NEWS - Archive July 2013

Headlines 26 July, 2013

Headlines 19 July, 2013

Headlines 12 July, 2013

Headlines 5 July, 2013

Headlines 26 July, 2013

Bloody mannequins protest Cecile Kyenge's visit to Italian town (Italy)

26/7/2013- A nationalist political party has claimed responsibility for blood-smeared mannequins protesting the first black member of the Italian cabinet. The mannequins were discovered in the central square of Cervia, a small city near Ravenna in northern Italy, police said Friday. Cecile Kyenge was scheduled to visit Cervia a few hours later for Democratic Party meetings, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Nuova Forza (New Force), a nationalist group that opposes immigration and wants Italy to ban abortion and support traditional families, said it had placed the mannequins in the square. Police said they have identified at least six suspects. The mannequins, dressed in jackets and jeans, had chests smeared with blood and signs reading "Immigration kills." Police also found flyers opposing immigration around the square. Kyenge, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, trained as an ophthamologist. She became minister for integration in April, two months after she was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Since she joined the cabinet, Kyenge has been the target of racial attacks.
© UPI

up  

Neo-Nazi Italian GP has bust of Hitler in library

26/7/2013- Italy’s dubious relationship with far-right politics is in the spotlight again with news that an unabashed neo-Nazi doctor has been reported to the country’s health ministry. Dr Gianantonio Valli, who has 1,400 health service patients on his books in the village of Cuveglio, near Varese, keeps a bust of Hitler in his library and subjects patients to swathes of racist propaganda in the waiting room. The holocaust-denying medic, whose surgery posters warn of the "scourge of immigration", a “third-world invasion ", and the "globalism led by the Jewish lobby," has apparently been able to practise for years in the extremely conservative Varese area, near the Swiss boarder, without causing outrage.

Patients appeared unconcerned that nestling among the motoring and cookery magazines were revisionist texts such as “The Auschwitz Lie” and leaflets denigrating black people. When his liberal expression of far-right views were finally reported this month in the local section of La Repubblica newspaper, centre-left parliamentarians led by the Jewish MP Emanuele Fiano, demanded action from the government. The health minister Beatrice Lorenzin has now called for a report on the situation. Dr Valli talks openly about his Nazi views – even if, like many on the extreme right, he attempts to apply a veneer of intellectual and cultural credibility. He has told reporters: “I am completely fascist, ie. Nazi. I see myself in the tradition of the pagan realism and I’m radically opposed to all aberrant Jewish religion and philosophy.”

Mr Fiano asked the health minister if employing Dr Valli, “one of the leading Holocaust deniers in our country who publicly expresses xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic ideas is compatible with the health system’s medical profession." News of the neo-Nazi GP comes just two weeks after the deputy speaker of the Italian Senate. Roberto Calderoli, refused to resign after he compared Italy’s only black minister, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan. And now further of Italy’s ambiguous position on far-right politics has come with the appearance of a local petition defending the Dr Valli. One patient -- who presumably isn’t isn't a Jew seeking a sex-change operation -- declared: "He's an excellent doctor, always ready to help." Dr Valli was not available for comment. Neither was anyone available at the National Federation of the Order of Physicians and Surgeons (FNOMCeO), which is reported to have launched an investigation.
© Independent Digital

up  

Bosnia Muslims Condemn Hardline Foes of Shorts

Amir Karic said the Islamic Community condemned a reported verbal attack on girls wearing skimpy summer clothes, after a newspaper said that a hardline Wahhabi Muslim insulted two girls in Sarajevo for wearing shorts.

26/7/2013- An official of the Bosnian Islamic Community, Amir Karic, said his institution condemned verbal attacks on two teenage girls this week in Sarajevo by a member of the Wahhabi movement, who reportedly insulted them for wearing shorts during Ramadan. “We condemn any kind of violence towards anyone, because everyone has the right to make their own choice,” Karic said. “At the same time, we cannot be expected to take responsibility for the behaviour of one individual in the street.” Slobodna Bosna said that two 17-year-old girls were insulted on Monday by a man who shouted from a passing car that their outfits were inappropriate. The weekly newspaper said the man warned the girls that it was the holy month of Ramadan, when they should be fasting, not strolling around in shorts.

