NEWS - Archive January 2006

Headlines 27 January, 2006

Headlines 20 January, 2006

Headlines 13 January, 2006

Headlines 6 January, 2006

Headlines 27 January, 2006


25/1/2006- Official agencies have serious doubts about the legal tenability of the reworked integration plan proposed by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. The Equality Commission (CGB) expressed concerns about the distinction being made between different groups of Dutch citizens when MPs met with experts on Wednesday. Teun van Os van den Abeelen Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Immigration Affairs (ACVZ) warned the minister's initiative could face major legal difficulties. Under Verdonk's plan, residents up to the age of 65 who have spent less than eight years in the Netherlands during their school age are obliged to undergo a course to help them integrate into Dutch society. Gaining a command of the Dutch language is the major requirement of the integration course. The problem, experts said, arises because Verdonk is making a distinction on the basis of nationality and ethnic background. Parliamentarians have insisted that citizens who are Dutch by birth are exempt from the need to undertake an integration course. Naturalised Dutch citizens are not. This latter group mainly consists of people with a Turkish or Moroccan background and refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia. The CGB warned the proposed distinction was in conflict with international treaties, and could lead to discrimination and stigmatisation as people would be registered on the basis of their ethnic and national background. Van Os van den Abeelen said there was no almost never a legal justification for making a distinction with regard to nationality. He warned Verdonk was taking a big risk. If the European Court declared to the distinction to be unlawful "a serious portion of the foundation of the law would fall away, and there would be little left to work with". People undertaking the course could then claim the costs they incurred back from the State, he said.
© Expatica News



27/1/2006- The memories do not get any less raw with age and distance. As they gathered yesterday in Cardiff for this year's Holocaust memorial day commemoration, the elderly survivors of the Nazis' genocide of the Jews had their stories to tell of the concentration camps they endured, or the kindertransports - child evacuations -that brought some of them to Britain. They all had their tales of miraculous escapes and the courage of relatives and strangers who had rescued them. This year the annual event was held in Wales for the first time, and last night it culminated in a ceremony in Cardiff. Readings, poems and songs were interwoven with speeches by dignitaries including Tony Blair, who was harangued briefly by a heckler. But it was earlier, at a gathering at city hall, that survivors and their families were able to share their memories more informally over cheese sandwiches, cherry cake, cups of tea and orange juice, with civic and national dignitaries on hand to pledge that the world would - in the words of Rhodri Morgan, the Welsh first minister - ensure that nothing similar would ever happen again. They had an important educational duty, he said, to ensure that the memory did not die. As proof of it, children in all Welsh schools recited a pledge yesterday written by Gwyneth Lewis, Wales's national poet.

One of those present in Cardiff yesterday was William Dieneman, 75, a former university librarian, who travelled with his wife, Marisa, from Aberystwyth. Mr Dieneman was evacuated on a kindertransport from Berlin to Bristol in 1939 and his parents escaped soon after. "I think memorial day is a good thing because it reminds me of my past, which I utterly blacked out. We were lucky to get to England," he said. At a nearby table, Paul Oppenheimer, 77, from Solihull, was telling the story that he has so often to schoolchildren across the country of how his family escaped Germany in 1936, came to England and then moved to Holland. They lived round the corner from Anne Frank and her family and suffered the same fate when they were rounded up in 1943 and sent ultimately to Belsen. There, his parents died of typhus, while his eight-year-old sister Eve - also present yesterday - was cared for by a Jewish family. "I have given more than 700 talks and have written a book, called From Belsen to Buckingham Palace, when I got my MBE," he said. "I have got to get home tonight because I am speaking in Wolverhampton tomorrow. It is very therapeutic for me. I forget about my other problems when I am doing it."

The Holocaust memorial day ceremonials have been held since 2001, with events all over the country, but this was the first time the focus of commemoration had moved outside London. Last night's event was held on the eve of today's Holocaust memorial day, to avoid clashing with the Jewish sabbath. It was directed by the founder of the English Shakespeare Company, Michael Bogdanov, and featured Welsh singers, actors and musicians. A memorial flame was lit at the end by Samuel Pfister, aged seven, great grandson of a Belgian rescuer of Jewish refugees. Mr Blair told the audience: "Nothing compares to the Holocaust, not in the intensity of its evil, nor in the ghastly scope of its inhuman ambition ... acts of selfless endeavour gave us the will to work for a better life in a better world. We rededicate ourselves to fighting racism and embrace tolerance of difference." Shortly after he concluded his remarks, a man in the upper circle of the Millennium Centre began to harangue him, apparently about the persecution of Armenians during the first world war, one of the few 20th century genocides not specifically remembered in the evening's proceedings. Mr Blair quickly left the stage and a Welsh Jewish choir drowned the man's words. He subsequently left the auditorium voluntarily.

Among the elderly Jewish families was a much younger genocide survivor, Beata Uwazaninka-Smith, 25, a Tutsi Christian from Rwanda, now living in Nottingham, whose life was saved by a Hutu Muslim neighbour during the massacres in her country in 1994. She said: "I will never forget that man, who took me in when I banged on his gate because the man who had murdered all my relatives was after me. He just let me in before he arrived and he told the man he could kill everyone in the house but he would still be punished for what he did. "When I saw the photographs of the Gestapo, I remembered that man who came after me. He called me a rat, a cockroach, and said we all deserved to die. My life was saved that day by the man who did not know me but who sheltered me."
© The Guardian



The world must challenge those who deny the Holocaust happened, says United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

27/1/2006- In a statement released to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Annan described those who questioned whether the Holocaust took place as "bigots". The German parliament's speaker also said the Nazis' mass murder of Jews should still be commemorated. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been widely criticised for claiming that the Holocaust was a "myth".

Holocaust remembrance ceremonies were held across Europe on Friday. Death camp survivors and religious leaders joined Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz in freezing temperatures for a sombre ceremony at the vast Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland. The prime minister laid a wreath between the ruins of the gas chambers the Nazis used to murder Europe's Jews during World War II.  Roman Catholic leaders asked Poles to light candles in their windows in remembrance of the six million murdered Jews. A 1940s red tram marked with the Star of David, like the ones that used to carry Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, once again ran through the streets. But it was empty and nobody got on or off. In his statement, Mr Annan said "remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated". "Holocaust denial is the work of bigots, we must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made." The UN last year passed a landmark resolution to make 27 January an annual day of remembrance for the Jews murdered during World War II. It was the date 61 years ago when Auschwitz was liberated. The German parliament speaker, Norbert Lammert, said the last few weeks had shown "not only us Germans how very much we need this day of commemoration". "It is with consternation that we have realised that even today heads of state describe the Holocaust as a myth and even go as far as making anti-Semitic statements," he said.
© BBC News



ENAR calls for measures to combat incitement to racial hatred

27/1/2006- On this UN International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) pays tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. “The Holocaust has to be remembered across Europe and in the entire world, and its history should be taught to the younger generations,” said Pascale Charhon, Director of ENAR. The Network also repeats its call for a legally binding European instrument on racism as a crime. The Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews, Roma, homosexuals and members of other minority communities, continues to stand out as one of the most shameful and painful pages in the history of the European continent. 61 years after the end of the Second World War, Europe continues to experience violent manifestations of religious and racial hatred. Today’s commemoration is an important occasion to remember and condemn the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also to address the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-gypsyism and other forms of racism and xenophobia in Europe in recent years. “It is essential that holocaust education be integrated in the school curricula, and that it should be a core part of the fight against racism and xenophobia,” said Ms Charhon. It is also more important than ever that the EU remains firm, not only in condemning all acts of incitement to racial hatred, but also by enacting legislation to counteract these worrying phenomena. ENAR therefore strongly urges the Austrian Presidency of the EU to keep the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia on the agenda of the European Council. Hate speech is one of the most insidious expressions of racism in Europe today, and ENAR members are increasingly concerned that the language of racism and xenophobia is being mainstreamed in European political discourse. ENAR does not believe that there is any contradiction between the need to combat hate crime and the right to freedom of expression. ENAR has therefore called on the Austrian Presidency to host a meeting to examine the relationship between freedom of expression and measures to combat hate crime. ENAR also hopes that the Presidency will use the occasion of its conference on Media, Migration and Asylum, which will take place in Vienna from 19-21 April 2006, to examine hate speech, xenophobic discourse, and the interest of ethnic minorities/migrants.

On 27 January 1945 the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the allied forces. Holocaust Memorial Day was first organised in the UK on 27 January 2001 and in October 2005, the United Nations designated 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust. Last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation.
© EUropean Network Against Racism



The Berlin government has given the go-ahead for a memorial designed by a Scandinavian artist-duo in central Berlin commemorating thousands of homosexuals persecuted by Nazi Germany.

27/1/2006- In addition to the famous Holocaust monument -- consisting of a field of cement slabs -- to Europe's murdered Jews in downtown Berlin, the German capital will in the future be the location to another memorial to Nazi victims. Designed by a Norwegian-Danish artist-duo, the memorial will remember the tens of thousands of homosexuals persecuted and killed by Hitler's regime. The 450,000 euro ($549,000) project funded by the federal government is to be erected "as soon as possible" opposite the Holocaust memorial on the margins of Berlin's vast Tiergarten park near the historic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag parliament building.

"An endless kiss"
Norbert Radermacher, president of the jury that named Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen winners of the bidding competition, said the monument would remember the victims in a "direct but subtle way." The concrete sculpture takes its cue from the Holocaust monument designed by star architect Peter Eisenman. It expands on the gray cement slab theme, by turning it into a kind of house. Radermacher, added that the structure, which appears cool and distant at first glance actually conceals an intimate aspect -- it will have an oblique window featuring a black and white video of "an endless kiss between two men."

Persecution and killing during Nazi regime
The decision to go ahead with the project was taken three years after the German parliament agreed to set up a memorial for murdered gays that would also serve as a visible stand against intolerance and isolation. Germany's lower house of parliament in 2000 formally apologized to gays persecuted under the Nazi regime, which held power from 1933 to 1945. Between 5,000 and 10,000 homosexuals were deported to concentration camps. During its crackdown on homosexuals the Nazi regime began 100,000 legal proceedings, followed by 45,000 sentences under a criminal law that endured until 1969. After the war, 44,231 sentences were handed down against gays in then West Germany. Legal discrimination of homosexual men ended in 1994, four years after German unification. East Germany had abolished its anti-gay legislation in 1968. Although there is no timeframe for the erection of the monument for murdered homosexuals, gay rights groups have urged the government to act speedily, emphasizing that the purging of gays between 1933 and 1945 was without precedent in history.
© Deutsche Welle



26/1/2006- President Vladimir Putin has claimed the recent unmasking of four British "spies" proved he was right to clamp down on the activities of human rights groups, despite trenchant criticism from the West. Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time since the furore erupted on Sunday, Mr Putin suggested the spying debacle sent a powerful signal to the West. His message was clear: don't criticise me and stop meddling in Russia's domestic affairs. His comments showed the scandal's deeply political nature and the fact that the episode has served as a useful device for the Kremlin to rebuff its external critics. Moscow's central allegation was that MI6 was covertly funding 12 non-governmental organisations. It produced documentation which it claimed proved that. The scandal broke - some would say conveniently for the Kremlin - 12 days after Mr Putin signed a new law that brings non-governmental organisations under Soviet-style scrutiny. In effect, the legislation allows the Kremlin to shut down undesirable groups overnight and forces them to fully disclose how they are financed. Russia has come under fierce criticism from the United States and many European countries for the harsh nature of the new law, criticism which Mr Putin has found offensive and inconvenient as his country takes the helm of the G8 for the first time. The Russian President, himself a former agent of the KGB, is convinced that some human rights groups are little more than fronts for foreign intelligence services whose sole purpose is to foment political unrest.

Russia believes that "velvet" revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan were all engineered with the help of such groups and wants to make sure the same does not happen on Russian soil. Mr Putin said yesterday, with a hint of triumphalism and a thin smile, that the entire spying incident proved he was right all along. "I believe it will now be clear to many people why in Russia we have adopted a law regulating the activities of non-governmental organisations," he said. "This law is designed to prevent foreign governments from meddling in Russia's domestic political life and to create transparent rules for the financing of non governmental organisations." He went on to describe as "lamentable" Britain's purported attempts to work with Russian NGOs through its "special services". "It's not for nothing in the current case that we say that money does in fact have a smell. Beneficial aims cannot be achieved with unsuitable means," he said. The Russian parliament gave its full support to Mr Putin, passing a resolution condemning the British "spies". The Communist MP Viktor Ilyukhin was one of the few not to support the resolution. He said: "The President needed arguments to explain why he signed the law on NGOs. And this rock (allegedly used by the "spies" as a transmitter) appeared."  Though Mr Putin revelled in his security service's success in catching foreign spies ,he made it clear that he did not wish to exacerbate the situation. Explaining he did not wish to spoil Russia's relations with its "partners", he said Moscow required very little from the international community. "We want one thing - that others regard us as we regard them - with respect."  He played down the possibility that the four British diplomats would be expelled. "If we expel these spies, others will come in their place. Maybe bright ones will come and we'll beat ourselves up trying to find them. We'll think things over."
© Independent Digital



26/1/2006- From five to 14 million illegal migrants are currently living and working in Russia, deputy director of the Federal Migration Service Vyacheslav Postavnin was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying. “Despite the fact that over the past three years the number of foreign workers who came to our country on legal grounds has increased from 378,000 to 460,000 people, the scale of illegal labor migration remains high,” Postavnin said. According to him, 750,000 foreigners were granted work permits in the Russian Federation in 2005. “According to specialists, however, their share does not exceed 10-15 per cent of the real number of labor migrants,” Postavnin said. He stressed that “such a number of cheap workers often encourages unscrupulous employers to employ illegal migrants, thus infringing the rights of Russian citizens, since there is no healthy competition on the market”. Last November Postavnin promised his body would hold an amnesty in 2006 for citizens of former Soviet states who are working illegally in Russia but have no criminal record, as they are now a major source of cheap labor in Russia. At the same time their salaries in Russia allow them to lead a normal life at home. Among the negative factors accompanying the growth in illegal migration, Postavnin mentioned the growing shadow economy, the shortage of taxes collected for the budget, as well as a lack of payments to social funds which leads to labor migrants having no social protection.
© MosNews



26/1/2006- Governments across the European Union aim to hammer out common legislation to fight "tradition-based" violence against women, including forced marriages, genital mutilation and so- called honour-killings, a leading EU official said Thursday. "We are about to set up an EU-wide network and we want common legislation in the near future," Maria Rauch-Kallat, Austrian minister for health and women's affairs, told reporters. Austria is current president of the 25-nation EU. Violent acts based on old traditions affect women in Africa and Asia but also women from these regions living in Europe, said Rauch- Kallat who was attending a conference in Brussels on harmful traditional practices. "Because of global migration, women worldwide fall victim to harmful traditional practices," Rauch-Kallat said. The EU needs to start focusing on problems such as forced marriages, genital mutilation and crimes in the name of honour, she said, adding that an Austrian initiative on these questions could serve as an example for EU-wide action and legislation. About 8,000 girls and women living in Austria are the victims of female circumcision, Rauch-Kallat said, adding that France reported 60,000 such cases, Great Britain 80,000 and Germany 30,000. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 100 million and 140 million women and girls worldwide have been mutilated. Each year, a further two million of girls are at risk, WHO says. Although EU countries prosecute such crimes, each country applies its own national laws. As a result, prevention of such violence has been impossible so far, the minister said. Groups in which such violence occurs observe taboos and collective silence, partly because of justified fears, Rauch-Kallat underlined, adding: "The few spectacular cases that have become known are only the tip of the iceberg."
Education and awareness-raising are the only ways to combat the problem, she said. "Women often think that what is being done to them is normal, they do not even feel that it is injustice," she said. Somalian ex-model Waris Dirie, United States advocate for the abolishment of female circumcision, called on the EU to take immediate action. "We have heard enough words," she told the conference. "There are so many powerful female politicians in Europe now who can show that it is time to break the silence," Dirie added. According to Dirie's autobiography, she herself was the victim of female circumcision at the age of five.
© Expatica News



26/1/2006- The world must remember and apply the lessons learned by the Holocaust, the head of a European watchdog agency that monitors racism and anti-foreigner sentiment said Thursday, on the eve of a global remembrance of the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews. Beate Winkler, director of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, said only openly condemning racist and anti-Semitic acts and teaching new generations can help prevent one of history's most horrific chapters from repeating itself. "It is important to publicly condemn all acts of intolerance and incitement to racial hatred, as well as all acts of harassment or racist violence," Winkler said in a statement ahead of Friday's observances of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Winkler warned that recent data show an increase in anti-Semitism in the European Union in recent years, with incidents ranging from hate mail to arson attacks. "The EUMC deplores this increase in anti-Semitism," she said. "More than 60 years after the Holocaust, we have to ask what the world has learned, because only in remembering and learning the past can we hope to secure the future." "The Holocaust has shaken the very foundations of modern civilization, calling into question our understanding of humanity itself," she added. "The Shoah is a unique crime, the memory of which must be transmitted from generation to generation, so as to sensitize also future generations to the ultimate danger that can come from any form of racism." Winkler urged EU leaders to enshrine into law a proposal to combat racism and xenophobia that would make both crimes punishable throughout the 25-nation bloc, calling it "a strong legislative tool in our joint fight for equality."
© Associated Press



26/1/2006- FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants soccer clubs to be penalized in the standings if their fans or players are found guilty of racist abuse. "I am so disappointed. It is a shame for football that in the year 2006, you still have racism," Blatter said Thursday during a news conference at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. FIFA's legal experts will decide in February what measures need to be taken to strengthen anti-racism rules, possibly including relegation, suspension or expulsion. FIFA's executive committee, which meets March 17, will recommend possible sanctions to national soccer federations. "The only way to fight this is to do exactly what we have done when it came to violence," Blatter said. "We have to take away the points because it happens in those leagues where the money is sufficient so, even if you gave a fine of $100,000, it would be paid the next day. That does not change the attitude, so you have to go into a sporting sanction." Former soccer star Pele said racism in soccer appears to be worse now than when he was playing because there are more minority players. "When I started to play, we didn't see black people in other national teams, only in Brazil," Pele said. "Today you have black players all over the world."
© Associated Press



24/1/2006- The 2nd 'Unite Against Racism' conference in European Football, supported and promoted by UEFA, Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and the RFEF is to take place at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday 1st February 2006, with FC Barcelona acting as hosts. The conference participants include delegates from all of UEFA's 52 member associations, star players, representatives of European clubs, members of FARE's network of organisations, and senior Spanish and European representatives of political institutions. The full conference agenda and main speakers will be published in full nearer the time, but those invited to speak at the conference include; Lars-Christer Olsson, UEFA CEO; Daniela Conti, FARE; Paul Elliott MBE, Special Advisor to the Commission for Racial Equality; representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Spanish Government, and the Generalitat de Catalunya; Charlie Brooks from 'Stand Up Speak Up' campaign and Anthony Baffoe, former Ghana international.

In his welcome notes to the conference, UEFA President Lennart Johansson says:
"Racism is unquestionably one of the most abject forms of disrespect towards fellow human beings. It has no place in our society and even less so in team sports like football, where all members of the team are as equally important when it comes to achieving the desired result." "UEFA has decided to do everything within its power to rid football of this scourge and appreciates the assistance of similarly minded organisations such as FARE, with which it has already worked for several years."

Kick It Out Director and a spokesman for the FARE network, Piara Powar, added:
"The conference is an important opportunity for us all to map out the quickest route to a game free of racism and discrimination." "We are particularly pleased with our relationship with UEFA, which has taken on the role of a proactive governing body. But at national level some administrators in the game are in denial, or do not understand what action to take. One of our aims is to bridge this gap in understanding."

The 2nd 'Unite Against Racism' conference follows the successful inaugural conference held at Stamford Bridge ­ home of Chelsea FC - in spring 2003.
© Football Against Racism in Europe



25/1/2006- A national protest was announced on Wednesday against the keeping of refugee children in closed detention centres. Around 70 organisations said they would be present at the demonstration on 29 January in Liege. The announcement comes after 200 people joined a demonstration in Morlanweiz on Saturday against detention centres. On Sunday, the protesters will march from the town's citadelle to the asylum-seeker detention centre in Vottem. They are calling for Belgian children to join the protest by pinning soft toys to the bars of the gate surrounding Vottem centre. Organisers say it is unacceptable that a single child is held in a closed detention centre while asylum applications are processed. According to a report in the newspaper La Libre Belgique, around 60 children are currently kept in the centres. The organisers of Sunday's protest say they fear that that number could rise after the announcement of Interior Minister Patrick Dewael that family sections would be introduced into the Merksplas and Vottem centres. "That leads us to think that the expulsion and detention of families with children is from now on a priority of the government," said a joint statement from organisers which include civil rights organisations, unions and the CDH and green Ecolo parties. The protesters also think the centres are inhumane for adults, too.
© Expatica News



25/1/2006- In recent months a new MP has emerged as one of Andrzej Lepper's chief advisors. Mateusz Piskorski has spent most of the past fifteen years as student and Ph.D candidate in political science in Szczecin. He has also been a leader in tiny extreme right wing movements that would be amusingly nuts if they weren't so ugly. He first caused a major stir when he was nominated to Samoobrona's European Parliament slate in 2004. Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's most important newspaper (left-liberal) published an article noting his recent past as a skinhead leader and his name was withdrawn, only to come back for last fall's parliamentary elections. Now they've published a lengthy expose. Here are some of Piskorski's greatest hits. In a 1999 article about the conviction of a skinhead for beating up an African American working as a basketball player in Poland. The article is entitled `Judeo-justice' "Many of you [...] must have heard of the punishing of one of the most accomplished members of our movement, Pawel from Stargard. When it occurred, the attack on the nigger Eggelston was widely reported even in the national media [...] The court which handed down this verdict was clearly not guided by the interests of Poland, nor that of the white race. Pawel is in jail, and the provocateur Eggelston still besmirches Polish earth rather than hopping around someplace in Mozambique from one palm tree to another in search of coconuts, is constantly wandering the streets of Stargard[...]'

In his main publication `Odala' he sang the praises of the `Aryan Race' and of Hitler, and supported the struggle against ideologies `foreign to our race, like Christianity, Liberalism, and Marxism' describing Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as the most successful nations of all time, and publishing interviews with Holocaust deniers. As mentioned above, his group was a big fan of Putin and pan-Slavism `Considering the decay and multiracialness of the West, only a united Slavdom - the northern empire of the rising sun - is the hope for the White Race and anyone in the West who does not support the Slavs betrays the White Race and himself' and "Please don't confuse Russia with the Soviets, for there is a fundamental difference. I remind you that the judeo-soviets (yes, it was not Russian, but dominated by that little people [ludek] from the Dead Sea' Piskorski and his friends first tried to enter the political mainstream in 2000, allying themselves with the local PSL (Peasant Party) The leader of the Szczecin branch defended himself, saying `The signing of the agreement is no big deal, just a symbol of the return to the national [narodowy, i.e. protofascist/fascist] tradition in which the peasant movement has its roots. The inclusion of Slavic elements into the electoral campaign is intended to strengthen national identity' (My great grandfather, a senior leader of the party in the thirties and forties must have been rolling in his grave) After a press scandal caused that to fall through he allied himself with Samoobrona for the 2002 local elections and declared `We are Aryans, and we carry the Aryan mission on our banners'. Now as an MP Piskorski seems to be also partial to the loony fringe left, offering his support to and working with the French conspiracy nuts in the Reseau Voltaire, while at the same time declaring his love for Lukashenko and the leaders of the mafia mini-state of Transdniestria. Samoobrona is not a right wing extremist party in any normal sense of the word. There is simply not enough of a coherent ideology to easily categorize. However, the fact that this disgusting nutcase can be an MP and senior figure in a party which is in a de facto parliamentary coalition with the government is just depressing.

The diary is based on the article Posel ze swastyka w podpisie (The MP with a swastika in his signature) by Rafal Pankowski
© European Tribune



The Chamber of Deputies will have to discuss the anti-discrimination bill again because the Senate rejected the bill today.

26/1/2006- The senators believe that the bill is too vague and introduces affirmative actions. The bill was rejected by a narrow majority of the senators when 39 of the 74 senators present voted against it. When the upper house of Czech parliament refuses a bill, it is sent back to the lower house which must deal with it once more. Justice Minister Pavel Nemec (Freedom Union, US-DEU) defended the bill in the Senate today. "It is necessary not only because of international commitments, but also for the citizens of the Czech Republic," Nemec said. Senator Miroslav Skaloud (Civic Democrats, ODS) criticised the bill because of vague and unclear formulations, such as that employers must not create "a flustering atmosphere" in order to get rid of employees. On the other hand, senator Josef Jarab (Open Democracy Club, KOD) supported the bill, arguing that it will help bring the country closer to the civilised world. According to the authors of the bill, some affirmative actions are for the good of the majority society, such as special classes for Romany children which prepare them for school and help them be successful on the labour market. The law, which the European Union wants all its member countries to pass, is to ensure equal treatment of people regardless of their race, gender, age or sexual orientation. The law should ensure equal treatment and access to education, employment, health care, social benefits and housing. It should also protect people from being discriminated against for their physical handicaps, language proficiency, religion, political persuasion, property, family status, political party affiliation or trade union membership. Mothers and pregnant women should also enjoy increased protection. The law should make it easier for them to prove they are being discriminated against by their employers. The approved anti-discrimination legislation is to fulfil the requirements of an EU directive that the Czech Republic is supposed to comply with in light of its accession to the EU in 2004.
© Prague Daily Monitor



26/1/2006- The Senate passed a bill on registered partnership of homosexuals today which still needs the signature of President Vaclav Klaus. If he signs it into law, the Czech Republic will be the first post-communist and 13th European country to embed homosexual partnership. Forty-five out of 65 senators present supported the bill. A majority of senators for the junior ruling Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) voted against the bill. A majority of the three quarters of senators for the senior opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) who did not support the bill abstained. Supporters of the bill say the bill will make homosexual partners' life easier, for instance, in contact with offices. The opponents say it threatens the maintenance of the classical family. The bill defines the establishment and termination of a partnership union that will be entered in the identity card. The bill ensures the partners' title to information on the health condition of their partners and a chance to inherit property just as married couples. The bill also counts with mutual the obligation to pay maintenance and allows the homosexual partners to raise children, but it does not allow them to adopt them. The representative of homosexual organisations who were present in the Senate today praised that no pejorative statements were made about them.

  • "We did not expect such a smooth course, we are pleasantly surprised," Katerina Benova, spokeswoman for the Gay and Lesbian League, said. She said the homosexuals were also much surprised by the cultivated discussion in the Senate, adding that the debate on the bill in the Chamber of Deputies was usually accompanied by denigrating remarks.

  • Brno Bishop Vojtech Cikrle said on behalf of the the Catholic Church that the bill is a step that threatens society.
    "The passing of the bill that allows for defining the coexistence of two persons of the same sex and that puts it on a legal basis has not yet clearly calmed down public disputes that arise in any country during the discussion of both practical matters of the life of persons with different sexual orientation and of the character of homosexuality," Cikrle told CTK. He said that the application of the bill would adversely affect the uniqueness of the institution of marriage and could contribute to chaos in value orientation.

  • "We clearly come out against such public policy that in any way violates the divine gift of lifetime heterosexual marriage," Jiri Unger, secretary of the Czech Evangelical Alliance (CEA), told CTK.

Czech churches are not entirely united on homosexuality, and opinions differ even among members of particular denominations.
© Prague Daily Monitor


National Party, Roma dispute 'intepretations' of concentration camp

25/1/2005- Tensions remain high between Roma, or Gypsy, activists and the country's right-wing National Party, following a nonviolent confrontation in this small village. At the core of the dispute were differing interpretations of history. On Jan. 21, the National Party went ahead with a ceremonial unveiling of a memorial at the site of a concentration camp where more than 300 Roma died during World War II. The village, however, had removed the memorial three days before, amid fears that it would result in a violent clash between the two groups. The memorial, a stone weighing 4 metric tons (8,818 pounds), was designed to call history into question: The National Party says the site, now a pig farm, was merely a labor camp and that Roma perished there through their own fault due to poor hygiene. Originally, the memorial was to say all this, but in the end the party had put a stone in place that said only, "to the victims" — a message that still didn't sit well with activists. The nationalists gathered amid fluttering Czech flags and signs like "Let the pig farm stay" — the government has promised to buy and remove the farm out of deference to Roma — and took turns at the loudspeaker. Their supporters wore white armbands and stood gathered around in the frozen, white field near a hole in the ground, where the memorial rock had stood just days earlier. Petra Edelmannová, the party's chairman, said, "It's a sad day when the word of Gypsy provocateurs has more weight than the words of historians." Her voice was excited and shaking when she concluded: "We are giving the stone to the Gypsy bard Èenìk Rùžièka, so that he may use it as the founding stone of a new pig farm." Unrest broke out when two protesters, including Markus Pape, leader of the Committee for the Compensation of the Romany Holocaust, entered the crowd, shouting "Death to Nazism!" The police arrested Pape for causing a disturbance. "You are the neo-Nazis," shouted some of the National Party supporters at the protesters. "You are the ones protesting a monument for the victims of the Holocaust." After about an hour, the nationalists and their supporters, who by far outnumbered the Romany activists, marched in procession, waving Czech flags, and departed in a bus. Anna Polaková, one of the people protesting the action, was outraged. "It's catastrophic. They know what happened here," she said. "Today it's just a march, but what will it be next time?"

The pig farm
Roma activists and civil rights groups and, most recently, the European Parliament, have been pushing for years to have the pig farm removed as a sign of respect to the tragedy that took place there. Prime Minister Jiøí Paroubek promised to resolve the matter by the general election in June. But so far, the government has failed to make any headway in buying the property and removing the farm. In an interview with The Prague Post several days before the gathering, Edelmannová said the unveiling of her party's memorial was to be the official start of the National Party's election campaign. "We want to let people know that 800 million Kè [$33.74 million] of taxpayers' money will be wasted," Edelmannová said, referring to the price the owners of the pig farm are asking. "We know from historical sources that the camp there was just a labor camp," she said. It is this claim that has earned the party accusations of racism. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has asked the police to start monitoring the activities of the National Party. The party, which has no seats in Parliament, could lose its registration if the police find proof that the party's platform includes racist ideology.
© The Prague Post Online



Platform called racist; Edelmannová defends her party as patriotic

25/1/2006- Petra Edelmannová is proud to be Czech. So much so, in fact, that she co-founded the right-wing National Party — officially registered since 2002 — that places Czech national interests at the top of its platform. She wants a tighter immigration policy, a greater emphasis on traditional values and greater autonomy for the Czech Republic, which essentially translates to leaving the European Union. She says the country needs to promote nationalism more, and even conservative political parties like the Civic Democrats aren't doing enough on this front. But many Czechs view the party's platform as xenophobic and racist, and in recent days the party has been all over the Czech papers, surrounded by controversy in connection with what some say is its refusal to acknowledge World War II atrocities affecting the country's Roma, or Gypsy, population. For the nationalists' part, they are striving hard to present themselves as a legitimate political movement rather than a bunch of extremists. "Czechs should never be ashamed of being Czech," Edelmannová said. "I am a nationalist and I'm proud of it." If, as Edelmannová says, today's political parties are not doing enough to promote patriotism, it seems that, according to preference polls, the majority of Czechs don't agree. The National Party, which Edelmannová now chairs, has always been better at garnering controversy than at attracting voters. The party has no seats in Parliament and political analysts say it has little chance to make any headway in the upcoming general election.

Concentration-camp controversy
The recent controversy started with a memorial stone that the party placed on the site near a pig farm in Lety where a concentration camp used to stand during World War II. More than 300 Roma died there, but the National Party denies that it was an extermination camp. The party says it was a labor camp, where the interned Roma died through their own fault because of poor hygiene. The stone was to originally bear a plaque saying as much. At the last minute the Nationalist Party decided to only post a sign saying "to the victims." But the municipality had the sign removed, just days after its installation. The party says the controversy surrounding the memorial is a witch hunt led by the Czech media.

The 'patriotic' parent
Edelmannová is a bit of a political anomaly. At just 30 years old, the attractive, petite blonde, who is currently on maternity leave with her 2-month-old daughter, Tereza Anna, is the youngest party chairman in the country. She studied political science at the University of Economics in Prague and is currently working toward finishing her doctoral thesis on nationalist parties and movements in the Czech Republic. Before taking time off to care for her daughter, she worked as a banker. On a recent afternoon, Edelmannová sat in a dingy pub in Kolovraty, a suburb of Prague where she now lives with her new family, and explained why she thinks nationalism is so important. She chose her statements carefully in a brittle, high voice. Whenever asked about her personal life, her answers became curt and vague, and when pressed on accusations of racism, she avoided taking the issue head-on. Across from Edelmannová sat Dušan Kuèera, first deputy chairman of the party, ready to interject if any point of the discussion needed further explaining. To her right was her young daughter, sleeping undisturbed in a baby carriage. As a new mother, Edelmannová said she is particularly bothered that Czech schools don't focus enough on national values and traditions. According to Edelmannová, young Czechs today don't place much emphasis on their nationality. She cited a study that found that a large proportion of young people here feel more European than Czech. Edelmannová said that may be because Czechs feel ashamed of their country. "Our membership in the European Union bypassed our Czechness," she said. In fact, it was the Czech Republic's efforts to join the EU that propelled Edelmannová to help establish the National Party. Edelmannová strongly disagreed with this membership. "Creating some sort of Euro-regions is not a good thing," she said. "We have our own longstanding traditions that we need to preserve."

Against immigrants
It is this last point that hints at why the National Party has attracted the fury of civil rights organizations and minority groups. Edelmannová openly proclaims that a major threat to preserving Czech traditions are immigrants, many of whom, she says, adapt poorly and end up as unemployed disruptive elements in the society. "Immigration needs to be more strictly regulated," she said. "We can't just hand out citizenships like on a conveyor belt." But what about the country's aging population? Don't most demographers agree that the Czech Republic needs immigrants, if only to remain economically viable? "I don't agree," she said. "Replacing the Czech population by increasing the number of immigrants isn't a good idea." Too many immigrants, Edelmannová says, could eventually lead to riots similar to those that took place in France last fall. "We can't let in just anybody, without making sure that they will respect the values of our country and assimilate to their new environment." According to Edelmannová, rather than letting in more immigrants, the government should be doing all it can to help increase the birthrate among its citizens. She appears to be practicing what she preaches: Edelmannová says she plans on having several more children in the near future.
© The Prague Post Online



26/1/2006- Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has accused the media of "institutional racism" over the way it reports murders.  Sir Ian said that murders in minority communities appeared "not to interest the mainstream media", and added that he could not understand why the Soham murders attracted so much attention. He highlighted the recent "terrible" case of 31-year-old lawyer Tom ap Rhys Price, who was stabbed to death as he walked home from a tube station. On the same day Balbir Matharu, an Asian man, was dragged to his death by two car stereo thieves but received little press coverage in comparison. "I actually believe that the media is guilty of institutional racism in the way they report deaths," said Sir Ian. "That death of the young lawyer was terrible, but an Asian man was dragged to his death, a woman was chopped up in Lewisham, a chap shot in the head in a Trident murder - they got a paragraph on page 97. "With one or two exceptions, clearly Damilola Taylor was one, the reporting of murder in minority communities appears not to interest the mainstream media." Sir Ian said his force had to respond to varying interest in different crimes, and added that some cases caught the public interest more than others. Responding to the comments about the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, he said nobody was suggesting the crime was anything but "dreadful", but that it was one of the crimes that "struck at the national psyche". "There are lots of murders of people that do not get that kind of coverage - sometimes they do, sometimes they just don't. Putting it bluntly, it is a quiet news day, it's August, these things can blow up."
© The Daily Telegraph



24/1/2006- The army look set to be embarassed by new revelations about racism after it emerged that the words "die nigger" were scrawled on the barrack doors of a black squaddie. The Sun newspaper has reported that ex-cop Shaka Wallace suffered a whole catalogue of racist abuse. The case, which is due to reach an employment tribunal later this month, is the latest allegation of army racism and is likely to further undermine attempts to recruit more soldiers from Black communities. Mr Wallace claims he was subjected to constant racial insults which left him "humiliated and embarrassed." The former paratrooper will tell the court he was kicked out after complaining about his treatment. Trinidadian Mr Wallace says he was publicly branded a “Yardie”, and on one occasion a Sergeant Major knocked off his beret, telling him he was “not worthy to wear it”.

Mr Wallace is quoted as saying: “Racism is rife and the Army seems to just brush it under the carpet. My superiors thought by getting rid of me they could get rid of the problem. I feel so frustrated and cheated. It’s ruined my life.” Mr Wallace was based with the Paderborn regiment in Germany, and drove Challenger II battle tanks in the prestigious Royal Hussars. He said: "I was so excited about becoming the best solider I could. Now I’m fighting the very people I wanted to be. And I know other black and Asian soldiers are suffering.” Mr Wallace made a complaint last March and immediately began to experience unfair treatment. He developed depression and was thrown out in July, after two years in the Army. “I’ve not been able to find work since. I'm sleeping on sofas and my life’s a mess. "I hope the truth will come out and I finally get justice. The Army needs to face up to the problem of racism.” An MoD spokeswoman said: “We cannot comment as it is the subject of legal proceeding. But the number of incidents of racially motivated harassment is relatively low.”
© Black Information Link



24/1/2006- A British National Party activist said today he did not blame "all Asians" for race problems in Britain. Mark Collett, 25, denies a series of speeches he made in 2004 were intended to stir up racial hatred and told the jury at Leeds Crown Court he did not intend to stir up fear and, through fear, hatred of Asian groups. Collett is on trial alongside BNP leader Nick Griffin, 45, in relation to speeches they both made in West Yorkshire which were recorded by an undercover BBC reporter. Under cross-examination by Rodney Jameson QC, Collett denied he was referring to all Asian people when he said in a speech: "If you want these people out, vote BNP."
Collett said: "That would not be party policy. "The full force of the speech would be about criminality that's disproportionately dealt with by the establishment."  He admitted that his speeches raised the possibility of white people being slaughtered "by any or all ethnic minorities". "But in no way do I blame the ethnics for that," he said. He insisted that he blamed the establishment, the Labour Party and the media for a series of race problems and said his only intention when he made the four speeches was to motivate his audience who, he said, were party members and supporters attending on an invitation-only basis. Standing in the witness box wearing a grey suit, pink tie and white shirt, Collett said he agreed that racism was a "bad thing". "Anyone who intends to stir up racial hatred is doing a bad thing, yes," he said. He admitted it was the BNP's policy to "repatriate" Asian criminals and to stop asylum seekers from entering the country. He also agreed that only white people were allowed to become members of the BNP.

