NEWS - Archive May 2007

Headlines 25 May, 2007

Headlines 18 May, 2007

Headlines 11 May, 2007

Headlines 4 May, 2007

Headlines 25 May, 2007

MUNICIPALITIES SUPPORT GENERAL AMNESTY(Netherlands)

25/5/2007- The municipalities have voiced their support for the amnesty scheme that will grant residence status to asylum seekers who entered under the old Aliens Act and have been living in the Netherlands for a long time. The Association of Netherlands' Municipalities (VNG) announced on Friday that its members support the implementation of the amnesty. The administrative accord was agreed with State secretary for Justice Nebahat Albayrak last month. An important condition in the accord is that municipalities no longer provide shelter for asylum seekers who have exhausted the procedure and been definitively refused asylum. "The municipalities are prepared to stop providing emergency care and will do so," the VNG said on Friday. The association did add that municipalities do have a responsibility to care for people in need however. This responsibility to provide care has been the subject of public debate in the run up to the definitive amnesty arrangement. Amsterdam alderwoman Marijke Vos writes on the website of green-left GroenLinks that stopping emergency care is a lamentable agreement. State secretary Albayrak will discuss the definitive amnesty scheme in the cabinet meeting today. If the ministers approve the proposal it can presented in full after the meeting. The VNG has urged repeatedly over the past few years for a more generous amnesty arrangement. The organisation is glad that "the accord will bring an end to years of uncertainty." The municipalities will be given EUR 55 million towards housing and integration of the group in question. They still want to discuss with the state secretary what criteria will be attached to the granting of these funds however. The amnesty will be granted to asylum seekers who applied for asylum under the old Aliens Act (before April 2001) and who can show that they were still in the Netherlands in 2006. It is still not clear how many people this includes.
© Expatica News

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EUROPEAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG ECRI WARNS OF 'INCREASING CLIMATE OF HOSTILITY'

25/5/2007- A report by a pan-European rights watchdog warned of an "increasing climate of hostility" towards Muslims, cases of persistent anti-Semitism, and violations against Roma or gypsy populations, "singled out as a particular target for racism throughout Europe." ‘’Europe’s traditional values of tolerance and welcome are giving way to a dangerous rise in hostility towards foreigners, Eva Smith-Asmussen, the Danish head of the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), told reporters in Paris. « We’re starting to shut people out of our communities, it’s a very sad development," Eva Smith-Asmussen, she added. "Europe is built on values like taking a humanitarian approach, tolerance," she told a press conference to mark the release of ECRI’s 2006 annual report. "But it looks as if all of a sudden the most important thing is security, and other things have to be sacrificed." "If anything is threatening our peace and security in Europe, it’s discrimination," Smith-Asmussen said, warning of a "truly dangerous" trend. In its report on the Council of Europe’s 46 member states, ECRI found that "the overall picture as regards contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination is complex and worrying." Across Europe, ECRI said it was "deeply concerned by the negative climate of opinion" which it said was "fuelled by some media and also by the use of racist and xenophobic arguments in political discourse."

Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are the most affected by the rise in hostility, according to ECRI. It said xenophobic discourse enjoyed a "free rein" in countries struggling to make the transition to multicultural societies, where foreigners were made scapegoats for economic difficulties and crime. "On the subject of immigration, the tone of political debate has not only hardened considerably, but has also tended to stigmatise entire communities, notably foreigners," it said. The fight against terrorism had in some cases led to the adoption of discriminatory legislation, it warned. Calling on member states to combat discrimination on the ground, ECRI stressed that successful integration of minorities was "a two-way process, a process of mutual recognition, which has nothing to do with assimilation." Smith-Asmussen said the trend towards greater discrimination had been observed "in every country in Europe, even in countries that used to be very open, forthcoming, like the Netherlands." "Even social-democratic parties whose ideology is about protecting the weak, the welfare state, it’s like they don’t see that if you’re an immigrant or a refugee, you’re also part of society."  "Is this really a society we want?" she asked. "It is important that European countries realise what is happening and do something about it." "To accept other people and other values is an old, old European virtue. It’s sad to see it disappearing," she said.
© EJP

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ECRI CRITICIZES FINNISH PRACTICE OF ISSUING TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMITS

24/5/2007- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) criticizes Finland’s practice of granting temporary residence permits to a growing number of asylum seekers. These so-called B-permits have been granted to applicants whose asylum applications have been turned down while it has not been possible to deport them. According to ECRI’s third report on Finland, which was published today, the problem is that the holder of a B-permit is not entitled to a number of basic rights, including the right to work and to family reunification. The Commission announced that it is "seriously concerned" about this fact. "ECRI urges the Finnish authorities to discontinue the practice of issuing residence permits which do not grant access to basic rights to persons who are allowed to stay in Finland", the report states. The report also notes that in practice some children with B-permits have not been allowed to go to school in Finland.

ECRI draws up reports in four- to five-year cycles, containing its analyses and recommendations regarding racism and racial discrimination in each of the member states of the Council of Europe. The previous report on Finland was published in 2002.
In its third report on Finland, ECRI notes that Finland has "strengthened its legal and institutional framework against racism and racial discrimination", which is reflected for example in the establishment of the post of Ombudsman for Minorities. Finland’s first Ombudsman for Minorities, Mikko Puumalainen, started his work in 2002. However, the report implies that certain problems related to racism and intolerance persist, and there is a need for a more consistent public commitment against racism. "ECRI also strongly recommends that the Finnish authorities take further steps towards a demonstrable and consistent public commitment against racism and racial discrimination in all its forms." Only 2.5 per cent of the total Finnish population are immigrants. However, the number is growing - five years ago the proportion of non-citizens living in Finland was only 1.8 per cent. ECRI notes further that both the upward trend in the number of non-citizens and the recently adopted Government Immigration Policy Programme aimed at promoting work-related immigration indicate that integration is becoming a more topical issue in Finland.
© Helsingin Sanomat

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ECRI REPORTS ON AZERBAIJAN;OFFICIAL CALLS IT 'ABSURD'

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) publicized a report on Azerbaijan in Paris today.

24/5/2007- The report reads: Since the publication of ECRI first report on Azerbaijan on 15 April 2003, progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in that report. In the area of education, access to public school for children of non-citizens without legal status has been improved and measures in favour of teaching human rights as well as minority languages have been taken. "State Programme on improvement of the living conditions and raising employment for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)" was adopted in 2004 and is currently being implemented. A procedure for granting the status of refugee was put in place and some asylum seekers have already obtained refugee status on this basis. However, a number of recommendations made in ECRI first report have not been implemented, or have only been partially implemented. There are still cases of racist and inflammatory speech or the promotion of religious intolerance by some media, members of the general public and politicians, particularly against Armenians, Russian citizens from Chechnya and members of some religious minorities. The unsolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh continues to have a negative impact on the climate concerning Armenians.

"In this report, ECRI recommends that the Azerbaijani authorities take further action in a number of areas. It recommends in particular that they provide officials in the judicial system with more training on the importance of adequately applying criminal law provisions to combat racism and intolerance." It asks that a specialised body be set up to combat racism and racial discrimination and that the civil and administrative law provisions prohibiting racial discrimination be strengthened. Measures should be taken to solve the problems linked to the lack of legal status of some categories of non-citizens living in Azerbaijan. Khazar Ibrahim, head of Foreign Ministry press center told that Council of Europe as respected body should approach issues very objectively. "There is no problem between confessions, ethnic groups and nations in Azerbaijan. Tolerance and understanding culture in Azerbaijan have its ancient roots. The only problem is conflict with Armenia and this emerged because of Armenians policy. Armenian aggressive policy led to the occupation of Azerbaijan territories and deportation of many Azerbaijani people from their homes. Unfortunately, Council of Europe ignores the policy of ethnic cleansing carried out by neighboring Armenia, releases unrealistic information on Azerbaijan. It said Azerbaijan suffers from lack of information on racism and intolerance. This is absurd. In comparison with other states, Azerbaijan does not need it as it is already part of Azerbaijani history and culture," he underlined.
© Today AZ

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LE PEN VOWS TO STAY ON AS FAR-RIGHT NATIONAL FRONT LEADER(France)

24/5/2007- French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Thursday said he planned to stay on as leader of the National Front party despite his poor showing in the presidential election. Le Pen, 78, had been expected to step down due to his age and pave the way for a new leader of the party that has been a fixture of French politics for 35 years. "There will be a congress in November and I will then present my candidacy," Le Pen told RTL radio, adding that he was confident of winning a new mandate. "The head of the National Front remains uncontested for the time being." Le Pen won 10.44 percent of the vote in the election, taking the fourth place, his worst score since he made his first run for the presidency in 1974. It was a far cry from the 2002 election when the far-right leader stunned the nation by winning enough votes to beat Socialist Lionel Jospin and stand against Jacques Chirac in the runoff. Acknowledging that his party had sufferd "a little blow" from this year's election outcome, Le Pen said he planned to nevertheless lead the National Front into next month's parliamentary elections. The National Front currently does not hold any seats in the 577-member National Assembly. President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party is expected to win a strong majority in the June 10-17 vote that would give the rightwing leader free rein to push through economic reform. In the presidential election, Le Pen lost votes to Sarkozy whose campaign pledge to get tough on immigration and crime appealed to the far-right leader's supporters. Le Pen had campaigned on a platform that called for halting immigration which he argued was threatening France's economy and way of life. He accused Sarkozy of copying his ideas.
© Expatica News

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FRANCE TO PAY IMMIGRANTS TO RETURN HOME

23/5/2007- New French President Nicolas Sarkozy made immigration a central issue of his campaign. Now, his new minister for immigration and national identity says its time to start paying immigrants to leave the country. France is home to over 5 million immigrants -- and the new conservative-led government doesn't plan on making things any more comfortable for them. While the new regime in Paris is determined to curb illegal immigration, it is also looking to encourage legal migrants to reconsider their decision to stay in France -- by paying them to go back home. New immigration minister, Brice Hortefeux, confirmed on Wednesday that the government is planning to offer incentives to more immigrants to return home voluntarily. "We must increase this measure to help voluntary return. I am very clearly committed to doing that," Hortefeux said in an interview with RFI radio. Under the scheme, Paris will provide each family with a nest egg of €6,000 ($8,000) for when they go back to their country of origin. A similar scheme, which was introduced in 2005 and 2006, was taken up by around 3,000 families. Hortefeux, who heads up the new "super-ministery" of immigration, integration, national identity and co-development, said he wants to pursue a "firm but humane" immigration policy. The new ministry was a central pledge in Nicolas Sarkozy's election campaign, who had warned that France was exasperated by "uncontrolled immigration." He was accused by the left of playing on public fears of immigration during his campaign, in an attempt to appeal to the supporters of the far-right National Front. In the end, Sarkozy won comfortably with 53 percent, and Hortefeux says this shows that the French people have clearly decided on what immigration policy they want. He also pointed to an opinon poll in the Le Figaro newspaper, which found that three in four people in France approved of the ministry.

Since he was appointed by the new president last Friday, Hortefeux has insisted that "co-development" will be an important plank of French immigration policy. He argued that the system of voluntary return can be seen as a means for investment in developing countries. He said that the method of transferring funds via returning immigrants to their country of origin was a better policy than providing aid for development. Hortefeux is also talking tough when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration, insisting that there are no plans for a mass legalization of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 illegals in France. The new minister voiced concern that the majority of legal immigration into France was that of existing immigrants bringing in relatives, while only a small proportion were granted visas due to their professional skills. "To be integrated, you need language skills and a professional activity," he told RFI, and said he is considering introducing a language test to prospective immigrants. France is home to an estimated 1.5 million immigrants from mostly Muslim North Africa and 500,000 from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2004 census. Asked on RFI about how the notion "national identity," fits into the new ministry -- the term has been fiercely criticized by the French left -- Hortefeux said: "This should not be understood as something menacing, but on the contrary, it is initiative with the aim of bringing coherence."
© Spiegel Online

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FAR FROM WAR, BUT NOT AT PEACE(Chechen asylum-seekers)

Thousands of Chechen asylum-seekers biding their time in the Alps feel the perilous pull of their homeland.
By Vladimir Kovalev, freelance writer living in Vienna
 

24/5/200- There are some things Roman Shamayev will never forget. Dead bodies of civilians and soldiers, destroyed tanks and cannons, crying children, apartment buildings in the Chechen capital of Grozny covered with thousands of holes left after brutal artillery assaults. Shamayev, a former Chechen army commander, lives far away from such scenes now, but they are still with him, just as they dog the memories of the tens of thousands of Chechen refugees living in Western and Central Europe. And just as many plead their cases to West European governments, hoping to be allowed to stay, they long, too, to return home. Some are even compelled to do so, either by governments who reject them or by thuggish Chechen authorities who threaten loved ones left behind. For many, staying or leaving becomes a matter of – someone’s – life or death. Shamayev came to Austria several years ago, shortly after being seriously injured in the second Chechen war. After giving orders in the separatist Chechen army for more than a decade, he is one of roughly 20,000 refugees who fled the region to come to Austria in the past several years. “From the first war in Chechnya I remember [dead] children and people lying on streets, being eaten by birds, cats and dogs,” Shamayev recalled during an interview in a Vienna restaurant last month. “Once I mixed up a container of dead bodies with ammunition. I was told there were a number of cargo cars at the train station in Grozny that we thought were delivering weapons for the Russian army. When I opened one, I saw corpses, corpses, and corpses of Russian soldiers lying frozen, stacked up,” he said. “I don’t remember battles themselves. I never remember battles. I do remember, of course, the guys I was with during the war, but engagements themselves I try not to remember. People have a tendency to forget what they don’t want to think about,” he said. More than two years after moving to Austria and recovering from his wounds, Shamayev works with Chechen refugees who live in camps in the Alps waiting for permission to stay. He has found a role, and a haven, but the calm sits uneasily on him. “It’s [too calm]. It’s just ... as a rule a person gets lost if he’s removed from the thing he’s done most of his life. And it’s hard to find yourself in that case,” he said. He believes that someday he will return to Chechnya, provided the breakaway republic becomes more stable and secure.

A perilous place
In talks last year with Russian President Vladimir Putin, then-Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel suggested that his country would send back the Chechen refugees if certain conditions in the republic improved. He did specify which conditions, but according to human rights advocates, the essentials have not changed. “[The refugees’] safety cannot be considered without looking at the precarious security situation in the Chechen Republic as a whole,” warned a 2006 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Despite the fact that the UN deemed the security situation improved in Chechnya in July 2006, the situation remains complicated, unstable, and dangerous. Every day [aid organizations] register violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Chechnya, including extra-judicial executions, disappearances (including of women and children), illegal arrests, torture, hostage-taking, destruction of property, and looting. There remains a serious threat from landmines and unexploded ordnance,” the report said. People still disappear frequently in Chechnya, according to Civil Assistance, a nongovernmental organization that worked on the report with the NRC. “Human rights violations continue to take place in Chechnya. It happens that some unidentified armed persons come in the night and arrest people without explaining why,” said Yelena Burtina, a co-director of Civil Assistance. “Sometimes such detainees are found later, but it happens, not rarely, that they are detained and charged on evidence from testimony other people have given under pressure or after torture. In some cases, detainees are later found dead or thrown onto the road badly beaten,” she said. “These tactics resemble the political repression in the USSR in 1937.

Such repression continues in Chechnya, not on the same scale as several years ago, but the fact is, it takes place regularly.” One typical case is that of Iliyas Azimov, who was allegedly arrested without explanation on the evening of 28 July 2005. The NRC report said he was abducted from a residential complex for former refugees in Grozny by masked men who drove up in cars without number plates. His mother, sisters, and neighbors were beaten, according to information collected by the NRC. When residents of the complex blocked one of the major highways in the city the next morning to demand his release, the police tried to disperse them by shooting into the air and then at the ground by their feet.  Azimov was later released without charge, but only after appeals from the local branch of the Russian human rights group Memorial to Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, and to the human rights ombudsman of Chechnya, who provided Azimov with a lawyer. “The Chechen interior minister explained that he had been suspected of murder and denied that masked men or unmarked cars had been used during his arrest. In the absence of prompt outside intervention – which was possible only because a human rights conference on Chechnya was under way in Kislovodsk at the time – it is unlikely that the incident would have been resolved in a satisfactory manner,” the NRC report said. Providing security for refugees and for Chechen citizens in general was acknowledged recently as a problem by Romzan Kadyrov, the new Kremlin-backed Chechen president, who nevertheless tried to downplay it. “The problem of security existed in the Chechen Republic before. Now, according to statistics, it is the region’s fourth-biggest issue, and social and economic problems are more urgent,” the Regnum news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying in April. “Step by step we are trying to solve the question of the returning people who left the republic. For instance, the regional Akhmat Kadyrov Fund [named after the former Chechen president] buys destroyed apartments and hands them over to Kumyks, Russians, Chechens. They are all our people, and we want them to come back to our city,” Kadyrov said. Kadyrov has been repeatedly linked to torture and political persecution of his opponents by the international press and human rights advocates. He denies the accusations.

Unconvinced
The new Chechen president’s assurance of a new era in the breakaway republic apparently rings hollow to the many refugees who have arrived recently in Austria and continue to seek asylum there. About 30 people a day submit applications for asylum status in Austria, according to the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, a Vienna think tank whose experts are often called in by Austrian courts to assist in examination of cases of Chechen refugees. About 5,000 Chechens have asylum status in Austria, and about three times that number are awaiting a decision in refugee camps in the mountains or just hanging around illegally, claiming that they have escaped from the war. Some 70,000 to 80,000 Chechen refugees live in the European Union, according to Hans-Georg Heinrich, a political science professor and researcher at the institute. Heinrich said Austrian legislation is likely the most liberal in the EU for Chechen asylum-seekers. While Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia often reject applications, Austrian law demands only that the newcomers prove they are Chechens by speaking the language and by showing on a map the region in Chechnya where they come from. Some claim falsely to be Chechens. Occasionally, the institute’s specialists discover Russians from that country’s southern regions, such as Krasnodar, masquerading as Chechens, Heinrich said. Some refugees, but still only a few, have begun trying to return, whether because they miss their families or are being pressured by authorities in Grozny, Heinrich said. “I have an anonymous case of a guy who served as a security guard for Ramzan Kadyrov. He told me, and I can’t vouch for the truth of what he said, that he had broken with [Kadyrov] and left for Poland,” Heinrich said. “He was called by Ramzan Kadyrov on his mobile phone and Ramzan allegedly told him that his father had been arrested, and that if he did not return his father would be killed. This is an unverified story, but these are stories that I keep hearing,” he said. “Some of them want to return because they want to see their relatives. I keep hearing from relatives of these people and representatives of Russian NGOs that some of them been arrested, some of them were not. It’s in Chechen hands,” he said.

Returning home then, has become a new kind of Russian roulette, a game of life and death that the refugees would rather not have to play. Roman Shamayev will not play it, even though after 14 years of fighting battles in Chechnya, he has not given up hope of seeing his homeland again. “I want to return some day. I have some plans there,” Shamayev said.
© Transitions Online

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KACHARAVA MURDER TRIAL STARTS IN ST. PETERSBURG (Russia)

23/5/2007- The trial of a high profile case started in St.Petersburg on 23 May with seven young men, three of them minors, accused of attacking 20-year-old anti-fascist musician Timur Kacharava, and his friend Maxim Zgibai on 13 November 2005. A group of ten young people were involved in the murder of Kacharava who was stabbed five times in the neck and died shortly afterwards. Zgibai was also stabbed and seriously wounded. Kacharava was a well-known activist and opponent of xenophobia in Russia as well as a supporter of the homeless. It is widely believed that he was targeted because of this work. All seven people on trial are accused of hooliganism and incitement of ethnic hatred but only one of them is also charged with murder – with a motive of hooliganism – and attempted murder. The alleged organiser of the crime remains on the wanted list and a separate case has been initiated against him. On the first day of the court hearings, some of the accused admitted partial guilt and the minors protested innocence, saying that they were only watching.

Journalists and anti-fascists are observing the trial. The Antifascist Information Group has announced that anyone needing photographs of Timur Kacharava for publication can contact it by writing to 13november2005@gmail.com. Timur Kacharava is just one of a growing list of anti-fascists murdered and attacked by nazis in Russia in recent years. On 19 June 2004, in St. Petersburg, Nikolai Girenko, an expert on right-wing extremism, was gunned down in his apartment. On 16 April 2006, in Moscow, Alexander Ryukhin, an anti-fascist activist, was stabbed to death on his way to a punk concert. On 22 December last year, in Moscow, Tigran, an anti-fascist activist, found a bomb on his staircase and on 27 March 2007, in Izhevsk, Stanislav Korepanov, a supporter of anti-fascists, was beaten by nazis, sustaining injuries from which he died a few days later.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis

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POLICE, PROTESTERS WAIT FOR GAY MARCH (Russia)

25/5/2007- A gay rights march planned for Sunday looks likely to get messy. Some 150 people, including five European legislators, a State Duma deputy and faux-lesbian pop duo t.A.T.u are expected to take part in the march in central Moscow, organizers said Thursday. But police said they would break up the march, which they called illegal. Ultranationalist activists promised to show their ire by throwing stones, eggs and tomatoes. Nikolai Alexeyev, a leading gay rights campaigner, said the event would go ahead no matter what. "Of course, we fear [violence], but we will still go out," he said. Organizers said they would release the time and place of the march at a news conference on Saturday afternoon. "Otherwise the march might not take place," co-organizer Alexei Davydov said. Participants from Europe will include lawmakers Volker Beck of Germany, Vladimir Luxuria of Italy, and three members of the European Parliament, including Marco Cappato of Italy, Alexeyev said. Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party confirmed his intent to participate through a spokesman Thursday. Alexeyev acknowledged that city authorities had not authorized the march, but he said they had not banned it either. City Hall's point man on security, Nikolai Kulikov, has contradicted Alexeyev, saying he personally handed the activist a rejection notice. Mayor Yury Luzhkov faced fierce criticism from human rights activists both at home and abroad last May when he forbade gay rights activists from staging a march. An attempt to march despite the ban was overwhelmed by ultranationalists and militant Orthodox believers throwing smoke bombs. Several of the participants were injured and detained. Alexander Belov, head of the ultranationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration, said Thursday that many of his activists would take to the streets Sunday, along with members of Orthodox and monarchical organizations. He said they would be armed with stones, rotten eggs and tomatoes. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to come and throw a stone myself because I will be on a trip to another city," Belov said. "Perhaps some other time."  Police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said officers were preparing to block the march. "Moscow authorities have banned the march, and we must prevent it," he said. He refused to elaborate, other than to say "all police departments responsible for security in the city" would take part Sunday.
© The Moscow Times

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SEVEN FINNS BANNED FROM ENTERING ESTONIA

Some Finns took part in Hitler’s birthday celebration in Tallinn

23/5/2007- A total of seven Finns have been banned from entering Estonia on suspicion of association with "extremist and racist movements", Estonian Ministry of the Interior representative Katrin Vides revealed on Tuesday. A ban on entry has been imposed on two more Finns because of their criminal backgrounds. The Estonian daily Postimees reported on Tuesday about three Finns, who were banned from entering Estonia at the beginning of the year for a ten-year period because of alleged neo-Nazi connections.
The men have denied the allegations and have appealed against the decision. According to the Tallinn-based Finnish police liaison officer, embassy counsellor Ari Lahtela, the number of imposed bans on entry is not significant considering the vast number of Finns travelling to Estonia each year. "It also does not compare to the number of Estonians who have been banned from entering Finland", Lahtela continues. The recently-published Estonian Security Police annual report establishes that last year "skinheads" aspired to create an umbrella organisation in Estonia. International contacts were established, and the skinhead ideology was spread at so-called private parties. The three Finns who have appealed against the entry-ban took part in one such gathering, which was a fancy dress party organised on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday in Tallinn last year. "Around 25 individuals were present, 15 of whom could be identified from a photograph", the organiser of the party, Risto Teinonen, 47, says. Teinonen, who is of Finnish origin, received Estonian citizenship in 2002 for services rendered to the government. Lately the Estonian Security Police has been keeping a keen eye on Teinonen’s doings. In Estonia, Teinonen is involved in the "New Europe" association. The organisation has reprinted the books Hitler the Liberator and Hitler and Children from the German occupation period. The latter of the two has also been published in Finnish, German, and English. According to Teinonen, the books were reissued merely as samples of the German propaganda of the period for those interested in history. In conjunction with the recent disturbances in Tallinn, politician Dimitri Klenski, who utilised the opportunity to get visibility in the streets, used the same books to demonstrate to the foreign media that there is fascism in modern Estonia.
© Helsingin Sanomat

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UN RIPS POLICE AND REFUGEE SYSTEMS(Denmark)

22/5/2007- The UN Committee Against Torture's most recent report made several recommendations for Denmark including changes to the nation's police complaint system and to its refugee centre conditions. Conditions at Denmark's refugee centres are far below the acceptable standards, according to a report released Monday from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report was compiled by OHCHR's Committee Against Torture and pointed to both the lack of educational opportunities and excessively long waiting periods for asylum seekers before learning their fates. 'Despite the measures taken to improve the living conditions and activities in asylum centres - in particular the conditions for asylum-seeking families with children - the committee is concerned about unduly long waiting periods in asylum centres and the negative psychological effects of long term waiting and the uncertainty of daily life on asylum seekers,' the report stated. The report recommended that the government offer the refugees 'educational and recreational activities as well as adequate social and health services'. Another problem area for Denmark according to the report was the country's complaint system for complaints against the police. The committee expressed particular concern over allegations of police brutality surrounding protests following the demolition of the Ungdomshuset youth centre and the increasing number of cases where police have been accused of using excessive force. The report indicated that the government should 'expedite the ongoing review process and provide the Committee with detailed information on the results of this process' and 'review and strengthen its education and training programmes relating to the use of force, including the use of weapons, by law enforcement officials'. The report has resulted in the national police force setting up a commission that will closely examine the assertions from the UN's committee. Other areas where Denmark was criticised in the report were the military's handing over of 34 Afghan prisoners to US forces in 2002, and laws making it legal it legal to hold juveniles suspected of criminal activity against the state indefinite in pre-trial custody.
© The Copenhagen Post

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53 MIGRANTS STILL MISSING, ANOTHER 53 REACH SHORE(Malta)

23/5/2007- Two separate groups of illegal immigrants reached Malta in less than 12 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday. The first group, consisting of 21 men, two women and one girl, reached Birżebbuġia shore on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, another group of 29 men made it to Bengħajsa shore. Police were informed of the first arrival at around 2100CEST. The second group made it to shore sometime before 0800CEST. The total number of illegal immigrants that reached Malta since the beginning of this year stands at 130. Investigations are underway. On the other hand uncertainty continues to surround the fate of 53 illegal immigrants whose vessel went missing after making a distress call saying it might sink on Monday. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokeswoman in Malta Laura Boldrini was cited by Italy's ANSA news agency as saying that the searches should resume forthwith and be stepped up. "A boat cannot just disappear like that, we have to do all that is possible to save the lives of 53 people," she said. According to Agence France-Pressse, the UNHCR's office in Italy was in touch with people close to some of the passengers who raised alarm through their satellite telephones but had got no fresh leads. An Eritrean woman living in Bologna, Italy told the Italian UNHCR office she had spoken to her brother, also on the vessel but subsequent attempts to reach him had failed. Another Eritrean based in Genoa said there were three babies on board the vessel with their mother.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) were informed of the sinking boat by an African national residing in Malta on Monday at 0600CEST, after one of the passengers got in touch with him and informed him that the boat was filling with water. The AFM Headquarters' Operations Centre immediately contacted the illegal immigrants to confirm the received information, and subsequently a long-range search Islander aircraft was sent to the location to positively identify the drifting boatload of migrants. The aerial-search effort was hampered by poor visibility over the area. Due to the distances involved, and after more than two hours on station overflying the boat, the Islander aircraft was recalled back to base to refuel before again proceeding to the area later on in the afternoon. On its return at around 1615CEST, the aircraft launched another search. Shortly afterwards, the patrol vessel also began a surface search pattern. While visibility in the area had improved, the sea state had worsened from a sea-state of force 4 to force 5. After four hours of searching the area, the Islander aircraft had to return to Malta for fuel and the aerial portion of the search was postponed until Tuesday morning. The P-61 remained on station and continued the search for a number of hours throughout the night, in the hope to re-establish contact with the migrants' 10-metre drifting boat. In a separate case, three men, all detention centre escapees with no identifying documents, were held in Birkirkara during Police investigations in a John Borg Street residence on Tuesday. Police had to knock down the door after their requests for the illegal immigrants to open the front door went unheeded. Police investigations continue.
© MaltaMedia Online

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SWISS REPUTATION FOR TOLERANCE UNDER THREAT

25/5/2007- Switzerland's reputation as a haven of tolerance for immigrants has been undermined in recent weeks by calls for a ban on new minarets, a mysterious synagogue blaze and neo-Nazi threats to disrupt national day celebrations. Switzerland is known for public order and efficiency. Its neutral status and high living standards, as well as its need for lower cost workers, have historically attracted refugees from conflicts around Europe and the world. But with rising immigration -- and lack of integration caused partly by tight laws on handing out Swiss passports -- religious and ethnic tension has been on the rise, particularly focusing on Muslims. "There is always this feeling that Switzerland is a little island and you daren't let anything in because it will destabilise it," said Clive Church, an expert on Swiss politics, recently retired from the University of Kent. By the end of 2005, more than a fifth of Switzerland's 7.5 million residents were foreigners, a higher proportion than in any other European country except Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, according to the Federal Statistics Office. Most of those are from Europe, with large communities from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, many of those Muslims who fled the conflicts there. "Radical Islam is a huge foreign political factor," said Swiss culture and politics expert Jonathan Steinberg of the University of Pennsylvania. "None of the immigration before constituted an international threat. Now they do." Foreigners accounted for more than 40 percent of registered jobless in April, according to government figures.

Minaret ban?
A group of right-wing Swiss politicians has launched a campaign to ban the construction of minarets, claiming they are a symbol of power and threaten law and order. The attempt to launch a national referendum on minarets has triggered widespread criticism but also attracted some support. "There's no doubt that the attack on the minarets is part of a larger picture of Islamophobia," said Church, who said the backlash -- if the ban became law -- could be comparable to a storm of protest last year caused by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad first published in Denmark. Meanwhile organisers have threatened to cancel Switzerland's traditional national day celebration on August 1 due to threats by right-wing groups to disrupt the event. Neo-Nazis have disrupted the ceremony in recent years and shouted down then-President Samuel Schmid in 2005. And this week, police suspected arson in a fire that destroyed Geneva's largest synagogue, although they have not ruled out an accidental blaze. "Right extremism in Switzerland ... is a political and social reality," said a recent Racism in Switzerland report by the Zurich-based Foundation Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. "Although this movement remains marginal, it has never been as strong numerically since 1945."
© Reuters

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GENEVA SYNAGOGUE DESTROYED BY FIRE, NO INJURIES(Switzerland)

24/5/2007- The Jewish community was under shock after a fire completely destroyed the largest synagogue in Geneva, Switzerland, when it broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning. The cause of the fire at the building is not yet known but Geneva police spokesman Philippe Cosandey said they think it was a deliberate act. "Due to the extent of the fire that the firemen encountered when they arrived to intervene, we tend to think that it was a deliberate act," he told the radio. He added: ""hen the firemen arrived early this morning the blaze was widespread. We can assume that several fires were started at the same time." The fire, which broke out between 5 and 6 am at the Sephardi Hekhal Haness synagogue located route de Malagnou, caused no injuries. Fire services were alerted at 05:18. Malagnou is a residential area located in the eastern part of the Swiss city. According to police, there was no sign of anti-Semitic graffiti or hate messages in the vicinity of the synagogue

Jewish holiday
The fire took place during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which marks the giving of the Torah, the Jewish holy book, by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. On the evening before, worshippers had gathered for the celebration of the holiday. The last person left around 21:00. Thursday morning, a crowd of shocked worshippers wearing skull caps gathered in front of the building as firemen cleared charred debris behind the facade blackened with soot. "The prayer room is intact, the books haven’t suffered," one of them said. One man was crying: "I was to marry my daughter here on Sunday," he explained. The windows were shattered by the force of the blaze, which was extinguished around 06:15 after 43 firefighters waged a one-hour battle to control the fire. Swiss civil protection workers were mobilised to salvage religious artefacts from the synagogue while forensic experts were combing the rubble for clues.

Huge destruction
The 84-year-old Nessim Gaon, chairman of the World Sephardi Federation and one of the founders of the Hekhal Haness synagogue in 1972, said he believed the act was deliberate. "The destruction to the interior is huge. The origins of this must be terrorist," the businessman declared. Johanne Gurfinkiel, secretary general of CICAD, a Geneva-based organisation coordinating actions against anti-Semitism and defamation, expressed his "sadness and dismay." He called on the authorities to "make all possible efforts to get to the bottom of this act." In September 2001, a fire broke out at the same synagogue but at the time it was considered as accidental. In March 2005 a fire caused by Molotov cocktails gutted the library of a synagogue in the southern Swiss city of Lugano. A 57-year-old Italian man was later charged with the attack thanks to DNA evidence. Police said he was a pyromaniac with psychological problems and did not appear to have acted out of anti-Semitism. Alfred Donath, chairman of the Swiss Federation of Jewish communities (FJC), said in 2005 that the French-speaking western area of Switzerland, which includes Geneva, was more prone than the rest of the country to anti-Semitic attacks. Around 18,000 Jews live in Switzerland, 5,000 of them in Geneva. Hekhal Haness is one of Geneva's six synagogues.

