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(Un)Civil Societies Report: December 19, 2001

19 December 2001, Volume 2, Number 50

The next issue of "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies" will appear on 9 January 2002.
DEMOCRATS RE-ELECT CONTROVERSIAL LEADER. Some 642 out of 673 delegates to the convention of the Democratic Party (PD) voted in Tirana on 16 December to re-elect Sali Berisha as chairman, AP reported. He leads the Unity for Victory opposition faction, which holds 46 seats in the parliament. Critics charge that Berisha is a spent force and should make way for new leaders if the PD is ever to become the dominant party in Albania again. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

OPPOSITION RALLY POORLY ATTENDED. Only some 100 supporters of center-right political parties loyal to former President Levon Ter-Petrossian attended an unsanctioned rally in Yerevan on 10 December to mark International Human Rights Day and focus attention on alleged abuses of human rights by the present leadership, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Organizers blamed the poor turnout on widespread apathy and disillusion with politics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

PRESIDENT CALLS ON KARABAKH TO DEMONSTRATE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC PROGRESS. Addressing a session on 8 December of the Armenia-Nagorno-Karabakh Interparliamentary Commission, Armenian President Robert Kocharian urged the leadership of the unrecognized republic to demonstrate through its progress toward democratization and economic reforms that it is keeping pace with international trends, Noyan Tapan reported on 10 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

LOCAL OPPOSITION PARTIES CALL FOR NATIONWIDE UNITY. The local branches in the town of Sheki, 400 kilometers west of Baku, of the opposition Boz Gurd, Democratic, Musavat, Liberal, Justice, and Azerbaijan National Independence parties, and of both wings of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, have issued a joint appeal to those parties' leaders to join forces in a bid to improve socioeconomic conditions and resolve the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported on 13 December. Numerous previous efforts to forge unity among the disparate opposition parties failed, often because their leaders were not prepared to sacrifice their personal ambitions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

RELIGIOUS GROUPS CAUTIOUS OVER RE-REGISTRATION. It is too early to say whether Azerbaijan's new registration system for religious organizations will end official power to obstruct the registration of communities they dislike, members of various religious communities told Keston News Service. All religious organizations registered in Azerbaijan must re-register by 31 December of this year. Speaking to Keston on 11 December, the government's senior religious affairs official, Rafik Aliev, pledged that obstruction of registration will end, as "the registration system has fundamentally changed," but some sources in the Azerbaijani capital Baku remain suspicious about his claims. (Keston News Service, 12 December)

TWO OPPOSITION PARTIES HOLD CONGRESSES. The Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian Popular Front and the Party of the Belarusian Popular Front held congresses in Minsk on 16 December, Belapan reported. The Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), once an influential opposition force, split into the BNF Conservative Christian Party and the BNF Party in 1999 over a leadership controversy. The congress of the BNF Conservative Christian Party re-elected Zyanon Paznyak, who has been in political exile since 1996, as the party's leader. In a written message to the congress, Paznyak said the party's main task is to seek a new presidential election in Belarus under what he called international protectorate. The BNF Party congress re-elected Vintsuk Vyachorka as the party's leader. Vyachorka said the party's main task is to defend the country's independence in connection with the Lukashenka regime's integration drive toward Russia and a possible election of a Russia-Belarus Union legislature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

FRESH FROM CZECH JAIL, SOLIH TELLS WEST IT HAS CHOICES TO MAKE. Uzbek human rights activist Mohammad Solih said on 11 December that if the Czech Republic decides to extradite him to Uzbekistan, it would serve as a signal from Western countries that they side with Central Asia's dictators and not with the people in that region. Solih spoke at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague just hours after being released from detention in a Prague prison, pending the Czech authorities' decision on the Uzbek government's request for his extradition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

PRAGUE COURT REJECTS UZBEK EXTRADITION REQUEST. A Czech court on 14 December ruled against the extradition of Uzbek dissident Mohammad Solih to Tashkent, local and Western agencies reported. The Prague municipal court cited the international outcry following Solih's arrest on an Interpol warrant in late November, and expressed doubt as to whether the poet and human rights activist would receive a fair trial in Uzbekistan. The court also noted that the Czech Republic does not have an extradition treaty with Uzbekistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

