Union and Council of Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
EXTREMIST PARTY MOVES INTO THIRD PLACE IN POLLS.
According to a Szonda Ipsos opinion poll conducted between 3 and 13 May, the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) is supported by 6 percent of the electorate. In first place is the opposition Socialist Party (42 percent), followed by the ruling FIDESZ (39 percent). MIEP is followed by the Independent Smallholders and the Free Democrats, with 4 percent each. In other news, the Supreme Court on 24 May sentenced Kemal Ekrem, one of the most prominent leaders of the Hungarian far right, to two years of imprisonment for conspiring to topple the constitutional order. In 1996 Ekrem founded the Federation of the Victims of Communism with the goal of toppling the constitutional order by force. That organization said it was continuing the legacy of Hungarian fascist leader Ferenc Szalasi's World War II-era Arrow Cross movement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
MILITARY UNIT MUTINIES.
Several hundred national guard and army troops quit their base at Norio near Tbilisi on 25 May and barricaded themselves in an Interior Ministry facility at Mukhrovani, east of the capital, international and Georgian agencies reported. Some accounts say the troops are protesting appalling conditions and pay arrears of up to 14 months, while others quote Georgian presidential spokesman Kahka Imnadze as saying their demands are unclear; Russian TV has reported that they are demanding that the Georgian government resign, according to dpa. Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze termed their action an attempted coup d'etat, Caucasus Press reported. The insurgents released some 40 hostages after talks with former National Security chief and opposition parliament deputy Irakli Batiashvili. Security has been tightened in Tbilisi and the Georgian armed forces are on full alert; many troops are currently deployed on the Black Sea coast where they began large-scale maneuvers on 23 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)DISPLACED PERSONS THREATEN SELF-IMMOLATION.
Twenty-five families of displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 civil war barricaded themselves in the former Tbilisi Silk Mill building on 23 May and threatened to set fire to the building unless they are allowed to live there permanently, Caucasus Press reported. Two days earlier, a group of displaced persons began a hunger strike outside the Constitutional Court building in Tbilisi to demand the release of funds earmarked in the Georgian budget to enable displaced persons to start up their own businesses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
ONLY 36 PERCENT OF PEOPLE FLUENT IN KAZAKH.
Only 36 percent of Kazakhstan's 14.9 million population can speak, read, and write Kazakh fluently, Interfax quoted Culture and Information Minister Mukhtar Kulmuhammed on 24 May. Almost all those 36 percent are Kazakhs, who are the country's largest ethnic group (53.4 percent). Over half the population has some knowledge of Kazakh, but 20 percent of Kazakhs are not fluent in their native language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)WIDER PLAN TO SUPPRESS UNREGISTERED GROUPS?
The move to ban an unregistered Baptist church came as Keston received reports from across Kazakhstan that judges, police, and public prosecutors are stepping up efforts to ban unregistered communities of various faiths. One believer was threatened by police: "During Soviet times, believers like you were shot. Now you are feeling at peace, but we will show you." When he refused to write a statement, police "began to hit him on his neck and abdomen and head with a plastic bottle filled with water." Forging his signature, police wrote a statement for him. (Keston News Service, 16 May)
OPPOSITIONIST'S APPEAL POSTPONED.
An appeal by opposition Ar-Namys party activist Emil Aliyev against a Bishkek City Court ruling imposing a 1,000 som ($20) fine for participating in an unsanctioned protest in Bishkek last month could not be heard because the presiding judge failed to appear, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)CIVIL SOCIETY WEBSITE.
See http://www.freenet.kg/db/. (Center for Civil Society International, 11 May)
CONTROVERSY OVER FOUR-TIER OFFICIAL RELIGIOUS STATUS...
Lithuania's minority faiths are unhappy at the four-tier system of government recognition of religious groups, arguing that it is discriminatory. The law grants "traditional" status to nine faiths -- Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Russian Orthodox, Old Believer, Jewish, Sunni Muslim, and Karaite -- without any explanations. Although it is not officially stated anywhere, the criterion for being a traditional religion used when preparing the law on religious communities and associations was that the community has to have a presence in Lithuania for 300-400 years, the Justice Ministry has said. (Keston News Service, 25 May)...AND WHAT WILL BE BAPTIST CHURCH STATUS?