Collett said he could not say whether he would have made the same speeches if the audience had included Asians or asylum seekers because he said that situation would never arise. Asked if he thought it would be fair to say that all Asians hated white people and wanted to destroy "us", Collett said: "Possibly slightly unfair." Asked again by Mr Jameson if he thought that statement would only be "possibly slightly unfair", Collett said: "Possibly, yes." Collett repeatedly denied that a series of references in his speeches to "these people" referred to "all Asians", insisting that he had different specific groups of people in mind each time - including Asian criminals, rapists and rioters. He said he based everything he said on press cuttings, with the exception of one claim about a firing range being found under a mosque in Bradford, which he said was based on a tip-off from a police officer. When asked the officer's name, Collett said he could not remember and insisted it would not have surprised him if it was true and had not been covered extensively by the media. "No, that would not be remarkable," he said. "That would be another case of media inequality." Collett, of Swithland Lane, Rothley, Leicestershire, denies four charges of using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred and four alternative charges of using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred. Griffin, of Llanerfyl, Powys, Wales, denies two charges of the first offence and two of the latter.
© IC Network



23/1/2006- The family of murdered black Merseyside teenager Anthony Walker are to set up a charity in his name to fight racism.
The Anthony Walker Foundation will promote integration with money raised by the sale of wristbands. Anthony's sister Dominique told the BBC her family would go into schools and colleges to get their message across to young people aged from 11 to 20. Paul Taylor, 20, and Michael Barton, 17, were jailed for life in December for the racist murder of Anthony. The wristbands will say "In memory of Anthony Walker" with a message from his mother Gee on the other side reading: "Don't let my son's death be in vain." Dominique Walker said: "The money will go towards a charity that we are in the process of setting up called the Anthony Walker Foundation. "We will be going into schools, colleges and stuff like that and basically promoting integration and trying to change people's thinking." Gee Walker admitted she would find going into schools to talk about her son hard. She said: "Nothing good comes easy so it will be difficult. "The trust's theme is one person can make a difference and if we can reach one child and that child goes on to have a family you're reaching a family. "We're hoping if we reach one we will make a difference."
© BBC News



23/1/2006- Europe's biggest exhibition of modern-day Islam will take place in London a year after the 7 July bombings in an effort to depict the religion in a positive light. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is set to launch the event which hopes to "combat the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings of Islam". IslamExpo will consist of a series of exhibitions on Islam's cultural heritage, lectures, debates, films, stand-up comedy and workshops at Alexandra Palace. Organisers plan to invite survivors of the Tube attacks to attend with a special commemoration on the day. It is hoped that the event will help to improve relations between Britain's 1.8 million Muslims and the wider community. The exhibitions will be divided into three zones: "Discover Islam", which will feature famous mosques and a demonstration on a prayer platform; "Muslim Civilisation", which traces Islam's history; and "Muslim World", which covers Palestinian history, religious chants and a gallery of famous converts. Seminars ranging from democracy and jihad to Muslim gardening and agriculture will also take place. The event has received the backing of numerous Muslim groups as well as the al-Jazeera news channel and the Greater London Authority If it is successful, it could become an annual event in London. Anas Altikriti, the director of IslamExpo, who recently went to Iraq to plea for the release of the kidnap victim Norman Kember, said he hoped the event would "build bridges". "We do not want a target audience of just Muslims or just white British males. The hope is that all kinds of people will visit and go away thinking about things, and not that Islam is a danger or a threat. The mere initiative of a positive dialogue has been absent for the past two or three years," he said. Ihtisham Hibatullah, from the Muslim Association of Britain, the group that devised the project, said the exhibition would be a celebration. "It will be a Muslim festival. It came about because of the negative polarisation of Islam and the West and it is a way of taking Islam forward, a change from what we have been going through for the past four years." The exhibition aims to draw Arab businesses to the capital by encouraging trade from 54 Islamic countries in a dedicated financial conference. Mr Livingstone said: "IslamExpo offers a unique opportunity for dialogue that furthers strong community relations and greater understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim people. "In addition, it will enhance London's reputation for cultural and creative diversity whilst promoting London to key businesses and decision makers as a business and tourist destination."
© Independent Digital



By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

23/1/2006- I have not been invited to the Holocaust Memorial Day service this Thursday, not being a kosher enough Muslim for the choosy powers who decide the list. It is not too late. Can I come please? There are some empty seats going, now that the Chosen Ones from the Muslim Council of Britain have once again declined to mourn victims of one of the deadliest mass exterminations in human history. (Along with Stalinism, Maoism, the brief but deadly Pol Pot project and, most recently, the Hutu massacres of millions of Tutsis in Rwanda.)

The dead of Rwanda and Bosnia are included in the laments, but the MCB says the event is "too exclusive", too focused on Nazism. There weren't millions of Muslim corpses in Auschwitz, yet further evidence, I suppose, that Jews always want to hog the attention. The Muslim MP Khaled Mahmood supports the day because "people who were exterminated in the Holocaust were not just Jews". Welcome to the morally grubby and soulless world of our so-called leaders.

The Holocaust happened in modern times; it was intellectualised, well planned and exactly calculated in account books by cultured Europeans who pampered their dogs and adored Chopin, Diaghilev and Rembrandt. Germany at the time had an outstanding education system. The men, women and children gassed, tortured, starved, scientifically mutilated and hurled into mass graves were mostly Jews and all those the Aryan puritans declared "the other" - gays, blacks, mixed-race people, those with broken bodies and disoriented minds. Nazism reminds us how thin is the coat of European civilisation and that it can be thrown off by the slightest provocation or none at all.

Today the new Jews of Europe are Muslims, and ironically Sir Iqbal Sacranie is forever pointing this out. He has modelled himself on the Chief Rabbi, and both remind us constantly of the real and imagined discriminations against their flocks. Before Europe relocated its guilt and shame to the Middle East and cut up Palestine, before the present hatreds that now divide the two Semitic tribes, Muslims and Jews had much in common, and still do in many Middle Eastern countries in spite of the exploding anti-Semitism and the unjust politics of right-wing Israelis. Fahima Huda, the only Muslim on the Holocaust Memorial Trust, reasserts these ancient bonds and deep connections.

Since the organised massacres of Muslim males in Bosnia, we 16 million European Muslims live with a menacing whirr at the back of the head, ghostly fears that the fires next time will burn with our bodies. We are today's despised "other", blamed for all the ills of the world which is still largely controlled by Christians. We have to atone ceaselessly for the Taliban and al-Qa'ida and home-grown men of violence. We are expected - just as Jews were in the thirties- to bend our heads and take the slurs, looks of hatred, to accept the burden of shame. By remembering the Holocaust with past victims, we remind ourselves of what could happen in the future. And strategically the snub is self-defeating. Envious Muslims believe Jewish people in the West are now in positions of unbeatable power and influence. This boycott will not be forgotten by a people with a long memory. When the boots kick down the doors and they come for us Muslims or our children, perhaps good Jews will not speak up and we will rue the day we callously refused to pray for their lost generations.

Too dumb for even our times
Whenever Big Brother is on air, I lose the will to live, sink into thick gloom, worry that humans are regressing into creatures with less self-respect and coherence than zoo chimps. The dejection is even worse in January, such a penetratingly miserable month. Suddenly some light breaks through. All is not lost. Discernment can still command the fingers on the remote button. Sky TV has spent a million pounds advertising its new series, Project Catwalk, with Liz Hurley, right, as the bait. Half naked as usual, she tries to get us excited enough to stay with 12 wannabe designers she orders about in her posh accent. Tedious, banal, derivative, too dumbed down even for our times, I thought. The viewing figures should lead to sackings, perhaps the beginning of the end for these junk programmes. 650,000 punters watched The Simpsons, on before the programme and only 250,000 stayed on for the models. Please don't tell me they were turning to Big Brother. Let this flash of optimism stay awhile ...

Brits loved the whale coming into England, but other foreign animals are less fortunate. A cull is planned of grey squirrels because they are pests, and not British. They are detested for destroying the red squirrel and breeding successfully. (Biped immigrants can empathise, blamed as we are for doing and breeding too well.) I love them dearly, and the flock of green birds which squawk in the garden, another gang of outsiders. In truth, reds were hunted down before greys came from North America. This policy is jingoistic, anti-enterprise and anti-American, and we should protect our furry and feathered migrants. If they must cull, why not pick on native vermin - the rat, for a start?
© Independent Digital



23/1/2005- Muslims are turning up the heat and threatening boycotts over cartoons depicting Islam's prophet, Mohammed, following a decision by a second media outlet in Scandinavia to publish the caricatures. A Norwegian Christian paper, Magazinet, this month reprinted a series of "Mohammed" cartoons that caused an uproar after first appearing in Denmark's largest circulation daily, Jyllands-Posten, last September. Magazinet said it decided to print the 12 sketches in a show of support for Jyllands-Posten and to highlight the freedom of speech issue. "Just like Jyllands-Posten, I have become sick of the ongoing hidden erosion of the freedom of expression," wrote Magazinet Editor Vebjoern Selbekk. The Danish paper attributed its original decision to publish the pictures to a desire to test the limits of free speech. Since then, it has received death threats, heavy criticism from Islamic organizations and governments, and expressions of concern by the U.N. human rights commissioner. A U.N. rapporteur on "contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance" has asked the Danish government for a formal explanation of its stance by this week. Jyllands-Posten Editor Carsten Juste told Magazinet last weekend that the nature of the response to the publication showed just how necessary the debate was. Magazinet, too, quickly found itself the recipient of emailed threats, including death threats. Another Norwegian paper, Dagbladet, has also published the cartoons online, although others in the country have criticized the decision.

One of the cartoons shows "Mohammed" with his eyes blacked out, carrying a curved dagger and flanked by women wearing burqas. Another has him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, complete with lit fuse. In a third picture, the points of a crescent moon peeking out from behind the subject's head take on the appearance of horns. Muslims consider blasphemous any image purporting to be that of Mohammed. Following the cartoons' appearance in Norway, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a grouping of 57 Muslim or mostly Muslim states, issued a new statement on the row, warning that the move could trigger acts of violence. OIC Secretary-G eneral Ekmeleddin \'ddhsanoglu said publication of the sketches was "misguided" and "Islamophobic," and went beyond freedom of expression. "They violate international principles, values and ethics enshrined in the various resolutions and declarations of the United Nations." \'ddhsanoglu, a Turk, said the caricatures would "play [in]to the hands of extremists and create backlashes by alienating masses." The OIC expected Christian and Jewish leaders to take a public stand on the issue. He also argued that the OIC position should not be "misrepresented" and seen to be contrary to democratic principles. In other reaction, a Danish Muslim body is planning to take the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to the European Court of Human Rights after attempts to bring a legal challenge in Danish courts ran into difficulties.

Muslim leaders in the country have spoken of the need to "internationalize" the issue, and the strategy has shown some success. Apart from strongly worded statements from the OIC and the Arab League, other Muslim groups are promoting boycotts of Danish and Norwegian products and activities. The International Union for Muslim Scholars said in a statement on Saturday that if authorities in Denmark and Norway do not "take a firm stance against these repeated insults to the Muslim nation," it would urge millions of Muslims across the world to support a boycott. The body is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent and controversial Egyptian cleric who has called Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis justifiable "martyrdom operations."  Saudi Arabia's Arab News reports that a campaign is underway in the kingdom to boycott Danish products until the country's government issues a formal apology. Muslims angered by the cartoons' publication have been frustrated by the authorities' hands-off approach. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier refused to meet with a delegation of diplomats from 11 Islamic nations to discuss the matter. He explained that he had no power -- and wanted no power -- to restrict freedom of the press in Denmark. In a New Year speech to his nation, Rasmussen took a conciliatory line, stressing the importance of protecting free speech but also saying it should be exercised in a way that does not incite hatred or cause splits in the community. Unusually, the address was translated into Arabic this year. Muslims account for about 3 percent of Denmark's 5.4 million, mostly Lutheran Protestant, population. In Norway, around 1.5 percent of the 4.6 million people are Muslims. Last month, a top Norwegian security expert warned that it was only a matter of time before Islamic terrorists launched attacks in Scandinavian countries, which he said were attractive to radicals because of their liberal reputations.
© CNS Newscast



26/1/2006- Racism and sexual harassment could lie behind the higher incidence of suicide attempts amongst teenagers adopted from foreign countries. Girls are particularly at risk, according to a Swedish study which has looked into the problem. "I'm concerned that racism is a bigger problem than we previously thought," said researcher Frank Lindblad to TT. Earlier research has indicated that adopted teenagers from foreign countries are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers. There are a number of possible factors behind the phenomenon. Society's prejudice against against people of different appearance can be an important one, according to Lindblad, a researcher at the Institute of Psyhosocial Medicine and a member of the team behind the current study. Lindblad and his colleagues looked at 13,000 adopted children who were born between 1963 and 1973 and followed them up to 2002. Just over half were born in Sweden and the rest in other countries. The results show an increased risk in both groups of attempted suicide, but a significantly higher risk amongst the foreign adoptees. Discrimination could be an explanation. It's also not unusual for foreign adoptees to have greater problems in finding their identity in relation to their parents and society as a whole. The situation is most serious for women. Suicide attempts are several times higher amongst foreign female adoptees than amongst Swedish born women of the same age. The difference is big even compared to adopted women with Swedish biological parents. The research team believe they've detected a pattern following interviews with young adopted women of Asian descent. "People have preconceptions that [women of Asian descent] are promiscuous, prostitutes, have a strong sex drive and are considered to be exotic," said Frank Lindblad, who believes that such sexual prejudices can be difficult for the women concerned to understand. The study is published in the scientific journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
© The Local



23/1/2006- Fewer than half of the asylum seekers whose cases are being dealt with under provisional immigration regulations will be allowed to stay, according to the latest forecast from the Swedish Board of Migration. "If this is true, there's going to be trouble," said Ulla Hoffman of the Left Party. Sweden's parliament voted in November to give asylum seekers whose application has been rejected a second chance to obtain a residence permit. The law, which is valid until March 31, 2006, concerns rejected asylum seekers whose deportation order was not carried out due to conditions in their home countries, as well as families with children who went into hiding in Sweden after having their applications were refused. Sunday was the halfway point for the provisional law and so far 5,794 cases - a quarter of the total - have been dealt with. In 83% of those the asylum seeker was requesting residency. But the number of Migration Board approvals has steadily fallen since the law was introduced, and is expected to fall further. The Migration Board is first dealing with the applicants who best meet the residence permit criteria, so as time goes on, fewer are likely to be accepted. Up to 15,000 people are now facing deportation - for a second time. The Board predicts that 46% of the estimated total of 28,000 whose cases are being heard will be expelled. But that contrasts with the political promise that "the majority will be able to stay", which the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party agreed upon when the law was rushed through in the autumn. "No, this is not at all what we agreed, said Ulla Hoffman to TT. The forecasts were not mentioned at last week's meeting with the government, said Hoffman, who promised trouble if they turned out to be accurate. The Green Party's Gustav Fridolin was also involved in pushing the law forward, but he was a little more sanguine about the forecast. "As the law was constructed, several different groups get a hearing. The Green Party's responsibility is to see that the families with children are able to stay," he said. That covers around 8,000 of the 24,000 people who have applied to stay in Sweden under the provisional law. 11,000 applicants are men or women who came to Sweden alone. Among the 5,632 people who have come forward after being in hiding, around 2,500 are single.
© The Local



Three out of four women born to immigrant parents in Denmark have a job. A pleasant surprise, say labour market experts

24/1/2006- Immigrant daughters have been breaking down social barriers by joining the workforce in greater numbers than their parents, according to a recent study. While only half of female immigrants between the ages of 30 and 35 have a job, 76.1 percent of second-generation female immigrants the same age are employed, according to the study conducted by the Danish Confederation of Labour Unions (LO). 'When talking about integration, the big surprise comes with women in the second generation,' said Jan Kærra Rasmussen, the head economist for LO. 'Their participation in the labour market is so close to their brothers and husbands that the trend of women staying at home and housekeeping seems to be over.'  Integration into the labour market has been a major immigration concern, Rasmussen told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende. 'The new figures show a massive potential for improvement among descendants, which women have already taken advantage of to a large degree,' he said. The study sheds light as to what degree women with an immigrant background have joined the labour market. Labour market analysts had feared that second-generation immigrant women would have difficulty breaking traditional roles as homemakers. 'We have worried that female descendants would have problems,' said Michael Rosholm, professor of economics at Aarhus University. 'The question has been whether they would follow their mothers' employment figures or the rest of the Danish women's participation. It appears as if they lie closest to the Danish women's and that is good.' The education system played an important role in the progress of young immigrant women, said Vibeke Jakobsen of the Danish National Institute of Social Research. 'School provides girls with a chance to leave the four walls of their home,' she said. 'They can use the education system to liberate themselves from traditional gender roles that can continue in the form of a job afterward.' The minister of employment, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, considered the recent figures a positive development for securing workers for the welfare society of the future. 'Things look bright with regard to boosting integration in connection with coming welfare reforms,' said Frederiksen. 'Integration is one of the areas the government has chosen to concentrate on because it provides a large potential for expanding the labour force.'
© The Copenhagen Post



26/1/2006- A bitter row over a French law that recognises the "positive role" of colonialism appeared to be close to resolution Thursday after President Jacques Chirac asked for the controversial clause to be struck off the statute books. The president accepted advice from a parliamentary committee to resort to a rarely used constitutional procedure in order to remove the offending article — which appears in a government bill passed a year ago providing financial compensation to repatriated colonials. The clause is to be referred to the country's constitutional council — a nine-member body that decides on the constitutionality of laws — on the grounds that it is outside the competence of the legislature. Article Four of law 2005-158 states that "scholastic programmes recognise in particular the positive role of the French overseas presence, especially in north Africa, and accord to history and to the sacrifices of army soldiers from these territories the eminent place that they deserve." At Chirac's request, the constitutional council is expected to rule that school texts are fixed by government regulation not by law, and that the clause is therefore unsustainable. The device provides the government with a get-out from a highly embarrassing episode, which further damaged relations with the country's black and Arab populations just as the country was reeling from last November's rioting in high-immigration suburbs.

The clause was introduced as a private amendment to the wider law by a right-wing member of Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), and it went unnoticed for several months until a petition circulating on the Internet began to draw the media's attention. Academics said the article was a flagrant intrusion by politicians into the realm of historical debate, while left-wingers accused the government of trying to lay down an official version of the colonial past that ignored its huge human cost. Opposition drew to a head shortly after last year's riots when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to cancel a trip to France's territories in the Caribbean because of a threat of anti-government demonstrations — even though he made clear he personally had little truck with the law. Virtually the whole political class expressed satisfaction Thursday with the apparent resolution of the impasse. Veteran Affairs Minister Hamlaoui Mekachera, who drafted the overall law, said Chirac's intervention was a "solution of wisdom and conciliation." For Christiane Taubira, a black legislator from French Guyana, the decision was one of "lucidity, wisdom and courage which will finally bring an element of reconciliation and allow us to cool down the debate." The Algerian government, which vehemently opposed the law, also expressed satisfaction, with a spokesman for the ruling coalition partner the National Democratic Rally (RND) saying its abandonment could open the way to a long-awaited treaty of friendship between the countries. But some historians remain concerned about the on-going temptation among French politicians to make legislative pronouncements on historical events, and are campaigning for three other laws to be repealed. These are a 2001 law recognising the Turkish massacres of Armenians in 1915 as genocide; a law from the same year recognising slavery as a crime against humanity; and a 1990 law which makes it a criminal offence to deny certain defined crimes against humanity. "We have to abrogate all these so-called laws of memory. Even if they are well-intentioned, they end up trying to impose a particular vision of history," said Paris-based historian Jean-Jacques Becker, a specialist in World War I.
© Expatica News



24/1/2006- Pig's tail, pig's feet and other pig parts, all tossed into a pot with turnips, carrots and onions. Perfumed with smoked bacon and served steaming hot. Delicious! But there's trouble brewing in this broth. Small groups linked to the extreme right are ladling pork soup to France's homeless. Critics and some officials denounce the charity as discriminatory: because it contains pork, the soup is off limits to Muslims. Critics view the stew - dubbed "identity soup" by its cooks - as a cynical far-right ploy to penetrate the most vulnerable level of society while masking their intentions as humanitarian. The associations offering the soup are satellites of Bloc Identitaire, a small, extreme-right movement that defends the European identity and, as its leader Fabrice Robert said, "the rights of the little whites." "It's not that we don't like Muslims. It's a problem of critical mass," Robert said in a telephone interview. "Just 1,000 Muslims in France poses no problem, but six million poses a big problem." The country's Muslim population - the largest in western Europe - is estimated at five million, many of them French citizens. The associations deny any ties to the far-right National Front party, which opposes Muslim immigration and built its reputation around the theme of "French first." Still, the National Front salutes the pork soup project. "One has the right to be charitable toward whom one wants," said Bruno Gollnisch, the party's No. 2. Moves to forbid soup kitchens offering pork reveal authorities' "alienation" from the French people, he said. Pork soup is an age-old staple of the rural heartland from which all the French, at least in the national imagination, are said to spring. The groups dishing up the soup say their victuals are no more than traditional French cuisine and deny they are serving up a message of racial hatred - a crime in France - or that they would refuse soup to a hungry Muslim or Jew.

In Strasbourg, pork soup was banned this month after officials deemed it could disrupt public order. "Schemes with racial subtexts must be denounced," said a statement by Strasbourg Mayor Fabienne Keller. More than a dozen police surrounded volunteers at a recent soup distribution at Paris' Montparnasse train station. Once police determined there was pork in the broth, they ordered the container sealed because the group had no permit. There has been no outright ban on pork soup giveaways in Paris, but police have been using the permit issue as a way to shut down the kitchens and avert racial tensions. Volunteers at the train station nodded their heads toward the line of police officers and mumbled about "thought police." "I want the French to feel at home in France," said Louis Castay, 75, a volunteer and former National Front member who long held a seat on the Paris region's municipal council. "We want to put an end to this anti-French racism." His remarks reflect the Bloc Identitaire's view that needy French are wait-listed for social services in favour of immigrant Muslims. This is the third winter "identity soup" is being offered in Paris. But its spread to Nice, Strasbourg and Nantes as well as Belgium is raising eyebrows. A leading anti-racism group has urged Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to ban pork soup giveaways throughout France. For Bernadette Hatier, vice-president of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, the real motive of the soup servers is to drum up far-right votes ahead of 2007 presidential elections. National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the country and the world in the last presidential vote in 2002 with his second-place showing behind President Jacques Chirac. However, a leading expert on the extreme right dismissed any notion of a political future for the pork soup movement. "They are trying to profit from a context of fear of immigrants" following November unrest in heavily immigrant neighbourhoods, said Nonna Mayer. But the proportion of French who think there are too many immigrants has fallen - from 73 per cent in 1995 to 63 per cent today, she said. Many of the homeless lining up for pork soup seemed oblivious to the debate. "All associations in Paris give out ham or bacon. It's like roast beef in Britain," said 45-year-old former farm worker Daniel, who declined to give his last name.
© Associated Press



A secondary school in Berlin has decided to ban Turkish and other foreign languages spoken by its pupils in an attempt to improve German language skills at the immigrant-dominated facility.

25/1/2006- The ban has unleashed a heated public debate about foreigner integration in German society with some politicians arguing the move is counterproductive and discriminates against foreigners. School authorities, however, claim their students' command of German has improved markedly over the past few months. Until about six months ago, the mix of languages to be heard in the schoolyard of Berlin's Herbert-Hoover School was of truly Babylonian multi-tongue dimensions. The school is located in the immigrant-dominated district of Wedding. Ninety percent of the school's students have immigrant parents, with Turks in the majority followed by smaller groups of Arabs, Croats, Russians and Pakistanis. Since September of last year, however, they are not allowed to speak in their native tongue at school. The rule has become enshrined in the school's code of conduct, agreed to by parents' representatives and school authorities. School headmaster Jutta Steinkamp says her pupil’s command of German has improved substantially.

Language a basis for efficient integration, says school head
"We have introduced this ban to enable our students to take part in German society through speaking and understanding the language properly," Steinkamp said. "Knowing the language is a precondition for successful integration and we've been making much progress in the past few months with regard to our students' language skills." But some politicians want Herbert-Hoover-School's "ban" on non-German language to itself be "banned." Members of the Left Party and the environmentalist Greens accuse Berlin's school authorities of discriminating against immigrants. Özcan Mutlu is of Turkish origin himself, and serves as the Green's spokesman for education. "I think this is an inappropriate means because it says that foreign languages are not welcome at this school." he said. "It's unbelievable that parents who are aiming to register their children at this school have to sign papers that basically ban their children from speaking their own language. The goal behind all this may be correct but the way towards achieving it isn’t."

School admissions up as support grows
Herbert Hoover School has seen school the number of applications rise by 20 percent in recent months, and it enjoys nationwide support from teachers' associations. And some students believe the ban may be good for their future. "I find this quite all right," said one student, born of Turkish immigrants, "because in later life we'll need German much more than Turkish. If you want to learn a profession and earn a living knowing German is absolutely necessary." In spite of the criticism, school authorities all over Germany are now thinking of adopting the model of Berlin's Herbert Hoover School. They see a chance to help come to grips with the problem of rising unemployment and poverty among Turks and other large immigrant groups. According to a recent survey the risk of immigrant pupils leaving school without a certificate is three times higher than for native German pupils. The prime reason, the report says: a lack of basic language skills.
© Deutsche Welle



As a rule, German schools offer three hours of sports instruction each week. In Berlin, many students are refusing to partake -- especially Muslim girls.

23/1/2006- Berlin Senator for Youth, Education and Sports Klaus Böger is back in the hot seat, this time for implying that Muslim society is behind the steady decrease in girls taking part in physical education classes. Böger recently ruffled feathers by proposing to substitute school religion classes with ethics -- without offering an alternative religious option for Muslims or any other group. Now, he has vowed to fight the trend that has increasing numbers of Turkish and Arab girls sitting out gym class on the sidelines.

'They miss class constantly'
Antje Henze is a sports teacher at a trade school in Berlin's heavily Muslim Neukölln district. Many of the girls in the school, which has an 80 percent Muslim population, wear head scarves, long skirts and body-covering long coats. Henze acknowledged her students are increasingly finding reasons to skip gym. They say they forgot their sports clothes, are sick, or have other complaints that keep them from taking part, she said. "There are girls that miss sports class constantly," Henze said. According to Henze, another problem is that the kids who do not participate bother those who do. "They sit on the benches, talk loudly, and don't have anything to do for one and a half hours. … Even the children who are active will go over and start talking to them." Detlef Pawollek, also a gym teacher at a Neukölln school, said he's familiar with the problem, too. "There are some classes where more children are sitting on the benches than participating -- in the end sometimes only two or three students are participating."

More than just a teenage problem
Yet the problem is not simply a teenage girl's lack of desire to take part in sports, Böger said. Muslim parents and culture are to blame for the girls' lack of participation. "It may be true that girls are frequently excused from gym class, especially in puberty, because of some Islamic beliefs. These excuses are even written by doctors, who hold the same set of beliefs. It makes it very hard to enforce the class," Böger said. "This is different from the typical, well-known problem (of wanting to skip gym) in puberty. It is a systematic cutting-off of sports classes," he added.

More physical complaints
While cutting gym class may sound unimportant, Böger noted it can have dramatic results. More and more, Muslim girls are reporting physical complaints like headaches and back or joint pain. In some mosques, pre-printed materials circulate on how to officially excuse girls from physical education, along with addresses of sympathetic doctors who are prepared to write official excuses, Böger said. Now the senator said he no longer wants to play that game. He has sent a letter to all schools indicating that religion and ideology aren't acceptable reasons for missing physical education. Education in public schools is geared toward developing individuals, he said, people who should be able to shape their own, independent lives. And that goes for Muslim girls, too.

PE is 'elementary part of child rearing'
"Sports classes are not just about physical conditioning. Fitness is certainly important, but PE is an elementary part of education and child rearing," Böger said. "In physical education classes, they can learn very important attitudes and virtues. Developing self worth, a sense of fair play … and now we know that sports help develop the ability to concentrate." Teachers have already seen change as a result of Böger's push for sports as a means of integration. According to Henze, the gym teacher in Neukölln, she recently had a "super class" of gym students. Only half the class showed up, but "all the girls who were there had their gym clothes, and took part."
© Deutsche Welle



24/1/2006- Ukrainian Jews are disappointed by the decision of Ukrainian state television to cancel its Jewish-themed weekly show.
Reasons given for the show’s cancellation have been mixed. Many Jewish groups and the show’s producers said that the show’s criticism of a prominent public figure known for his anti-Semitism directly caused the show to be nixed. State television officials — and some Jewish figures as well — said the show suffered from a lack of quality. “Mazel Tov” covered Jewish life in Ukraine and abroad, Jewish traditions, culture and issues of concern to the Jewish community. The only Jewish-themed show on Ukrainian state television, “Mazel Tov” lasted for five seasons, and was a successor to the country’s first Jewish television show, Yahad. Vadim Rabinovich, president of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, told a Jan. 18 news conference that the National Television Company of Ukraine, or NTKU, canceled the show because it was critical of Georgy Schokin. Schokin is the head of MAUP, a private Kiev university whose leaders triggered international condemnation for their repeated anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements. Although company officials and others questioned the quality of the show, Rabinovich and several Jewish leaders suggested that politics motivated the decision. Rabinovich whose own company produced the “Mazel Tov” show for the state-owned UT-1 channel, said had recommended the producers to avoid criticizing Schokin. “Our TV company refused to accept the blackmail,” and as of Jan. 1, the agreement between the channel and his company was revoked and the show was canceled, Rabinovich said. Rabinovich said that he was given an ultimatum by a top-level state television manager to stop criticism of Schokin to avoid the show’s cancellation.

In response to JTA’s inquiry, a state television representative said that the manager in question, Oleg Kuzan, a state television vice president, retired from the company on Nov. 1. State television management denied Rabinovich’s accusations, saying that the cancellation of the 20-minute show was due to its low ratings — and that some other shows were canceled alongside the Jewish one. Vitaly Dokalenko, state television president, told JTA that the cancellation of “Mazel Tov” was nothing but a part of the company’s “production process” aimed solely at improving the quality of the channel. Moreover, Dokalenko added, no one pressed him on the “Mazel Tov” show, and state television had long consultations with the show producers on how to improve its popularity with the viewers but nothing had changed. “Mr. Rabinovich, on behalf of Jewish community, is now demanding to bring back on air the “Mazel Tov” show in its old form, and I only insist on having a high-quality TV show about Jewish people,” Dokalenko said. But Vladimir Orlov, director general of AITI, the company that produced “Mazel Tov,” told JTA that Dokalenko had demanded to change the entire concept of the show. According to Orlov, “in our meetings, Mr. Dokaleko demanded that our show should cover only cultural aspects of Jewish life and not touch some political issues.” Orlov said the producers will soon present a new concept of the show to state television shortly. Mikhail Frenkel, the man responsible for the content of the Yahad show in 1992-2001, said the arguments of the state television managers are beyond criticism. “UT-1 is state and not a commercial channel, and it should cover cultures of all ethnic minorities in Ukraine, including Jews,” said Frenkel, who is now the head of the Association of Jewish Media in Ukraine. Some Jewish leaders said the cancellation of the show was an especially sensitive issue because it occurred on the eve of the parliamentary election due in March.

“It’s a shock,” said Arkady Monastyrsky, director general of the Jewish Foundation of Ukraine, a group that promotes Jewish culture. “This is some kind of a political game which I don’t understand. After all, AITI paid for the air.” Some other leaders believe that cancellation of the show was inspired by anti-Semitism. “I’m sure that this is anti-Semitic act of those who support MAUP,” said Eduard Dolinsky, executive director of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, referring to the controversial Kiev university. But other Jewish officials disagreed with that view. A Jewish show on state airwaves “is very important for democratic development of Ukraine but I’m not sure that the show was canceled because of MAUP,” said Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, leader of the Reform movement in Ukraine. Josef Zissels, leader of the Ukrainian Va’ad, an umbrella organization, echoed him: “We should investigate the case and return a Jewish show on the airwaves of the national television as soon as possible.” But Zissels remarked that the show as it existed was also of a dubious quality and did not reflect the variety of Jewish life while “covering mainly Rabinovich and his organizations.”
© JTA News



22/1/2006- Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk's recent anti-immigrant measures, including a rule to speak Dutch in public, drew fire from Muslim minority leaders as well as from her own party. "Linking integration to speaking Dutch in the street is nothing but an attempt to turn a blind eye to certain realities on the ground," Dris Boujoufi, the deputy chairman of the council of Muslim representatives in the Netherlands, told Sunday, January 22. "Immigrants of the second and third generations who were born, raised and taught in the Netherlands are yet unable to integrate though they speak Dutch." Verdonk told a meeting of her liberal VVD party on Saturday, January 21, that immigrants must comply with a national code of conduct by speaking Dutch in the street. Her proposal drew immediate fire from some members of her own party. "I can't see what would hurt the minister or others if I spoke Surinamese with a friend in the street?" asked Laetitia Griffith, a member of Amsterdam's College of Aldermen which creates and maintains the city's systems and policies jointly with the city council and mayor. Born in Surinam in 1965, Griffith has lived in the Netherlands since 1987 and has worked for both the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor's Office. From 2003 to 2005, she was a member of the Dutch House of Representatives.

Boujoufi also criticized recently-approved rules obliging prospective immigrants to take tests, for which they will have to pay, to prove their knowledge of the Dutch culture and language. From next March, foreigners seeking to immigrate to the Netherlands will have to sit, in their countries of origin, a test costing 350 euros ($425) before being granted a residence permit. This also applies to scholars and imams. The law further obliges any immigrant who wants to bring a relative into the country to have a salary exceeding the lowest rate of wages in the Netherlands. "This violates international law on rights of minorities and right to family reunion and marriage," Boujoufi said. He asserted that the new rules would make it almost impossible for foreigners to marry except native Dutch.
The law exempts European Union nationals, Canadians, Japanese, New Zealanders and Americans from taking the test. "This is a discrimination against certain minorities," Boujoufi charged. He stressed that the law mainly targets Muslim immigrants, especially from Turkey and Morocco. "This is because immigrants from these countries usually prefer to marry from their countries of origin." Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population. Turks represent 80 percent of the Muslim minority. Europe’s main rights and democracy watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concern in May 2005 at the increasing Dutch intolerance towards Muslims and the "climate of fear" under which the minority was living.
© Islam Online



23/1/2006- A well-known Polish politician’s call for the demolition of the New Synagogue in the city of Poznan has drawn fierce criticism from Polish Jewish leaders, as well as an anti-racism group. A leader of the 12-member Jewish community of Poznan, Alicja Kobus, described Marcin Libicki’s statements as “shocking.”  Another senior member of the community described Libicki as “our own Poznan anti-Semite who the people of Poznan do not agree with.” Libicki, a member of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party elected to the European Parliament, argues in the Jan. 12 Poznan edition of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper that building the synagogue was “an openly anti-Polish act” and part of “a plan of a Kulturkampf,” or cultural struggle, “which provided for the cultural minimizing of expressions (also architectural expressions) of Polish and Catholic influences in the city.”  Libikci’s comments reflect a key criticism of Jews by a small group of nationalists in contemporary Poland — that historically Jews were traitors who betrayed Poland to the Prussians and then to the Russians. The synagogue was built in 1907 while Poznan was under Prussian rule, which was dedicated to eliminating all signs of Polish national aspirations. Libicki, an art historian from Poznan, writes that the synagogue has no “aesthetic value,” as the Nazis gutted it during their occupation of Poland, chopping off its once-spectacular dome and turning its interior into a swimming pool, a function the former house of worship still holds today. Because it would be too costly to rebuild — Libicki estimates the price tag at $3.2 million — and because of its unpleasant history, he writes that perhaps it would be better to demolish the synagogue and excavate beneath its foundations to expose the city’s ancient walls, which could serve as a tourist attraction.

Public perceptions of Libicki may be hard to gauge, although Piotr Boyarski, a political reporter for Gazeta Wyborcza in Poznan, said he has a solid base of “traditional Catholic voters.” However, many of his supporters “are not likely to agree with his ideas about the synagogue,” he added. The future of the synagogue has long been a subject of debate in Poznan, with an American living in Poznan, Andrew Hingston, calling for a competition including Polish Jews and non-Jews to plan for its future. The local Jewish community, in cooperation with the Poznan City Council and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, is seeking to transform the synagogue into a cultural and educational center for ethnic and religious tolerance, explained Piotr Kadlcik, the union’s chairman. So far, however, they have not been successful in finding a private donor to fund the project. Libicki is well known for what some observers call eccentric and nationalistic views, but it’s his current political prominence as a representative of Poland in a European legislative body that annoys human rights supporters. Marcin Kornak of Never Again, a Polish anti-racism group and magazine, said, “The extremist activities of Marcin Libicki belong to the lunatic fringe and yet he is an influential member of the ruling party.” Never Again points out that Libicki has a history of anti-Jewish stances, such as his opposition to property restitution to former Jewish owners. Until recently, he was a member of the National Right Party, an official sister party of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s xenophobic National Front in France. The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University calls the party “a radical anti-Semitic and racist organization.”