OSCE TO CLOSE MISSION. The Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) decided in Vienna on 13 December not to extend the mandate of its mission to Estonia, in effect ending its nine-year existence on 31 December, ETA reported. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that during his five years in office the closure of the mission was his third-highest priority, trailing only Estonia's efforts to join NATO and the EU. Prime Minister Mart Laar said that the mission's departure marks the end of an era in the country's history, and brings Estonia into the family of normally functioning democracies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

GEORGIAN WHO CONTRACTED TB WHILE IN PRISON TO DEMAND DAMAGES. Paata Tskhirtladze, who was jailed on rape charges that were not substantiated and contracted tuberculosis while in prison, intends to bring a lawsuit against the Georgian Interior Ministry to demand compensation, "Akhali taoba" quoted his lawyer as saying on 10 December. Four days earlier, Caucasus Press gave the number of prisoners in Georgian jails currently undergoing medical treatment for TB as 411. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

ARMENIAN YOUTHS CLASH IN SOUTH. Thirteen people were injured in fighting among some 25-30 Armenian youths in the predominantly Armenian populated town of Ninotsminda in southern Georgia on 9 December, Caucasus Press reported the following day, quoting Gigla Baramidze, the deeply unpopular local governor. He did not explain what prompted the fighting, but added that it engendered "panic" among local residents and that additional guards have been deployed along the Georgian-Armenian border. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

JUSTICE MINISTRY REFUSES TO REGISTER 'DEMOCRATIC CHOICE.' Citing "small flaws" in the documentation submitted, Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry has refused to register the new political movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan and returned the documentation to the movement's founders, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov told journalists in Almaty on 11 December, Interfax reported. Zhaqiyanov co-founded Democratic Choice last month in the wake of a public dispute with President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law. He was subsequently fired from his post as governor of Pavlodar Oblast. Zhaqiyanov said the Justice Ministry's decision was politically motivated, and that he will try again to register the movement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

NEW ZHELTOQSAN MOVEMENT ESTABLISHED. On 14 December, a new movement called the Echo of December (Zheltoqsan Zhanghyryghy) was set up by veterans and victims of the December 1986 Almaty protests. They claim that their problems have never been resolved and the truth about the December 1986 events has never been revealed. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 December)

STALLED EFFORTS AT GOVERNMENT COALITION BUILDING. Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) failed to win a first-ballot victory to become president of Kosova on 13 December because the two next-largest ethnic Albanian parties first want a power-sharing deal to be concluded before they will vote for him, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 13 December. He has already offered them two deputy premier posts and five ministries, but this apparently is not enough for Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CALLS FOR INDEPENDENCE AND MINORITY RIGHTS. Nexhat Daci (LDK) said in Prishtina that he will support all parties that call for independence for Kosova, Hina reported on 12 December. Daci added that he will do all he can to ensure that members of ethnic minorities feel safe in the province, the population of which is 90 percent Albanian. Daci said that he hopes his work for minority rights will have the support of the international community and all "true intellectuals in Kosova." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

FREE EDUCATION TO BE ABOLISHED... Kyrgyz Premier Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed a decree introducing tuition fees for the country's schools, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 11 December. Parents will be required to pay 160 soms (about $3.3) annually for each child attending city schools, and 11 soms for children in rural areas. According to data released earlier this month by the Bishkek municipal authorities, 30 percent of the city's officially registered 700,000 residents live in poverty; the average monthly wage in Bishkek is 1,620 soms. Last year the Ministry of Education and Science reported that during the 1999-2000 school year some 5,000 children of a total 1.1 million failed to attend school because their parents could not afford to provide them with clothing and shoes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

...AND SOVIET-ERA HOLIDAYS REINTRODUCED. The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament) voted on 10 December to designate 23 February and 7 November as public holidays, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In the USSR, the first was celebrated as Soviet Army Day and the second as the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution; both holidays were abolished after Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991. The rationale cited for reintroducing the holidays was that the Kyrgyz people have every reason to be grateful to the Bolsheviks for ending the genocidal policy embarked upon by Tsarist Russia following an uprising in 1916, according to Reuters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

WIDESPREAD ARSON OF RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS. At least 30 religious sites, including churches and mosques, have been destroyed in Macedonia in the last three months, reported the Keston Institute on 11 December. (Keston News Service, 11 December)

PREMIER ASKS FOR DUAL-LANGUAGE INSCRIPTION. During the cabinet's meeting on 12 December, Vasile Tarlev asked governmental structures to use two languages -- Romanian and Russian -- for official signs and on document letterheads, Flux reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