Although the Baptist Church has been in Lithuania for some 150 years, it was refused recognition as a "traditional" faith. Next month, the Baptist Union hopes parliament will grant the church the status of a "recognized" faith. Even with this legal status, Baptists will still be denied the right to buy land to build churches. (Keston News Service, 25 May)
ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES AGREE ON PLATFORM WITH REBELS.
The Belgrade-based Beta news agency, cited by dpa, reported on 23 May that Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians, has signed an agreement with Ali Ahmeti, political leader of ethnic Albanian rebels fighting Macedonian forces, to peacefully seek constitutional changes. Diplomats in Skopje said that Imer Imeri of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Progress, has also agreed to the joint platform which reportedly seeks reforms to make Macedonia "a democratic country of all its citizens" while preserving its territorial integrity. Xhaferi and Imeri are said to have sworn not to seek any resolution of the situation through military action or "ethnic territory." Constitutional changes to be sought include proportional representation in state institutions, increased powers at the local level, and making Albanian an official language. The parties of both Xhaferi and Imeri are members of the broad coalition formed more than one week ago. Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski reacted angrily to the news, saying: "We cannot accept terrorists to enter through the back door to become a political factor. The signing of some document is a new political situation. We cannot accept the text of such a document." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)PRESIDENT WANTS ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES TO RENOUNCE DEAL WITH REBELS.
Boris Trajkovski on 24 May urged the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party (DPA) of Albanians and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) to renounce an agreement they signed with the political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the ethnic Albanian rebels who are fighting the Macedonian army, Reuters reported. Trajkovski said "it will be impossible to work together" if the deal is not renounced by the leaders of the two ethnic Albanian parties -- which are part of a broad unity government. He said the two parties must show "the terrorists that they will not be allowed to participate in the decision making for the future of Macedonia." But the DPA's Arben Xhaferi -- who along with the PDP's Imer Imeri signed the deal brokered by OSCE envoy Robert Frowick -- said he "stands by the platform" of the agreement. He added that he will leave the grand coalition government if Western diplomats insist that he distance himself from the agreement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)MACEDONIAN ARMY UNLEASHES MAJOR OFFENSIVE.
The Macedonian army used tanks and helicopter gunships in a major assault on 24 May in an effort to dislodge ethnic Albanian rebels from their positions north of Skopje, Reuters reported. The fighting centered on the villages of Vaksince and Slupcane, and reports said the Macedonian army was seen on hills overlooking villages that were previously held by rebels. Door-to-door fighting in the villages was also reported. Rebels are dug in at some 11 villages in the area. There were reports of dozens of rebel casualties and several civilians; four Macedonian policemen are also reported to have been injured. The Red Cross said some 1,500 ethnic Albanians fled across the border town of Miratovac into Serbia. Hundreds of other civilians fled Vaksince and some other villages and gathered at a train station at Tabanovce. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
BREAKAWAY REPUBLIC INTRODUCES OWN PASSPORTS.
Igor Smirnov, leader of the breakaway "Transdniester Moldovan Republic," has signed a decree replacing Soviet-era passports with documents issued by the separatist authorities. Smirnov's decree was issued on 11 May but released for publication only on 24 May. Infotag says this means that Smirnov has succeeded in "trapping" Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who signed an agreement with Smirnov in Tiraspol on 16 May on the mutual recognition of documents issued by the Chisinau and Tiraspol authorities. The new "Transdniester passports" are to be issued in Russian, "Moldovan" (written with Cyrillic characters), and Ukrainian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
PRESIDENT CRITICIZES HUNGARIAN 'STATUS BILL'...
Ion Iliescu on 23 May said in Miercurea Ciuc that the preoccupation displayed by the Hungarian government with "the fate of Magyars living in other countries is an example worth emulating," but deemed "inadequate, strange, and non-European" the intention to have identity cards issued to members of the Hungarian minority, Romanian radio and Mediafax reported. Iliescu repeated that the government in Budapest must "consult" with neighboring countries on the pending "Status Bill." He spoke after visiting the counties of Harghita and Covasna, which have an ethnic Hungarian majority. Romanian diplomats on 24 May began consultations on the bill in Budapest with officials from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)...AS MINISTER SAYS CENSUS WILL BE ONLY YARDSTICK FOR LAW IMPLEMENTATION.