In November, Libicki unsuccessfully tried to get the Poznan public prosecutor to instigate charges against the Simon Wiesenthal Center for slandering the Polish state by stating on its Web site that anti-Semitism existed in Poland. Libicki claims that the site misleads readers to believe that the 3 million Polish Jews killed by the Nazis were killed by Poles because of the way in which the anti-Semitism reference was placed. In 2001, Libicki also advocated the release from custody of Henryk Mania while he was on trial for being a guard at the Chelmno death camp. Libicki said a man of Mania’s advanced age should not have to suffer in prison before a verdict was reached. In a phone interview, Libicki told JTA, “I have no problems with Jews. They have made significant cultural achievements, as poets, for example. It’s all a misunderstanding,” he said, referring to accusations that he was anti-Semitic. He added that he was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel. Further, he suggested that his stance on the synagogue is actually pro-Jewish. “It’s not right that there is a Nazi-built swimming pool in a former synagogue where people worshipped. It’s not for me to decide what will be done of course, but I think the city should buy the building back from the Poznan Jewish community and then build a new synagogue at a site where a medieval synagogue once stood,” he said, expressing an opinion that Jewish officials in the country find absurd. There were approximately 40,000 Jews in the region when the synagogue was built, about 3 percent of the population. Most left before World War II, the remaining 1,500 Jews nearly all died in concentration camps. The city council has repudiated Libicki’s proposal and so has Poznan’s archbishop, Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue. “I am treating his proposal as a piece of humor and I know the authorities see it the same way. No one takes him seriously.” But he admitted that “Libicki gets attention” with his proposals.
© JTA News



A Turkish court has dropped a case against the country's internationally renowned writer Orhan Pamuk, who faced charges of "insulting Turkishness".

23/1/2006- The move came after the justice ministry refused to issue a ruling as to whether the charges should stand. The case drew criticism from the EU, which Turkey hopes to join one day. Mr Pamuk was said to be delighted that charges had been dropped. They related to his remarks on Turkish 20th-Century killings of Kurds and Armenians. Brussels had described the case as a litmus test of Turkey's EU membership credentials. The European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the court's decision to drop charges was "good news for freedom of expression in Turkey". But he warned that Ankara must tackle loopholes that restrict freedom of speech in other cases. The trial was halted on 16 December and adjourned until 7 February.

Others accused
Mr Pamuk's translator and friend, Maureen Freely, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the author was overjoyed that the case had been dropped. But she said other similar trials were still due to take place in Turkey. "In two weeks time there are going to be eight new trials opening and our concern is that, because Orhan is no longer part of this group, that there will be less international pressure," she said. "In fact there should be more international pressure, because there's a real chance that we can convince the government that it should drop these laws altogether and turn Turkey into a democracy along European lines." The case stems from a magazine interview last year in which Mr Pamuk said: "One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it." Turkey maintains the deaths of Armenians in conflicts accompanying the collapse of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th Century were not part of a genocidal campaign, arguing that many ethnic Turks were also killed in that period.

High profile
Turkey also denies its efforts to contain a separatist uprising in its Kurdish community in the 1980s and 1990s can be classed as genocide. Mr Pamuk was accused under Article 301, which makes it illegal to insult the republic, parliament or any organs of state and can lead to a sentence of up to three years in jail. The justice ministry's permission was sought because of a dispute over whether Mr Pamuk was to be tried under Turkey's old penal code or a recent, revised version. Mr Pamuk has the highest profile among a group of more than 60 writers and publishers facing similar charges in Turkey.
© BBC News



22/1/2006- Extreme right wing groups from eastern Europe are planning to subject England’s black football stars to racist abuse during the World Cup tournament in Germany. The gangs, from Serbia, Croatia and the Czech Republic, have held meetings at which they agreed to put aside traditional rivalries for the duration of the tournament. Radi Jiricna, a Czech organiser of the “United Fascist Brigade”, warned: “We will be coming together to fight in Germany . . . our spiritual home. We are looking for black English players because they are taking the places of white players.” The Sunday Times has learnt of a meeting held two months ago in Serbia, involving six Czech skinheads and the Delije, notoriously violent supporters of Red Star Belgrade. Two weeks later they met a group of hooligans from Croatia. Fifteen years ago a pitched battle in a football stadium between Red Star fans and a rival Croatian club was one of the sparks that ignited the Balkan wars. One of the Serbian organisers, Dragan Banovic, explained: “Germany will be one big battleground this summer. This is an opportunity for our groups to shout our message and to know people will hear it.” Banovic, a former paramilitary who fought in Bosnia alongside Arkan, the Serbian war criminal assassinated in 2000, added: “For the time of the World Cup, traditional rivalries will be forgotten. I will be able to stand alongside others from Zagreb and Split, from Prague, Rome and Milan to shout with one voice because we all feel the same. “There will be many more in Germany who will have sympathy with us and we think we will be able to cause many problems for the police. Our targets are the black players and those who follow them. The black players from England will be a good target for us because they will react to what we shout and to the banners we will be carrying. We will be throwing more than bananas at them.” The thugs say they will not be deterred by measures intended to prevent them from buying tickets, and will fight outside the stadiums. They plan to link up with like-minded hooligans from Italy’s notorious extremist groups to create “Ultras United”.

At a meeting held in London last month, European police chiefs discussed how to prevent fascist groups from targeting African teams and black members of the England squad, such as Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell and Ledley King. Two other England players, Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips, were the victims of monkey chants a year ago during a friendly game against Spain. The Spanish footballing authorities were forced to apologise for the behaviour of spectators in Madrid. Piara Power, national co-ordinator of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign, said: “In some places in eastern Europe, whenever there is a Jewish or black player on the field of play, they are constantly abused.” Despite the relatively low levels of disorder at Euro 2004, held in Portugal, and the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, senior officers are worried that Germany will be harder to police. It has open borders with nine neighbouring countries. More than 3,200 England fans identified as troublemakers will be stranded at home under banning orders that require them to surrender their passports and report to local police stations on match days. One police source, with responsibility for monitoring Europe-wide hooliganism, said peaceful England fans might now be prime targets for troublemakers seeking to test their prowess. Superintendent Andreas Morbach, joint head of the German police Landeskriminalamt football intelligence unit, based in Düsseldorf, said: “We have a big potential for violence from our supporters. They live here, they know how to act and they are now prepared.” Morbach said that 9,000-10,000 German hooligans could become violent, depending on the provocation. The German police are concerned that visiting England and Holland fans will be wearing replica plastic Nazi storm-trooper helmets in the colours of their country. A Dutch firm will this week start production of helmets bearing the flag of St George and the slogan “No One Likes Us” usually chanted by Millwall fans. Florian Van Laar, joint head of the company producing the helmets, said: “It is meant as a joke. The Germans are not meant to have a sense of humour, but we Dutch do have one. We are getting calls from all over Europe, even from those who have not even qualified for the tournament. After all, the Germans invaded most countries, so people want to wear these. If they think this is provocation, the only thing I can say is, now you know how we feel.” Morbach said: “It is not nice to have a sports event compared to war. We try to use as our theme for this cup, ‘It’s time to make friends’.”
© The Times Online



23/1/2006- A large majority of the Irish think there are enough or too many foreign workers in the country and a similar majority (78%) want to reintroduce work permits for workers from new EU member states, according to a fresh poll published in the Irish Times. Only Ireland, the UK and Sweden have accepted free movement of labour from new countries entering the EU block on 1 May 2004. But the other 12 'old' EU countries will decide on whether to open up their labour markets as well in just three months from now. While admitting foreign workers are good for the Irish economy and society, the poll pointed to an overall agreement that foreign workers have made it harder for Irish people to get jobs and are pushing down pay and working conditions. Forty one percent of respondents said that there are now enough foreign workers in Ireland and that no more should be admitted. Twenty nine percent believe there are too many foreign workers in the country and that steps should be taken to reduce their number. Only 23 percent believe more foreign workers should be allowed to come and work in Ireland, the poll revealed, while 7 percent offered no opinion on the matter. The TNS poll was conducted among a national quota sample of 1,000 voters last Monday and Tuesday. National measures restricting the free movement of labour were imposed by 12 of the 15 'old' member states (except Ireland, Sweden and the UK) on eight new Eastern and Central European EU member states in May 2004. Three new member states (Hungary, Poland and Slovenia) imposed reciprocal restrictions on labour flows in the opposite direction. The restrictions, which were set for an initial two years, are to be reviewed before member states decide on whether to apply them for a further three years from May 2006. Member states are obliged to notify the European Commission in advance and to present "justified reasons" for an eventual continuation of their restrictions after 1 May 2006.

Labour warns against knee-jerk reaction to migrants poll
© Irish Examiner

23/1/2006- The Labour Party is warning against a knee-jerk reaction to an opinion poll this morning showing that a vast majority of voters want EU migrants covered by a work permit scheme. At present, citizens of any EU member state can travel to Ireland to work without any restrictions. More than three-quarters of respondents to this morning's Irish-Times/ TNS mrbi poll are unhappy with this situation and want a work permit scheme introduced for these workers. Seventy percent also said they believed there were already enough or too many foreign workers in Ireland. The Labour Party has been seeking a work-permit scheme for EU migrants for some time, claiming it would ensure decent working conditions and prevent exploitation However, party spokesman Brendan Howlin said the Government should not rush through hasty laws in response to the poll. "We need to put procedures in place to get things right and we can do that in a calm and measured way," he said.
© EUobserver



23/1/2006- Non-EU citizens will from Monday (23 January) have better access to work in western Europe than people from new EU member states, as a 2003 EU directive on third country nationals enters into force. The bill gives migrants resident in the EU for five years or more with "adequate resources" equal access to education and training in 22 out of 25 member states, with the UK, Ireland and Denmark opting out. The legislation will affect up to 10 million people living in Europe, the European Commission said. In contrast, most EU countries except the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Spain and Finland are planning to keep their labour markets closed off to new member state workers until 2009 under "transitional arrangements" in the accession treaties. The legislation means, for example, that a Congolese national living in Belgium since 2000 would have the right to work there, while a Pole living in Belgium for an equal amount of time, would not.  The European Commisison called the discrepancy a "complexity", noting that the so-called third country national directive was drafted and passed before the May 2004 round of enlargement. "It is completely up to member states whether to uphold the transitional agreements or not," social affairs spokeswoman Katharina von Schnurbein indicated. The commisison will on 8 February present a report urging old Europe to open its doors to the new members, piling on the political pressure, she added.

17 member states face court action
Meanwhile, member states' implementation of the directive is proceeding slowly, with just five out of the 22 - Austria, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia - having so far notified Brussels of transposing the directive into national law in time for the Monday deadline. Home affairs spokesman Friso Roscam Abbing indicated the commission "does not want to play the bad guy" on the bill but is prepared to drag members through the EU court if they don't fall into line in the next few months. "We very much regret the delays," he said, stressing that signatories have had two years and the help of special EU expert commitees to get the job done.

Robust immigration policy
Mr Roscam Abbing explained that the other side of the coin on EU immigration policy is the fight against illegal migration and efforts to boost social integration within European cities. He said that justice commissioner Franco Frattini's plan for a Mediterranean zone EU-funded coastguard will "help save lives" with 220 new migrants washing up on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday. The spokesman also said the EU might hold a major integration conference in Rotterdam this Spring. Eurostat recently revealed that immigration is shoring up the EU's declining birth rate, with almost 1.7 million more migrants settling in the EU than leaving the bloc in 2005 compared to just 330,000 new people born in Europe. Spain welcomed 650,000 migrants, Italy 340,000 and the UK 200,000 while Germany and France took in 100,000 each. But the migration figure is still 150,000 less than in 2004 with the EU population standing at 461 million at the start of 2006.
© EUobserver


Headlines 20 January, 2006


20/1/2006- A Berlin school has banned its students from speaking languages other than German while on school grounds. "The language of our school is German, the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany," reads the 'house rules' of the Herbert-Hoover Realschule, which every pupil is required to sign. The rules go on to say that, "Every pupil is obliged to only communicate in this language [German] within the jurisdiction of the house rules." The rules' jurisdiction is defined as including not only the school itself and its grounds, but also school excursions. Green politician Özcan Mutlu has protested to the school committee of Berlin's House of Representatives, calling the rule anti-constitutional and discriminatory. "This kind of ban is okay in lessons," he told the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel. "But everything else is going too far." Education senator Klaus Böger is defending the rule in the school committee. According to his speaker Jens Stiller, parents were supporting the rule. Some parents brought their children to school precisely because they hoped they would then learn better German, Stiller told the Tagesspiegel. According to Mutlu, about 90 percent of the children at the school were of non-German origin. The school is located in Berlin's impoverished Wedding district which is home to many immigrant families.
© Expatica News



19/1/2006- The Deputy Secretary General, at the opening of this mobile exhibition organised by the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, said ''Europe has a duty to protect the Roma and Sinti community from the systematic, regular, repetitive racism its members continue to be victims of across Europe on an almost daily basis.'' She also pointed out that the Council of Europe hosted the first ever session of the European Roma and Travellers Forum last December.

Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio At the opening of the exhibition “The Holocaust against the Roma and Sinti and present day racism in Europe”

“I once had a great family, but the Black Legions murdered them all…” The lyrics of the Romani anthem “Gelem, Gelem” speak of the loss and the pain suffered by the Roma and Sinti during the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of them have been killed during the Holocaust and Europe has a duty to remember and to speak out because silence has always been an accomplice of crime and persecution. I should like to thank Mr Romani Rose and others who are investing so much effort in battling against this silence and keeping the memory alive.

Europe also has a duty to educate. It would be difficult to find an example of more deeper rooted, more widespread and more persisting prejudice than the one against Roma and Sinti which continues to blind so many of our fellow Europeans. The only way out is to teach – about Roma and Sinti, about tolerance, about acceptance and about respect.

Europe also has a duty to act and help the Roma and Sinti community to free itself from the social and economic deprivation in which so many of its members continue to live in European countries. Prejudice and discrimination cannot only be talked down, they must be lived down.

Europe also has a duty to protect Roma and Sinti community from the systematic, regular and repetitive racism its members continue to be victims of across Europe on an almost daily basis. Sometimes this persecution takes the form of violent acts committed by deranged individuals or groups, which is terrible. Very often, it takes form of official acts, which is even worse.

The vocation of the Council of Europe is to protect human rights and human dignity and it is therefore logical that work on and especially with Roma and Sinti represents one of our key priorities, in which virtually all parts of the Council of Europe are involved.

The objective of Council of Europe work is full emancipation of Roma and Sinti within the European society. This is not an easy task because it needs to overcome not only years, but generations of accumulated injustice and accumulated pain.

Just recently, the Council of Europe hosted the first plenary of a forum bringing together a wide representation of Roma, Sinti and Kalé, as well as those defining themselves as Travellers. The Council of Europe is proud of its support to this project initiated by the Finnish President Tarja Halonen, but we are, of course, open to all other initiatives, projects and forms of cooperation. The only way forward is to focus on what is important, to work together with – and to work together within – Roma and Sinti in Europe.
© Council of Europe



More foreign pupils came to school than Spaniards this term as the number of immigrants rises. But some state schools are increasingly getting reputations as 'ghettoes' for foreign children. Graham Keeley asks expat parents about their concerns for their children's schooling.

19/1/2006- The Monjoia Schoool in Sant Bartolomeu del Grau, near Barcelona, perhaps typifies a very real educational conundrum in Spain today. There are 117 children in this state-run primary, 54 percent of whom are the children of immigrants. Most are Moroccans or Argentines. Schools like this are increasingly becoming the norm as the number of immigrants rises. Some 6 percent of Spain's 42 million population are from another country. If the numbers of foreigners moving to Spain continues to rise at the same pace, by 2015 one in three people will have come from another country. And schools like Monjoia are not simply places where poor Third World immigrants send their children. Figures for 2002-03 showed 80 percent of expats sent their children to state schools; only 20 percent opted for the private sector. Spanish parents, as well as other expats, are concerned that if some immigrant children do not speak Spanish then their children's progress will be slowed down as teachers have to compensate. Maria Teresa Feu, director at Monjoia, concedes this happens. "You have to accept that if a large number of the children do not speak Spanish properly then the children are not going to learn at the same level or the same speed," she says. Feu admits it has caused conflicts between the Spanish and Moroccan parents. "We have been accused of racism on both sides. Some Spanish parents have said we favour Moroccans, while some Moroccans said we treat their children like slaves. We throw ourselves into teaching and treat them all the same." Maggie Burke, a British language teacher, and Bruno Sempere, a French-born Catalan, who runs his own ceramics business, have two children. Megan, aged ten, goes to a state primary school in Barcelona and six-year-old Matt is at a kindergarten. Burke believes that when there are "too many immigrants" in a class it can cause problems for the children. And she acknowledges that for some parents it can be frustrating to see their children "hampered" by the language problems caused by other immigrant children.

Burke, 36, says: "For us the public system is just as good as the private and in fact there are better facilities. "There are immigrants in my daughter's class – she is one of them - but this does not cause difficulties. There have only ever been two children who could not speak the language properly, a Russian and a Romanian. "However, when the majority of students are immigrants it can cause a problem." She relates a story about a friend whose daughter was held back in her maths class because the teacher wanted to slow down the progress of classes because of language problems. "My friend was told that her daughter could not go on to learn division because the class had not got that far," she says "This was doubly frustrating because my friend is a maths teacher and had to teach her at home to make sure she was not falling behind."  American-born Mike Younkman, 42, who works in training, and his Spanish wife, Ana Fernandez, 40, a university professor, have three children. The eldest daughter, Sara, seven, goes to a state school in Barcelona. Their other children, Ariana, four, and seven-month-old Max are too young. Younkman believes that the number of immigrants can have an important effect on the progress of children in the schools. "We are going to leave our children in the state schools for the time being as we are happy with the progress that Sara is making. The teaching methods that they use are very good," he says. But, from anecdotal evidence, the ratio of immigrants to Spaniards in classes can make a difference to a child's progress, believes Younkman. "Sometimes, the number of immigrants in a class can be a factor. My sister-in-law in Madrid has seen that some state primary schools seem like ghettoes, with more immigrant children than Spaniards." To integrate children, some schools give lessons about the cultures of some immigrants or feed them food from other countries. They also teach them about Spanish culture. Feu insists this is not "ghettoisation". "We do everything possible to make sure that this doesn't happen. We are always coming up with new ways to avoid isolation so that the school and the village does not become a ghetto."

Regions with the highest numbers of foreign students
Academic year 1996-97      2000-01
Madrid             15,831       38,587
Barcelona         18,363       23,493
Andalusia            4,824      17,099
Valencia             6,113      12,254
Canaries             5,628      10,441
Balearics            2,207        5,774
Murcia                  826        4,332
Castilla y Leon   2,320         3,893
La Mancha         1,061         3,449
© Expatica News



19/1/2006- Spain's anti-violence commission has asked the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to investigate comments made by the Athletic Bilbao coach, Javier Clemente, following his team's 2-1 defeat at Barcelona on Sunday. During the stormy league match Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o was caught on television cameras spitting at the Bilbao defender Unai Exposito and Barcelona's Portuguese midfielder Deco was sent off for hair-pulling. Clemente, a former coach of the Spanish national team, told a post-match news conference: "Deco should have been more of a gentleman. Grabbing someone's hair is worse than tugging someone's shirt. "Spitting is ugly behaviour too. I thought it was something that people who had just come down from the trees did." The anti-violence commission issued a statement yesterday that read: "The commission have asked the RFEF to open a disciplinary investigation into comments made by Clemente at the end of the game. "It is worried that these actions and comments could encourage violent conduct and racist or xenophobic actions. For this reason we have asked the RFEF and all the other sporting bodies, clubs, players, coaches and directors to refrain from making these types of statements." Earlier yesterday Clemente defended his comments in the Basque newspaper Deia: "I didn't talk about colour. I only spoke about people who spit at others on the football pitch. It doesn't make any difference if they are black or white. It's the interpretation that is racist." The anti-violence commission asked the RFEF to investigate Luis Aragonés's racist comments about Arsenal's Thierry Henry in 2004, resulting in a €3,000 (£2,000) fine for the current Spain coach. The president of the Confederation of African Football, Issa Hayatou, yesterday called on Europe to do more to stamp out racism in its football and to release Africa's players to play for their countries. Hayatou told CAF's congress in Cairo that "unfortunately, the fight against racial discrimination is never over. The news we have been getting regularly, notably from Europe, obliges us to be extremely vigilant." In a direct call to the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, and his Uefa counterpart, Lennart Johansson, Hayatou said: "Help us. Make sure that those responsible for racist acts are unmasked and condemned, and... prevented from highlighting differences. It is down to you to act firmly to safeguard our most precious possession - football." Hayatou, speaking two days before the Nations Cup kicks off in Egypt, then took a swipe at European clubs who he said were selfishly treating football as a financial accounting exercise in their dealings with African national teams. "Do not lock yourself into an egotistical and a purely accounting approach to football."
© The Guardian



18/1/2006- British right-wing radical David Irving, presently in pre-trial custody in Vienna, is writing his memoirs, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. "Perhaps I should call them 'My War'," 67-year-old Irving was quoted as saying. He is due to go on trial on February 20 under Austria's anti-Nazi laws. "I would be less confident if I didn't know that the intellectuals of the world are on my side," he declared.  Irving has been in jail in Austria since soon after he entered the country in mid-November at the invitation of the German-nationalist "Olympia" student fraternity. Police arrested him driving his car on a motorway in Styria province. Just beforehand, Irving had caused controversy with two lectures in Vienna and the town of Leoben. He denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz, and of Hitler's persecution of the Jews, claiming instead that the Nazi dictator had "held his hand protectively over them." Irving also alleged that Nazi pogroms against Jews had been committed by "unknown" persons disguised in the uniforms of Hitler's elite force SA. He now faces charges under Paragraph 3 of Austria's banning laws on Nazi revivalism, which carry a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment. A report in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung meanwhile said Irving was on a list of possible participants in a conference planned at an unknown date by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give an "academic" front to his anti-Jewish polemic. Others on the list included such questionable so-called "experts" as Morst Mahler, who converted from being a member of the radical left-wing German terror group RAF to a neo-Nazi, Israeli journalist Israel Shamir who converted to Christianity, American revisionist Arthur Butz and his French colleague Robert Faurisson.
© Expatica News



20/1/2006- Remember the American South in the early 1960s? Or South Africa in the 1980s? That is what Western Europe in the early 21st century is beginning to resemble. A school in Amsterdam has introduced separate entrances for white and coloured pupils. At the Rietlanden/8th Montessori school in the east end of Amsterdam there are two separate entrances 30 metres apart, one for native Dutch children and one for immigrants. The school authorities claim that this situation has nothing to do with racism because the school welcomes children from all ethnic groups. All it wants is for them to enter through different doors. The school constitutes a complex with two sections. One, the coloured section, is called “Rietlanden,” the other, the white section, “8th Montessori.” “For one reason or another our school had acquired a bad reputation,” headmistress Annemieke van der Groen says. “In such a case you can invest in quality as much as you like, but it is difficult to convince white parents to enroll their children here. If they come to have a look, they say ‘You know, with all these black children’ and enroll their children elsewhere.” Hence, the two entrances and different names for the same school.

Local councillors Fatima Elatik and Ahmed Aboutaleb are not happy with the situation. They are in favour of mixed schools and suggest enforcing this by forbidding white parents from enrolling their child in a school unless they bring along a non-white couple with a child to enroll as well. Deputy headmistress Nelly Bruin of the Rietlanden school opposes such a measure: “What you will see then is that highly educated parents will bring along educated immigrants. You will end up with schools for uneducated immigrants and white trash. That is not what you would want either.” This type of problem is likely to increase in the future. Of the 16 million inhabitants of the Netherlands, ten percent are immigrants. There are 1.1 million “traditional immigrants” – mainly Turks and Moroccans – and 560,000 (former) asylum seekers. Of the latter group an additional 10,000 enter the Netherlands each year, of the former some 55,000. These are mainly young people of childbearing age.

There are currently 359,000 ethnic Turks in the Netherlands, 45% of whom are “second generation” Turks, meaning that they were born in the Netherlands. There are 316,000 Moroccans, of whom 47% are second generation. Among the asylum seekers the largest groups are Iranians (37,000, of whom 12% are second generation) and Afghans (29,000, of whom 17% are second generation). 190,000 babies were born in the Netherlands in 2005. The birthrate is declining fast. In 2004 there were 195,000 births; in 2003 there were 200,000; in 2002 there were 202,000. The Dutch authorities expect that by 2010 the number of births will have fallen below 180,000. Within this shrinking group, the number of immigrant newborns (second and even third generation) continues to grow: from under 40,000 in 1996 to over 48,500 in 2004. A quarter of them are ethnic Moroccans, 20% is Turkish. In Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague half the newborns are of non-Western origin. Dutch women have on average 1.5 children. The number for Moroccan women living in the Netherlands is 3.3 and for Turkish women 2.3.
© Brussels Journal



20/1/2006- Migrants who want to come to the Netherlands will from March be obliged to take an inburgering (acclimatization) test in the country they are applying from. A majority of the Tweede Kamer supported the plan of immigration minister Rita Verdonk when it was presented on Thursday, provided that candidates are not punished for any teething troubles with its implementation. By setting out clear guidelines for would be migrants (joining families or coming for marriage, for instance), it is hoped the compulsory test will force migrants to be better prepared for life in Dutch society before they arrive. Candidates must take the exam – in Dutch - at an embassy or consulate. It will test their knowledge of the language and culture and be taken over the phone, verbally, using a PC with speech recognition software. There have been some doubts expressed as to the quality and reliability of the new technology (the ‘phonepass system’), but on advice from the government research institute TNO, Verdonk believes the trial can go ahead. To prevent unmerited failure, the results of the first 500 candidates will be carefully checked by four examiners. Candidates experiencing technical trouble can re-do the test for free, and an independent commission will follow the whole process and examine the results.
© Expatica News



The Dutch government will announce over the next few weeks whether it will make it a crime to wear traditional Islamic dress which covers the face apart from the eyes.

16/1/2006- The Dutch parliament has already voted in favour of a proposal to ban the burqa outside the home, and some in the government have thrown their weight behind it. There are only about 50 women in all of the Netherlands who do cover up entirely - but soon they could be breaking the law. Dutch MP Geert Wilders is the man who first suggested the idea of a ban. "It's a medieval symbol, a symbol against women," he says. "We don't want women to be ashamed to show who they are. Even if you have decided yourself to do that, you should not do it in Holland, because we want you to be integrated, assimilated into Dutch society. If people cannot see who you are, or see one inch of your body or your face, I believe this is not the way to integrate into our society."

I interviewed Mr Wilders inside parliament after several security checks. Two tough bodyguards stood close by throughout. This country, once the epitome of easy-going liberalism, is edgier, less tolerant these days. Mr Wilders' name was included on a list of "infidels, who deserved to be slaughtered", which was found pinned to the body of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh was murdered two years ago for making the film about women and Islam called "Submission". It starts with a shot of a woman's face covered by a burqa. Slowly the camera shows that, from the neck downwards, she's naked but for a thin veil. Mr Wilders has explicitly linked his wish for a burqa ban with terrorism. "We have problems with a growing minority of Muslims who tend to have sympathy with the Islamo-fascistic concept of radical Islam," says Mr Wilders. "That's also a reason why everybody should be identifiable when they walk on the street or go to a pub or go into a restaurant or whatsoever."

'Freedom of choice'
Famala Aslam is a Muslim lawyer who has represented women who have stopped wearing the burqa while training as child-care assistants. She would not cover her face herself, but does wear a traditional dress and headscarf from eastern Turkey. She showed me how that can be adapted. "Other women are stricter; and they hide the face - you can only see the eyes," she says. "And other women choose to wear the niqab, and they veil the face totally." I asked her what she would say to people who would say: "If you want to fit into the West, live here, wear a business suit; wear jeans - don't wear what you're wearing. Don't wear a niqab." Ms Aslam says she believes that the freedom of choice and the freedom of religion is something that people need to fight for. In the city of Maaseik, in Belgium - which lies a few hundred yards from the Dutch border - a ban on wearing the niqab is already in place. Mayor Jan Creemers said he brought it forward because old people were afraid and children cried when women started appearing in long black robes with their faces covered.

Belgium ban
Women can now be fined 150 euros (£102) if they are found to be wearing the niqab. "There were six ladies who wore the niqab. I think two or three weeks after the council passed this law, five have dropped it," says Mr Creemers. "One lady is still wearing it but the last step in the procedure will be that she must go to jail." The husband of the woman who defies the ban is being held in connection with the Madrid bombings. But the police here are not too happy with the ban. They say it has made relations with the Moroccan community worse and gives young people a reason to resent society. Ms Aslam says if the ban becomes law in the Netherlands, some women will adopt the veil as a political statement. "A lot of women are not fully feeling like Muslims," she says. "But because of the public opinion, they are feeling like: 'I have to be a Muslim'. And banning or isolating a certain group of the population is just asking for problems." The Dutch government will soon decide whether to ban the burqa. Perhaps it will not become illegal in this marketplace or in the street. But they are likely to ban it in public places like stations, airports and cinemas - something many Muslims will regard as provocation in a Europe increasingly uncertain of its own identity.
© BBC News



19/1/2006- The Lety municipality had the stone, which the nationalist National Party (NS) put up as memorial on Lety's territory near a former WW2 camp for Romanies, removed today. Romany associations protested against the NS's memorial, saying it downgrades the Romanies who died in the Lety camp during the war. According to historical sources, 326 people perished in the Lety camp and over 500 inmates ended up in the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz (Oswiecim). The National Party had placed the huge stone with the inscription "To the Victims" in Lety at the weekend and planned to unveil it on January 21. The NS originally planned to inform on the stone memorial that the camp was only a labour facility where Romanies died of common diseases, and that it was a German camp and not a Czech one. The party also officially demanded that its memorial be declared an item of national cultural heritage, but the Culture Ministry dismissed this.  The municipality had not agreed with the placement of the stone on its territory and it called on the NS to remove it. The removal of the stone was welcomed by the Romany association Romea. "We hope that law-enforcement bodies will start investigation of National Party's officials in connection with their shameful statements about Romany victims of the camp in Lety," the association said in a press release passed to CTK. The Lety representatives decided on Tuesday that the stone will be removed today. This was done around 5:00 p.m. under police assistance. NS spokesman Petr Elias said that the party will file a criminal complaint against the removal of the memorial. Elias said that the removal was ordered by Lety mayor Rostislav Jandera. The party said earlier that it considers the memorial its property. Elias said that the National Party members plan to arrive in Lety for the ceremonial event on Saturday even though the memorial was removed. South Bohemian governor Jan Zahradnik said that he agrees with the municipality's decision. "We are considering that the region would earmark some money for the municipality," Zahradnik said. A large pig farm was built in the 1970s on the site of the former internment camp. Last April, the EP called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm.
© Romano vodi



The nationalist National Party (NP) plans to officially unveil on Saturday the memorial of World War Two victims which it put up near the pig farm in Lety, where an internment camp for Romanies used to stand in wartime.

16/1/2005- According to an original NP plan, a stone memorial was to be put up at the site in Lety saying that there was only a labour camp, that Romanies were dying in it of common disease, and that it was a German, not a Czech facility. This met with criticism of both Romany organisations and some politicians and associations. Romany organisations announced that they expect the government and police not to allow the memorial to be built. Several criminal complaints have already been lodged in this connection. The National Party put up the stone with the inscription "To the Victims" this weekend. Its website says that the memorial is private property as from Sunday and that nobody is therefore allowed to damage or remove the stone. Lety mayor Rostistal Jandera said today that the municipality does not want to get involved into the dispute between the National Party and Romany associations. The regional police, who have been concerned with the case of the Lety memorial, believe that no crime has been committed so far. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan showed interest in the proceeding of the police on Thursday. A Romany association applied with the Lety authorities to allow it to hold a commemorative event at a provisional memorial site at 10:00 a.m on Saturday, January 21, or an hour before the NP's memorial is to be unveiled. Jandera said that the municipality will allow the event.
© Prague Daily Monitor



16/1/2006 The EP voted an amended resolution on homophobia with great majority 468 in favour 149 against 41 abstentions

The European Parliament,

  • having regard to international and European human rights obligations, such as those contained in the UN conventions on human rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

  • having regard to provisions of EU law on human rights, notably to the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union , as well as to Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union,

  • having regard to Article 13 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, which invests the Community with the power to adopt measures to combat discrimination based, inter alia, on sexual orientation, and to promote the principle of equality,

  • having regard to Council Directives 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin and 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation , which prohibit direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation,

  • having regard to paragraph 1 of Article 21 of the Charter of fundamental rights, which prohibits '[a]ny discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation',

  • having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas homophobia can be defined as an irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people based on prejudice and similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism and sexism,
B. whereas homophobia manifests itself in the private and public spheres in different forms, such as hate speech and incitement to discrimination, ridicule and verbal, psychological and physical violence, persecution and murder, discrimination in violation of the principle of equality and unjustified and unreasonable limitations of rights, which are often hidden behind justifications based on public order, religious freedom and the right to conscientious objection,
C. whereas a series of worrying events has recently taken place in a number of Member States, as widely reported by the press and NGOs, ranging from banning gay pride or equality marches to the use by leading politicians and religious leaders of inflammatory or threatening language or hate speech, failure by police to provide adequate protection or even breaking up peaceful demonstrations, violent demonstrations by homophobic groups, and the introduction of changes to constitutions explicitly to prohibit same-sex unions,
D. whereas at the same time a positive, democratic and tolerant reaction has been shown in some cases by the general public, civil society and local and regional authorities that have demonstrated against homophobia, as well as by the redressing by judicial systems of the most striking and illegal forms of discrimination,
E. whereas same-sex partners in some Member States do not enjoy all of the rights and protections enjoyed by married opposite sex partners and consequently suffer discrimination and disadvantage,
F. whereas at the same time more countries in Europe are moving towards ensuring equal opportunities, inclusion and respect, and provide protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, and recognition of same-sex families;
G. whereas the Commission has declared its commitment to ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the EU, and has set up a group of Commissioners responsible for human rights,
H. whereas not all Member States have introduced in their legal systems measures to protect the rights of LGBT people, as required by Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC, and not all Member States are fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation nor promoting equality,
I. whereas further action is needed at EU and national levels to eradicate homophobia and promote a culture of freedom, tolerance and equality among citizens and in legal systems,

1. Strongly condemns any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;
2. Calls on Member States to ensure that LGBT people are protected from homophobic hate speech and violence and ensure that same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society;
3. Urges Member States and the Commission firmly to condemn homophobic hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence, and to ensure that freedom of demonstration – guaranteed by all human rights treaties - is respected in practice;
4. Calls on the Commission to ensure that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all sectors is prohibited by completing the anti-discrimination package based on Article 13 of the Treaty either by proposing new directives or by proposing a general framework covering all grounds of discrimination and all sectors;
5. Urges Member States and the Commission to step up the fight against homophobia through education, such as campaigns against homophobia in schools, in universities and in the media, as well as through administrative, judicial and legislative means;
6. Reiterates its position in relation to the proposal for a decision on the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All that the Commission must ensure that all forms of discrimination referred to in Article 13 of the Treaty and in Article 2 of the proposal are addressed and dealt with equally, as stated in the Parliament's position on the proposal , and reminds the Commission of its promise to monitor closely this matter and to report to Parliament;
7. Urges the Commission to ensure that all Member States have transposed and are correctly implementing Directive 2000/78/EC and to start infringement proceedings against those Member States that fail to do so; in addition, calls on the Commission to ensure that the annual report on the protection of fundamental rights in the EU includes full and comprehensive information on the incidence of homophobic hate crimes and violence in Member States;
8. Urges the Commission to come up with a proposal for a directive on protection against discrimination on the basis of all the grounds mentioned in Article 13 of the Treaty, having the same scope as Directive 2000/43/EC;
9. Urges the Commission to consider the use of criminal penalties in cases of violation of directives based on Article 13 of the Treaty;
10. Calls on all Member States to take any other action they deem appropriate in the fight against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and to promote and implement the principle of equality in their societies and legal systems;
11. Urges Member States to enact legislation to end discrimination faced by same-sex partners in the areas of inheritance, property arrangements, tenancies, pensions, tax, social security etc.;
12. Welcomes recent steps taken in several Member States to improve the position of LGBT people and resolves to organise a seminar for the exchange of good practice on 17 May 2006 (International Day against Homophobia);
13. Reiterates its request that the Commission put forward proposals guaranteeing freedom of movement for Union citizens and their family members and registered partners of either gender, as referred to in Parliament's recommendation of 14 October 2004 on the future of the area of freedom, security and justice ;
14. Calls on the Member States concerned finally to accord full recognition to homosexuals as targets and victims of the Nazi regime;
15. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, to the governments of the Member States and to the accession and candidate countries.
© ILGA Europe


17/1/2006- The EU should do more to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, several MEPs pointed out at a plenary debate in Strasbourg, on Monday (16 January). The discussion followed a statement by the European Commission on homophobia in Europe, in which vice-president Franco Frattini highlighted existing EU legislation, which rules out discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. "Homophobia is in breach of human rights and we are monitoring this issue in the member states and report on the cases where our efforts have been unsuccessful," Mr Frattini stated. However, he received a number of critical remarks from deputies, asking for more action by the commission and more outspoken pressure on governments in countries with recent incidents pointing to homophobic trends among their citizens as well as political leaders. The harshest criticism was levelled against Poland and Polish leaders, with MEPs condemning statements by leading politicians and blockades of pro-gay marches by local authorities in Warsaw and Poznan. "If we do nothing, we are complicit to the crimes of violence we can see happening in many EU member states," said British labour MEP Michael Cashman, stressing that as a gay himself, he is disappointed such negative sentiments persist in Europe. On the other hand, Polish MEP Konrad Szymanski from the group Union of Europe of the Nations argued the whole debate was a "waste of time" and suggested that MEPs should not be "hysterical" about the situation of homosexuals in the EU. "Member states have their legal instruments to protect the rights of their citizens, and there is no need to organise some sort of union to protect homosexuals, as it would - quite on the contrary - undermine European integration," Mr Szymanski said. A number of MEPs referred to problems of homosexual couples that have some social rights in one EU country but "lose" them when moving across borders, with Finnish conservative deputy Alexander Stubb arguing it was against the principle of equality valued by the EU. Green deputies expressed their disappointment over recent decisions by Latvian and Lithuanian parliaments to table amendments to their constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage. But countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom received praise from some parliamentarians for their recognition of same-sex marriages or partnerships.
© EUobserver



19/1/2006- The EU and its member states have been strongly criticised for their human rights policy record by leading NGO Human Rights Watch, saying the bloc has courted grave abusers such as Russia and China while "utterly failing" to adress US practices in the war on terror. The Washington-based NGO said in an annual report published on Wednesday (18 November) that the EU "continued to punch well below its weight" on human rights. Human Rights Watch came into the European spotlight in November after it revealed details on the alleged existence of CIA jails in Europe, but its annual report contains criticism on EU human right policy failures worldwide. The report highlights EU states' disregard for human rights in their dealings with Russia and China. "The EU position on Russia in 2005 made the US defense of human rights seem vigorous," the report states, with the UK, France and Germany engaged in an "unseemly competition" to court Russian president Vladimir Putin. An "embarrasingly positive" statement mentioning Chechnya was issued at the EU-Russia summit in October, while the EU failed to sponsor a resolution critical of Russia’s record in Chechnya at the UN Commission on Human Rights. Similarly, France and Germany pressed for the ending of the EU arms embargo on China which had been imposed in protest of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre - with no Chinese concessions to clarify the events in return. The EU also seems to "increasingly favor the status quo in Africa," the NGO writes. While the bloc "did not hesitate to act against a pariah state such as president Robert Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe," other human rights abusers with which the EU maintains closer relationships such as Angola, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda were pardoned.