UPDATE FROM THE TIMES: Police said initially that arson was suspected but indicated later that an electrical fault may have been the cause of the blaze. The source may have been a large fusebox at the entrance to the synagogue.
© EJP

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SOME SEEK TO BAN MINARETS ON SWISS MOSQUES

22/5/2007- Signatures by 100,000 petitioners are needed in Switzerland for a referendum - including a possible one on banning the construction of minarets on mosques. Deputies from the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union (EDU), who are pushing for a vote, are confident they can collect the signatures by November 2008. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey voiced opposition this month, saying efforts to impose a ban were harmful to the country's security interests and potentially dangerous to the Swiss themselves. Her spokesman confirmed she considered a referendum a bad idea. Calmy-Rey feels it is too risky to dismiss the campaign for a referendum as a vote-getting tactic ahead of Swiss parliamentary elections in October. Memories are still fresh of protests in the Muslim world following the publication in Denmark of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Geneva, where Calmy-Rey was born, has had a mosque with a minaret since 1978. The structure has not bothered anyone up to now with the possible exception of some parents who have trouble finding parking spaces on Fridays - the main day of prayers - when they come to pick up their children from the nearby German School. Another mosque with a minaret is in Zurich, directly opposite a church. There have not been any problems there either, residents say. Nevertheless, efforts are under way to add an article to Switzerland's constitution prohibiting the construction of minarets - - a nightmare for democrats and human rights activists. What, then, is the point of this initiative, whose opponents include the Swiss Bishops' Conference and which - as the Berner Zeitung newspaper noted - has been attacked by the Arabic television satellite station al-Jazeera and various websites?

Led by Christoph Blocher, a well-spoken industrialist, the SVP is the strongest party in the National Council, the larger of the Swiss parliament's two chambers. It has 55 seats in the 200-seat body as well as two ministers in the Swiss government, which is elected by parliament and has representatives from all the major political parties. Observers say the SVP is fishing for votes to hold on to power in October. The EDU, among whose aversions are abortion and same-sex partnerships, has just two seats in the National Council. The nearly 340,000 Muslims in Switzerland, which has a population of about 7.5 million, are often the object of animosity. According to a survey by the news magazine Facts, for the most part they practise their religion quietly in more than 140 houses of worship. The desire to make mosques more visible has increased, however. In three Swiss cantons there are now building applications for minarets, slender towers topped by a crescent. The foes of minarets have brought in the heavy artillery. The approximately 100 supporters of a ban, including 35 SVP deputies, declared that Islam was making a "political-religious bid for power." Among the evidence they cited was a remark by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and ex-mayor of Istanbul, that "the mosques are our barracks, the minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets, and the believers our soldiers." This, say those seeking a referendum, must be stopped in Switzerland.
© Expatica News

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AFGHAN ASYLUM SEEKERS FOLLOW PILGRIMS' FOOTSTEPS(Norway)

21/5/2007- More than 70 asylum seekers from Afghanistan set off on a 648-kilometer march from Trondheim to Oslo over the weekend, following a so-called "Pilgrims' Route" that's meant to symbolize their plight. Many of the refugees are now illegal aliens in Norway, after their applications for asylum were turned down. They risk being arrested by the police and deported at any time, but that's not keeping them from marching. To the contrary: "I feel more secure taking part in the march than I do as an illegal alien in Oslo," a 21-year-old man who identified himself as "Amin" told newspaper Aftenposten. He said he came to Norway in 2003 and lost his final appeal for asylum last year. "I've tried to get a job many times, but when I'm asked if I have working permission, I have to answer 'no,'" he said. "I can't keep living off my friends. That's why this march is so important."  He and the others participating hope their choice of the ancient trail used by pilgrims to the Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim will touch the hearts of Norwegians and build support for their cause. They're afraid to return to Afghanistan, where war rages and the Taliban is making aggressive strides. Amin claimed that eight persons were killed in a Taliban attack on his village last week. His parents and siblings have fled to Pakistan. "I have no family to return to in Afghanistan," he said. There are an estimated 1,900 Afghan refugees in Norway, and the majority have been denied asylum. The march isn't the first time they've demonstratrated their desperation. Many staged hunger strikes last year. "We've lived with war for 30 years in Afghanistan, and the situation is getting worse," says march leader Zahir Athari. He says the marchers "are used to living every second in fear," and the march offers them a chance to "stand forward" despite the risk of being apprehended. The marchers plan to march durng the day and spend the nights outdoors in sleeping bags, just like they did when the initially fled Afghanistan. Some of them walked as many as 3,000 kilometers then.
© Aftenpost

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NIGERIAN'S DEATH SPARKS MORE PROTESTS(Norway)

21/5/2007- The death of a Nigerian who was strangled while being taken into custody by police set off more protests in Oslo and Trondheim over the weekend. Demonstrators claim the police were unnecessarily rough, and that a police probe into the death let them off too easily. Eugene Ejike Obiora, age 48 and originally from Nigeria, reportedly went berserk in a social welfare office in Trondheim last September when he failed to get the help he wanted. Social workers called police for help. It took four officers to subdue Obiora, and they used a controversial grip around his throat to bring him under control. The grip led to Obiora's death by asphyxiation. Two weeks ago a police inquiry concluded that the officers hadn't intentionally carried out any measures that would have stopped or hindered Obiora from breathing. No case was brought against the officers. That's angered a growing number of Norwegians and immigrants who suspect racism was behind the police officers' fatal efforts to subdue Obiora. "I'm here because the police haven't taken the blame for Obiora's death," said 22-year-old Taro Vestøl Cooper, one of about 250 demonstrators outside Norway's Justice Ministry in Oslo on Saturday. The protesters claimed they'd lost confidence in the police, and the legitimacy of police internal investigations. Justice Minister Knut Storberget said the Obiora case wouldn't be re-opened, but the new agency used for internal police investigations would be examined.
© Aftenpost

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BLACK MAN BEATEN, STABBED FOR SPEAKING ENGLISH(Germany)

The long list of racially motivated assaults in Germany has just got longer with the beating and stabbing of a Ghanaian man caught speaking English outside a night club in an eastern town on Friday night.

21/5/2007- An African man was beaten and stabbed by three German teenagers outside a nightclub in the latest of a long series of racist attacks in eastern Germany. Police said the 22-year-old man, named only as Daniel G., had enraged the three 18-year-old men because he had been speaking English to his girlfriend. The doorman of the nightclub in Nauen near Berlin had refused to let him into the club and he was talking to his girlfriend about it when the three assailants approached him.  "Why are you speaking English, Nauen is in Germany," one of them shouted, the newspaper Bild reported. Another man pushed him to the ground and they started kicking him. One of them pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Police said the victim, a trainee retailer from Ghana who has lived in Berlin for over four years, managed to defend himself with pepper spray. He and his girlfriend fled to the railway station with the attackers in pursuit but police arrived in time to stop them attacking him again. The victim was taken to hospital with a stab wound to the kidney but it wasn't deep enough to be life-threatening. Two of the attackers, named only as Nils N. and Merlin Maria D., were caught and confessed to the attack. They face assault charges but have been granted conditional release pending the court case. The third assailant faces no charges because he was deemed to have played only a minor role. Racially motivated attacks are a frequent occurrence in Germany, especially in the former communist east where far right parties are now represented in three of the region's five federal states. The domestic intelligence agency recorded a total of 919 assaults motivated by far-right extremism last year, up from 816 in 2005. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said this month that he was alarmed that young people were increasingly adopting far-right attitudes. "We have to undertake every effort to get young people to support democratic views," he said. But he did not say how, and he identified Islamic terrorism as the gravest threat to stability and security in Germany.
© Spiegel Online

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GERMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS ACCUSE POLICE OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES

23/5/2007- According to a new report published by a group of nine German human rights organizations to mark Constitutional Day, German police and officials are increasingly using unconstitutional methods in their investigations. At the presentation of the "2007 Constitutional Report" in Karlsruhe, former constitutional court judge Jürgen Kühling said the report's conclusions were "all in all disturbing" and that individual rights were being "sacrificed to satisfy disproportionate security requirements." The annual report, which is made up of 42 articles, is primarily concerned with the issues of excessive state surveillance, illegal searches and the degrading treament of immigrants. It was presented for the occasion of Germany's Constitutional Day, celebrated on May 23. Kühling said the country's highest court had repeatedly declared numerous police searches and phone taps unconstitutional but such cases continued to occur. Without making reference to the recent raids on activists in the lead up to the G8 summit in June in the northern German town of Heiligendamm, Kühling called for increased compensation for victims of illegal police activities as a way of curbing their unconstitutional operations.

Caught in demonstration
The former judge gave the example of a lawyer who was returning home from shopping when she was caught up in a mass arrest by police at a demonstration. Despite showing police her shopping and receipt, the woman was handcuffed and locked in a police van for more than five hours before being released in a nearby suburb. Her detention was later declared illegal by a court. However, criminal proceedings against the police were suspended. After a long fight, the woman eventually received compensation of 500 euros ($675). Kühling pointed out that stars received considerably more in damages for the publication of unauthorized photos. The report's authors criticized several German states for amending their laws to give police special powers to conduct phone tapping and searches. The authors said this allowed officials to circumvent the strict constitutional requirements for such activities.

"War on terror"
The report also criticized the "security hysteria" resulting from the "war against terror." Speaking at the Karlsruhe press conference, political scientist Peter Grottian said he was spied on by officers simply because of his participation in the Berlin Social Forum, an organization made up largely of left-wing groups. Referring to the recent G8 raids, Grottian said the state made the assumption of "guilt by association" and that was then used to justify "disproportional state surveillance." The so-called "alternative constitutional report" was presented week after Interior Minister Wolgang Schäuble released the government's constitutional report warning that Germany faced an increasing threat from terrorists.

G8 threat
In a twist to the surveillance tale, the federal prosecutors' office has confirmed a report that authorities are using scent tracking to keep tabs on G-8 protesters. The daily Hamburger Morgenpost reported on Tuesday that police had taken scent samples from activists so that police dogs can pick out the perpetrators if there is violence. The use of scent samples was widely practiced by the East German secret police, the Stasi, who used the technique to track dissidents. Petra Pau, a lawmaker with the opposition Left Party, a group that includes ex-communists, blasted the practice as "another step away from a democratic state of law toward a preventive security state."
© Deutsche Welle

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GERMAN-TURKISH 'GENERATION' AIMS TO DISPEL STEREOTYPES

21/5/2007- The focus is often on crime and violence when German media report on Turkish youth. A group of young Turkish-Germans are trying to dispel those stereotypes. "It's important to us to promote a more positive picture of Turkish people in society," said 17-year-old Ramia Özal, a member of the "DeuKische Generation," whose name is composed from a mix of the words Deutsch (German) and Turkish. "And that's why we've decided to set up this association." The DeuKische Generation has around 100 members, 30 of whom are very active. Though most of the members are Turkish between the ages of 15 and 30, more and more German youth are showing an interest in them, the group said. They plan to run television commercials that play with stereotypes as well as organize a fair to help parents whose German skills are poor to register their kids for sports and music clubs, something they might otherwise have difficulty doing.

Language seen as key
Many of the group's members say that not speaking German, or not speaking it well, is one of the biggest problems for Turkish immigrants and their children. Others say the educational system is too rigid and makes it hard for immigrant children to integrate themselves into German society. Taha Baskan, a 21-year-old, said the language tests to become a German citizen were too difficult and that, in general, the hurdles to becoming German were too high. "The citizenship laws should be relaxed to encourage integration, because one of the clearest signs of that is having a German passport," he said.

Way of the future
Besides having German language skills, applicants for citizenship must have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years. They may not have a criminal record and must show they can financially support themselves and their families. In any case, a multicultural society is the way of the future, said Zeynep Balazümbül, one of the founders of "DeuKische Generation," adding that she hoped Germany would become one in the next 30 years. "That is actually the only future I see for the country, because we are an essential part of this society," Balazümbül said. "We are here to stay. We belong here and it's become our home."
© Deutsche Welle

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ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN RACISM ROW AFTER SPAT WITH JOURNALIST

21/5/2007- Romanian President Traian Basescu, fresh from a clear victory in a weekend referendum to decide on his possible impeachment, on Monday faced accusations of having made racist comments and theft of a mobile telephone following an altercation with a journalist. Romania's National Council against Discrimination said it was to summon Basescu to explain the incident, which has sparked protests by journalists' unions and human rights groups. The alleged incident occurred Saturday, the day of the referendum, as a journalist recorded footage of Basescu on her mobile phone as he was shopping with his wife in a Bucharest supermarket. As the president was packing his purchases into his car, the reporter questioned him on what was the expected outcome of the vote. An angry Basescu responded "have you nothing better to do?", snatched the journalist's telephone and drove from the scene. As he departed, the president is alleged to have commented to his wife on how aggressive the reporter was, describing the woman as a "stinking gypsy." The mobile telephone, which was still recording, is alleged to have captured his comment. Basescu's security staff are believed to have neglected to delete the recording before the telephone was later returned to the journalist. Basescu scored around 75 per cent backing in Saturday's referendum, engineered by opposition and government parties over the president's alleged interference in political affairs as part of his anti-corruption drive.
© EUX.TV

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CHANNEL 4 FORCED TO AIR BIG BROTHER APOLOGIES(uk)

24/5/2007- Channel 4 will be forced to broadcast a series of apologies over alleged racist bullying in Celebrity Big Brother after Ofcom ruled it contravened its broadcasting code. Ofcom's adjudication report concluded that Channel 4 breached the broadcasting code after making "serious editorial misjudgements" that were "compounded by a serious failure of its compliance process". As a result of the breach a statutory sanction will require Channel 4 to air a summary of Ofcom's findings on three occasions during the next series of Big Brother. The summary will be aired at the start of the Big Brother 8 launch programme on Wednesday, the following morning's re-versioned repeat and the first eviction show. Additionally, Channel 4 is to publish transcripts of a series of previously unheard and potentially racist conversations that took place within the Celebrity Big Brother house. However, Channel 4 has escaped a fine. Ofcom's findings and the statuory sanction of on-air apologies also apply to S4C, which broadcasts Celebrity Big Brother in Wales. "Ofcom takes allegations of racist abuse and bullying on television extremely seriously. An unprecedented number of complaints were received and, whilst Celebrity Big Brother was still on-air, we launched a full investigation," said the chief executive of Ofcom, Ed Richards. "Broadcasters must be allowed to air controversial material but when they do their compliance and editorial procedures should be even tougher and sharper."

Ofcom launched its investigation after 46,000 or more complaints were made over the Shilpa Shetty racism row in Celebrity Big Brother in January. Complaints to both Channel 4 and Ofcom snowballed after contestants in the house, including Jade Goody, were involved in the alleged racist bullying of Bollywood star Shetty. The culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who at the time of Celebrity Big Brother row in January denounced the show as "racism being presented as entertainment", said today she was "grateful to Ofcom for their thorough examination of these issues". "Public service broadcasters hold a very special place of trust with the British people, and it is right that they are held to account by the regulator when there are issues of public concern," Ms Jowell added. "Errors of judgment were made which Channel 4 has acknowledged. I therefore welcome the measures that they have taken to ensure proper and rigorous oversight. We will be watching very closely to ensure that these have the desired effect."
© The Guardian

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ETHNIC WOMEN: 80% FACE BIAS AT WORK(uk)

24/5/2007- Nearly 80% of women from ethnic minorities have experienced discrimination at work, according to a new report. The survey said that the impact of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and stereotyping "discouraged and excluded" ethnic minority women from applying for jobs and getting promotion. It also found that 55% of ethnic minority women said they had experienced racism and sexism at university. The research was conducted as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the experiences of Scottish ethnic minority women at work, conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission for Scotland (EOC). The full report, to be published today, was commissioned to highlight concerns that ethnic minority women are being held back in their careers, despite outstanding academic success at school. Girls from ethnic minorities were the highest achieving group in Scottish schools in 2004-05 with 46% of pupils in S4 gaining five or more Standard Grades at credit level compared to 39% of females from white ethnic groups. However, ethnic minority women are likely to be clustered in a narrower range of occupations than white women, be working for less pay or be severely under-represented at senior levels. Ethnic minority women are three times more likely to be unemployed than white women, but in some cases are twice as likely to hold higher degrees. Some of the women who took part in the survey detailed the problems they had experienced. One said: "Since graduating, I have found it very hard to get a job in engineering, some say I am over-qualified, some say I'm not specialised, there is always some excuse. I fill out so many applications and never seem to get an interview." Another said: "Generally it seems to me that there are very few Asian women in senior and executive jobs at university." The EOC Scotland is set to publish its findings in the final report which will urge the Scottish Executive to address the problem. In terms of higher education, the EOC wants to see universities take a more pro-active approach in monitoring racism and sexism. Rowena Arshad, commissioner for EOC Scotland, said: "Although the findings are a wake-up call, we should also focus on the good news that there is a talented pool of young visible minority ethnic women, doing fantastically well academically."
© The Herald

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UK LESSON PLAN CONCERNS MUSLIM EDUCATORS

23/5/2007- Britain is funding a curriculum aimed at teaching children in Muslim religious schools how to steer clear of extremism, but some of the lessons are worrying Muslim educators. One lesson plan goes something like this: A group of Islamic extremists want to buy fertilizer that could be used to make a bomb. Should the shop keeper sell it to them? Or take Ahmad, whose friends want to attack a local supermarket in retaliation for the war in Iraq. Is it right for Ahmad to harm innocent Britons because their government invaded a Muslim country? The curriculum's answer in both cases is no, but the fact that these scenarios are being considered at all has prompted concern among Muslim teachers, who question whether they are appropriate for young students. Some also feel insulted that the program appears to make the assumption that the religious schools - or, madrassas - are teeming with budding terrorists. ``In an educational setting, those propositions are a bit stark,'' said Tahir Alam, chair of the Muslim Council of Britain's education committee. The British government acknowledged that the curriculum raised sensitive issues, but said they were needed to give Muslims the practical skills they needed to reject extremism. ``The project ensures that young Muslim students learn the true teachings of Islam,'' said a spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. ``There will be difficult issues and scenarios to discuss - but it would be wrong to shy away from them,'' she said.

Ten Muslim clerics have been teaching the lessons in six madrassas and a school in Bradford - a religiously diverse city about 200 miles north of London. About 500 students have already completed the course, versions of which the communities department hopes to roll out nationally to some of Britain's 100,000 madrassa students. The project, called ``Nasiha,'' or ``guidance,'' draws on the Quran, Shariah law, and traditional Muslim scholarship to show that British laws are in harmony with Islamic values. Its lessons will be taught in madrassas, which in Britain are usually unregulated after-school programs based in mosques or private homes. The stated objective is to teach children, most between the ages of eight and 14, ``to realize that to harm or terrorize citizens in the UK is not something permitted in Islam,'' and ``to be able to identify individuals or groups who preach hatred and learn ways of avoiding them.'' While some of the lessons cover day-to-day situations such as bullying or good manners, others are explicitly aimed at defusing Muslims anger over the war in Iraq. Teachers are asked to remind their students that some of their schoolmates may be in the military, and that as citizens ``they should take an active role for their safe return in what many may consider an unjust war.'' A homework assignment asks students to list ``some of the peaceful things you can do to show you are not happy about your country going to war.'' One counterterrorism expert had mixed feelings about the project. ``One lesson from school is not going to change fundamental attitudes,'' said Peter Neumann, the director of the Center for Defense Studies at King's College, London. But as part of a broader strategy, he said, the lessons could play a valuable role in getting Muslims to place more trust in the British authorities.

``Whether (or not) that's the right way of approaching kids, in principle it's not a bad idea to say: 'Actually, you can trust the authorities. If there is someone talking about jihad, then police is the place you should go to.'''  Sajid Hussain, the program's project manager, said the lessons needed to be taught. ``They were issues young people definitely needed some direction on: For example, whether young Muslims have a responsibility to prevent harm in society when they know that older Muslims may plan something,'' he said. The curriculum, which is due to be published as a book in December, was still open to amendments, he said, acknowledging that some of the examples - like the fertilizer bomb - were a little too explicit. ``Originally we thought it would be best to start looking at these issues a little bit head-on,'' he said, ``but we're dealing with the issues a little more tactfully.'' The Nasiha curriculum has received about $198,000 in government money as part of a larger program intended to fight extremism in the Muslim community. Outside of the East London Mosque, one of the city's largest, opinion was broadly favorable to the idea of lessons to counter extremism. ``The terrorists try to brainwash the young because they are vulnerable,'' said Asef Zia, 45. whose son, Muhammad, clutched at his shirt. ``Muslims are good people,'' said Muhammad, 12. ``But some bad people say they are Muslims and act wrong and we can teach them.''
© The Guardian

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ANGER AT PLANS FOR NHS DATABASE OF GAY MEN(uk)

23/5/2007- An NHS database holding intimate information about the sexual behaviour of thousands of gay men is being planned by health trusts as part of a drive to encourage safer sex, a charity disclosed today. The possibility that sensitive data could be accessed by computer hackers is causing anxiety across the gay community in London, where it will be launched later this year. Gay men's health charity GMFA said primary care trusts across the capital are drawing up contracts for volunteers to approach men in gay bars and clubs to ask questions about their behaviour. The aim would be to identify "safe sex lapsers", who would be ranked according to risk. Contracts for setting up a database to store information on up to 200,000 gay men in London went out to tender last week. The charity said it was told by NHS officials during a consultation on the proposals that trusts will use the database to send targeted advice that would be relevant to the personal experiences of the gay men who were interviewed. A spokesman for London strategic health authority said the aim of the exercise was to monitor changes in gay men's behaviour so that trusts could adapt services accordingly. Interviewers would not routinely collect men's names and addresses. "No one will be sent public health publicity to their homes. The way we collect data will be developed with the successful tenderer and patient confidentiality will be paramount," he added. The GMFA said this assurance was not consistent with tender documents that included plans to register everyone living with HIV and "interrogate the database" to follow up clients who did not come forward for an assessment of needs. "This demonstrates that the database will store named records and contact details," the charity said. Matthew Hodson, its head of programmes, said the NHS trusts' proposals were preposterous. "A public consultation was held which vehemently opposed the plans, but that seems to have been ignored." Only 17% of gay men in London said they would be willing to be interviewed by a sexual health worker, compared with 68% who wanted information via the web and 57% who preferred to access sexual health information from reading the gay press. "With no evaluated pilot of this initiative, and no evidence that supports it as an effective strategy, HIV charities fear it could undo years of work and alienate many men who do not want to access services in this way," he added. The health authority spokesman said: "The data will help us monitor behaviour so that when we buy services we can make sure they are in the right place at the right time."
© The Guardian

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MORE ON THE HODGE AFFAIR(uk, opinion)

One aspect of the Hodge affair which has not received attention is the fact that Margaret's husband, Henry, is involved in immigration decision making.

24/5/2007- Industry minister Margaret Hodge's proposal for a return to housing policies privileging 'indigenous' communities over immigrants has attracted much comment. It has been pointed out, not least by her own constituents whose 'legitimate fears' she claimed to be speaking for, that the real problem in Barking, as elsewhere in the country, is the abandonment by government of responsibility for social housing provision by selling off council housing and not building any more. Commentators have also observed that immigrants are not entitled to social housing anyway - allocation policies are obliged by law to exclude all 'voluntary' immigrants from provision. (Asylum-seekers are housed by NASS in accommodation no-one would volunteer to live in.) The Refugee Council accused Hodge of 'fanning the flames of racial tension'.  One aspect of the Hodge affair which has not received much attention is the fact that Hodge's husband, Henry Hodge, is President of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. Like her, he started out on the left, as a founding partner in the committed legal aid firm of Hodge Jones and Allen in Camden. Like her, his politics have moved commensurately with his embrace of and by the new Labour establishment. His recent judgments include rulings that Zimbabweans, Somalis and Darfurians from Sudan do not qualify for refugee status. The Court of Appeal overturned his rulings that persecuted Darfurians should return to Sudan, where they would live in squalid refugee camps in the capital if they were unwilling to return to Darfur, and that returning Zimbabweans would not be persecuted by Mugabe's ZANU-PF thugs. As a judge, Henry Hodge has expressed cricitism of the government's failure to deport more undocumented migrants from the country.
© The Institute of Race Relations

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MINISTER'S HOMES PRIORITY PLAN ANGERS FELLOW MPS(uk)

· UK-born families should come first, says Hodge · Don't 'racialise' housing argument, warns Cruddas 

21/5/2007- The industry minister, Margaret Hodge, yesterday provoked a furious reaction from politicians and refugee groups by proposing that local British-born families should get priority for scarce social housing over newly arrived immigrants, with the exception of refugees. Her comments in yesterday's Observer brought strong criticism from fellow Labour MPs and the Liberal Democrats and were used by the Conservatives to argue for stronger controls over immigration. Mrs Hodge represents Barking, an east London constituency which was once mainly white working class and is now a racially diverse area. Most of the council housing has been sold under the right to buy and the area has been a target for the British National party, which gained 11 seats on the local council last year. Mrs Hodge wrote yesterday that the government "prioritised the needs of an individual migrant family over the entitlement that others feel they have to resources in the community. So a recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded privately-rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents." She continued: "We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants." Mrs Hodge advocated drawing up new rules based on such factors as citizenship, the length of residence and national insurance contributions. But the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, who tried to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership last week, said: "This is a deeply reactionary and dangerous statement to make. The issue, however, is not the allocation of housing, but the chancellor's failure to allow affordable house building over the last 10 years - resulting in the present housing crisis."

Jon Cruddas, MP for Mrs Hodge's neighbour seat of Dagenham, and a deputy leadership candidate, said: "We're in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing provision."  The Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, Andrew Stunell, said: "There are one-and-a-half million families on the council housing waiting list and the Labour government keeps selling houses off. The first thing to do is start building social housing again, not to blame immigrants for the catastrophic government failure to tackle the issue." The Conservative immigration spokesman, Damian Green, said: "Margaret Hodge is admitting the long-term failure of this government to control immigration. This is why Conservatives are calling for an explicit annual limit on the numbers coming here from outside the EU so that we can avoid exactly the sort of problems she is talking about." Nancy Kelly, of the Refugee Council, also hit out at Mrs Hodge's comments, saying: "The way to counter some of the views that are put forward by the far-right parties is not by trying to follow their lead." Ms Kelly stressed that asylum seekers were not entitled to council housing and arrivals from new EU states had restricted access to benefits. "People who are recognised as refugees are entitled to council housing but on exactly the same basis as a UK national, on the basis of need," she said. Mrs Hodge said last night that she had been misinterpreted by critics, as she both backed an increase in social housing and wanted refugees excluded from any restrictions.

Read Margaret Hodge's comment.
© The Guardian

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MINISTER: NEW IMMIGRANTS SHOULD HAVE 'LESS RIGHTS TO SOCIAL HOUSING' (uk)

20/5/2007- British families should be given council housing ahead of immigrants, a Labour minister has claimed. Margaret Hodge risked sparking a race row by warning it was 'unfair' when new arrivals jumped to the top of the queue - leaving none for many families who have lived here for generations. She said a points system giving weight to length of residence, citizenship and National Insurance contributions would be a better way of allocating homes. Mrs Hodge, who represents Barking where the British National Party has been active, said this would help tackle alarm in Britain's 'poorest white communities', who felt angry and neglected by the Government. Critics branded her comments "hypocritical" and pointed out that Labour had presided over a massive rise in immigration at the same as its "catastrophic" failure to build enough affordable homes. Official figures show soaring immigration has pushed up the British population by nearly one and half million in a decade - although even these statistics have been criticised as unreliable. Industry Minister Mrs Hodge - an immigrant who was born in Eygpt - demanded an urgent shake-up of the council and social housing system, which currently prioritised the needs of migrant families. She said: "A recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded privately-rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents. "We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants." She added: "There are a lot of black and Asian British people who feel as strongly as some of my white families do - that there is an essential unfairness in the system. "They feel they've grown up in the borough, they're entitled to a home, and that entitlement - sense of entitlement - is often overridden by a real need of new immigrant families who come in, perhaps locked into private accommodation, poor accommodation, overcrowded. "And their need will often override the entitlement that my white families feel. "The people I'm talking about are economic migrants, not refugees. "If you choose to come and set up in Britain, you often have a greater choice than many poorer families in my constituency, particularly the younger ones, have."

Hundreds of voters in Barking, one of Britain's most deprived communities, had turned to the BNP amid concerns over housing allocation, said Mrs Hodge. Labour chairman Hazel Blears said: "You have got to look at allocations policies to show that they are fair. It is just the same as the welfare system. "People in this country have a real sense of fairness they are prepared to do their bit but they want to know the system actually works for them." Liberal Democrat frontbencher Simon Hughes said: "The worst cause of racial strife and antagonism is when new social property is built and when people who appear to have no link with the community move into it, when other people who may be desperately needing to move, can't get a move." Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, said: "Margaret Hodge is admitting the long term failure of this Government to control immigration. "This is why Conservatives are calling for an explicit annual limit on the numbers coming here from outside the EU so that we can avoid exactly the sort of problems she is talking about." LibDem housing spokesman Andrew Stunell said: "Margaret Hodge has got a cheek. There are one and a half million families on the council housing waiting list and the Labour government keeps selling houses off. "The first thing to do is start building social housing again, not to blame immigrants for the catastrophic Government failure to tackle the issue." Beaten Labour leadership hopeful John McDonnell branded Mrs Hodge's comments "deeply reactionary and dangerous". He said: "The issue is not the allocation of housing but the Chancellor's failure to allow affordable house-building over the last 10 years - resulting in the present housing crisis." Nancy Kelly, of the Refugee Council, said: "The way to counter some of the views that are put forward by the far-right parties is not by trying to follow their lead. "People who are recognised as refugees are entitled to council housing but on exactly the same basis as a UK national, on the basis of need." Last year Mrs Hodge sparked a storm by claiming Labour's failure to deal with immigration and the lack of affordable housing had prompted traditional working-class white Labour voters to desert to the BNP. In February, Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas accused ministers of playing into the BNP's hands by neglecting core supporters and "racialising" housing policy by letting immigrants take over cheap homes.
© The Daily Mail

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DIRECTORATE OF IMMIGRATION SUSPENDS REPATRIATION OF IRAQIS(Finland)

Officials reconsidering whether or not north of Iraq is safe

20/5/2007- The Directorate of Immigration has suspended the processing of asylum applications of asylum seekers from the north of Iraq who were not seen to be in need of protection. The Directorate is reconsidering a decision from two months ago in which it decided that three Kurdish provinces of Iraq are sufficiently safe to allow the repatriation of residents there. Previously, Finland had considered it technically impossible to send people back to the north of Iraq. Consequently, 81 asylum seekers from the area were given temporary residence permits, even though they were not seen to be in the need of protection. Esko Repo, head of the asylum unit of the Directorate for Immigration, says that the directorate has not ordered any repatriations to Iraq yet. "We are considering some cases in which repatriation could come into question. We have not yet started to make any decisions. However, Iraqis in need of protection will get decisions on their applications." A number of civic organisations, such as Amnesty International and the Refugee Advice Centre, have called on the Directorate of Immigration to suspend the planned repatriations, saying that the area is not safe.
Finland's Minister of Migration and European Affairs, Astrid Thors (Swed. People's Party), said soon after her appointment that Finland would need to reassess the security situation in the north of Iraq to guarantee the security of those being sent back. Esko Repo says that the policy line taken by the Directorate of immigration is still in effect, but that the directorate wants to know what kinds of experiences other countries have had with repatriations to Iraq. Repo says that only a few individuals have been sent back from anywhere the EU to the north of Iraq. As he sees it, the security situation in the area is largely the same as it was two months ago, "although there have been some news reports on scattered unrest". "It is our hope that we would be able to continue making decisions in some direction in May. This will happen after we have drawn up reviews and analyses from the information that we have received", Repo observes. Last year 225 Iraqis applied for asylum in Finland. In January through March this year 62 Iraqis had submitted asylum applications.
© Helsingin Sanomat

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SPAIN SENDS AFRICAN MIGRANTS HOME

20/5/2007- The Spanish government has repatriated more than 750 African migrants, including 30 children. The majority were Senegalese and were caught last week trying to enter the Canary Islands, according to Spain's interior ministry. The government said all illegal immigrants would be expelled. The latest influx is blamed on the temporary suspension of maritime patrols between the Spanish islands and the western coast of Africa. The Spanish Interior Minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, confirmed the migrants had been returned home. "We have repatriated, with the invaluable help of the government of Senegal, nearly 600 citizens of that country," he said. "This is an unmistakable message to the mafias." Traffickers often extort money from Africans trying to reach Europe via hazardous sea crossings to the Canaries. No information was given about where in Africa the other migrants had come from. Overall this year, though, the numbers of would-be immigrants are down compared to the same time last year. In 2006 an estimated 30,000 immigrants were caught trying to reach the Canary Islands. The vast majority sailed from west Africa in crowded open boats, many dying en route. The European Union's external borders agency, Frontex, suspended maritime patrols around the Spanish islands early last month, when its 2006 mission ended. The patrols are expected to restart within weeks, after the agency receives equipment including planes, helicopters and boats.
© BBC News

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COURT DROPS CASE AGAINST MEIN KAMPF PUBLISHER(Poland)

22/5/2007- A regional court on Tuesday conditionally dropped a criminal case against a Polish publisher charged with breaking copyright laws for publishing Adolf Hitler's ''Mein Kampf,'' the Polish news agency reported. The Wroclaw regional court ruled that a publisher, identified only as Marek S., broke copyright law by printing 3,000 copies of the Polish translation of Mein Kampf, or ''My Struggle,'' in 2005, PAP news agency reported. Court officials were not immediately available to confirm the report. Arguing that the harm caused by the small-scale publishing of the book was minimal _ especially since Marek S. agreed in a 2005 civil trial to halt printing and withdraw the work from bookstores at his own cost _ the court agreed to drop the case against the publisher for a probationary period of two years, PAP reported. The German state of Bavaria holds the rights to the book, in which Hitler expressed his hatred of Jews and desire to conquer territory in Eastern Europe. Marek S. originally said that he published the book to make a historical record available and also cited ''a 1,000-year-old worry'' among Poles about ''the German dream of vast fertile lands and natural resources in the east.'' Nazi Germany invaded Poland to start World War II, and subjected the country to a brutal occupation that cost millions of lives. The Nazis set up death camps in Poland as part of the Holocaust in which 6 million European Jews died. ''Mein Kampf'' is banned from public display or sale in Germany, though it is available for historical research in libraries.
© Expatica News

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THOUSANDS CELEBRATE WARSAW'S FIRST LEGAL PRIDE(Poland)

19/5/2007- More than five-thousand people marched Saturday in the first legally sanctioned LGBT pride parade in the Polish capital. The marchers carried rainbow flags and some held banners reading "Stop homophobia". The parade wound its way through central Warsaw under a heavy police presence, but most bystanders cheered and waved back at marchers. The ultra-nationalist Catholic Youth Movement and the militant far-right All-Polish Youth staged a small counter demonstration nearby. Protestors carried signs reading "Homo go home." Both groups had called on Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz Walz to ban the parade. Friday she told Polish radio that she had no grounds for rejecting a parade permit application. The Catholic Youth Movement had demanded the march be rejected because it promoted immorality. Walz said the parade would pose no threat to morals and pointed to this month's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Warsaw's former Mayor Lech Kaczynski - now Poland's President - acted illegally and discriminatory in banning previous gay pride marches. When he was mayor Kaczynski rejected parade applications from 2004 to 2006.