The journalist, Almir Panjeta, says he drew angry comments from readers for writing about the topic while on social networks he faced open threats. “I was accused of spoiling the image of Sarajevo, of giving too much significance to the case, while many even accused me of making the story up,” Panjeta told Balkan Insight. “The 'Sharia police' does not formally exist here, but we can see some of their activity and it is nothing new, as other girls contacted me after this article saying they had the same experience,” Panjeta added. The so-called Sharia police is a colloquial expression used to refer to members of the Wahhabi movement who preach randomly to people on the street about their behaviour.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Blacklisted - the new low of the European Commission (opinion)

A few months ago I walked out of a meeting of the European Commission focused on Roma. It was indeed, not the nicest thing I did but it was out of frustration and not out of spite I did that. Until that moment I tried my best to signal to the EC that Roma issues should be addressed differently (some of my articles about it have been published in the European Voice) in order to increase impact and efficiency of the very much needed EU funds for Roma social inclusion. I decided I will not take part in any EC meetings until there would be a significant change. The abysmal presence of Roma experts as speakers at EC meetings and the embarrassing show of disinterest on behalf of high level bureaucrats to listen to those that have hands on experience in changing the situation at the ground in Roma communities were some of the reasons why I walked out. A number of Roma activists – part of ERGO network decided to walk out with me back then. It lead to a blacklisting of ERGO on behalf of the European Commission.I do know that this blacklisting is informal and that the EC will never acknowledge such a practice. I did post an open letter about the blacklisting of ERGO.  Valeriu Nicolae

26/7/2013- Last week a close friend told me that the European Commission blacklisted the NGO she works for. I used to work for the same NGO in the past. The members of the network are people I know for a long time- people I am proud to have worked with- committed and hardworking. The idea that ERGO is blacklisted by the European Commission sounded foolish to me and I expressed my doubts that such a thing is possible and encourage her to continue. A few days ago, accidentally, I found out that in fact she was right. ERGO is indeed blacklisted.

The idea that the European Commission can blacklist an NGO such as ERGO should sound preposterous for anybody that knows the Roma civil society. The fact that ERGO was blacklisted because dares to criticize the European Commission and tries hard to find and experiment alternative solutions that could work but are uncomfortable for bureaucrats in Brussels is plain scary. This is the most dangerous approach the European Commission has taken up to this moment. It is much beyond acceptable arrogance of a far too confortable bureaucracy.

It leads to radicalism and polarisation as it will push some of the best, passionate and most motivated Roma activists towards Euro-skepticism and into becoming the enemies of the European Commission. It will reward at the same time the large number of opportunists ready to pay lip-service towards the Commission and provide the needed fake reporting of positive practices for whatever the European Commission supports while criticizing those disliked by powerful bureaucrats in the EC. In medium to long term that will have catastrophic results for the credibility of the European Commission as well as for the development of a healthy Roma Civil Society.

The NGOs financed by the European Commission should be those capable to change things at the grassroots in the communities and not those that are producing hot air and are ready to do whatever needed to please the Commission. The NGOs paid by the EC should not be what most of them are at this moment- a tool the Commission uses for self-praise and to say critical things it can not say itself to the Member States. In addressing issues as complex and sensitive as Roma issues are, the Commissions need to hear critical voices and adapt fast before it goes into a disastrous direction as it happened many times in the past.

In the last Commission there were high-level people within the EC that were patient, emphatic and smart that would gather the valuable and critical voices and discuss and work with them. They functioned as mediators between the passion and permanent sense of urgency of the activists and the constrains and slowness of a huge bureaucratic apparatus such as the European Commission. Spidla’s cabinet and the Deputy Director within DG Regio and people at DG Enlargement and DG Social Affairs are just some of these examples. Despite a horrible clash I had with the head of unit in charge of Roma at that moment- Belinda Pyke- she continued the dialogue and gained both my respect and support. Commissioner Andor himself and his cabinet are doing some of this mediation work still but his DG is much less politically relevant than it is the DG Justice that decided to blacklist ERGO.