Meanwhile, the EU’s strategy to improve human rights in its neighbouring states through its flagship Neighbourhood Policy fell short of results as well, according to the report. The EU has "rarely and never publicly" enforced human rights clauses in agreements with countries such as Egypt, the report said. As for relations with the US, "the EU understandably was eager to repair the damage done by disagreements triggered by the invasion of Iraq, but its strategy seemed to include largely ignoring US rights transgressions." "For most of the year, the EU collectively utterly failed to raise concerns about the US practice of "disappearing" terrorist suspects," Human Rights Watch wrote. Positive exceptions to the poor EU record were also mentions by the NGO, such as the bloc's leading role in condemning Uzbekistan before the UN General Assembly. Moreover, with regard to EU candidate member states, the report said "a transparent process coupled with the ability of any single member to block progress for an aspiring state tended to raise the bar on human rights." "Positive pressure for improvement was thus exerted, most notably on Turkey," Human Rights Watch added.
© EUobserver



17/1/2006- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is very concerned about the rise of racist violence in Russia, and believes that the EU has an obligation to act to promote immediate action to combat racism in Russia. On 24 December 2005, Kanhem Leon, a 28-year old Cameroonian student, was killed by skinheads in St Petersburg. A dozen Africans and Asians were reportedly killed in the past two years in this city alone. Dozens more have been beaten or injured in knife attacks. On 11 January 2006, a knife attack in a Moscow synagogue left eight people injured. A May 2005 study by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), a member organisation of ENAR, documented the widespread incidents of anti-Romani racism in Russia. According to a report by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, covering January-June 2005, the level of xenophobia remained high during this period, and according to several sociological surveys the percentage of supporters of xenophobic viewpoints fluctuated between 50 and 60%. In recent months the situation seems only to have worsened, but the Russian public authorities have shown little initiative in counteracting these violent racist crimes and racism in general. The EU has a responsibility to urge the Russian authorities to take concrete action to address all the manifestations of racism in Russian society. The right to freedom from racial discrimination is one of the most widely recognised and established human rights, and has long been recognised internationally. Russia signed the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 7 March 1966, and as such has an obligation to fight racism at all levels. Since the early 1990s, the EU has included more or less systematically a human rights clause in its bilateral trade and co-operation agreements with third countries. In 1997, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and Russia came into force. This agreement is based on the respect of democratic principles and human rights, setting out the political, economic and trade relationship between the EU and Russia. In November 2004, it was agreed that regular EU-Russia consultations on human rights would be held. The next round of these meetings is scheduled in the Spring of 2006. During this dialogue the EU should explicitly raise the problem of racism. In view of the EU-Russia partnership, and as a leader in the field of human rights protection and anti-discrimination, the EU has a responsibility to respond to recent developments in Russia and to urge the Russian authorities at every opportunity to take appropriate measures to fight racism.
© EUropean Network Against Racism



17/1/2006- Kremlin political operatives are quick to exploit and even promote xenophobia for their own purposes, but they also clearly fear that such attitudes could get out of hand and threaten their control, according to one of Moscow’s leading political commentators. That division, Yevgeniya Al’bats argues in “Yezhednevniy Zhurnal” last Thursday, helps to explain why there are now so many competing and contradictory theories about the relationship between those in power and those who have some of the most noxious attitudes in Russian society. One group of analysts, she writes, believes that the Kremlin has sponsored the rise of such xenophobic groups to make incumbent President Vladimir Putin an attractive alternative should he and his backers seek to modify the constitution and remain in office after his current term expires. After all, the Moscow journalist says, who is going to worry about constitutional niceties such as term limits if Putin is in a position to demonstrate that he “is higher and more civilized than those who sit in the Russian parliament” and who sign anti-Semitic appeals even as the world marks the liberation of Auschwitz? A second group of commentators, Al’bats argues, believes that the Kremlin is less driven by cold calculation than by the rise within its own ranks of those who share these chauvinist sentiments and are not above sending the West a message that the Russian people back their own muscular imperialism. And a third group, she continues, suggests that the Kremlin is simply trying to keep up with the people, that chauvinist and xenophobic attitudes are growing among Russians and that the leaders have no choice but, like the famous figure in the French revolution, to try to get out ahead of those they hope to lead.

All three of these groups can produce evidence in support of their conclusions, but Al’bats argues that in her view, “the situation is much more complex and to a certain degree more dangerous and frightening” than any one of them on its own. She suggests that the Kremlin’s increasing support for xenophobic views reflects changes within the Kremlin itself, changes that have brought forward into its offices “products of the KGB for whom the ideology of national suspiciousness, to put it carefully is what they were raised on.” In the Kremlin today, she says, there are “people for whom the presence of an internal enemy (together of course with an external one) is a necessary condition of the way in which they imagine the world to be put together, an obligatory element of their language of communication.”  Given that background, it is almost pointless to discuss whether Putin is a Russian nationalist or not or whether Defense Minister is indeed a follower of the ideas of Valentin Pikul, “a zoological anti-Semite” of the Soviet past. That is important morally, but in assessing the political situation in Russia today, it is of less moment. To get at what does matter, it is “necessary to give the KGB its due.” Creating an image of the enemy – and as that institution demonstrated, there are many candidates for that position – is “a most effective” way of controlling not only colleagues but the people as a whole. Indeed, many in today’s Kremlin are among its best students.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Al’bats suggests, many of today’s “colonels” were forced to work for the oligarchs, many of whom were “ethnically alien.” Now, they see a chance to use the lessons of the past to take part in another grand redistribution of property, this time in their own direction. “In other words,” she summarizes, “the main source of the ‘brown threat’ is not some lower and dark popular forces. At the same time, it is not a phantom; it is a danger. It really exists. And its source is in the Kremlin.” Consequently, she adds, those like Anatoliy Chubais who say that President Vladimir Putin is virtually the only one who can defend Russia against threats arising from xenophobia are “either being cunning or as has happened more than once confusing cause and effect.” Once one recognizes this reality, Al’bats argues, one is in a position to understand why the Kremlin has been doing what it has. Traditionally, the KGB and its epigones have been quite willing to use xenophobia and anti-minority sentiments to divide and rule the country. But at the same time, she points out, these same people have always been “concerned about any initiative or any self-organization arising from below.” And that in turn means that they frequently have to turn on those they have promoted lest the latter gain any independent base within the population. (All such moves against Russian extremists, although Al’bats does not stress this, have the additional advantage of ensuring that there will always be those in both Russia and abroad who will conclude that in this case as in so many others, there is a “good” tsar who must be supported against “bad” boyars.)

Al’bats suggests that it remains an open question whether the Kremlin would decide to disperse a nationalist wave should it gain in strength. In that event, it is possible but not certain that the current leaders might decide to ride it out might as the best advance their values and even more their interests. v “The experience of Nazi Germany showed that racism and extreme nationalism are one of the most effective instruments for transferring property” from one group to another. “Nothing so justifies in the eyes of ordinary citizens the seizure of property as do declarations that its current owner are ethnically, racially or religiously alien.” To date in Russia, this ugly argument has been “used” only in the case of Khodorkhovskiy. And it is still uncertain whether that will prove to be a one-time event or a bellwether of more such things to come as the country approaches the presidential elections scheduled for 2008. But Al’bats ends by insisting that there is one myth about all these developments that needs to be dispelled now: The Kremlin is not an obstacle “on the road of the ‘brown threat.’” Instead, she concludes, “the power vertical needs an enemy. [And] it has created one.”
© FSU Monitor



17/1/2006- Boosting trade and energy security dominated talks between President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, though Merkel broke from the tradition of her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, by meeting with human rights activists during her first visit to Russia as chancellor. Putin warmly greeted Merkel in German at the beginning of their three-hour Kremlin meeting and -- as is his custom -- immediately turned the subject to trade. "We have reached a new milestone, a new high in bilateral trade and economic relations: more than $32 billion in 2005," Putin said in comments broadcast on state television. Merkel said she had reviewed data on the countries' economic relations in preparation for her visit, and noted "breathtaking growth in our exchange of real goods." The volume of trade between the countries soared by 30 percent in 2005, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said, Itar-Tass reported. Schröder had chummy relations with Putin, and his silence over human rights concerns made him a target of domestic critics.  Merkel, however, signaled that those days were over. "The situation in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus are subjects on which a mutual understanding was not immediately reached," Merkel said during the news conference. She said she would "use every effort" to support proposed European Union programs to develop infrastructure in the North Caucasus. "I told the Russian president that very clearly. We spoke about it openly and in detail." She also noted the "many objections among the public" to a controversial bill that would restrict nongovernmental organizations. "We will closely monitor how it is observed in practice," she said. Putin, who has the bill on his desk but has yet to sign it into law, repeated previous assurances that "no harm will be done to NGOs that operate in accordance with their stated goals."

At the news conference, the two also discussed efforts to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions -- a major topic of Merkel's talks with U.S. politicians during a visit to Washington last weekend.  Putin offered veiled criticism of the United States when asked about reports of secret CIA prisons in Europe. Though the war on terrorism may be "very harsh, it must be open," Putin said, The Associated Press reported. Following the news conference, Merkel met with human rights activists from the Soldiers' Mothers Committee, the Moscow Helsinki Group and Memorial, as well as other public figures at the German Embassy. Valentina Melnikova, head of Soldiers Mothers' Committee, said Merkel told the activists she understood their position was difficult in the current political climate. "She spoke with us in Russian, which she speaks very well, and she wished us courage and luck," Melnikova said. Merkel was born in East Germany. Melnikova said they discussed the conflict in Chechnya, the Kremlin's tightening of control over the political process and growing xenophobia and racism in the country. "She did not give us any promises, but told us that what we are doing is important," she said. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who plans to run as an opposition presidential candidate, sat in on Merkel's meeting with the rights groups, Melnikova said.

Alexander Rahr, program director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said the meetings were aimed primarily at pacifying Putin's German critics. "Since the beginning of the Putin presidency, Russia's image in Germany has changed for the worse," Rahr said. "The meeting with NGOs was more of a domestic political move." Merkel also met with State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov and liberal Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, controversial author Vladimir Sorokin, film director Nikita Mikhalkov, human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar. Rahr said he saw nothing unexpected in Merkel's visit to Russia, and that the chancellor had made it clear she would not drift far from the political line established by her predecessor. "I don't think we can talk about any real changes," Rahr said. "Continuity will prevail." "She could have taken a harsh view of Russia, as many advisers and the German press were telling her to do," Rahr said. "But this would mean losing its role in the West as an advocate of Russia. With the dramatic developments in Iran, if Berlin cannot bring Russia back into the Western fold, then who can?" Putin and Merkel are next expected to meet in April during a bilateral summit in Tomsk.
© The Moscow Times



16/1/2006- The fate of a patch of land behind a supermarket in northern Moscow is raising the wrath of Hindus around the globe, following City Hall's withdrawal of permission for the city's Krishna community to build a temple on the site. On Wednesday, the Defend Russian Hindus campaign is to be launched by 10 member of Britain's House of Commons in reaction to the Moscow city government's decision to tear up an agreement to allow the Krishna community to build on the land, leaving the capital's estimated 10,000 Hare Krishnas and at least 5,000 Indians of other Hindu denominations without a permanent place of worship. The campaign is to include an attempt to pass a nonbinding resolution in Britain's Parliament condemning the move and possibly a delegation of parliamentarians to visit Moscow to protest religious discrimination in general, said Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, which is running the campaign. The temple saga began in 2004 with the demolition of city's only Krishna temple, which was located on Begovaya Ulitsa. As compensation, City Hall offered a piece of land the size of a football field at the edge of Khodynskoye Pole, an airfield off Leningradsky Prospekt near the Aeroport metro station. The developer building on the old temple site quickly built a prefabricated structure on the new site to hasten the move of the congregation -- and one small hall in the corrugated iron structure has acted as the city's only Hindu temple ever since. The congregation will be evicted from this structure if the decision of the Moscow government is enforced.

The dispute, which has attracted the attention of national newspapers in Britain and India, has led the Indian government to appeal directly to the Moscow authorities, the Hindustan Times reported. But there are few signs a resolution will be found any time soon. "The temple is the only place of worship for Hindus in Moscow. When this is taken away, they can't practice their religion as they should," said Kallidai, whose organization unites hundreds of Hindu organizations in Britain. The temporary temple is used by members of the Indian community for religious ceremonies, including weddings. He described as "complete humbug" the suggestion from some quarters of the Russian Orthodox community that the Krishna movement did not represent traditional Hinduism. "All of the Hindu temples in the United Kingdom accept the Hare Krishna movement as one of the leading bona fide Hindu traditions in the country," he said. Compounding Hindu anger, an incendiary letter from Archbishop Nikon of Ufa and Sterlitamak to Mayor Yury Luzhkov in late November protesting the plan to build a temple caused outrage among Hindus around the world. Describing the Hindu god Krishna as an "evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God," the letter asked the mayor to ban the construction of the temple, describing it as a "Satanic obscenity" and a "citadel of idolatry." While Nikon's is not the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church, the church hierarchy has failed to offer a unified alternative position. "There is large disagreement within the church about plans by other religions to build churches, such as that on Leningradsky Prospekt," said Father Mikhail Dudko, the head of the press service of the Moscow Patriarchate. "One opinion is that of Nikon, that everything has to be done to prevent the building of such churches. The other is that other religions have the right to build their churches under certain conditions," including respect for the historical, cultural and architectural context, he said.

In early 2004, the release of plans to build a large temple on the site using traditional Indian architecture sparked off a storm of protest, with demonstrations by Orthodox groups that threatened to lie in front of the bulldozers to prevent its construction. "Many in the church are not against the church itself, but against the building of a temple on the scale of Christ the Savior Cathedral, as was announced initially by the Krishna community," said Dudko, who suggested any building should be relative to the size of the Krishna community. According to Maxim Osipov, a spokesman for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness in Moscow, the initial plan was for a temple just under half the height of Christ the Savior Cathedral, with a relatively modest floor size considering the 7,000 followers the group attracts on some holidays. But the large scale of the initial proposal has been cited as proof of the Krishna community's plans to recruit large numbers of new worshipers. The Krishna movement "has a missionary aim to work with Russian youngsters," said Father Andrei Kurayev, a professor at Moscow's Spiritual Academy. "This aspect, of course, upsets the Russian church." "We have the feeling that it is a kind of McDonald's, a type of Karma-Cola. It is not an authentic Hindu spirituality," said Kurayev. He said he would support a different, smaller design in another part of the city -- citing the deaths of thousands of Russians on the field during celebrations marking the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 as a reason for choosing a different location. Although not one of the country's four traditional religions, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness was granted official status as a religion in Russia in 1988.

In response to a request from the Moscow authorities, the Krishna community downgraded its plans, said Osipov. Pictures on the fence of the site show the evolution of the project from an exotic temple with Hindu turrets, to something resembling a multistory car park. "We just wanted something more beautiful than [our current] shed," he said. Their latest design is somewhere in between, a blue and white building, half the size of the original, with elements of both Moscow and Hindu architecture. It has been approved by Moscow's architectural council, Osipov said. But as the Krishna community prepared to begin work, on Oct. 7, the City Prosecutor's Office suddenly announced that inconsistencies between the City Hall resolution to provide the land and the then-valid version of the Land Code had rendered it void. The city administration agreed, and it overturned the resolution that had given the land to the Krishna movement. Osipov suggested that the City Duma elections in December might have played a part in the reversal from City Hall, while a major development on Khodynskoye Pole is set to give the area a much higher profile, likely raising the value of the land. City Hall is currently looking for a new site to house the temple, but it is not clear when it will be found, how big it will be or where it will be located, said Konstantin Blazenov, vice chairman of the city government's committee for relations with religious organizations. He said that he hoped it would be found before the Krishna society was forced to leave its current premises, but he offered no guarantees. In the meantime, the Krishna community has filed a case with the Arbitration Court -- a move that it hopes will revive the original resolution, or at the very least let it keep its temporary temple for a few more months. Osipov said the site should officially be vacated within three months of the cancellation of City Hall's resolution, which would have given the congregation until the end of January to leave. "It was our last resort -- we wanted to solve this problem peacefully," said Osipov. What the Hindu community will do if the temporary temple is closed down is not yet clear. "If we lose this place, we'll be out on the street," Osipov said. "We will have to meet in people's apartments," he said. "Like in Soviet times."
© The Moscow Times



By Rafal Pankowski

16/1/2006- A leading Polish Member of the European Parliament is demanding destruction of the historic synagogue in the city of Poznan. Marcin Libicki is a member of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc) party who has a long history of involvement with far-right groups and advocating controversial policies regarding Jews and other minorities.

"The synagoue building has no esthetic value" stated Libicki in an article he wrote for the local edition of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on 12 January 2006. He further claimed the construction of the synagogue in the early 20th century had been "an openly anti-Polish act" and part of "a plan of Kulturkampf [cultural struggle] which provided for cultural minimising of expressions (also architectural expressions) of Polish and Catholic influence in the city". As a conclusion he proposes to demolish the synagogue.

The leader of the Jewish community in Poznan, Alicja Kobus, has described Libicki's proposal as "shocking". The building is widely considered to be a treasure of architecture. It currently serves as a swimming pool and there are plans to renovate it and convert into a Tolerance Centre with the support of the European Union. Libicki's statement is clearly meant to prevent it.

Marcin Libicki is known for his vigorous opposition to the restitution of property to former Jewish owners. Until not long ago he was a member of the National Right (Prawica Narodowa), the official sister group of Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National. In March 2001 he supported, on "humanitarian grounds", Henryk Mania who had been convicted by a Polish court for participation in killing Jews at the Chelmno death camp. Libicki recently applied to the Polish public prosecutor for legal action to be taken against the website of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles for alleged "anti-Polish" content in its presentation of WWII history. He has also been involved in campaigns against gay rights in Poland in the recent years.

"The extremist activities of Marcin Libicki belong to the lunatic fringe, and yet he is an influential member of the ruling party" - said Marcin Kornak, the editor of the Polish anti-fascist magazine "Never Again" - "Nigdy Wiecej".
© I CARE News



Greater efforts needed to fight gangs and help victims, international migration body claims

16/1/2006- Slovak women are being sold abroad for prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse, claims a recent report by the Slovak Interior Ministry. According to a report entitled The National Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking for 2006-2007, Slovakia is a country of origin for victims of human trafficking, with women lured abroad most frequently by job adverts for positions as bartenders, waitresses, cleaners and au pairs. The victims tend to be women aged between 18 and 25 years who come from low-income families in regions of Slovakia with high unemployment rates. They are stripped of their travel documents immediately upon their arrival at their destinations abroad, and are forced into prostitution, the report claims. International organized crime groups often use agencies based in Slovakia to contact potential victims. While European countries keep a close eye on their labour markets, these groups offer jobs that mostly do not require qualifications and often mask the fact that the "work" consists of prostitution. On January 11, the Slovak cabinet approved a plan of action to fight the problem, and designated human trafficking as a priority. Slovakia does not tend to be a destination for human trafficking victims. Brothel or "massage parlour" owners in Slovakia have no interest in hiring foreign citizens without work permits. In part this is because they want to avoid complications with the police, and partly because they can find enough women willing to do the work in Slovakia, the SITA news wire reported. To a certain degree, Slovakia is considered a transit country for human trafficking. The Interior Ministry says that victims from Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria on their way to the Czech Republic or Austria sometimes pass through Slovak territory or stay in Slovakia for short periods. Registered cases of human trafficking suggest that the traffickers move their victims to EU countries such as the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and France.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which works to prevent human trafficking and helps the victims, believes a more effective system of prevention and education is needed. "In Slovakia the most serious problem is the absence of a system of prevention. All the information campaigns and prevention activities of international and non-governmental organizations depend on whether they can get funding," said Zuzana Vatrálová, head of the IOM Bratislava office. The IOM would like to see human trafficking, including information on how to avoid becoming a victim, included in the high school curriculum. "Given that young women between 17 and 20 years of age are statistically the most vulnerable group, reaching them through high school programmes is the best way of influencing them," Vatrálová said. Vatrálová said that helping victims of trafficking was made difficult by the lack of secure accommodation and access to psychologists, nurses and social workers. "The IOM proposes to unite all the institutions that provide aid and counselling to the victims in a single network, and to train their employees to assist the victims effectively," Vatrálová added. International organizations have faulted Slovakia for ignoring the dangers of human trafficking, while the IOM claims the Slovak public tends to underestimate the problem and to cling to the belief that the victims are to blame for their predicament.

However, Interior Ministry spokesperson Jana Pôbišová said the ministry had stepped up its campaign against trafficking. "A department to combat human trafficking and sexual abuse was established at the Slovak Police headquarters on January 1, 2004. This department outlined a strategy for fighting human trafficking, and in cooperation with several ministries and other institutions drew up the cabinet action plan," Pôbišová told The Slovak Spectator. Pôbišová said that Interior Minister Vladimír Palko has set up an expert group involving several ministries and state bodies to deal with human trafficking. "It's important that the ministries of education, labour and justice are involved as they can help with effective legislation and different projects," Pôbišová said. Palko has appointed a national coordinator for the prevention, aid, and protection of human trafficking victims. The IOM urges all the relevant state institutions and NGOs to work together while at the same time bearing an individual share of responsibility. "For example, within such a network, prosecutors could direct victims or witnesses to organizations that would provide them with secure housing or psychological help. In turn, a human trafficking victim who gets help in re-integrating into society tends to be more willing to testify and to help the police fight the criminals," Vatrálová said. The IOM now runs discussion groups at high schools where students can learn how to avoid being victimized. It also organizes trainings for prevention workers and employees of Psychological Prevention and Assistance Centres, police and teachers. As of the summer of 2006, the IOM is preparing a programme to help human trafficking victims reintegrate into society upon their return. In 2000, 33 people were prosecuted for trafficking in women in Slovakia, and 22 were sentenced by the courts. In 2003, 54 people were charged and 34 prosecuted, although only 5 received sentences.
© The Slovak Spectator



16/1/2006- 'One person can make a difference’ is the theme set for Holocaust Memorial Day 2006, celebrating the courage of the rescuers who helped those persecuted by the Nazis survive and gave them hope. “Many rescuers are still alive and living in the UK and they should be honoured before it is too late”, says the HMD Trust. “Their courage enabled many victims of the Nazis to survive the Holocaust.” But this year’s event on 26 January is likely to be surrounded by controversy, following the outrage caused by a Holocaust denial from the Iranian president, and the decision of the Muslim Council of Britain to maintain a boycott of the UK event because it is “not inclusive enough”. In a move which will cause further anger, Iran has just announced that it will sponsor an international conference to “examine the evidence supporting the Holocaust”, something that is recognised as a historical reality by all but a few discredited scholars. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had already called the Nazis' slaughter of European Jews during the Second World War a “myth”, and has said that the state of Israel should be “wiped off the map” or moved to Germany or the United States.

The MCB's policy is not to take part in the UK's commemorations of the mass murder of Jews because they say it does not mention non-Jewish victims of genocide. But organisers maintain that the day – supported by churches, civic groups, the government and the Queen – is firmly set in the European historical context and is both inclusive and relevant to all communities. This year they are highlighting a film due in March about the horrific Rwandan genocide. Bosnians will also take part in the memorial. Others point out that gypsies, homosexuals and people with physical and mental disabilities were also targets of Nazi death camps – and that Sinti and Roma communities are involved in HMD. Memorial Day Trust chairperson Stephen Smith says that the event is an opportunity for all faiths "to learn from a salutary past and expose all forms of racism - including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism - xenophobia, discrimination and bigotry". The MCB says that it does denounce anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust as what it calls "monstrous cruelty". But it rejects the charge that bracketing it with other atrocities diminishes Jewish suffering and apparently refuses to recognise the Holocaust as a unique historical attempt to annihilate an entire people.

The UK's Holocaust Memorial Day is traditionally 27 January, but it will be marked a day earlier this year as "this date falls on a Friday which has implications for a number of faiths", organisers say. The MCB's decision to maintain its refusal to participate in HMD has been described as “a dreadful mistake” by others in the Muslim community. It coincides with further controversy sparked by the MCB secretary general, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who said in a radio interview recently that homosexuality was "not acceptable" and denounced same-sex civil partnerships as "harmful". A complainant has reported these comments to the police under the Public Order Act, which outlaws remarks that may result in violence or intimidation against individuals or groups. Charges are unlikely, commentators say. Mr Sacranie’s comments were defended this weekend in a newspaper letter from Muslim leaders and scholars, who point out that Jewish and Christian leaders have made similar remarks. The MCB chief also stressed that he is in favour of civil tolerance and free speech.
© Ekklesia



16/1/2006- Google has defended the integrity of its news service after it emerged that reports filed by the British National party are being listed as sources on its website. As the leader of the British National party, Nick Griffin, appears on charges of inciting racial hatred after being secretly filmed by a BBC documentary team, the BNP's news reports are being listed on Google News alongside those from organisations such as the BBC and Reuters. One article, written by the BNP's south-east England "correspondent" about the trial of six men accused of murdering 16-year-old Mary-Ann Leneghan, is the first news source listed when searching under the dead woman's name.  The article, which accused the BBC of double standards in not reporting the colour of the defendants in the case, is listed ahead of reports from the BBC, Reuters, Channel 4, the Times and the Telegraph. Its prime position will mean that many Google users will be directed to the BNP's website by virtue of having clicked on the first headline that is listed. Other articles listed on the search engine giving the BNP's take on recent news - written by the far-right party "correspondents" - include a man arrested for making homophobic remarks, and support for the BNP among Christians. But a spokeswoman for Google said today that its job was not to act as censor, and that its automated search services could not screen results. The company acknowledges that a search may result in "link to sites that some people find objectionable, inappropriate, or offensive" but that it assumes no responsibility for the content of any site included in any search results. But it said that if any illegal content was linked to in its index the web pages in question would be removed from the Google site.
© The Guardian



Anti-racism campaigners threatened to boycott the single equalities body after the government refused to bow to MPs calls for race to be included.

17/1/2006- Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Keith Vaz mounted a scathing attack on the governments plans to set up a new super-commission merging seven different equalites issues together. Equalities minister Meg Munn was repeatedly challenged to explain why disability was being given a its own committee and board member, but not race. In a fumbling dispatch-box performance Ms Munn failed to explain the disparity and further angered MPs by continuing to oppose amendments calling for a race committee for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR). Furious Black campaigners called an emergency summit of national and regional community leaders to agree a strategy in the aftermath of last nights debate.

Ms Munn's offer to hold talks with The 1990 Trust, Operation Black Vote and the National Assembly Against Racism was spurned until the summit took place. In a joint letter to Ms Munn the organisations said the government had failed to listen to Black communities and would "not be engaging in consultation as proposed by the minister."  During heated exchanges in the Commons yesterday Ms Abbott said the government determination to exclude race from the CEHR structure risked allowing the fight against racism to "fall to the bottom of the agenda." She said: 'Unless we debate representation and put in place the structures and the law to ensure it, we will find that the majority of people best placed to empathise with the issues are somehow, magically, always white males. Time after time, that is the practical outcome. 'My fear is that unless we get the legislation and the structures right, the commission will embody what I have seen so often, whether at local authority, non-governmental organisation or Government level: lowest common denominator equality, which is no good for anyone, [and] sells every equality strand short.

'Sadly, it is my experience that if race is merged with other equalities issues, without sufficient thought and care about the structures, race inevitably falls to the bottom of the agenda. 'That is why, when the Government set up a working party to look into the matter, out of 28 people there were only three visible minorities. 'When we say that we want not just assurances but legislation and structures, we are not looking in the crystal ball, we are reading the book.' Ms Abbott said ministers had failed to listen to the unanimous view of Black communities and that not a single credible Black organisation supported the government on this issue. Mr Vaz told the Commons that Britain's Black communities felt let down by the government. 'I think that we have failed in terms of the equality agenda after eight years. I expected more from our Government than we have given. We need to do more.

'We need more than good speeches about more black people here and more Asian people there. We must have bodies that will be able to allow the communities to be able to represent themselves. I am sorry that that is not happening. That is lamentable.'  Mr Vaz said words were cheap and that "cast-iron" guarantees where needed that there would be a race committee and board commissioners. Despite intensive pressure Ms Munn would only upgrade her rhetoric from saying she hoped there would be fair representation to insisting "there will be" a race committee and Black commissioners. But she still refused to agree any amendments which sought to change the CEHR structure as set out in the Equalities Bill, or specific what action she would take if the new commission - which is due to start work next year - fails to live up to her expectations on diversity. Ms Munn offered a minor concession in the shape of a 'transition commissioners' representing each of the existing commissions covering race, gender and disabilities which will be axed and merged into the new body. Ms Munn sought to deflect some heat by shifting blame onto CRE chairman Trevor Phillips. She said the CRE had not been in favour of a race committee until recently and in meetings with them the CRE had not flagged it up as an important issue.  Reacting to last nights debate, Lee Jasper, senior advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, said: 'Yesterday an Equality Bill was passed in the Commons that undermines the institutional levers we have for tackling racism in the UK. 'Doreen Lawrence and other leading activists in the black community warned the government about taking the race agenda backwards, stressing that their community should not be an afterthought to those in power. But their fears and concerns have fallen on deaf ears.'
© Black Information Link



16/1/2006- More than 100 minority groups have launched a last-ditch attempt to force changes in a government bill to create a commission for equalities and human rights, fearing such a body would damage the fight against racism. As the bill returns to the Commons for its final reading today, a coalition led by Lord Ouseley, the former executive chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered black teenager, and Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, are pressuring MPs to ensure that the bill includes a specific requirement for the new commission, or CEHR, to have a race committee. Specific committees dealing with disability issues have already been pencilled in. Among the signatories to a coalition statement are leading disability groups such as Scope and Disability Awareness in Action. Other signatories include Sir Bill Morris, Diane Abbott MP, Claude Moraes MEP, the Churches Commission for Racial Justice, the Muslim Association of Britain, and the 1990 Trust. Lord Ouseley, who argued in the House of Lords for a race committee, said: "The government is missing the opportunity to get the CEHR right first time by refusing to listen to the stakeholders. Black and minority ethnic communities have to be actively and visibly represented in the work of the new commission and the structures must include a race committee. "We must get it right by listening, learning and acting to avert a disaster." Mrs Lawrence warned the government about taking the race agenda backwards, saying: "This section of our community appears to be an afterthought to those in power." Last month arts minister David Lammy told campaigners that a national and local voice for racial equality "does not seem to be served by the proposed structure". Former Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz and MP Roger Berry have each tabled amendments to the bill - Mr Vaz seeking the formation of a race committee, while Mr Berry calls for a quarter of the CEHR's commissioners to be from a black or minority ethnic background.
© The Guardian



16/1/2006- A record number of women and ethnic minority officers are quitting the British police within months of joining, prompting concerns that racism and sexism are undermining the Government’s efforts to increase diversity. Female and ethnic minority trainee officers are twice as likely to resign as are their white and male colleagues, according to home office figures cited by The Times daily. The police service had 4,629 ethnic minority officers in 2004, an 18 per cent increase on the previous year. However, 17.8 per cent of black and Asian recruits in 2004 resigned or were dismissed within six months of starting their jobs, compared with 7.7 per cent of white officers. Last year 12.6 per cent of ethnic minority recruits dropped out within six months, compared with 7.6 per cent of white officers. The number of female recruits leaving within six months was, at 6.8 per cent, almost double that of males.
Home secretary Mr Charles Clarke has ordered that forces must question all officers who resign about any discrimination, harassment or bullying they may have suffered. A home office notice to chief constables said: “There are higher rates of voluntary resignation for minority ethnic officers, women and probationers and, at a time when the service is seeking to increase these officers, it is important to find out why these groups are leaving.” The numbers of new black and Asian officers have increased greatly in recent years as forces have attempted to meet government recruitment targets on race and gender, but the service is suffering from a revolving-door syndrome, the daily said.
© The Statesman



The United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, has observed that Switzerland suffers from racism, discrimination and xenophobia.

14/1/2006- After five days of meetings with government ministers, community groups and other parties, Diène said that racism was being "trivialised", especially in political circles. The UN envoy explained in Bern on Friday that although the Swiss authorities recognised the existence of racism and xenophobia, they did not view the problem as being serious. However, Diène pointed out that representatives of minority communities said they experienced serious racism and discrimination. The special rapporteur has reported on racism in ten countries to date and his interim report on Switzerland will be presented to the UN's Human Rights Commission in March.  "My preliminary conclusion is that yes, racism, discrimination and xenophobia are present in Switzerland. I will be in a position to evaluate the depth of that racism when I have reviewed all the documentation I have requested to formulate my final report," Diène said.

Police violence
The UN envoy visited a detention centre in Basel and spoke to detainees. He said that police treatment of non-nationals, particularly people of black African origin, was very worrying. "I noted the repeated and strong presence of xenophobia in certain institutions, such as the police," he added. "I have gathered information about the high level of racially-motivated physical and verbal violence directed towards certain groups." Diène also expressed concern about the recent hardening of legislation related to foreigners and asylum, championed by Justice Minister Christoph Blocher. "The marked tendency to criminalise the question of immigration and asylum and the treatment of this question purely from a security point of view is a troubling indicator," he said. The special rapporteur characterised his meeting with Blocher as frank and friendly. He said that the minister answered all his questions and that on each point Blocher said his policies were not motivated by racism.

Focus on foreigners
Swiss political and public debate is marked by a strong preoccupation with the issue of foreigners, their treatment and definition, and policies relating to them, Diène observed. He told swissinfo this could be seen as an indicator of xenophobia. "The absence of national legislation against racism and discrimination is another indicator, leaving victims with no means of complaint or redress," he told swissinfo. "Although Switzerland has set up institutions and commissions to oversee the questions of foreigners, asylum and racism, these bodies lack the means and authority to act to transform the situation." Diène said he attempted during his visit to verify whether there was a tendency to trivialise racism and xenophobia in Switzerland. He observed that the racist and xenophobic platforms that in the past were the territory of extremist parties were gradually and profoundly shaping the democratic political programme.

Racist platforms
"For electoral reasons, racist concepts, the racist political platform and to a certain extent racist violence are being trivialised because the democratic parties are letting their guard down." Diène told swissinfo that after black Africans, people from the Balkan states were the next group most affected by discrimination. During his visit to Switzerland, he travelled around the country and met representatives from the African, Balkan, Muslim, Jewish and Asian communities. His final report, to be published next year, will reflect the contribution of the government ministries, along with the views of the minority communities and specialist bodies. "This is an extremely complex situation and I will not write my report in the spirit of a judge but with a view to helping countries to find solutions to the serious problems they are faced with," he said.
© Swissinfo



Switzerland's Radicals battened down the hatches this weekend, while the other centre-right party, the Christian Democrats considered support for research.

14/1/2006-  The Radical Party delegates, meeting near Bern on Saturday, almost unanimously accepted the latest revisions of the laws on asylum and foreigners ahead of possible nationwide votes. Parliament accepted this tough new legislation in December. Justice Minister Christoph Blocher of the rightwing People's Party masterminded the tightening of the asylum law. "The new asylum law allows the processing of requests to be more efficient and helps fights abuses," said parliamentarian Philippe Müller on Saturday. He was backed up by party president Fulvio Pelli, who said the legislation closed legal loopholes. The measures are designed to crack down on rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, and reduce costs. The number of asylum applications in Switzerland has been falling steadily though and is now at its lowest level since 1987.

Tough measures
Asylum applicants without identity papers would have to prove that they are not responsible for the situation. Rejected asylum seekers would have their social welfare payments stopped. The aim is to speed up their deportation. Under the new law, the maximum detention period for foreigners awaiting deportation would also increase to 18 months for adults and nine months for minors over 15. The new foreigners' legislation faced no real opposition among the Radicals. Müller said that it allowed Switzerland to welcome citizens of the European Union, while restricting immigration from other countries. The new law would only allow non-EU citizens to immigrate if their professional qualifications make it necessary. The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party have already announced referendums against both laws. Backed by churches and humanitarian organisations, they believe the asylum law breaches the constitution and international law.