ZENOVICH CHALLENGES LEGALITY OF SMIRNOV'S ELECTORAL VICTORY. Tom Zenovich, who finished a distant second in the "presidential" elections held on the Transdniester on 9 December, told journalists the next day that he has "more than enough" evidence to challenge the outcome of the ballot in court, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Zenovich said polling stations were "stuffed with Smirnov's people, who worked for him in every possible way." He said voting ballots were handed to people without asking for their ID cards, and that the lists included persons who left the Transdniester many years ago. He also said two of the polling stations had the same number. Final results released on 10 December gave Smirnov 85 percent of the vote, Zenovich 7.2 percent, and Aleksandr Radchenko 4.8 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL ECHR DECISION ON BESSARABIAN CHURCH? Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc said on 14 December that the Moldovan government will present new facts to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case against the Bessarabian Orthodox Church, Flux reported. Stepaniuc said Chisinau is satisfied with the ECHR ruling, as it did not "impose on the Moldovan government to register this church." He added the government will present the ECHR with "supplementary arguments" proving the Bessarabian Church "divides the [Moldovan] society, and it should not be registered." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

PRESIDENT BRANDS 1981 MARTIAL LAW AS 'EVIL'... Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Poland in what he announced to be one of the most important speeches in his life, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said, "Nobody who is reasonable has any doubt: martial law was evil," Polish Radio reported on 13 December. "It was evil because it was directed against the rebirth of freedom; evil because its result was the crushing of hope for life with dignity, for civil rights, and for democracy. And evil because it set millions of Poles against each other, deepened inner disputes and divisions, and wasted enthusiasm for building democratic society," Kwasniewski added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

...PAYS TRIBUTE TO VICTIMS OF MARTIAL LAW. Kwasniewski paid tribute to victims of martial law, including miners from the Wujek mine who were shot by the police. "[These killings at Wujek were] the most tragic event of that time. Let's recall the surnames of those young people who, when faced with history, paid the highest price for their aspirations -- Jozef Czekalski, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Boguslaw Kopczak, Andrzej Pelka, Zbigniew Wilk, Zenon Zajac, Joachim Gnida, Jan Stawisinski. Today, the oldest would be 68, the youngest 39," Kwasniewski said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT: PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS... A recently released Human Rights Watch report states that Romania made small, but safe steps toward respecting human rights, Mediafax reported on 12 December. The report, which analyzed the period from November 1999 to October 2000, said that ethnic and racial discrimination leads many Romanian Roma to flee to foreign countries in hopes of obtaining refugee status. It also said that the state is discriminating against several religious groups by refusing them official recognition. Police brutality is still a problematic issue, as are press freedom and the right to a fair trial. The report acknowledged Romanian legislative efforts to combat discrimination against sexual minorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

...WHILE INTERETHNIC RELATIONS STILL STRAINED. An opinion poll conducted for the Cluj-based Ethnic Diversity Resource Center showed that interethnic relations are still strained in Romania, local media reported. Only 22 percent of Romanians from Transylvania feel that Romanian-Hungarian relations within the country have improved compared to 1989, while 44 percent of ethnic Hungarians agree with this statement. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Romanians and 51 percent of Hungarians view their relationship as cooperative. As for minority rights, ethnic Romanians said ethnic Hungarians have enough rights, while over 60 percent of ethnic Hungarians complained of insufficient rights. The poll also showed that ethnic Romanians living among ethnic Hungarians are more tolerant than those living outside Transylvania, and that the majority of ethnic Romanians still believe that Hungary wants to regain control over Transylvania. The poll was conducted in October and used separate questionnaires for ethnic Romanians and Hungarians from Transylvania, for Roma, and for ethnic Romanians throughout the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

WORLD CONGRESS OF PEOPLES OF RUSSIA OPENS IN MOSCOW. President Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II were present at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on 13 December for the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Peoples of Russia, ORT television reported. Addressing the congress, Putin said that in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States, Russia should present itself as a "model of tolerance and spirituality." Putin said Russia is historically a place where "Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism have peacefully cohabited." The congress adopted a resolution condemning religious sects and "immorality in culture." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DEFINES PUTIN. Gleb Pavlovskii said that, as a politician, President Putin is a "type of Russian European" who by definition cannot be an enemy of the West, but is very aware of the differences between them, as was his model Peter the Great, "Novaya gazeta" reported 10 December. Pavlovskii also said he believes President Putin should provide more channels for Russians to display "patriotic energy," otherwise that emotion will reveal itself in ugly forms as it did in the pogrom at a Moscow market in late October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