In 2005 dozens of militant youths were waiting as the marchers arrived at the Parliament buildings and pelted the crowd with eggs. Police struggled to try to regain order, but were vastly outnumbered. Last year, the State Prosecutor's office issued a letter to prosecutors in the municipalities of Legnica, Wroclaw, Walbryzch, Opole and Jelenia Gora ordering in sweeping terms investigations into the conduct of "homosexuals" on unspecified allegations of "pedophilia." Earlier this week Education Minister Roman Giertych unveiled draft legislation that would make it a criminal offence to "promote homosexual propaganda" in schools. If passed the measure would essentially censor all discussion of homosexuality in schools and other academic institutions. LGBT organizations would be barred from schools and "teachers who reveal their homosexuality will be fired from work." Giertych's draft bill, however, does not say exactly would constitute promoting homosexuality. Giertych defined it as "every action that is dependent on the public presentation of a certain belief with the intention of convincing others to that viewpoint." But critics say it is so vague it could lead to witch hunts.
© 365Gay.com

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CZECH EXTREMISTS TO BLOCK AUSTRIAN BORDER CROSSING ON JUNE 2

20/5/2007- Czech extremists will block a Czech-Austria border crossing on June 2, but will target Austrian drivers only, organisers announced on the extreme-right extra-parliamentary National Party's web page today. The token blockade is organised by Narodni politika, monthly of the National Party. It is not yet known which particular border crossing they will block. The extremists want to react to the continued blockades of Austrian-Czech border crossings by Austrian anti-atom opponents who thus protest against the nuclear power plant in Temelin, south Bohemia, which they say is not safe. Czech diplomacy says this is not a good idea. "We do not consider it meaningful to let ourselves be infected with border blockades that lead nowhere. There is no reason to ape blockades, on the contrary," ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova told CTK previously. The Austrian government announced on Wednesday that it will send a diplomatic note to Prague over Temelin. But activists from Austrian anti-atom associations want the government to lodge a complaint against the Czech Republic under international law. They say the Czech Republic has not fulfilled all conditions under the Melk agreement the two countries' reached in end-2000 so that the plant could be put into operation. They therefore say that the Czech Republic has breached the agreement when it approved Temelin for use last autumn. The Temelin opponents have given the Austrian government four weeks to file the complaint. They will block all 16 border crossings between the two countries unless the government does so, and they are ready to possibly continue the total blockade of the border.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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EUROPEANS BACK PLAN TO PROFILE MOSQUES

23/5/2007- Security officials from Europe's largest countries have thrown their weight behind the EU Commission's plans to map out mosques on the continent to identify imams who preach radical Islam that raises the threat of homegrown terrorism. The project, to be finished by the fall, will focus on the roles of imams, their training, their ability to speak in the local language and their source of funding, EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told a news conference. Europe had ample experience with the ''misuse of mosques, which instead of being places of worship are used for other ends, Italian Interior Minister Guiliano Amato said Saturday. ''This is bringing about a situation that involves all of our countries and involves the possibility of attacks and developing of networks that use one country to prepare an attack in another,'' Amato said, after a meeting in Venice of interior ministers and security officials from six European countries and the United States. Frattini also emphasized the need of strengthened dialogue with the Islamic communities ''to avoid sending messages that incite hate and violence.'' Security officials from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland also expressed concern about drug-trafficking, and said they would work with African nations to interrupt a new cocaine route from Colombia across Africa into Europe. ''They have created bases in Europe and we need to have our counter-bases,'' Amato said, noting that the Spaniards have seen an influx of cocaine in the south and east of their country beyond the traditional Atlantic route. The officials proposed setting up drug-fighting bases in Lisbon to monitor sea traffic and Gibraltar to monitor land.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff used the opportunity to discuss with his counterparts ways to reach a new agreement to share airline passenger data for terrorism investigation. ''I think the value of this data perhaps is not widely understood. You can't have an informed discussion on how to handle it unless you know what it is that it provides,'' Chertoff said in an interview. Chertoff will continue making his case in meetings with EU parliamentarians in Brussels next week. ''What I hope to do in that visit is to explain, with some detail how valuable that information is to us, using examples of cases in which we have stopped people or intercepted people coming into the country who are terrorists or drug traffickers,'' he said. One example Chertoff has cited is the case in June 2003 of an agent at Chicago's O'Hare airport who, unsatisfied with a foreign traveler's responses, refused entry and sent him back to where he had come from _ first taking his fingerprints. Those fingerprints, according to Chertoff, turned up later on the steering wheel of a suicide truck bomb detonated in Iraq. Europe and the U.S. disagree on how long U.S. authorities can use the data, when it should be destroyed and which agencies should have access to the information. The United States also wants the authority to pull data directly from airline computers, but European countries insist airlines must transmit the information to U.S. authorities. European governments are worried about protecting their strict privacy laws _ a legacy of the continent's history with totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. The current deal, which expires in July, allows the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to disclose passenger data to other American law enforcement agencies for anti-terror investigations if those agencies have protection standards comparable to those of the EU.
© Expatica News

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AMNESTY REPORT 2007: POLITICS OF FEAR CREATING A DANGEROUSLY DIVIDED WORLD

23/5/2007- Powerful governments and armed groups are deliberately fomenting fear to erode human rights and to create an increasingly polarised and dangerous world, said Amnesty International today as it launched 'Amnesty International Report 2007', its annual assessment of human rights worldwide.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Irene Khan said:
"The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuse in which no right is sacrosanct and no person safe." Scarred by distrust and division, the international community has been too often impotent or weak-willed in the face of major human rights crises in 2006, whether in forgotten conflicts like Chechnya, Colombia and Sri Lanka or high profiles ones in the Middle East. The UN took weeks to muster the will to call for a ceasefire in the conflict in Lebanon in which approximately 1,200 civilians lost their lives. The international community showed no stomach to tackle the human rights disaster resulting from severe restrictions on freedom of movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, reckless attacks by the Israeli army and inter-factional fighting among Palestinian groups.

Irene Khan continued:
"Through short-sighted, fear-mongering and divisive policies, governments are undermining the rule of law and human rights, feeding racism and xenophobia, dividing communities, intensifying inequalities and sowing the seeds for more violence and conflict. "The 'war on terror' and the war in Iraq, with their catalogue of human rights abuses, have created deep divisions that cast a shadow on international relations, making it more difficult to resolve conflicts and protect civilians. "Darfur is a bleeding wound on the world's conscience. The UN Security Council is hampered by distrust and double-dealing by its most powerful members. The Sudanese government is running rings around the UN. Meanwhile 200,000 people have died, more than ten times that number have been displaced, and militia attacks are now spreading to Chad and the Central African Republic.' Thriving in an arc of instability, extending from the borders of Pakistan to the Horn of Africa, armed groups flexed their muscles and engaged in massive abuse of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Irene Khan continued:
"Unless governments address the grievances on which these groups feed, unless they provide effective leadership to bring these groups to account for the abuses they have committed and are ready to hold themselves accountable, the prognosis for human rights is dire.' In Afghanistan, the international community and the Afghan government squandered the opportunity to build an effective state based on human rights and the rule of law, leaving the people to chronic insecurity, corruption and a resurgent Taleban. In Iraq, the security forces incited sectarian violence rather than restrained it, the justice system proved woefully inadequate, and the worst practices of Saddam's regime -- torture, unfair trials, capital punishment and rape with impunity -- remained very much alive. Politicians played upon the fears of uncontrolled migration to justify tougher measures against asylum-seekers and refugees in Western Europe, while migrant workers were left unprotected and exploited around the world, from South Korea to the Dominican Republic. The divide between Muslims and non-Muslims deepened, fuelled by discriminatory counter-terrorism strategies in western countries. Incidents of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance and attacks on religious minorities increased worldwide.

Irene Khan continued:
"Increasing polarisation and heightened fears about national security reduced the space for tolerance and dissent. Around the world, from Iran to Zimbabwe, many independent voices on human rights were silenced in 2006.' Freedom of expression was suppressed in a variety of ways from the prosecution of writers and human rights defenders in Turkey, to the killing of political activists in the Philippines, to the constant harassment, surveillance and often imprisonment of human rights defenders in China, to the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and new laws regulating non-governmental organisations in Russia. The Internet became the new frontier in the struggle for dissent as activists were arrested and companies colluded with governments to restrict access to information on-line in countries such as China, Iran, Syria, Vietnam and Belarus. Old-fashioned repression gained a new lease of life under the guise of fighting terrorism in countries like Egypt, while loosely defined counter-terrorism laws posed a potential threat to free speech in the United Kingdom. Five years after 9/11, new evidence came to light in 2006 of the way in which the US administration treated the world as one giant battlefield for its 'war on terror', kidnapping, arresting, arbitrarily detaining, torturing and transferring suspects from one secret prison to another across the world with impunity, in what the US termed 'extraordinary renditions'.

Irene Khan continued:
"Nothing more aptly portrayed the globalisation of human rights violations than the US-led 'war on terror' and its programme of 'extraordinary renditions' which implicated governments in countries as far apart as Italy and Pakistan, Germany and Kenya.' Amnesty International called on governments to reject the politics of fear and invest in human rights institutions and the rule of law at the national and international level.

Irene Khan concluded:
"There are signs of hope. A momentum was created by European institutions for transparency and accountability on renditions. Thanks to civil society pressure, the UN agreed to develop a treaty to control conventional arms. In a range of countries new leaders and legislatures coming to power have an opportunity to redress the failed leadership that has plagued the human rights scene in recent years. A new US Congress could take the lead in setting the trend, restoring respect for human rights at home and abroad. "Just as global warming requires global action based on international cooperation, the human rights meltdown can only be tackled through global solidarity and respect for international law."
© Amnesty International

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AMNESTY CASTS CRITICAL EYE OVER SWITZERLAND

23/5/2007- Amnesty International has condemned tighter Swiss immigration and asylum laws in its annual report on global human rights. The organisation also criticised a domestic violence law, which leaves migrant women at risk of deportation, and highlighted a UN report that found evidence of institutional racism within the police force. However, Switzerland ? unlike neighbouring Germany, France and Italy ? escaped censure for its role in the "extraordinary renditions" saga and other abuses linked to the US:led "war on terror". This was despite the conclusions of Dick Marty, a Swiss senator appointed by the Council of Europe in November 2005 to investigate claims that the CIA had set up secret prisons in eastern Europe. Marty reported in June 2006 that 14 European countries had colluded with the US in a "spider's web" of human rights abuses. He said other countries, including Switzerland, had been involved actively or passively in the detention or transfer of unknown persons.

Immigration issues
Amnesty's main charge against Switzerland focused on its tough immigration laws. In September 2006 two:thirds of voters backed new laws on immigration and asylum, which the government said were necessary to make Switzerland less attractive and to curb abuses. "I don't think the Swiss are xenophobic but they don't agree with [asylum] abuse," Amnesty's refugee coordinator Denise Graf told swissinfo at the time. "This ended up being a major feature of the campaign and made the difference. But it's not really as big an issue as has been made out." Under the new asylum law, those who failed to produce valid travel and identification documents within 48 hours would be rejected. Asylum seekers who refused to leave the country could be detained for up to two years pending deportation. They would also lose the right to social security benefits and could only receive emergency aid of SFr960 ($780) a month. Minors could also be detained for up to one year ? "in contravention of international standards", according to Amnesty's 2007 report, published on Wednesday.

Domestic violence
Amnesty also noted figures from the Federal Statistics Office in October indicating that around 28 women die each year in Switzerland as a result of domestic violence. It welcomed parliament's decision in June to amend the civil law permitting the expulsion of the aggressor from the shared home if requested by the victim of domestic violence. However, the organisation pointed out that migrant women living in Switzerland for fewer than five years remained vulnerable to expulsion if they stopped cohabiting with the partner named on the residence permit.

Institutionalised racism
The third issue highlighted in the report was that of racism within Switzerland. In March 2006 the Swiss government found itself having to answer a hard:hitting report by Doudou Diène, the Senegalese United Nations special rapporteur on racism, which accused Switzerland of racist tendencies. Diène noted that racism, xenophobia and discrimination were "trivialised" in political debate in Switzerland. He also observed strong evidence of institutional racism, including within the police. Allegations continued of ill:treatment, excessive use of force and racist abuse by police officers, and of subsequent impunity for the perpetrators. The government rejected Diene's use of "individual incidents to draw conclusions about the general dynamism of racism and xenophobia in the country as a whole", but said it would seriously examine the report and would step up efforts to combat racism and discrimination.
© Swissinfo

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AMNESTY SAYS ROMANIES DISCRIMINATED AGAINST(Czech Rep/Slovakia)

23/5/2007- Romanies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were seriously discriminated against in access to education, health care, housing and work in 2006, the Amnesty International (AI) human rights organisation says in its annual report released today. It says that Romanies and other endangered groups in the Czech Republic were also subject of police mistreatment and racist attacks. AI bases its information, among others, on a report by the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, according to which Romany children in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were unjustifiably placed in special schools for children with mental troubles.  AI, however, recalls last year's European Human Rights Court's verdict rejecting the complaint by 18 young Romanies from the Ostrava region, north Moravia, about their alleged discrimination in education. The court conceded that the complaint was based on certain serious arguments but it concluded that the rules for Czech children's admission to special schools have no racial subtext. Referring to U.N. documents, AI also says that almost 75 percent Slovak Romany households depend on support from the state, municipalities and charity organisations. AI also recalls the Czech government's decision of May that criticises the Czech ombudsman's recommendation in 2005 that a bill be passed to secure compensation for the women who had been sterilised without giving consent to it. The AI report also mentions the Czech police attack on official Katerina Jacques, who has become a deputy for the Greens (SZ) in the meantime, when she protested against a May Day demonstration of neo-Nazis in Prague.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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EU VALUES AT RISK OVER TREATMENT OF MIGRANTS AND ROMA

23/5/2007- In its 2007 human rights report, leading human rights organisation Amnesty International argues "the EU as a beacon 'union of values' looked increasingly ambivalent" over the past year, with the treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and its own Roma population highlighted as the key subjects of concern. "The lack of long-term sustainable solutions and the discourse of fear that dominates political agendas have led to disturbing manifestations of racism and discrimination in Europe," said the NGO. Its world-wide monitoring review - unveiled on Wednesday (23 May) - criticises most member states on a wide range of issues. In the area of security, Amnesty repeats its previous complaints of the complicity of several EU governments – mainly Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK - with US intelligence agency CIA on renditions of terrorist suspects. According to the report, the security forces of Germany, Turkey and the UK had taken advantage of the situation by interrogating individuals subject to rendition, while the British government "continued to undermine the universal ban on torture" by trying to deport the terror suspects to countries where they potentially faced ill-treatment. "Almost as bad as allowing these acts to occur in Europe has been European governments' failure to recognize them and to take measures to prevent such abuses from happening again," said Dick Oosting, the Director of Amnesty's EU office. "Europe betrays its values if it remains trapped in this denial. It has a leadership role to play but in order to set a credible example outside, it first needs to clean up its act at home," he added.

Refugees and Roma people
Although the authors of the study suggest there is a general trend in the EU in violations against foreign nationals on member states' territory, Greece, Italy, Malta and the UK are singled out for cases of unlawful detention of migrants or for having denied necessary guidance and legal support to new arrivals. These tendencies are reflected in European legislation becoming more unfavourable to asylum-seekers and migrants, with a new French law for example tying residence permits for migrants to pre-existing work contracts "putting migrants at risk of exploitation in the workplace," according to the report. In terms of discrimination against own nationals, several member states continue to have problems ensuring the fair treatment of Roma people. The Roma communities remain "largely excluded from public life and unable to enjoy full access to rights such as housing, employment and health services," Amnesty says. The NGO points out that in countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Roma children have not been integrated into the education system but rather segregated in special classes or schools, including schools with a reduced curriculum.

Sexuality
Intolerance on sexuality grounds - in some cases fostered by national authorities - has been reported in Poland and Latvia, with gay and lesbian organisations facing obstructions when trying to organize public events in reaction to "openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians." Finally, the report also draws attention to the problems faced by thousands of people from ex-Yugoslavia currently living in Slovenia who had been unlawfully erased from the registers of permanent residents. It also looks at the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia, which has limited access to the labour market due to restrictive linguistic and minority rights. "Inability to solve these serious problems has in practice created thousands of 'second class citizens' in Europe," the Amnesty report concluded.
© EUobserver

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Headlines 18 May, 2007

FAR-RIGHT POLITICIANS 'LIVE ON STATE HANDOUTS' (Sweden)

17/5/2007- One in three politicians from the far-right Sweden Democrats live on state handouts, it has been calculated. The party is now being accused of hypocrisy; it frequently slams immigrants for living on benefits. The findings were made by tabloid Aftonbladet. It found that Sweden Democrat politicians have received 3.7 million kronor in benefits from the Swedish Social Insurance Administration since August last year. ($540,000). In its campaign literature, the party has complained that twice as many immigrants are in state-funded early retirement than native Swedes. Ten percent of immigrants live on these sorts of benefits, the party has said, but Thursday's report shows that the figure for Sweden Democrat politicians is fully 20 percent. One third of party representatives are dependent on some form of benefit. Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said it was wrong to compare Sweden Democrats to immigrants on the benefits question. "The fact that many of our representatives are early-retired is partly down to the fact that groups that seek out new political movements do so because they are dissatisfied and feel unfairly treated by the old parties," he told Aftonbladet.
© The Local

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UNIVERSITY SHUT IN HOLOCAUST ROW(Italy)

18/5/2007- An Italian university has closed down one of its campuses to prevent a planned lecture by a controversial French professor and Holocaust denier. Robert Faurisson has been convicted five times in France for denying crimes against humanity. He was due to speak at the University of Teramo in central Italy as part of a Masters course in Middle East studies. But the university decided to close part of the campus to prevent him addressing students. It said the "climate of tension" might endanger the safety of its students. Faurisson says that Nazi gas chambers are a fiction and that most of the Jews who were killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp died of natural causes. Last year, he was one of several prominent Holocaust deniers who gathered to take part in a conference in Iran. The University of Teramo's Professor Moffa, who organised the lecture, was formally warned to cancel the invitation but insisted he had a right to academic independence. "Are you so convinced of your truths?" Mr Moffa was quoted as telling the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa. "Then why don't you come and pull him to pieces?" The Simon Wiesenthal Centre issued a statement saying that the invitation to Faurisson was "an embarrassment to Italian academia". "To welcome Faurisson [...] encourages a perverse propaganda to incite a new generation to anti-Semitism," it read, according to AP. European interior ministers agreed last month to make it an offence to condone or grossly trivialise crimes of genocide - but only if the effect is incitement to violence or hatred.
© BBC News

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VLAAMS BELANG TROUBLES (Belgium)

VB struggles with stand on gays
16/5/2007- The far-right anti-immigration party Vlaams Belang seems to be wrestling with its standpoint on homosexuality, De Morgen reported today. At the party conference recently VB announced it was returning to its ultra-conservative roots, but in an interview with the newspaper of the Erasmus college in Brussels VB security advisor Bart Debie said he supported gay marriage. Debie also implies that the party leadership may come out with a more nuanced stand on the issue. Party leader Filip Dewinter however says that this is just wishful thinking on Debie's part. Spokesperson for Dewinter Philippe Van der Sande says he sees homosexuality as "an immature form of sexuality."

Newspapers refuse VB advert
The Flemish newspapers have refused to print an advertisement from far-right anti-immigration party Vlaams Belang. The party wanted an A4-sized advert published in the papers. The lawyer for party chairman Frank Vanhecke has sent a letter to the papers threatening to take the matter to court if they continue to refuse the advertisement. Vanhecke has told the "the commercial editorial teams" that he will go to court if necessary to force them to print the advertisement. "We don't want to fight a silly war with the media. The political advertisements fall outside of any editorial responsibility.” He wants the VB's voters to be shown the same respect by the media as the voters of other parties. The Belgian Association of Newspaper Publishers is not taking a standpoint in the matter. "Every publisher makes an independent decision,” it says. "The law allows publishers to refuse advertisements. Newspaper publishers are private businesses and are not required to give all democratically elected parties a voice, as the public broadcasting system must do,” the association says.
© Expatica News

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NATIONALIST POLITICIANS CLEARED OF RACISM(Denmark)

Public prosecutors will not bring charges of racism against twelve members of the Danish People's Party before the district court

16/5/2007- District prosecutors have decided not to bring racism charges against high-ranking members of the nationalist Danish People's Party, including leader Pia Kjærsgaard, reported Politiken newspaper. Prosecutor Karsten Hjorth said Tuesday that the evidence presented to him by 66 citizens, which consisted of numerous public comments made primarily against Muslims, was insufficient to support a charge of racism. 'I have determined that the reported statements all fall within the allowable boundaries of politicians' freedom of speech,' said Hjorth, who found that all the comments were directly related to specific events or facts. Besides Kjærsgaard, the most quoted members of the Danish People's Party were MEP Mogens Camre, MP Søren Krarup and former party MPs Louise Frevert and Morten Messerschmidt. Among the comments included in the charges were that Muslims were invading Western countries with an eye to kill and that the men were out to rape Danish women.  Vagn Greve, law professor at the University of Copenhagen, agreed with some of Hjorth's assessments, but not all. 'I think the worst of the comments presented are at the same level as others that have previously led to guilty verdicts and fall within the categories of insult and degradation.' The 66 citizens - which included a few well-known media personalities - indicated in their press release that the public prosecutor has made it 'impossible for the courts to decide where the line between propaganda and actual political debate ought to be in relation to conventions and national laws'. Kjærsgaard said that the charges were an example of how people misuse the anti-racism legislation.
'I'm being reported for not disassociating myself from what I said. I think its worrying that politicians and the press use so much time on restricting free speech,' she said. The citizens group will now appeal the prosecutor's decision to the district attorney's office.
© The Copenhagen Post

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FEMINIST, SOCIALIST, DEVOUT MUSLIM: WOMAN WHO HAS THROWN DENMARK INTO TURMOIL

Parliamentary candidate, 25, finds herself at centre of Europe-wide controversy

16/5/2007- In the land that launched the cartoons war between Islam and the west, Asmaa Abdol-Hamid finds herself on the frontline, gearing up for a new battle. The 25-year-old social worker, student and town councillor describes herself as a feminist, a democrat, and a socialist. She has gay friends, opposes the death penalty, supports abortion rights, and could not care less what goes on in other people's bedrooms. In short, a tolerant Scandinavian and European. She is also a Palestinian and a devout Muslim who insists on wearing a headscarf, who refuses, on religious grounds, to shake hands with males, and who is bidding fair to be the first Muslim woman ever to enter the Folketing, the Danish parliament in Copenhagen. For the extreme right, the young activist is a political provocateur, an agent of Islamic fundamentalism bent on infiltrating the seat of Danish democracy. To many on the left, Ms Abdol-Hamid is also problematic, personifying through her dress the reactionary repression of women and an illiberal religious agenda that should have no place in her leftwing "red-green" alliance of socialists and environmentalists. As a result of announcing her parliamentary candidacy earlier this month, the young Muslim and Danish citizen has been thrust to the centre of a debate tormenting Denmark and the rest of western Europe - on the place and values of Islam in modern Europe and the treatment of large Muslim minorities.

Ms Abdol-Hamid is unfazed. "I see more Islam here in Denmark than in Iran or in other places in the Middle East," she says. "It's easier to be a Muslim in Denmark than in Saudi Arabia. I don't feel a stranger here. I'm interested in politics. I want to talk about this society, about political issues. But I'm not in politics because I'm a Muslim." Her ambition, combined with her insistence on flaunting her religious affiliation, have outraged the Danish political establishment and triggered a new bout of soul-searching almost two years after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet ignited violence and protest across the Islamic world. "This goes far beyond the extreme right," says Toger Seidenfaden, editor of the Politiken daily newspaper. "Asmaa is insisting on the right to be a religious Muslim and that's provoking broad debate among the public." The key issue is the headscarf and whether it can be accommodated in parliament. This month Ms Abdol-Hamid gained the candidacy for a safe Copenhagen seat for the leftwing Unity List. The Danish People's Party or DFP, the far-right movement that unofficially props up the weak centre-right government of the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is on the warpath. A couple of DFP politicians compared the headscarf to the Nazi swastika. One described the prospective MP as "brainwashed". "We don't like the idea of her performing as an Islamist in the parliament," says DFP spokesman Kim Eskildsen. "We find it wrong that she'll use the parliament as a tool for Islamism ... We don't consider this woman a Nazi. But the way the headscarf is used is comparable to other totalitarian symbols."

The happiest country in the world, according to one detailed survey of international living standards and public attitudes, Denmark is economically highly successful, with the lowest unemployment in the EU. For the country's 200,000 Muslims and immigrants, however, that happiness is increasingly somewhere else. By virtue of the DFP's influence on the centre-right government, Denmark has enacted the tightest anti-immigration legislation in Europe in recent years. Many Danes married to foreigners now commute into Copenhagen every day from the southern Swedish town of Malmo across the bridge linking the two cities because they cannot obtain residence for their spouses at home. Ms Abdol-Hamid, who shares a one-room council flat with one of her six sisters in the "ghetto" of Vollsmose, in the town of Odense, says her political mission is to fight for this underclass. "This is such a rich country. But we have people in Denmark in deep poverty and nobody helps them. For me the welfare system is very close to Islam. But we need to change the government."  But conservative Muslim leaders are also disapproving of her activism. "Some Muslims don't think it's right for a female to act like this. They go to my father and tell him, get her married, get her married," she laughs. "Others think you can't be Muslim and Danish at the same time. Some of the Muslims and the extreme right are just the same. "And there are women in my party who say that anyone who wears the headscarf is oppressed. It's like they think I'm dumb. They're taking away my individuality. We need the right to choose. It's up to us whether or not we wear headscarves. "They think I'm a woman from the Middle East. No. I'm a Danish Muslim."
© The Guardian

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NO 10 ACCUSED OF CONDONING ISLAMOPHOBIA OVER E-PETITION(uk)

16/5/2007- Muslim campaigners have accused Downing Street of condoning Islamophobia by publishing a petition which warns that building a large mosque complex will "cause terrible violence and suffering". The petition is one of the most popular on No 10's website, with over 45,000 signatures to date. It was posted under the name of Jill Barham. Attempts by Guardian Unlimited to contact her have been unsuccessful. The writer of a blog called "English Rose", which links to sites supporting the BNP and "opposes the Islamification of this country", claims to be the author of the e-petition. Muslim campaigners acknowledge that the plan to build Europe's largest Islamic centre in east London is controversial, but argue that the language of the petition is inflammatory and Islamophobic. It states: "We, the Christian population of this great country England would like the proposed plan to build a mega-mosque in east London scrapped. This will only cause terrible violence and suffering and more money should go into the NHS."  The author of "English Rose" wrote on that blog, which is no longer available: "I am just a concerned citizen who doesn't want any kind of violence whatsoever, and it is more likely to be from a Muslim than from the BNP... "The Muslim community will grow and then they will look at it as an opportunity to dominate. That's when the violence will take place." But Raza Kazim, spokesman for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said that he found the language threatening, adding: "The other interpretation - that Muslims are inherently violent - is obviously racist or Islamophobic ... Either way there's a problem with the wording. "There's a feeling that No 10 are party to the atmosphere which is being created; it's being condoned, in effect, by the government." He added: "The problem would be quite easily solved by just taking those comments out. From her own website - which links to campaigns against Muslims and Islam - you can clearly see what the whole thing is about."

The author of "English Rose" wrote: "The BNP and I have never stated that I am a member, but they do stick up for the English people."  She also stated that "I am not going to give away my country and I am going to fight for it like my ancestors would have done." One section of links on the blog was called "Islam and pedophillia" [sic] while another was titled "Muslim rapes". A link took readers to the "Barnsley Nationalists" site, while another took them to the "Lancaster BNP free speech blog", which offers contact details for Lancaster and Morecambe BNP and links to the national BNP site - although it says it is not an official BNP site. A No 10 spokesperson said: "The views expressed in e-petitions in no way reflect those of the government or Downing Street. The terms on which petitions are accepted or rejected are kept constantly under review. Downing Street plans to issue an interim response to the e-petition in question shortly. "We are not and do not expect to be comfortable with the language or views expressed in all e-petitions, particularly this one, but the site allows for direct dialogue between the government and the public on controversial issues such as this, which we all believe is important. We do monitor the site and the rules of the sites are quite clear." The Downing Street website says it publishes all petitions which satisfy basic conditions - such as not including "language which is offensive, intemperate, or provocative". According to the Black Information Link website, Downing Street's webmaster did not respond to three emails from them, but told a reader who wanted the entry removed: "We understand your concern about this petition and have since tightened our acceptance policy. "Having accepted the petition under the terms and conditions of the time, we cannot now reject it under rules introduced later." But No 10 intervened by erasing an entry when a site user signed the petition with the words "kill all niggers". "They are saying they cannot change the rules and change anything that has gone up, but clearly they can," said Mr Kazim.
© The Guardian

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SCHOOLS 'KEY TO MUSLIMS' FUTURE' (uk)

14/5/2007- Muslims are more likely to live in the most deprived parts of Wales than the rest of the population, an official study has found. But while more Muslim men and women were long-term unemployed, they were also more likely to be in top professional and managerial jobs. Muslim Council of Wales secretary Saleem Kidwai said improving education was key to reducing inequality. He said a partnership between the community and government was needed. The report, A Social Audit of the Muslim Community in Wales, for the Welsh Assembly Government, found that poor housing, including overcrowding, was much higher amongst Muslim households than the general population. It found higher reported levels of long-term illness and poor health than average amongst the older working population, but lower levels amongst 16-49-year-olds. The report observed that many more Muslims were classed as economically inactive "almost entirely due to the low inactivity rates amongst Bangladeshi and Pakistani women". The study was based on census and other statistical information. It found that, in 2005, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils achieved a lower than average points score at Key Stage 4 and a "relatively low" proportion gained five or more A* to C GCSE grades.

Assistance at home
Mr Kidwai suggested improving Muslim children's school performances would help them to play their full part in society in later years. He warned that many were not getting the assistance at home that some of their classmates were enjoying. "They drop out because their parents are unable to help them with their school work because they are poorly educated. "Education is the most important thing." Mr Kidwai said transforming the situation was "a tough but not impossible task" and required a response from both the Muslim community and "the establishment". "We don't expect the government to do everything," he added. Mohammad Asghar, the first Muslim member of the Welsh assembly, who represents Plaid Cymru in the South Wales East region, said poverty and deprivation were spread throughout the area. "We must eradicate poverty wherever it is, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, Jewish, Christian or anyone else," he said. "We are all in the same boat". Mr Asghar suggested that marking the various cultural celebrations in schools would help develop better understanding between different communities.
© BBC News

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COMPLAINTS ON BULLYING AND RACISM ON RISE AT SCHOOLS(uk)

15/5/2007- Complaints about bullying and racism have risen significantly in city schools, with an average of more than four incidents a day now being investigated. High schools and primaries have both seen rises of up to 12 per cent in reported incidents, with alleged bullying and racism both on the up. Abusive texts and e-mails are believed to form a substantial and growing part of the problem. The increase in complaints has been put down to the success of a series of initiatives to ensure problems come to light. But it has sparked calls for more to be done to make children able to stand up to the growing problem of text and internet bullying. A fall in the number of children looking for support and advice on bullying and racism has also prompted concern. The biggest rise has been in high schools, where 389 incidents were reported last year. The increase comes after school staff received racism awareness training, guided by advice from Edinburgh and Lothians Race Equality Council (ELREC). Schools have also launched a series of anti-bulling initiatives, including buddying systems, peer mentoring and post boxes in corridors so complaints can be made anonymously. However, despite these moves, fears remain of a growing problem of bullying using text messages and e-mails. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council today called for more to be done to prepare children for the inevitable abuse some will suffer. Judith Gillespie, development manager at the SPTC, said: "Bullying is impossible to eradicate and often very difficult to identify. If a child is getting bullied by text, how does the school know? Traditional bullying, where it is obvious and physical - schools are very good at dealing with that now. "But more subversive bullying is very difficult. One thing that is important to do is bully-proof the children themselves. That does not necessarily mean counselling, but rather making them more robust, so that they delete certain text messages and e-mails without reading them because they know who they are from."

