30 November 2000, Volume
HELSINKI FEDERATION OUTLINES RIGHTS CONCERNS TO OSCE.
The International Helsinki Federation sent an open letter to the 55 member states of the OSCE on 22 November and calling upon the OSCE to take action in the following areas: the need to address the "deplorable conditions" of 600,000 persons displaced in Azerbaijan due to the lack of a political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh situation; "the abandonment of the population of Transdniester to a self-proclaimed state, which neither recognizes nor applies international human rights standards;" the lack of "accountability for war crimes committed in Chechnya" and need for an International Commission of Inquiry; "the obligation to recognize and cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague [which] should be imposed as a condition for further integration into European structures and international assistance;" the Central Asian region, which "shows common problems related to the deterioration in democracy and the rule of law, as well as concerns about political, religious, and media freedoms. It is well-known that Islamists in Central Asia face serious repression, through mass arrests and heavy sentences. The fight against terrorism should not be an excuse for arbitrary arrests and brutal oppression; the threat to democracy and the rule-of-law posed in numerous countries of the former Soviet Union, after flawed referenda and elections marred by intimidation of opposition parties, lack of press freedom and attempts to control voting." The IHF also delineated more generic human rights concerns, such as the "torture and inhumane treatment of detainees and prisoners by law enforcers [which] exist in virtually all countries of the OSCE [and] long proceedings and heavy sentences contribute to extreme overcrowding in prisons in virtually all transition states. There is widespread evidence of deliberate ill-treatment of prisoners, keeping them in inhumane conditions, in most former socialist states." The existence of a minority is "a matter of fact, not a matter of law" (International Court of Justice). Still, some states continue to claim that minorities exist only when laws say so." (MINELRES, 24 November)IPI RELEASES STUDY ON PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS IN OSCE MEMBER STATES.
For the eighth meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council on 27-28 November, the International Press Institute presented a study on press freedom violations in the OSCE member states. Of the 55 member states, with a total population of over 1.1 billion people, only 12 countries had no press freedom violations recorded in 1999-2000, namely Andorra, Denmark, The Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia and Switzerland. Over the last two years, at least 27 journalists were murdered in OSCE member states, 64 were imprisoned and 160 assaulted. The full text is available on the IPI website at: http://www.freemedia.at/osceviol.htm (International Press Institute, 27 November)INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISTS.
The International Federation of Environmental Journalists, (IFEJ) established in October 1993 in Dresden, works to improve the accuracy, quality, and standards of environmental journalism by publishing newsletters and handbooks; by organizing educational seminars and workshops; and by supporting journalists who have been threatened by censorship or repression. In addition to its annual meetings, IFEJ publishes a quarterly newsletter, "The Planet's Voice," a biweekly Internet bulletin of international environmental news for journalists. IFEJ is headquartered in France. Contact: email@example.com or see http://www.ifej.org. (media383, 26 November)
KURDS RALLY FOR OCALAN.
In advance of a 25 November hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, the Kurds of Armenia staged a rally in Yerevan in support of Kurdistan Workers' Party leader Abdullah Ocalan, the Snark news agency reported on 21 November. Speakers condemned what they called "the unfair and criminal decision of the Turkish court" in Ocalan's case and expressed the hope that the European Court will annul that decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)GROUP TO PROTECT ARMENIANS OF GEORGIA.
The action group of the Armenian Resistance has released a statement saying that it will "struggle to ensure the safety" of ethnic Armenians living in Georgia's Javakheti region, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported on 21 November. The Resistance, which includes public figures in Armenia and in the Armenian diaspora, did not say what it will do in order to achieve that goal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
AD HOC HUMAN RIGHTS HEADQUARTERS FORMED.
Leading Azerbaijani civic activists formed an ad hoc group on 22 November to publicize recent major human rights problems, such as the clashes in Sheki, arrests of demonstrators, and allegations about the torture of detainees. The contact person is Sahib Mammedov at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, 25 November)AUTHORITIES BAN PLANNED OPPOSITION RALLY.