TATAR OFFICIAL SAYS PUTIN COULD BE FOLLOWING IN GORBACHEV'S FOOTSTEPS. In an interview with "Vostochniy ekspress" on 7 December, Rafail Khakimov, an adviser to Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, declared that Russia is repeating the mistakes that led to the Soviet Union's collapse, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 10 December. Khakimov cited the establishment under the Putin presidential administration of a vertical power structure, the use of force in managing ethnic groups, and Moscow's promotion of a unitary state. According to Khakimov, an "artificial" federalism contributed to the disintegration of the USSR 10 years ago. He added that a new union treaty could give Tatarstan better conditions than it has at present. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

NEW COUNCIL FOR THE ARCTIC AND FAR NORTH? Speaking in Ottawa on 10 December, Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov spoke of the possibility of forming a special government council for the Arctic and Far North, Interfax reported on 11 December. At a Russian-Canadian seminar devoted to problems of the Far North, Kasyanov said he is ready to head such a council. Among the priorities of the special council would be the preservation of the northern environment, the development of natural resources, and addressing the problems of indigenous communities. Kasyanov added that he is thinking of creating a special unit within the Russian government in which representatives of northern ethnic minorities would work and give recommendations on ways of running affairs in the northern territories of the Russian Federation, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR 89 COUNTERPARTS. Federal ombudsman for human rights Oleg Mironov said on 10 December that he would like to establish an office for the protection of human rights in each of Russia's 89 federal subjects, because "only then will a system be in place that can actually defend the rights of Russians," Interfax reported on 10 December. Mironov was speaking at a ceremony in central Moscow marking the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

DUMA CREATES WORKING GROUP FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 11 December that he has initiated the creation of a working group consisting of deputies of both chambers of parliament and members of the presidential administration to develop possible amendments to the Russian Constitution, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Seleznev, President Vladimir Putin has given his consent to the formation of the group, and agrees that "the constitution can and should be improved." Meanwhile, Yabloko deputy Sergei Mitrokhin said the same day that any amendments to the constitution must be prepared not by the working group, but by a constitutional assembly. However, a draft law on a constitutional assembly has not yet been approved by the State Duma. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

PUTIN REJECTS CALLS FOR PRESIDENTIAL TERM EXTENSION. Speaking in Moscow as part of Russia's Constitution Day celebrations, President Putin rejected the proposal by Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov and other politicians to prolong his presidential term, RIA-Novosti reported on 12 December. "The revision of the foundations of the constitution is the same as changing our way of government," Putin said. "There are no such topics on our agenda, including the issue that the duration of the presidential term should be tailored to a particular president." Meanwhile, State Duma speaker Seleznev, who just announced the creation of a working group for the development of constitutional amendments, said the extension of the presidential term to seven years would be a "bad idea." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

BEREZOVSKY ACCUSES FSB OF ORCHESTRATING APARTMENT EXPLOSIONS... Speaking via telelink to a conference on Civil Society and Human Rights on 14 December, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky accused the Federal Security Service (FSB) of being behind the explosions of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in August and September of 1999, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Berezovsky said that while he "could not say that Putin gave the order for this operation [or] that Putin personally commanded this operation," but he is convinced that the FSB is responsible for the explosion and is ready to meet with "those people in court." The FSB declined to comment officially on Berezovsky's allegations, according to Interfax. However, an FSB official who asked not to be identified told Interfax that Berezovsky should "return to Russia to make his accusations." He also charged that Berezovsky "wants his name to be mentioned [again] in Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

...AS OLIGARCH HIMSELF CONSIDERED EITHER PLAYER OR TOOL IN POLITICAL GAME. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, political analyst Andrei Pointkovskii pointed out that although federal authorities have launched a federal search for Berezovsky, they have not sent a corresponding inquiry to Interpol to arrest and extradite him. "This creates the impression that there is some kind of strange game continuing between the authorities and Berezovsky," he continued. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