Research and innovation
Meeting in Näfels, canton Glarus, the Christian Democrats chose to focus on research. Delegates called on the government to develop a strategy to promote Swiss innovation and technology. The centre-right party wants paperwork to be reduced for start-ups and more support given to young entrepreneurs. Party president Doris Leuthard said that basic research also needed more funding, but only in strategic areas with good future prospects. These include nanotechnology, life sciences and information technology. Leuthard added that this did not mean that funding would be cut in other fields, but that extra money was required for areas where Switzerland could make an impact, boost economic growth and create jobs. The Christian Democrats have called for an annual increase of at least six per cent of research funding. Economics Minister Joseph Deiss told the delegates that the government wants to increase funding by that amount for the 2008-2011 financial period, targeting specific domains. But Deiss - a Christian Democrat himself - added that there had to be closer ties between the economy and the country's universities, developing education to respond to economic requirements.
© Swissinfo



16/1/2006- North, south, east and west, Americans remembered the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Monday with reverence and calls for others to continue his work. The Rev. Jesse Jackson asked every unregistered voter to stand in a crowded church in Spartanburg, S.C., on Sunday -- what would have been King's 77th birthday. The civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis, April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. "We are free but not equal," Jackson said in a sermon at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C.
A wheelchair-bound Coretta Scott King, King's widow who suffered a disabling stroke in August, made a surprise appearance at a leadership dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta Saturday night, WSBTV, Atlanta, said. Celebrations, programs, speeches, events, prayers and parades in Atlanta and Houston were held to mark Monday's 20th federal MLK Day holiday with a message to keep fighting to end poverty, discrimination and racism.
© United Press International


Headlines 13 January, 2006


12/1/2006- A US appeals court on Thursday threw out a bid by Internet giant Yahoo to win immunity from paying fines imposed by a French court over the firm's online sales of Nazi memorabilia. But, ruling on a long-running case that pitted the US constitutional right to freedom of expression against French anti-hate laws, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said it was very unlikely that the media giant would ever have to stump up what could amount to millions of dollars in fines. Yahoo had sought in its suit filed five years ago to bar two Paris-based rights groups from seeking to enforce two earlier French court orders imposing fines on the Internet firm in the United States over sales of Nazi items, which have since been halted. The groups, the League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and Jewish Students Union of France, wanted to stop Yahoo from allowing the sale of Nazi memorabilia, at least to French Internet users, which breaks a French law banning the circulation of Nazi symbols. In 2000 a French court ordered Yahoo to remove the Nazi items from availability to French users, and also ordered Yahoo to pay 100,000 francs (US $18,500) a day in fines for each day that the items were available. In its US suit Yahoo contested the French court rulings, claiming that they were a violation of its right to free speech under the US constitution's first amendment. But in a six to five vote, the judges decided to toss out Yahoo's complaint, while overturning a decision by a lower California court that declared the French court decisions unenforceable. Three judges voted to dismiss the case because it is not "ripe" to be considered by an American court, while the three other judges dismissed it on the grounds that US courts did not have jurisdiction over the Jewish groups. The judges noted that Yahoo's free-speech argument was "vague" and that the firm had in any case "in large measure" voluntarily complied with the French order to halt the offending auctions, making any violation of its First Amendment rights moot. "Even if the measures Yahoo has already taken restrict access by American Internet users to anti-Semitic materials, this has no bearing on Yahoo's first amendment argument," the judges wrote. "By its own admission, Yahoo has taken these measures entirely of its own volition," they wrote. But while rejecting the lower court's ruling that the French fines were unenforceable in the United States, the judges said that the French court orders of 2000 were very unlikely to ever be applied. "Enforcement of that penalty is extremely unlikely in the United States," the judges wrote. "Enforcement is unlikely not because of the First Amendment, but rather because of the general principle of comity under which American courts do not enforce monetary fines or penalties awarded by foreign courts." Yahoo representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the court's decision.
© Expatica News



12/1/2006- Sweden has granted political asylum to a controversial yoga teacher from EU candidate state Romania, with the Romanian leader referring to the case as an example of shortcomings in the country's legal system less than a year before accession is scheduled.
The Swedish Migration Board at the beginning of this week granted refugee status to Mr Gregorian Bivolaru, a 53 year-old yoga-instructor on the grounds that he may face persecution due to his religious views in Romania, and that a trial against him in his home country would not be fair. Last October, the Swedish government rejected a Romanian justice ministry's request for Mr Bivolaru's extradition on the same grounds. Mr Bivolaru, founder of the Movement for the Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) is standing trial in Romania for, amongst other things, rape, tax fraud and anti-Semite statements. The Swedish Supreme Court, on whose statement the Swedish government bases its dismissal of the extradition request, noted that the evidence put forward against Mr Bivolaru from Bucharest was insufficient. Bucharest in its extradition request included statements by Romanian MPs in a parliamentary debate as "facts", without substantial proof to back the claims. The request referred to MPs describing Mr Bivolaru as "Satan", "psychopath" and "terrorist". The Swedish court also referred to a report from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bucharest, stating that witnesses had been forced to declare false testimony against Bivolaru. The organisation's executive director, Diana Calinescu, called the case a "slap in the face" for the Romanian legal system, and told EUobserver that the Romanian judiciary must take into account that it did not manage to convince the Swedish court that Mr Bivolaru would enjoy a fair trial in Romania.

Romanian PM concerned about accession
The Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu on Monday (9 January) pointed to the case as an example of shortcomings in the Romanian legal system, warning that these might jeopardise Romania's bid to join the EU in January 2007. "If the yoga teacher is granted asylum in Sweden because his fundamental rights are not respected here in Romania, than that is a clear proof of the fact that justice does not function here," he said according to press reports. Referring to further deficiencies in the country's legal system, Mr Tariceanu said "We see a lot of strange sentences, causing doubts about the honesty of judges". Romania and Bulgaria signed their accession treaties on 25 April 2005, but these treaties for the first time contain a clause with the option to delay the 2007 entry date until 2008 if entry preparations are insufficient. EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said Brussels would "not hesitate" to make use of the option in its recommendation on the entry date to EU member states, due in April or May 2006. Mr Tariceanu also referred to this option, saying that "if accession fails to happen in 2007, we cannot be certain that it can happen in 2008," referring to the sceptical climate on enlargement currently characterising the EU.

MEPs concerned
A number of MEPs earlier expressed concern over the Bivolaru case, with the chairman of the European Parliament External Affairs Committee, Elmar Brok, sending a letter to Bucharest officials after the Swedish authorities first rejected the extradition request in November. Socialist MEP Veronique de Keyser and her Danish eurosceptic colleague Jens-Peter Bonde have also pledged to keep a critical eye on the case.
© EUobserver



By Paul B. Miller, associate professor of history at the International University of Sarajevo and McDaniel College in Maryland.
Teaching genocide to Bosnian Muslim students, an American professor finds that the overwhelming sense of their own unredeemed victimhood often dominates their responses to the suffering of others.

12/1/2006- How do you tell Bosnians that you’ve come to their country to teach a course on genocide? The first time I encountered this awkward situation was in the gym, while trying to make small talk with the woman next to me on the exercise bike. “So what are you teaching here?” she asked, innocently enough, in response to my boastfulness about being a Fulbright professor at the University of Sarajevo. “Well, you see, it’s a course about genocide in the 20th century. I mean, some of the faculty felt it would be good to look at this, eh, ‘scientifically’ since, you know, it’s not taught here as an academic subject like it is in the States. And I … because I teach the Holocaust at my university in America … they thought it would be a good way to begin confronting the recent history here. But I’m not touching what happened in Bosnia directly … no way! You know far more about that than I do. And in any case, Bosnia keeps coming up during our discussions.” Phew. For once my discomfiture had less to do with her looks than with my own anxiety about how she might respond to what I did, to what memories the deceptively simple word “genocide” might evoke. Indeed, what do I have to teach Bosnians about genocide? It was my sabbatical, and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to teach anything. I had taught three courses a semester the previous six years, responding dutifully to my colleagues’ requests to broaden course offerings. “I know nothing about women,” I joked to the mostly female students in my first class on women in modern Europe. But learn I did. So when it came time to apply for a Fulbright in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to begin a new book, I would have preferred one of the purely research grants.

Yet not quite able to market myself as a criminologist or economist – in other words, something Bosnia might actually need – I had to go for the catch-all lecture/research award in “all disciplines.” That meant that I would have to teach, and since European history was well-covered at the university, I brazenly, if perhaps naively, suggested that my Holocaust course might provide a means for Bosnians to begin facing their own recent past. The idea did not fill me with confidence, so I broached it with someone who had spent time in Bosnia during the war, whereas I had never been there. “You want to teach the Holocaust at the University of Sarajevo?” he replied. “That has got to be the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard! I mean, do you really think that people who live amid neighbors who murdered their families and burned down their homes want to hear about what the Jews suffered 60 years ago?” He insisted that no one in the country was ready to reopen such fresh wounds. The Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo had no interest in my course and was happy to let me spend the year doing research. But a new dean at the Faculty of Islamic Studies wanted to start a genocide studies curriculum, and when my CV crossed his desk he proposed a series of 15 lectures on genocide in the 20th century. Now I not only found myself teaching during my coveted sabbatical, but once again teaching something I had never taught before. Moreover, for someone who had breezily spent the Bosnian conflict in New Haven, Connecticut, reading books about French peasants in the 19th century, lecturing in Sarajevo on genocide seemed an intimidating prospect.

Switching to Bosnia
My lectures followed the standard chronological progression from Armenia through Rwanda, slowing down to consider issues of modernity, perpetrator psychology, Western responsibility, representation, and reconciliation. The course did not, as indicated, include a lecture on the Bosnian genocide; nor did it broach the topic of Yugoslavia during World War II. For one, I am not an expert on this region. But more importantly, I wanted the students to respond to me on their own terms and to let Bosnia work its way into our discussions as it may. This was probably the most successful, and illuminating, aspect of the course. It was also the aspect for which I was consistently the least-prepared. When I came to class ready to talk about Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide, they switched the conversation to Serb statements that vastly underestimate the number of dead in Srebrenica. When I showed a film on the bombing of Auschwitz controversy, they asked whether bombing Serbian supply lines in eastern Bosnia could have prevented ethnic cleansing there. In my lecture on Rwanda and the West’s failure to intervene in every genocide of the 20th century (against Christians, Jews, Muslims, blacks, whites, Cambodians of mixed backgrounds, etc.), one student still concluded that nothing was done for so long in Bosnia because the main victims were Muslims (in truth, more was done for Bosnia than any other 20th-century genocide, though definitive action came too late, of course). And when I quoted Hitler’s infamous January 30, 1939, prophecy of the “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe,” they quoted Radovan Karadzic’s genocidal rant in the Bosnian parliament less than six months before war erupted: "Don't think that you won't take Bosnia and Herzegovina to hell and perhaps cause the disappearance of the Muslim people with it, because the Muslim people cannot defend themselves if war were to break out here." Should I have been surprised? Probably not. Students always draw on what they know in order to discuss things they are learning about, and making these connections is typically viewed by teachers as a positive educational experience. But what caught me off-guard was how difficult it was for these Bosnians not to allow their very recent and serious trauma to interfere with how they construed that of others. It’s not that empathy was lacking so much as that the overwhelming sense of their own unredeemed victimhood dominated their responses to the victimhood of others.

Missing the point
One of the best examples of this came in a class on historian Jan Gross’ prize-winning book Neighbors. In this work, Gross reconstructs the history of Jedwabne, Poland, where on a summer day in 1941, and with no instigation or assistance from the German occupiers, Jedwabne’s 1,600 Jewish men, women, and children were murdered by their Polish neighbors. For most students, the book provoked memories of what happened in Bosnian villages in the last war. Yet besides the fact that these atrocities actually played out quite differently (Bosnian Muslims were typically murdered in organized assaults by military and paramilitary forces), this desire to understand one terrible history by relating it to one’s own horrors caused many of the students to miss the book’s main point: that this massacre was attributed to the Nazis in postwar Poland and thus was distorted for over half a century in the memories of millions of Polish citizens and Jewish survivors. Moreover, it is such distortions of history that the Balkans most closely shares with Jedwabne. Though I had been warned otherwise, my Bosnian students were not at all afraid to confront genocide. Many just needed to do it in a way that validated the suffering of their group – not just Bosnian Muslims, but often Muslims generally. Consequently, I fielded questions about the Crusades, Chechnya, and, most commonly, the Middle East. “Was it fair to say that Gaza and the West Bank are essentially huge concentration camps?” one student asked. “Only if you’ve never read a book about life in the gulag or a Nazi camp,” I responded. If those prisoners had half as much freedom and material support (not to mention food) as the Palestinians have had over the course of the Israeli occupation (which came about, it bears noting, in response to an act of war, accompanied by blatant genocidal rhetoric against the state of Israel), then the history of the Soviet Union and World War II would be completely different.

After seeing a documentary on Auschwitz, where the Nazis systematically murdered more than 1 million human beings, one student suggested how ironic it was that Jews were now doing the same to Muslims in the Middle East. Indeed the ease with which the term “genocide” was thrown about (Hiroshima? abortion?), despite my efforts to define it, attested less to confusion or bad will on anyone’s part, but rather, I sensed, to trauma. I may have taught the Holocaust for seven years in the United States, but teaching genocide in Bosnia was the first time that I truly got a taste of its aftereffects. That trauma made it especially difficult for students to learn that their particular group could be implicated in genocide. My biggest hurdle thus came when I lectured on the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey during World War I, which ended nearly 3,000 years of Armenian civilization in Eastern Anatolia and the lives of at least a million people. Not only were the students almost wholly unfamiliar with it, but as one of them bravely said at the end of the lecture: It was not easy to learn that Muslims had done this, though she knew that it was necessary to do so. Others were less confident, arguing – unwittingly in line with the multimillion dollar Turkish propaganda machine that denies the genocide – that it was a world war and many Muslims died, too. And a Bosnian intellectual who was not in the course insisted that the Armenian genocide was not committed by Muslims at all, but rather by the secular nationalists who took over the Ottoman Empire in 1908. That is akin to saying that Christians did not kill Jews in the Holocaust, but rather Nazis and their collaborators did. There’s a certain truth to the statement, since Nazism was a wholly secular form of racial fundamentalism. But as long as Jews couldn’t convert (into “Aryans”) in order to save their lives, it’s pretty meaningless rhetoric.

Mono ethnic studies
Be that as it may, the biggest limitation to the course and subsequent lectures I gave at the faculties of law and political science was that they were composed primarily of just one ethnic/religious group – in this case, Bosnian Muslims, or Bosniaks. The homogeneity of classrooms in Bosnia and Herzegovina is, of course, no one’s fault but the politicians and military leaders who conducted a war that everybody lost, and is still losing. But it did undermine any potential intergroup dialogue and opportunity for students to better understand each other from the viewpoint of someone else’s victimization. I go back over what I have just written. Is it fair to characterize the students thus? Haven’t I really just generalized from those who were the most outspoken? What about the quieter students, or those who simply asked good questions regardless of whether or not they came back to their own lives and victim group? What about those who told me what a great lecturer I was and how much they appreciated the course, who begged me to come over for dinner, who became teary-eyed when I screened the Holocaust documentary “Night and Fog,” who showed courage just by coming to the lectures in the first place? One student was so thankful that after the last class he refused to accept a handshake, but insisted on giving me a hug. Shouldn’t his voice, and actions, speak as loudly as those I have dwelled upon above? Shouldn’t I simply be grateful for the opportunity to teach a course on genocide in a place that so recently went through it, rather than turning the experience into more fodder for my academically trained mind? If the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not so apparent even to an outsider like myself, then the answer would certainly be “yes.” Unfortunately, however, in the year that I have lived here I have not managed to separate my own work from the jaded environment in which I now carry it out. Many people reading this, no doubt, will wish that I could have.

In as traumatized a place as this, where behind every smiling face there are singular, aching memories, some American who barely speaks their language, let alone understands their culture and history, is not likely to be appreciated for telling them that this obsession with their own victimization, sometimes to the point of distorting the facts about that of others, is a significant hindrance to their country’s unification, development, and normalization. But from the perspective of someone poking around inside a foreign body, with the meager instruments of a few books and a warm heart, that appears to be the case. And having spent some time this summer in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital, I feel confident in saying that this is even truer of Bosnian Serbs.

While I would never go so far as to conclude that teaching genocide in Bosnia was a greater experience for me than for my students, it certainly did make me think differently, and less naively, about the prospects of teaching genocide in general. By the end of the course, what I had come to realize there was to teach Bosnians about genocide was essentially the same thing there is to teach anyone about it: that it does not happen by chance; that there are ways of defining and codifying it; that no matter what the particular victim group, geographical location, or level of political/economic development, the Western powers have consistently been reluctant to respond to genocide; and that the trauma will never completely erase itself regardless of how many perpetrators are convicted, apologies are proffered, or restitution dollars are paid, essential as all these forms of reconciliation are. These lessons were useful, I think, because they gave my students the feeling that they were not alone; that their tragedy was not belittled because it was comparable to others, but rather accentuated by this fact. The Holocaust, we concluded in line with much recent scholarly thinking, no longer constitutes an irreproachable standard against which all other tragedies are measured and, typically, found to be wanting. By placing the Bosnian genocide in the same category (and recognizing that all genocides, just as all events of history, are unique), the students were able to gain what the psychologist Ervin Staub argues that all victims of mass violence most need: universal acknowledgment that what they experienced is neither normal nor tolerable.

This alone is a crucial component of healing and reconciliation. So even if the direction of our discussions may have surprised and frustrated me, and even if any grandiose hopes I may have harbored for the course were soon dashed by the inward gaze manifest by many of my otherwise highly intelligent, tolerant, and respectful students, at least I, and they, learned that while one course cannot possibly alter the pain and mistrust that the brutal conflict here has left in its wake, it did help to expand the conversation to include other groups who have suffered similarly. And considering the amount of suffering that all people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have endured in the last century, widening this circle of empathy, both inside and outside the country’s borders, seems to me pretty important if the pessimism that reigns here is to give way to the promise that everyone deserves.
© Transitions Online



11/1/2006- Men earn on average 30 percent more than women, according to government figures. A report on pay in Spain in 2004 found men earn EUR 17,964 a year while women are paid only EUR 12,464 - an average of EUR 5,500 less. The report says this is due to the comparatively recent arrival of women in the workplace, the less stable nature of their jobs and old-fashioned companies. But the report says the balance between family life and work in Spain is the best in the European Union, with more women able to do part-time work. This does mean that ambitious women may face more struggles in accomplishing career targets. The report said only 42 percent of the workforce aged 18-45 were women. The older workers got, the more favourable the situation was for men, with up 20 points separating the two in the 45-65 year age group wage structure. The areas of Spain where the best salaries were paid are Madrid (EUR 18,050), Ceuta and Melilla (EUR 17,468) and Catalonia (EUR 17,476). The sectors which offer the best money are energy and water (average EUR 31,846), financial and insurance (EUR 28,911). The worst salaries were paid in hotel work (average EUR 8,680).
© Expatica News



12/1/2006- The 170 States which have signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination today elected nine members of their 18-member monitoring committee to replace those stepping down this month. At the beginning of their 21st meeting, those elected to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) included Ambassador Jose Augusto Lindgren Alves of Brazil, law professor Linos-Alexander Sicilianos of Greece, law professor Nourredine Amir of Algeria, Danish Institute for Human Rights executive director Morten Kjaerum, former Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr of Egypt. The others were former Foreign Minister Agha Shahi of Pakistan, Senior Advocate General Régis de Gouttes of the French Court of Cassaton, law professor Patrick Thornberry of the United Kingdom and Human Rights Director in the Government of Togo Kokou Mawuena Ika Kana Dieudonné Ewomsan. The other nine committee members will serve until 19 January 2008. The members also elected Paulette Bethel of the Bahamas as the meeting’s chairperson, as well as Paul Badji of Senegal, Muhammad Anshur of Indonesia and Marija Antonijevic of Serbia and Montenegro as vice-chairpersons. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s representative, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told the delegates that since their previous meeting in January 2004, the number of States parties to the Convention had increased from 169 to 170, with the ratification by Comoros. Among its many activities in the past two years, the Committee had issued four opinions and decisions in connection with communications received from individuals or groups alleging violations of their rights under the Convention, he said.
© UN News service



13/1/2006- The attack against worshippers in a Hasid Synagogue at 6 Bolshaya Bronnaya Ulitsa in central Moscow on Wednesday, 11 January, elicited a lot of comments and reactions. Far from being the first attack against a synagogue in Russia, for the first time the rampage left so many victims – eight people were stabbed. Opinions differ as to whether the attacker, Alexander Koptsev, is a convinced member of a nationalist gang or a mentally unstable individual (his parents, naturally, insist on the latter). So far, it appears that he had associated with skinheads before the attack and had obviously read books of their ‘propaganda’, but acted single-handedly. Members of different religions, numerous NGOs and government officials immediately condemned the attack. Human rights defenders stressed that Koptsev’s attack was not a random accident, but a manifestation of hatred and violence on the rise in Russia, while attempts by authorities to control them are clearly inadequate. (Some people have made even more radical statements, holding the Kremlin directly responsible for the rampage.)  Radical nationalists also reacted to the incident. For example, Orthodox Russia wrote that the attack may have been a provocation orchestrated by Jews and authorities to justify reprisals against Russian nationalists. Similarly, the neo-Nazi Freedom Party described Koptsev as a victim of provocation and called upon the Russian government to pursue nationalist policies as a way to avoid a universal war against Jews. In fact, the impunity of ethno-nationalist propaganda and its wide dissemination in Russia were the main reasons behind Koptsev’s attack.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis



13/1/2006- Police on Thursday searched the apartment of the 20-year-old man detained in the stabbing of eight men at a Moscow synagogue and found a list with the addresses of three synagogues, items with swastikas and dozens of rounds of ammunition. Unlike most xenophobic attacks, Wednesday's incident sent strong waves through the country's political establishment and beyond. The suspect, Alexander Koptsev, had no criminal record and appeared to have acted alone when he burst into the Chabad Synagogue at 6 Bolshaya Bronnaya Ulitsa, near Pushkin Square, on Wednesday evening, a prosecutor said. Koptsev's father said his son had been depressed after his sister died last year and had been reading a book that portrayed Jews as betrayers of Russia. Koptsev used a hunting knife to stab eight men -- including an American, an Israeli and a Tajik citizen -- until he was wrestled to the floor by the synagogue's chief rabbi, Yitzak Kogan, and other people. Five of the injured remained hospitalized Thursday, two of them in critical condition, Interfax reported. Investigators found 64 rifle cartridges and a list of three Moscow synagogues, including the Chabad Synagogue, while searching the Koptsev family's apartment, media reports said. Moscow City Prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said nationalist literature and "items with the Nazi symbol on them" were also found among the suspect's belongings. He did not elaborate. Koptsev told investigators Thursday that he had been looking for "information of a nationalist nature" on the Internet, Zuyev said. "Now, we have collected enough evidence to charge him, and we will do so soon," Zuyev said late Thursday afternoon. "Then we will ask a court to sanction his arrest." Koptsev faces charges of attempted murder, assault and "actions aimed at hurting ethnic and religious dignity," which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Zuyev said Koptsev had never been in trouble with the law before and did not belong to an extremist organization. He said the suspect would undergo a psychiatric examination but had not been registered as having psychological problems in the past.

Koptsev's father, whose name is also Alexander, said his son was "a quiet homebody" and suggested that he had snapped. "Last year, Sasha suffered a deep psychological trauma after his sister died of cancer," he said in an interview published in Kommersant on Thursday. "My son has never been a member of any religious or political organization," he said. Koptsev said his son had had trouble holding down a regular job and spent his free time playing computer games. He said his son's favorite was "Postal," a gruesome game in which a postman goes berserk and kills everyone he encounters with an arsenal of weapons, including a knife. The father also recalled that he had recently seen an anti-Semitic book on a table in his son's room. "Sasha said the book was about how Yids sold Russia," he said. Zuyev said investigators seized the book during the search and that experts found that the book carried multiple statements aimed at inciting ethnic and religious hatred. Suggesting that the suspect is mentally unbalanced would be an easy way for the government and the public to dismiss the attack, warned Borukh Gorin, a spokesman for the Russian Federation of Jewish Communities. "To blame this on lone mad people is dangerous because these mad people could explode the whole country," he said at a news conference. He also called "hasty" Zuyev's statement that Koptsev did not belong to an extremist organization. "Such hasty conclusions put me on guard," he said. Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, lumped the attack together with the recent murders of dark-skinned foreign students in several Russian cities, calling the incidents a worrisome trend. Senior members of both houses of parliament, including Dmitry Rogozin, head of the nationalist Rodina party, condemned the stabbings and called for authorities to work harder to prevent further xenophobic attacks. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said deputies might consider toughening the law on extremism.

Jewish leaders said authorities had shown leniency toward extremist groups and that that had led to the recent escalation in xenophobic attacks. "This is the result of what we have seen in Russia over the last few months," Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said at the news conference, referring to the murders of foreign students and other dark-skinned people in St. Petersburg, Voronezh and other cities last year and in 2004. He said xenophobia was growing because of "the propaganda of extremism and fascism, which is conducted openly and for which no one has yet been held accountable." Extremist literature is sold widely across the country, and courts usually classify skinhead attacks as hooliganism, not racially motivated crime. In November, about 3,000 young nationalists marched through central Moscow under xenophobic banners. Xenophobic rhetoric flows freely in the Russian media, and that raises the specter of more attacks, said Alla Gerber, head of the Holocaust Foundation. "Authorities don't care to undercut extremism, courts do not see racial hatred, and no one makes any effort to introduce a project -- be it a television show or a publication -- that would teach tolerance," she said. The country's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, called on the government to establish a program to teach tolerance, according to a statement on his web site. It remained unclear how the hunting knife was brought through a metal detector into the synagogue. One account said the detector went off but a guard let Koptsev in after Koptsev pointed to a large metal belt buckle. Another account said Koptsev fought his way inside, wounding a guard with the knife. Koptsev spent the night at the Sklifosofsky First Aid Hospital, where he was treated for injuries and a cut on the neck sustained when he was wrestled to the floor and held until police arrived. Kogan, the rabbi, was the only person at the synagogue authorized to comment about the attack, and he could not be reached for details on Thursday. Police posted patrols outside synagogues across the country. "Where we had no armed guards, they have now appeared," Gorin said. "Police are patrolling every synagogue and every [Jewish] community center."
© The Moscow Times



12/1/2006- Russia must start enforcing its anti-extremism laws to stop a racist groundswell turning into mass bloodshed, Jewish leaders warned on Thursday, a day after a knife attack on Jews in a synagogue. They said it was a miracle that no one was killed on Wednesday evening when a knife-wielding man stabbed eight Jews at a city center synagogue, and said they hoped the attack would shock Russians out of their apathy. "The tragedy is unprecedented for Jews in Russia, but not long ago a Tajik girl was killed in St Petersburg, and not long ago African students were killed," Borukh Gorin, of the Russian Federation of Jewish Organisations, told reporters. "To blame this on lone mad people is dangerous, because these mad people could explode the whole country," he said. Rights activists said the attack on the synagogue was merely a small part of a growing wave of racist violence against foreigners and non-ethnic Russians in Russia, which is one of the world's most ethnically varied countries. Last month a student from Cameroon was killed in St. Petersburg -- just the latest of a dozen Africans and Asians killed in the northern city in the last two years. Assaults on citizens of ex-Soviet countries are even more frequent, and the murders of two Tajik gypsy girls -- aged five and nine -- shocked the nation two years ago. "Blood is flowing: the blood of Jews, the blood of Africans. It is all red. And by the laws of social science, other blood will flow too," said Gorin. "We ask people of all different viewpoints to... join the fight against this terrible evil because it affects you all." Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar cut short a trip to Israel after the attack, and urged police and prosecutors to start enforcing the existing laws against racism to stop far right groups from gaining support. "We do not feel that Jews have it worse in Russia than other people. We are living comfortably here but the country is suffering and we are suffering with it," he said. "The inadequate nature of the police's actions against these groups is clear... They must not be ignored anymore... While there is (public) indifference, while people watch and think how there'll be different news tomorrow, then this will continue." Prosecutors were quoted by Russian media as saying Nazi objects, nationalists books, knives and ammunition had been found at the home of the 20-year-old Muscovite who attacked the synagogue, and that he had been sent for psychological tests.
© Reuters



12/1/2006- “Neither anti-Semitism nor any other form of racism and intolerance should be allowed to become endemic in Russia, or anywhere else in Europe” said Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. “The stabbing of eight people in the Bolshaya Bronnaya street synagogue during the evening prayers is the latest in the series of racist attacks which are causing great concern to the friends of Russia. The incident yesterday, the murders of a Congolese and a Cameroonian student in St Petersburg in September and December, and the murder of a Peruvian national in Voronezh in October last year – to mention just some of the recent cases - were the acts of deranged individuals, but there is a collective and vertical responsibility to prevent and protect people from hate crime. Everyone, especially parents, teachers, journalists and politicians is responsible for educating and inspiring attitudes which prevent intolerance, hate and violence from taking root in society. When a series of hate crimes takes place in any of our member states, it is time to go beyond condemnation and take a long hard look at the situation” concluded the Secretary General.
© Council of Europe



11/1/2006- The Jewish community of Moscow was in a state of shock after a drunken skinhead stabbed eight Jews at the Chabad Bronnaya synagogue Wednesday night. Aharon Yeheskelia of Kiryat Malachi, currently a Chabad rabbinical student in Moscow, was in surgery at press time after having been slashed in the neck and seriously wounded in the attack. The other victims were in stable condition. Yosef Kogan, the 18-year-old son of Chabad Bronnaya Rabbi Yitzhak Kogan, who was himself wounded, wrestled the attacker and managed to pin him to the ground until police arrived. They arrested Moscovite Alexander Koptsev, 20, who faces charges including hate-based attempted murder, according to chief Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev. "At that moment, I didn't have any thought of fear," Yosef Kogan told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from the Moscow hospital where the victims were being treated. "I only thought about what to do so that others wouldn't be hurt." Avraham Berkowitz, also at the synagogue at the time of the attack, described Kogan as "a courageous young man who jumped on the knife-wielding maniac and knocked the knife out of his hand." Berkowitz, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Commonwealth of Independent States, said Koptsev was screaming "Heil Hitler" and left a "bloodbath" in his wake. Others heard the perpetrator yell, "I will kill Jews." "It was a terrible scene," Berkowitz told the Post. Witnesses said the assailant attacked a guard who tried to stop him, then stabbed people in or near a prayer room on the first floor before continuing his rampage upstairs. They said the attacker had a shaved head and wore a leather jacket. It was not immediately clear whether he was a member of any anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi groups, Zuyev said. Around 100 people were at the synagogue at the time of the attack, but soon after members of the Jewish community flooded the area around it to find out what had happened and show solidarity. Scores stayed at the synagogue into the night praying for the well-being of the victims.

The attack is the most serious in years and comes against a backdrop of anti-Semitic incidents in Russia. The Jewish community called on the Russian authorities to provide armed guards at all Moscow Jewish institutions and aggressively prosecute any acts of racial hatred. "If today's act does not sound an alarm, society faces grave danger," said Borukh Gorin, chief spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. "Fascism will come knocking at the door of every citizen if we do not take serious measures now." Russian news reports said the country's top prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, was personally taking control of the investigation. "The police are doing what they need to do," said the Jewish Agency's Moscow head of mission Nona Orman, adding that the police had searched Koptsev's background on suspicions that the attack was well-planned by a group of people. She criticized local police, however, for "enabling events like this, because they are not capable of stopping [hate] groups and events like this one are what results." Orman told the Post by phone that the Jewish community is "in shock" because, despite the "negative atmosphere" towards Jews, "there's a difference between seeing something anti-Semitic written and something where people are wounded." But Berkowitz vowed that the attack would not cow the Jewish people of Russia. "We're not going to close our doors, because otherwise you're caving into terror," he said, adding that this incident put Jews at the "forefront of civil society and the protection of the future of Russia as a multi-ethnic society." Berkowitz pointed to the reviving strength of Judaism in Russia, noting that 100,000 Jews had recently participated in public Hanukka celebrations. "For us it's someone trying to spoil the party," he said of the attack. Orman said her office had been inundated by calls and would be organizing aid to the victims. Berkowitz said he had also received an "overwhelming" influx of support from Jews around the world, and said the incident demonstrated the solidarity of the Jewish people.

Jewish leaders said that major Jewish philanthropists Lev Leviev and Arkady Gaydamak had both donated funds for private aircraft with Israeli medical teams to assist the wounded and transport anyone in need of medical attention back to Israel. In a separate move, Gaydamak is expected to announce a $50 million donation to the Jewish Agency in support of Jewish education in the Former Soviet Union on Thursday. The attack has "united" the Moscow Jewish community, according to Moscow Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who also serves as the chairman of the Conference of European Rabbis. He said that the Russian authorities needed to do more to stamp out anti-Semitism at all levels. "Anti-Semitic acts don't happen in a vacuum. They are almost always a reaction to anti-Semitic statements and feelings which exist in the society." Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday expressing "shock" at the attack. Yuval Fuchs, the charg d'affaires at the Israeli embassy in Moscow, asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to keep the embassy appraised of the situation, and expressed the hope that the "perpetrators would be brought to justice." The ministry issued a statement saying that the embassy was in "constant contact" with the Jewish community there, and would provide it with all assistance requested. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he directed Fuchs to transmit a "strong and firm" message to the Russian government of the need to take "strong steps against these types of anti-Semitic incidents." The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement after the attack saying, "We will continue to fight manifestations of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and religious intolerance."
© Jerusalem Post



10/1/2006- Belgium's interior minister has controversially called for electronic ID cards for foreign residents and tough sanctions on anyone helping illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, many of Patrick Dewael's political allies demanded he explain the remarks he made in an interview on Saturday to Gazet van Antwerpen. Speaking to the Antwerp newspaper, Dewael, who is also a vice-president, said he had two "small ideas" for immigration policy. He said he wanted to see the 1980 immigration law's articles 77 and 77 bis used to punish anyone who helped or harboured illegal immigrants in Belgium. He also said he wanted to introduce electronic ID cards, containing fingerprints, for foreign nationals. The proposals outraged refugee and civil liberties organisations who said the ID card idea amounted to humiliating foreigners. The socialist party also said it was "intolerable" to police foreigners in that way. The party also said the articles cited by Dewael were introduced to clamp down on people trafficking; the laws were not supposed to be used against the ordinary citizen lending a helping hand to those without proper papers. However, the extreme right-wing party Vlaams Belang called on Dewael to "actively" search for those helping illegal immigrants and its head, Filip Dewinter, announced that he would bring a legal action against Frank Housteaux, the manager of a Flemish charity, for supporting illegal immigrants.
© Expatica News



Belarusian President Awards Prize to Antisemitic Ideologue, Long Time Aide
9/1/2006- The president of Belarus—Aleksandr Lukashenko—has given a medal to an antisemitic ideologue who serves as the editor of his presidential administration’s newsletter, according to a January 6, 2006 report by the opposition news site Kharitiya 97. President Lukashenko reportedly awarded Eduard Skobelev a prize for “spiritual development” despite complaints by Jewish activists last month that his latest work “Stalin’s Testament” contains personal attacks against Belarusian Jewish leaders. Mr. Skobelev has a long reputation for promoting antisemitism—in 1990, he allegedly proposed the use of guns to solve the "Jewish problem" and more recently he argued that “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was a genuine document. In December 2005, another long-time presidential aide, Viktor Kuchinsky, reportedly called for the violent expulsion of migrants from the Caucasus.

Neo-Nazis March in Grodno, Belarus 
10/1/2006- Around 30 neo-Nazis staged a march in the center of Grodno, Belarus, according to a January 10, 2006 report by the Russian Jewish web site The marchers screamed “Heil Hitler!” and insults directed at local anti-fascists as they marched. Several bystanders were beaten before the marchers dispersed upon spotting the police. A local journalist was quoted in the report as saying that neo-Nazis had become much more active in Grodno lately. City police stated that they had no information about the incident.
© FSU Monitor



12/1/2006- The plan of the nationalist National Party to build up a memorial to WW2 victims in Lety, south Bohemia, on the site of the former Nazi camp for Czech Romanies is a provocation, government human rights commissioner Svatopluk Karasek said in a statement released to CTK today. "It is terrifying that there still exist nationalist forces in the country, pretending that there is a difference between an internment and concentration camp," said Karasek (junior ruling Freedom Union, US-DEU). He thereby reacted to the National Party's intention to remind that the facility in Lety was no concentration camp, but only an internment camp set up by Germans and not by Czechs.  Nova reported that the memorial should inform that there was a normal labour camp where Romanies died of common diseases.  Katerina Jacques, head of the office of deputy PM and Justice Minister Pavel Nemec (US-DEU) who is in charge of human rights issues, has reacted to the National Party's plans even sharper. Jacques said that the National Party's stances indicate sympathies for the Nazi movement and actually defend the Nazi genocide which the Lety camp served. "It must be analysed whether they [National Party] have thereby committed the crime of supporting and promoting fascism and similar movements leading to the suppression of human rights and freedoms," Jacques stressed. Nemec, too, rejected the National Party's plan. "Such an act not only denies the suffering of unjustly interned Romanies, but it could amount to a crime," Justice Ministry spokesman Petr Dimun said on Nemec's behalf. The camp in Lety was established by the government of the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia in August 1942 upon the orders from Berlin. Czech personnel worked in the facility where Romanies were interned before their transport to extermination camps. The Lety camp existed for about a year. Over 300 inmates perished there mainly of infectious diseases. At present a pig farm occupies part of the camp's area. Romany organisations strive for the pig farm's demolition. The National Party stands up against the demolition, arguing that the farm is not situated on the original plot of the Nazi camp. Nova television reported that Romany organisations also oppose the plan for the memorial that should be shaped as a three-tonne stone block and they want to prevent it by all possible means, even with their own bodies. The National Party also says it has gained a permit for the memorial from the plot owner, that is the Lety municipality, but Lety Mayor Rostislav Jandera denied it.
© Prague Daily Monitor



10/1/2006- Romanies feel threatened by the planned government census of their population in the Czech Republic and they have good reasons to feel so, Karel Neuwirt, former head of the Personal Data Protection Office (UOOU), writes in the daily Pravo today. The new monitoring system of the Romany community, planned to be effective as of 2008, generated a heated discussion. The supporters of the system are mainly defending its necessity. It is evident that the government needs better information on the community than that received in the latest population census in 2001. In the census, 11,000 Czechs declared themselves Romanies, but it is estimated that some 250,000 Romanies live in the Czech Republic. The government declares that it will be able to better help Romanies to be adapted to society and improve their living conditions thanks to the precise information. But the problem is that the government or the organisers of the system have not presented sufficient guarantees to Romanies that the data obtained will not be misused, the author says. The promoters of the system merely use the argument that the system will be anonymous. However, anonymity is not a sufficient guarantee. Moreover, it has not freed Romanies of their doubts. Even if data are anonymous, in other words, if the names and addresses are not included, people may be identified indirectly. Experts on the protection of privacy should therefore assess whether indirect identification of individuals is possible using the data from the planned monitoring system, Neuwirt concludes in Pravo.
© Romano vodi



Four members of Switzerland's militia army will not be held accountable for racism after they used the Nazi salute as well as racist expressions while on duty.