Reports of racism in secondary schools are increasing faster than any other kind of harassment - up by 29 per cent to 75 in 2005- 2006. ELREC said this was down to better teacher training, but called for more to be done to ensure young victims know the culprits have been dealt with. Nina Giles, director of ELREC, said: "It's not just black and ethnic minority kids, white Scottish kids are also less tolerant now of racist attitudes. That's very positive. I think if racism happened a few years ago more people would have thought it was acceptable, now they know it's not and they will speak to their peers about it." Concern has also been raised over a fall in the number of children seeking advice and support in relation to bullying. The number fell from 110 in 2003-2004 to 80 last year, while no children sought support for racism last year, compared to seven and eight in the two previous years. The city council said the growing number of complaints was a sign that schools were starting to get to grips with the extent of the problem. A council spokeswoman said: "It's our intention to ensure that incidents are brought out into the open and dealt with in an appropriate manner. It's far better for racism and bullying to be recorded and resolved than to leave them unchecked in schools. "We are always working towards decreasing incidents of bulling and racism and we believe our schools are increasingly effective in dealing with them."
© The Scotsman

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POLICE BEGIN HATE CRIME CRACKDOWN (uk)

14/5/2007- A campaign has been launched by police in mid Wales targeting "hate crime" motivated by racism or prejudice. The Dyfed-Powys Police crackdown is being tested in Powys. Hate crime support officers are working throughout the county, but police said there was "no particular reason" why Powys had been chosen for the scheme. In a study last year, Victim Support said most crimes motivated by racism and prejudice were not reported with many victims fearing revenge attacks. The charity, which supports victims and witnesses of crime, added that victims "lack confidence" in the police. It said the 107 people it interviewed also feared going to court and revenge attacks. But the Association of Chief Police Officers said last year that hate crime investigations were given top priority.

'Knocked confidence'
A bus driver from near Machynlleth, who was set upon by four teenagers in a race hate crime in 2003, welcomed Dyfed-Powys Police's new campaign. The 55-year-old father-of-four, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was punched in the face and verbally abused by one of the teenagers in Newtown. "I was unable to identify the culprit in a police identity parade - the incident happened so quickly. I had no witnesses either," said the man. "But he (the attacker) was eventually jailed for another crime. "It knocked my confidence, but my employers were very supportive and changed my route." He added: "I've lived in the area for 20 years and I get on very well with everyone, and it's a minority who cause trouble." A police spokeswoman said: "Dyfed-Powys Police takes this matter very seriously and appeals to any person that is a victim not to suffer in silence."
© BBC News

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HOMOPHOBIA 'HAMPERED GAY MURDER PROBE'(uk)

15/5/2007- A report by a gay study group has suggested "institutional" homophobia may have impeded the investigation of a man murdered in a Croydon park. The report, written by the independent Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Group, studied how detectives handled 10 murders of gay men or transsexuals including the unsolved killing of Geoffrey Windsor in Beaulieu Heights, off South Norwood Hill, in 2002. Mr Windsor was beaten to death with a car aerial in the early hours of June 26. In 2004 detectives leading the investigation offered a £20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. The study group found there had been previous homophobic attacks in the same area and argued there was "insufficient communication of the level of risk associated with the cruising ground to the very wide range of people using it." The authors said there should be more effective sharing of intelligence between police officers. The review also stated problems were mirrored and in some cases increased by coverage of the crimes in the media. The report states: "If we borrow the terminology of the Macpherson report, historical police practice amounted to 'institutional' homophobia and transphobia."  It adds: "There were several investigations were we have deep reservations about the way in which the identity of the victim informed investigative decisions at the time. We also found evidence of inappropriate attitudes to the circumstances of some murders."  However, the group did recognise the Met had substantially improved its dealings with gay, lesbian and transsexual communities and its investigations since the 1990s. But the report called for even more to be done to improve investigations, including better intelligence procedures for tracking known and potentially violent homophobes. Commander Dave Johnston of the Met's specialist crime directorate said: "We have learned from past investigation, increased our understanding and introduced a number of initiatives."
© This is local London

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DESPITE MISGIVINGS, GAYS BLEND IN TO BRITISH MILITARY

16/5/2007- The officer, a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, felt he had no choice. So he stood up in front of his squad of 30 to 40 people. "I said, 'Right, I've got something to tell you,' " he said. " 'I believe that for us to be able to work closely together and have faith in each other, we have to be honest and open and frank. " 'And it has to be a two-way process, and it starts with me baring my soul. You may have heard some rumors, and, yes, I have a long-term partner who is a he, not a she.' " Far from causing problems, he said, he found that coming out to his troops actually increased the unit's strength and cohesion. He had felt uneasy keeping the secret "that their boss was a poof," as he put it, from people he worked with so intensely. Since it began allowing gays to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of the British military's fears - about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness - has come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services, and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue. The Ministry of Defense does not compile figures on how many gays are openly serving, and says that the number of people who have come out publicly in the past seven years is still relatively low. But it is clearly proud of how smoothly gays have been integrated and is actively trying to make life easier for them. "What we're hoping to do is to, over a period of time, reinforce the message that people who are gay, lesbian and the like are welcomed in the armed forces and we don't discriminate against them in any way," a Defense Ministry official said in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with ministry practice.

Nonetheless, the issue is extremely sensitive right now. The military does not want to be seen bragging about the success of its policy when the issue still can cause so much anguished debate in America. This is particularly true in light of recent tensions between the allies over several friendly-fire killings of British troops by Americans, which British coroners' courts have ruled were unlawful. For this article, the Defense Ministry refused to give permission for any member of the forces to be interviewed, either on or off the record. Those who spoke did so before the ministry made its position clear. "We're not looking to have quotes taken out of context in a way to imply that we're trying to influence the debate in the United States," the British official said. "There are some sensitivities over the timing of this. We have had communications from our counterparts in the United States, and they have asked us questions about how we've handled it and how it's gone on the ground. There does seem to be some debate going on over how long the current policy will be sustainable." The debate in the United States was rekindled in March when General Peter Pace, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the country's top-ranking military official, told The Chicago Tribune that he believed homosexuality was immoral. Earlier, General John Shalikashvili, who held the same post in the Clinton years, when the Pentagon adopted its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, said in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times that he now believed the military was ready to accept gays. A military already stretched thin, he said, "must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job." At least 24 countries - many of them allies of the United States, and some of them members of the coalition forces fighting alongside Americans - now allow gays to serve openly in their armed forces.

It is hard to avoid comparing the British and American systems, gays in the British forces say. One major, an openly gay liaison officer in the British Territorial Army, told of an exchange he had in the southern Iraqi city of Basra with an American staff sergeant, far from home and anxious to confide. "He privately let me know he was gay," the major said in an interview. "Not in a romantic way, but in a matter-of-fact way. He found it difficult, because he clearly had a whole part of his private life that he had to keep separate and distinct and couldn't discuss with people. He was in his mid-30s, with no girlfriend and no wife, and he had to use all these white lies." Some Britons said they could not understand why the United States had not changed its policy. "I find it strange, coming from the land of the free and freedom of speech and democracy, given the changes in the world attitude," said a gay squadron leader in the Royal Air Force who recently returned from Afghanistan. "It's just not the issue it used to be." Right up until its policy changed, Britain had deep misgivings about allowing gays to serve openly in its armed forces. But it had no choice. It was forced to by a European court, which ruled that its policy of excluding gays violated the European Convention on Human Rights. "There was a lot of apprehension among some senior personnel that there would be an increase in things like bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and some of them were almost predicting that the world was going to come to an end," the Defense Ministry official said. There were similar concerns when, bowing to national anti-discrimination laws, the military began allowing gay personnel who had registered for civil partnerships to live in military housing with their same-sex partners. "But all the problems the services thought were going to come to pass really haven't materialized," the official said. To the extent it becomes an issue, it is usually within the context of the relentlessly rough give-and-take that characterizes military life, particularly at the lower ranks, said Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has studied the British experience.

"The military is a proving ground, and the first thing people do is find your weakness and exploit it," Frank said in an e-mail interview. "If you're gay, that's your weakness, and guys will latch on to that. But frequently this is no more significant a weakness than any other based on your accent, body type, race, religion, etc."  The military actively recruits gays and punishes any instance of intolerance or bullying. The navy advertises for recruits in gay magazines and has allowed gay sailors to hold civil partnership ceremonies on board ships and, last summer, to march in full naval uniform at a gay pride rally in London. (Army and air force personnel could march, but had to wear civilian clothes). Speaking at a conference sponsored by the gay advocacy group Stonewall last year, the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Adrian Johns, said that gays had always served in the military but in the past had had to do it secretly."That's an unhealthy way to be, to try and keep a secret life in the armed services," said Johns, who as head of personnel in the Navy is responsible for some 39,000 sailors. His speech was entitled "Reaping the Rewards of a Gay-Friendly Workplace." "Those individuals need nurturing, so that they give of their best and are, in turn, rewarded for their effort," he said of the Navy's gays and lesbians. "Nurture includes the freedom to be themselves. Our mission is to break down barriers of discrimination, prejudice, fear and misunderstanding." Once the news is out there, the gay Air Force squadron leader said, the issue gets subsumed by the job at hand and by the relentless immediacy of war.At one point, his squad was working with an Army unit. "I wouldn't go into a briefing room and face them and say, 'By the way, I'm gay,' " he said of his Army counterparts. "Frankly, I don't think they were worried, because we were all focused on doing a very, very hard job." He recalled something his commander had said, when advising him to come out to his squad."The boss said, 'I think you will be surprised that in this day and age it will be a complete anti-climax, because as far as I'm concerned, homosexuals in the military are yesterday's news."'
© International Herald Tribune

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POLISH EDUCATION MINISTER PROPOSES BAN ON 'PROPAGATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY'

16/5/2007- Poland's education minister on Wednesday called for a ban on the "propagation of homosexuality" in the country's schools, a plan that he argues would protect traditional family values. Amendments to the education law would require school directors to scrap or ban any activities that promote "homosexuality, pornography or other phenomena violating moral norms," said Education Minister Roman Giertych. Giertych's outspoken views on homosexuality have attracted condemnation abroad in recent months. He unveiled his proposal at the education ministry less than a month after the European Parliament passed a resolution sharply criticizing senior Polish officials for declarations "inciting discrimination and hatred based on sexual orientation." However, the minister — who leads the ultraconservative League of Polish Families, a junior partner in Poland's governing coalition — insisted Wednesday that his proposals "do not discriminate against anyone." "It is only to protect youth from the propagation of views that threaten marriage, threaten family, and threaten the duties of school, which are to prepare one to fulfill family duties and the duties of a citizen," he said. The proposal is vague on what exactly would constitute propagating homosexuality. Giertych defined it as "every action that is dependent on the public presentation of a certain belief with the intention of convincing others to that viewpoint." Giertych said he was sending the draft amendments to other government ministries Wednesday for consultations. He said the whole government backs the proposed changes, and he expects enough support for them to pass easily in parliament. Robert Biedron, the head of Poland's Campaign Against Homophobia, condemned the proposals, calling them "fascist projects." "It is frightening that in the middle of Europe there is a government that instead of fighting against discrimination, heightens discrimination," Biedron said. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's socially conservative government has made defending traditional Roman Catholic values a cornerstone of its platform. Kaczynski's brother, President Lech Kaczynski, refused to grant parade permits for gay rights marches while he served as mayor of Warsaw.
© Associated Press

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SPANISH BRACE FOR MIGRANT BOATS AS SPRING BRINGS CALM SEAS

14/5/2007- The Spanish rescue services and humanitarian aid groups were bracing Monday for a wave of boats carrying would-be immigrants from Africa to the Canary Islands, after more than 800 came ashore in fishing vessels over the past five days. Austin Wainwright, the Red Cross emergency response coordinator for the Canary Islands, said the sharp increase in the number of arrivals was linked to better weather and that he expected to see bigger ships traveling longer distances to reach the archipelago over the summer. "It's a given that from this point in the year we are going to see more arrivals," he said. More than 300 migrants arrived in the islands on five boats Monday, according to the Canary Islands emergency services, bringing the number of arrivals since Thursday to 815. About two dozen children were among those on the boats, most of which appeared to have come from Senegal, said Wainwright. He said Senegalese boats, which tend to be bigger, were first spotted heading for the islands two weeks ago and he expected a rise in their number over the coming months as they take advantage of clement weather to make the long journey. A flood of more than 30,000 migrants to the Canary Islands last year, mainly Africans, stretched the region's security forces and social services and provoked alarm among Spaniards, who, surveys show, count immigration among their top worries. It prompted sharp local and international criticism of the decision by the government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to offer amnesty to some 600,000 illegal migrant workers.

Government officials Monday moved to calm fears that a flood of migrants on the scale of last year was possible. "Compared with last year, the situation is much more under control," said Marlene Menesis, a spokeswoman for the central government in the Canary Islands, who said efforts by the Spanish Civil Guard and Coast Guard, as well as the European immigration force, Frontex, had helped cut in half the number of arrivals so far this year to just under 3,000. "Many of the boats have barely left ports and reached international waters when they are turned around," Menesis said. José Segura, the central government's representative in the Canary Islands, said the Interior Ministry was planning to send two large ships to help police the archipelago's waters and the ministry issued a statement saying that it had intensified the rate at which it was repatriating illegal immigrants, sending 168 home over the weekend. Wainwright said that, while the number of arrivals had dropped this year, the size of some of the ships used to traffic immigrants had grown, as had the proportion of Asian immigrants aboard, indicating that the Canary Islands were a target for an increasingly sophisticated network of people-smugglers.
© International Herald Tribune

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NEO-NAZIS MOBILIZING AGAINST G-8 SUMMIT(Germany)

14/5/2007- Germany's Neo-Nazis are using anti-capitalist rhetoric and are mobilizing to protest against the upcoming G-8 meeting in June. Police fear that there could be clashes between the extreme-right NPD and radical far-left groups also gathering to protest against the summit. The men inspecting Marienplatz in Schwerin last Tuesday were pleased. "Ideal," was the verdict from Jens Pühse, the national organizer for the far-right National Democratic Party (more) (NPD). "In the end it's all about visuals -- and this is wonderful." Peter Marx, the NPD's general secretary and party leader in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania's state parliament, felt vindicated. "I did say that it would be suitable," he crowed. The right-wing functionaries' main concern was that the square shouldn't be too big. That way, even a small group would be able to make a powerful impression when shown on TV. On June 2, they want Marienplatz to look so full that the whole world will be able to see that the NPD is more than just a back-room extremist party. The faction is hoping to mobilize 1,500 supporters from across the state using the motto "Not for sale! Stop globalization!" against the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm. Intelligence officers in Schwerin are predicting that the rally could attract up to 2,000 demonstrators. On May 1 the NPD managed to mobilize 700 people from across Mecklenburg-West Pomerania to attend its rally in Neubrandenburg -- in contrast, the DGB trade union umbrella group was only able to muster 500 people for its May Day demonstration in Rostock.

The fact that the Neo-Nazis are now campaigning against the "subordination of politics to economic interests" is something of a novelty and brings a whole new set of challenges for the police. The authorities are going to have to try to protect those attending the G-8 summit from the radical demonstrators -- and they will also have to protect the radicals in the right and left-wing camps from each other. Intelligence officers fear that by using obvious anti-capitalist rhetoric the NPD could succeed in scoring points (more) in the disadvantaged regions of the former East Germany. In one of their anti-G-8 flyers, the extreme right-wingers fulminate in classic leftist mode against "competition with low-wage countries, which leaves infrastructure deserts and mass unemployment in its wake." And the criticism of the "involvement in global military intervention and virtual enforced rearmament," could strike a chord with many former East Germans. Only the frequent use of words like "nation" and "homeland" distinguishes the flyer from many of the left-wing anti-G-8 tracts. NPD strategist Marx says that this kind of left-wing posturing can only be successful if party members manage to refrain from engaging in violence during the anti-G-8 protests. However, it is unlikely that his call to "demonstrate peacefully and not allow yourselves to be silenced" will be obeyed. The DGB and anti-fascist groups have announced that they are holding a counter-demonstration on June 2 in Schwerin, and thousands of demonstrators are expected in Rostock on the same day for the main anti-G-8 protest. The authorities' worst case scenario is that groups of protestors will commute between Schwerin and Rostock. Although there is no indication yet that this is planned, one police officer was far from optimistic: "In the militant scene these kinds of decisions are made late and spontaneously. Then all you need is one spark and all hell will break loose."
© Spiegel Online

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ROMA PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE STOPPED BY POLICE OFFICERS, REPORT BY OSI

Roma people are more likely to be stopped by police officers. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study written for OSI (Open society justice initiative).

“I can stop and search whoever I want” is a book realized in 2007 by Open Society Justice Initiative, which examines police stopping ethnic minorities in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain. This report was written by Joel Miller and based upon research conducted in three countries representing the situation of minorities in Europe. The scope of the study was to address ethnic profiling by police in Europe. Ethnic profiling means the use of ethnic, religious or racial stereotypes as a basis for decisions about who could be involved in criminal or terrorist activity. This discrimination breaches fundamental human rights, but it has not been expressly outlawed by any European government; because of this, it is impossible to develop strategies that address police behavior with minority communities. In each country the researchers conducted interviews with 60 or more police officers and members of minority groups. The results, for all, indicate that the police practice ethnic profiling. However, there is a lot of points which defies the situation in each selected country. In Bulgaria and Hungary, Roma are the largest of ethnic minority. They are at social and economic disadvantages and are overrepresented in the national criminal justice system. In Spain, indeed, the Roma represent about 1.5 percent of the population. Few of them hold salaried or independent jobs, most of them holding part-time positions or informal labor. They have problem of discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other services.

National law of examined countries gives wide discretion in conducting stops and searches. To be Roma is a factor of suspicion. As a result, Roma (in all three countries) and migrants (in Spain) have often negative experiences during police stops with numerous examples of disrespectful and humiliating treatment. Certainly, many Roma community members believe that the police engage in ethnic profiling. <<I get stopped almost every day in the center by police. Sometimes twice a day>>, said a Spanish interviewee. In Bulgaria and Hungary, patrol officers interviewed, said that the stops are more frequent when someone is an outsider to the town, or village (often a Roma). Roma origin can be a basis for a stop. In Spain, officers rarely suggested that Roma identity was a direct reason for suspicion. Instead they said Roma were stopped because they are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. The experiences of stops there is evidence of ethnic profiling, which can be worse for ethnic minorities. Police officers in Bulgaria and Hungary who described ethnic profiling referred primarily to Roma, while officers in Spain who described ethnic profiling referred primarily to immigrants rather than Roma. Police stops do not closely adhere to international good practice for reducing crime. The report, also, suggests a range of possible improvements to police stop procedures. Important is an accord about legal standards prohibiting ethnic profiling, at international and regional levels. But each state must also supervise the stopping situation within their own territory by implementing systems for monitoring police activity, such as stops and identity checks. The scope is that patrol officers respect human rights during their work with Roma or migrants people.

Full version of the study can be downloaded here.
© Dzeno Association

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CZECH NATIONAL PARTY HEAD'S WORDS ON ROMANIES NO CRIME, POLICE SAY

15/5/2007- Petra Edelmannova, head of the ultra-right Czech National Party (NS), did not commit a crime by her words on Romanies released on the party's website after a rally in support of Deputy PM Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL, chairman), the police organised crime squad (UOOZ) and the state attorney's office ruled, UOOZ spokeswoman Blanka Kosinova told CTK today. In April, Edelmannova took part in a demonstration condemning Cunek's abusive words on Romanies held outside the Government Office. Cunek, who is also accused of corruption, raised uproar among Romanies by his controversial statements in the tabloid Blesk where he talked about "sunburned" people "who put up fires on town squares." After the demonstration, the NS press section released text and commentaries describing Edelmannova's participation in the rally and her comments on other participants. In her commentaries, Edelmannova called Romanies Gypsies. She even talked about the "final solution to the Gypsy question" and promised support for those Romanies who would leave the Czech Republic. "The police of the Czech Republic are not authorised to assess statements by individual political entities and ethics of their public behaviour," said Kosinova.  Both the police and the attorney based their decision on an expert opinion by political analyst Zdenek Zboril. He told CTK previously that some of Edelmannova's words can be considered disputable, but they do not differ from other statements published in the Czech press and pronounced by Czech politicians, including the government members. According to Zboril, the most controversial words concern the extra-parliamentary NS's active support for the Romanies who would like to leave the Czech Republic, which can be qualified as an appeal for expulsion or re-settlement. However, Zboril pointed out that this statement had its precedent in the relocation of Romanies from Vsetin, north Moravia, to other areas in the Czech Republic, initiated by Cunek when he was Mayor of Vsetin. The police and the attorney concluded that the statements by Edelmannova do not apply to the whole ethnic group, but to individual Romany activists, and consequently they cannot be qualified as a crime of defamation of race, nation and conviction.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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NATIONALISTS DISTURB ACT MARKING CZECH ROMANY WARTIME VICTIMS

13/5/2007- Five members of the far-right Czech National Party (NS) disturbed a commemorative event marking the victims of the wartime Nazi internment camp for Czech Romanies in Lety today. Nationalists got into a verbal clash with the organisers. The police interfered and expelled the nationalists from the place. During a mass, the NS members displayed banners recollecting Czech policemen who guarded Romanies in the camp and died of typhoid then. The NS banners included slogans as "300,000 Czech victims of Nazism often without a single memorial," "German labour facility - German responsibility," and "Czech policemen - victims of typhoid epidemic in the labour camp." The nationalist argued they only wanted to remind of forgotten victims of Nazism. However, participants in the commemorative event, including junior ruling Greens deputy Ondrej Liska, said it was a provocation. Cenek Ruzicka, chairman of the Committee for Compensation of Romany Holocaust (VPORH), organising today's event, recalled that 326 prisoners, including 240 children, perished in the Lety camp. Part of them died of typhoid, some of hunger, he added. The VPORH has been in the long run demanded that the pig farm in Lety, built on the premises of the wartime camp for Czech Romanies, be removed. Romany activists point out that it defames the victims' memory. The EP also called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for Greens), who took part on today's act of commemoration in Lety, pushed for the removal of the pig farm as well. "Since it is undignified to have a pig farm at the place where people were dying. No other reason is needed," Schwarzenberg told reporters. The Czech state negotiated with the AGPI company, owning the pig farm complex, in the past, most recently in 2005 under the Social Democrats (CSSD)-led government, but in vain. The current centre-right government originally also planned to purchase the farm. Though the price was not officially releases, speculation emerged that it could amount to hundreds of millions of crowns. Minister in charge of minority agenda Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) said previously that the government would not have finances for the purchase. PM Mirek Topolanek (ODS) confirmed it a month ago. He said that a new memorial should be build next to the pig farm. However, the VPORH opposes the idea. According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
© Prague Daily Monitor

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CZECH SENATORS: BELARUS MUST NOT ENTER U.N.HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

15/5/2007- Czech representatives to the U.N. should actively prevent Belarus from succeeding with its candidacy for U.N. Human Rights Council membership, the Czech Senate commission on support to the Belarussian democratic opposition agreed today. Vlastimil Sehnal, the commission head, told CTK that he has already discussed the issue with Czech PM Mirek Topolanek (both Civic Democrats, ODS). "It is important to be united," Sehnal said. The U.N. Human Rights Council in the past repeatedly condemned the Belarussian regime for violation of fundamental freedoms. It called on the Belarussian government to stop persecuting NGOs, political parties, unions, independent media, religious organisations and people promoting human rights and democracy. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel, too, recently condemned Belarus's candidacy for membership of the council, which is the U.N.'s main body for human rights protection. The international community has criticised the authoritarian regime of Belarussian President Alexandr Lukashenko for a long time. The Czech Republic, like other countries, helps Belarussian dissidents and it has admitted for university studies several dozens of Belarussian students persecuted by the regime at home.  The Czech Senate commission wants to address Czech Deputy PM Alexandr Vondra (ODS) and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for the Greens) to discuss the possible lifting of the Czech visa fee from Belarussian students, Sehnal said.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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BELARUS LOSES UN HUMAN RIGHTS BID

17/5/2007- Belarus has been defeated in a bid to join the UN's Human Rights Council, with Bosnia-Hercegovina and Slovenia being chosen to fill two vacant seats. Western countries persuaded Bosnia to stand at the last minute and then threw their weight behind its candidacy. Human rights groups have praised the decision to shut out Belarus. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described the country, ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, as Europe's last dictatorship. The campaigning group Human Rights Watch said Bosnia's win over Belarus was "an important signal to the future that abusive governments" would not be acceptable members. Fourteen new members were elected to join the 47-member council, which aims to uphold human rights around the world. Egypt, Angola and Qatar won seats despite opposition from human rights groups. The vote follows the controversial election of Zimbabwe to a key UN body last week. Zimbabwe was elected to chair the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, despite having instituted land reforms which have left the country unable to feed itself.

'Authoritarian regimes'
The Human Rights Council was established in June last year to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. The commission had come under criticism for including countries accused of widespread human rights abuses. On Monday, 19 human rights groups urged the UN General Assembly to reject Egypt's candidacy, saying the government's record was "full of serious human rights violations that have been practised widely for long years". Two human rights watchdogs - UN Watch and Freedom House - also singled out Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar as "authoritarian regimes with negative UN voting records [on rights issues]... [who] are not qualified to be council members".
© BBC News

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ETHNIC MINORITY CANDIDATES TO RUN FOR PARLIAMENT (France)

14/5/2007- A French black community group said Monday it hopes to field 100 ethnic minority candidates in legislative elections next month to highlight the small number of black and Arab lawmakers. Patrick Lozes, head of the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) and Rachid Nekkaz, a fringe presidential candidate, told reporters they had so far registered 73 candidates, including 31 in the Paris area. They said they hoped to have at least 100 names by Friday, the deadline for candidates to register for the parliamentary election for which the first round is June 10. "The French people are lucky enough to have a president of foreign origin," said Nekkaz, referring to president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy whose father was from Hungary. "Now we need to bring diversity to all constituencies," said the 34-year-old businessman of Algerian origin who mounted a bid for the presidency but failed to win enough official endorsements to qualify for the race. "When you walk into a university, you can see that the diversity of French society is represented," he said. "When you go to the National Assembly, nothing has changed for the past 200 years." There are currently 10 black deputies in the 577-seat lower house National Assembly, all from French overseas territories in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Among the 555 elected in mainland France, none are black or of Muslim North African origin. Under the French electoral system, fringe candidates have little chance of being elected without striking an accord with one of the major parties, but Lozes said he wanted to raise public awareness of the problem. He called on "all parties to include candidates from ethnic minorities on their lists, with a fair chance of being elected." The Socialist Party is fielding around 15 candidates from ethnic minorities nationwide. Sarkozy's right wing UMP is not fielding any, but his campaign spokeswomen Rachida Dati, of north African origin, is tipped for a government post.

The 2005 riots in French suburbs cast the spotlight on discrimination against African immigrants and their children in the job market and public life, but there have been few signs of radical change. The CRAN calls for US-style affirmative action to improve education and job prospects for black people, including a quota of eight percent of black deputies in the National Assembly. But there is strong resistance in France to "positive discrimination" or even ethnic statistics, with critics saying it would undermine the Republican principle of equal citizenship regardless of race or religion. As president, Sarkozy has said he would introduce some form of "positive discrimination", but based on socio-economic rather than ethnic grounds.
© Expatica News

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SARKOZY BLOCKS SECOND SANGATTE(France)

13/5/2006- The new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is to halt plans for a “Sangatte 2” centre near Calais for migrants seeking to enter Britain illegally, writes Matthew Campbell. “I can assure you that the president is very much against this and will not let it happen,” a spokesman said yesterday. Sarkozy, who shut down the Sangatte refugee camp when he was interior minister in 2002, wants closer cooperation with Britain. Officials in Calais were planning a welfare centre in a disused football stadium, offering food, clothing and medical care for 300 migrants. A British official dismissed the chances of another Sangatte developing with Sarkozy in power as “zero”. Sarkozy, who will be sworn in as president this week, welcomed Tony Blair to Paris on Friday for talks about next month’s EU summit in Brussels — the prime minister’s last before he leaves office. They agreed that the proposed EU constitution rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005 was “dead” and that a “simplified version” for approval by parliaments was the best way out of the crisis. “The prime minister left Paris convinced that the possibilities of reaching an agreement [at the EU summit] in June are better than he thought,” said the British official. Jose Manuel Barroso, the EU commission president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, yesterday led a “brainstorming session” on how to break the stalemate over the constitution, which has to be approved by all 27 EU members to come into effect.
© The Times Online

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CLUBS FACE TOUGH SANCTIONS IN SPAIN’S NEW ANTI-RACISM LAW

13/5/2007- Spanish football clubs are threatened with points deductions and relegation in a tough new law designed to combat racism in sport, media reported on Friday. For extreme cases, the Law against Violence, Racism and Intolerance in Sport, which was approved by the lower house of parliament on Thursday, also proposes stadium closures for between four matches and a whole season. Stiff fines of up to 90,000 euros could be imposed on clubs, while punishments will also be available for individual sportsmen, referees and club directors. The law has been passed to the upper house and is expected to be in place for next season. Outbreaks of racist abuse have become a common occurrence in Spanish football matches in recent years, with leading clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Real Zaragoza and Getafe receiving fines because of the behaviour of some of their fans. National coach Luis Aragones caused an uproar in 2004 when he racially insulted Arsenal's French international striker Thierry Henry. But he was cleared by a Spanish court earlier this year.
© Reuters

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RIGA PRIDE GETS MORE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT(Latvia)

14/5/2007- Human rights campaigners from across Europe are to attend next month's Riga Pride. Last year the march was attacked and missiles and human excrement were thrown at participants. Gay and lesbian protesters were refused permission to march in Riga on the 22nd July 2006 by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry. A group of around 50 activists held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church. A gang of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement. A larger group protested outside an indoor Pride event in Riga. Amnesty International has announced that between 50 and 100 of its members from eleven countries will take part in this year's Riga Pride on 3rd June. A delegation of Swedish MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum are also expected to march. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has pledged his support for the Riga Pride event, and London Pride has twinned with Riga as a show of solidarity. Last week an open letter from Cardinal Janis Pujats, Archbishop of Riga, called on crowds of people to take to the streets of Riga to oppose Pride. "If there are 1,000 sexually crazy people acting foolishly in the square of Pride, then the people’s march in Riga should have at least 40,000 or 50,000," he wrote. "That proportion would give the government and public thought enough reason to leave sexual perversion outside the law." The Roman Catholic leader recommends holding the "provocative demonstration (Pride), in a location that is closed and limited some way – a garden or square." The new Mayor of the Latvian capital has publicly backed the 2007 gay rights march in the city.
© Pink News

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NEW SHOWDOWN LOOMS OVER GAY PRIDE IN MOSCOW (Russia)

14/5/2007- A new battled began on Monday over plans by LGBT groups to hold a gay pride parade in Moscow later this month. Applications for permits were filed Monday at Moscow City Hall and at the Kremlin. But as they were being made a conservative group filed its own papers for a counter demonstration to be held the night before the planned gay march. Moscow Gay Pride organizers want to hold their march on Sunday May 27. Official notification was delivered to the office of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who has said he would refuse to grant a permit. The application says that some 5,000 people are expected to participate. "Our public events are planned exclusively as a human rights action and not a carnival," said Nikolai Alekseev, a Moscow Pride organizer. "This year it will be attended not only by foreign but also Russian politicians and famous mainstream human rights activists. We welcome the participation not only of homosexual people but also of heterosexuals who share the principles of respect for the rights and liberties of all people irrespective of their personal characteristics." Alekseev also said that a separate application was delivered to the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin for 200 people to attend a memorial at Alexandrovsky Garden next to Kremlin Walls. Under Russian law only the President can grant authority for activities around the Kremlin. The small number of people to attend the memorial is the result of the size of the small garden.