Iliescu also said the Law on Local Public Administration, which came into force on 23 May, does not signify that the country's official language is no longer Romanian. Public Administration Minister Octavian Cozmanca clarified on the same day that the provisions of the new law allowing street signs in minority languages in localities with at least 20 percent minority populations will be based on the 1992 census and its update estimates by the National Statistical Office. Cozmanca expressed hope that Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar, who has said he will oppose the law's implementation in the city, "will at the end of the day display a reasonable attitude." Funar, who claims the 1992 census was distorted, recently said he will "use the census of [Dacian King] Burebista" to establish how many ethnic Hungarians live in Cluj. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)POVERTY RISES STEEPLY.
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 23 May that nearly half of Romanians "live on the edge of poverty," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Speaking at a meeting of the government's Anti-Poverty Commission, which he chairs, Nastase said that a system of "social solidarity" must be put in place. He said that the number of those living in poverty has risen eight-fold in the past 10 years and that most of them live under conditions of "extreme poverty." In the last four years, their numbers have increased by 20 percent, Nastase said. He also said that among European countries, only Albania, Russia, and Moldova have a higher proportion of poverty-stricken people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
FORMER KGB CHIEF CALLS FOR YELTSIN'S INDICTMENT, TRIAL.
Vladimir Kryuchkov, former KGB head who participated in the failed August 1991 coup attempt, said in an interview in "Vechernyaya Moskva" on 23 May that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin should be charged with crimes against the people, despite the immunity his successor gave him. At the same time, Kryuchkov said that Putin speaks a language Kryuchkov understands on political questions and is creating what the ex-KGB chief said is "a normal government." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)VIEWS ON THE KGB TODAY.
A former KGB general, a Russian writer, and a veteran human rights campaigner have produced four articles on the KGB role in Russian society today. See http://www.glasnostonline.org/articles/kalugin.html, http://www.glasnostonline.org/articles/segodna_en.html, http://www.glasnostonline.org/articles/minutko.html, and http://www.glasnostonline.org/articles/grigorianc_en.html. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 16 May)DUMA APPROVES PARTIES BILL ON SECOND READING.
By a vote of 261 to 58 with one abstention, the Duma on 24 May approved on second reading a slightly modified version of the government-backed bill on political parties. According to that draft, a political party must have at least 10,000 members, with no fewer than 100 in each of half of Russia's federation subjects. It must also regularly field candidates in elections, for which only parties may nominate candidates. No one can be a member of more than one party. Individuals and groups may contribute to the parties within limits -- individual contributions cannot exceed 3,000 rubles ($110) a year --- but the state will provide a subsidy for only those that gain at least 3 percent of the vote. The parties will be supervised by the Justice Ministry rather than by prosecutors. Meanwhile, in an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on the same day, Republic Party leader Vladimir Lysenko said that the measure will place all parties under the control of the government and eliminate the provinces as political players. And a poll conducted by VTsIOM and published in "Vremya MN" on 24 May found that 22 percent of potential voters would support a Union of Rightist Forces (SPS)-Yabloko slate of candidates and 36 percent of voters would support a pan-democratic bloc. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)PUTIN PRESENTS HIS JUDICIAL REFORM PLAN.
Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces [SPS]) Irina Khakamada said on 23 May that President Putin does not intend to create a single federal investigation service in the immediate future, Interfax reported. Her comments came after she and other Duma leaders met with Putin to discuss his sweeping judicial reform legislative package that is intended to reduce the power of prosecutors and increase that of the courts. At that meeting, participants told the media afterward, Putin called for the introduction of juries and the use of a new mechanism for preparing and adopting laws so legislation could be approved more quickly. That mechanism will involve more intense consultations between legislators and the Kremlin prior to the submission of formal bills. Putin also reportedly said that he believes foreigners should not own more than 50 percent of electronic media outlets in Russia, but he is opposed to any restrictions on ownership in the print media, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)COUNCIL OF EUROPE GIVES RUSSIA MIXED REVIEWS ON CHECHNYA.
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said in Moscow on 24 May that Moscow has made some progress on improving the state of human rights in Chechnya but its investigations into charges remain "insufficient," Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, a group of Duma deputies met with representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Prague to discuss the Chechen conflict, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)2015 CLUB...