10/1/2006- The military authorities found that the behaviour in question was not discriminatory, as it did not take place in public but in barracks and on marches. The military spokesman said on Tuesday that only a very small circle of people had been subjected to the conduct of the two corporals and two recruits. However, the men have not got away completely scot-free as they now face disciplinary action for disrespectful conduct and mischievous behaviour. The spokesman said neither the military justice nor the armed forces tolerated any form of racism. No further details from the investigation into the men's conduct were released. A number of legal experts, however, have raised their eyebrows at the decision. Georg Kreis, president of the Federal Commission against Racism, found broadening the definition of a public place particularly problematic. He called on politicians to condemn the decision by the military investigating magistrate and appealed to the public to make clear that such behaviour was unacceptable. Marcel Niggli, a professor of criminal law at Fribourg University, also found the decision hard to swallow. The decision could be understood to mean that army matters were defined as private rather than public, Niggli criticised. The four army members were sent home in August 2005 from a training camp for elite infantrymen, sparking off an internal military inquiry. At the time, the defence ministry released a statement pointing out that, while the army cherishes freedom of expression, it did not tolerate extremist language, gestures and actions within its ranks.
© Swissinfo



The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) – hosts of a keynote European anti-racism conference in Barcelona – considers the 1 February event an important milestone in its own campaign to rid football of intolerance and discrimination.

10/1/2006- The Unite Against Racism conference, at the Camp Nou stadium, is being organised by UEFA in co-operation with the Football Against Racism in Europe network and the RFEF, in conjunction with FC Barcelona. Around 200 people, including star players, football personalities, Spanish politicians and delegates from UEFA's 52 member associations, are invited to the event, which follows on from a successful conference held at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC, in spring 2003. "The Spanish Football Federation has always strived for a more honourable sport, free from violence and inequalities," said RFEF president and UEFA and FIFA vice-president Angel María Villar Llona. "Our aim is to eradicate racism, xenophobia and bad behaviour from the football pitch, and we will spare no effort to achieve this goal. "When we consider that our teams play host to players of different colours and from different countries and ethnic groups, it is quite clear that there is no room for racism, xenophobia or intolerance in Spanish football," Villar added. "For this very reason the Spanish Football Federation has already adopted and will continue to adopt measures aimed at combating and freeing our stadiums from any attitudes and behaviour that run contrary to human dignity."

Spanish measures
The RFEF has introduced initiatives aimed at tackling discrimination in football at international matches, and has also signed a response protocol with the Consejo Superior de Deportes (Supreme Sporting Committee), as well as with various sectors of the Spanish footballing world. This protocol was put into effect during last season's league championship. "The skin colour, origin or nationality of footballers can no longer be cause for mockery and taunts from a small handful of individuals who are, unfortunately, responsible for bringing utterly intolerable attitudes into the game and who prevent the vast majority of supporters from enjoying their football," said Villar. The RFEF president reflected how, in the last 20 years, considerable numbers of immigrants have come to Spain and the rest of Europe, to find better living and working conditions. "These people have left everything behind in order to enjoy the living conditions that their respective countries were unable to offer them," Villar explained. "Regrettably, as they have gradually become more and more part of our society, we have witnessed a simultaneous outbreak in racist behaviour. "And what is my point? It's easy. Football is the most popular sport in the world. Both on the pitch and in the stands, football has the power to unite the poor and the wealthy, people of all colours, people from different cultural standings, those with different religious creeds or conflicting political beliefs. Football is no longer a social phenomenon but rather a social reality. "Football reflects society itself," Villar continued. "And yet our stadiums have seen the arrival of attitudes, behaviour and movements targeted against black footballers that are insulting to genuine lovers of the sport. Although we are, together with the fans, players and clubs, fighting to eradicate this kind of behaviour, I still find it deeply hurtful and troubling. We cannot let our guard down. We must press on with our fight as we also work to educate young children."



The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has recently introduced a 'citizenship test' for Muslims wanting to become German citizens. David Gordon Smith argues why the test is misguided, racist and unconstitutional.

11/1/2006- "Where do you stand on the statement that a wife should obey her husband and that he can hit her if she fails to do so?" "Imagine that your adult son comes to you and says he is homosexual and plans to live with another man. How do you react?" "What do you think if a man in Germany is married to two women at the same time?" No, this isn't some kind of new German parlour game on contemporary mores. These are questions from a new 'citizenship test' for those hoping to become German citizens, introduced in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg on 1 January 2006 by interior minister Heribert Rech. But not everybody is allowed to air their opinions on these moral dilemmas. Only citizenship applicants from the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which includes such hotbeds of Islamist extremism as Cameroon, Senegal and Sierra Leone, are required to answer the 30 questions which form a new 'handbook' for immigration authority staff.

Lip service
According to Baden-Württemberg interior ministry spokesman Günter Loos, the new questionnaire is meant to find out if a person shares Germany's "fundamental principles and values." "We need to find out whether the applicant really does seriously mean it when he signs an oath of allegiance to the constitution and accepts it, or whether he's merely paying lip service to it," he says. Applicants for citizenship will have to sign a written version of their answers. Baden-Württemberg authorities warn that applicants could have their citizenship revoked if it later transpires they gave false answers. Naturally every nation state has the right to demand loyalty to its values and principles, and to require potential citizens to swear an oath of allegiance to the constitution - something which Germany already does. This is simply part of the social contract between a state and its citizens. However the new citizenship test is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, the test violates a key principle of Germany's Grundgesetz (constitution), namely Article 3, which states: "No one may be prejudiced or favoured because of their sex, their parentage, their race, their language, their homeland and origin, their faith or their religious or political opinions." Hence the authorities supposedly testing for loyalty to the constitution are themselves violating it - a point that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and other groups have already raised. Addressing certain questions only to Muslims is clearly racist and discriminatory. A similar citizenship test for, say, Russian Jews wishing to become German citizens is unimaginable in today's Germany and would have already cost Rech his political neck if he had introduced it.  In fact, some legal experts like the FDP's Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger point out that the test is possibly illegal because it violates the principle of equality enshrined in the constitution and that citizenship can not simply be revoked as Baden-Württemberg threatens. Turkish-German MEP Cem Özdemir, who is from Baden-Württemberg himself, argues that, with such a discriminatory test, the federal state would have difficulty in being accepted into the EU if it were a country applying for membership.

Failing the test
Additionally, many German citizens would not pass the test. In an editorial for the Berlin newspaper Taz, Lale Akgün points out that the current German pope would fail due to his opinions on homosexuality and sexual equality. Leading Green party politician Volker Beck has suggested that Rech himself would likely fail the test, as would many of his conservative CDU colleagues. The questions also show a stereotyped view of Muslims, seeing them as a monolithic group of wife-beaters, sister-murderers and terrorists. This ignores the enormous diversity to be found within Islam and does nothing to encourage the mutual understanding which Germany and its Muslim minority desperately needs. It is also difficult to see what the test adds in terms of actual loyalty to the German constitution. New German citizens already have to pledge to respect the "free and democratic values" of the constitution. If Loos is worried about applicants "paying lip service" to this pledge, what makes him think that they will not simply pay lip service to the questionnaire as well? The test does not even meet its purported aims.

Poking its nose in
Finally, as the Taz newspaper points out, the state does not have the right to poke its nose in people's private affairs, such as their beliefs about homosexuality or family relations. Again this violates the German constitution: as Article 4 puts it: "Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom of creed religious or ideological, are inviolable." Acts against the constitution can and should be punished. But a basic tenet of democracy is that individuals should be free to hold whatever opinions they like. The cack-handed new measures will discourage Muslims living in Germany from applying for citizenship, affecting in particular Germany's 2.7 million Turks, the largest group among the country's 3.5 million Muslims. At a time when the recent riots in France have clearly shown the importance of fostering integration, the move could not be more ill-advised. Let us hope that the authorities in Baden-Württemberg quickly realise how misguided the new policy is and reverse it. And let us hope that the Baden-Württemberg electorate send Rech and his CDU party a clear condemnation of such institutionalised racism in the next regional elections, which - perhaps not entirely coincidentally - will take place in March 2006.
© Expatica News



9/1/12006- The number of people seeking asylum in Germany fell to its lowest level in 22 years in 2005, officials told Deutsche- Press-Agentur Sunday. Information from the Ministry of the Interior showed that only 28,914 refugees requested asylum in Germany last year, which was 18.8 per cent less than 2004. It was also the lowest level since 1983. At the same time, the chances of gaining asylum in Germany last year also remained relatively remote. Only 0.9 per cent of requests for asylum were granted. The downward trend in asylum seekers follows reform of Germany's asylum laws in 1993. In addition to legislative measures and steps to shorten the processing time for asylum applications, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also believes that increased European cooperation against asylum abuse has contributed to the numbers drop. Schaeuble wants to move to strengthen the obligation of those not entitled to remain in Germany to leave the country. Data produced by Schaeuble's ministry showed the number of asylum- seekers declining each month in 2005 compared to 2004. That said, however, the war in Iraq resulted in a 53.4 per cent jump in applications for asylum from people seeking to escape the country. Last year, 1983 Iraqis applied for asylum. Asylum applications from Serbia and Montenegro rose by 43.2 per cent to 5522. But in seven out of ten main countries generating asylum seekers, China, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, the numbers of asylum-seekers fell.
© Expatica News



13/1/2006- Thousands of rejected asylum-seekers are to be offered up to £3,000 each to return home voluntarily. The move comes days after the Government missed a key promise over the number of asylum-seekers removed from Britain. Under the scheme, failed claimants will be paid £500 as soon as they board a flight out of the country - the first time cash incentives have been paid to leave. Another £1,500 will be available upon their return to their homeland, which could be paid in the form of cash or by directly meeting the costs of housing or education. They will also be able to claim a further £1,000 of benefits "in kind" under an earlier scheme designed to pay for training or setting up a business, making a total package of up to £3,000 each. The scheme, which will run on a pilot basis until the end of June, could cost the Home Office more than £1m a month. But Tony McNulty, the immigration minister, insisted it represented good value for money compared with the average £11,000 cost of forcibly removing a failed asylum-seeker. In a written statement to the Commons, he predicted that the scheme could boost the number of voluntary returns of asylum-seekers from 300 a month to 500 a month. The scheme, which is being run on a pilot basis with the International Organisation for Migration, will only see payments made to would-be refugees who had arrived in Britain by last month. A Home Office spokesman denied that the move could backfire by attracting asylum seekers under the impression that the initiative would be repeated at a later date.

Tony Blair promised in 2004 that the number of rejected asylum-seekers would exceed the total of unfounded new claims by the end of 2005. Just over 7,700 asylum-seekers and their dependents claimed refuge in Britain in the third quarter of last year, while 3,935 failed asylum-seekers and their dependents were removed. The Home Office now predicts that it will hit the Prime Minister's target by 28 February. That still looks an ambitious goal, but a new system of tracking the departure of asylum-seekers from major ports may help to close the gap. The Home Office is also intent on increasing the number of enforced returns, controversially including to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This may be a sensible move, but it has largely been brought about by the Government's failure to deport failed asylum-seekers." Maeve Sherlock, chief executive of the Refugee Council, described the policy as sensible and humane. "Enabling people to return home by giving them financial help to rebuild their lives has to be better than enforced removals that often involve men, women and children being snatched without warning, locked in detention centres and then flown out in handcuffs," she said. The Home Office is advertising the new scheme with mailshots to all 54,000 people receiving benefits and accommodation from the National Asylum Support Service. It will also be publicised in asylum detention centres and reporting centres.
© Independent Digital



Doreen Lawrence and anti-racist organisations over the absence of race from the governments proposed new single equalities body.

13/1/2006- On Monday legislation is set to be passed which will herald a big set back for the effective ability to combat race discrimination. The Equality Bill will establish a Commission for Equality and Human Rights and pave the way for abolition of the Commission for Racial Equality. This new Commission has no specific focus on race equality and no guaranteed Black representation. Black communities have been strongly opposed to the CEHR and its incumbent proposal to abolish the CRE, believing that a high profile, identifiable individual statutory commission was essential at a time of growing national and international racism. This view was reflected in the decision to give a further two years life to the CRE beyond the initial abolition date. Believing this wholly inadequate, we argued that the establishment of a race committee could guarantee the representation of black and minority ethnic people in the CEHR and ensure that race equality would have the focus it needs. and pointed out these were lacking in the government's Equality Bill. These requests were expressed in both the House of Lords and the Commons stages of the Bill as well as outside of Parliament. It represented an attempt by Black leaders to positively engage with the CEHR despite our initial views. This olive branch was offered and it seems will be rejected. Without the engagement of Black communites the CEHR will be a disaster for race equality in the UK.

Specifically we asked for: a statutory Race Committee, black and minority ethnic representation amongst the Commissioners, adequate funding of the CEHR on race related issues. Keith Vaz and Roger Berry MPs have laid down amendments in support of these calls and several Black MPs are set to support these amendments. Ironically the government has already shown this sort of representative provision is acceptable for another community whose rights the Commission is intended to represent: disabled people will have a statutory guarantee of representation among Commissioners and a Disability Committee with funding. However, a similar and equal guarantee of representation for black and minority ethnic communities has been flatly refused. Indeed representation has been an issue since the inception with a distinct lack of Black people on the initial task force and on the more recent steering group. This in the face of explicit demands for representation by over 400 representative organisations of the black, minority ethnic and anti-racist communities and by many representative individuals. Indeed the most recent representative to voice this demand, at the recent Steering Group of the CEHR, met with a rude and ill-informed dismissal. The foundation of inequality, lack of representation and lack of expertise and focus on racism which the CEHR is to have bodes ill for its future. Ministers are squandering a once in a generation opportunity to advance equality.

We appeal, even now, for government to listen to the overwhelming opinion of black and minority ethnic communities on this matter and correct the glaring flaws in its legislation. The CEHR as proposed will, we believe, be unacceptable to Britain's millions of Black, Asian and other minority communities. Without the firm representation of our communities, how will this Commission be fully informed of the reality of the rising racist attacks, the impact of the growth of the British National Party or the continuing gross underrepresentation of black and minority ethnic people in every part of public life? We demand race equality and the involvement of Black communities. We reject the CEHR.

Karen Chouhan - Trustee, The 1990 Trust
Tanuka Loha - Director, The 1990 Trust
Lee Jasper - Senior Equalities Advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Doreen Lawrence - Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Milena Buyum – National Assembly Against Racism
Simon Woolley – Operation Black Vote
Naz Malik – Chief Executive: All Wales Ethnic Minority Association–
Patrick Yu – Director of the Northern Ireland Council of Ethnic Minorities
Tanveer Parnez – Black and Ethnic Minorities in Scotland
Peter Herbert - Society of Black Lawyers
Rita Patel - The Peepul Centre
Lisa Lovell - Equalities worker, Milton Keynes
© Black Information Link



By IRR News Team
12 January 2006, 2:00pm

We record below incidents of racial violence and harassment that have taken place in the last months of 2005 and also note the results of court proceedings against perpetrators of attacks that took place after 7 July 2005.

  • 9 January 2006: Cambridge Evening News reports that Michelle Whittaker, 20, who racially abused a young schoolboy as he played football with her 2-year-old son in Fenland, Cambridgeshire on 9 August 2005, pleaded guilty to racially aggravated intentional harassment and is ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work. (Cambridge Evening News 9.1.06)

  • 6 January 2006: BBC News reports that Metropolitan police officer, David Yates, 26, has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence and racially aggravated common assault following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. He has been suspended from work since May 2005. (BBC News 6.1.06)

  • 5 January 2006: Leeds Evening Post reports on the indeterminate custodial term given to 21-year-old Charles Richards, who denied attempted murder but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of GBH. He is told he will have to serve at least three years before being eligible for parole after attacking a 25-year-old Iraqi Kurdish asylum seeker in the week after the London bombings. In the attack, which was filmed on CCTV, Richards stabbed his victim eleven times, including in the jugular vein, and he was saved only because a friend stemmed the blood flow. (Leeds Evening Post 5.1.06)

  • 4 January 2006: A 30-year-old Bangladeshi man has to undergo surgery after being stabbed by two men in Ashford, Kent. Police later arrest and question two men in connection with the robbery and assault that is being treated as racially motivated. (BBC News 7.1.06)

  • 4 January 2006: Alfonso Greco, 51, appears in Reading crown court and denies charges of racially aggravated harassment, racially aggravated fear or provocation of violence and racially aggravated assault by beating after an incident just days after the London bombings. Greco is alleged to have threatened to kill his Asian next-door neighbours, racially abused and attacked them. A trial is due to take place at the end of January 2006. (IC Berkshire 6.1.06)

  • 4 January 2006: A 59-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of racially motivated harassment of 37-year-old Police Community Support Officer Noel Baadjes while he was working in Stroud. (This is Gloucestershire 6.1.06)

  • 3 January 2006: A 21-year-old Iraqi man is attacked with a bottle and thrown into a canal just minutes after calling police for help after realising he was being followed down a canal tow path by two White men, one of whom was carrying a knife. Police are treating the attack as racially motivated. (Exeter Express & Echo 5.1.06)

  • 3 January 2006: Over several days, police receive thirteen reports over several days of vandalism on cars owned by Asians in the Leith area of Edinburgh, tyres have been slashed and punctured. Police are treating the incidents as racist. (Glasgow Herald 6.1.06 and BBC News 5.1.06)

  • 29 December 2005: Sutton Guardian reports that two youths have been charged with racially aggravated ABH and GBH after an attack on five Asians in a Sutton Park on 29 July 2005. (Sutton Guardian 29.12.05)

  • 28 December 2005: A White man attacks two women waiting in a taxi rank in Plymouth; he punches one woman and racially abuses the other and pulls off her necklace. (BBC News 30.12.05)

  • 25 December 2005: An Asian family with two children leave their home in fear after being targeted over a number of days; the windows of their car and home in Batley, Leeds, were smashed on repeated occasions in the days before Christmas. The attacks are being treated as racially motivated. (Leeds Evening Post 2.1.06)

  • 25 December 2005: Guardian reports that police in Merseyside are investigating racist attacks at the home of an Asian family in the Huyton area. (Guardian 24.12.05)

  • 19 December 2005: An unnamed 17-year-old is given a six-month supervision order and been tagged after pleading guilty to racially abusing a shop assistant in Filton, Bristol in August 2005; the judge tells the youth he has avoided a further custodial sentences as he has spent four months on remand. (Bristol Evening Post 19.12.05)

  • 19 December 2005: Derek Potts, 30, pleads guilty to charges of distributing, writing with the threat of unlawful violence and causing racially aggravated harassment alarm or distress, after admitting involvement in sending racist hate mail to an Indian take away owner in Currock, Carlisle. (Carlisle News and Star 20.12.05)

  • 16 December 2005: 17-year-old Chante Smith, described as the ringleader of a gang which waged a two-year campaign against a Chinese family, is served with a two-year ASBO after being found guilty of racially harassing the owners of Chinese take away in Allestree, Derby. She is banned from using foul, abusive or racist language in public. (Derby Evening Telegraph 17.12.05)

  • 16 December 2005: Cambridge Evening News reports that James McKeown, 37, has been jailed for 130 days, after being found guilty of racially aggravated harassment at Cambridge Crown Court for an attack in which he launched a tirade at a Muslim man walking down a Cambridge street on the day of the London bombings. (Cambridge Evening News 16.12.05)

  • 14 December 2005: A 35-year-old Indian restaurant delivery driver is racially abused, punched and kicked by a gang of four White teenagers who also damage his van in Bracknell, Berkshire. (IC Berkshire 22.12.05)

  • 13 December 2005: Gerald Goddard, 63, is arrested at Manchester airport and charged with seven counts of racially aggravated criminal damage in connection with racist graffiti painted in a stairwell in a terminal car park. (BBC News 22.12.05)

  • 11 December 2005: Two Asians working at a petrol station in Surrey are assaulted by a customer who intervenes after one of the shop workers asks a group of youths to leave. The White man racially abuses the workers and then proceeds to throw bottles of water, a television and bottles of alcohol at the Asian men. (Staines Guardian 29.12.05)

  • 24 November 2005: Two Asian men are badly beaten after a mob of men and women surround a flat in Dewsbury, west Yorkshire and the ringleaders break down their door and attack the men, who suffer serious facial injuries. (Guardian 24.11.06)

  • 21 November 2005: Sun reports that Richard Norman, 29, who threw a brick through the window of his Muslim neighbour's house in Rotherham, south Yorkshire in November 2005 admits racially aggravated criminal damage at Sheffield crown court and is sentenced to nine months in prison. (Sun 21.11.05)

  • 20 November 2005: An 18-year-old Black student suffers a fractured skull after being attacked by a gang of youths outside a bowling alley in Worthing, west Sussex. Witnesses allege the attack was racially motivated and police arrest four teenagers who are later released on bail. (Times and Daily Mirror 21.11.05)

  • 16 November 2005: A 12-year-old drunken girl attacks a 33-year-old Asian man twice in one night in Torquay. In the first incident she chases his car after it stops at lights shouting abuse, and then she ambushed him as he leaves the cinema he entered to escape from her. (Daily Mirror 19.11.05)

  • 13 November 2005: A Bangladeshi cab driver is attacked and racially abused by a gang of three men that he picks up from a Bangladeshi restaurant in Whitley Bay. The owner of the cab firm criticises the slow police response. (Newcastle Evening Chronicle 16.11.05)

  • 13 November 2005: While waiting for a train at Mottingham station Stephen Thompson, 25, is attacked by two youths armed with a knife and screwdriver. He is racially abused, stripped to his waist and bitten by the men. (News Shopper 23.11.05)

  • 8 November 2005: An 11-year-old boy is attacked by a gang of five from his school, Beacon School in Banstead, who racially abuse, punch and kick him. Police are appealing for witnesses, the school has refused to comment. (IC Surrey Online 22.11.05)

  • 5 November 2005: Kent Online reports that a 23-year-old Chinese student has suffered a serious gash to his face which needed stitches after being attacked with an unknown weapon. The man and his girlfriend were cycling in Canterbury and were approached by a group of four, one of whom racially abused the couple and attacked the man. Two 13-year-olds and a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl have been arrested in connection with the incident and were later released on bail. (Kentish Gazette 3.1.06)

  • 24 October 2005: Warwick Boar, a student newspaper, reports that teenage gangs in the Canley area of Coventry have been targeting international students at Warwick University; verbally abusing and stealing from them. (Warwick Boar 24.10.05)

  • 21 August 2005: Ticket Inspector Richard Wallace, 27, racially abuses and attacks Maidstone's deputy Imam Arshed Mahmood. He later pleads guilty to wounding with intent to cause GBH and that the offence was racially aggravated. He is granted conditional bail. (Kent Online)

© Institute of Race Relations


11/1/2006- In a closely watched trial, a prominent British Muslim cleric was accused Wednesday of inciting hatred against Jews and of seeking the installation of an Islamic caliphate in the White House. He was said to have praised Hitler and to have voiced support for suicide bombings. The alleged offenses against various British laws were said to have taken place in a series of lectures and sermons recorded on videotape and audio cassettes. The cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, 47, has denied all 15 charges against him, which include inciting racial hatred and of possessing a 10-volume "Encyclopedia of the Afghani Jihad," described by prosecutors as "a manual for terrorism."  Arrested in May 2004, Masri, also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, is an Egyptian-born preacher who acquired British citizenship by marriage. He is the former imam of north London's Finsbury Park Mosque, distinguished physically by having no hands and only one eye. David Perry, a prosecutor, said Masri "encouraged his listeners, whether they were an audience at a private meeting or a congregation at the mosque, to believe it was part of a religious duty to fight in the cause of Allah - God - and as part of the religious duty to fight in the cause of Allah, it was part of the religious duty to kill." "The people they were being encouraged to kill, put shortly, were nonbelievers - those who did not believe in, or who were not a follower or even a true follower of Islam," Perry said.

The accusations reflected what Perry depicted as the "intolerance, bigotry and hatred" that Masri allegedly sought to instill among some British Muslims. Masri is the best-known British Islamic leader to come to trial here since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States triggered the war on terrorism. But the hearings are unfolding under strict British legal restrictions designed to ensure that Masri's trial is fair and is not influenced by the way he was characterized in British newspapers before his arrest. If convicted, Masri could face life imprisonment. Perry said the prosecution would base part of its case on nine videotapes among hundreds seized by the police at Masri's home after his arrest. "You would think he would be preaching tolerance, mutual co-existence and responsibility regardless of religion or creed," Perry said. "In fact he preached the opposite - intolerance, bigotry and hatred, in particular against Jews as a racial group and as a religious body." "In the course of one lecture he accused the Jews of being blasphemous, traitors and dirty. This - because of the treachery, because of their blasphemy and filth - was why Hitler was sent into the world," Perry said, interpreting what Masri had said. Masri told his followers that "'Hitler was sent to torture and humiliate the Jews and every last Jew is going to be buried in Palestine,"' Perry added, quoting from what he said was a sermon in October 2000. In other videotapes, Masri said it was "'permitted to kill women and children if they are fighting Muslims, or if there is no way to stop them,"' Perry said. Masri was also asked for his views on suicide bombings. "It is not called suicide, this is called martyrdom," Masri was quoted as saying. According to Perry, Masri added: "If we do not use terrorism or torture, what are we going to use?"
© International Herald Tribune



Some sections of the popular press may hound asylum seekers, but more and more local papers are backing them all the way

9/1/2006- In a contest for the group most demonised by the British press, asylum seekers would have few serious rivals. But although refugees as an indistinct group get a rough ride from the nationals, the local and regional press has been taking up the causes of individual families with an energy that goes against the prevailing trend. While the Daily Express has been denouncing the "out of control" asylum "crimewave", for the last eight months the Bolton Evening News has been running a "Let Them Stay" campaign in support of a family of eight who are facing deportation by the Home Office to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Sukula family were among the first in Britain to have their benefits taken away (under section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004) after they refused to leave when refused asylum. Supporters - including Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh - say they face imprisonment or even death if they are forced to return. So why put your head above the parapet - and run the risk of alienating at least a minority of your readers - by using the clout of a local paper to back them? "We took a bit of an emotional line on it really," says editor Steve Hughes. "We felt they should be allowed to stay for the sake of the children. So we said look, no matter what the arguments, let's show a bit of compassion here. Here's a family who shouldn't just be treated as a statistic in a making up the numbers game." "I always say to reporters: don't just follow the knee jerk reaction, let's have a proper and intelligent look at this story. So with this, let's see how it's affecting the family and whether we feel this is a cause worth fighting for. When we investigated it, we felt it definitely was."

The paper's education reporter, Saiqa Chaudhari, who stumbled on the story during a chat with one of the children's teachers, was assigned the case and helped compile supporting evidence. In December she even went with the family's eldest daughter, Flores, to meet with immigration and citizenship minister, Tony McNulty; a meeting which resulted in a promise to "take a fresh look" at the family's appeal against removal. The paper also handed over 3,000 signatures from readers pledging support. "I knew that there would be some hostility to this campaign from some of our readers," says Hughes. "Bolton prides itself as having a fairly good record on race relations but there are some pockets of real racism. Generally, though, I would say the community have been quite supportive. "We have had some rabid letters - but mostly anonymous, mainly unpublishable and not a lot of them. They're usually about two lines and not reasoned at all, usually just saying 'send 'em back home' on a scrawled note, and a couple of phone calls. We have had some letters of support as well." Hughes says he accepts that not all readers will see the issue in the same way as him. "I knew that it wouldn't appeal to all sections of our community but I felt it was important to take a stance because I thought it was right. And broadly speaking from that point of view I think it's worked. But I'd be deluding myself if I thought all our readers supported us on this one. What I would like to think is at least our readers have seen that we are trying to do a little bit of good. I thought if we can win this campaign, at least we've helped one family, and hopefully our readers will appreciate that."

A trawl of local and regional newspapers reveals the Bolton Evening News is not alone. Of course, not all local and regional newspapers are pleading "let them stay", and not all the nationals are screaming "send 'em back". But there is a vast difference in the way they cover asylum and immigration issues, says Forward Maisokwadzo of the Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Media (RAM) project. An offshoot of the charity MediaWise Trust, it aims to promote "best practice in media representation of refugee and asylum issues" and organises media network groups, which include local journalists, to further its aims. "The locals tend to take a more positive line and often focus on the human interest side rather than pushing political arguments," says Maisokwadzo. "I'd say they are more sensitive and considerate compared to national newspapers, and the tabloid press in particular. Of course they are not all perfect but generally they are quite responsive. "I think that is because they tend to reflect the sentiments within their community; if the community are sympathetic towards refugees, newspapers tend also to try and give the same support. I'd like to think they are generally getting the instincts of their readers correct." A number of high-profile regional dailies - including the Yorkshire Evening Post, and the Bristol Evening Post - have actively campaigned on behalf of families and individuals facing deportation. The Manchester Evening News and the weekly North East Manchester Advertiser both campaigned on behalf of journalist Mansoor Hassan, who fled Pakistan after uncovering government corruption. And the Liverpool Echo helped win a temporary reprieve for school governor Arif Dar, who was also facing deportation to Pakistan.

"Our experience is that regional and local media are more often fairer in their treatment of asylum and refugee issues," says Maeve Sherlock, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council. Positive reporting in regional media, she says, has also been instrumental in helping the integration and resettlement of people fleeing oppressive regimes via the government's Gateway project. "They [local papers] don't usually have a pre-set agenda of how the issues will be covered. Locally, people provide better copy than scare stories about numbers."
© The Guardian



Police are frightened to tackle Asian gangs in Glasgow in case they are branded racist, according to Scotland's only Muslim MP.

9/1/2006- Mohammad Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, said there is a perception in Glasgow communities the police will not arrest Asian youths. And the MP agrees police officers do have an "element" of fear when dealing with crimes committed by black or Asian gangs. He said: "Gangs are gangs whether they are white, Asian or mixed. "There is a perception police don't want to tackle Asian gangs in case they are accused of racism. "Maybe there is some element of this in the mind of police officers. "But the law is for everyone regardless of their colour." Mr Sarwar believes the police tried to change after being branded "institutionally racist" by the inquiry into the mishandling of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was killed by white youths in London. But the MP, whose constituency includes Pollokshields, which has Scotland's largest Pakistani population, says he doesn't want police to be afraid to tackle Asian or black criminals. He said: "Anyone who commits a crime should be treated the same way. "The majority of victims of Asian gangs are actually Asians and many of them share the perception the police won't act in case they are accused of being racist." Last year an Asian man was convicted of the racist murder of 15-year-old Kriss Donald in Pollokshields. A further three men are awaiting trial for their alleged part in the killing. The death of the schoolboy raised tensions in the area, with many criticising police for being too soft. Mr Sarwar spoke to Strathclyde Police late last year to reassure them they wouldn't be seen as racist for tackling Asian criminals. He said: "Since then there seems to have been much less trouble. "But it is hard to know if that is just because it is winter or if things have really changed." One Asian shopkeeper in Pollokshields says he is constantly hassled by Asian teenagers. He said: "They call me names, fight with each other on the street and vandalise things. But the police aren't interested." Another shopkeeper added: "The main problem I see is young men racing cars on the street. "The police don't do anything, but I don't think that's because they're Asian. I think it's just because the police are not very effective. "I would like to see the police being tougher on all criminals, whether Asian or white." Asian youths in Pollokshields say they feel police target them more than white teenagers. One young man said: "I have seen a lot of Asian people being arrested, but hardly anyone white." His friend added: "Asian gangs don't cause all the trouble. "There are areas Asians can't go because they will be attacked by white gangs." A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said today: "There has never been a policy or instruction to any force to treat members of ethnic minorities differently. "A crime is a crime, regardless of race, colour or creed."
© The Evening Times



The British are not in thrall to 'political correctness'; they just tend to temper prejudice with tolerance
By Will Hutton

8/1/2006- Prejudice dies hard. Scratch British society and the not-so-pleasant instincts of our forebears are just below the surface. Or not below at all. Women wimp out and suckle kids (Neil French, top advertising executive); homosexual love is unacceptable (Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Great Britain); Arabs are limb-amputators (Robert Kilroy-Silk). Ethnic minorities, women and gays routinely encounter sexism, homophobia or racism. These attitudes run deep. Women in positions of authority know that men do not contend with anything similar to the sexism they encounter daily. After the July bombings, Muslims were sharply reminded of how atavistic racism can be; never forget Anthony Walker, killed with an axe by white teenagers in Liverpool. Nor ever-present anti-semitism. The allegation is that political correctness irrationally protects these minorities. Last week some newspapers delighted in the story of the black royal bodyguard who was allegedly over-promoted in the cause of 'political correctness', and had subsequently to be compensated by his police employers. These are easy sneers. Which is why, up to a point, I defend political correctness from its multitude of detractors, the latest being Conservative think-tank Civitas last week. Words matter. It is how we transmit, embed and develop our culture. Talk of blacks as niggers, gays as queers, women as bitches, Jews as part of an international conspiracy and the words become part of our collective, reflex view. Derogatory words laden with prejudice not only degrade those they describe, who find themselves categorised in ways they do not deserve - they degrade the social currency. The aggressive, dysfunctional language of hatred of the American South, Nazi Germany or Mao's China helped both to create and sustain those societies. Words were crucial to the governing ideologies.

There is nothing wrong with taking care over what you say and how you say it. It is a basic courtesy and makes a statement about what kind of society you want to live in and how you expect to be treated yourself. It's because I want to live in a liberal society, respect others and believe words count that I try to choose them carefully. The Civitas pamphlet marshals the usual counter-argument; we are living under the liberal jackboot, self-policing our thoughts, denying ourselves free expression and privileging undeserving minorities etc. All this is paranoid nonsense. Even its author, Anthony Browne, acknowledges the advances in tolerance that 'political correctness' - i.e. courtesy - have fostered. But he adds a twist to the standard conservative criticism. Minorities are increasingly sheltering under the protection of political correctness in order not to confront truths about themselves. Thus, he argues, many blacks label indictments of their poor behaviour racist. Champions of women's equality claim that sexism blocks their promotion when the reality is a more complex story about trading work responsibilities against the pleasures and duties of family. Muslims are too quick to identify prejudice in others and so do not confront the anti-semitism, sexism and homophobia in their own culture. And so on.

Browne has half a point. If what I call courtesy and he calls PC becomes an excuse for reality-avoidance, then we would be colluding in dishonesty. But that does not mean we should give up on courtesy; rather, it means being more alert to lazy thinking and braver about challenging it. And Browne, the self-declared custodian of 'truth' against PC 'untruth', can be guilty of lazy thinking. If women are given 'ever more rights' that damage their employment prospects, as he argues, then we are entitled to ask which rights he has in mind and where is his evidence that they are damaging women's employment prospects. Equally, if Browne believes that the 'politically correct' argue that African poverty is the result only of lack of Western aid and not of corrupt governments, then he and the custodians of truth should deliver chapter and verse to support their case. But they don't, on these or any other of their charges, because they are politically correct conservatives, in thrall to their evidence-free shibboleths. The reason liberal attitudes have such force is not because of the thought police or the BBC; it is because the British generally try to cap their prejudices with tolerance and accept the case for courtesy. Browne is right to declare that Western minds must reassert their commitment to reason. The unthinking critics of political correctness will be the first casualty.
© The Observer



Dramatic increase in the number of violent crimes in Portugal during the past year blamed on immigrants

8/1/2006- Portuguese were this week urged to take greater care in going about their day-to-day business following the release of official crime statistics. According to latest year-on-year figures, violent crime soared by 32 percent in 2005, with the majority of these being carried out by immigrants living in Portugal, police have said. The positive influence immigrants have had on the development of Portugal the past decade is slowly being undone by the spiralling number of violent crimes perpetrated by foreigners.
Statistics published this week by the Justice Ministry show that violent crimes, which include bank robberies, the hijacking of security vans transporting valuables and cash, and hold ups at currency exchange offices and post offices, have risen by the alarming rate of 32 percent. According to this data, nonPortuguese citizens perpetrate the majority of violent crimes, with the largest number of detainees being Brazilian nationals. Police further reveal that many of these foreigners reside in Portugal illegally, and constantly travel between here and Spain or other European states. In geographical terms, Lisbon and Oporto were the districts where violent crimes were most likely to occur. These figures were released on the back of a knife attack on an Algarve footballer by carjackers.