MOST RUSSIANS IGNORANT OF CONSTITUTION DAY. According to the results of an opinion poll published by on 12 December, the vast majority of Russians do not consider Constitution Day to be a holiday. Of 1,500 respondents, 67 percent consider the commemorative day for the signing of the Russian Constitution in 1993 to be just another day off. Only 20 percent view it as a holiday. In addition, 47 percent said they consider the constitution purely as a formal document, and 55 percent said they know nothing about the basic statutes of the document. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

PUTIN CLAIMS RUSSIA HAS ALREADY GRANTED CHECHNYA DE FACTO INDEPENDENCE. In an interview published in the "Financial Times" on 17 December, President Putin said that by withdrawing all its military and law enforcement troops from Chechnya in 1996 (following the signing of the Khasavyurt Accord), Russia thus granted Chechnya independence "de facto, if not de jure.... So nobody can accuse us of suppressing the desire of the Chechen people for independence," Putin argued. The result, Putin continued, was that "this legal and ideological vacuum was filled immediately with international terrorists and fundamentalists. What we got instead of a new state entity was a quasi-state of a terrorist nature" that "destabilized the entire Russian Federation." For that reason, Putin said, Moscow cannot afford to repeat its mistake of 1996 and withdraw from Chechnya a second time. He claimed that two groups of fighters are currently resisting the Russian forces in Chechnya, "the residue of bandit formations," and "international terrorists...raised and trained in Afghanistan in military camps run by Al-Qaeda, financed by [Osama] bin Laden." There are links between those two groups, Putin said. He reaffirmed Moscow's readiness to cooperate with international organizations to improve the humanitarian situation in Chechnya, and to prepare the Chechen public for new elections for a parliament and executive. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN CHECHNYA ACCUSED OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES... Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 10 December, Russian State Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist Party) claimed that the U.S., Britain, and Pakistan are engaged in spying in Chechnya and provide financial support for Wahhabi organizations, while Israel finances public and political groups in Chechnya through such organizations as the International Red Cross and Medecins sans Frontieres, Interfax reported. Ilyukhin further accused Turkey of financing separatist leaders in the North Caucasus, including Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev and former acting President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Also on 10 December, the Chechen office of the FSB informed the Chechen administration that unnamed international humanitarian organizations operating in Chechnya either engage in espionage as a means to pressure or discredit Chechen officials, or provide food and equipment to the Chechen fighters, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

...AND FSB, CHECHEN VILLAGERS CRITICIZE DANISH HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION. In what bears the hallmark of a concerted effort to force the expulsion from Chechnya of one of the few international aid organizations working there, residents of villages near Gudermes have complained that the Danish Council for Refugees is distributing canned products that are unfit for human consumption, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 December. Three days earlier, "Kommersant-Daily" quoted the head of the local directorate of the FSB, Sergei Babkin, as saying that the council distributes aid only to the families of Chechen fighters. The paper also quoted an unidentified council spokesman as saying that it provides aid to 310,000 people, all of whom have been registered "in accordance with international humanitarian principles and standards." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

RADUEV AGAIN PLEADS NOT GUILTY... In his final statement on 14 December at his trial in Makhachkala, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev again pleaded not guilty to charges of hostage taking, murder, and banditry resulting from the January 1996 raid he led on the town of Kizlyar, AP reported. Raduev repeated that he cannot be held responsible for killings by his subordinates during that raid, in which some 78 people died. Presiding judge Bagudzha Unzholov is expected to pronounce the verdict on Raduev and his codefendants on 25 or 26 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

...AS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CALLS FOR LIFE IMPRISONMENT. In his concluding statement at Raduev's trial, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov compared their seizure of hostages in the Daghestan town of Kizlyar in January 1996 with the terrorist attacks against the U.S. allegedly masterminded by Osama bin Laden, Interfax reported. Ustinov further dismissed as hypocrisy Raduev's argument that the raid was intended to focus the international community's attention on Russian brutality during the first war in Chechnya (1994-1996). Describing Raduev as "a cold-blooded killer and terrorist," Ustinov demanded that he be sentenced to life imprisonment, to be served in a strict-regime prison. Acknowledging that many in Daghestan believe Raduev should be sentenced to death, Ustinov again explained that he cannot demand the death penalty given the moratorium on it, Reuters reported. Ustinov further demanded 15-year prison terms for three other Chechen commanders who participated in the Kizlyar raid. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS DEAD CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER RUNS COUNTERFEITING OPERATION. Colonel Sergei Skvortsov of the Russian Interior Ministry's department for economic crime told a press conference in Moscow on 13 December that 30 percent of the counterfeit dollars confiscated in Russia so far this year were printed in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said his ministry has established that the center for counterfeiting operations is located in Shali, southeast of Grozny, and added that Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev is directly connected with such operations. Baraev was killed in June 2001 during a special operation by the FSB and OMON troops. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