As the Moscow Pride applications were being made a group known as the People's Union was making its own parade application. It wants to hold a march on the evening of May 26. The group says it wants to "defend Christian Orthodox culture and traditional lifestyles" "We are setting a return to the national traditions of Russia against this crying lack of culture," a spokesman for the People's Union told the Interfax news service. Interfax said the group also wants to hold similar marches in other Russian cities. Last month a Moscow court tossed out a lawsuit accusing Mayor Lushkov of libel over claims he made that gay rights marches were "satanic." The court ruled that Moscow Pride leaders had failed to prove that the remarks were incendiary or intended to vilify gays in general. In January during a Kremlin meeting before leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church Lushkov said that gay rights marches were "satanic,"  The speech was broadcast on Moscow television. Lushkov then went on to blast gay unions. "Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools," Lushkov said in the speech broadcast on Moscow television. "Such things are a deadly moral poison for children." Moscow Pride called Lushkov's remarks a "smear campaign" against gays and lesbians and filed the lawsuit. Last May, Lushkov refused to give a permit for the gay parade citing security concerns. Despite the ban, marchers attempted to hold a parade on May 27. Police quickly moved in arresting marchers and counter protestors. Most of the 200 people detained were gay. Charges against them also have been dropped. Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev was arrested as he was preparing to lead a group to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin. Police pushed the gays from the area, and into the hands of militant anti-gays who had gathered for a counter protest. As more than 1000 police attempted to clear the area at least one tear gas canister was set off by an anti-gay protestor. Alekseev was charged with violating the order denying Moscow Pride the right to "gather, meet, demonstrate, march or picket. The charges were later dropped.
© 365Gay.com

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MYTISHCHI NEO-NAZIS ADMIT TO SERIES OF MURDERS, ASSAULTS(Russia)

16/5/2007- Three 16-year-old neo-Nazis from the Moscow suburb of Mytishchi have admitted to five murders and assaults after turning themselves in to police, according to a May 16, 2007 report in the national daily Moskovsky Komsomolets. As the paper originally reported on April 24, the youths turned themselves in after finding out that investigators had determined their identities as the prime suspects in the murder earlier that month of a Krygyz man. Police at the time announced that the three suspects may be behind a series of other murders and assaults. According to the latest article, the suspects have confessed to the following additional crimes. In late February, they began to comb the streets of Mytishchi and the suburban trains connecting it and other suburbs to Moscow, searching for non-Russians to kill. Their first victim, a citizen of Tajikistan, was beaten almost to death by the gang, who attacked him with an axe, a hammer, and bottles. This same MO was repeated on a suburban train shortly afterwards, when screaming the neo-Nazi slogan “Glory to Russia!”, the youths attacked two Tajik men, again nearly killing them. On March 12, the youths spent several hours wandering the streets without successfully finding their victim. They were resting on a park bench when a dark-skinned man walked by. Thinking he was from the Caucasus, the youths beat him to death (it turned out that he was an ethnic Russian). In early April, the youths attacked an Armenian couple, beating the husband and stabbing the wife. Fortunately, both survived. The final act of violence that the youths are currently accused of is the mid-April murder of a Kyrgyz man. Prosecutors told Moskovsky Komsomolets that other attacks may yet be attributed to the youths, and that, in view of their youth and the fact that they turned themselves in, the murderous gang are facing at most ten years in prison if they are convicted.
© FSU Monitor

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POLICE INVESTIGATING SYNAGOGUE ARSON AS 'HOOLIGANISM'(Russia)

16/5/2007- Jewish community activists in Saratov are upset that local police are investigating a May 5 arson attack on their synagogue as a case of “hooliganism” rather than as a hate crime, according to a May 8, 2007 report by the Russian Jewish web site Jewish.ru. “Literally a few minutes before the explosion, a Jewish family left the synagogue, they had come from Israel and thank G-d none of them were injured,” an anonymous member of the synagogue was quoted as saying. “This was not in any way an act of hooliganism. Somebody planned this, somebody built the explosive device, somebody placed it there. I see this as an act aimed against the Jewish people. I hope that this case won’t have the brakes applied to it and that the culprits are found.” The arson was just the latest attack on the Jewish community, the source revealed. At the beginning of April, the home of a member of the Jewish community was targeted in an arson attack. Shortly afterwards, graffiti reading “Kikes to Israel” was daubed on a fence near the synagogue and antisemitic leaflets were circulated around the city. Police investigators classified these incidents as “hooliganism” as well and have yet to detain any suspects. “It’s convenient for the police that there not to be any well-publicized incidents of ethnically motivated crimes in Saratov,” the source told Jewish.ru. A police official was quoted in the article saying that there was no proof that the arson was directed against the synagogue, arguing that there is no sign on the outside of the building indicating that it is a synagogue. “The fact that the explosion took place at the window of the synagogue says nothing in and of itself,” the official said.
© FSU Monitor

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LOCAL JEWISH STUDENT STABBED TO DEATH IN ST. PETERSBURG (Russia)

13/5/2007- A 22-year-old Jewish man was stabbed to death on Saturday at the entrance to his apartment in St. Petersburg, Russia. The motive of the murder is still unclear however the local Jewish community believes that it may have been due to anti-Semitic sentiment. If true, this would be the most severe case of anti-Semitic violence in St. Petersburg in the last few years. Dmitri Mikolinski , a biology and yeshiva student, was murdered outside his parent's home while on his way to synagogue. His mother, who left the apartment a few minutes after him, found Mikolinski bleeding heavily after being stabbed in the neck. Police are investigating whether a security camera installed in the building has footage of the murder. Jews in the community told Haaretz that Mikolinski was a quiet and shy man and it is highly unlikely that he was involved with criminals. According to the Jewish community, the manner in which Mikolinski was murdered - a stabbing in the neck - is characteristic of a group of skinheads in the city.  In the past few years, a number of foreign students and civil rights activists were murdered in St. Petersburg, apparently by neo-Nazi skinheads. In most cases, the perpetrators were not apprehended or got off with light punishments.
© Haaretz

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UK’S CHIEF RABBI RAISES ISSUE OF ANTI-SEMITISM AT EU MEETING

15/5/2007- Sir Jonathan Sacks, the UK’s chief rabbi, raised the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe, during an unprecedented meeting on Tuesday between the EU leaders and representatives of the three monotheistic religions. “I made the point forcefully and the European leaders said that the law in Europe against inciting to hatred would be strictly enforced,” the rabbi told European Jewish Press after the informal gathering between the presidents of the three EU institutions and 20 leading representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. According to a well informed source, the European Commission will soon publish a report on anti-Semitism in Europe. Sacks, who is the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, noted that “with Angela Merkel in Germany, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown as next British Prime Minister, things should be good for Jews in Europe.”  Sacks was accompanied by three other rabbis at the meeting: Chief Rabbi David Lieberman of Antwerp, René Gutman, Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and Rabbi Julian-Chaim Soussan from Duesseldorf. During the meeting, Rabbi Lieberman, a member of the Presidium of the Rabbinical centre of Europe, stressed the importance of education for youths “to help know and respect each other.”

Common European values
The three EU leaders – José Manuel Barroso for the European Commission, Angela Merkel whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, and Hans-Gert Poettering, president of the European parliament- called on religious communities to help shape common European values and vowed to make tolerance the basis for a dialogue between cultures. “We agree with the principle of human dignity being in the core of our EU values,” Barroso said at a press briefing. “Human dignity but also democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, justice, solidarity, mutual respect, which are what bind Europeans together.” Tuesday’s meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue initiated by the European Commssion with the religious communities. Barroso added: "Neither geographical proximity nor a shared history suffice to cement a lasting union between States and peoples. Key to the process of integration between the member states of the European Union and between their citizens is the universal values underlying our common heritage". He stressed the need to respect freedom of religion in the EU but also in countries which want to join the union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe “has a particular responsibility to foster tolerance and help others to be tolerant.” “It has taken us hundreds of years to learn this lesson. This is why it is one of our core convictions that intolerance cannot be tolerated,” she added. EU and religious leaders also discussed how to promote common values beyond Europe’s borders.
© EJP

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REPORT: MANY EUROPEANS STILL ANTI-JEWISH

14/5/2007- A large number of Europeans still maintain "classical" anti-Jewish attitudes and prejudices, and in some cases anti-Semitic sentiments are rising, according to a new report released Monday by the Anti-Defamation League. "These attitudes help incite and legitimize anti-Semitism, including violence against Jews," said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's director, who added that the survey results are a cause for "great concern." The survey of five European countries also examined opinions on Israel and the Middle East in general. The poll, conducted in Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Spain, found that a majority of those surveyed, 51 per cent, believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country, and over 40 per cent believe Jews wield "too much" power in business and finance. Large portions of those surveyed believe Jews talk "too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust." In France, 40 per cent felt this way, while in Poland 48 per cent believed this to be true. In Germany, Spain and Italy about 45 per cent agreed with the sentiment. Overall, 20 per cent of respondents said they blame Jews for the death of Jesus. The study found the highest percentages of anti-Jewish attitudes among the Polish and Spanish, while Germany and France tend to have the lowest. On the matter of perceived Jewish control over government policy, the ADL found that nearly half of all respondents think "American Jews control U.S. Middle Eastern policy."  "Jews are not as powerful as they think we are," said Foxman in response to the finding, adding that Jews in the US "want to exercise power and influence just like anyone else." Foxman said "the survey shows that there are relations between views on Israel and opinions on Jews," although he could not explain the exact link between the two. Furthermore, the research indicates that Germans are most likely to believe that anti-Jewish feelings are responsible for violence against Jews, while Spain was the only country to have a plurality which believes anti-Israel sentiments are responsible for such violence.

In all the countries surveyed, most people believe governments are doing "enough" to ensure the security of Jewish citizens. In general, Europeans in the countries surveyed sympathize more with the Palestinians than with the Israelis, with the exception of Italy, but most respondents said they did not favour any side. However, a relative majority in all five countries believe the Islamic Hamas movement is a terrorist organization, and support the EU boycott on financial aid to the Palestinian government. Similarly, nearly half of those surveyed think the Lebanese Hezbollah movement is a terrorist group, although a majority believes Israel was wrong in using military force in Lebanon last summer. The last poll of Europe by the ADL was conducted in 2005. The ADL says certain "traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes" have gained acceptance in the last two years, and only Germany did not exhibit any increase in negative attitudes. While the survey found that overall attitudes towards Israel have changed little since 2005, fewer people now believe Israelis and Palestinians truly want a peace agreement than they did two years ago. Foxman, who believes in a "zero-tolerance for bias," says the key to ending anti-Jewish beliefs is education. "Individual governments, and the EU, need to find methods and implement programmes that will break down the old stereotypes" and "make anti-Semitism unacceptable in their societies," he said.
© Expatica News

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Headlines 11 May, 2007

RACIALLY MOTIVATED ATTACKS ON THE RISE(Ukraine, commentary)

Ukrainian officialdom is beginning to take notice of the rising tide of assaults on foreigners.
By Nickolai Butkevich, research and advocacy director at the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

10/5/2007- Amid the drama of Ukraine's latest political crisis, few observers have noticed a series of potentially groundbreaking statements on the problem of extremist violence issued by top government officials in recent weeks. For years, Ukrainian officials either ignored or denied that organized hate groups even exist in Ukraine, despite reports by the media and nongovernmental organizations of a growing number of anti-Semitic and racist attacks. Breaking dramatically with this trend, in March personnel of the Interior Ministry proposed forming a unit to combat radical neo-Nazi youth gangs, and the new interior minister, Vasily Tsushko, reportedly called for a law to disband organizations that use fascist symbols. A month later, on 12 April, President Viktor Yushchenko sent a letter to his top law-enforcement officials demanding that measures be taken to arrest and punish the vandals who defaced Jewish and other memorial sites. The president echoed Tsushko in noting the increased activity of extremist groups in Ukraine. What prompted this burst of candor? Coincidentally or not, an unusually high number of racist attacks took place throughout the country in March and April, raising the disturbing prospect that Ukraine may be taking its first steps on the path of neighboring Russia, where racist violence is now a daily event.

Lengthening list of attacks
A report by Vyacheslav Likhachyov, who monitors events in Kyiv for the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, detailed several recent incidents. On 3 March, around 50 extremist nationalists held a rally in Kyiv. With arms extended in the fascist salute, the demonstrators screamed slogans like "Ukraine for the Ukrainians!" in a protest near the city's Shulyavsky Market, whose traders are mostly from African nations and other developing countries. The protesters accused the traders of "sleeping with our women" and held signs reading, bizarrely, "Stop Zionist-African expansion." Three protesters reportedly attacked a Chinese man who had the misfortune to walk past, chasing him into a nearby McDonald's, where security guards eventually stopped them from beating him. In late April, the market burned down in a mysterious fire; police are investigating the possibility that either neo-Nazis or ordinary criminals were behind the blaze. Attacks on dark-skinned people are becoming so common that some past victims have resorted to arming themselves, having largely given up on the possibility that the police will protect them. On 9 March, eight teenagers attacked five Indian students at a medical institute in Simferopol. One of the students used a scalpel during the brawl to slash one of the attackers, who was subsequently hospitalized; another Indian used a gas-powered pistol. Police denied that the attackers were neo-Nazis, despite the fact that similar attacks were reported the previous and the following month, strongly suggesting the possibility of an organized campaign to target foreign students.

Incitement of neo-Nazi violence often takes place in Ukraine with complete impunity. On 16 March, hundreds of neo-Nazis gathered in Kyiv for a "white power" rock concert by the group Tin Sontsa (Shadow of the Sun). An anti-fascist youth activist was assaulted near the concert venue – the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – after trying to take pictures of the event. Recorded speeches of Adolf Hitler were played during the concert as the musicians screamed "Sieg heil!" and raised their arms in the fascist salute. The lead singer reportedly incited the crowd, calling out, "If you see a Jew, break his nose!" There was unconfirmed information that market traders from the Caucasus working near the concert venue were also attacked. A particularly depressing example of racist incitement took place at a center of learning. On 18 March, university students in Kharkov held a torchlight procession on campus. Marchers shouted in unison: "One race! One nation! Our motherland – Ukraine!" and "Give the best dormitories to Ukrainian students!" University officials reportedly authorized the demonstration, which passed without incident. The head of the Kharkov Human Rights Protection Group, the country's leading human rights group, Evgeny Zakharov, said this was the third such demonstration on that campus in recent months and that violence against foreign students followed the previous marches. However, the victims were too intimidated to report the attacks to the police. On 14 April, around 100 members of the far-right group Patriot of Ukraine held a legally sanctioned rally in Kyiv, the newspaper Segodnya reported. Screaming "One race! One nation! Ukraine!" the demonstrators marched without incident as police looked on. Public incitement of ethnic hatred is illegal in Ukraine.

Scant signs of change
One heartening aspect of the recent rise in xenophobia and violence is the changing attitude toward the problem shown by the Ukrainian media. In the past six months or so the media have gone from largely overlooking or minimizing the problem to giving it moderately good coverage. The tone of the coverage ranges from dispassionate reporting to alarmist, with many references to "fascism" and in some cases attempts to link the violence to western Ukrainian nationalists, for the most part unfairly. The Donetsk edition of the Russian national daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on 16 April, for instance, that an Egyptian diplomat was attacked in downtown Kyiv by around a dozen neo-Nazis. It is unclear if any arrests followed the attack, or if it was specifically motivated by racism.

Three neo-Nazis damaged houses being constructed by Crimean Tatars in Simferopol, according to a report in the 27 April edition of the local Golos Kryma newspaper. The incident took place on 20 April, which is Adolf Hitler's birthday – often a time of increased neo-Nazi violence. The three youths damaged eight houses before they were chased off by Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group that was deported en masse by Joseph Stalin in 1944 and allowed to return to its homeland only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Tatars caught one of the youths and turned him over to the police. According to two witnesses quoted in the article, the young man had two swastika emblems on his clothes, along with another on his backpack. Despite this, and despite the timing of the incident, local police refuse to admit the possibility that the youths are admirers of Hitler. "Information that skinheads were involved in this incident has not been confirmed," the regional police's spokesman Aleksandr Dombrovsky was quoted as saying, echoing comments made by local police officials in the wake of a 2005 neo-Nazi attack on Jewish children in Simferopol and subsequent clashes between ethnic Russian and Crimean Tatar youths. The two men who escaped the Tatars then attacked some Indian medical students who unluckily crossed their path.

Aside from the welcome candor of Yushchenko and his new interior minister on the threat that violent extremists pose to public safety, the government's reaction to this wave of violence has been mixed. As with previously reported anti-Semitic attacks, there have been relatively few arrests made in connection with the recent assaults. It remains to be seen what sort of concrete actions, if any, will follow the change in rhetoric. But there are some signs of hope. On 28 April, police in Kyiv arrested 77 people, including 37 whose "appearance was similar to skinheads," after they tried to hold a march to honor an SS unit made up of Ukrainians during World War II, according to a report by the UNIAN news agency. The police were enforcing a court order banning the march, which generated much controversy in the Ukrainian media. While some Ukrainians see the soldiers of the SS Galichina division as heroes who fought for an independent Ukraine, others accuse the unit of war crimes. It is unclear what charges, if any, were filed against the 77 demonstrators, though presumably the owner of a taxi cab in which Molotov cocktails and a swastika insignia were found potentially faces serious legal consequences. The same day, Tsushko revealed that his ministry was considering creating a unit charged solely with combating extremist groups. Nevertheless, given the political instability that the country is experiencing, even the best-intentioned efforts to mount a coordinated crackdown on extremist groups will be unusually difficult to mount. In the meantime, it's a safe bet that hate groups, emboldened by the government's apparent inability to counter their activities in any systematic way, will continue trying to demonize, terrorize, and even kill people who don't fit into their image of "one race, one nation."
© Transitions Online

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DENMARK'S NEW PARTY AIMS TO SHAKE UP THE FAR RIGHT

Danish parliamentarian Naser Khader stepped into the limelight during last year's clash over the Mohammed caricatures. An advocate of free speech and Muslim dialogue, he's now founded a new party against right-wingers.

9/5/2007- Denmark's new party, Ny Alliance (New Alliance), has been stirring up the country's political landscape. Earlier this week, the party officially broke away from the social-liberal party Det Radikale Venstre under the leadership of Syrian-born parliamentarian Naser Khader. "We feel politically homeless and believe that there are many others who feel the same way," said Khader. Khader has gained in popularity since a Danish newspaper caused an international uproar by publishing caricatures of Mohammed in September 2005. He founded the Association of Democratic Muslims and advocated dialogue among Muslims themselves. He also appealed to the Danish people to differentiate between radical Muslims and those with democratic ideals. For some observers, the time seems ripe for a shift toward the left. According to German Denmark expert Bernd Henningsen, Ny Alliance has the potential to "bring the country to its senses."

Nationalist tendencies
Over the past few months, members of the nationalistic Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party) have provoked the public with numerous statements against foreigners. One member of the country's third strongest party called homosexuality a "sickness." Another parliamentarian found resonance among fellow politicians when he compared the Muslim headscarf to the Nazi swastika. According to official statements, Ny Alliance members left the Folkeparti in protest of its national rhetoric.

If you can't beat them…
Det Radikale Venstre, which is more center-left on the political spectrum than the name suggests, is no less vocal against the far right than the Khader's group. What differentiates the newbies, however, is not their stance but their strategy: While Det Radikale Venstre boycotts the government, New Alliance wants to join it. Members of the new party have offered to partner up in a liberal-conservative coalition under Prime Minster Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the Liberal Party after the 2009 national elections. This would mean sending home the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti, which the ruling liberal-conservative coalition is dependent on for support. Margrethe Vestager, vice chairwoman of Det Radikale Venstre, said she regrets Khader's decision to break away. "We are not interested in a coalition under Anders Fogh Rasmussen," said Vestager. "His cooperation with the Dansk Folkeparti and his position on tax policy are not acceptable to us."

Support from conservatives
In part due to its aim of forming a government coalition, Ny Alliance can count on support from the conservative camp. One of the most prominent examples is EU parliamentarian Gitte Seeberg, who left the Konservative Folkeparti (Conservative People's Party) to co-found Ny Alliance. Seeberg said that cooperation with the Dansk Folkeparti on issues like immigration, the European Union and globalization had become nearly impossible. Ny Alliance, on the other hand, aims for "100 percent membership in the EU" and stands for a "strict but humanitarian immigration policy," she added. Denmark has one of the tightest asylum policies in Europe. Last year, the Council of Europe criticized the Scandinavian country for maintaining "an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia." Just a few days after its founding, Ny Alliance claims to have some 10,500 members already, which would put it on equal ground with its political opponents. The right-wing Dansk Folkeparti has about 8,500 members and the social-liberal Det Radikale Venstre has 10,000.
© Deutsche Welle

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GROUP4SECURICOR ACCUSED OF RACISM (Denmark/Africa)

9/5/2007- A Danish-British company that is the largest employer in Africa has been accused of racism and forcing its employees to work under deplorable conditions. Africa's largest employer has allegedly operated along racially-segregated lines and provided sub-par working conditions for its employees, according to two of the world's foremost labour unions. Group4Securicor, a Danish-British security company, has been accused by US-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Swiss-based Union Network International (UNI) of substantially underpaying its workers, unlawful firings and racially dividing its workforce, Berlingske Tidende newspaper reported Wednesday. The accusations were made after Christy Hoffman, UNI's president, visited several worksites in Africa that employ Group4Securicor workers. She called the situation 'shameful' for the company, which employs 82,000 on the continent. 'G4S treats its security employees very harshly,' said Hoffman. 'In South Africa the black workers have tolerated being called apes and kaffirs - traditionally a term of degradation amongst South Africans. They also are forced to use separate toilets from the white employees.' Hoffman described other situations where employees had to work 12-hour days without compensation, were given no holiday time or days off for years, and worked in unsanitary conditions. Many were only paid between $20 and $30 per month, she claimed. Alf Duch-Pedersen, G4S's Danish board chairman, called the accusations 'groundless' and part of a years-long smear campaign by SEIU and UNI, whose purpose has been to organise the employees into a union. Duch-Pedersen said that the employees are not officially represented by a union, and that he would not support a move to organise them under SEIU. 'In SEIU's contract it states that individual employees can no longer vote secretly on whether they want to be represented or not. It's an open vote, so one can imagine what the consequences would be for someone who voted no,' said Duch-Pedersen. He said he personally visited some of the worksites in question and found nothing to substantiate the unions' claims. 'We use the Scandinavian model at G4S worksites, so I can say with peace of mind that we treat our employees much better than the law there requires.' Steen Gade, the Socialist People's Party's foreign affairs spokesperson, has filed a formal request to the foreign minister, Per Stig Møller, to investigate the allegations - in particular, whether G4S security personnel hired by several embassies in Africa were paid appropriately and treated properly.
© The Copenhagen Post

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THOUSANDS EXPECTED AT ANTI-RACISM PROTEST IN BUDAPEST(Hungary)

9/5/2007- The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) expects thousands of people to participate in a peaceful protest against racism to be held on the Pest lower embankment between the Lánchíd (Chain Bridge) and the Margit Bridge on Wednesday evening, writes fn.hu. The main speaker of the event will be Prime Minister and MSZP Chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány. The central location of the event will be the "Shoes on the Danube Bank" memorial, which was erected two years ago to commemorate victims of the Arrow Cross, the Nazi party that ruled Hungary during World War II. A "zero tolerance manifesto" against hate will be signed by participants, who will then form a torchlight "peace chain" between the two bridges. Other officials scheduled to attend the event include Sándor Burány, chairman of the MSZP's Budapest chapter, Péter Feldmájer, chairman of the Association of Jewish Religious Communities of Hungary (Mazsihisz), and Orbán Kolompár, chairman of the National Gypsy Government (OCÖ). May 9 is Europe Day, which marks the anniversary of the day in 1950 when the European Union was conceived, and it is also the date many countries mark the end of the Second World War in Europe.
© Caboodle

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REACTIONARY REVOLUTIONARIES(Russia)

Leaders of the Nashi youth movement use the rhetoric of revolution to make sure Russia stays the course.
By Evgeniya Konovalova, freelance journalist based in Krasnodar.

11/5/2007- In early May, activists from the Russian youth group Nashi stormed the Estonian Embassy in Moscow. They were angered by Estonia’s decision to move a monument to Soviet war dead from Tallinn’s city center to a military cemetery. The ambassador was preparing for a news conference when members of the group, denied entry, decided to storm the building, according to The Moscow Times. The paper quoted the Nashi leader as demanding that Estonian authorities “apologize for what they did.” The decision to move the statue has heightened tensions between Moscow and Tallinn, and Nashi’s full-throttled entry into the fray has given ammunition to the group’s critics, who charge that it is a Kremlin mouthpiece. Members of the group, however, say it operates independently, encouraging civic involvement and volunteerism. The group’s slogan proclaims, “Today, a Nashi member. Tomorrow, a new Russian elite.” Barely two years old, Nashi claims 200,000 members nationwide, 10,000 of whom it says are regular activists. That makes it Russia’s largest youth movement. Its manifesto calls for a social revolution, although it does not hide its support for President Vladimir Putin. Although a recent opinion poll showed that most Russian adults have never heard of Nashi, the movement’s rapid growth and rather conservative civic outlook have earned it criticism and plaudits from those who have watched it closely.

The Kremlin connection
Nashi (Ours) was founded in April 2005 at a Moscow conference as a "democratic youth and anti-fascist movement." Its leader was Vasily Yakimenko, a former employee of the Russian presidential administration and a former leader of the pro-Kremlin Iduschie vmeste (Walking Together) organization. It was Yakimenko who led the protesters at the Estonian Embassy. It is still unclear, though, who actually created Nashi and whether it is connected with the Kremlin. The press often links Nashi with Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration. But Aleksey Filonov, a national Nashi leader who took part in its creation, says the Kremlin does not control the group. “Of course, … Putin supports our activities, but to say that everything goes from the top and the president dictates what we do is silly. Nobody decides anything for us. All actions, programs, projects are created and organized only by ourselves, regular people,” Filonov said. However, Igor Papanov, chairman of the independent, Krasnodar-based Public Opinion Foundation, suspects there is behind-the-scenes manipulation of the organization, especially as the Kremlin seeks continuity for Putin’s policies after the president’s constitutionally mandated two terms expire next year. “Right now, there is a struggle for young, disciplined, and reliable voters,” he said. “The Nashi mission is to attract young people, spark their political activity, and, perhaps, direct them in a way that’s best for the Kremlin administration.”  Viktor Yurchenko, a professor and political scientist from Krasnodar, says Nashi probably enjoys the Kremlin’s support but mostly in the form of silent approval. “Of course, they’ve been helped, but to my mind Nashi is a completely natural and autonomous organization. An active period always follows a passive one, and young people are beginning to join political groups on their own, and they want to do it professionally. On the whole, I find it a positive development,” Yurchenko said.

New elite or old komsomol?
Ninety percent of Nashi’s members are university students, the other 10 percent high school students. They promote the ideals of patriotism, anti-fascism, freedom, and justice. They support Putin’s political line because, according to Nashi’s manifesto, “Putin was the first to strengthen the state and stand up to the oligarchic capitalist regime.” “Our main aim is to make Russia a global leader of the 21st century. Our tasks are to preserve state sovereignty and integrity, make a modern country, and form a free civil society,” Filonov said. To do so, the movement must groom leaders. “We must create a new political, economic, and social elite of the country to replace the defeatist generation that exists now,” he said. To that end, some representatives of the Nashi movement and other patriotic groups attend a new higher-education institute for management, where they are taught by prominent social and political scientists and journalists. Like Nashi itself, the genesis of the school is murky, but some Nashi activists say it has links to the Kremlin and large Russian companies like natural gas giant Gazprom and oil pipeline operator Transnefteproduct. The activities of the Nashi movement in Kuban, a region in the north Caucasus that includes the city of Krasnodar, are subsidized by Sergey Shishkarev, deputy chairman of the Duma’s energy, transport, and communications committee. But regional Nashi leader Yury Saprykin insists that the government has no hand in financing the movement. “If someone gives money, he does it on his own, with his own funds, not because the Kremlin told him to,” Saprykin said. One critic of the movement says it supports the ruling United Russia Party because that makes good career sense. Anna Balueva, a second-year journalism student at Kuban State University, issues Limonka, the journal of the local branch of the opposition National Bolshevist Party. She says Nashi is a government movement fueled by a rather basic motive. “Their slogans might be noble, but they are all lies. They’re in it to make money,” she said.

Actually, there are lots of reasons to join the Nashi ranks, like free trips all over Russia, or the opportunity to get a second free higher education or a probationary placement at such companies as Gazprom and Lukoil. Some members acknowledge that they joined not for the ideology but for the opportunities. “I was attracted by the chance to get more free education, but I was also interested in helping people,” said Maria Mamontova, a second-year student of management at Kuban State University. “I always wanted to help abandoned children and children’s homes, and I was able to do both with the help of the movement.” Olesya Ardasheva, a student in Kuban State’s journalism department, also joined for professional reasons. “Journalism was important to me; I was offered the chance to work on [Nashi’s] publications. The socializing came second, and, as for ideology, I didn’t know anything about it at the time.” For Evgeny Moshkarin, a fifth-year economics student, the payoff was less tangible. “The movement helped me gain self-confidence,” he said. Nevertheless, the same students say they are inspired by Nashi’s patriotic, anti-fascist ideology. “We paint over fascist swastikas on houses and fences,” Ardasheva said. “We’re developing a program called School of the 21st Century, where students will help pupils to study and develop a sense of patriotism,” Moshkarin said. Other projects include assisting veterans and protesting genetically modified foods. Two nationwide programs to fight racism and help modernize the army – Nashi has formed teams to help train potential conscripts and tries to raise the prestige of Russia’s armed forces – have the blessing of the president. In late March the group rallied in Moscow to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s election to the presidency. In December, 60,000 Nashi members came to Moscow. Dressed as Grandfather Frost, the genial old man in Slavic tradition who gives gifts to children on New Year’s, they feted 10,000 veterans. The demonstration was the brainchild of 18-year-old Muscovite Aleksy Pilutik, who got 1 million rubles for the idea.

During elections to be held in March 2008, Nashi has said it will deploy 10,000 members as monitors. Olga Ivanova, a Krasnodar leader of the National Bolshevist Party, compares Nashi with the Young Communist League, calling it “a poor imitation of the Soviet Komsomol.” Saprykin and others reject such comparisons. “The Nashi movement doesn’t have anything to do with Soviet Komsomol,” he said. Nevertheless, the structure of the organization, with its strict hierarchy and regular reports, resembles the Soviet-era Communist Party. Provinces report to five federal commissars, including the Nashi leader, and must submit monthly reports on work completed and proposals under consideration.

Samaritans or zombies?
Whatever Nashi’s connections, observers are divided on what role it can play in Russian society. Some paint its members as inoffensive civic do-gooders or automatons in the making. “They are a lot of promising kids who want to be educated and try to do something good for the country. However, I admit that they don’t accomplish very much,” said Yurchenko, the Krasnodar political scientist. Anatoly Parinov, who teaches international economics at Kuban State University, says the movement is essentially harmless. “Nashi is a lesser evil among many that threaten our young people. It’s much better than drugs and hard drinking. Youth need direction,” he said. Others are more skeptical. “A new elite must think freely, but these activists are like zombies: they repeat memorized phrases from the manifesto, don’t understand anything clearly, and stage shocking and strange demonstrations,” said Svetlana Chernyshova, who chairs a Krasnodar council to combat underage smoking. “Of course, there are some talented kids [in Nashi] who try to do something useful, there are some good projects. But if I put it in percentages, I’d say it’s 70 percent negative and just 30 percent positive,” she said. Tatiana Pospelova, who studies management at Kuban State University, agrees. “This movement makes a lot of people nervous. … Any people’s union that is structured and well-organized is a big force that is simply manipulated by the people at the helm.”

Where to now?
If, as some critics contend, Nashi’s primary role is to help ensure that Putin’s political program survives the 2008 elections, then it’s unclear what purpose – or future – the movement will have after the vote. “In order to keep up our activities we have to have the will and the means. We have both. We might even become a party after 2008, and that could determine how effective we can be,” Nashi federal commissar Filonov said. But Oleg Zharko, a Kuban region public relations expert who is corporate affairs manager for a multinational firm, said Nashi could lose its raison d’etre. “There is a real possibility that this movement will become unnecessary after the elections,” he said. “Some particularly committed leaders might be able to organize small marginal groups, but they will not play much of a role in Russia’s political and social life.” Some Nashi activists themselves are focusing their energy on the present instead of the future. “Right now, everybody is trying to make the most of the movement,” said Olesya Ardasheva, a Nashi leader in Krasnodar. “Of course, I want the movement to continue after the elections, but we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.”
© Transitions Online

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NATIONALISTS STAIN MAY DAY AND VICTORY DAY IN RUSSIA

11/5/2007- Anti-Estonian rhetoric and activities; attacks on minorities; subcultural and left-wing youth and nazi groups taking part in May Day and Victory Day – these events form the dark political tapestry woven by the extreme right-wing in the first ten days of May.

On 1 May, the first legal nazi march since November 2005 took place in Moscow. More than 300 members of such organisations as the DPNI (Movement Against Illegal Immigration), the NDPR (People’s State Party of Russia), the NBF (National Bolshevik Front), Russian Order, the SS (Slavic Union) and the others took part. The march took place in Moscow district Ostankino and ended with a rally near the TV tower. Slogans at the march and speeches made at the rally were full of nazi rhetoric and obscenities. This did not, however, prompt any intervention from the police on hand. Pictures from the march are available here.

In St. Petersburg, on 1 May, about 150 nationalists, mostly from the DPNI and SS joined the Communist Party’s march with such slogans as “No to immigration, yes to deportation!” and “Kuryanovich is our president” (Kuryanovich is a notoriously nationalist MP). Anti-fascist activists attempted to block the path of the nazis with a banner bearing the slogan “Death to fascism!” There were no clashes during the march itself, but attacks on anarchists and anti-fascists were reported during the day. Another group of anti-fascists managed to hang a big banner with a slogan “Towards new victories! Fascism has many faces” on the wall of one of St Petersburg’s biggest shopping centres. The banner hung there for several minutes while Second World War veterans marched past but was then removed by police. Some of the anti-fascists were detained by police, but were released after a couple of hours. St. Petersburg Police department said that there were no hate crimes reported in the city on the day but besides attacks on anti-fascists, at least one attack, by ten nazi skinheads on a group of Chinese people, has been noted.

On 9 May in Moscow, another nationalist march took place, this time in the city centre, organised by Sergei Baburin, also an organiser of last November’s so-called Russian March. Among the participants there were MPs Kuryanovich and Alksnis, activists of RONS (Russian All-nation Union), the Union of Orthodox Gonfaloniers, the Union of Russian People, the DPNI and the SS. Marchers shouted “Kondopoga – is a heroic town”, “Russian order for Russia” and some antisemitic slogans but, again, the police did not intervene.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis

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DEJA VU ( Russia, editorial Kyiv Post)

8/5/2007- As former Soviet republics celebrate Victory Day this week, there is a lingering mood that the war is still on in the eyes of Moscow. The relocation of the Tallinn Bronze Soldier became the focus of a coordinated protest and media campaign that saw violence erupt in Estonia’s capital city and embassy in Moscow. Pro-Russian protesters and media argued that moving the Soviet memorial to a cemetery was tantamount to fascism. Estonians viewed Soviet troops as occupiers. While this issue has sparked large debate, the dangerous hypocrisy lies in the fact that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not tackling a much larger neo-Nazi problem at home. According to human rights watchdogs, hate crimes across Russia were up 33 percent year-on-year on the occasion of Hitler’s birthday last month. Instead of fighting modern fascism at home, Russian society is forced to constantly relive the Second World War and fight a “fascism” that was already defeated by the Soviets (and others) 50 years ago. This latest display of machismo from Moscow presents new challenges for the EU and NATO. Moscow has demonstrated its readiness to use energy supplies, the Internet and state-controlled media as political weapons. Neo-Soviet propaganda continues to equate NATO and fascism, depicting the Alliance as the 21st century descendant of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Despite the political chaos in Ukraine, which has seen thousands of protesters in Kyiv in the last month, the situation has remained calm, with no clashing, looting and arrests, as in Tallinn, Berlin and Paris. While the Ukrainian protesters may have been paid political tourists, they chose dancing and singing over rock-throwing and car-burning. If non-violence is a European trait, then Ukraine can claim rightful membership in Europe. In Russia, the situation is starkly different. Fear-mongering protests seemingly backed by the Kremlin are on the rise, as peaceful opposition rallies get systematically crushed. The unofficial eastern boundary of Europe currently lies on the Ukraine-Russia border.
© Kyiv Post

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IN RUSSIA, A TOP RABBI USES KREMLIN TIES TO GAIN POWER

Putin's Support Gives Clout to Chabad Sect; Change Comes to Omsk 

8/5/2007-  Of all the strange relationships that define today's Russia, few are stranger than the alliance between President Vladimir Putin and an ultra-Orthodox rabbi named Berel Lazar. Rabbi Lazar is a follower of Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic sect based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that is on the fringes of mainstream Judaism. Its devotees are known for their love of the Rebbe, their late spiritual leader. Some even think he's the Messiah. In Russia, the Lubavitch are not a marginal sect but a dominant force in Jewish life. Their leader, Rabbi Lazar, goes by the title of Russia's chief rabbi and is viewed by many to be head of the country's Jewish community. Thriving on Mr. Putin's patronage, his organization, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, is now one of Russia's leading charities, with schools, clinics, orphanages and community centers across the country. Some credit it with single-handedly reviving Jewish life in the Russian hinterlands. But critics charge its success is based on a Faustian bargain with the Kremlin. They say Rabbi Lazar has at times deliberately played down anti-Semitism in Russia and acted as a lobbyist for Mr. Putin around the world. In exchange, Chabad-Lubavitch enjoys unparalleled political influence and has been allowed to gain control of millions of dollars worth of communal property from the Russian state, often trouncing rival claims from other Jewish organizations, critics say.