The members of "2015 Club" are a group of successful young Russian managers who are working to transform Russia over the next fifteen years into a modern and effective player in the global marketplace. Its members include Irina Khakamada, deputy speaker of the Russian Duma; Andrei Arofikin, director of Credit Suisse First Boston; Vladimir Preobrazhensky, vice president of Vympelcom; and Sergei Vorobyov, managing partner of Ward Howell International. Other participants were Nikolai Kovarsky, vice president of Avtobank Group; and Sergei Nedoroslev, president of KASKOL Group. (Center for Civil Society International, 13 May)�'SCENARIOS FOR RUSSIA'...
The 2015 Club produced a book in 1999 on alternative futures of Russia, "Stsenarii dlya Rossii," a collaboration of many publicists, businesspeople, scientists, and humanitarians. It described three scenarios of the future development of Russia: "mega-Serbia," with emigration as the only near-term solution; "a tale of lost time," is Russia muddling downward; and a bright idealistic scenario where current and future generations of Russians can lead healthy and prosperous lives. (Center for Civil Society International, 13 May)...NATIONAL PROJECT INSTITUTE.
The 2015 Club eight months ago organized a new "think-and-act" tank, the National Project Institute (NPI), based on Russian market democracy. Along with the Confederation of Consumers' Societies, NPI will work with any civil, business, or human rights organization as well as cooperating with the Ministry for Trade and Economic Development. 2015 Clubs have been set up in St. Petersburg and Rostov. For more, see http://www.inp.ru/. (Center for Civil Society International, 13 May)HUMAN RIGHTS 'RETURNS.'
In light of the Moscow Helsinki Group anniversary, "The Washington Times" reported that there are now hundreds of human rights groups in Russia. "Thousands of people turn to them for assistance every year" on unlawful arrests as well as on unpaid wages and pensions. According to the paper, "the human rights movement in Russia has also secured a niche in the government [via]...the Commissioner for Human Rights created after Russia's acceptance into the Council of Europe five years ago." The article also noted "a palpable sense that the human rights situation has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the past year" citing spymania, the restrictive new labor code, and the Kremlin media crackdown. ("The Washington Times," 24 May)MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP DECRIES XENOPHOBIA.
The Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights organization in Russia, adopted a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia at its 25th anniversary meeting last week in Moscow. It cited "numerous incidents of the propaganda of interethnic and religious intolerance and enmity by a number of deputies in both houses of the Russian parliament, governors, other officials, and in the press, and [that] the use of xenophobia and anti-Semitism as a tactic in election campaigns is not being met with the needed resistance by federal structures and law enforcement agencies. Often, leaders in power participate in spreading of interethnic tension. The growth of xenophobia is a real threat to civil peace and integrity of the country. Neither economic nor social reforms are possible to carry out in an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred." (Union of Councils of Soviet Jewry Press Release, 23 May)OSSETIANS THWART INGUSH REPATRIATION.
Some 400 Ossetians blocked a border crossing with neighboring Ingushetia on 23 May to prevent the return to the village of Ir in North Ossetia's disputed Prigorodnyi Raion of some 87 Ingush families who fled the district during the fighting on late 1992, Russian agencies reported. At a subsequent meeting, North Ossetian Prime Minister Kazbek Kardinov and his Ingushetian counterpart Akhmet Malsagov agreed that 10 Ingush families will return to Ir every week, Interfax reported. The North Ossetians have systematically sought to prevent the return of any Ingush to Prigorodnyi Raion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)COSSACK UNITS TO PATROL ROSTOV STREETS.
Cossack horsemen will now patrol the streets of Rostov-na-Donu to help the police maintain law and order, "Vremya MN" reported on 23 May. Each of the mounted Cossacks will be paid 1,500 rubles ($50) a month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)CHERKESOV SAYS DESERTIONS REFLECT POPULAR ATTITUDE TOWARD MILITARY SERVICE.
Presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district Cherkesov said on 23 May that the rising number of desertions by soldiers is not surprising given popular attitudes toward the army, Interfax-Northwest reported. He said it reflects the declining quality of those who are drafted. Meanwhile, according to a poll conducted by monitoring.ru and reported by Interfax the same day, 55 percent of Russians now believe that the army should be a totally professional one, but 32 percent of those polled said that service in the army "is an honorable obligation of every citizen and ought to be obligatory." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)MOSCOW CITY ALLOWS PEOPLE TO RETURN PRIVATIZED APARTMENTS TO STATE.