FSB, RUSSIAN MILITARY CANNOT CONFIRM KHATTAB WOUNDED. Russian army Chief of General Staff General Kvashnin and a spokesman for the FSB's department in Chechnya both told Interfax on 13 December that they cannot confirm media reports that Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab was wounded during fighting near Vedeno in southern Chechnya last week. In Grozny, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov rejected those reports as rumors spread by Khattab's own men to mislead Russian intelligence operatives engaged in trying to hunt him down. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE DOUBTS BIN LADEN IN CHECHNYA. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 13 December, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii dismissed as not worthy of serious consideration press speculation that Osama bin Laden may try to seek refuge in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov similarly said there is no "reliable" confirmation of those reports. Ilyasov added that in view of the $25 million reward offered, bin Laden would undoubtedly be captured if he appeared in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

BIN LADEN'S TIES TO ANOTHER MUSLIM COMMUNITY UNEARTHED. Ten years ago, terrorist Osama bin Laden's brother, Tariq, contributed $20,000 toward the construction of a new mosque in Ulyanovsk, a city he also visited, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported on 6 December. According to the weekly, the construction of the mosque led to a split in the local Muslim community there, as questions were raised about how the presiding mufti for the oblast, Afti Deverdeev, was spending the money. There are now two competing Muslim religious administrations in the oblast: One is run by Deverdeev, and the other by Fatykh Alliulov. Allegations of Wahhabism are also being made, according to the weekly. Last month, the home of an emigre from Iraq was burned down. The Iraqi emigre is perceived by some in the city as an "unselfish man wishing to leave behind a good memory of himself" as he helps with construction of the new mosque, while others believe he is a "wandering Wahhabi" intent on stirring up trouble. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

TATAR GROUP ACCUSES PUTIN OF IGNORING RUSSIAN MUSLIMS ON RAMADAN. The moderate nationalist group Tatar Public Center has criticized President Putin in Chally for a failing to make a statement to Russian Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 10 December, citing Tatar Radio. In a letter to the Russian president, the center's leaders complained that Putin expressed greetings to the Muslim world only through Jordan's King Abdullah II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

PUTIN SENDS GREETINGS TO MUSLIMS. President Putin sent his greetings to Russian Muslims as they marked the end of Ramadan on 16 December. In the message, Putin noted that the spiritual traditions of Islam can be characterized by peacefulness, religious tolerance, and concern for other people. Putin continued, "These qualities are especially important today, when the government and all constructive forces of society are combining forces for the prevention of the global threat of terrorism and extremism." According to Interfax, the service conducted in both the Russian and Tatar language by Talgat Tadzhuddin, the Supreme Mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, was scheduled to be shown on ORT. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

KURSK JEWISH CENTER VANDALIZED. The pre-Revolutionary pogromist slogan "Beat the kikes-Save Russia!" was written on the walls of the Chesed Barukh Jewish Center in Kursk on 9 December (Hanukkah), according to a 12 December report on the website of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. The center's director has requested a police investigation of the incident. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry, 17 December)

AUDIT CHAMBER FINDS RUSSIAN NUCLEAR WASTE PROCESSING IN CRISIS. The Audit Chamber announced that, according to a recent probe it conducted, national facilities dealing with spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste are in a critical condition, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 December. Thus, most of the storage facilities for nuclear waste are filled almost to capacity, the equipment belonging to such facilities is in need of urgent repair and modernization, and their safety systems are not adequate to protect the population and environment of surrounding areas. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

SERBIA SET TO DELIVER WAR CRIMINALS TO THE HAGUE? Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 12 December that it is possible that Serbia will send to the war crimes tribunal "several" indicted war criminals within the next 60 days, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He did not elaborate. Meanwhile in The Hague, a tribunal spokesman called on Belgrade to extradite the four highest-ranking indictees from the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic still at large: Serbian President Milan Milutinovic (who is still in office), top Milosevic aide Nikola Sainovic, former Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who headed the General Staff during the 1999 Kosova conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