There is no chance the Commission will acknowledge that indeed it blacklisted ERGO. This, again, is understandable. What would be impossible to understand is to carry on with this silly approach. The EC needs people like those part of ERGO network as allies if to have a chance to convince the Member States to do what they need to do in order to stop the rampant exclusion Roma face and the terrible economical consequences that come with it. I sincerely hope that the EC will decide to go back on appointing people with experience and capacity to negotiate conflict of ideas in charge of dealing with NGOs and give a strong signal to fast to blacklist egotistical bureaucrats that this is not the way the EC works.

Passionate Roma activists make mistakes and yes, we are not always fair with the bureaucracies. We can be stubborn, sometimes plain nasty and almost always impatient. But some of us work in some of the worst ghettoes and communities and face working conditions and risks few of you at the EC can comprehend. We do not have your comfort and rarely have the patience to understand your institutional constrains. But you are obliged to try your best to work with us because you are not willing and most of you can not do the work we do. And while there are millions that wish to have your jobs there are almost none that want ours.

So do stop this idiocy of blacklisting uncomfortable people with spines that have a record of great results and show the sense, mediation skills and professionalism we need from the best paid bureaucracy in Europe.
© Blog Valeriu Nicolae

up  

Two people charged over book of Hitler's speeches (Czech Rep.)

26/7/2013- The Czech police suspect two men of denying, challenging, approving and justifying genocide by publishing a book of selected speeches of Adolf Hitler, police spokeswoman Petra Vedrova told CTK Friday. The book, Adolf Hitler: Projevy (Speeches), appeared in Czech bookshops last year. The publisher, Pavel Kamas, told CTK that he and his aide Lukas Beer, who wrote the preface and some comments, are the suspects in focus of the police. Kamas previously said the book's goal is to offer Hitler's hitherto practically unaccessible speeches to readers as a chance for them to make their own opinion. Vedrova said the two men are suspected of misdemeanour and their trial may start within two weeks. In the past months, the book came under the criticism of experts, who said Hitler's speeches were an instrument of Nazi propaganda and may be misleading if published without any comments of experts.

Kamas has defended the book from the beginning. "Lukas Beer is a top quality author and an expert in the problem at issue, he is no ideological criminal. As for me, I'm a mere publisher. We both view the accusation as a gross violation of the freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed by the constitution," Kamas wrote in a statement for CTK. The controversial book was issued by the Guidemedia publisher's house. Some sellers have withdrawn it from bookshops recently. It is a book of selected speeches Hitler gave in 1939-1942. It has 650 pages, the print run was 10,000 copies and it has been available via the Internet sale only. A text promoting the book on www.hitlerovyprojevy.cz says Hitler spoke about Czechs with respect and appreciation, that he respected Slovaks, sought peace, wanted to have mass destruction weapons liquidated, wished sincere friendship with Britain and had nothing against Russians.

Czech political analyst Miroslav Mares said it is still uncertain what is a crime in similar cases and what not. "This is an interesting case. In my opinion, [the court verdict on] it will define the activities punishable as criminal [in this area]. It may define the framework of what is punishable and what not. By all means it is a controversial case," Mares told CTK. The Guidemedia publisher's company has been mentioned by the Interior Ministry's report on the situation on the extremist scene in the first quarter of 2013. It says the comments related to the book of Hitler's speeches directly and indirectly defend Nazism. Guidemedia's publishing plan, for its part, directly confirms the promotion of these ideas under the veil of publishing historical books and works, the ministry wrote in the report.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Monuments to Ukrainian far-right movement erected in USA

A group of monuments to Ukrainian nationalists has been set up in the US city of Baraboo in the Sauk County, Wisconsin.

24/7/2013- Several bronze busts of Symon Petliura, Yevgeny Konovalets, Roman Shukhevich and Stepan Bandera, all members of Ukraine’s 20th century violent independence movement, have been erected on the territory of the Beskyd summer camp, which belongs to the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM). Not far from the sprawling complex of bronze busts-crowned columns is a towering monument to Ukraine’s statehood act signed with the USSR on June 30, 1941. The local authority told reporters it had been oblivious to CYM’s intentions. Maxim Volchenko of the local Duane Morris law firm said he had no idea who the US nationals of Ukrainian descent meant to honour with these installations, but stressed they should have asked for the permission of the city council before doing so. A CYM member told journalists the memorial complex was open to everyone, although the land was in private ownership.