The Baku municipal administration on 23 November withdrew oral permission given earlier to the Union of Azerbaijani Forces, which unites the Vahdat, Namus, and Social- Democratic Parties, to stage a rally in the city on 25 November to protest the falsification of the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary election, Turan reported. Representatives of the Democratic, Liberal, and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) had also planned to attend that protest. On 22 November, Azerbaijan's Constitutional Court approved the election results for 88 of the 99 single-mandate constituencies but ordered new elections in the remaining 11, Interfax reported. According to Turan, 79 of the 88 deputies elected figured on the list made public by Social Justice Party leader Matlab Mutallimli in October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
OPPOSITIONISTS CLAIM TO HAVE WESTERN SUPPORT FOR NEW PRESIDENTIAL POLL.
Alyaksey Karol, Anatol Lyabedzka, Andrey Sannikau, and Vintsuk Vyachorka toured European capitals last week to inform the West about the situation in Belarus and seek support for the country's democratization. Vyachorka told journalists that the delegation appealed to the West to persuade Russia "not to save Lukashenka or impose its own [presidential] candidate" in next year's presidential elections in Belarus. Sannikau said the Western politicians they met pledged that "Europe will not only support but also defend" a single candidate of the united democratic opposition in the 2001 presidential ballot, Belapan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
FIDESZ CHAIRMAN SAYS PRESS 'RULED BY BOLSHEVIKS.'
Laszlo Kover, chairman of Hungary's major coalition party FIDESZ, told Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel in Vienna on 21 November that the new Western owners of Hungarian newspapers have "done nothing" to change the policies of those dailies. Kover said that editorial appointments continue to be made by "old Bolshevik editors." He also accused commercial television networks of political bias. "While the country is improving thanks to FIDESZ, this is not reflected in opinion polls as the [opposition] Socialists rule the media," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)COMMITTEE ADOPTS MOTION AGAINST RACISM.
The parliament's Human Rights, Minorities and Religion Committee on 21 November agreed to call on the cabinet to enact a bill on combating racism and xenophobia and to provide equal treatment for all citizens. The proposal was opposed only by Lorant Hegedus of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, who said the motion is a "crime against Hungarians." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
AUTHOR OF BOOK ON CORRUPTION IN KAZAKHSTAN BROUGHT TO TRIAL.
The trial of Temirtas Tleulesov, author of a book detailing official corruption in that city, opened in Shymkent on 23 November, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tleulesov is accused of propagating "false materials." His son was arrested earlier last week on charges of illegal timber-felling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER SUSPENDED.
Ramazan Esergepov, the editor of "Nachnem s Ponedelnika," told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 21 November that a court has suspended the operation of his newspaper for three months. He said that the court said it was forced to take this action because Esergepov has changed his address so often, but Esergepov responded that he had to do so to avoid official harassment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)OPPOSITION LEADER'S TRAVEL DOCUMENTS CONFISCATED.
RFE/RL correspondents report that officials at Almaty airport confiscated the valid travel documents of the vice chairman of the Republican People Party's Executive Committee, Amirzhan Qosanov, on 25 November as he was on his way to England. After he passed through customs and ticket registration offices, Qosanov's passport was seized by Kazakh Border Guard officer Qayrat Safinov. Captain Safinov did not offer any explanation, merely saying he was following orders. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 27 November)JOURNALISTS DISCUSS AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW.
Several hundred representatives of electronic media met in Almaty on 23 November to assess the probable impact of new restrictions on broadcasting foreign programming, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Amendments to the existing law proposed by the cabinet earlier this month reduce to 20 percent the proportion of total air time that may be devoted to the retransmission of foreign programs. Independent radio and television stations that rely heavily on rebroadcasting Russian-language materials may be forced to reduce their air time. Qaraghandy journalist Aleksandr Zharkov complained to the meeting that it is "almost impossible" to find professional journalists who are fluent in Kazakh. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)FIRST ARTS PATRONS CLUB ESTABLISHED.