HAGUE TO HOLD TWO TRIALS FOR MILOSEVIC... Presiding judge Richard May said in The Hague on 11 December that Milosevic's trial on charges relating to Kosova will begin on 12 February, Reuters reported. Milosevic will later face a second trial on charges stemming from war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia. The prosecution had hoped for a single trial. It is not clear why the judges ruled in favor of two trials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

...WHO ENTERS NO PLEA. Milosevic declined to enter a plea on charges of genocide in the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict at The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 11 December, Reuters reported. Presiding judge Richard May entered a "not guilty" plea on the former Serbian leader's behalf. Milosevic is accused of 29 counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes. He similarly refused to enter a plea in response to previous charges of war crimes in Kosova and Croatia. Milosevic says he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the tribunal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

VOJVODINA LEADER STATES GOALS. Nenad Canak was re-elected chairman of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) on 15 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade. Canak said that he sees Vojvodina's future not as a separate republic, but "within a democratic and decentralized Serbia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

PARLIAMENT PASSES LABOR LAW. A new labor law passed in a 146-41 vote with seven abstentions, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported from Belgrade on 12 December. The final version included several changes sought by the DSS, which voted for the measure. A recent split between the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and its more reformist coalition partners over the labor bill led to the latest round of public feuding between President Vojislav Kostunica's party and its nominal allies. Serbia's economy suffers from the presence of numerous white-elephant, state-run industries that are in need of painful restructuring or outright closure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

ANTIRACIST CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED. The People Against Racism organization on 10 December marked the Day of Human Rights by launching a campaign called "Racism Is Also Your Own Problem," CTK reported. A similar campaign was organized by the organization last year, and its members said their efforts contributed to the lowering of negative attitudes toward Roma. They said that while in 1999 as many as 86 percent of Slovaks rejected having a Rom as a neighbor, the rate has since dropped to 65 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

TEN JAILED FOR 1998 INSURGENCY. A court in Khujand, Soghd Oblast, has sentenced 10 men to prison terms ranging from eight to 25 years on charges of treason, terrorism, and sedition stemming from their participation in the November 1998 insurrection led by Colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiev, Reuters reported. Some 200 people were killed in fighting over several days before Tajik army troops quelled the uprising. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

U.S. TRAINS ELECTION OFFICIALS. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual told UNIAN on 11 December that the U.S. has provided technical experts for Ukraine's Central Election Commission to train and teach members of local election commissions "to understand their role and functions better." Pascual said the experts will hold training sessions for some 25,000 members of election commissions, adding that representatives of all the major parties in the Ukrainian parliament have already been taking part in such sessions. Pascual noted that this U.S. assistance provides for cooperation with the OSCE, which will coordinate the activity of foreign observers in the 31 March parliamentary election, as well as with Ukrainian NGOs, including the Committee of Voters of Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

COMMUNIST LEADER WANTS RUSSIAN AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said in Moscow on 10 December that Russian should become an official language in Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported. Following a meeting between Russian President Putin and participants in a congress of Ukrainians in Russia, Symonenko said it is necessary to adopt "a new law on languages" that would give Russian official status in Ukraine along with Ukrainian. Last month, the Ukrainian parliament considered on first reading four bills on languages: three of them proposed Ukrainian as the state language, while one gave this status to both Ukrainian and Russian. Parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch said in Kyiv on 11 December that the language problem has been raised prior to upcoming parliamentary elections by "some political forces that are looking for something to win votes." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

HOW STRONG IS THE ISLAMIC OPPOSITION? The most likely challenge to the rule of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov will come from the Islamic-inspired opposition, either from the Uzbek branch of the international Islamic organization Hizb-ut Tahrir or from the armed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. One analyst told Keston News Service that most people "are preoccupied primarily with how to feed their families." Many agree that poverty may become the catalyst for potential destabilization, despite tight control by state authorities over religious life. Young radicals told Keston they believe that "only an Islamic state can give people a life of dignity." (Keston News Service, 12 December)

ROMANIAN PREMIER ENDS STATUS LAW LETTER EXCHANGE WITH ORBAN. Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest on 11 December that he does not intend to continue corresponding with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban on the Hungarian Status Law, Hungarian media reported. The announcement came after Nastase received a letter that Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi presented to his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana in Brussels last week. Nastase said he prefers other channels of communication. Meanwhile, Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo told "Nepszabadsag" that Slovak experts have concluded that 23 out of 30 provisions in the Status Law support activities that are performed outside Hungary's borders. They also found that nine benefits in the law raise concerns regarding their accordance with current European legislation, including the employment of Slovak citizens in Hungary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)


By Marjorie Farquharson

Russia's first chicken came home to roost at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in late November, when the court decided the country must answer for its treatment of a detainee. The prisoner in question was Valerii Kalashnikov, the former president of the Northeast Commercial Bank in Magadan (no relation to the famous Soviet arms manufacturer).