"There were always court Jews under the Czars, under the Soviets," says Yevgeny Satanovsky, a Jewish community leader. "Lazar is firmly in that tradition." A jovial father of 12 in a traditional black gabardine suit and fedora, Rabbi Lazar, 42 years old, says his influence is exaggerated. "There's this myth that I have the key to the president's office," he laughs. But he quickly adds: "I think it's very important to have a good relationship with the authorities." Brushing off claims he's too soft on Mr. Putin and his crackdown on democracy, he says it's not his place to speak out on issues not directly related to Jewish life. Rabbi Lazar's rise coincided with Mr. Putin's drive to centralize power and crush dissent. After entering the Kremlin in 2000, the new president silenced independent media, jailed critical businessmen, neutered parliament and nationalized energy assets. But his reach also extended deep into civil society. Organizations loyal to Mr. Putin, such as the Federation of Jewish Communities, known in Russian as FEOR, were protected and promoted, Kremlin critics say. Those he saw as untrustworthy were pushed aside. Sometimes, when a group was independent, the authorities simply created a clone that was more pliant, critics have alleged.

'Kremlin Connections'
FEOR's rise demonstrates how ambitious groups can take advantage of the government's tightening grip on Russian society in order to push their own agendas and sideline rivals. FEOR is frequently accused of seeking to be the sole voice of Jews in Russia in much the same way as the Kremlin monopolizes Russian politics. "Their Kremlin connections have allowed them to lock themselves in place as the official leaders of the community here," says Alexander Osovtsov, a former vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress and an outspoken critic of President Putin. For centuries, the fate of Russia's Jews rested on the whim of their rulers. In Czarist times they were confined to a region in the west of the Russian Empire called the Pale of Settlement, and were prey to Cossack pogroms. Under the Soviets, religious life was forced underground and Jews were subjected to quotas in universities. In 1991 communism collapsed, Russia's borders opened, and hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated, mainly to Israel. Foreign rabbis flooded in to help Jews who stayed behind reclaim their ethnic and religious identity. They had a lot of work to do: The vast majority of the 600,000 to 1 million Jews in Russia are secular, assimilated and divorced from Jewish tradition.

Among the foreign rabbis were followers of Chabad. Born in the late 18th century in the then-Russian town of Lubavitch, Chabad survived the Holocaust by moving to the U.S., eventually settling in Brooklyn. Under the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Chabad grew from a tiny sect into a global movement dedicated to bringing nonobservant Jews back to their faith. Its New York City activists are famous for driving around in specially outfitted vehicles known as "Mitzvah Tanks" and handing out Sabbath candles or holding short religious ceremonies with passing Jews. Chabad -- an acronym made up of the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge -- now has 4,000 emissaries, known as shluchim, operating in 73 countries around the world. Just over 150 of them are in Russia, including Rabbi Lazar. Born in Milan, the child of shluchim parents, he studied at seminaries in the U.S. and came to Russia in 1990, with a plan to stay for one year. He never left. Initially, Chabad was a small presence in Russia. It was overshadowed by more-established local groups that had grown in strength by aligning themselves with Jewish oligarchs -- the tycoons who used their connections to build up huge fortunes and wield vast power in 1990s Russia. The biggest was the Russian Jewish Congress, a philanthropic group set up in 1996 by media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky.

Improving Fortunes
But Chabad's fortunes improved dramatically with the 2000 election of Mr. Putin, who was determined to curb the power of the oligarchs. Mr. Gusinsky, who had used his media outlets to fiercely attack the government, was at the top of his hit list. Soon, tax police were raiding Mr. Gusinsky's media company. Over the ensuing months, it was taken over by the state gas monopoly. Then the authorities began targeting his other stronghold, the Jewish Congress, critics say. "Putin perceived the Congress as a threat," says Tancred Golenpolsky, one of the Congress's founders and publisher of one of Russia's oldest Jewish newspapers. "It was a gang of oligarchs who he couldn't rely on." A Kremlin spokesman denies it targeted the Congress. As a charitable foundation, it "could not be perceived as a political threat to the state," he says. The Kremlin didn't challenge Mr. Gusinsky directly at the Congress, which was packed with the magnate's supporters. Mr. Putin instead backed a rival group -- FEOR, which was created in 1999 by Rabbi Lazar and the Uzbek-born Israeli diamond dealer Lev Leviev. This strategy helped the Kremlin deflect accusations that its campaign against the Congress was anti-Semitic.

FEOR's founding gathering at Moscow's Olympic Penta hotel was lavishly covered in the state media. The organization claimed to represent dozens of Jewish communities. But from the start, Chabadniks dominated FEOR's governing body, programs and policies. FEOR's main goal was to have its man installed as chief rabbi -- the officially recognized head of the Jewish community in Russia. At the time, the position was held by Adolf Shayevich, who backed Mr. Gusinsky's Jewish Congress. In May 2000, Rabbi Shayevich says, Mr. Leviev offered him $240,000 to step down and hand power over to Rabbi Lazar. He says he retorted that his post was not for sale. Mr. Leviev declined to comment, and Rabbi Lazar says he knows nothing about the alleged offer. Less than two weeks later, FEOR assembled in Moscow and elected Rabbi Lazar as chief rabbi, claiming that the organization represented the entire Russian Jewish community. That same day, Mr. Gusinsky was arrested. After spending four days in jail, he fled Russia, never to return. Rabbi Lazar says the initiative for his election came from local communities frightened of being identified with Mr. Gusinsky's brand of opposition politics. "They said if this goes on we'll have the whole country against us," he says. But many wondered how the Italian-born envoy of an ultra-Orthodox sect who spoke broken Russian had come to assume leadership of all of Russia's Jews. By some estimates, less than 5% of Russia's Jewish population is Chabad. Rabbi Lazar had received a Russian passport just a few weeks before his election. "It was as if 30 Catholic priests from Poland and Ireland elected...(the) Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church," says Mr. Satanovsky, who was president of the Jewish Congress from 2001 till 2004. Rabbi Shayevich refused to cede his title. The two have been at odds ever since, with both claiming to be chief rabbi. Some organizations and publications recognize both of them. But Mr. Putin quickly made it clear whose side he was on. In September 2000 he opened Chabad's new $10 million community center in Moscow, praising FEOR as a "constructive and influential organization." A photo of him cutting the ribbon by Rabbi Lazar's side graces the rabbi's conference room.

Not on the Guest List
When Mr. Putin gave his first State of the Nation speech in July 2000, he invited Rabbi Lazar to attend, leaving Rabbi Shayevich off the guest list -- the first of many snubs. The following year, the president replaced Rabbi Shayevich with Rabbi Lazar on a council that advises him on religious issues. The Kremlin denied playing favorites. "We don't interfere in the internal affairs of the Jewish community," the spokesman said. Rabbi Lazar quickly endeared himself to his new patrons. In media interviews, he stressed that the crackdown on Mr. Gusinsky had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. On numerous trips to Washington, he lobbied members of Congress, made speeches and gave countless media interviews against the Jackson-Vanik amendment. That Cold War law, which curbed U.S. trade with nations restricting emigration, has long rankled the Kremlin. He also praised Mr. Putin for presiding over a steep decline in anti-Semitism. Speaking in Jerusalem in October 2004, he said Russia was "one of the safest places for Jews in Europe," a statement that provoked outrage among some Jewish leaders back home. The facts suggested he was exaggerating. An Israeli government organization, the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, said the number of violent incidents against Jewish targets in Russia rose from four in 2003 to 55 the following year. In January 2005, some 500 nationalists, including lawmakers from a Kremlin-backed right-wing party, published a letter demanding the authorities ban all Jewish organizations in Russia, accusing them of extremism and hostility to ethnic Russians. Last year, vandals in six different cities attacked Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Under Pressure
Rabbi Lazar came under pressure to toughen his rhetoric -- especially after a Chabad rabbi was beaten up by racist thugs while walking through a Moscow underpass in January 2005. Gradually he began expressing concern about Russia's rising tide of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Still, he continued to enjoy countless invitations to the Kremlin and interviews in the state media. That benefited Chabad-Lubavitch: Local Jewish businessmen began to donate heavily to FEOR. "They saw Lazar as a channel to the Kremlin, someone who might put in a good word for them with Putin," says Zinovy Kogan, a prominent Moscow rabbi. Avraham Berkowitz, a senior federation official and Chabad member, says, "Donors support us because they believe in the work we are doing and see the success of our programs." The Kremlin spokesman denies FEOR acted as an intermediary. "Putin doesn't need bridges to the business community," he says. It wasn't just Chabad's Kremlin ties that earned it support. With its fund-raising, lobbying and public-relations skills, the group proved highly effective at organizing community life. Outsiders were impressed by Chabad rabbis' willingness to take up jobs in some of Russia's most depressing and remote provincial towns. Soon, Federation coffers were overflowing with funds from some of Russia's richest men. Tycoon Roman Abramovich financed Chabad orphanages and poverty programs. Mr. Leviev, a Lubavitcher whose business interests have flourished under Mr. Putin, created a network of Chabad schools throughout Russia. And the New York-based investment manager George Rohr, one of the biggest investors in the Russian stock market in the 1990s, donated vast sums to build Jewish community centers.

Last year alone, the Federation raised $38 million in the U.S. for programs in the former Soviet Union. In contrast, Rabbi Shayevich's rival organization has an annual budget of $3.5 million. (Neither Mr. Rohr nor Mr. Abramovich comment publicly on their philanthropic activities.) Flush with cash, Chabad has been able to offer a host of new services to congregants. There are now 9,000 children studying at Chabad day schools and 5,000 at Chabad kindergartens. FEOR has restored dozens of synagogues and built 16 community centers across Russia. This year, 150,000 people in Russia attended free FEOR-sponsored Passover meals. FEOR cites statistics like this to support its claim to represent the bulk of Russia's Jews. "Our biggest claim is how many people come to our services and how many go to other synagogues," says Rabbi Lazar. But some Jewish leaders have condemned FEOR for using its political clout to engineer what critics call "hostile takeovers" of communal property. They cite examples of cities like Samara on the Volga, where local authorities intervened to give FEOR control of a synagogue once affiliated with a rival group. FEOR denies the accusations. "There was never a question of taking property from other organizations," says Mr. Berkowitz, the federation official. "Most of FEOR's major projects were built from scratch, anyway." Critics also accuse FEOR officials of luring away provincial communities already served by other Jewish denominations by promising them bigger budgets, more money for synagogue restoration and salaries for staff.

In the Siberian city of Omsk, authorities handed the city synagogue to the local Reform Jewish congregation in the early 1990s. But in 2001, Mr. Abramovich visited Omsk community leader Leonid Khayit, taking with him the local governor, and offered a huge boost in funding if he switched allegiance to FEOR. He agreed. "He thought FEOR was a more heavyweight organization politically," says Ilya Edelshtein, who succeeded Mr. Khayit after his death three years ago. Mr. Abramovich said through a spokesman he could not recall the conversation. Some congregants in Omsk were disappointed by the new direction. The town's new rabbi, a Chabadnik from Israel, surprised them by organizing special celebrations in honor of the Rebbe, who died in 1994 but is still revered by Lubavitchers, who often hang portraits of him in their homes. "People here don't really understand why we should have special prayers for the Rebbe's birthday," says Mr. Edelshtein. "It feels like idolatry." What's more, the new rabbi has taken a tough stand on members who didn't qualify as Jews according to Halacha, or Jewish law. People whose mothers weren't Jewish were made to feel unwelcome at services, say officials of the Omsk synagogue. Rabbi Lazar says the choice of whether or not to enforce Halacha is often left to the discretion of individual rabbis, but he denies FEOR is dogmatic on the issue. "We never push anyone out," he says. Despite the controversy that dogs him, Rabbi Lazar is now firmly part of the Russian establishment. In 2005, President Putin tapped him to join the Public Chamber, a newly-created consultative body of prominent citizens. Civil-rights advocates have denounced it as an ersatz parliament, typical of the Kremlin's top-down approach to building civil society. Rabbi Lazar says Russia's Jews have seen a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes and Mr. Putin deserves some of the credit. "What we've seen over the last 20 years is nothing short of a miracle," he says.
© The Wall Street Journal

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NEO-NAZI OR X FACTOR? (Netherlands, opinion)

Freedom Party PVV faction leader Geert Wilders' latest sound bit has hit another mark - all Islamic schools in the Netherlands should be shut down. Expatica columnist Lesely Thomas tries to figure out where he is going now.

8/5/2007- Wilders has been warned to tone down his messages, having already irritated a number of ayatollahs. But despite the warning, it's work as usual, that is, if you take his latest column into consideration. What to make of someone who refers to this website statement "Mohammed was a narcissist, just like Hitler, Saddam or Stalin," by saying "I couldn't have said it better myself." The imagery portrayed here is to say the least, a bit odd. I mean, Mohammed being compared with Hitler, does more than just raise your eyebrows. Remarks like these put Wilders in the spotlight. Keeps you guessing. The more often he becomes the centre of political attention, the more we wonder who he really is. Along a nationalist scale of one to ten, where does Wilders exactly fit in? Is he just nationalistic (an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries) or is he more extreme, a neo-Nazi (having extreme racist or nationalist views)? An Expatica reader asked me to investigate whether Wilders actually is a neo-Nazi or not. The question asked is: "Just how extreme right is Wilders?" Certainly some Dutch left wing columnists would have us believe that Wilders is a neo-Nazi.

So I decided to surf and check out some (Dutch) neo-Nazi sites to see just what neo-Nazi's and the extreme right think of him. One thing I noticed, they follow the news well. An article from a Dutch daily or magazine is posted and forum members comment on the news. One of the things I did was to look at the response Wilders received regarding his party's independence platform. I found out that, although Wilders is portrayed as sympathizing with the Jews and is even called a Zionist, the fact that he is making "progress" regarding Islamic issues is seen as being positive. He takes a step in the right direction but doesn't go far enough in his war against the Islam, according to the extreme right websites. The ones who call themselves NS'ers don't support him in general because of his sympathy for the Jewish culture; Wilders would like the Netherlands to become a strong Christian Jewish humanistic culture. Some extreme right writers do think that Wilders is in the position of pushing some of their ideals through, of putting them on the political agenda, since Wilders' party, the PVV, is more mainstream than the other extreme right parties or factions are. Probably not to the extent that the extreme right would like to see, but in their eyes, better something than nothing. A striking comment was made by an extreme right forum writer about the closing of Islamic schools. This person didn't support it because by shutting down Islamic schools you actually stimulate integration.

So what does this say about Wilders? What would he make of this comment? What does Wilders find more important, an integration stop or "protecting children against the spread of Islamic doctrine"? The arguments just keep getting murkier. I think you know where I am going with this. Wilders, an over zealous populist, is an enigma or anomaly, a kind of X factor, if you ask me. Maybe over time we'll get to know Wilders better and figure out exactly who he is. One thing is for sure, he certainly is causing a ruckus. Wilders' criticism creates unrest among the Islamic population including ayatollahs who react by threatening to impose economic sanctions against the Netherlands and to recall ambassadors. So stay tuned for the next sound bit.

Lesley Thomas, writer and editor, is a regular contributor to Expatica.
© Expatica News

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ARCHBISHOP CALLS ON BELIEVERS TO SUPPORT FAR RIGHT(Spain)

A Spanish Catholic bishop has called on believers to vote for far-right parties ahead of the May 27 local elections, press reports said Tuesday.

7/5/2007-The archbishop of Pamplona , Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, caused controversy on Monday by saying two far Right parties were worthy of support. Archbishop Aguilar said in a message on the Catholic Church website in Navarre that parties of the far Right, including the Falange and the Spanish Alternative are “worthy of consideration and of support”. The Falange was led by the dictator Primo de Rivera during the 1920s and later backed General Franco. The archbishop’s text formed part of a speech given at a conference in Leon in March. Entitled ‘The Actual Situation of the Church – some practical orientations’, the paper gave suggestions about how the Church could regain some influence in society. In a section called ‘How to make us present in society’, it said: ‘Today in Spain, there are some parties that want to be faithful to the doctrine of the Church in its totality, like the Spanish Alternative, the Falange (and others). All these are parties little considered. They are worth a vote. They do not have much chance to influence in political life even though if they could manage to establish important alliances if they receive the support of Catholic citizens. ‘For this reason, they cannot be considered obligatory but they are worthy of consideration and support.’ The archbishop said there was a ‘silent desertion’ by former believers. He blamed the ‘revisionism’ of the Transition period when Spain moved from the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco to democracy. The archbishop blamed groups like Christians for Socialism and the liberation theology.

The archbishop is no stranger to controversy. In 2005, he warned Spain could be about to endure a ‘epidemic of homosexuality, strong psychological problems and painful frustrations’ if gay marriage was legalized. The present socialist government legalized gay marriage and same-sex adoption in 2005.
© Expatica News

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CZECH EXTREME NATIONALISTS MARCH THROUGH PRAGUE

8/5/2007- Roughly 30 followers of the Czech extreme right National Party today marched through Prague in protest against the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft (SL) and what they call undeserved advantages for some population groups. The police met at the Franz Kafka square and reached the office of the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft in Prague. The police said that there were no incidents during the two-hour demonstration. The demonstrators carried Czech flags and banners saying "The deportation was right!", "Stop affirmative action!" and "We want justice, no advantages for Gypsies." During their march, they chanted similar slogans and "Dzamila is a racist." This hinted at cabinet member Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) who is in charge of ethnic affairs. The activists created a symbolical train carriage into which they invited SL chairman Bernd Posselt. An activist had a box with Posselt's face on his head and the text "Heim ins Reich" (Back into the Reich, a slogan of the Czechoslovak Nazis in the 1930s) on his chest. During his speech, Pavel Sedlacek from the National Party invited other people to the carriage. He named Environment Minister Martin Bursik (Greens), Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for the Greens), Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic (Civic Democratic Party, ODS), former president Vaclav Havel and Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner. "We would like to finish the deportation in the same way as it started," Sedlacek told journalists. Some three million ethnic Germans were deported from Czechoslovakia after World War Two.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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THE PRICE OF BEING LEFT ALONE HAS BEEN THE TOLERANCE OF MASS MURDER (CoE, opinion)

Serbia is taking up chairmanship of the Council of Europe. But why isn't anyone talking about human rights?
By George Monbiot

8/5/2007- What would it take to disqualify a nation from running Europe's official human rights organisation? Persecuting gays? Not a hope. Torturing and murdering political opponents? Forget about it. Waging an illegal war? You must be joking. The Council of Europe doesn't seem to care who speaks on its behalf. On Thursday the council's presidency will pass to Serbia. Serbia is not the only nation in Europe involved in human rights abuses. But it is distinguished by the fact that its failures are uncontroversial. Everyone from Human Rights Watch to President Bush has urged its government to hand over Ratko Mladic - the general responsible for the Sarajevo massacre - to the tribunal in The Hague. To decide that this country is unfit to run the Council of Europe looks uncomplicated and free from political cost. If European countries can't find the courage to act against Serbia, they can't find the courage to act against anyone. Human rights become a dead letter. But there is something odd about the howls of outrage provoked by Serbia's impending presidency - there aren't any. Its accession, which mocks everything the council claims to stand for, has been greeted by a shuffling silence. This is why: as soon as European countries start criticising another member, they invite examination of their own record on human rights when it is their turn to take the chair. For fear of what might be found there, they have tacitly agreed to ignore each other's abuses.

The Council of Europe is a body quite separate from the European Union. Proposed by Winston Churchill, it was founded in 1949 for "the pursuit of peace based upon justice". It drew up the human rights convention and runs the European court of human rights. It has an annual budget of €197m (£134m) and 46 members. Among them is every state in Europe except Montenegro and Belarus. The exclusion of Belarus is perhaps the only difficult decision it has ever taken. Observe its perpetual cowardice in dealing with Russia. The European court of human rights has repeatedly ruled against Russia's abuses in Chechnya. Russia's response has been to pretend to abide by its decisions - handing out a few roubles in compensation, for example - while protecting and promoting the people responsible for the torture and kidnappings and killings. That is one response. The other is to beat or kill the complainants. In May 2003, for example, armed men broke into the house of Zura Bitieva, who had applied to the court over her illegal detention and torture, and shot her and three members of her family. Case closed.

The member states, which are supposed to support the court's decisions, look the other way. Even when the Council of Europe's own delegation in Chechnya was blown up by a bomb in 2003, the member governments failed to act. As a result the Russian government has yet to carry out a proper investigation. A little of the council's credibility trickles away with every evasion. But neither the foreign ministers who run the Council of Europe nor its secretariat appear to mind. Last year, when it was Russia's turn to chair the council, the secretary general, former British Labour MP Terry Davis, argued that the fuss about Chechnya was the result of the scapegoating of eastern European nations by the west, and suggested Russia had a credible "plan of action aimed at preventing similar human rights violations in the future". This was nonsense. It is not clear why Davis seems to believe his duties include belittling his members' crimes against humanity.

No one would suggest that either Russia or Serbia would suddenly become a paragon of restraint if it were censured by the Council of Europe. Serbia has shown it is prepared to pay an extraordinary price for sheltering Ratko Mladic. It has already forfeited accession talks with Europe, its confederation with Montenegro and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid for the sake of its pet monster. But the council's refusal to condemn Serbia, or even to prevent it from taking the chair, strengthens the position of the nationalists who argue that Mladic need not be surrendered. They suspect that the other European nations, anxious to develop trade links and expand the EU, will find it convenient to forget that he exists. Last year Nato dropped its requirement that he be arrested and handed over before Serbia could join its Partnership for Peace programme. In March Olli Rehn, the EU's enlargement commissioner, suggested that negotiations might recommence, despite Mladic. On Thursday, when the Serbian government becomes the official defender of human rights in Europe, the people who regard Ratko Mladic as a national hero will feel quietly vindicated.

But who will cast the first stone? There is scarcely a government that does not have something to hide. The UK, Germany, Italy, Macedonia and even Sweden have been assisting the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme, kidnapping people and delivering them to states that will torture them on the US's behalf. Poland and Romania seem to have let the US use secret detention centres on their soil. Austria, Germany and the UK rely on worthless diplomatic assurances to justify handing refugees to governments that torture prisoners. Poland warns that "teachers who reveal their homosexuality will be fired from work". France supports African genocidaires. Spain repatriates unaccompanied children. Ukrainian police torture sex workers and force them to confess to crimes they did not commit. The UK bans peaceful protest and continues to occupy the country it illegally invaded. Lift a stone to throw at Serbia anywhere in Europe and you will find something unpleasant cowering there. Better to leave it on the ground. The price of being left alone by other states is the tolerance of mass murder. When I discussed these matters with Terry Davis, he admitted that he had "not heard anyone in the Council of Europe suggest any form of action against Serbia as a result of its failure to hand over Mladic". The only action they could take, he claimed, is to expel Serbia from the council. Once you have become a member, you have the right to chair it when your turn comes up. I am not convinced this is true. The council's statute says that a member which has seriously violated human rights and fundamental freedoms "may be suspended from its rights of representation". Surely this could apply to its right to be represented as chairman of the council?

Davis ingeniously argued that Serbia's visibility in its new role will expose it to embarrassment. Would I have been writing about Mladic if it were not about to assume the chair? I wouldn't. But on the same grounds you could argue that Robert Mugabe should become the next head of Amnesty International. If you want to know the value of an institution, you need only imagine what the world would be like if it didn't exist. If the council were dissolved, would anyone suffer, except for those it employs? The European court would be missed. But the rest of it? Thanks to the member states' agreement to ignore each other's abuses, it is, at the moment, completely useless.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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SARKOZY WINS MANDATE FOR RADICAL REFORM(France)

7/5/2007- Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy emphatically won France's presidential election on Sunday, securing a clear mandate to carry out a programme of sweeping social and economic reforms. "I will not betray you, I will not lie to you, I will not disappoint you," Sarkozy told some 30,000 supporters packed into Paris' Place de la Concorde to celebrate his triumph over the Socialist Segolene Royal. But riot police also fought hundreds of anti-Sarkozy protestors in Paris and others cities with tear gas and water cannon, while angry youths burned dozens of cars in the suburbs hit by riots two years ago. Sarkozy won the battle to be France's new generation leader in place of President Jacques Chirac with 53 percent of the vote against 47 percent for Royal, according to official results. The estimated turnout of 85 percent was the highest in three decades. Amid wild celebrations in the capital, Sarkozy, 52, who has fought to soften his tough-talking image, promised to reach out to those who opposed him in the divisive campaign. "My thoughts go out to all those French people who did not vote for me," he said in a victory speech at the party headquarters of his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). "I want to say to them that -- above and beyond the political fight, above and beyond differences of opinion -- for me there is only one France. I will be president of all the French. I will speak for all of them," he said. World leaders were quick to acknowledge Sarkozy as France's new leader, including US President George W. Bush who telephoned to congratulate him within an hour of polls closing. Some hope for a new era in US-France relations after the frostiness caused by Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war.

Sarkozy said the United States could count on France's friendship but urged it to show leadership in the struggle against global warming, saying it would be a priority for his government. Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a host of European leaders also called Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying she was convinced he would maintain the French-German axis at the heart of the European Union. At the Socialist Party headquarters, Royal supporters, many in tears, gloomily digested a third consecutive presidential defeat after 1995 and 2002. "I gave it all I had and will continue to be with you and close to you," Royal said. But many experts now expect bitter recriminations within the left wing party over its new humiliation. Sarkozy's election sparked angry protests by some Royal supporters -- as well as in high-immigration suburbs where the former interior minister's tough stance on crime has made him a hate figure for many. Riot police fired tear gas at up to 300 stone-throwing protestors who burned an effigy of Sarkozy in the Place de la Bastille in central Paris, where about 5,000 Royal supporters had gathered, some shouting "Sarko-fascist". Clashes with police broke out in the provincial cities of Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille, Nantes, Toulouse, Lyon, Nancy and Metz after crowds up to 2,000 people gathered to vent their anger, some stoning police lines. Dozens of people were arrested in clashes that left several protestors and police injured, including two officers slightly hurt by acid in the western city of Nantes where shop windows were smashed and waste bins were set on fire. Acts of arson and vandalism were also reported in suburbs across the Paris region, with around 100 cars torched. In a sharp campaign jab on Friday, Royal had predicted Sarkozy's election could unleash violence in the suburbs.

Sarkozy will take over from Chirac on May 16, and has promised to quickly enact key items of his manifesto, planning a special National Assembly session to set off his reform drive following June's legislative elections. His campaign was based on the theme of a "rupture" -- a clean break from past policies which he blamed for creating France's runaway debt, high unemployment and festering discontent in the high-immigration suburbs. These include the abolition of tax on overtime, big cuts in inheritance tax, a law guaranteeing minimum service in transport strikes, and rules to oblige the unemployed to take up offered work. On the social front he has pledged minimum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring extended families to France. His right-wing programme was in sharp contrast to Royal's promise to extend state protection, create 500,000 jobs, and increase the minimum wage. French newspapers Monday said Sarkozy had won a clear mandate for reform, but said he needed to heal the wounds of the hard-fought campaign. "With the strong legitimacy his indisputable electoral performance gives him, the new president of the Republic can now begin his great transformation, but taking care, of course, to reconcile the French," commented the right-wing Le Figaro. Sarkozy plans to retire for several days to a secret location in the period before his inauguration, to rest and plan the first days of his presidency.
© Expatica News

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FRENCH SUBURB BRACES FOR POSSIBLE SARKOZY WIN

" Jacqueline Roget, a 52-year-old grandmother from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, said she was " not afraid, no matter who wins, " and predicted " any violence will " quickly simmer down.

6/5/2007- In the volatile Paris suburb of Argenteuil, Doratine Ekoka cringed at the possibility of a victory by Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's vote, saying it "would be like a punishment from God." Like many in the high-immigrant town northwest of Paris, Ekoka cast her ballot for the right-winger's socialist rival Segolene Royal, under crisp morning sunshine at a sports centre near the town's roughest housing estate. The 70-year-old retired computer programmer said she would trust Royal, 53, "to clean up public life." "Sarkozy is a man who will never change -- he has a terrible character," said Ekoka, who has lived in Argenteuil for the past 40 years. It was in Argenteuil that Sarkozy, 52, called troublemakers "racaille," or rabble, during a visit as interior minister in 2005, a term that made him a hate figure for many immigrants. In the first round, the town's Arab, Asian, African and working-class French residents turned out massively, putting Royal firmly in first place with more than a third of votes. Johan and Julie, a Chinese couple, both 53, who adopted French-sounding first names after arriving from Beijing 15 years ago, said they backed Royal "without hesitation, for a fairer society". "For me the choice was crystal clear: I want women to have more power," said Marie Biagui, a 63-year-old social worker of Senegalese origin. "A woman is quite capable of running a country, not just of having children -- and a mother also sees things differently." Same message from Djamila Aberkane, a 35-year-old social worker of Algerian descent, who backed Royal "for the sake of equal opportunities -- the divide between places like this and Paris is getting bigger all the time." But Aberkane, aware of Sarkozy's clear lead in the polls, was resigned to the prospect of him winning: "France isn't ready for a woman in power. They've done it in the Nordic countries, but they're half a century ahead of us in that respect."

In Argenteuil, as in other suburbs hit by riots in 2005, there have been warnings of fresh unrest if Sarkozy is elected. Security has been stepped up in Paris and its surroundings to head off trouble, with some 3,000 riot police on alert. Aurelie Legrand, a 21-year-old student from the French island of La Reunion, said she voted for Royal to try to block a Sarkozy victory. "People say that if he wins there will be more violence so naturally it makes you think." But many others in the neighbourhood said they would not let the threat influence their choice. Ben Nodji, a 33-year-old telecoms technician from the Comoros Islands, said he expected trouble if the right-winger is elected. "I take the rumours seriously, I saw cars burning outside my flat in 2005 -- but that doesn't mean I didn't vote for him either." Jacqueline Roget, a 52-year-old grandmother from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, said she was "not afraid, no matter who wins," and predicted "any violence will "quickly simmer down." "If Sarkozy wins, I think people will react badly -- but they're stupid. I would be happy," said Roget, who complains of rising vandalism in her area and approves of Sarkozy's tougher line on crime and welfare dependency. "Segolene is a woman like me, but she's too maternal. It just doesn't work," she said. "I've watched the kids around here grow up and they still insult me. I don't want to see my grandson keeping watch for drug dealers when he's 12 years old."  "I lost my job in the wine sector after 23 years, but I've gone and found more work as a temp -- I won't sit around on benefits." Zegane Moguiny, 54, who moved to France six years ago from Pondicherry in southern India, was even clearer in her support. She backed "Mr Sarkozy, of course!" "He is a brave man, he follows the law. And I pray to God that he will win."
© The Tocqueville Connection

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U.S. ENVOY TO SPEAK AT ANTI-GAY POLISH SUMMIT

Polish president Lech Kaczynski and a U.S. assistant secretary of state will address the Warsaw meeting convened by U.S. religious right groups.

9/5/2007- Many prominent U.S. conservative groups are shifting their attention overseas this week, organizing a conference in Poland that will decry Europe's liberal social policies and portray the host nation as a valiant holdout bucking those trends. The World Congress of Families is expected to draw more than 2,500 people from dozens of countries to Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science from Friday through Sunday. The chief organizer is a Rockford, Ill.-based conservative think tank, the Howard Center. Co-sponsors include more than 20 other U.S. groups allied in opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and other policies they blame for weakening traditional families in Western Europe. "Europe is almost lost -- to demographic winter and to the secularists," says a planning document for the congress. "If Europe goes, much of the world will go with it. Almost alone, Poland has maintained strong faith and strong families." Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who will address the congress, heads a conservative government that has tangled frequently with European Union officials over such issues as gay rights and his nation's tough abortion laws. Scheduled speakers include a Vatican representative, Monsignor Grzegorz Kaszak of the Pontifical Polish Institute of Rome, and Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant U.S. secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. Questioning Sauerbrey's involvement, 19 European Parliament members said in an open letter that her attendance would signal approval for "extremist and intolerant views held by some participants."

Last month, after Polish officials proposed firing teachers who promote homosexuality, the EU parliament asked its anti-racism center to examine "the emerging climate of racist, xenophobic and homophobic intolerance in Poland." Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center and founder of the World Congress of Families movement, acknowledges that social trends in Western Europe give conservatives little reason for optimism. Spain last year joined Belgium and the Netherlands in legalizing same-sex marriage; heavily Roman Catholic Portugal, one of few holdouts banning abortion, last month legalized the procedure up to the 10th week of pregnancy. "There are some nations that are resisting the trends," said Carlson, citing Croatia, Slovakia and Latvia. "But with the exception of Poland, they are all small countries, so that makes Poland all the more important," he said. "They're resisting pressure from the EU to get in lockstep with the Swedish model -- the secularist, post-family order." Two long-term trends will be highlighted at the congress -- Western Europe's declining birth rates and dwindling church attendance. Carlson expressed hope for spiritual renewal among European youth, but said it was unrealistic to expect institutionalized religion on the continent to return to its historical prominence. Birth rates are low across Europe, including Poland -- where the population is expected to shrink by several million in the next two decades. Kaczynski's government is preparing legislation to encourage larger families.