RFE/RL correspondents report that seven business tycoons in Kazakhstan announced on 28 November the establishment of the first Club of Arts Patrons. The club's founders are Bulat Abilov (president of BUTYA Company and a member of the Kazakh Parliament), Nurzhan Subkhanberdin (president of Kazkommertzbank), Nurlan Smagulov (founder of Astana-Motors Company), Raimbek Battalov (president of Raimbek Company), Abilmazhin Gelimov (president of Nurbank), Aleksander Krinichanski (director of Air Kazakhstan) and Margulan Seysenbaev (president of SEMAR Company). Under the club's TARLAN-2000 program, the first award will consist of $10,000 cash and a statue of Tarlan (a leading horse in traditional Kazakh horseraces) plus two smaller monetary awards. The program will be held on a regular basis at the end of each year. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 28 November)WORKERS MOVEMENT OPPOSES PROPOSED AMNESTY ON ILLEGALLY EXPORTED CASH.
The Workers Movement of Kazakhstan held a press conference in Almaty on 28 November to protest a proposed amnesty for illegally exported cash returned to Kazakhstan from foreign banks. The Kazakh cabinet has recently deliberated such an amnesty for those who have illegally exported hard currency. Madel Ismailov, leader of the workers' movement, told RFE/RL reporters that Kazakh officials were trying to exonerate themselves before bringing all "the stolen money back to Kazakhstan." Earlier this year, some Western periodicals pointed to high-level corruption in the Kazakh government, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 28 November)BORDER GUARD CADETS EXPELLED FOR MUTINY.
Kazakhstan's commercial television reported on 20 November that more than 10 cadets have been expelled from the Military Institute of the country's National Security Committee for taking part in a September protest after their commanders reduced their stipends for toothpaste and soap. An additional, unspecified number of the 200 future border guards received lesser punishments, the TV service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTED IN OSH OBLAST.
The director of the Kara-Suu human rights center "Pravosudie Istina," Ravshan Gapirov, was arrested on 21 November. He is currently under detention in the Kara-Suu district police station, charged with hooliganism and causing a public disturbance. An ethnic Uzbek, Gapirov is also active in cross-border relations with Uzbekistan. Most recently, he led a local advocacy campaign to stop demolition of a historical bridge linking the two countries. Gapirov also investigated corruption during the privatization of the Kara-Suu Bazaar, one of Ferghana Valley's largest. Ravshan Gapirov is also active in the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. During presidential elections, Gapirov served as an election observer and helped to recruit and train over 20 non-partisan election day observers and revealed numerous electoral violations. (Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights in Exile, 22 November)OPPOSITION LEADER'S SENTENCE CUT.
The Bishkek City Court on 24 November slashed the prison terms it handed down in September to eight men found guilty of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Topchubek Turgunaliev, who was found guilty of masterminding the alleged plot, had his sentence commuted from 16 to six years, while his codefendants' sentences were reduced from 16-17 years to 4-5 years. But the court upheld its original ruling on the confiscation of all the defendants' property. The eight men intend to appeal the court ruling and demand their acquittal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)AUTHORITIES PLAN NEW ROUNDTABLE WITH OPPOSITION.
Presidential administration official Arslan Anarbaev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 24 November that the country's leadership plans to hold another roundtable discussion on the political situation in late December. The Kyrgyz authorities, the opposition, the media and NGOs will each send 21 representatives to that forum. The OSCE office in Bishkek will also send a representative. Opposition parties and NGOs boycotted an earlier roundtable in June after the authorities increased the number of participants at the last minute. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)REGIONAL WOMEN'S CRISIS GROUP OPENED.