The Moscow city Duma on 23 May passed legislation that will allow people who received privatized apartments in the early 1990s to return them to the government, Interfax-Moscow reported. City Duma deputy Galina Khovanskaya said that many citizens who had received such apartments without full understanding of the demands of ownership have tried to give them back but until now they have not had a procedure to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)UNIONS TO DEMAND HIGHER WAGES.
Independent Trade Union leader Mikhail Shmakov said on 23 May that workers should get a larger share of the country's improving economy, Interfax reported. He noted that the real income of the least well-paid workers has fallen 13 percent since 1999. Because unemployment is low and because polls show most Russians favor an increase in the minimum wage, the unions expect to make gains, even though the number of work actions has declined in recent years, the news agency reported. But union leaders said that they are concerned by communist efforts to assume a leading role in the activities of organized labor. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)80 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN PRISONERS NOW WORK.
At an exhibition in Tula of the products of Russian prison workshops, prison officials said that almost 80 percent of those incarcerated in Russia are engaged in productive work, "Izvestiya" reported on 23 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)HEALTH OF RURAL POPULATION DECLINING.
Officials at the Health Ministry said in Saratov on 22 May that the health of Russia's rural residents is deteriorating, Interfax reported. While birthrates are somewhat higher than in Russia's cities, the officials said, these rates are falling more rapidly than those in urban areas. Meanwhile, Galina Karelova, the first deputy minister of labor and social development, told a Federation Council roundtable that the Russian Security Council will hold a special meeting before the end of May to decide on what the government should do to meet the country's demographic crisis, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)MOSQUE DEMOLITION CASE TO GO TO SUPREME COURT?
Despite failing in local courts to remove a mosque built in Vologda, 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of Moscow, the regional government is considering taking its case to the Russian Supreme Court. Since losing the case, the regional government has also subjected the Muslim community to "endless financial investigations". The Muslim community believes Islamophobia is the motive, which the region's deputy governor denies, claiming that "The current circumstances are exclusively to do with building standards." (Keston News Service, 11 May)777,000 REFUGEES NOW IN RUSSIA.
The State Statistics Committee said on 23 May that there were 777,000 refugees and forced migrants in the Russian Federation at the start of 2001, Interfax reported. More than one-third of them are former residents of Kazakhstan. In addition, some 134,000, or 17.3 percent, of the total have changed their place of residence within Russia as a result of instability. One refugee in four from the CIS and Baltic countries has already received official status as a forced migrant or refugee, the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)20,000 RENOUNCED RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP IN 2000.
Viktor Kuznetsov, the first deputy head of the presidential administration responsible for citizenship questions, said that in 2000 some 20,000 Russian citizens renounced their citizenship, and at present five "are demanding as a form of protest that they be stripped of Russian citizenship and given an international passport," Interfax reported. Kuznetsov said that the number of people applying for Russian citizenship has fallen from 500,000 in 1995. He added that President Putin has submitted a new citizenship bill to the Duma and that there are three other bills on that subject now before the parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
BELGRADE DRAFTS LAW ON EXTRADITION OF WAR CRIMES INDICTEES...
The Yugoslav government has drafted a law allowing Belgrade to extradite indicted war criminals to The Hague to face prosecution, AP reported on 23 May. Nebojsa Sarkic, a deputy justice minister, said the law would allow former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other war crimes suspects to be extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal after a legal review of their cases by Belgrade. He said the bill will next be reviewed by the Yugoslav government as a whole before being sent to the Yugoslav parliament. In The Hague, the spokeswoman for chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on 23 May that there are 38 suspects wanted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, 12 of whom are under sealed indictments. She emphasized that the 38 are members of different nationalities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)...BUT KOSTUNICA SPLITTING HAIRS OVER WESTERN DEMANDS FOR MILOSEVIC'S EXTRADITION.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 23 May that the eventual passing of a law to allow Yugoslavia to extradite its citizens to The Hague court does not mean that former President Milosevic will be automatically sent there, AP reported. Kostunica said: "the only thing asked of Yugoslavia is that the government draft a law and put it in parliamentary procedure." Kostunica also emphasized that the proposed law on extradition is not a precondition for the holding of a donors conference on Yugoslavia due to be held next month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)SERBIAN POLICE INVESTIGATED FOR CRIMES IN KOSOVA.