CYM’s Pavel Bandrivsky said the intent was to let Ukrainian children who come to the Beskyd summer camp “know Ukrainian heroes by face” so that they could “follow in their step and serve the nation.” “We will continue to build monuments to fallen Ukrainian heroes,” said Konstantin Matvienko, a Ukrainian political analyst. “Don’t take it for an anti-Soviet jab. Ukrainians don’t pay as much attention to such events as Russians do,” he added. The Ukrainian Youth Association, founded in 1925, was run by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists until World War II. After the war, its outposts sprouted across Europe – Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, and Britain – and reached as far as Argentina, Australia, Canada and the US. The movement claims its goals are to propagate Ukrainian heritage and Christian ethics among young Ukrainians.
© The Voice of Russia

up  

UN urges Czechs to shut pig farm on former Nazi camp

25/7/2013- The Czech Republic should remove a pig farm located on the site of a concentration camp where Roma were held and killed during World War II, a United Nations rights watchdog said Thursday. The UN Human Rights Committee said the issue was a litmus test of the Czech Republic's treatment of its marginalised Roma minority and that the country should "redouble its efforts". The committee said the country should be "actively engaging in nurturing respect for the Roma culture and history through symbolic acts, such as removing the pig farm located on a World War II Roma concentration camp in Lety".

Between 1940 and 1943, the occupying Nazi Germans and Czech collaborators imprisoned almost 1,300 Czech Roma in Lety, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the capital Prague. In all, 327 Roma, including 241 children, died at the camp, while more than 500 were sent to Nazi Germany's infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied Poland. Alongside the six million European Jews killed in the Holocaust, an estimated 500,000 Roma perished at Nazi hands, but their suffering is less widely known. In 1972-1976, the communists ruling the former Czechoslovakia built a pig farm at Lety, later taken over by a private firm after the regime's collapse in 1989.

Tensions between Czech Roma and authorities have flared over the issue for well over a decade, with the deeply marginalised minority insisting the state purchase the farm, tear it down and build a fitting memorial. The company that runs the farm says it was built on a field immediately adjacent to the former camp, which had been razed at the end of the war. Historians, however, contend the two sites overlap. The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.5 million people, has a Roma population estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000.
© AFP

up  

Zeman wants to clamp down on Czech neo-Nazis

24/7/2013- Neo-Nazi signs must be followed with much more repressive punishment, Czech President Milos Zeman told CTK Wednesday in reaction to the recent riots, anti-Romany rallies and extremists' marches at the Maj housing project in Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia. "Active repression is the only way," Zeman said. "This means clamping down on their demonstrations, their pseudo concerts, those making the Nazi salute from the very beginning," he added. "The shops in which Nazi paraphernalia are sold should be confiscated. In my view, this is an efficient way," Zeman said. He said the attempts at re-education were hardly efficient. "Though I may wish it, re-education of the skinheads is hardly an efficient way because re-educated can only be those whose skull includes sufficient brain," he added. "In the case of skinheads, it is not always so," Zeman said.

He said he had spoken about the problem of neo-Nazism in his inauguration speech. "I even said the slogan Czech Lands to Czechs is highly reminiscent of the slogan Juden raus," Zeman said. "By chance, the slogan Czech Lands to Czechs could be repeatedly heard in Ceske Budejovice," he added. "It may be said that I reacted beforehand. I believe that much more intensive reprisals should be used against the Nazi militant groups," Zeman said. The conflicts at the Maj housing project started on June 21 at a playground when a brawl between children turned into a fight in which a hundred of adults from both communities got involved. Extreme right militants then started organising marches to the housing estate at the weekends. The police detained tens of people over the protests some of which turned violent. Some participants in the protests against what they called Romany violence complained about police brutality and they said they had nothing in common with the extremists.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

AC Milan in fresh racism row as midfielder Constant storms off over alleged abuse from Sassuolo fans (Italy)

24/7/2013- Italian football has been rocked by another racism flashpoint after an AC Milan player reacted to abuse from the stands by walking off the pitch. In a carbon copy of Kevin-Prince Boateng's angry stance in a friendly game six months ago, Milan midfielder Kevin Constant picked the ball up and volleyed it at his tormentors in a pre-season tournament game against newly-promoted Serie A side Sassuolo. Unlike the Boateng incident, when his team-mates followed him off and the game was abandoned, Milan sent on a substitute, and the Trofeo TIM tie continued. Teenage midfielder Mario Piccinocchi replaced Constant, who stormed straight down the tunnel, and, after a tannoy warning that the referee could call a halt if he heard any racist abuse, play resumed, with Sassuolo wnning 2-1.