The congress, even in its planning stages, has been derided by liberal groups. "It's a jamboree for people who very often find themselves outside the mainstream," said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. "They're living the fantasy for a couple of days of what the world would be like if their ideas prevailed." O'Brien, a native of Ireland now based in Washington, D.C., said Poland's conservative bent is at odds with most of the continent. "American conservative groups don't find much succor in Europe," he said. "It's moved on, toward tolerance and respect for how people live their lives, for people who are gay, single parents, different forms of family."  Co-sponsors of the congress include the American Family Association, Concerned Women For America, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation and the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes the "intelligent design" concept of the universe's origins. Bill Saunders of the Family Research Council, who will speak about bioethics, views the congress as pivotal. "The Eastern European countries are being pushed to move in ways that mirror Western Europe," he said. "We want to help them stand up to the EU bureaucracy." The congress also highlights an increasingly active alliance between the Protestant evangelicals who lead many U.S. conservative groups and conservative Catholics, such as those governing Poland, who share Pope Benedict XVI's goal of re-Christianizing Europe. "It reflects the fact that the cultural battle has gone international," Carlson said. "The American religious right, instead of being isolationist, has in fact gone global."
© Associated Press

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VEGAS RUN BY GAYS AND JEWS, SAYS MAGICIAN(Sweden)

11/5/2007- Swedish magician Joe Labero has provoked a strong reaction with suggestions that Las Vegas is controlled by "Jewish business syndicates, American dollar millionaires and homosexual booking agents". The magic master's comments were made in an interview with rail company SJ's on-board magazine Kupé. As a prelude to his controversial thesis, Labero explained that he has long been close to getting his own show in Las Vegas. "But at the end of the day it seems to be impossible - unless you are a homosexual, a Jew or an American. "I don't mean to sound prejudiced of course, I'm just cynical. A blond Swedish Viking will have a hard time breaking through the hierarchies that control Vegas, where power rests in the hands of Jewish business syndicates, American dollar millionaires and homosexual booking agents. "But I will get there, sooner of later," Labero told the magazine. Joe Labero is the stage name of Lars Bengt Roland Johansson. Sören Andersson, chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) took exception to the illusionist's remarks. "I think it's rather nasty to say thinks like this. The implication is that everybody who is not ether Jewish or homosexual is being discriminated against," he told The Local. "It is reminiscent of the world-famous Jewish conspiracy, now extended to also include Jews. But these are two groups that have typically been the victims of discrimination. "Putting the blame on specific groups says more about Joe Labero than anybody else," he added. The editor of Kupé magazine admitted that he had been hesitant about publishing the controversial quotes. "We discussed this a lot internally before arriving at the conclusion that it would be controversial and inappropriate in the context of a Swedish discussion. "But we also raised it in the context of an American discussion, where it is not considered controversial to say that decisions in Hollywood are dominated by Jewish, homosexual and American interests," Gunnar Wesslén told newspaper Resumé. Rail operator SJ has taken up the matter with Mediabolaget, the company responsible for producing the magazine on its behalf. "We are having serious talks with the editor and the company about what has happened and why it was allowed to happen," press spokesman Mark Vadasz told Resumé. Joe Labero meanwhile has shelved his plans for a Vegas show as he instead sets his sights on Asia. "I am quite simply a bit tired of the Yanks at the moment," he told Kupé.
© The Local

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HALF OF UK GAY WORKERS AFRAID TO COME OUT

6/5/2007- Research findings from gay market research show that up to half of UK lesbians and gay men do not feel able to reveal their sexuality to all those they work with. The research also discovered that as many as one in ten gay men, and one in eight lesbians are harassed at work because of their sexuality. Only 52 percent of gay men and 51 percent of lesbians say they can be completely honest about their sexuality with their work colleagues, according to a report by the Out Now Consulting Diva and GT Readers Surveys. Official Whitehall figures say that 6 percent of the UK adult population, or around 3 million people, are lesbian or gay. This Out Now research reveals up to 1.5 million UK workers do not feel they can be honest about such a fundamental aspect of their lives at work. "Our research shows that there are around 1.5 million other UK workers that are in a similar position," according to Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now Consulting, a specialist gay marketing consultancy which conducted the research. "Heterosexual people do not experience the same pressures to conceal such a major aspect of themselves when they are at work." "Being accepted by government in the UK is a big step forward in terms of Civil Partnerships, but being able to be yourself at work is something all workers in the UK really ought to be able to do," says Johnson. "These figures show that this is not currently the case for a large number of UK lesbians and gay men," says Johnson. "In the medium to long term that affects workplace productivity, loyalty and ultimately can result in otherwise well-qualified lesbian and gay staff leaving a job because they can no longer keep up a pretence of being heterosexual. UK workplaces need to improve on these figures both as a matter of social justice and also as a matter of business profits and workplace productivity."

"Perhaps it may be understandable why many UK lesbians and gay men choose to keep quiet about their sexuality, when we consider what our research showed about how likely people are to be harassed for their homosexuality at work in the UK," says Johnson. 9 percent of male respondents and 12 percent of female respondents reported they had been harassed at work during the previous 12 months because they were gay. These figures compare poorly with research Out Now Consulting undertook in the Netherlands in 2004 where only 2.8 percent of gay men said they had been harassed at work. UK gay men seem three times more likely than Dutch gay men to have experienced this situation. "This is quite alarming," said Kim Watson Deputy Managing Director of MPG, publishers of Diva and Gay Times magazines. "How many heterosexual people in the workplace feel the need to keep the existence of their partner a secret? Practically none. Even if they are not in relationships, these results show that for a great number of lesbians and gay men there is still a long way to go until the UK is a truly accepting society for gay people." Johnson said he felt that companies need to do more to improve on these results. "We recommend UK companies should improve their workplace equality and diversity policies. Training on gay and lesbian issues is also likely to help improve the current situation. This would build improved comfort levels, for all staff, working together, irrespective of sexuality. Often Human Resources managers say 'but we don't discriminate' - and that might be true. But the situation on the ground, as revealed by these figures shows half the UK's gays and lesbians do not feel they can just be themselves at work."
© 247 Gay.com

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HATE, HYPOCRITES AND HUMAN RIGHTS (Council of Europe, opinion)

By Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

12/5/2007- In 1936, the SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler created the Gestapo’s Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion. As a result, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, and some 50,000 of these men were sentenced. Some spent time in regular prisons, some were forcefully castrated as an alternative to incarceration, and thousands were sent to Nazi concentration camps. Men with pink triangles were often treated particularly severely by guards and other inmates alike. Some homosexuals were also victims of cruel medical experiments, designed to change them into heterosexuals. Estimates are that more than half were executed or died from disease and malnutrition, but for those who survived, the liberation from the Nazi concentration camps did not end the suffering and humiliation. They were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and compensation was refused. Some homosexuals liberated from the concentration camps were even forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment. Sixty years later, no one has apologised for this tragic and shameful treatment of camp survivors. Regrettably, the wall of prejudice, discrimination and hypocrisy has not yet disappeared, and Europe is often more tolerant of homophobes than their victims.

While it is true that, also thanks to the work of the Council of Europe, sexual orientation will no longer get you jailed, the bigots in several European countries are free to speak and act on their homophobic beliefs without any fear of sanction from the authorities. Very often the officials themselves – mayors, parliamentarians and even ministers – will be the first to voice and promote homophobic ideas. Many individuals in positions of moral authority endorse or even encourage hatred against gays and lesbians, demonstrating a deplorable failure to practice the tolerance they preach. As a result, homophobia in parts of Europe is on the increase, and there are very few governments ready to speak out to defend the human rights of gay and lesbian people in other countries. This is one minority which is left to fend for themselves. In the Council of Europe we are not telling our member states how far they should go in recognising the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry or adopt children, because any such extension of rights at the European level would require a consensus of all 46 member states. But when it comes to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights - which prohibit discrimination on any grounds - there cannot be any compromise, and we should defend these rights with conviction, perseverance and force.

Legally binding Council of Europe standards and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights are clear and unequivocal –those who discriminate against gays and lesbians are not only offending the memory of the victims of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, they are also breaking the law. The victims of discrimination have the right to complain to the European Court of Human Rights, but this should be the last resort. It should not be the only way to protect the human rights and dignity of gays and lesbians across Europe. The fact is that the situation in a number of countries is a reason for concern. If individuals and institutions with responsibilities to enforce laws are allowed to propagate intolerance, it is not only the human rights of gays and lesbians which are at stake. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law cannot function in a society which tolerates bigotry, prejudice and hate. If we continue to look the other way, an outburst of homophobic violence is only a matter of time. That is why we must end the hypocrisy of silence and stop treating homophobic attitudes as a cultural eccentricity. It is time to apologise for the past and act for the future. It is time for Europe to say clearly and with force – no longer and never again!
© Council of Europe

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WE ARE FAMILIES!(European Union, press release)

11/5/2007- On the occasion of the International Day of Families, 15 May 2007, four social NGOs are reminding the EU that any definition of families should reflect the diversity of families which exist in European societies. Increasingly, the traditional concept of the family is challenged by the evolution of society. The number of teenage pregnancies, single-parent families and families based on same-sex unions is on the rise in the EU. A failure to acknowledge their existence and respond to the particular challenges they face in policy and legislation amounts to discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, age, nationality, religion, disability and sexual orientation. Today is also the occasion to remind the EU of the need to implement the principle of family reunification and freedom of movement of families within the EU without discrimination. Increasingly restrictive family reunification policies across the EU member states undermine the right to family life, and have a detrimental effect on the integration of migrants. Definitions of families and family policies should extend to quality publicly funded care for dependents and state benefits which recognise families in their diversity. Caring duties and costs must not fall solely on families and in particular women. Member states must take responsibility for the well being and the full integration of dependents.

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe said:
“We do not want our families to be constantly considered as second class. At the end of the day, the ones who pay the toll for such discriminatory measures are children in lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) families. Not recognising LGBT families in law and practice will only damage the right of children to the security and protection available to other children; it will not stop LGBT families from existing.”

Kirsti Kolthoff, President of the European Women’s Lobby stated:
"Care services are missing in the EU, which leads to a "double life burden", for women who more and more work outside the home and at the same time perform the majority of caring and household tasks. The way out of this "double life burden" of women lies of course in changes in attitudes in the home, for an equal sharing of caring tasks between women and men, and it also depends on policies that allow women and men a real choice.”

Pascale Charhon, Director of the European Network against Racism (ENAR), pointed out that “there is an inherent contradiction in the policies of member states which seek to increasingly restrict migration and family reunification, while at the same time promoting integration and family rights in Europe”.

Anne-Sophie Parent, Director of AGE - the European Older People’s Platform observed that “the family should be considered in all its dimensions including the ageing family and that family policy should recognise the wish and limitations of families to care for their elderly dependants”.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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EU GIVES NEW FUNDS FOR IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION

7/5/2007- The European Commission on Monday said it was giving new funds to support cross-border projects aimed at improving the integration of immigrants in the 27-member European Union. Some four million euros (5.4 million dollars) would be made available for 12 initiatives that "encourage dialogue with civil society, develop integration models, seek out and evaluate good practice in the integration field and set up networks at European levels," the commission said. The EU executive also said it was about to publish the new version of a handbook on integration, designed to help member states draw up integration policies. The guidelines would include best practices in improving immigrants' access to housing and employment in the EU. EU integration ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany, later this week are expected to discuss ways to improve member states' cooperation in integration policies and to strengthen the dialogue with other cultures. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose country currently runs the rotating EU presidency, said last week that "achieving full integration and ensuring equal opportunities (of immigrants living in Europe) is one of the most important challenges of EU home affairs policy." He also said that "intercultural dialogue is particularly important for ensuring stability and internal security, given the growing Muslim population in many (EU) member states." Schaeuble suggested earlier this year that EU states should train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.
© Expatica News

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HAVEL CONDEMNS BID BY BELARUS TO BECOME MEMBER OF U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

8/5/2007- Former Czech President Vaclav Havel joined watchdog groups in condemning Belarus' candidacy for the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing the country's poor rights record. In a letter released Tuesday, Havel and activists of the Prague-based Civic Belarus organization described the attempt by Belarus to seek membership on the council as "an affront to efforts of all freedom-loving Belarusians and the international community to establish freedom and democracy in that country." The group, established by Havel two years ago to support pro-democracy initiatives and organizations in Belarus, accused the regime of authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of persecuting pro-democratic activists, independent media and non-governmental organizations. "The situation has not been improving, quite the contrary," Havel said, adding that the country has failed so far to hold free elections and prevented a U.N. human rights envoy from visiting Belarus. The embassy of Belarus in Prague declined to comment immediately. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to select several countries with poor rights records when it picks 14 new members for the 47-member council later this month, including Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar, a move opposed by a number of watchdog groups worldwide, such as Geneva-based U.N. Watch and New York-based Freedom House. The U.N. Human Rights Council, which has no power beyond drawing international attention to rights issues, is dominated by African and Muslim countries that have sided with China, Cuba and other countries in preventing criticism of any government but Israel. The United States has not sought a seat on the council, accusing it of anti-Israel bias. Havel has repeatedly expressed support for human rights activists all around the world and lambasted Belarus' government as the last undemocratic regime in Europe.
© International Herald Tribune

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INDICTMENT IN CIVIL RIGHTS-ERA KILLING (usa)

10/5/2007- A 73-year-old retired state trooper was indicted Wednesday in the 1965 shooting death of a black man - a killing that set in motion the historic civil rights protests in Selma and led to passage of the Voting Rights Act. District Attorney Michael Jackson said a grand jury returned an indictment in the case. He would not identify the person charged or specify the offense until the indictment is served, which could take a few days. But a lawyer for former Trooper James Bonard Fowler said he had been informed that the retired lawman had been charged. It took the grand jury only two hours to return the indictment in the slaying of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by Fowler during a civil rights protest that turned into a club-swinging melee. The case was little-known as a civil rights-era cold case but had major historical consequences. Fowler contended he fired in self-defense after Jackson grabbed his gun from its holster. Calls to his home were not immediately returned Wednesday. ``I think somebody is trying to rewrite history and I don't think it's fair to this trooper,'' said Fowler's attorney, George Beck. Beck said he was not told what Fowler had been charged with, but he said the district attorney had been talking about a murder charge, ``so I assume that's what he got.''  The indictment is the latest in a series of civil rights-era cases across the South that have been resurrected for prosecution after lying dormant for decades. In recent years, prosecutors have won convictions in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four black girls and in the 1964 killings of three civil rights volunteers near Philadelphia, Miss. In light of those cases, people in Alabama began to call for a new examination of Jackson's death. Michael Jackson, who was elected in 2004 as the first black district attorney in the Selma and Marion district and is no relation to Jimmie Lee Jackson, said he acted on these calls.

Jimmie Lee Jackson's daughter, Cordelia Heard Billingsley of Marion, who was 4 at the time of the killing, said: ``We'll finally know what happened. My grandchildren have asked me questions and I couldn't give them answers.'' She said if not for the district attorney's election, ``it would still have been swept under the rug.'' Some of those who were in Marion on the night of the shooting are dead, as are two FBI agents who originally investigated Jackson's death. News reporters were also beaten and cameras destroyed during the melee, with no pictures left of what happened. The district attorney, however, said he had ``strong witnesses.''  Willie Martin, 74, who was at the 1965 rally that ended in violence and appeared before the grand jury, said he was glad to see action taken after 42 years. ``They kept it smothered down. We didn't have nobody to represent us back then,'' he said. Fowler was among a contingent of law officers sent to Marion on the night of Feb. 18, 1965. According to witnesses, about 500 people were marching from a church toward the city jail to protest the jailing of a civil rights worker when the street lights went out. Troopers contended the crowd refused orders to disperse. Soon law officers began swinging billy clubs, with marchers fleeing. A group of protesters ran into Mack's Cafe, pursued by troopers. The cafe operator said 82-year-old Cager Lee was clubbed to the floor along with his daughter, Viola Jackson, whose son, Jimmie Lee Jackson, was shot trying to help them. He died two days later. The shooting galvanized civil rights activists who had not been getting any national media attention in their efforts to register blacks to vote in Selma, said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of ``Parting the Waters'' and other books about the civil rights movement. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived to preach Jackson's funeral, and in reaction to the killing, black civil rights demonstrators set out on March 7, 1965 on a march from Selma to Montgomery. They were routed by club-swinging officers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, an attack known as ``Bloody Sunday.''

National news coverage of the attack, including images of terrified marchers being beaten amid clouds of tear gas, made Selma the center of the civil rights movement. King, who was not present on Bloody Sunday, arrived to lead a weeklong Selma-to-Montgomery march later in the month. Those events prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which transformed the political makeup of the South by ending various segregationist practices that prevented blacks from voting. The retired trooper was not asked to testify before the grand jury. All of the witnesses who appeared before the panel Wednesday are black, and none witnessed the shooting. But Vera Jenkins Booker, the night supervising nurse at the Selma hospital where Jackson died, said the patient told her what happened. ``He said, `I was trying to help my grandfather and my mother and the state trooper shot me.' He didn't give any name,'' Booker told reporters after her grand jury appearance.
© Associated Press

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Headlines 4 May, 2007

RIGHTWINGERS WANT NATIONWIDE VOTE ON MINARETS (Switzerland)

3/5/2007- The construction of minarets in Switzerland looks sets to go to a nationwide vote after a group of rightwing politicians launched a campaign calling for a ban. The country's Muslim community says it is stunned by what it sees as an "Islamophobic" move, which it warns will undermine already fragile relations. Those behind a people's initiative, who include members of the county's biggest political party, the Swiss People's Party, have until November 2008 to raise the 100,000 signatures required to force a ballot.
Opponents are angling their attack on article 72 of the Swiss constitution, which allows the authorities to take appropriate measures to maintain the peace among different religious communities. People's Party parliamentarian Ulrich Schlüer, who is co-president of the campaign committee, argues that the construction of minarets will create problems in communities and threaten the peace. This has already happened in cantons Solothurn and Bern where plans to build minarets have run into local opposition. "The minaret has nothing to do with religion: it is not mentioned in the Koran or other important Islamic texts. It just symbolises a place where Islamic law is established," Schlüer told swissinfo.

Islamic law
And it is this issue of Islamic law, and its so-called "incompatibility" with Swiss law, that lies at the root of rightwingers' complaints about minarets. "No one in the [People's Party] is anti-Muslim. I think all Muslims in Switzerland are free to live here, but they have to respect that we have western-oriented liberal laws and that these laws are valid for everyone who wants to live here," said Schlüer. He added that he had yet to receive the official backing of his party, but believes this will be forthcoming at its general assembly at the end of June when strategy will be fine-tuned ahead of October's parliamentary elections. The rightwing drive to force a nationwide vote on minarets is being seen as a major setback by the League of Swiss Muslims. Adel Méjri, the organisation's president, says the construction of minarets is not even a priority for Swiss Muslims. "As an organisation that is helping Muslims to integrate and become model citizens, we are shocked by this initiative," he said. "In our opinion, there are other far more important issues to address but the launching of this initiative blocks the possibility of dialogue." What particularly galls Méjri is the fact that at the end of March the Swiss justice minister and strongman of the People's Party, Christoph Blocher, invited around 20 members of the Muslim community for talks on integration and security.

Discrimination
Méjri also points to a report by the Federal Commission against Racism in September last year, which revealed that Swiss Muslims face discrimination in all walks of life – a situation that could be exacerbated by the minarets' affair. "Through dialogue we can find solutions but the aggressive – or dare I say "Islamophobic" – way in which this [minarets] is being treated could have unforeseen consequences. This kind of initiative threatens peace and hurts Muslims," he said. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches have rallied to the defence of the Muslim community, claiming the constitutional right to religious freedom allows the building of minarets.
"We must recognise that there are a large number of Muslims in Switzerland and they have a right to practise their religion," said Walter Müller, spokesman for the Swiss Bishops Conference. Yet while church leaders dismiss the initiative as a propaganda stunt, they say there is a deep need for further and extensive dialogue to help allay public fears of Islam. "While it's true that there is this right to religious freedom, I don't think we can suddenly erect 20 minarets in Switzerland without there being an understanding of how Muslims practise their faith and an understanding of the importance of a minaret or mosque," said Simon Weber, spokesman for the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.
© Swissinfo

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BNP HUMILIATED (uk)

The far-right British National Party became the big losers today despite fielding a record number of candidates.

4/5/2007- By early this afternoon the neo-Nazi BNP had failed to make headway in their targets of Bradford, Stoke, Dewsbury and Calderdale. Nick Griffin's race hate party stood 750 candidates and hoped to reap over 100 councillors, up from the 46 local representatives they had before polls opened yesterday. But by lunchtime today the only major gains were three BNP councillors in Leicestershire. They lost their sole councillor on Broxbourne borough council in Hertfordshire, and their vote collapsed in Thurrock, Essex. In Bradford, the BNP's vote fell by 26% in Clayton & Fairweather Green as they came third, while in another target of Kirklees the BNP lost their safest seat to a massive swing to Labour who coverted a BNP majority of 726 was converted into a 644 deficit. In Stoke, another BNP priority area, they picked up only one councillor with a paper-thin majority. Birmingham remained a BNP-free zone, and failed to win in Rotherham and Barnsley, and did just as badly in Calderdale and Dewsbury - supposedly a BNP strongholds - where they left the counts empty handed. Griffin's personal hopes of winning a seat on the Welsh Assembly were dashed, and predictions that they would add to their four seats on Sandwell Council in the West Midlands also came to nothing. BNP vicar Robert West did not have his prayers answered as he lost his seat in Lincolnshire's South Holland district. He had defected from the Conservatives after being elected under a blue banner.
© Black Information Link

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ROW ERUPTS OVER BNP MOSQUE LETTER(uk)

2/5/2007- A row has broken out in Lincoln over a letter sent by a British National Party representative to the council leader criticising a new mosque in the city. Richard Foster, the BNP's regional representative in Lincoln, wrote claiming the mosque, on the site of a former church, could "teach terrorism". Council leader Ric Metcalfe said the letter was being shown to the police to determine whether it broke race laws. All other parties standing in the local election have condemned the letter. A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said they had not yet seen the letter but were aware of the council's plans to involve them. "I think it is absolutely outrageous and exposes the BNP for the party it's always been known to be and a party holding overtly racist views," said Mr Metcalfe, who is Labour leader on the council. But Mr Foster defended his words, saying his opinions were nothing new. "The building would become an Islamic centre, rather than just a mosque and this can mean that the Islamic form of 'getting your own way' - terrorism - could be taught there. "I don't know if you're aware of the programme 'The Undercover Mosque' but anything I have put in this letter, in that documentary far, far, far worse things have been said about the [Muslim] community. "I don't need anybody to tell me that the only thing to happen in these places is worshipping their god because we all know that isn't the case. Not all Muslims are terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims," he said. Bashir Ahmed, from Lincolnshire's Racial Equality Council, said he was shocked at the letter's contents. "To blame a particular group for something is a sign of racism. This [the BNP] is not a party to recommend neighbourly living or getting on, it's a racist party and there's no doubt about it."

'Prejudiced letter'
Eddie Strengiel, from the Conservative Party in Lincoln, said he agreed with the council's views. "I would go along with Ric Metcalfe's comments. He and I have a lot of disagreements on the political side but this is above politics and is on dangerous ground. I don't agree with what they've said." Echoing Mr Strengiel's words, Tony Charles Shaw, from the Liberal Democrats, said: "The BNP...doesn't actually, or it does think about the consequences of what it does but gets the argument wrong on almost every occasion. For me this is a totally prejudiced letter." Tony Wells, a candidate for the UK Independence Party said the letter was "extreme" in its comments. "There's no doubt about it, the BNP is extreme right and fascist and can't get any further right."
© BBC News

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'CLOSE ALL ISLAMIC SCHOOLS' (Netherlands)

1/5/2007- Freedom Party PVV faction leader Geert Wilders is arguing that all Islamic schools in the Netherlands should be shut down immediately. He says this measure is necessary in order to "protect children against the spread of Islamic doctrine." Wilders writes this in a column that appeared today on the website Nieuwnieuws.nl. "Islam is rapidly pushing our Western civilisation close to the edge of the abyss. We have too much Islam in the Netherlands. Islam is more a violent political ideology than a religion," the MP writes. He admits that he has taken a strong position in the debate on Islam. That is necessary, he says, because it is "the eleventh hour." Wilders also talks about the recent incident with the National Coordinator for Anti-terrorism (NCTb). He says that during a talk at the NCTb office last month an employee told him he should tone down his comments on Islam. Wilders doesn't think that the fact that Tjibbe Joustra, head of the NCTb, corrected his employee diminishes the situation at all. "It certainly was intimidation and of the worst kind," the MP writes. He says he has heard from two other individuals who are outspoken against Islam that they have been subject to similar treatment by officials. "A subordinate urges that the comments be toned down in the debate on Islam and the boss corrects the criticism. So the criticism is uttered, but is then also "corrected." This way Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin can wash their hands of it." Hirsch Ballin stressed on Friday that there was no case of intimidation and that the freedom of speech is not at stake. He says the talk with the NCTb was intended to inform Wilders about his security situation. The minister will send Parliament a letter on the matter this week. Wilders also referred in his column to a website with quotes from people who have turned away from Islam. "Mohammed was a narcissist, just like Hitler, Saddam or Stalin," they write. "I couldn't have said it better myself," Wilders adds.
© Expatica News

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MINISTER: CZECH AGENCY TO LEAD 'MOTIVATED' ROMANIES OUT OF GHETTO

2/5/2007- The emerging Czech Agency for Romany Integration wants to focus on "motivated" Romany families, that is those whose children attend school, parents seek jobs, etc. and take them out of ghettoes," Minister for Ethnic Minorities Dzamila Sthelikova told today's issue of daily Pravo. "Don't believe that all Romanies want to live on social benefits," she said. The majority society cannot say "let them live there and don't let us bother about them," Stehlikova said. She said that shunning the ghetto issue solves nothing, and cited the example of France that "boasted of stately neighbourhoods on the edge of Paris. The time bomb went off after decades, the minorities have not been integrated. Such situation does not threaten in the Czech Republic, yet it is a sort of warning," Stehlikova said. She said that street workers and NGOs will deal with Romany families on an individual basis. They will have to prevent their further social decline. They will see to it that they pay housing rents in time so that they do not run into debt. They will look to that children attend school and check how these people cooperate with the labour offices, Stehlikova said. All this should somehow be linked to the Romanies receiving social benefits, she added. Stehlikova said that integration will be no easy task and that it will take decades. Stehlikova, who has lived in a strongly-Romany part of Chomutov, north Bohemia, for 18 years, said that she is sure "her" housing estate will not turn into a ghetto. Flowers have grown outside the house and no one dares to tear them, representatives of the majority society are not fleeing from the housing estate, which is good, she said. "Romany minorities inhabitants must not live isolated from the others," Stehlikova told Pravo.

Stehlikova, a physician by training, said that she thinks that it is never pointless to help people, but the help must be effective. She said that the state policy has been a failure because it worked with one pattern and made it possible to abuse the social system. Stehlikova said that problems at different places are different and that projects for particular municipalities will tailored through the agency. She said that no exact figures of Romanies living in the Czech Republic exist, but that a qualified estimate puts their total at 300,000 to 350,000. Stehlikova said that many Romanies do not claim their origin. In Brno, for instance, about 17,000 Romanies live, but statistics speak about only 450 of them. Asked how she wants to motivate Romanies to seek jobs in regions where there are none even for "the whites," Stehlikova said that retraining must be targeted. She said that even in regions with a high unemployment rate there are still vacancies that are filled by foreigners: Slovaks, Poles and others. "Don't let us try to turn Romanies into administrative workers or computer specialists," Stehlikova said and added that retraining should be directed so that they could do jobs that are available.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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POLICE PREVENT EXTREMISTS' MARCH IN BRNO (Czech Rep.)

30/4/2007- The Town Hall banned a planned neo-Nazi May Day march in Brno before it started today and the police, using water cannons and armoured troops, dispersed the meeting of some 500 supporters of the National Resistance extremist movement that organised the event. The neo-Nazis were throwing stones and bottles at the policemen. A photographer was injured in the brawl probably by a stone. Some neo-Nazis also assaulted a group of passers-by on a tram stop.  The local authorities banned the march in the end as the participants allegedly diverted from the originally approved route and they chanted the slogan "National Resistance." The police gradually pushed the march participants to adjacent streets and a park where they still wait. Buses will arrive to transfer the extremists, accompanied by police, from the place. The junior ruling Greens protested against the planned neo-Nazi march in Brno today. Some 100 opponents of extremism met in the centre of Brno on Moravske square, wearing green vests of "street sweepers" and carrying banners and symbolical brooms for "big cleaning." Among the participants were also Green politicians - Education Minister Dana Kuchtova and deputies Ondrej Liska and Katerina Jacques. Jacques got in a conflict with police during a similar event in Prague last year when a policeman beat her up brutally. She filed a complaint, but the case was shelved eventually. After Liska announced in the afternoon that the authorities banned the neo-Nazi march, the meeting reacted by a stormy applause. The happening should point to the indulgence of authorities that originally permitted the neo-Nazi event. Jacques said that it always depends on the respective authorities how they handle similar situations. "There is no problem in the law determining the rules of assembly," she added.
© Czech News Agency

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FAR-RIGHT GROUPS ATTRACT FOLLOWERS(Czech Rep.)

Increased public profile may reflect a Europe-wide trend

2/5/2007- As a tacit nod to their icon Adolf Hitler, far-right groups around the Czech Republic held public gatherings April 21 to commemorate his birthday. Although overt support of Nazism is illegal here, as are the display of Nazi symbols, it’s not difficult to skirt the law. Rallies the day after Hitler’s birthday are legal, and their chosen day makes plain their message. Extremists in Plzeň demonstrated in support of Václav Pechanec, who was convicted of racially motivated murder; right-wingers in Prague visited Olšany Cemetery to pay homage to Radola Gajda, a Czechoslovak fascist; and extremists in Kladno, central Bohemia, marched for freedom of speech. And on Czechoslovak Day, Oct. 28, members of the National Party — whose leader, Petra Edelmannová, called last month for a “final solution of the Roma problem” — gathered in Wenceslas Square to call for the incineration of Muslim hatred. Edelmannová declined to comment for this story and objected to the characterization of her party as being far-right. “It’s extremely traumatic [for] minority people here,” said Gwendolyn Albert, a human rights advocate. The point of these rallies, which lie on the periphery of the law, is for extremists to send the message that they will not be sanctioned, she said. Police say extremists are focusing more on demonstrations and marches these days and less on private activity. The United Nations issued a report in March that called for Czech police to be more vigilant in controlling these groups and their concerts featuring neo-Nazi bands.

“The U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination remains deeply concerned by information according to which action taken by the public authorities to prevent and prosecute the organization of, and participation in, such concerts is neither systematic nor sufficient,” the report states, adding that “police should adopt a proactive and vigorous policy to ensure that such concerts do not take place, and impede the distribution of related propaganda.” The report also notes that the Czech Criminal Code “mixes up the ideas of hate crimes, racist propaganda and genocide with that of class struggle,” thereby weakening the fight against racism.  Petr Uhl, a former dissident who recently resigned from the government’s human-rights council in protest over Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek’s anti-Roma comments, said that “very often it is as if the police don’t ‘see’ [the rallies], it is being overlooked that, for example, people are ‘heiling,’ etc.” The legal system to combat these movements is sufficient, in Uhl’s view, but enforcement lags behind legislation. Although there is no anti-discrimination law, there are provisions about defamation of nationality, race and belief, about inciting racial hatred and against supporting movements that suppress human rights. But the problem is that authorities aren’t using these tools enough, according to Uhl. “It is just laziness, laziness, laziness,” he said.

The new faces of extremism
Right-wing extremism is nothing new, but it continually changes form. Zdeněk Zbořil, a political science professor at Charles University, told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) that the number of secondary and university students participating in extremist activity is growing. Groups in the Czech Republic tend to be better organized, with more highly educated members, than in previous years.
Michal Mazel of the Interior Ministry told ČTK there are two groups playing the most important role on the Czech far-right scene: Národní odpor (NO), or National Resistance, and Národní korporativismus (NK), or National Corporativism. NK tries to present itself as a serious patriotic organization made up of well-mannered, well-dressed and often university-educated people, and its members have political ambitions, Mazel said. They are trying to interconnect the historical roots of Nazism with Czechoslovak First Republic fascism. Contrary to NK, NO is solely a neo-Nazi group with no ambitions to achieve its goals by democratic means, according to the Interior Ministry. The exact number of groups and participants in the movements is hard to pin down. “There are a million of these,” Albert said. Zbořil said about 5 percent of people in every society harbor largely radical or extreme attitudes. The actual growth or decline of these kinds of groups is difficult to quantify. Some signs from Eastern Europe, however, are cause for concern. ČTK reported April 17 that a poll showed the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) to be the second most popular political group in Slovakia. In Moscow this year, foreigners were warned not to leave their dormitories on Hitler’s birthday for fear they would be attacked.