A Crisis Center for Women was opened in the town of Jalal-Abad on 24 November. It will provide local women with legal assistance as well as help them receive micro-loans for use in opening small businesses. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 25 November)
CONDITIONS IN ALCOHOL REHABILITATION CENTERS.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Moldova has recently published a 32-page report on conditions in alcohol rehabilitation centers in Moldova. The report is available in English and Romanian. To receive a copy of the report contact the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Moldova at: firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://chdom.ngo.moldnet.md (Center for Civil Society International, 16 November)
CAMERAMAN GUNNED DOWN IN CHECHNYA.
Adam Tepsurgaev, a freelance Chechen cameraman who had worked in the past for Reuters, was shot dead by Chechen-speaking gunmen at his brother's home in Alkhan-Kala late on 21 November, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November)PASKO CASE SENT BACK FOR RE-TRIAL...
The Military Board of the Russian Supreme Court on 21 November annulled a lower court's ruling in the case of military reporter Grigorii Pasko. After being arrested in 1997 for giving Japanese TV journalists information about the Russian Navy's dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan, Pasko was acquitted last year of treason but found guilty of abuse of office. Pasko, who had been held in a labor camp for almost two years, was released under an amnesty program. Pasko responded to news of the court's decision, saying that "Russia is becoming a torture chamber," Interfax reported. Pasko's lawyer, Anatolii Pyshkin, told ITAR-TASS that the case will now drag on for another 12-18 months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)...WHILE JOURNALIST GROUP PROTESTS.
The Paris-based journalists' defense organization, Reporters without Borders (RSF), noted on 27 November that the information published by Pasko was already in the public sphere and could not be defined as "state secrets." Russian media law stipulates that "all journalists have the right to research, request, receive, and distribute information." According to RSF's information, Captain Pasko, a journalist with the navy's daily newspaper "Boevaya Vakhta," was accused of "gathering state secrets with the intention of transmitting them to foreign organizations." Aboard the Russian tanker "TNT 27" in 1997, Pasko filmed the dumping of radioactive waste in the Sea of Japan. These images, which were broadcast by Japanese television station NHK without the journalist's approval, caused indignation in Japan. Pasko also wrote articles about pollution caused by the apparent abandonment of Russian army nuclear submarines and the FSB's (Russian Security Service's) involvement in the trafficking of nuclear waste. (Reporters Without Borders, 27 November)KREMLIN SEEKS CONTROL OF JOURNALISTS' UNION...
The Kremlin wants to replace the current leader of the Union of Journalists, Vsevelod Bogdanov, with Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of VID television, "Sovetskaya Rossiya" reported on 19 November. Bogdanov has annoyed the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin with his repeated defense of freedom of the press and his independent stance on political issues. Lyubimov, the son of a former KGB resident in Denmark, is thought to be more malleable. Among professional journalists, however, he has little respect because of his repeated flip-flops on the authorities. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 27 November)...OR PLANS ANOTHER MEDIA UNION?
According to the reportedly Kremlin-friendly website strana.ru on 24 November, Aleksandr Lyubimov plans to hold a founding congress to officially organize a new media union by the end of 2000. At a 24 November press conference, Lyubimov declared he is "deeply concerned about the crisis of the journalists' community in Russia" and denied rumors that the Kremlin is involved in this new venture. He said he does not see the new union as an alternative to the present one. Rather, he sees it as representing "journalists' corporate interests" -- regularizing on a national level the labor contracts of print, broadcast, and Internet journalists, and defending their interests, such as ensuring equitable pay scales in foreign publications. Other journalists who supported Lyubimov's initiative included the editor-in-chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Vitalii Tretyakov; the First Deputy Director of ITAR-TASS, Mikhail Gusman; the head of the St. Petersburg agency "Severo-Zapad," Elena Zelinskaya; and the head of a media agency in Tatarstan, Evgenii Naumov. (For more information, see http://www.strana.ru, 24 November)'NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA' EDITOR CRITICIZES BEREZOVSKY.