General Sreten Lukic, the head of Serbian police, said on 24 May that some 66 policemen are being investigated on suspicion of committing crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosova, Reuters reported. Lukic said policemen under investigation are immediately suspended. He said the 66 are being investigated for such crimes as murder, theft, arson, and armed robbery. Lukic said: "Serbia has chosen the democratic way, the way of facing the truth, and I'm sure we'll succeed in it." Lukic was head of police in Kosova during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and his appointment in January was followed by sharp criticism in the media. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said he "personally checked Lukic's record and found nothing wrong." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
CABINET APPROVES MEASURES FOR CURBING ROMA EXODUS.
The cabinet on 23 May approved measures aimed at cutting down the exodus of Slovakia's Romany minority, CTK reported. It decided to introduce stricter conditions for issuing passports to "citizens suspected of trying to emigrate" and to introduce stricter conditions on payment of welfare aid. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, in charge of national minorities and human rights, told journalists after the meeting that the government "has information" showing that people whose passports were stamped with an interdiction of entry after unsuccessfully applying for political asylum abroad are declaring their passports lost and applying for other documents. Csaky also said the government is "strictly monitoring" the spread of false passports, "which are produced not only in Slovakia." The cabinet also decided that welfare aid recipients will have to collect the aid personally, after showing proper identification. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)HABSBURG DEMANDS ABOLITION OF BENES DECREES.
Otto von Habsburg, chairman of the Pan-European Union and a former member of the European Parliament, on 23 May in Bratislava called on the Slovak government to officially abolish the Benes decrees, CTK reported. The heir to the Habsburg throne said on Slovak radio that the decrees are "incompatible with the notion of human rights" and that a country in which they are still valid "cannot join the EU." Under the 1946 decrees, some 2.5 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)
OPPOSITION PARTY SLAMS DISCRIMINATION, DENIES TIES WITH UZBEK ISLAMISTS.
Speaking at a press conference in Dushanbe on 22 May, Muhiddin Kabiri, the deputy chairman of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), said that while his party supports President Imomali Rakhmonov's efforts to attract international investment, such investment "is useless" as long as corruption in Tajikistan is increasing, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 23 May. Kabiri also criticized what he termed the widespread pressure on the IRPT by regional officials, and the recent refusal to register three of the party's candidates in recent by-elections. Kabiri rejected as untrue repeated press claims of contacts between the IRPT and the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)RENEWED ATTEMPT TO SUPPRESS BAPTIST CHURCH.
Tajik authorities have renewed their attempt to suppress an unregistered Baptist church, claiming that activity without registration violates the law. Pastor Genrikh Reimer was given an official warning that he must halt the church's activity, although Tajikistan has no legal requirement that religious groups must gain registration to function. The district procurator insisted to Keston News Service that the religion law required this, but he was unable to specify which article of the law laid down this requirement. (Keston News Service, 24 May)
PRESIDENT WEARY OF ADULATION.
Addressing the World Humanitarian Turkmen Association in Ashgabat on 22 May, President Saparmurat Niyazov professed to be irritated by the cult of personality of which he has been the focus in recent years, AP and Interfax reported. Niyazov specifically denied that he is "a prophet." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)BAPTIST CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR TORTURED.
Friedensstimme reports that Dmitri Melncihenko, a Baptist from Ashgabat, has been tortured by the KNB (ex-KGB) secret police. He was called up for military service, taken to a military unit, and then to the local KNB offices and tortured. He was beaten up with a truncheon and the electric current from the dynamo of a field telephone was passed through his ears. Keston has been unable to verify this report, but this source has a long record of reliability. (Keston News Service, 18 May)
AUTHORITIES SAY GONGADZE CASE NOT SOLVED YET.
Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov told the parliament on 25 May that his previous statement on the successful outcome of the investigation into the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was "premature," Interfax reported. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko also told the parliament he has "no grounds to state that the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze has been solved." Last week Smyrnov claimed that Gongadze was killed by two criminals who in turn were later murdered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)
TWO OUT OF FIFTY SYNAGOGUES STILL FUNCTION IN SAMARKAND.