Western Europe, too, has harbored its share of prominent far-right groups and political parties. Far-right nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen has proved to be a sometimes surprisingly resilient figure in French politics. Even Sweden, a poster-child nation for left-leaning social democracy, has seen waves of anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi violence over the past couple of years, according a BBC News report.
In the Czech Republic, negative attitudes toward some minority groups are pervasive even among those without extremist leanings. For instance, Zbořil estimates about 60 percent of Czechs hold negative beliefs about Roma. Despite this, some say Czech right-wing extremism is barely on the rise, if it is at all. Uhl said the far-right movement is growing slightly, at maybe 2 percent a year. “The reason, I assume, is not only the psyche of the people but also the fact that society offers no alternative; there is a capitalist abyss and people are just more detached from each other, a sort of alienation. This creates a fertile ground for extremism,” he said.
Youth, Zbořil said, want to identify with a new ideology, and, because traditional political parties often don’t represent them, they end up in extremist movements. They do so at the peril of minority groups, Albert said. In the worst case, groups with racially motivated fervor can foster the actions Czech groups seemed to celebrate April 21. “This kind of racial hatred … leads to genocide,” she said.
© The Prague Post Online

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MAN WINS REVERSE DISCRIMINATION CASE(Norway)

4/5/2007- Norway's justice ministry has paid out compensation to a man in Vestfold County after the country's anti-discrimination agency determined that he was the victim of gender discrimination. He'd complained when a younger and less-qualified woman won a judge's position that he had sought. The decision by Norway's Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud basically forced the justice ministry (Justisdepartementet) to pay compensation claimed by Rune Bård Hansen, reported newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. He'd been told he was the top candidate for a judge's position in Vestfold. The ministry nonetheless appointed a younger woman with less work experience to the position. The woman was a state prosecutor, while Hansen already had held judicial posts. The ministry now has paid Hansen NOK 700,000 (about USD 116,000) to settle the claim. The amount includes NOK 300,000 to cover the extra cost Hansen now faces because he has to commute from his home in Vestfold to a job in Oslo instead of being able to bicycle to the job in Vestfold. The settlement also includes NOK 300,000 to cover other costs he's had in filing his case and NOK 100,000 in the equivalent of punitive damages. A ministry official confirmed to Aftenposten that the settlement also includes an apology. Hansen said he's satisfied with the settlement, which is large by Norwegian standards, but he maintains it would have been more important to him to get the job for which he was the best qualified. "This has really opened my eyes to how it feels to be sidelined because of something you are, whether you're a man or a woman, a homosexual or an immigrant," he said. "It's a huge strain. He noted that "you can do something about your education and experience," but not about other things like gender. "I really have sympathy for all women who've been passed over," he said, "but at the same time, it's important that we don't make up for 1,000 years of oversight by letting the pendulum swing too far the other way."
© Aftenpost

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MP QUITS PARTY AMIDST NAZI ALLEGATIONS (Denmark)

30/4/2007- A leading Danish People's Party MP has resigned from the party over allegations he sang Nazi songs and gave a Nazi salute.
Morten Messerschmidt, the Danish People's Party's European issues spokesperson, quit the party on Sunday after reports that he sang Nazi songs and gave a straight-armed salute at festivities marking the season opening of Tivoli Gardens. The accusations were originally printed in a B.T. newspaper article and were made by an unnamed source, who alleged that Messerschmidt was drunk when the incident occurred. In addition, Berlingske Tidende newspaper reported Monday that Messerschmidt had been involved at another incident at a city bar, where he told others present to 'Heil correctly' and called a Liberal Party member a 'corrupt nigger'. Messerschmidt himself admitted he was 'extremely intoxicated' at Tivoli and said he could not remember much of the evening. He denied he has ever sang Nazi songs or given a straight-arm salute. Messerschmidt said it was in the Danish People's Party 's best interests that he quit to protect the party from further scandal, but he planned to remain in his parliamentary seat as an independent. 'I am very, very fond of the Danish People's Party and it would be unbearable for me if this situation hurt the party. That is why I've chosen to quit immediately,' he said in a press release. B.T. reported that it has Messerschmidt's own recount of the evening on tape and that the former MP did not deny his participation in the Nazi songs at that time. Messerschmidt's behaviour represented yet another incident in a wave of public image troubles for the Danish People's Party. He, along with MP Søren Krarup and MEP Mogens Camre, were all given reprimands by party leader Pia Kjærsgaard last week over their comments concerning Muslim women's wearing of headscarves. Krarup also said that homosexuals were handicapped. Kjærsgaard called her members' recent remarks 'foolish'. 'There's been too much nonsense instead of straight talk about our policies. It's clear that our members' comments have to follow our party politics. We're certainly not that easily offended ourselves, but there's a limit.' The Danish People's Party has experienced continuing turmoil since July 2006. Since that time it has expelled 19 members within its local chapters due to disputes with the party's central leadership.
© The Copenhagen Post

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FAR-RIGHT PARTY PUSHES FOR RACIALLY PURE PRE-SCHOOLS(Sweden)

30/4/2007- Sweden's far-right National Democrat party has announced plans to open a number of pre-schools for ethnic Swedish children only. In the next few weeks the party intends testing the waters by submitting applications to local councils in Uppsala and Södertälje. The Local spoke to party leader Marc Abramsson to find out why he believes that Sweden needs racially pure kindergartens. "It is very important that we can build up a safe and Swedish environment for our children. They can have the best possible start in life by growing up with Swedish culture," he said. If sent to a pre-school with a multi-cultural flavour, Abramsson believed that Swedish kids risked emerging with "low self-esteem and lacking an ethnic identity". According to the National Democrat leader, Sweden resembles eastern Europe under communism, "where they used school to indoctrinate the children."  As an example, he suggested that politicians "promoted homosexuals' right to adopt". It is worth noting that Marc Abramsson has a history of intolerance when it comes to gay rights. In 2004 nine members of the party were brought to court following an assault on functionaries at the previous summer's Gay Pride Festival in Stockholm. Abramsson was sentenced to four months in prison for his part in the attack. "We want to instill children with Swedish values, nationalistic values. We want them to value more things than just earning money, such as honour and respect," he said. Asked whether he would support the creation of, say, ethnic Somali pre-schools, Abramsson replied: "Absolutely, they also need to struggle to preserve their culture." But, being an anti-immigration party, there was a catch. "They should learn about their culture and then move back there," said Abramsson.

For followers of the National Democrats' world view, immigration is at the root of most of Sweden's problems. "We need to stop mass immigration right away. The problems are soon getting out of control," said Abramsson, adding that his party would be doing immigrants a favour - even second and third generation immigrants - by trying to get them to leave. "We should help people return to their own countries. Even if they have been here a long time they still have their own identity and many of them want to go back to their own culture," said Abramsson. The Local also tried to reach Vávra Suk, party secretary and citizen of the Czech Republic, but he had travelled to the UK for a meeting with the British Nationalist Party. Suk is strongly in favour of ethnic Swedish pre-schools. But would not his Czech nationality prevent his children from participating? "I think he would prefer to return to Czechoslovakia [sic]. He would appreciate having his children in a nationalist pre-school but that would probably be in his own country," said Abramsson. But if Suk insisted on sending his children to a Swedish National Democrat pre-school, the party leader would not stand in his way. "No, because it would be illegal. What is important is the values," said Abramsson. The party intends applying for permission to set up its nationalist pre-schools "in the next couple of weeks". "We know that there is a strong interest among parents and we hope to extend this to other municipalities. And we don't want to stop there. We would like to start full schools with these same values," said Abramsson. The Local tried without success to reach the relevant spokespersons for Uppsala council, Södertälje council and the Swedish National Agency for Education.
© The Local

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WOMEN WIN DISCRIMINATION CASE AGAINST SWEDISH UNIVERSITY

30/4/2007- A court in Sweden ordered a university on Monday to pay several thousand of dollars in damages to three women refused admission in favour of male students with lower grades. The court ruled that Örebro University in central Sweden was guilty of gender discrimination and must pay each of the women 75,000 kronor ($11,145) in damages and cover their court costs. The university was not however required to grant the women admission. The three women, now aged 23, 23, and 21, had applied to the school's Health Promotion programme in 2005, but were denied admission. Three men who had lower grades were admitted. "The verdict is as pleasing as it is important," said the women's legal representative Gunnar Strömmer. "It makes it clear that it is not permissible to discriminate against applicants to a third level institution on the basis of gender," added Strömmer, who heads the non-profit public interest law organization Centrum för Rättvisa (Centre for Justice). University officials told the Örebro district court that it had applied affirmative action rules because it wanted to increase the number of male students in the programme as men were underrepresented. But the court ruled that the university had discriminated against the women, as affirmative action rules only allow the university to admit the men instead of the women if they all had similar grades. The university has not yet decided whether it will appeal the verdict, according to Swedish news agency TT. The Swedish government has allowed universities to apply affirmative action since 2003. About 60 percent of university students in Sweden are women.
© The Local

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ANALYSIS: GERMAN NEO-NAZIS TO JOIN G8 PROTESTS

Joining left wing activists

3/5/2007- A German neo-Nazi party hopes to benefit from the populist battle between rich and poor by joining the many left-wing groups protesting globalization at this year's Group of Eight summit in Germany. The protest against inequality and the detrimental effects of globalization has so far been an exclusive left-wing battleground. Yet Germany's most popular far-right group, the National Democratic Party, or NPD, claims it has been pursuing the same goals as the likes of ATTAC. "In terms of the criticism, there are a lot of similarities," NPD spokesman Klaus Beier recently told the online version of the German news magazine Der Spiegel. "Sometime in the near future, there will be joint activities," he said, adding that on a grass-roots level, there are already talks between far-right activists and far-left globalization opponents. He refused, however, to give details. "We want to do this seriously and not shout it from the rooftops." Beier's remarks have outraged left-wing activists. "Those are infamous lies," Frauke Distelrath, spokeswoman of ATTAC, a multinational left-wing group critical of globalization, told United Press International Wednesday in a telephone interview. "The NPD has not engaged in talks with any significant left group, and of course no group would talk to them." Distelrath added no neo-Nazis will be tolerated near their demonstrations. "We have nothing in common," she added. "They won't join our protests and we will not allow them to do so." 

ATTAC -- the French acronym for the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens, a name that reflects its anti-tax origins -- claims not to be anti-globalization, but is only critical of the neo-liberal ideology that it sees as dominating economic globalization. It supports globalization policies that the coalition characterizes as sustainable and socially just. One of ATTAC's slogans is "The World is not for sale," denouncing the "merchandization" of society. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the home state of Chancellor Angela Merkel and host to the G8 summit, the NPD made it into the state parliament, with a top candidate who on election day called Adolf Hitler "a phenomenon -- militarily, socially and economically." The NPD even submitted a resolution in the state parliament stating that U.S. President George W. Bush is "not welcome" in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. In some regions in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt (eastern Germany), the major democratic parties have already lost ground, the expert said. "There, the NPD subculturally has taken the lead," Hajo Funke, an extremism expert at Berlin's Free University, told UPI. The NPD's opposition to globalization is not a new thing, he added.

Seeking to soften its image
The party has always been anti-capitalist and critical of America's influence; it's just that this opposition is paired with anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas aimed at keeping immigrants out or sending foreigners living in Germany back home.  To soften its image to outsiders, the "far-right populist NPD" for its latest anti-globalization course has also taken up arguments from the far-left. "They blatantly copied from them," Funke said. Ahead of the G8 summit to be held in the northeastern city of Heiligendamm June 2, the NPD has registered a protest march for 1,500 people in Schwerin, close to the summit venue. The far-left groups -- anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 could attend, Distelrath said -- will meet in nearby Rostock. The NPD also marched Tuesday in Erfurt, eastern Germany, under the motto: "Future instead of globalization -- work for millions instead of profits for millionaires." While the NPD tirelessly tries to attract voters from the middle of the political spectrum, its success has been limited. In Erfurt, several thousand people marched in peaceful counter-demonstrations, and experts say the G8 protests will be attended by those few who already lend their voice and vote to the NPD.
© World Peace Herald

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MANY SEE PROGRESS AT BERLIN ISLAM TALKS, BUT DIFFERENCES REMAIN(Germany)

The German government attempted to reach out to the country's more than three million Muslims on Wednesday but faced criticism from a Muslim leader for organizing "aimless" talks.

2/5/2007- Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble gathered together Muslim groups in Berlin for a second conference in the space of nine months to tackle growing alienation between Germans and Muslim immigrants. Schäuble, a conservative, insisted that progress had been made "on many points" and said open and frank discussions were the only way forward to ease the integration of Muslims in German society. "We all agreed that this process is the right one and that it has made progress. It was a step in the right direction," Schäuble told journalists after the meeting. But the head of the Central Council of Muslims, Ayyub Axel Köhler, said: "We cannot go on like this, debating without any aim." "There must be an evaluation of this whole process," he said. "We need to set concrete goals and we need to lay out a roadmap." The meeting with Schäuble was a review of the first seven months of negotiations in working parties on plans for Islam classes for Muslims in German public schools and mosque demands for legal rights similar to churches. No agreements have been reached yet.

Who represents whom
Much of the debate ahead of the meeting focused on the role of the recently formed Muslim Coordination Council, a move which Interior Minister Schäuble has welcomed. The council is an umbrella group comprising the Central Council of Muslims and three other organizations: the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, the Islamic Council and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers. The groups have said they would try to find a joint stance on issues such as immigration, integration and extremism, while remaining independent. But since it only represents the 300,000 people who belong to Islamic organizations, Schäuble says its ability to speak for the 3.4 million Muslims living in Germany is limited. Of Germany's Muslims, about 2.4 million are Turks or people of Turkish descent, many of them children and grandchildren of guest workers invited to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Another 200,000 Muslims in Germany come from North Africa. There are also about 55,000 Afghans in the community, 60,000 Iranians and 160,000 Bosnian Muslims, according to official estimates. Germany's Muslim community is overwhelmingly Sunni.

Divisions among Muslims
There were some divisions between religious and secular Muslims which came to light during the meeting, in particular when it came to women's dress and the mixing of the sexes. The government and secularists have rejected complaints by conservative Muslim families about girls wearing swimsuits in the presence of boys while being taught swimming at German schools. Schäuble said it was the "rule" in Germany that girls and boys were educated in school together. He said he had heard the objections to mixed sports, adding: "We will continue to be talking about this." The first meeting of the groups with the government last September was overshadowed by a row over the staging in Berlin of a Mozart opera, "Idomeneo," which featured the severed head of the Prophet Mohammed in one scene. The opera was pulled from the schedule over fears of violent protests by Islamic radicals, but was staged later amid tight security.
© Deutsche Welle

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ALARM GROWS OVER MUSLIM YOUTH IN GERMANY

2/5/2007- German government talks with the Islamic community reflect growing concern in Berlin that the angry children of immigrants may turn to terrorism because they are excluded from German prosperity. A government briefing document released Wednesday in Berlin spoke of the "growing difficulties that second and third generation immigrants have finding a place in school and the jobs market." Germany has already been slammed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over the low educational performance of immigrant children in schools. Many leave school without any qualifications. Recent news reports have highlighted the low success rate for young people with Turkish or Middle Eastern names when they apply by letter for jobs or scarce apprenticeships. The German Islam Conference was set up seven months ago by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who is not only responsible for religious issues but also Germany's fight against terrorism. German officials have been shocked by the emergence of terrorism among young British Muslims with roots in Pakistan and India, and worry that Germany faces a similar risk. Government figures show there are up to 3.4 million people of Islamic heritage among Germany's 82-million population. More than half, or 1.8 million, are Turkish nationals. Aliens data show other large groups include 160,000 Bosnians, 70,000 Moroccans, 60,000 Iranians and 55,000 Afghans. About 1 million German nationals are Muslim.

Muslims settled in Germany in large numbers in the 1960s, when Germany recruited factory labour from Turkey. The Interior Ministry says 90 per cent of German Muslims are of non-Arab origin. Sunni Muslims predominate, numbering about 2.5 million, while more than 500,000 are Alawites. Some Muslims do not accept Alawites as part of Islam. Only about 200,000 of Muslims in Germany are Shiite. Mosques are generally run by associations, which can be freely established under German law and own property. However, the interior ministry says only 10 to 15 per cent of Muslims are formally members of such associations or of secular groups representing their ethnicities. The principal Muslim groups are the Ditib Turkish Islamic Religious Foundation, the Islamic Council of Germany, the Central Council of Muslims, the Federation of Islamic Culture Centres VIKZ and the Alawite Community. The first four formed a coordination committee in March to speak with a single voice. State estimates indicate there are 2,500 mosques in Germany, many of them little more than large rented rooms in office buildings or former factories. Most of the estimated 2,250 imams employed in Germany have been seconded to Germany from Turkey or Arab nations and the Islamic Conference is expected to discuss asking a German university to train home-grown imams. The government says it is seeking a trade-off, where Germany changes some laws to accommodate Muslims while the Islamic community commits itself to German democracy.
© Expatica News

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GERMANY TO EXTEND LABOUR RESTRICTIONS ON 'NEW' EU MEMBER STATES

30/4/2007- The Netherlands has moved to open up its labour markets to workers from "new" EU member states. But the German government has agreed to extend restrictions against them until 2011, despite opposition from the current economy minister. Experts from Germany's right-left ruling coalition last week backed plans to use the full EU temporary period for labour barriers and delay lifting them for the two final years until 2011, according to German weekly Der Spiegel. Berlin as well as most other west European capitals opted to keep their labour markets closed for jobseekers from the eight countries in central and Eastern Europe that joined the EU in 2004. Several countries extended the restrictions in 2006 for another three years and can decide whether to delay them again until 2011, with Austria likely to follow Germany in doing so. The agreement between the Christian democrats and Socialists in the German government goes against the arguments of the economy minister Michael Glos, who favoured dropping the barriers earlier, according to Der Spiegel.

The Dutch open up on 1 May
Meanwhile, the Dutch government informed the European Commission on Friday (27 April) that it would lift restrictions for new workers on 1 May, with employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla welcoming the move. Mr Spidla suggested it would help the Dutch economy, with authorities saying they expect potential European migrants to find jobs mainly in the construction sector and agriculture. The Netherlands follows Spain, Portugal, Finland, Greece and Italy who dropped barriers last year while the UK, Ireland and Sweden did not introduce them in the first place when the newcomers joined in 2004. However, both south European countries and the UK and Ireland switched to a restrictive policy towards Bulgarians and Romanians who entered the EU in January 2007 and introduced quotas for various sectors and types of workers to be allowed in. Free movement of workers is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union, but member states can apply temporary measures to protect their labour markets from an influx of migrant workers for up to seven years.
© EUobserver

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ARCHIVES RELEASE MAY REVEAL NEW HOLOCAUST VICTIMS (Germany)

30/4/2007- The opening of one of the world's most extensive archives dealing with Nazi concentration camps and forced labour may reveal the names of many previously unknown Holocaust victims, according to the archives chief, Reto Meister. The vast store of unique papers managed by the International Tracing Service (ITS) is kept in the German town of Bad Arolsen. The ITS, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, helps survivors of the camps and the press-gangs to claim pensions and compensation and assists families who want to know where their loved ones suffered. But the ITS has always withheld the papers from history researchers. Even the survivors have only seen ITS transcripts of their own data, not images of the yellowing original documents. The 11 nations governing the archives have now agreed to modify a 1955 treaty, not only allowing historians into the collection, but also permitting digital photographs of the entire archives to be lodged at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. A further copy will go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where official Paul A Shapiro says the 35 million to 50 million pages will double that museum's document collection in one step. The Wiener Library in London has inquired about becoming the British repository. Ben Barkow, director of the Wiener, which is Britain's main Holocaust archives, has revealed to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "We're considering whether it's a realistic thing for us. "It's a vast source and will generate a huge number of inquiries which we'll be unable to cope with unless we get extra resources." Among the documents is the typewritten Schindler's List, the subject of Steven Spielberg's film of the same name, recording the Jews in Bruennlitz camp saved from death by entrepreneur Oskar Schindler. Six nations including Israel, the United States and Germany, have ratified the treaty changes, but the archives cannot be unlocked until legislators in five more nations, including France, Italy and Greece, get around to voting through the change.

The long wait is frustrating the United States, which has led the battle to open the data before all the Holocaust survivors die. So far the data has been mined by the ITS staff to card-index the names of 17.5 million individuals - Jews, Poles, Belgians and many other ethnicities - trapped by the Nazis' infernal machine. But it has never been trawled to survey whole groups, for example the populations of pre-war shtetls, or Jewish villages, or the workforces compelled to manufacture Nazi weapons, or the shiploads of displaced people fleeing the Soviets after the war to Latin America. Putting a copy of the archives on US soil means that research among the images can be conducted there under more liberal US rules. Historical research in Germany is hemmed in by data-privacy laws. Meister, who became head of the ITS at the end of last year after 25 years of operational work for the Red Cross, said in an interview that he believed the German government was "very much at ease" with the changes to the 1955 treaty. The documents, kept in six buildings at Bad Arolsen, a remote town in hills north of Frankfurt, are only a part of the world's scattered stock of personal data on Nazi victims. Prisoner-of-war data is kept separately by the Central Tracing Agency in Geneva, Switzerland. Meister said he anticipated that Yad Vashem and memorials in Germany including the Holocaust Monument in Berlin would use ITS data to complement their registers of concentration-camp inmates. "The ITS has not taken a pro-active role on this before," he admitted in a criticism of the period before he took over. The ITS had been "quite restrictive" with its unique collection of concentration-camp data. Talks had now begun with the memorials on opening up the data. It is expected that many names of previously unknown Holocaust victims will emerge when the various agencies' lists are compared. But the new repositories "are not supposed to put the data on the internet."

At a May 14-15 meeting in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, of the International Commission in charge of the ITS, regulations on access to the data are to be settled. Meister said that to speed the release, the ITS may transfer some of the data abroad early, under embargo. Washington has pressed for this, to give software experts time to build storage databases. The documents will only go public once all 11 member states of the Commission ratify the legal change. The ITS, which is 100-per-cent funded by the German government, began converting the paper records to computerized form in 1998 but the huge task of scanning and electronically indexing them is not finished.
© Expatica News

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SIXTH MOLDOVAN GAY PRIDE ­ FIRST VICTORY (press release)

3/5/2007- Moldova’s sixth LGBT Pride event, “Rainbow over the Dniester-2007”, has been ended successfully, despite many difficulties faced by Information Center GenderDoc-M during the preparations. Not everything went smoothly. The first public event planned was the laying of flowers at the monument of the victims of repression. When the participants arrived the police prevented them from laying their flowers at the monument on the grounds that GenderDoc-M needed the official permission of the City Hall. The participants laid their flowers at the feet of the policemen instead and then withdrew. Later, in a statement to the media, a representative of the City Hall commented that the actions of the police were not justified and that the laying of flowers at the momument did not require their permission. Another Pride event was a protest in front of the City Hall against the decision of the authorities to ban a public event in the city center by GenderDoc-M. This had been planned as a celebration within the framework of the “All different - All equal” campaign. In deciding not to authorize the event the City Hall committee accused GenderDoc-M of promoting public sex and homosexuality. The protest demonstration lasted 15 minutes, with about 20 people form GenderDoc-M and partner organizations participating. These included a Member of the European Parliament, Maria Carlshamre and her 3 assistants, who had come to Moldova specially to support the Pride organizers. The protest demonstration went off successfully and was protected by the police. About 30 people took part in a counter-demonstration, mainly young people from an extremist organization. This event showed that the City Hall’s fears that a Pride demonstration would provoke public disorder were not justified. The majority of the people who were witnesses to the event were peaceful.

Demonstrations in solidarity with the Moldovan LGBT Community’s struggle for equality were organized by LGBT activists in front of Moldovan Embassies in Stockholm, Vienna, Bucharest, Washington and New York. “We would like to thank all the people in Moldova and other countries who went on the streets to show their support and solidarity with Moldova’s LGBT movement. Together we have achieved a first small victory in the struggle of the LGBT community to achieve freedom of assembly in Moldova. Building on this year’s experience we will do our best to ensure that next year’s public demonstration by the LGBT community will take place not just as a protest action but as proper Pride Parade” ­ said director of the Center Boris Balanetkii.
© GenderDoc-M

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BRIEF REPORT ABOUT WEEK AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA

The only love, which is not sickening afterwards, is the love beyond the sex, the love for the other in his name

29/4/2007- From March 26 till 31, 2007 for the first time in Russia (in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, Krasnodar, Samara, etc.) the activists of the LGBT-community, human rights, anti-fascist and civil organizations carried out the "European Week against Homophobia" in the framework of the European "All Different – All Equal" campaign. "The Week against Homophobia" became the first enlightenment initiative in Russia, which was open to everyone's participation. At the official site of "the Week against Homophobia" www.ewaho.lgbtrights.ru anyone was able to join the Manifesto against homophobia (in all, during the action more than 700 signatures from different countries of Europe were gathered). The Manifesto is also available in English and open to signing during the whole year! Regardless of the fact that the problem of homophobia in Europe is one of the key ones in the realization of the "All Different – All Equal" campaign, the Russian National Committee of the campaign has not supported the initiative to organize the Week. This circumstance once again stresses the acuteness of the problem: in disregard of the facts that for more than 10 years there exists no punishment for homosexuality in the country, and alternative sexual orientation is excluded from the list of mental diseases, it is still complicated to publicly denounce the discrimination of sexual minorities. The situation is still worsened by the aggressive homophobic propaganda of the neo-Nazi organizations and groups and supported by the unpunished usage of the hate speech by politicians and public figures.

The main elements of "the Week against Homophobia" were the enlightenment events, information and enlightenment actions, cinema shows, presentations of the projects in human rights defense, seminars, roundtables, etc. But youth discussions became the most successful and popular form. The matter is not that today there are more questions about the ways and methods of overcoming homophobia than answers to them – simply there is practically no opportunities and space where it's possible to discuss it openly. In Moscow the discussions "Leadership and confrontation in LGBT-movement" and "LGBT-community and the problem of xenophobia" took place. In Saint-Petersburg the meeting "Homophobia: the size of the problem" was organized, during which such topics were discussed among the others: the discrimination faced by the participants themselves; causes of intolerance and internal homophobia; coming out and its consequences. In Krasnodar in the framework of the Week against Homophobia the activists of GROZA-Krasnodar group conducted the student debates "Gay Parade in Moscow: pros and cons". The question whether it is necessary to organize the gay parade in Moscow turned out to be the most acute. In the majority's opinion today this action may be counter-productive for the fight against homophobia. Also one of the leading actions was the posting of the expressions on this topic by the famous and not so famous persons in the framework of the "Epigraph" project. Such actions are an effort to change the information field of the city which is full of aggressive advertisement. Instead right in the centre of Krasnodar now it is possible to see the white spots of the posters with the text: "The only love, which is not sickening afterwards, is the love beyond the sex, the love for the other in his name <…> I love the souls disregarding the sex, yielding to it in order that it doesn't disturb me" (by Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian poet of the beginning of the XX century). This and other phrases also appeared in the streets of Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, Samara and other cities. Look for the more detailed report at the site of the Week.

But the regional coordinators of the Week think that perhaps the main result of it is the creation of the initiative groups of activists which are ready to work further to overcome homophobia in Russia. The initiators of the Week against Homophobia in were the Movement in defense of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals "LGBT-rights" , the Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance, the Movement of civil actions "GROZA"  and the Central- and Eastern-European Network for the realization of the "All Different – All Equal" campaign with the support of the Russian Network of LGBT organizations "LGBTnet" and the "Epigraph" project  as a number of inter-regional organizations and regional groups.
Prep-team of Week against homophobia in Russia: homo-euroweek@googlegroups.com
© email source

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EUROPARLIAMENT: RELIGIOUS LEADERS HOMOPHOBIC

But Cardinal Defends Church, Citing Catechism

30/4/2007- Church officials criticized a European Parliament resolution that condemns "discriminatory comments" made by political and religious leaders against homosexuals. The resolution, which passed 325-124, with 150 abstentions, condemns the "discriminatory comments formulated by politicians and religious leaders about homosexuals, as fermenting hatred and violence -- even if they were later withdrawn -- and it asks that the hierarchies of the respective organizations condemn them as well." The European Parliament did refuse to include the proposal of three Italians to publicly condemn Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco for his statements against homosexuals, which were falsely interpreted by the press and then later clarified. The approved resolution invites member states to propose laws "that overcome discriminations suffered by same sex couples" and "reminds all member states that the prohibition of the Gay Pride Parade and the lack of protection offered to its participants are against the principles of the European Convention of human rights." The resolution also proposes that an annual "International Day Against Homophobia" be held on May 17.

Time to settle
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice and Cardinal Peter Erdo and Monsignor Aldo Giordano, president and secretary-general of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, respectively, defended the Church against accusations that it doesn't respect homosexual persons. "There is no homophobia in the Catholic Church and it is time that all this ended," Cardinal Scola said on Thursday to the Italian bishops' television network, Sat 2000. Referring to the European Parliament, he said: "There needs to be more respect for the orientation of our people. There is no need to tell lies." Paolo Bustaffa, director of the Italian bishops' SIR news agency, told Vatican Radio last Thursday: "It is clear that they are suspicious of the Church's thinking in regard to these situations, these people, for whom -- the Catechism of the Catholic Church says -- the Church has a great respect." "Respect for people, however, cannot nullify a problematic aspect," he added. "There must be understanding but in many cases there cannot be justification."
© Zenit

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EUROPEAN COURT: POLISH BAN ON GAY RIGHTS MARCH VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS

3/5/2007- The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled against Poland for refusing to authorize gay rights rallies in Warsaw two years ago. A non-governmental organization campaigning for gay rights submitted a request to Warsaw authorities to stage a march against discrimination of minorities and various rallies in the Polish capital in June 2005. The group was denied permission on the grounds that they failed to submit a plan to divert traffic from the planned locations. The march went ahead regardless, attended by 3,000 people and protected by the police. But the court said the ban, which could have discouraged people from participating, violated the organizers' rights to freedom of assembly. The court also said the ban was discriminatory, as organizers of other rallies on the same day were not asked to submit the traffic plan. The group did not seek any damages. "It's a very important step towards equality for gay and lesbian people in Poland, and I think also in several other countries in central and eastern Europe," said Robert Biedron, president of the Campaign Against Homophobia and one of the activists who brought the case to the Strasbourg court.

Poland has been under fire recently because of a series of anti-gay comments by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski who said that it was "not in the interest of any society to increase the number of homosexuals." The vast majority of Poland's 38 million people are members of the Roman Catholic church, which considers homosexual behavior sinful. Kaczynski's Law and Justice party, which won parliamentary elections in September, 2005, has stressed Catholic values. Law and Justice governs in cooperation with the small, right-wing League of Polish Families, which is militantly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. Earlier this year Poland's Deputy Education Minister Miroslaw Orzechowski said that teachers deemed to be promoting "homosexual culture" in Polish schools would be fired and the ministry announced it would draw up corresponding legislation. The comments prompted the European Parliament to vote to send a fact-finding mission to Poland to see whether EU anti-discrimination laws are being breached. No date for the mission has been set yet.
© International Herald Tribune

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MEP SLAMS POLAND’S ANTI GAY STANCE AFTER EURO PARLIAMENT VOTES

29/4/2007- As the European Parliament debated the question of homophobia in the EU and, in particular Poland, despite attempts to get the subject off the agenda, UK Green MEP Jean Lambert spoke out against the prominent Polish politicians and ministers making public anti-homosexual statements and even promoting anti-homosexual legislation. Lambert, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, said yesterday she was proud to vote for the resolution against Homophobia but regretted the antagonistic approach taken by some of her colleagues towards this important motion. “This is the European Year of Equal Opportunities in a Union which prides it self on its commitment to human rights,” she said. “However we still have certain member states, such as Poland, where the Government has yet to realize what such a commitment means in reality. “What it means is delivering on equality at work; not using language which incites hatred and attacks on individuals simply because of who they are; respecting the human rights of others, including their right to assembly and to be protected from violence - including state violence. “I sincerely hope that this is the last time that the European Parliament has to address this issue as I trust that Member States will fulfill their duties under the law and under international convention,” Lambert concluded.

And UK Labour MEP Michael Cashman, the president of the Parliament’s all-party group on gay and lesbian rights, condemned what he called “Conservative cynicism” after UK Tories sided with the extreme right wingers in the attempt to suppress Wednesday’s debate. Having failed to thwart the debate, they then feigned indifference and did not participate in the vote that followed, Cashman pointed out. “On Wednesday afternoon, the extreme-right Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) Group attempted to suppress the debate by tabling a procedural motion,” he said. “Much to the disgust of many members in the chamber, Conservative MEPs chose to support the motion. “This is just another example of the Conservatives saying one thing, and then doing something completely different,” he said. “Despite David Cameron’s rhetoric it is clear that the Tories have not changed from the days when they were introducing discriminatory legislation in this country such as Clause 28.” Cashman said he was “appalled” to see Tory MEP Philip Bradbourn vote with the far-right UEN Group in Wednesday’s vote. “I would like to know how he can justify his actions,” he continued. “Having tried to suppress the debate [on Wednesday], the Conservative whip instructed Tory MEPs to register an abstention on the issue. “This is typical of the Tories. Last year they refused to support a motion condemning racist, homophobic and xenophobic violence. They also failed to support the EU’s DAPHNE program – a set of measures designed to help the victims of domestic violence and rape."
© UK Gay News

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ANTI-RACISM CONFERENCE CALLS FOR EUROPE-WIDE LEGISLATION

2/5/2007- A recent international conference of anti-racism organisations has called on Europe’s governments to enact more legislation against racism and intolerance, especially with regards to anti-Semitism and islamophobia. Around hundred people from some 90 European civic associations and NGOs gathered in the Spanish capital last month for the European Conference against Racism and Intolerance run by the group United for Intercultural Action. Participants, who came from 38 countries in both eastern and western Europe, discussed methods of combating racism and fascism and ways of supporting migrants and refugees. Co-sponsored by United and the Spanish organisation Movement against Intolerance, delegates at the conference called for the creation of a network of NGOs to gather data on racist acts and create a Europe-wide report. The conference also stated a commitment to take action to demand a European Directive against racism, intolerance and hate crimes .

Influence and analysis
Topics covered at the conference included the analysis and prevention of hate crimes, especially anti-Semitism and islamophobia and the increased political influence of the extreme right and neo-Nazi movements in Europe. Aiming to develop common strategies, coordinate actions and join forces in the struggle against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, islamophobia and other manifestations of intolerance, participants committed to implementing educational programs in favor of interculturality and diversity, aimed especially at young people. Plenary sessions at the event included discussions on intolerance in Spain, human rights and foreign policy in Spain, tolerance in Europe, hate crime through the internet, music, media, and discourse and violent manifestations of intolerance. The Office for Democratic Institutions & Human Rights and the Spanish foreign ministry were amongst the prominent organisations involved. Projects were also presented on Neo-Nazi attacks in Russia, working with migrants in Andalusia (Spain) and homophobia in Eastern Europe.
© EJP

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