It is understood that while former Tottenham midfielder Boateng was subjected to repeated racist chanting, French-born Guinea international Constant reacted to a single insult that was not heard by others. The Italian football federation are to investigate the incident, with Milan vice president Adriano Galliano saying: 'Racist chants are despicable and scandalous and they should be fought against and I want to stress that. 'But the rules are that when they happen, you should turn to the referee, who will tell the fourth official, who will advise the person responsible in the police, who is the only one authorized to suspend the game. 'There is solidarity with Constant, but it is not OK to leave the pitch. I have told him, repeated it and written it to everyone: You can't leave the pitch.'

The game suddenly erupted in the 34th minute, when 26-year old Constant picked the ball up and booted it at home fans in the Distinti Nord section of Sassuolo's 20,000-capacity Mapei Stadium before turning towards the bench and walking off. AC Milan also released a statement on their website, it read: ‘Yesterday evening July 23, 2013 occurred the latest episode of vulgar racism: this time the victim was Kevin Constant, who reacted by leaving the field of play. 'It was not Constant’s competence to take this decision and, while the reasons are understandable, AC Milan has a duty to remember that all the decisions against such abuses have to be taken by referees and are responsible of public order. 'It is not about defending.'

Though Sassuolo went on to win the tie, in a tournament that also involves Juventus, the town in northern Italy is now bracing itself for sanctions from an Italian federation that is coming under mounting pressure to deal with the persistent problem of racism among fans. Boateng led a mass walk-off by Milan players in the 26th minute of a friendly at fourth division side Pro Patria in January, following sustained racist chanting by the home crowd.
© The Daily Mail

up  

Right-Wing Terror: Hungary Silent over Roma Killing Spree

Five years ago, right-wing terrorists murdered six Roma in Hungary. Now the trial against them is coming to an end. But the political elite has expresed hardly any sympathy for the victims, and a large portion of the public is uninterested in the topic.

23/7/2013- The murders happened just a few meters away. Each time she steps out of the door to her house, Erzsébet Csorba sees the burnt out ruins of the house where her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren used to live. Every day Csorba thinks about how she found her son Róbert bleeding in the snow, and how, later, her grandson Róbi was carried into the house, the four-and-a-half-year-old's lifeless body riddled with buckshot. "I wake up with the memories and go to sleep with them," says the 49-year-old. "How could they do they do it -- simply kill innocent people?" The isolated village of Tatárszentgyörgy is located 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) south of Budapest. On the outskirts, several Roma families live in run-down houses. The Csorbas live in the last house before the edge of the forest. On Feb. 29, 2009, right-wing extremists set fire to Róbert Csorba's house and shot the family when they tried to escape. Father and son died. Both mother and daughter survived. The mother sustained minor injuries, while the daughter was more seriously wounded.

Six months later, in August 2009, the alleged perpetrators were apprehended: four fanatical right-wing extremists from the southeastern Hungarian city of Debrecen. Since 2008, they are thought to be responsible for murdering six Roma and severely wounding another 55 people, nearly all of them Roma -- a series of racist, terrorist killings the likes of which is unprecedented in Hungary's postwar history. Over the next few days, after two years and 170 days of court proceedings, the trial against the four suspects will come to an end. On Wednesday, brothers István and Árpád K., as well as Zsolt P. and Isvtán Cs. will give their closing statements. The verdict is due by the beginning of August. There is little doubt as to the guilt of the accused: They have admitted their presence at the crime scenes, but they deny having committed the murders.

'No One Has Paid Their Respects'
As brutal as the deeds were, however, the public reaction in Hungary has been minimal, and hardly any wider debate has arisen from the conclusion of the trial. "These murders were crimes against humanity, yet they didn't shake Hungarian society," says Aladár Horváth, a Roma politician and civil rights activist. "On the part of the government, of the political elite, no one has paid their respects to the victims and their families. No one has taken responsibility, neither symbolically nor legally nor politically, and the family has not received any significant financial aid." Indeed, former President László Sólyom, who was in office when the murders occurred and the suspected perpetrators were arrested, uttered not a word of sympathy for the victims. Even the socialists, who were in power during the Roma murders in 2008-2009 and put much stock in their anti-fascist image, offered only the standard clichés.