Vitalii Tretyakov, the editor in chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," said that oligarch Boris Berezovsky will not have any support in Russia if he continues to criticize President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, "Literaturnaya gazeta" no. 46, reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" is partially owned by Berezovsky, who is refusing to return to Russia. Tretyakov added that "any political activity can be fruitful only if it originates within Russia and especially within Moscow." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 27 November)HEAD OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS UNION IN TATARSTAN.
Russian Journalists Union official Mikhail Fedotov, on a 22 November visit to Kazan, met with Tatarstan journalists to discuss relations between the authorities, mass media, and society, as well as the draft media law before the Russian state Duma, Tatar-inform reported. A professor of law, Fedotov told the news conference that he had analyzed contradictions between the constitutions of Russia and Tatarstan. He maintained that "a third of Tatarstan's legislation does not need to be brought into conformity with Russia's laws since it either addresses issues not included in the Russian Constitution or is more progressive." (RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 24 November)FSB-INSPIRED SMEARS ON PENTECOSTALS IN KOSTROMA MEDIA.
The FSB has provided information on Pastor Danilov's income and property -- citing the sum reportedly given to him each month by fellow believers abroad, the registration number of his private car, and his U.S. bank account number -- for local newspaper articles seeking to discredit the head of a Kostroma Pentecostal Church. The articles appeared in November, several days before legal suits on the issue of denial of the church's legal status. The lawsuits were initiated by the regional justice administration and subsequently won by the Kostroma church. (Keston News Service, 24 November).INDEPENDENT BASHKORTOSTAN TV CHANNEL TO BE OPENED.
Bashkortostan's president, Murtaza Rahimov, signed a decree creating a republican television channel which is expected to be independent from the federal TV companies, Bashimform reported on 23 November. The first deputy manager of the communications company Bashimformsvyaz, Petr Kvashnin, told a news conference in Ufa that all necessary documents have been prepared. The republic's TV and radio company currently transmits its programs on the second and fourth Russian-wide channels (RTR and NTV) covering 99 percent of Bashkortostan. (RFE/RL Bashkir News, 24 November)GOVERNOR, MAYOR FIGHT OUT MEDIA BATTLE AHEAD OF BALLOT.
The "dirtiest" campaign the city of Kostroma has ever experienced -- that's how local residents describe the run-up to the 10 December gubernatorial election, according to RFE/RL Russian Service's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 11 November. Incumbent Governor Viktor Shershunov and Kostroma Mayor Boris Korobov, both of whom are candidates in the upcoming ballot, are locked in an "information war" that "Korrespondentskii chas" says began last year, when Shershunov set up within his administration a Department for Mass Media Affairs and began to seek to bring the oblast's newspapers and broadcasting outlets under his control. A local television program produced by RFE/RL's correspondent in Kostroma was taken off the air after its first appearance; the producer was unable to get a satisfactory answer as to the reason for that move but noted that such tactics are typical of Governor Shershunov and his team. Moreover, the only newspaper that reportedly has not taken sides in the governor- mayor conflict, "Kostromskaya narodnaya gazeta," appears to have been targeted for closure. The local department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) recently announced that it found telephone tapping devices at the newspaper's premises. The founder of the publication, Oleg Lebedev, has publicly accused Kostroma's FSB of kowtowing to local officials. (RFE/RL Russian Federation Report, 22 November)MASS MEDIA LOSE SOME PRIVILEGES.
The Constitutional Court on 22 November ruled that certain privileges given to the media by the Law on State Support for the Mass Media and Book Publishing violate constitutional guarantees, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 November. The provision, since struck down, gave media outlets the right to use federally-owned office space. While widespread under former President Boris Yeltsin, the court held that the media cannot use these offices "without the consent of its federal and municipal owners and/or appropriate compensation for it." Judge Valery Zorkin said that this measure was not directed against the media as such but only intended to restore "the balance between freedom of the press and property rights." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 27 November)COURT REFUSES TO DISMISS CHIEF PROSECUTOR IN POPE CASE...