Artur Jorge Vicente, the wellknown centre forward at Portimonense, which currently lies fourth in the Second Division, was cut on his neck and chest before carjackers made off with his BMW, which he had parked in the heart of Praia da Rocha. The player has since been released from hospital and resumed training, though police have not yet recovered his car. On a positive front, police say they managed to solve more than half (52.2 percent) of all violent crimes in 2005, an improvement of more than ten percent when compared with 2004. Shortly before going to press, police announced yet another high profile arrest. With details still coming through, police confirmed they had arrested members of the gang thought to have killed a Lagos police chief on December 11. Two men, the leader of the gang, and the perpetrator of the fatal shooting, were captured on Wednesday afternoon in Seville, with Portuguese police being present when the arrests were made. Meanwhile, petty crimes statistics also took a turn for the worse last year, climbing 53 percent from the 2004 figure. Crimes considered 'petty' are mostly the non-payment of tickets to commute in urban areas or tolls on motorways, and they totalled an astronomic figure of 43,000 more than last year.
© The Portugal News



7/1/2006- The legal representation offered to asylum seekers by the Swedish Board of Migration is below acceptable standards. That's according to the chairman of the Swedish human rights organisation 'Advokater utan gränser' (Lawyers without Borders), Kenneth Lewis, who has demanded that the right to elect asylum seekers' legal assistance be taken away from the Board. Writing in Friday's Dagens Nyheter, Lewis argued that the Board of Migration "has at its disposal an insidious instrument" with which it can "direct the asylum process". Pointing out that the Board appoints the legal representation who will then argue against it in asylum proceedings, Lewis claimed that the Board had declined to recommend lawyers known to be tough opponents. "The Board of Migration is thought to avoid appointing public lawyers who are knowledgeable, skilful or engaged. The asylum seeker gets a state representative who is not capable of, or interested in, ensuring his client's best interests," he wrote. Lewis said that the lawyers provided by the Board often omitted to take into account relevant evidence, such as police sources, torture documentation and conditions in the home country. He added that the possibility of a newly arrived refugee finding his or her own legal representation, who was skilled in this area, was very small. The solution, according to Advokater utan gränser, is for the right to appoint asylum seekers' legal representation to be removed from the Board of Migration. "We propose a return to the previous set-up, where the legal aid authority oversees state legal assistance. That would put right many of the problems with the current system," wrote Kenneth Lewis.
© The Local



7/1/2006- A law compensating the women who were sterilised without their consent should be passed, ombudsman Otakar Motejl writes in his final report about the cases of sterilisation, published on the Romany today.The compensation from the state is to be paid to the women whose fertility was ended by doctors without their regular consent from 1973 to 1991, the report said. Over 80, chiefly Romany women have turned with the complaints to the ombudsman. All the cases have not yet been closed. At the end of last year, Motejl said that at least 50 women were sterilised at variance with law in the country in the past, referring to his check of the controversial cases. The problem aroused discussion in the Czech Republic only in the autumn of 2004 when the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) voiced suspicion of forced sterilisation of Romanies. The ERRC said that in some cases the women did not give consent to the operation or nodded to it in an extreme situation or under the threat that they would be stripped of social benefits. Motejl received the first 10 complaints from Romany women from north Moravia in September 2004. In 1972, Czechoslovakia passed the legislation about sterilisation reflecting the need to define the admissibility of the act. The report said that under the Communist rule, social workers convinced Romany women not to have more children. The opportunity to receive a "fairly high" one-off social benefit was also a reason for the consent with sterilisation, the report said. Under a regulation valid until 1991, up to 10,000 crowns (the average monthly salary was roughly 2,500 crowns at the time) could be paid for the act. The payment of the social benefit ended in 1991. According to the report, the state was not to blame. The mistakes were made by doctors. The women who lost fertility without a regular consent can turn to courts with complaints over the protection of the person, the report said. Sweden, where forced sterilisation had been conducted, too, could serve as a model for the Czech Republic, the report said. Sweden had passed the compensation law and between 1999 and 2002 it paid a one-off sum of 175,000 Swedish crowns to 1600 people.
© Prague Daily Monitor



9/1/2006- A scandal rocked Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's birthplace Braunau on Monday with a picture of local football fans making Nazi salutes during a visit to a nearby concentration camp memorial site. Reports said the picture had until recently been on the homepage of the Braunau football fan club, in the small town not far from the German border. It showed club members stretching their right arms in the Hitler salute. The picture had been taken at the memorial site of the notorious Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen, where more than 100,000 people were murdered up till the camp's liberation by the U.S. Army in 1945. The Upper Austria Province Office for Protection of the Constitution said a legal complaint was being prepared. However, suspects must be questioned before the complaint was formalized. The deputy chairman of the fan club declined comment when asked by the Austria Press Agency. Braunau's Social Democrat Mayor Gerhard Skiba said he was "shocked" by the photo, which was "despicable". He would press for consequences as far as it was in his power. President of the football club FC Braunau, Gerhard Holzinger, said the fans had done the club a disservice. He had not known about the picture, and disassociated himself from it completely. There was no Nazi ideology in his club, he stressed.  Upper Austria Communist Party Secretary Leo Furtlehner said: "The town of Braunau has done much in past years to process its past and improve its reputation." But if the local football club accepted neo-Nazis as supporters, all the work would have been for nothing.
© Expatica News



9/1/2006- As the European Commission heads to Vienna today to discuss the Austrian Presidency agenda for the next six months, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) calls on the Presidency to put anti-racism at the heart of its vision of Europe. ENAR strongly believes that this second Austrian Presidency has a real opportunity to re-invigorate European initiatives to combat racism. The Presidency should demonstrate leadership and commitment in promoting a vision of an intercultural Europe, free from racism. ENAR has issued a Memorandum outlining some practical suggestions for the Presidency to take into consideration when implementing its priorities in the fields of anti-discrimination and anti-racism. In recent years there have been many developments which offer a real vision for an inclusive intercultural Europe, not least in the field of anti-discrimination. But progress made must not lead to complacency: racism, discrimination and social exclusion are realities that undermine the enjoyment of fundamental rights of everyone living in the European Union. Events in recent months clearly demonstrate the dangers to European societies when we fail to address these issues. It is important to remain vigilant in efforts to ensure that racism and xenophobia have no place in Europe, and it is with grave concern that ENAR has watched racism slip off the political agenda, represented not least by the failure of the Council to adopt the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia. Amongst its recommendations, ENAR has called on the Austrian Presidency to ensure that racism is represented in its Presidency Conclusions.
The Memorandum
© EUropean Network Against Racism



7/1/2006- The independent expert on contemporary racism for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will visit to Switzerland next week investigate allegations of racial discrimination and xenophobia and the measures put in place to combat them, the Commission said today. These unpaid experts, or Special Rapporteurs, who serve in a personal capacity, receive their mandate from the Commission and report back to it. This will be the first time a special procedures mandate holder will visit Switzerland, the Commission said. Doudou Diène, the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, will go to three linguistic regions of Switzerland, visiting the cities of Bellinzona, Bern, Basel and Neuchâtel. He is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Swiss Federal Government, as well as cantonal authorities, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), associations and communities, as well as other civil society institutions. The expert will submit an interim report during the next session of the Commission on Human Rights in March. Mr. Diène, a former Director of the Department of Intercultural Dialogue and Pluralism for a Culture of Peace at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is a strong promoter of understanding among cultures. He is the second expert to be appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to the anti-racism position since the mandate was established in 1993. He received his appointment in April 2002 and the Commission on Human Rights renewed it last April for another three years.
© UN News service



Immigration isn't just about integration, but also big money. A new World Bank report says migrant workers send billions to their families back home - strengthening local economies as well as helping rich countries.

8/1/2006- The World Bank says migration is here to stay, so nations around the world should try to get the most out of it. In its annual report called "Global Economic Prospects for 2006," the World Bank estimates that 200 million people work abroad. Dílip Rátha, a senior economist at the World Bank and co-author of the "Global Economic Prospects for 2006" report said migration was set to rise in the future. "Looking 20 years ahead, it is almost certain that there will be more migration. In the rich countries, we have the problem of aging populations. All of these old people are going to need care... And then you have the number of people in Africa and poor countries exploding, and they are going to need jobs," said Ratha. "At some point, these push and pull factors have to come together... And unfortunately, we have not prepared ourselves for this new world where there will be so much migration. The whole idea of living with migrant population has to be incorporated into the current lifestyle."

Reducing poverty through remittances?
Rátha said most discussions about migration focus on social and political issues, such as integration, yet the World Bank reports that 90 percent of all people who migrate do so for economic reasons. In the fiscal scheme of things, nearly everyone wins. "In the year 2005, international migrants sent $167 billion dollars to developing counties in the form of remittances," said Ratha. "India, Mexico and the Philippines were the three largest recipients of remittances in dollar terms, but in percentages of GDP, remittances were largest in smaller economies like Tonga, Lesotho and Moldova." The World Bank expert said that remittances by immigrant workers are a way of reducing poverty and strengthening economies in developing countries. In fact, many developing countries receive twice as much money through funds sent by their nationals working abroad than through development aid, the report points out. Remittances even compose the greatest source of outside income for some countries.

Beneficial to host nations too
But, it's not just their native countries that benefit from the cash influx. Even the host nations reap advantages. "Over time, because these migrants have arrived in the countries, they contribute to the economy, because they produce things, and they produce services, the size of the economy increases over time and there is more growth in the economy, and in the end, everybody benefits, including the natives themselves," Ratha said. So foreign workers can contribute to economic growth in wealthy nations, while also helping to reduce poverty back home. But there are a couple of preconditions, said Ratha. Inflation must be low in developing countries for remittances to have a positive effect. High fees for fiscal transfers must be kept to a minimum. And there is one significant drawback: less wealthy countries lose skilled employees when they go abroad.
© Deutsche Welle


Headlines 6 January, 2006


An attempt by the Vatican to reduce the number of abortions in Slovakia has raised concerns in the European Union about the loss of rights for women.

6/1/2006- A draft treaty between Slovakia and the Holy See would allow hospital staff to refuse to do abortions or fertility treatment on religious grounds. A panel of EU lawyers says this could restrict the rights of those who want them in such a firmly Catholic nation. Pope Benedict XVI has vowed to take a tough line on issues such as abortion. The draft treaty, drawn up in 2003, says it is based on "recognising the freedom of conscience in the protection and promotion of values intrinsic to the meaning of human life". Slovakia is said to be 70% Catholic but abortion is legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Under the draft agreement, the Slovak Republic "undertakes not to impose an obligation on the hospitals and healthcare facilities founded by the Catholic Church... to perform artificial abortions or assisted fertilisations".

Far-reaching deal
But Professor Olivier De Schutter, the head of the panel of lawyers from the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, says the articles relating to religious conscientious objection raise the most concern. He said it was "far-reaching, considering a very large majority of healthcare providers in Slovakia are Catholics and might exercise their right to conscientious objection". He said the treaty did not oblige medical staff in such cases to refer the person seeking advice to another healthcare provider. Human rights bodies have repeatedly said that when abortion is legal in a country, access to abortion must be provided to all without discrimination. "The right to religious conscientious objection may be and should be respected, but with safeguards that make it possible for women to seek legal abortion," Professor de Schutter told the BBC's Europe Today programme. "This is the problem the draft text may be posing." Richard Fides, a spokesman for Slovakia's justice minister, rejected claims in some European media that the document was basically an abortion agreement. "That is sheer nonsense," he told the Slovak commercial television station TA3. "The objective of the agreement is to ensure that every individual can apply their right to the objection of conscience. It is neither right nor just for a doctor-gynaecologist, who is for example a supporter of the culture of life, to be forced to perform an abortion."

Holy agreements
But Martin Buzinger, Slovakia's representative on the legal panel, argued that "the agreement stipulates a very broad right to the objection of conscience, without ensuring at the same time that this right is not abused." The Holy See has similar treaties - or concordats - in place with other member states, including Italy, Latvia and Portugal, but clauses on religious conscientious objections only relate to exemptions from military service. The draft treaty is yet to be signed. If it is, it will have the status of an international treaty, as the Vatican is a sovereign state. Professor de Schutter says any political response to the legal panel's report on the draft treaty will be down to the European Commission and parliament.
© BBC News



Two years after unrest swept through Slovakia's poorest Romani settlements, some changes are being felt.

6/1/2006- Angry crowds, shops stripped bare, police beating rioters: scenes like these two years ago drove home the depth of the rift between the majority and Romani communities in eastern Slovakia. Extensive coverage of the riots by international media, on the eve of Slovakia's entry into the European Union, prompted Slovak authorities to take more seriously the dire poverty afflicting many of the region's Roma and to step up their integration strategies. In Trebisov, though, scene of the most dramatic protests and outbreaks of looting, the Romani community is still licking its wounds. “I’ve never seen anything like what happened [in Trebisov], and I don’t even want to think about it,” says Jozef Badzo, 31, who works in the Romani settlement on the outskirts of Trebisov. “It felt like being in Iraq. It was terrible.” As Badzo was visiting a friend in the settlement, police ran into the house and beat them fiercely, he says. “I was lucky because I had a small child who was crying in my arms,” Badzo remembers. “Otherwise my eyes would be filled with blood.”

A critical year
The year 2004 was critical for the Roma of Slovakia. Many saw their social benefits cut drastically or stopped altogether, the result of new welfare rules that took effect at the beginning of the year. Some Romani activists said the law was discriminatory because it disproportionately affected their communities, who on average have larger families. A family of five used to receive 10,000 crowns (275 euros) monthly but with the amendment, many saw this aid abruptly cut in half or canceled. Trebisov, a town in southeastern Slovakia near the borders with Hungary and Ukraine, has about 40,000 inhabitants. Some 3,200 of the town's residents are Roma who live in a suburban settlement consisting mainly of 18-square-meter shacks without toilets or running water.
In Trebisov and throughout eastern Slovakia, the country's poorest region, the moneylender is an important figure in many Romani settlements, handing out loans at very high interest rates to tide people over until their next welfare payment arrives. Loan sharks in Trebisov became especially active in 2004 and upped their interest rates, often to 100 percent, according to local people interviewed for this story. Often, borrowers were unable to return the money and thus became permanent debtors.

The breaking point
As word spread of the impending welfare cuts, protests and looting broke out in a number of villages and Romani settlements in central and eastern Slovakia. The most dramatic events took place in Trebisov, where about 400 people from the Romani settlement looted the local Parican shopping center on 23 and 24 February. Several people from the settlement said that the looters' main impetus was pressure applied by moneylenders. Police from Trebisov and from Slovakia's second-largest city, Kosice, arrived at the scene, soon bolstered by firefighters at the controls of water cannons. On 24 February about 250 police arrived at the Romani settlement. Groups of from four to 10 police entered each house and often beat the people inside, locals say. At the height of the unrest 2,000 police and army personnel were deployed in central and eastern Slovakia. Responding to anecdotal reports that police used undue force to quell the protests, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center and Amnesty International criticized the police intervention. Alan Anstead, a legal adviser with the Roma Rights Center, said at the time that the Slovak police breached Article 3 of the European Convention for Human Rights, which states that no one can be tortured or inhumanely treated. While admitting that looting is against the law and the rioters should have respected private property, he also said police beat rioters and bystanders alike. Slovak Interior Ministry spokeswoman Monika Kuhajdova said police used handcuffs, dogs, and “means to overcome resistance and prevent attacks." Kuhajdova wouldn’t specify what those means were. She added that the ministry had not received any complaints about police behavior during the incident. In the end, 195 people were charged with crimes including damage to private property, rioting, robbery, theft, and incitement to violence. Kuhajdova said the cost of police special operations during the looting was estimated at 58.7 million crowns (1.5 million euros). Rioters caused damage estimated at 1.1 million crowns, the spokeswoman said.

Signs of upturn
Nearly two years later, many Roma in Trebisov agree that the looting spree was wrong. But the disturbances had at least one positive effect: they sent a wake-up call to the authorities, who, after the looting and in the glare of negative publicity, began to pay more attention to their problems. “Looting was not right, we know it, but it was a symbol of our protest against the government's decision" to cut social payments, says Jozef Tancos, 50, an unemployed man who lives close to the settlement. “After this bad experience we would not go looting again, because it didn't solve much.” Soon after the outbreak of riots and looting in 2004, which the government and many Roma alike blamed partly on the problem of mounting debts to loan sharks, police became more active against the local moneylenders and charged some with the crime of usury. But other moneylenders used their contacts in city government to escape investigation, according to a source who requested anonymity. Police are hampered in their efforts to investigate usurers because the victims often change their statements for fear of the loan sharks, the Interior Ministry’s Kuhajdova said. “The moneylenders are particularly well-established and influential Roma,” she said. “In order to charge someone with usury, police need declarations from those affected by it, usually Roma.” Kuhajdova said police react “quickly” to all complaints of usury. In 2004, police opened 127 cases into complaints of usury, more than double the figure of the previous year. However, convictions are obtained in only a quarter of usury cases, according to a report on human rights by the U.S. State Department. Those found guilty of usury face up to five years in prison. Whether triggered by the looting or not, within the past year outreach programs have become much more visible in eastern Slovakia. The government has set up a number of information and community centers for the Roma in the region. “On the one hand, the looting was not right, but on the other hand because of it, [the government] finally began to be interested in us,” said a settlement resident who identified himself only as Sandor. The centers are meant to help people learn about their civil rights and advise them on job applications, complaints to public bodies, or legal problems. The main focus of these centers, however, is education. They teach practical skills such as personal hygiene and health basics, computer classes, Slovak and foreign languages, and Romani culture and art. A top priority is to help people find a job or prepare for high school or vocational school. The centers are financed by the European Union's Phare fund for regional development. The community centers are also tasked with cleaning up the settlements and improving the living conditions of Roma in the area. In Trebisov, for example, the community center employs 150 local people. Working five or six hours a day, they earn 1,500 crowns per month. The center has recently begun a campaign to improve the living conditions in the settlement by cleaning the buildings and removing trash from streets and parks. “Now it's a bit better [than in 2004] – we do community service and earn extra," Jozef Badzo says. "It's not much, but what can we do? For us Roma there is no other work here."
© Transitions Online



5/1/2006- Golf clubs which ban women from the bar or restrict times when they can play will be violating EU law from 2007 onwards, the European Commission says. The statement came in reply to Irish MEP Proinsias De Rossa, who asked if such practices would be outlawed by a new sex discrimination directive. The directive bans discrimination in the provision of goods and services. "This includes leisure activities such as those offered by golf clubs," said EU Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. Mr De Rossa tabled his question in the wake of a 2003 petition to the European Parliament by a UK woman, Clare Oliver.

Women's complaints
She complained that many British golf clubs did not treat men and women equally when it came to playing in tournaments or standing for election to club committees. The European Commission replied that there were no EU laws in force at the time obliging clubs to apply the same rules to men and women, but it said the directive on equal treatment between men and women in goods and services would plug the gap. Last year, Mr De Rossa asked for confirmation that the directive would indeed apply to golf clubs, and he got the answer this week. The news was welcomed by the English Ladies Golf Association. "We think it's time women had equal opportunities and we support the moves by the EU," said spokeswoman Clare Tyler. She said restrictions on the times women could play, and access to the bar, were the most common forms of discrimination - and that they particularly irritated the new, younger generation of women golfers. Some women, usually of an older generation, did not object to restricted access, if their membership fee was reduced, she added.

Single-sex clubs
The directive does not ban single-sex private clubs, which are regarded as legitimate on grounds of the right to freedom of association. Mr De Rossa's office said it was unclear how the directive would affect Ireland's exclusive Portmarnock golf club, whose men-only membership policy is being challenged in the courts by Ireland's Equality Authority. The club allows women to play if they pay green fees, but they cannot join the club or use "recreational facilities". In a ruling last summer, a judge said there was nothing wrong with people of the same sex, nationality or religion wanting to be together. Mr Justice Kevin Higgins said: "You could have a bridge club for Bulgarians, a chess club for Catholics, a wine club for women or a golf club for gentlemen." The Equality Authority is appealing to Ireland's Supreme Court. EU member states have until December 2007 to enact laws upholding the provisions of the directive.
© BBC News



David Irving, the infamous British war historian, is today sitting in an Austrian jail, accused of denying the Nazi Holocaust. So why is an American Jewish academic who dramatically crushed Irving in the British courts saying he should be released?

4/1/2005- When you ask Professor Deborah Lipstadt for her thoughts on David Irving's forthcoming trial, the very last thing you expect her to say is: "Let the guy go home. He has spent enough time in prison." Lipstadt, the American Jewish academic who exposes Holocaust deniers is not exactly David Irving's greatest fan. But five years after she famously defended her own reputation in the High Court, and in doing so shredded Irving's, she is arguing that the Austrian authorities should probably let him go, saying the far-right will find a martyr if he goes to jail. David Irving, 67, who made his name as a World War II historian, became infamous for suggesting that the Holocaust didn't happen. But in November last year he was arrested in Austria for two speeches he made in 1989, during which he allegedly claimed there had been no gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Gas chambers
It is a crime in Austria to minimise the atrocities of the Third Reich and the historian faces up to 10 years imprisonment if found guilty. Speaking after the arrest, Irving's lawyer said the historian no longer denies that gas chambers existed in Nazi death camps. Yet Lipstadt, arguably the best-known warrior against Holocaust denial, believes that the best outcome would be for Irving to be let go. "I would not want to see him spend more time in jail," she says. "I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens." If there were to be a film of Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving, they would be presented as nothing less than arch enemies, fighting to the last - as they indeed did in the High Court. Lipstadt has spent years exposing the arguments of Nazi sympathisers. She warns historians must "remain ever vigilant" against those who say the Holocaust was a hoax, "so that the precious tools of our trade and our society - truth and reason - can prevail". The showdown came in January 2000 when she stood accused of libel for describing Irving in a book as "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial"; he accused her of "vandalising" his legitimacy as an historian. The 32-day trial became a legal debate on the history of the Nazis - and the nature of truth itself. Mr Justice Gray witheringly described Irving as anti-Semitic, racist and a Holocaust denier who had "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence". Irving had comprehensively lost not just his money, but his reputation. Much to the annoyance of those who have fought against him, Irving is still invited to speak both in Europe and the USA. And Lipstadt raises questions about both free speech, and the publicity Irving stands to gain at his impending trial. "Generally, I don't think Holocaust denial should be a crime," she says. "I am a free speech person, I am against censorship." "I don't find these laws efficacious. I think they turn Holocaust denial into forbidden fruit, and make it more attractive to people who want to toy with the system or challenge the system. "We don't have laws against other kinds of spoken craziness. If you're a medical quack and you hurt someone, there's a law against that. "But if you're a medical quack and you stand on the street corner preaching that you have an elixir that cures cancer and saves lives, no one throws you in jail." Holocaust deniers spread conspiracy theories such as that Anne Frank's Diary was a hoax, and that the gas chambers were secretly built after the war. But whether free speech should include the freedom to say such things has been the subject of furious debate on both sides of the Atlantic. Nine European countries have laws against Holocaust denial - and supporters argue that this is the one issue that crosses the line because it is offensive to both the dead and the survivors.

In the UK, the free speech debate has focused on religious hatred: the government says it will outlaw incitement to hatred of believers. Opponents of the measure, including comic actor Rowan Atkinson, say it's an attack on free speech. However, in the case of the Holocaust, Lipstadt says she recognises a case for laws in the lands that formed the heart of the Third Reich. "Germany and Austria are not so far past the Third Reich. So I can understand that the swastika symbol, Mein Kampf, Holocaust denial, being a neo-Nazi and all the rest have a certain potency there that they would not have in the United States," she says. "And Austria is a democracy. If the citizens of Austria were against these laws, they could change them. Austria and Germany are different, but I would not support those laws being instituted elsewhere." Lipstadt says the reason she is generally opposed to outlawing Holocaust denial is not because she fails to recognise how deeply offensive it is but because such laws tend to turn cranks into martyrs. "I am not interested in debating with Holocaust deniers," she says. "You wouldn't ask a scientist to debate with someone who thinks the Earth is flat. They are not historians, they are liars. Debating them would be nonsensical. "But we also should not allow them to become martyrs. Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue. "Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement. "Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs."
© BBC News



Regulations demanding that at least 40 percent of a Norwegian company's board members must be women may be stopped by European authorities.

4/1/2006- The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) watchdog group ESA (EFTA Surveillance Authority) is now starting a formal investigation of the Norwegian regulations, newspaper Nationen reports. Norwegian authorities have threatened firms with fines if they do not meet the 40 percent women mark in their corporate boards. "We have not decided if the law is in order or not but we have asked for more information in order to investigate if the law is in accord with EEA (European Economic Area) legislation," Hallgrimur Asgeirsson, director at ESA's Internal Market Affairs Directorate, told the newspaper. ESA will check if the Norwegian regulations conflict with the European Union directive forbidding positive discrimination.  "A possible outcome of an interim investigation, at least theoretically, is that the Norwegian law can be stopped. One can imagine that, in theory, the Norwegian rules conflict with EU equality regulations," law professor Hans Petter Graver told Nationen.
© Aftenpost



For years, Germany shied away from regulating immigration. Then 12 months ago it finally put a new immigration law on the books which seems to have achieved very little.

2/1/2006- When Germany’s first immigration law went into effect on January 1, 2005, former Social Democrat Interior Minister Otto Schily hailed it as the most modern legislation on immigration in all of Europe. The bill sought to integrate those immigrants who are already here, streamline asylum procedures and put provisions in place for the recruitment of highly skilled foreigner nationals who would help revive the German economy. But its achievements have so far turned out to be rather modest. The campaign to lure foreign nationals with cutting-edge knowledge to Germany -- one of the main planks of the bill -- has only managed to lure a meager 900 top-notch experts from abroad in the past year. That is a figure that countries such as the United States or Britain would laugh at.

Inadequate Provisions
Under a previous green-card-like scheme, some 2,200 foreign experts annually agreed to work in Germany. The reason why many highly skilled people shy away from moving to Germany is that their spouses do not automatically receive a work permit and wages for top performers are lower than elsewhere. The bill also lacks a point system which would help select the most promising migrants But Michael Bommes, an immigration expert from Osnabrück, is hopeful that the governing grand coalition will soon make a number of necessary amendments. "The floor is open to reform this law pretty soon I guess because you want to have certain skilled migrants," he said. "This simply means having a point system in order to attract those that are being excluded presently." Some say an immigration bill cannot be assessed only on the success or failure to recruit the best brains. There are provisions in the law that aim to promote integration of immigrants, too. For those who are already in Germany, the bill has changed little but new arrivals are now entitled to German language and acclimatization courses concerning the country's culture and its democratic institutions.

Not welcome here
Still, many complain that the law fails to get the message across that foreigners are really welcome in Germany. Rita Süssmuth, a former German lawmaker who’s been advising the government on immigration issues, says this is largely because it was a compromise drawn up by rival conservatives and Social Democrats amid growing fears of terrorist attacks and climbing unemployment figures. "You can't integrate people if they don't feel welcome so we have to work on this," she said. Conservative Germans like Bundestag president Norbert Lammert are aggrieved by the unwillingness of many migrants to take any interest in German society or learn the German language. One Turkish girl from Berlin’s Wedding district agrees that this is a huge problem. "There are Turkish markets, Turkish doctors, Turkish media and even Turkish banks," she said. "You don’t need any German to get along here." Still, the immigration law has given residence permits to a large number of asylum seekers whose status had previously been in limbo. And security officials welcome another provision in the bill which permits foreign political and religious extremists to be deported more swiftly than in the past.
© Deutsche Welle



5/1/2006- Blunt questions posed to Muslims seeking German citizenship in a Christian Democratic-ruled federal state are fuelling anger and the threat of discrimination lawsuits from Islamic groups. "Where do you stand on the statement that a wife should obey her husband and that he can hit her if she fails to do so?" is among 30 questions which can be asked by officials to Muslims seeking a German passport in southern Baden-Wuerttemberg state since January 1. Only Muslims from the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are required to answer the questions as part of the process to become German citizens. All other nationalities and religions are not subject to any of the sometimes deeply personal questions which include the following:

- "Imagine that your adult son comes to you and says he is homosexual and plans to live with another man. How do you react?"
- "Your daughter or sister comes homes and says she has been sexually molested. What do you do as father/mother/brother/sister?"
- "What do you think if a man in Germany is married to two women at the same time?"
Other questions include whether Muslim men are willing to be treated by female doctors in Germany; views on forced marriage; changing religion; and whether those who carried on the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington were "terrorists or freedom fighters."

Muslim groups in Germany have reacted with outrage to the questions which they say are blatant discrimination because only people of the Islamic faith are forced to give answers. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany say the practice violates Germany's constitution and several Islamic groups plan lawsuits aimed at halting the practice. Ute Vogt, the opposition Social Democratic (SPD) leader in Baden-Wuerttemberg, slammed the practice as "full of cheap clichés and based on prejudice against Muslims."  Hans Georg Junginger, the SPD domestic policy spokesman in the state, took a more cynical view and noted most people posed the questions would be smart enough to know what answers they had to give to please officials. But the state's interior ministry has defended the new system by saying a segment of Muslim society in Germany does not view its faith as something which can conform to the nation's constitution. Officials insist that not all applicants will be asked all of the questions. Nevertheless, a written version of whatever questions are asked must be signed by passport applicants which concludes with a tough warning that giving "false answers ... can lead to a loss of (German) nationality, even after years, and even if this means that I will become stateless." While the state's ruling Christian Democratic Union - Chancellor Angela Merkel's party - are so far standing firm on the practice, their junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), appear to be getting cold feet. The state's FDP justice minister, Ulrich Goll, was quoted as saying his party now wanted to ensure that people of all faiths and from all nations seeking German citizenship be asked questions from the list. Germany has an estimated 3.5 million Muslims out of a total population of 82 million. The biggest Muslim community is from Turkey and numbers about 2 million. Latest figures from Germany's domestic security agency, the Verfassungsschutz, put the number of Islamist extremists living in Germany at almost 32,000. Muslim concentrations in Germany are found in major cities including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt.
© Expatica News



Getting German citizenship usually means signing an oath of allegiance to the constitution. Not any more. One state has begun singling out Muslims for tougher questioning, sparking an outcry across the country.

5/1/2006-  On Jan. 1, life got tougher for Muslim immigrants angling for a German passport in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg. In a unique move, the interior ministry of the state has said that potential Muslim Germans would face a lengthy interrogation, involving answering a catalogue of 30 questions on their political, cultural and social views. Subjects include their opinions on religious freedom, equality of the sexes, homosexuality, freedom of expression, the concept of honor, forced marriage. Questions range from "Do you think the woman should obey her husband and that he can beat her if she is disobedient?"; and "Would you allow your daughter to participate in sports and swimming classes at school?"; to "What do you think of the fact that parents forcibly marry off their children? Do you think such marriages are compatible with human dignity?"

"Serious or just paying lip service?"
The ministry has said that Germany's 16 federal states must be permitted to discern whether potential new citizens truly accept the country's Basic Law, to which they are required under federal law to sign an oath of allegiance. "We need to find out whether the applicant really does seriously mean it when he signs an oath of allegiance to the constitution and accepts it, or whether he's merely paying lip service to it," said Günter Loos, Baden-Württemberg interior ministry press spokesman, in Stuttgart. "There have been neutral surveys and studies that have shown there are discrepancies between Muslim beliefs and our constitution -- just think of things like forced marriages, honor killings and the like," Loos said. "If there is a suspicion that the person who wants to become German does not share our fundamental principles and values, then the new interrogation is meant to find that out," he added. Loos insisted the new procedure is "not so much a catalogue of questions," but rather a "guideline" meant to aid officials quizzing the applicant.

"Discriminatory and racist"
Officials will document the responses, which the applicant will eventually have to certify with his or her signature. Those who fail to satisfy the authorites of their readiness to accept the Basic Law will be refused citizenship. Baden-Württemberg has also warned that intentionally fudged answers could lead to German citizenship being revoked years later. The new measure will only be applied to applicants from 57 Islamic countries (some 60 percent of all immigrants to Baden-Württemberg in 2004). Other candidates will be subject to the procedure in exceptional cases. Those details of the rule, in particular, have raised hackles among politicians and Muslim groups. Faruk Sen, director of the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, said the move was discriminatory and racist. "Every country has the right to examine foreigners' loyalty to the country's values and social order with certain questions during the naturalization process," Sen said. "But if 30 questions are only applied to Muslims, as is the case in Baden-Württemberg, then it amounts to religious ostracism and racism." Sen pointed out that among the 2.7 million Turks in Germany -- the biggest group among the country's 3.5 million Muslims -- there was a high propensity to apply for German passports. He added that the new measure would hamper the willingness among foreigners to apply for German citizenship, in turn negatively impacting ongoing efforts towards their integration.

"Populist" and "clumsy move"
The move has enraged politicians, who have slammed it as "populist," "questionable" and "hypocritical." Though some have said they understand concerns about the integration of Muslims, they insist the measure instead fosters prejudice and fear. Some states, including Bavaria and Lower Saxony have distanced themselves from the move, saying they have no plans to introduce anything similar. Even authorities at the immigration office in the Baden-Württemberg capital of Stuttgart have expressed misgivings about the new regulation. "This is a decision that was taken by the interior ministry alone, we weren't part of it," said Christian Storr, who heads the Immigration Commissioner and Justice Minister in Baden-Württemberg. "We do think that fundamentally it's right to conduct a more rigorous check on whether applicants conform to the principles laid down in the Basic Law," said Storr. "At the same time, it's important that such a guideline then applies to all and not just to Muslims. It's an extremely clumsy move."

Legal doubts
Experts have also raised serious legal doubts about the measure. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former justice minister and legal expert of the opposition free-market liberal FDP, told DerTagesspiegel daily that Baden-Württemberg was skating on thin ice legally. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the move violated the principle of equality anchored in the constitution and added that revoking citizenship was a complicated issue and couldn't be solved the way Baden-Württemberg envisaged it.
© Deutsche Welle



A German state has said that Muslims applying to immigrate will be singled out for tougher questioning from Jan. 1, in a decision blasted in Berlin as discriminatory.

31/12/2005- The interior ministry of the southern state of Baden-Württemberg said in a statement on Friday that Muslim potential immigrants would face a lengthy interrogation including 30 questions on applicants' political and cultural views. Subjects would include their opinions on equal rights for men and women, religions freedom, honor killings and the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The ministry said that Germany's 16 federal states must be permitted to learn whether potential new citizens truly accept the country's Basic Law, to which they are required under federal law to deliver an oath. "There have been findings that Muslims can face a conflict and deliver an oath that does not correspond with their personal beliefs and thus does not fulfill the immigration requirements," the statement said. "Eliminating these doubts is the aim of a conversation that the immigration authorities will conduct with immigration applicants from Jan. 1, 2006 from the 57 states that belong to the Islamic conference (some 60 percent of all immigrants to Baden-Württemberg in 2004)."

Rule of law vs. Islam?
It added that other applicants who are "known to be" Muslims would face the line of questioning, as would any people whose oath did not appear to be credible. The statement said that while most Muslims accepted the German system, recent "honor killings" of Muslim women in Germany by family members were evidence of a conflict between the rule of law and an interpretation of Islam. Berlin Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting said that he understood his counterpart Heribert Rech's concerns about integration of Muslims but slammed the policy for fostering prejudice. "That is a serious danger to internal security and intolerable," he said. Germany's states are given a wide berth to determine their own immigration and security policies under the federal system.
© Deutsche Welle



2/1/2006- A gang of neo-Nazi youths attacked two Vietnamese nationals in the eastern German town of Graefenhainichen at the weekend, police said Monday. Six youths attacked the Vietnamese shortly after New Year's Eve celebrations early Sunday after marching through the town in Saxony-Anhalt state shouting neo-Nazi slogans, said police. The two Vietnamese - aged 31 and 43 years - were beaten with wooden clubs and beer bottles and suffered cuts and bruises, said a police spokesman. After passers-by intervened, the neo-Nazis fled, said police, adding that all those involved in the attack had been identified. Officers searched the apartments of the extremists, aged 15 to 19, and seized illegal ammunition for submachine guns, gunpowder used for loading rifle cartridges and chemicals, the spokesman said. Economically hard-hit eastern Germany has a far higher number of neo-Nazis and more racist attacks on a per capita basis than the former West Germany.
© Expatica News



3/1/2006- A Muslim cashier at a supermarket in the Dutch city of Tilburg took a case to the Equality Commission on Tuesday claiming the headscarf the company has issued her is "unbearable". The woman claimed that the Nettorama supermarket is guilty of discrimination on religious grounds by issuing her with the heavy scarf. A spokesperson for the Equality Commission said the woman decided one day she wanted to wear a headscarf at work. As the headscarf she chose was not in the company colours, she was suspended from work for a short time while an industrial clothing manufacturer created a scarf to match the uniform. Contrary to Nettorama's instructions a scarf supplied was not 100 percent polyester. "The cloth is now made from very thick material," the spokesperson said. "The woman feels it is unacceptable to wear the scarf and therefore she believes she is being discriminated against." The hearing was told it will take 13 weeks to create another scarf. The commission decided not to deliver a judgement on the dispute. Instead, it asked both parties to sit down together to try to reach a solution. This is the first time such a case has come before the commission.
© Expatica News



4/1/2006- The United Nations' refugee agency said on Wednesday it had asked Egypt not to deport 650 Sudanese people who Cairo says are in the country illegally. The 650 were from a group of up to 3,500 Sudanese protesters who had demanded that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) help them move to the West. The UNHCR has offered them asylum seeker status, but said it cannot re-settle them all. The deportation order came after 27 Sudanese were killed last Friday when police attempted to move the demonstrators from their squalid protest camp near U.N. offices in Cairo using sticks and water cannon. Some had been there since September. "We have sent an official note in which we appeal to the authorities not to deport anyone," UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort said. Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Mohamed el-Dorghamy said some 2,000 Sudanese protesters were rounded up when police broke up the demonstration. About 650 were found not to have valid visas or refugee status and would be repatriated, he said. "Many want to return voluntarily, but I don't have the exact number ... There are no refugees among them (the 650)," he said, adding that they would be probably be sent back to Sudan on Thursday or Friday. But van Genderen Stort later told Reuters the authorities had given the UNHCR 72 hours to interview the Sudanese held in detention and "identify those still of concern", indicating that they would not be deported before the time had passed. Rights group Human Rights Watch has criticised the decision to send the Sudanese to Sudan.