The "Christian Science Monitor" reports that only two of Samarkand's fifty synagogues still serve the ever-dwindling Jewish community. The sole remaining unofficial rabbi, who "leads prayers in a mixture of Bukharan (Judeo-Tajik) and halting Hebrew" is planning to emigrate to Israel soon. When he leaves, the ancient Bukharan Jewish community in Samarkand will not have anyone to lead Sabbath services in its 120-year-old Gumbaz Shul. ("Christian Science Monitor," 21 May)THREAT TO BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
The Justice Ministry has ordered Baptists to halt their Sunday schools and cancel the certificates given to religious education teachers they have trained. But the ministry has insisted to Keston News Service that it was not intent on closing down the Sunday schools, merely questioning the legality of the certificates, as they are "the crudest violation of the law." The Baptists note that all their registered churches specify in their statutes that they can create "Sunday schools for the study of the Bible and other religious literature," and that these statutes were approved by all the required (state) agencies. The Church also expressed its concern at "this latest manifestation of bureaucratic pressure." (Keston News Service, 24 May)
HUNGARY, ROMANIA HELD CONSULTATIONS ON STATUS BILL.
Experts form the Office for Hungarians Abroad and the Romanian Foreign Ministry on 24 May held consultations in Budapest on the text of the Hungarian "Status Bill" under which the Hungarian government proposes to extend benefits to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. The Romanian side asked for clarification concerning those provisions in the envisaged law that have an "extraterritorial character" and those that might create a "discriminatory regime" on the territory of Romania. The two sides agreed to continue the dialogue through diplomatic channels, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)CROATIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: ECONOMIC WOES COULD TRIGGER BALKAN UNREST.
Foreign Minister Tonino Picula said in Ottawa on 23 May that the economic problems facing Balkan countries could return the region to conflict if steps are not taken by the international community, Reuters reported. "I think that could be the base for further political conflicts in the region...what I am expecting is the possibility of conflicts inside states, thanks to economic problems which can generate political difficulties," he said. Picula said the international community has to "pay a lot of attention" on how to "increase the level of economic development in the region." He also said Croatia must deal with the return of thousands of Serb refugees who fled Croatia. "We don't want to invite people to come back to poverty, ...if you want people to stay...you have to provide them with certain accommodation and...give them jobs." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
A TALE OF TWO RUSSIAS
By Catherine Cosman
In May, several events in Moscow marked two notable dates: the Moscow Helsinki Group's 25th anniversary on 12 May and what would have been Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov's 80th birthday on 21 May. While the conjunction of dates was coincidental, they served to highlight a time when a few brave individuals etched the lines between right (defense of individual rights) and wrong (the arbitrary one-party state).
Perhaps, as they say in Russian, "it is not accidental" that two leading Brezhnev-era human rights efforts were by physicists. Science attracted the best minds, drawn by the prospect of intellectual freedom. Physics enabled them to see the world as a system of objective relationships, independent of governments and ideologies.
Russian physicist Yuri Orlov led a small group of Moscow intellectuals in organizing the Moscow Helsinki Group on 12 May. Orlov's work took him from a lathe bench to theoretical physics; his life was never isolated from Soviet realities. He extended the traditional dissident tactic of calling on the Soviet state to obey its own laws to the human rights commitments set forth in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Orlov and others who followed his example -- including groups in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Lithuania -- paid a heavy personal price of years in imprisonment and exile.
Andrei Sakharov, the father of Soviet nuclear armaments, was long sheltered from harsh Soviet realities. But after Sakharov witnessed the blinding power of the nuclear explosion he helped unleash, he publicly expressed concern over the threat of nuclear annihilation. He lost his privileged status until the Kremlin consigned him to "the outer darkness" of Gorky. As a speaker at Sakharov's 80th birthday commemoration noted, Sakharov tried in whatever way he could to help someone every day.
Today many pay public homage to the high moral courage exemplified by Sakharov, Orlov, and many other individuals of the Soviet-era human rights movement. The heroic past of Orlov and Sakharov and many others constitutes Russia's spiritual heritage. Making this spiritual heritage part of Russia's social and political reality is a key task, as a regional Russian human rights ombudsman has observed.
The daily work of the historian of the Soviet dissident movement, Lyudmila Alekseeva, contributes to building such a reality. She has renewed the Moscow Helsinki Group by forging working alliances with hundreds of similar groups throughout Russia. She works with Russian authorities to reach clearly defined common goals and works democratically with her young staff. And she gives people the benefit of the doubt.
Speaking at its anniversary, a Moscow Helsinki Group founder, Larisa Bogoraz, observed that Russia today faces the danger of the cult of unpersonality. The Russian human rights community is still learning to come to grips with the faceless expressions of state power in Putin's Russia. But given its spiritual heritage, this community will find a way to do that in its own ways.