The Moscow City Court on 22 November refused to dismiss Oleg Plotnikov, the main prosecutor in the espionage trial of U.S. businessman Edmond Pope. The defense had requested Plotnikov's dismissal because his son was a member of the Federal Security Service team of investigators that brought Pope's case to trial. Pavel Astakhov, Pope's lawyer, said that the defense will demand that all materials added to the case under Plotnikov be struck from the record, AP reported. Plotnikov has not been in court this week because of what he says is high blood pressure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)...AND REJECTS RUSSIAN NAVY CIVIL SUIT.
The Moscow City Court on 24 November rejected a civil suit that the Russian Navy had brought against Edmond Pope. The navy's anti-submarine weapons department had demanded that if Pope is found guilty, he should pay some $252 million in damages allegedly incurred by Pope's having acquired the blueprints of the "Shkval" high-speed underwater torpedo. The court ruled that the civil suit should have been filed before the criminal trial began. The previous day, the court threw out one volume of the eight- volume indictment on the grounds that the discarded materials related to witnesses who have not been called to testify in court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November)HOW FREE IS FREE?
In a lengthy article on Russian democracy, "The Economist" singles out the Chechen war as "overshadowing all other problems." Are Russia's "current ills a menaced media, fixed elections, an over-mighty security service, harassment of the opposition, xenophobia and racism" setbacks or signposts? It noted that "all Russia's problems of human rights and democracy come back to three things: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. None works as well as it should. Parliament passes laws in a hurry, and has neither the ability nor the will to call high officials to account. State officials abuse human rights (either on their own, or on orders from on high) and work with remarkable slowness and disorganization. The courts almost completely fail in their role as the ultimate safeguard of freedom and order." In light of this, Russians see their laws as unfair, complaint procedures as empty and they act accordingly. The article notes that in countries with incompetent bureaucrats, rulers tend to become weighted down with "heavy-handed habits." Silencing critics promotes bad policies and popular discontent. "Harassing greens, rather than listening to them, means even less chance of salvaging Russia�s devastated environment. The difficulties put in the way of independent trade unions will keep Russian industrial workplaces in an awful state. Ethnic minorities that see their language and culture dying tend to start letting off bombs if no one listens to them." The article observes that "as Mr. Putin consolidates power, the likelihood of greater state control of the media" grows and suggests that "Russia's continuing obsession with national security" means that critics may be seen either as saboteurs or spies. As for the one-sixth of Russia's population who belong to ethnic minorities, "The Economist" observes that "efforts by non-Russian nationalities to preserve their languages and cultures risk denunciation as "separatism." The article notes the "underlying problem is that Russia has not considered -- or really even started discussing -- what sort of country it wants to be." ("The Economist," 25-31 November)OPPOSITIONIST ON BASHKORTOSTAN HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS.
Bashkortostan opposition politician Aleksandr Arinin detailed the republic's human rights violations to the head of the Volga Federal District, Sergei Kirienko, in a 22 November letter, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Arinin said that federal laws are violated in Bashkortostan and that new Russian passports are not issued, causing difficulties in access to education and changing places of residence. Arinin also noted that trained personnel have had to leave the republic due to chronic non-payment of wages, as have writers, artists, and others who oppose the republican leadership. He also accused Bashkorostan's authorities of making ethnicity a criterion for entrance to institutes of higher education. (RFE/RL Bashkir News, 24 November)CHECHEN TEACHERS BEGIN TO RECEIVE WAGE ARREARS.