Financial aid
Talks between Sudanese demonstrators in the camp and the UNHCR to end the protest broke down on Dec. 22, after many protesters rejected a deal signed by their leaders. The agreement included reviewing the status of the protestors, giving asylum seeker status to those not yet registered with the agency, and inviting applications for "one off" financial aid. The UNHCR said the offer was still open. Van Genderen Stort said the UNHCR had not called for an official inquiry into the deaths of the protesters, but that it would welcome one. Sudanese refugees say they face racism, unemployment and a lack of education and healthcare in Egypt since they fled violence in Sudan. The UNHCR says Sudanese in Egypt have access to state services, and it cannot move all refugees to the West. Sudan's north-south civil war lasted over two decades and made 4 million people homeless. A separate conflict in the western Darfur region has produced a further 2 million refugees. A peace agreement in January 2005 ended the north-south civil war but many Sudanese say it is not safe to return home as the deal is fragile. The UNHCR says it has more than 20,000 Sudanese registered with the agency in Egypt. It puts the total number of Sudanese living in Egypt at up to three million.
© Reuters



2/1/2006- Halima Baraka cried quietly on Monday as she recalled how she lost her 11-year old son in the panic that ensued when Egyptian police cleared a Sudanese refugee protest camp last Friday, leaving at least 27 dead. A Sudanese father, Abdelaziz Mohamed, standing nearby whispered that he did not know what to do with the body of his nine-month-old daughter, which he said was at a hospital morgue. A morgue official on Sunday said the number of Sudanese killed in the clash with police had reached 27, including 11 children. The morgue had previously said 23 were killed. People close by Mohamed scrambled around a pile of photos, books and other belongings that were dumped on the floor of a church after being moved from the protest site. "I was exhausted. There was chaos and I couldn't find him. I don't know whether he's dead or alive," Baraka said. She was standing in a squalid room in Cairo's Notre Dame church, which houses up to 2,000 of the roughly 3,500 Sudanese protestors who Egyptian police had forcibly moved from a protest camp outside U.N. offices in an affluent Cairo district. The protesters had been at the camp for up to three months demanding that the U.N.'s refugee agency move them to another country, citing racism and a lack of jobs, education and healthcare in Egypt since they fled violence in Sudan. Police used water cannons and beat people with truncheons to move them from the camp after officials failed to persuade them to board buses voluntarily. Talks with the U.N. refugee arm to end the protest had failed two weeks earlier. "We want to move to a country that treats us like human beings, where we can live in freedom ... Ask anyone -- we can't send our children to school. The one job we're allowed to do here is be a cleaner," said Fawzia Adam, from western Sudan.

"The Egyptian government will never help. The U.N. just stood by. If there's no solution we will all have to just kill ourselves. This is the final solution, so that world knows it's impossible to live like this," she added. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called the deaths a tragedy but has said it cannot resettle them all in another country because many are looking for a better life and are not refugees fleeing conflict. Egypt has high unemployment and the UNHCR has said ordinary Egyptians face similar problems in accessing state services. The refugees said discrimination made their situation worse. The Egyptian government has called for an investigation into the "large" number of deaths of women and children, a report from Egypt's official Middle East News Agency (MENA) said. The report said the government had ruled out an international investigation and added that the police had exhausted peaceful means to end the protest. It said people had thrown bricks and stones at the police. "Egypt has dealt with the sit-in of the refugees with wisdom and patience," MENA quoted Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit as saying. Refugees at Notre Dame church said hundreds had been detained. An Interior Ministry denied that any Sudanese were being held in connection with the clashes. Sudan's north-south civil war lasted over two decades and made 4 million people homeless. A separate conflict in the western Darfur region has produced a further 2 million refugees. A peace agreement in January 2005 ended the north-south civil war but many Sudanese say it is not safe to return home as the deal is fragile.
© Reuters



1/1/2006- The old schoolhouse stands alone at the end of a quiet country road flanked by snow-flecked wheat fields. From behind the locked door, opaque with smoked glass, comes the clatter of sewing machines and, improbably enough, the babble of young female voices speaking Korean. The elementary school closed long ago for lack of students. The entire village 20 miles west of Prague has only about 200 people. The schoolhouse is now a factory producing uniforms. Almost all the workers are North Korean, and the women initially looked delighted to see visitors. It gets lonely working out here, thousands of miles from home. They crowded around to chat. "I'm not so happy here. There is nobody who speaks my language. I'm so far from home," volunteered a tentative young woman in a T-shirt and sweatpants who said she was from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. But as she spoke, an older woman with stern posture and an expressionless face -- a North Korean security official -- passed by in the corridor. The young women scattered wordlessly and disappeared into another room, closing and bolting the door behind them. Hundreds of young North Korean women are working in garment and leather factories like this one, easing a labor shortage in small Czech towns. Their presence in this new member of the European Union is something of a throwback to before the revolution of 1989, when Prague, like Pyongyang, was a partner in the Communist bloc. The North Korean government keeps most of the earnings, apparently one of the few legal sources of hard currency for an isolated and impoverished regime living off counterfeiting, drug trading and weapons sales. Experts estimate 10,000 to 15,000 North Koreans work abroad on behalf of their government in jobs ranging from nursing to construction work. In addition to the Czech Republic, North Korea has sent workers to Russia, Libya, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia and Angola, defectors say. Almost the entire monthly salaries of the women here, about $260, the Czech minimum wage, are deposited directly in an account controlled by the North Korean government, which gives them only a fraction of the money.

To the extent that they are allowed outside, they go only in groups. Often they are accompanied by a guard from the North Korean Embassy who is referred to as their interpreter. They live under strict surveillance in dormitories with photographs of North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung and current leader Kim Jong Il on the walls. Their only entertainment is propaganda films and newspapers sent from North Korea, and occasional exercise in the yard outside. "This is 21st century slave labor," said Kim Tae San, a former official of the North Korean Embassy in Prague. He helped set up the factories in 1998 and served as president of one of the shoe factories until he defected to South Korea in 2002. It also was Kim's job to collect the salaries and distribute the money to workers. He said 55 percent was taken off the top as a "voluntary" contribution to the socialist revolution. The women had to buy and cook their own food. Additional sums were deducted for accommodation, transportation and extras such as flowers for the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. The women even had to pay for the propaganda films they were forced to watch. By the time all the deductions were made, they received between $20 and $30 a month. They spent less than $10 of it on food, buying only the cheapest local macaroni. Kim says that Czechs often mistook the North Korean women for convict laborers because of the harsh conditions. "They would ask the girls, 'What terrible thing did you do to be sent here to work like this?' " In fact, the women usually come from families deemed sufficiently loyal to the regime that their daughters will not defect. With salaries at state-owned companies in North Korea as low as $1 per month, the chance to work abroad for a three-year stint is a privilege.

Having shed its own communist dictatorship, the Czech Republic is sensitive to human rights. But the country has to employ about 200,000 guest workers, largely to replace Czechs who have left to seek higher wages in Western Europe. Czech officials say the North Koreans are model workers. "They are so quiet you would hardly know they are here," said Zdenek Belohlavek, labor division director for the district of Beroun, which encompasses Zelezna and Zebrak, a larger town where about 75 North Korean seamstresses stitch underwear. Belohlavek displayed a thick dossier of photos and vital statistics of the women, most of whom were born between 1979 and 1981. All their paperwork is in perfect order and the factories appear to fully comply with the law, he said. Belohlavek acknowledged labor investigators had communicated with the workers only through an interpreter from the North Korean Embassy. He said they were troubled by the women's apparent lack of freedom. "They have guards. I don't know why. It's not like anybody would steal them," Belohlavek said. Another labor investigator, Jirina Novakova, who has visited the factories, also complained that the women's salaries were deposited into a single bank account in the name of one of the North Korean Embassy interpreters. "Frankly, we have some difficulty with that," she said. "But if they do it voluntarily, there is not much we can do about it." Jiri Balaban, owner of the Zelezna factory, said it was none of his business what they did in the free time or how they spent their money. "My business is that they work," he said. In theory, the women could escape. Although the doors are locked from the inside in Zelezna, the windows are not barred. But where would they go? Few speak any language other than Korean. Zelezna has one pay phone, a mayor's office that is open once a week for two hours and a general store so small that you have to order bread a day in advance. In Zebrak, the North Koreans go downtown to the supermarket in groups only on Fridays between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. They live in a pleasant-looking, lemon-yellow dormitory that recently was constructed across the parking lot from their factory. Blinds are kept drawn and the doors locked. Deliverymen must leave supplies on the front stoop. The Baroque town square in Nachod, its Christmas lights, Chinese restaurant and movie theater showing "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "March of the Penguins" was off-limits for the 40 North Korean women who stitch leather suitcases and belts along with guest workers from Vietnam, Mongolia and Ukraine. "They can't go anywhere. You can't talk to them," said guard Antonin Janicek. "The other women go to the pub and the cinema. Some get married here. But not the Koreans."

Last year, when a Czech television crew tried to film a shoe factory in Skutec, a group of irate North Koreans broke their camera. After the incident, the factory decided it would no longer employ North Koreans because of bad publicity and human rights concerns. "They often times do not even have enough (money) for food," Vaclav Kosner, financial director of the factory, was quoted as telling the CTK news agency. "They are sometimes truly hungry." The seamstresses were first sent abroad at the height of North Korea's famine to raise money to buy raw materials for North Korean shoes and clothing. North Korea officially was a partner in the factories through two trading companies, but diplomat Kim said this was a front to cover the government's embarrassment about having to send workers abroad. The factories are mostly Czech-owned, but the underwear factory in Zebrak is owned by an Italian company. By far the largest number of North Koreans working outside their country are in Russia, where they do mostly logging and construction in military-style camps run by the North Korean government. When the camps were first set up in the early 1970s, the workers were North Korean prisoners. But as the North Korean economy disintegrated in the late 1980s, doing hard labor in Siberia came to be seen as a reward because at least it meant getting adequate food. Kim Yong Il, who got a job doing mine construction in the 1990s because of his brother's political connections, said he and a dozen other men were kept in a house with bars on the windows and a padlock on the door. He received no money, but his family in North Korea received extra food rations. He defected in 1996 and now lives in Seoul, South Korea. He is one of about 50 North Koreans who escaped the camps in Russia and are living in the South, according to the Christian North Korean Association, a defector group in Seoul. There have been no such incidents with the seamstresses in the Czech Republic. The fact that they come from Pyongyang, home only to the most loyal North Koreans, means that their families have privileges that could be taken away in an instant if a relative were to defect. In 2002, Kim the former diplomat and his wife defected in Prague and sought asylum from South Korea. Soon afterward, their adult son and daughter were taken away. He believes they were sent to a prison camp. Kim, 53, recently asked a contact in North Korea to gather some information about relatives. "Even my wife's relatives, down to the second cousins, have disappeared," he said. "We couldn't find a trace of them."
© San Francisco Chronicle



6/1/2006- President Jacques Chirac on Friday called for more ethnic minorities to be recruited into the public sector, two months after riots erupted in hundreds of run-down, high-immigration French towns. In a New Year address to civil servants, Chirac said the sector should be more open to "French people of immigrant background", although he steered clear of any mention of ethnic quotas.
Instead he repeated a proposal made in November, immediately after the riots, for unqualified young people from rough French suburbs to have access through training to certain categories of civil service and police jobs. Chirac also proposed new entry tests to open up the senior civil service to candidates from outside the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, the country's top school for future public servants. Earlier this week he called for France's elite private higher education institutes, known as the Grandes Ecoles, to lift their intake from poor French suburbs -- many of them high-immigration zones -- to one third. Many of the youths involved in last autumn's riots, mostly French-born children of African and north-African immigrants, complained of heavy handed policing and of being ostracised from mainstream society. The unemployment rate among 15-24 year-olds in poor, predominantly black- and Arab-populated city suburbs' reaches 40 percent, almost twice the national average of 23 percent for the same age group. There are no official statistics on ethnic minorities in France, in line with the Republican notion that all citizens are equal under the law regardless of their background. But the riots have forced France to take a closer look at the question of ethnic discrimination, and a lack of representation in public life, despite strong resistance towards moving to American-style affirmative action. Only two French ministers are from ethnic minorities, and their appointments -- as ministers for equal opportunities and war veterans -- have been derided by the government's critics as token gestures. In the French parliament, two senators come from immigrant backgrounds, while the only non-white faces in the lower house national assembly are deputies from France's overseas territories. Meanwhile, the public broadcaster France Televisions recruited its first ever black news anchor in 2004, a young woman from the island of Martinique.
© The Tocqueville Connection



4/1/2006- France is to amend a fiercely-contested law that casts a positive light on the country's colonial past, President Jacques Chirac said in a New Year's address to the media on Wednesday. Chirac acknowledged that a disputed clause of the law, which asks schools to emphasise the positive aspects of France's presence overseas, was "dividing the French people" and "needed to be rewritten". "It is not up to the law to write history," said the president. The speaker of the National Assembly, Jean-Louis Debre, will shortly present an amended bill intended to "reassure and calm tempers", after carrying out a wide-ranging inquiry into the issues at stake, Chirac said. A bitter row erupted over a minor clause of a law voted last February, which states that "school programmes recognise in particular the positive role of France's presence overseas, notably in north Africa..." The law's general provisions were aimed at improving the living conditions of French people repatriated at the end of the Algerian war of independence. Though it passed almost unnoticed through parliament, the law has since been loudly denounced by rights groups, historians and citizens of France's overseas territories who say it is a blatant attempt to whitewash the colonial past. The dispute flared up again in late November after the ruling UMP voted down an attempt by the opposition Socialist party to have the measure revoked, and 44,000 people have since signed a petition calling for it to be scrapped. The risk of angry protests over the article forced Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to cancel a planned trip to France's Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The government has since sought to distance itself from the provision, stressing that the article was introduced by a single legislator. Last month, Debre was placed at the head of a committee of enquiry asked to "evaluate the actions of parliament in the fields of memory and history" and report back to the government on whether to abrogate the law.
© The Tocqueville Connection



3/1/2006- An US-based group that fights for the rights of minorities, especially Sikhs, said Tuesday it would attack a French law banning religious attire in schools as discriminatory on racial grounds when it came to Sikh turbans. United Sikhs said it was relying on EU anti-discrimination laws in the case, brought on behalf of a French Sikh student, Gurinder Singh, who was expelled from his school in a Paris suburb in October for refusing to take off his traditional Sikh turban. The group argued in a statement that Sikh turbans were not religious in nature but derived from the "ethnic character of the Sikh community". The French law banning religious attire in state schools caused controversy when it was introduced in September 2004, especially among the five-million-strong Muslim minority in France which saw the banning of Islamic headscarves for girls as an attack on religious freedom. Paris and its suburbs are home to the bulk of France's Sikh population, estimated at 6,000. Under Sikh traditions, males are required to let their hair grow uncut and wear a turban in public. An estimated 300 Sikh boys attend French state schools. The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled that countries under its jurisdiction have the right to impose bans on religious attire in state schools. In June 2004 the court rejected a case brought by a Turkish woman expelled from Istanbul University for wearing an Islamic headscarf by saying the ban upheld "secularism and equality".
© Expatica News



Jewish and Black intellectuals in France are standing up to a new revisionist wave that is denying the Rwanda genocide.

3/1/2006- The French Judeo-Black association is to launch a petition following the publication of a controversial book by journalist Pierre Pean in which he denies the existence of a genocide against the Tutsi section of the Rwandan population in the 1990s. In the book, entitled Black Furies, White Liars, Pean not only claims the Tutsis were not the victims of a genocide but also accuses them of attacking the rival Hutus. Pean says that Rwandan president Paul Kagame was responsible for the death of his predecessor Juvenal Habyarimana and the journalist considers that this attack caused the whole Rwandan tragedy. Several historians have accused Pean of revisionism and the Judeo-Black association has acquired the services historian Joel Kotek, from the ULB university in Brussels, Tutsi professor Assumpta Mugiraneza who heads the Rwanda Support Association and the spokesman of the new Black umbrella organisation CRAN to give their point of view.

It was genocide
“There were four genocides in the 20th century,” Kotek said, “the genocides against the Jews, the Armenians, the Tutsis and the Hereros, at the beginning of the century.” “The genocide in Rwanda could have been avoided,” added Pr Kotek. “The first stages of it were clearly identifiable.”  “The genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis is not a matter of opinion,” said Tutsi historian Assumpta Mugiraneza. “Genocide corresponds to a clear definition. It is carefully organised in several stages. A hate campaign is launched against the victims, whom are targeted only because of their identity, their birth. “The government organises first massacres and eliminates those who resist. In Rwanda the Prime minister was assassinated after the first massacres. Then the government organises the extermination itself and tries to rationalise it to the people.”

800,000 killed
The UN has estimated that over 800,000 people died in the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Most of them were Tutsis but Hutus who were opposed to the massacres were also killed. Assumpta Mugiraneza added that interethnic violence between Tutsis and Hutus erupted in 1959. In his book, Pean denigrates several historians and journalists who wrote about the Rwanda genocide. On two occasions he ruled out historians because, “They are married to Rwandan women” or “are attracted to Rwandan women”. The controversy erupted as a French court is beginning to investigate the conduct of French soldiers deployed in Rwanda during the genocide. Some 2,500 French soldiers were deployed in South western Rwanda from June to August 1994 during operation Turquoise. Their goal was to enforce a secure humanitarian zone for the genocide victims. Six Tutsi survivors have accused French soldiers of letting Hutus militiamen kidnap and murder Tutsi refugees that were under French protection.



3/1/2006- The French government on Tuesday passed a decree to lift a state of emergency which has been in place since urban riots that erupted nationwide two months ago. The move was made by the cabinet one day after President Jacques Chirac's office announced that the state of emergency would be lifted on Wednesday. It was introduced on November 8 under a little-used law dating back to 1955, during France's long and unsuccessful war against independence fighters in the former colony of Algeria. The state of emergency broadened police powers, notably by permitting searches without warrants and the option of imposing curfews in certain areas. Initially enacted by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's government on November 8, it was extended for three months by parliament on November 21 and was to have run to the end of February. The extraordinary measure was credited with countering the three weeks of rioting that flared in run-down suburban areas outside Paris and most other cities and towns between October 27 and November 16. The unrest -- the worst France had seen in four decades, since a 1968 student uprising -- was fuelled by a sense of alienation among youths of African and Arab immigrant background who took part. It was sparked when two teenagers of African background died by electrocution while fleeing a police identity check. At its height, 300 towns were affected by the violence, with arson attacks on 10,000 cars and 200 public buildings. More than 5,000 people were arrested, and more than 400 sent to jail. Chirac, making a traditional New Year's address to his cabinet, said the state of emergency had been "essential" yet "strictly temporary".
"Given the situation of the past few weeks, I have decided to end it," he said. The government had previously defended the continued application of the state of emergency against criticism from the left-wing opposition, civil rights groups and some lawyers by citing the risk of a flare-up during New Year's celebrations. Car-burnings have become a barometer for social unrest in France in recent years, and are a grim New Year's ritual in many rough areas. But the New Year's Eve passed off without large-scale arson attacks or other serious violence, easing official fears of a new wave of rioting. Police said 425 cars were torched nationwide, a one-third rise on the number reported for the same night last year. According to a November poll, a majority of the French people -- 73 percent -- backed the government's decision to introduce curfew powers to address the unrest.
© The Tocqueville Connection



31/12/2005- Sales of petrol in cans have been banned in Paris and other French cities as France prepares for a possible New Year's Eve resurgence of last month's suburban riots. Violence and car burning on 31 December has become a macabre tradition in France in recent years. The authorities fear that multiracial gangs of youths in poor suburbs may use the festivities tonight to resume the violent confrontations which destroyed 12,000 cars and scores of public buildings in November. New Year's Eve is one of the nights when young people from the deprived suburbs traditionally pour into Paris, taunting police and causing minor scuffles. More than 4,500 police officers and gendarmes will be mobilised to protect the capital, especially the Avenue des Champs Elysées, where large crowds of Parisians and tourists are expected to gather to welcome 2006. Although the authorities have said they have no firm warnings of any plans to foment violence, there will be a heavy police presence at the suburban stations of the Metro and the RER regional train network. Any groups of youths heading towards central Paris will be watched closely and denied access to the city if necessary. All sales of petrol in cans have been banned in Paris and many other areas of France in an attempt to prevent a reprise of the orgy of random car burning which marked the riots in November. On New Year's Eve last year, 330 cars were set on fire across France. This compares with an average of 100 cars burnt on a "normal" day in the country. At the height of last month's riots, 2,400 cars were burnt in one night. The Paris Préfecture de Police said its officers would be ordered to avoid unnecessary confrontation but would be expected "to dissuade and repress" all acts of violence. This might involve taking pre-emptive action if necessary. The Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was blamed by some for provoking last month's riots by describing violent, suburban gangs as "scum", will take personal command of the security arrangements in the capital. He will be spending most of tonight in the Centre Opérationnel, incident control room, at the ministry. M. Sarkozy is expected to make a public appearance (televised, no doubt) at a place of heightened tension some time during the evening. The November riots were provoked by the deaths of two teenagers who had climbed into an electricity sub-station to try to escape a police check. Since the violence subsided, France has examined its national conscience on the racism, social exclusion and poor education faced by many young people living in the multiracial banlieues, or suburbs, of French towns and cities. The riots have also led to a new political awareness in the suburbs themselves. According to a survey conducted by the newspaper Le Monde, town halls in poor suburbs have been besieged by young people wanting to register to vote before the next presidential election in 2007.
© Independent Digital



Home Office denies racial bias

5/1/2006- The DNA profiles of nearly four in 10 black men in the UK are on the police's national database - compared with fewer than one in 10 white men, according to figures compiled by the Guardian. Civil liberties groups and representatives of the black community said this offered evidence that the database reinforced racial biases in the criminal justice system. The Home Office denied this, saying most of the DNA came from people who had been charged and convicted of crimes. Only about 113,000 people who had been arrested but not charged were on the database, a spokeswoman said. The figures, compiled using Home Office statistics and census data, show that 37% of black men have their DNA profile on the database compared with 13% of Asian men and 9% of white men. Keith Jarrett, president of the National Black Police Association described the figures as "very worrying". He said he would be recommending an investigation into how the database is compiled. "It raises some serious issues and needs to be looked at." He rejected the notion that the figures reflect the racial balance of people who commit crime. "In my exprience that is not so at all," he said. "This is an example of disproportionality in yet another part of the system. It's just going to alienate more black people from having any part in the judicial system." Last night, Sue Mayer, the director of the campaign group GeneWatch, called for a debate on whose DNA samples were kept. "If you do have a skew towards certain ethnic minorities, there's a real danger that you could have another form of discrimination," she said.

The database, which now holds more than 3 million profiles, provides police with around 3,000 matches between suspects and samples taken from scenes of serious crimes a month. Often these provide leads in cold cases that have been on the books for several years. Since April last year, police have had the power to take DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of a recordable offence - one that would involve a custodial sentence - meaning the database is not simply a reflection of those convicted of crimes. The "ethnic appearance" of each person placed on the database is recorded - 82% of male profiles are white and 7% black, according to the Home Office. The number of men in different racial categories can then be compared with the number in the country as recorded in the 2001 national census. A Home Office spokeswoman accepted that black men were disproportionately represented, but said figures on race were recorded differently in each case. DNA database figures were "based on the operational judgment of the arresting officer", whereas census figures on race were self-recorded. Dominic Bascombe, of the Voice, the black newspaper based in London, said the revelation exposed biases in the criminal justice system that began with ethnic minorities being more likely to be arrested. "It is simply presuming if you are black you are going to be guilty - if not now but in the future," he said. He added that the over-representation of ethnic minorities on the database put them under increased "genetic surveillance". "We certainly don't think it reflects criminality," he said. Anyone on the database - and family members - can more easily be linked to a crime scene if their DNA is found there. This may be because they are a criminal, or because they visited the scene prior to the crime. The UK's DNA database was set up in 1995. It is the largest internationally and has helped police match around 600,000 suspects to crime scenes.
© The Guardian



4/1/2006- A rising number of Hindus are the victims of hate crimes, partly as a backlash from the London suicide bombings, Britain's largest Hindu organisation has said. A telephone hotline to report attacks is being set up to help the 700,000 Hindus in this country. Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said "hate crime" incidents ranged from verbal and physical attacks on worshippers to graffiti and vandalism at Hindu temples. In one of the most recent attacks, paving slabs with swastikas scratched on them were thrown through the windows at a hall in Basingstoke, Hampshire, while a religious meeting was taking place. Mr Kallidai said there was evidence that Hindus and their temples had been targeted after the July 7 bomb attacks in London, even though the terrorists had been Muslim. The Hindu Forum, which represents 260 Hindu organisations in Britain, has arranged security training for volunteers to prevent attacks at Hindu temples. Hindu groups are pressing the Home Office and police to keep separate records of religiously motivated attacks on Hindus. At present the figures are collected only for racial groups. The British Crime Survey found that the number of racially motivated incidents in England and Wales has quadrupled since 1993 to about 50,000. Mr Kallidai said: "After 7/7 there was an increase in attacks on Hindus because of mistaken identity. For almost 90 per cent of the south Asian community you cannot tell which religion a particular person belongs to." The "hate crime" hotline, due to start later this year, could also incorporate a service aimed at young people and is modelled on the success of the Muslim Youth Helpline. The introduction of the service will coincide with a campaign to encourage Hindus to report hate crime. Britain's Hindu population is based mainly in the London and Leicester areas, and in parts of Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Wolverhampton and Coventry. Most Hindus in Britain are of Gujarati, Punjabi or Tamil ethnic origin.
© Independent Digital



Wrexham residents are set to receive a "myth-buster" leaflet about the rights of migrant workers living in the town.

4/1/2006- The fact-sheet aims to dispel rumours surrounding the European workers and help them to integrate locally. It is one of a number of initiatives to be discussed by councillors on Wednesday when they meet to talk about how to improve "social cohesion". It is estimated that between 2-4,000 people, mainly eastern European, have moved to the county. In a 29-page action plan, the council's strategic director, Malcolm Russell said much has already been achieved but there are pressures on education, housing and a need for specialist services such as translation. Since the expansion of the EU in May 2004, thousands of migrant workers have moved to Wrexham from countries including Poland and the Baltic states. Monika Czaja from Gdansk in Poland moved to Wrexham a few months ago and opened a shop with her partner Wojciech Bogucki, selling food from their home country. She said she found Wrexham very welcoming."We came to Wrexham when we were working for an agency in London. We came back because we liked Wrexham. The place is magical for us," she said. The 28-year-old said she found locals "very friendly" but had suffered "one bad experience". "When we were looking for a house a few agencies asked me how long I'd been here and if I worked part time or full time. Polish people have different experiences in our country," she added. The council's action plan states that around 50 children have recently joined local schools, mainly from Poland. The movement has caused specific concerns for schools but the council has introduced a number of measures to ease teachers' pressures. These include the introduction of extra learning support assistants. In addition homework clubs for children of migrant workers should be introduced by April. Ms Czaja said the council has tried hard to integrate people moving into the county but she would like to see specific places set up where they can meet up and ask for help. "Before Christmas we went to the council and asked about a place for us to meet, a room in a school or something. Just so people can meet and ask about how they call for a doctor, things like that," she added. The council has said it is working closely with the local health board on access to NHS services for migrant workers.

Council action plan
*A 'myth-buster' fact sheet
*Raise health awareness
*Introduce homework clubs
*Monitor migrant workers' movements
*Encourage family friendly policies for workers
© BBC News



The racist Cornish festival of Darkie Day has finally been ditched after years of controversy.

31/12/2005- The late MP Bernie Grant campaigned against the local tradition of blacking-up with charcoal, wearing Afro-wigs and performing minstrel songs. Five years after the death of the legendary Tottenham MP the fishing village of Padstow has renamed the ‘festival’ Mummers Day. Last year anti-racist campaigners converged on Cornwall to protest against the century-old tradition that involves songs about ‘niggers’. However old habits die hard with locals intend to carry on the nature of the festival, replacing the word ‘niggers’ with ‘mummers.’ In 1998 Mr Grant said the event was “offensive to black people.” Yet today it is still being advertised as a tourist attraction by the website Cornish Light. The BBC has reported that Darkie Day may have originated when locals observed Africans singing and dancing onboard a slave ship that was forced to seek shelter in the harbour. That theory seems extremely unlikely in the face of what is known about the sickening oppression meted out to slaves. There are many accounts of rebellion but few, if any, about joyful celebrations on slave ships. There are also no historical records of slave ships ever visiting the sea-side village.

Padstow residents have defended themselves by claiming that Darkie Day is not offensive and that money collected during the ‘celebrations’ are given to charities and the local St Petroc’s church. But that has cut no ice with anti-racists who have called for the event to be banned. Last year riot police monitored it amid claims the festival was inciting racial hatred. The Cornwall Racial Equality Council have registered complaints about the event, which is supposed to ‘spontaneously’ occur anytime between Boxing Day and New Years Day. Mike Hall, chief executive of the North Cornwall District Council, said: “It all got blown out of proportion last year and he community felt under siege so they decided to do something about it. “The name change wasn’t forced upon them, it was something they wanted to do themselves and we are happy with it too.” It has been reported that the new name Mummers Day derives from an old form of begging where poor people would blacken their faces to disguise themselves and sing songs in return for food or money. While residents claimed it was all harmless fun the Times columnist India Knight drolly noted: “Funny, that’s exactly how I feel about Inbred Peasant Day.”
© Black Information Link



Thousands of Irish turned out to support striking ferry workers in their battle against cheap foreign labour. Unions fear it may be for the wrong reasons.

31/12/2005- When nearly 100,000 people took to the streets of Ireland this month to protest the hiring of cheap East European labour for Irish Ferries, they gave voice to old familiar fears about job security that many thought had been forgotten. The last time similar crowds demonstrated here over industrial issues was in 1979, when young people were leaving the country in droves to find work and Ireland's unemployment rate was hovering around 20 per cent. These days, the Irish economy is no longer expanding at the double-digit rates of the 1990s, when it was called the Celtic Tiger, but it is still the fastest-growing in Western Europe. The country enjoys nearly full employment. But the outpouring of support for more than 500 unionized workers of Irish Ferries, who will be replaced by new workers, mainly from Latvia, who will work for less than half Ireland's minimum wage, is raising questions about whether the tolerance for globalization that helped bolster the Irish economy is waning. "We have been a major beneficiary of outsourcing for the last couple of decades," said Jim Power, chief economist at Friends First, an Irish subsidiary of the Dutch financial services firm Eureko, "and now people are starting to see that it's a double-edged sword."

Sean Barrett, a professor of economics at Trinity College, Dublin, said, "The Latvian sailor will become like the Polish plumber in Paris." He was referring to the bogeyman invoked by French politicians trying to close the labour market to foreign workers. That prospect is starting to worry immigrant support groups, who say the ferry dispute comes at a critical time for newly-arrived foreigners in Ireland. Bobby Gilmore, chairman of the Migrant Rights Centre, a non-profit group based in Dublin, said the dispute threatened to damage communities of newcomers trying to settle into a life in Ireland. "They're beginning to see and understand that they're as vital to the Irish economy as anyone else," he said. When the European Union expanded last year to include 10 new countries, mostly from the former Soviet bloc, Ireland, along with Britain, proudly kept its doors open to immigrants, while other countries, like France, sought to stem an influx of competitive labour. Of the 96,000 people who entered the Irish work force last year, 40,000 were migrants, mostly from Eastern Europe, according to the government statistics office. Young East Europeans, most of them well educated, work at building sites, wait on tables and work cash registers across the country. Until now, that influx has not caused any local resentment, because the newcomers have not taken Irish jobs. But the tens of thousands of people who marched to the gates of the Irish Parliament were demonstrating because of the perception that that era may be coming to a close.

Plans by Irish Ferries, a shipping and passenger ferry company, to register its ships in Cyprus so it can replace its staff with Latvians who will work for 3.60 euros an hour (about $6 Cdn), set off a nasty dispute three months ago. Passengers have been repeatedly stranded at sea as sympathetic dockworkers in Ireland and Wales refused to handle Irish Ferries' ships. In a gesture of protest, four crewmen locked themselves inside one ship's cabin three weeks ago, and have been there since. The company sent undercover security officers on board posing as passengers but denied reports it had considered using tear gas against employees who refused to leave the ships. The movement was reminiscent of a labour dispute in France in October that raised protests among unionized ferry workers and garnered the support of the French public, already concerned about high unemployment and outsourcing. The government's effort to privatize SNCM Ferries, which would have resulted in laying off about a quarter of its 2,400 employees, ended with a compromise that left the French state with a 25-per-cent stake in the company. As the ferry dispute unfolded in Ireland, it began to generate widespread public sympathy for Irish workers. Thousands of people lined the protest route earlier this month to applaud the demonstrators -- a show of support that union activists said they had never seen before. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, known as a skilled negotiator in labour disputes, condemned Irish Ferries' decision as "deplorable."

But unions are concerned that public support may be for the wrong reasons. "The sad thing is that some of it may be racist," said Paul Smyth, the docks and marine branch secretary for the largest Irish union, SIPTU, which is in negotiations with Irish Ferries. "That's a huge issue of concern." Gilmore said he feared that migrants in other industries, and in Ireland's growing black-market economy, would suffer worsening conditions if Irish Ferries successfully employed cheap labour from Latvia, and if other employers were tempted to follow its lead. Barrett, the economics professor, said: "We've let the racist genie out of the bottle. It can create a lot of trouble, and we haven't seen it before." The dispute may also have implications for Ireland's 20-year-old "social partnership" model of industrial relations, which uses broad pacts among unions, employers' groups and the government to guarantee modest annual wage increases in return for promises to refrain from the strikes that often cripple other European countries. The pact expires next year, but SIPTU said it would not negotiate a new deal if the Irish Ferries situation was not resolved. "Social partnership seems to have come up short," said Power, of Friends First. "This dispute does not send out very positive signals about the industrial relations climate in this country."
© The Hamilton Spectator



31/12/2005- Traveller training centres are the worst thing that ever happened to the Travelling community, it was claimed yesterday. There are 33 centres nationally, teaching academic and practical subjects to Travellers aged over 15. But the Travellers’ group Pavee Point said the centres only encouraged Travellers to drop out of mainstream education and called for them to be shut down. Assistant director Martin Collins said: “It’s the worst thing, I think, that has ever happened to Travellers. It’s being viewed as an alternative to secondary education but to me it’s a sub-standard education and it needs to bedismantled, this network of training centres.” He said the allowance paid to those attending the centres was part of the problem. “It’s absolutely a crying shame to see Traveller boys and girls at 15 or 16 who are doing quite well in secondary school, whereby the parents take them out and send them to the training centres for no reason other than that there’s a bloody allowance in it at the end of the week,” he said. Around two-thirds of Travellers left school by age 15, figures released in 2002 showed. The national co-ordinator of the Traveller training centres was unavailable for comment.
© Irish Examiner



3/1/2006- Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel has kicked off his country's presidency of the EU with criticism on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for systematically expanding EU powers through its rulings. Mr Schussel made his remarks in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday (31 December), just one day before Vienna started its six-month period at the helm of the EU. The Austrian leader called for the debate on the future of the EU to focus not only on the fate of the EU constitution, shelved after French and Dutch voters rejected the text, but also on the role of the EU’s top court. Mr Schussel said "the ECJ…has in the last couple of years systematically expanded European competencies, even in areas, where there is decidedly no [European] community law." "Suddenly, judgements emerge on the role of women in the German federal army, or on access of foreign students to Austrian universities – that is clearly national law", he added. The chancellor referred to a judgement by the EU court of last July, when judges ruled that Austria could not restrict access of foreign students to its universities, many of whom are Germans.

Constitution roadmap
Mr Schussel also reiterated that his government will during its stint at the helm of the EU not press the ratification of the EU constitution, which Austria itself supports. In June 2005, European leaders agreed upon a "reflection period" on the constitution, in response to negative outcomes of referendums on the charter in France and the Netherlands. The Austrian leader stated in the interview with Sueddeutsche "I am in favour of a discussion phase to start with. It is important that we form ourselves a clear picture on the concerns of citizens". But Austrian politicians had earlier indicated that Vienna will try and lay the foundation for a new consensus between member states supporting further ratification of the constitution, and those that have said farewell to the treaty. Mr Schussel said Austria wants to achieve a "roadmap" at the EU leaders' summit in June, to come to a solution "best at the end of 2007."

Concern about EU centralisation
Vienna’s strategy to resuscitate the constitutional debate will first see a discussion on identity, kicked off by a major conference called "The Sound of Europe" at the end of this month. "The first thing would be to accentuate more clearly the identity question and to send the message that there is no European uniform mass, but more identities, that constitute the European sound", Mr Schussel said. As a further sign of the Austrian presidency’s concern about a centralised EU, Mr Schussel indicated deregulation and subsidiarity (the principle that political decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level) should be "taken seriously." Around May, the discussion about identity, deregulation and subsidiarity should start to focus on concrete issues, such as the role of the ECJ, the chancellor announced. Finally, Mr Schussel expressed support for the idea of his German counterpart Angela Merkel, who has proposed to attach a declaration on the "social dimension of Europe" to the failed EU constitution. The non-binding declaration should call upon the EU institutions to better consider the social implications of EU internal market legislation.

Chirac initiative
Meanwhile, French president Jacques Chirac has announced he will launch a new political initiative to break the constitutional deadlock. Mr Chirac made the announcement in a televised speech on 31 December, without revealing details of his plans. "With all our partners we have reached a budget agreement, but Europe needs institutions that are more democratic, more stable, more effective", he stated. "We cannot wait. This is why I will quickly take up the initiative to start building a political Europe, a social Europe, a Europe of projects."
© EUobserver


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