He was arrested on embezzlement charges in June 1995 and spent nearly five years waiting for his case to be heard. During that time he lived with 23 other prisoners in a cell designed for eight. In his complaint, Kalashnikov said that three people shared one bed and slept in shifts, with 16 prisoners sitting on the floor, or on cardboard boxes, waiting for their turn. There was an open toilet situated next to the eating space and the cell was full of cigarette smoke. Kalashnikov contracted numerous fungal infections and lost almost 30 kilograms in weight. These conditions and the indeterminate length of his time on remand amounted to torture, his lawyer said.

In its defense, the Russian government argued that since Russia became party to the European Convention on Human Rights only in May 1998, it was not responsible to Strasbourg for what happened before then. Seen from that dateline, Kalashnikov's detention could not be regarded as very long. The fact that he did not appeal against his conviction in 1999 meant he had not exhausted every avenue open to him before writing to Strasbourg and should disqualify his complaint, Russia said. The government's decision to amnesty Kalashnikov in 2000 showed it had no intention of ill treatment toward him.

The ECHR decided that Kalashnikov's complaints about his conditions, the length of his detention, and the length of his trial proceedings are admissible, and will rule on their merits in the summer of 2002. Its judgment is likely to be in two parts. First, it will consider whether financial compensation should be awarded to Kalashnikov himself for any damages he may have suffered, and secondly, if it decides his complaints are justified, it will consider whether the Russian government should implement "general measures" to prevent similar situations from arising in the future. The "general measures" required by Strasbourg can have far-reaching effects. In a case against the United Kingdom, for instance, they provoked a legal revolution and the introduction of a system of duty solicitors on call 24 hours a day to give free legal advice to detainees. More recently, Italy has been obliged to recruit thousands of judges following a negative judgment in Strasbourg about the length of its trial proceedings.

The striking thing about the Kalashnikov case is that situations such as his are so commonplace in Russia. Traditionally, the state prosecution service has had wide powers to remand suspects in custody and prolong their detention for long periods without recourse to Russian courts. Enormous numbers of people are in Russian jails waiting for their trial date to be set, and the authorities freely admit that the remand prisons are the most overcrowded part of the penitentiary system. Since most remand prisons were built in Tsarist times, stories of filthy and disgusting conditions abound. A ruling from the ECHR in this area could therefore have far-reaching impact -- but what are the chances that it would be implemented? Nearly half of the rulings of domestic courts in Russia are ignored, according to surveys by the Justice Ministry. Can an international court 11 time zones away from Magadan expect to have more bite?

So far, the Russian Federation has given every indication that it will abide by Strasbourg's decisions. When it became a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, it undertook to do so, and it has since put aside money in the federal budget for financial compensation to successful claimants. Russia has every incentive to implement Strasbourg judgments because if it fails to do so, it will face a steep bill when similar complaints appear before the court. The government has also made it clear that it will reclaim compensation awards from the budget of any of the 89 regions whose laws or practices are found to be at the root of a negative judgment by Strasbourg. This, if nothing else, should concentrate minds powerfully in regions like Magadan. Strasbourg is also used to dealing with reluctant governments and pursues the implementation of its court judgments -- sometimes over several years -- until they are carried out.

Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, is party to various human rights treaties, some of which are worth little more than the paper they are written on. Its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights are the only ones that can be tested in an international court -- and the only ones that carry legal and financial penalties if they are not respected. Kalashnikov vs. the Russian Federation could open the floodgates. Around 2,000 complaints have been registered against the Russian Federation at the ECHR -- including from the North Caucasus -- and 50 have been transmitted to the government for investigation. In the not too distant future, decisions taken in a quiet Rhineland courtroom could supply much-needed voltage to the meandering process of legal reform in the Russian Federation, as they have already done in other parts of Europe.

Marjorie Farquharson writes on human rights issues and travels frequently to the Russian Federation.