Teachers and doctors in Chechnya have received some of their salary arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. A Chechen government official said that the Russian government has allocated some 16.6 million rubles (some $59,000) to pay teachers and a further 9.3 million for medical personnel. Chechnya's teachers had begun a republic-wide strike on 15 November, but abandoned it after Kadyrov promised in a TV speech that wage arrears would be paid over a period of two-three months beginning on 20 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)MAJOR NGO CONFERENCE PLANNED.
Five Russian human rights activists and Duma member Sergei Kovalev announced that they plan to convene a conference in January to discuss the human rights situation in their country. They expect some 400 participants from all over Russia representing a broad spectrum of groups concerned with political, social, and economic rights. (Federal News Service, 22 November)DEFICIT MAY FORCE CLOSING OF SAKHAROV MUSEUM.
Primarily due to a lack of domestic private-revenue sources, a Moscow museum dedicated to Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov may soon have to close its doors, according to its director, Yuri Samodurov. "Although its content is highly political, the museum's woes don't stem from government pressure." In addition, the AP noted, "as memories of Soviet horrors fade amid the time-consuming turmoil of today's Russia, fewer and fewer people seem interested in what the museum has to say." (The Associated Press, 24 November)
SERBIAN PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATES STAMBOLIC CASE.
The Serbian state prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into the disappearance in August of former Serbian leader Ivan Stambolic, "Politika" reported on 22 November. The prosecutor's office is also investigating the killing of independent journalist Slavko Curuvija in 1999. Both crimes are widely believed to be the work of forces close to Milosevic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
OPPOSITIONIST ACCUSES KUCHMA OF ROLE IN JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE.
Oleksandr Moroz, former parliamentary speaker and head of the Ukrainian Socialist Party, on 28 November accused President Leonid Kuchma of ordering the disappearance of investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in September. What is believed to be his decapitated corpse, mutilated beyond recognition by chemicals, was found by journalists in early November; positive identification of the body is still under way. Moroz made his accusations on the basis of audiotapes in which Kuchma allegedly twice ordered what appears to be Yuri Kravchenko, the minister of internal affairs, that "it is about time the Chechens kidnapped Gongadze, took him to Chechnya and demanded a fat ransom...That is the first order I am giving you." The full text of this audiotape can be heard on "deVolkskrant" at http://www.volkskrant.com/real/buitenland/koetsjma.html. The tape contains snatches of an alleged conversation between Kuchma and several advisers. An unnamed former Ukrainian secret police officer is alleged to have made the secret recording and smuggled it out of the presidential palace; he is reportedly in hiding outside Ukraine. The special parliamentary commission investigating Gongadze's disappearance is to evaluate the audio recording. A group of officers from Ukraine's Security Service said in a statement on 29 November that it is "impossible" to eavesdrop on the head of state's communications links or offices.
UZBEK OPPOSITION FIGURE DENOUNCES VERDICT.
Muhammad Solih, the exiled chairman of the Erk Democratic Party, told the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran radio from Mashhad on 20 November that the court's verdict against him and other democratic activists is completely illegal. He was among those tried in absentia for their alleged role in the February 2000 bomb blasts in Tashkent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November)
NORTHERN CAUCASUS WATCHDOG WEBSITE LAUNCHED.
Prague Watchdog is a new on-line service that will report and disseminate information on the northern Caucasus region, focusing on human rights, humanitarian aid conditions, and media access and coverage. The service is supported with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy, an autonomous donor institution in Washington D.C., and by the Soros-funded Open Society Institute in New York. The aim of Prague Watchdog is to provide detailed reports on a region where human rights continue to be grossly violated and humanitarian aid conditions are seriously deficient, but which no longer commands attention from the international media. Reports aim to influence Western and Russian policymakers to seek more effective avenues for regional peace and security. Contributors to the service are mainly Czechs and Russians. As much as possible, information is also gleaned from first-hand reporting. See http://www.watdchdog.cz (Prague Watchdog, 8 November)ROMANIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIETY AND POLITICS.
The Romanian Journal of Society and Politics (RJSP) was established in October as an international forum to draw together social scientists with an interest in Romania. Each RSJP issue focuses on a particular theme, and contains scholarly articles, notes, and book reviews. Original manuscripts on theoretical, empirical, or methodological issues on contemporary Romanian politics, society, or culture are solicited. For further information, contact: the Romanian Journal of Society and Politics Civic Education Project Office, Bd. Unirii Nr. 76/Bl. J3A, Sc. A, Ap. 2/Bucharest 3, Romania (Civil Society Mailing List, 15 November)VIRTUAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATION.
The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has recently launched at http://www.cipe.org a virtual training program for private voluntary business associations, called the Virtual Business Association (VBA). The VBA aims to assist in improving the management and participation aspects of business associations worldwide and provides an electronic training module that can be accessed at http://www.cipe.org/vba. (Center for Civil Society International, 27 November)
JAILED BEFORE JUDGMENT
By Paul Goble
A new study by the Soros Foundation has found that almost one-third of prisoners in post-communist countries have been waiting for trial for more than a year and that one in 10 has been incarcerated for more than two years without having a day in court.
That, in turn, means that almost 50 percent of the inmates now in prisons there are men and women who have not yet been found guilty of anything, a sharp increase since 1989 and one that is already having increasingly negative consequences for public health, criminality, and the authority of the judicial system.
And officials in these countries do not expect this trend to change anytime soon. Last week, for example, Aleksandr Tochelovskis, the deputy director of Latvia's prison system, said that "if growth continues at the present rate, our prisons will be filled with people who haven't been found guilty."
Most legal systems have some form of pre-trial detention for those charged with particularly serious offenses and are considered to be a danger to themselves or to the community. But most democratic regimes also have arrangements to allow those waiting for trial on minor charges to post bond and remain free until trial.
In many Eastern European countries, however, no bail bond system yet exists, or it is too expensive for most people and especially the young. As a result, people are sometimes incarcerated for long periods even when they are charged with petty crimes. In Hungary, for example, one news agency reports that a man has been in jail for more than a year pending trial on charges that he stole 138 rolls of toiletpaper.
This massive use of pretrial detention already is having a serious negative impact on public health. In many of these countries, prisons have become virtual incubators for disease. In the Russian Federation alone, almost 10 percent of all prisoners now have tuberculosis, and many of them contracted it while they were behind bars. And in several other countries across this region, the situation is still graver.
Still more serious for the future, the massive incarceration of those who have not been found guilty of any crime is breeding more criminals. Jaap Doek, a Dutch juvenile court judge who serves on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, said that locking up young people in this way is making "hardened criminals out of 15-year-olds."
That is particularly true in a region where many governments do not segregate youthful first offenders from the more hardened adult criminals. As a result, young people there who are not in fact guilty of any offense may be given a criminal education by their elders simply while waiting for their trial dates.
And, perhaps most serious of all, this practice is alienating many people from the judicial system, which is one of the foundations of democracy and a civil society because it allows officials to put people in jail without a judicial finding.
But according to local human rights activists, there is little popular support for any change. Anyone who criticizes locking up those charged with criminal violations, these activists suggest, is likely to be labeled "soft on crime," something few leaders are prepared to risk.
For all these reasons, such an approach appears certain to backfire. Judges who use pretrial detention as a form of punishment are in fact undercutting the fundamental constitutional rights of all citizens. Moreover, those who experience such detention are likely to be alienated, Doek observes, as are their families and other members of society-at-large.
Post-communist governments regularly protest that they do not have the funds to change the situation. Some countries, like Estonia, are even considering privatizing their prison systems to improve the situation. But human rights activists there argue that the problem is not so much a lack of money as a lack of will to address the problem of those jailed before judgment.
Changing procedures and popular attitudes in this area is unlikely to be easy, but a failure to do so almost certainly will limit the prospects for democracy and rule of law in a region that has known far too little of it in the past.