Now, the current conservative-nationalist governing coalition under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wants nothing to do with the topic. They wouldn't want to scare their constituency, which extends far into the right wing of the political spectrum. Only the culture minister, Zoltán Balogh, recently managed to make a gesture: His ministry paid for the funeral for Erzsébet Csorba's husband Csaba, who died in February of this year after being overcome by grief about the murders. The lack of public concern is also evident in the investigation of the "Roma Killers," and in the trial itself. It has become clear that that the far-right terrorists had the help of at least one more person and probably had several accomplices. Yet they are missing from the courtroom and it is unclear whether investigators are still looking for them. The trial is being kept secret for reasons of national security.

It's even possible that some of the murders could have been prevented. Two of the defendants had been monitored by intelligence agents because of right-wing extremist activity until 2008, shortly before the killing spree began, but then the officials shelved the operation. Another defendant was working as an informant for a military intelligence unit. But Hungary's intelligence community remains silent about its role in the murders.

Outrageous Negligence
There were also outrageous scenes that played out when authorities arrived at the crime scene. In Tatárszentgyörgy on the night of the murder, for instance, police tried to dissuade the Csorba family from reporting an attack and urinated on evidence at the crime scene. Observers of the trial like liberal former parliamentarian József Gulyás, who was permitted to see secret investigation files, accuse the Hungarian authorities of sloppiness at the very least -- and Gulyás doesn't rule out a cover-up. He also criticizes the fact that the suspects were only charged with murder, not for terrorist offenses. "It seems as if the Hungarian government and the Hungarian authorities want to bring an end to the embarrassing affair while drawing as little attention to themselves as possible," says Gulyás.

Journalist and filmmaker András B. Vágvölgyi, who attended nearly every hearing, criticizes the "technical conduct" of presiding Judge László Miszori. "Political questions played hardly any role in the trial," he says. "A court has an obligation -- especially in a country like Hungary, which is entrenched in ideological and moral confusion -- to act with a certain moral weight." Erzsébet Csorba, for her part, hopes that the accused "never again see the light of day." She, too, is convinced that there are more perpetrators who still walk free. But she, her children and her grandchildren continue to live in fear in their house at the edge of the woods. What she would like most is to build a high fence all the way around her property, but she doesn't have the money. Sometimes her teenaged sons and young grandson awake terrified in the night because they hear noises. "Go back to sleep," says Erzsébet Csorba, "it's only the shrubs and trees rustling in the wind." But she wonders silently if killers lurk outside once more.
© The Spiegel

up  

European court fines Malta over migrant detentions

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has told Malta to pay thousands of euros in compensation to two African migrants whose rights were violated.

23/7/2013- A Somali woman who had a miscarriage during her detention in 2011 is to receive 30,000 euros (£26,000; $40,000), plus 3,000 euros in costs. A man alleged to be from Sierra Leone is to receive 27,000 euros in total. The court said the woman's prison conditions were "degrading". Malta is a target for boatloads of migrants. Earlier this month Malta cancelled flights it had booked to return migrants to Libya, after an emergency intervention by the ECHR. The court in Strasbourg issued rulings on Tuesday concerning Aslya Aden Ahmed, a Somali national, and Ibrahim Suso Musa, allegedly from Sierra Leone. In Ms Ahmed's case, it is the first time the court has ruled against Malta for violation of Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights - prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment - concerning migrant detention conditions. The judges criticised conditions at Lyster Barracks - the holding centre - where migrants were exposed to cold, a lack of female staff, lack of access to open air, denial of exercise for long periods and poor food.

Slow bureaucracy
Ms Ahmed entered Malta illegally by boat in February 2009, and in May that year her application for asylum was rejected. She later escaped from detention, got to the Netherlands, but was sent back to Malta in February 2011. She was then imprisoned for six months, but had become pregnant and miscarried in hospital in March 2011. She still lives in Hal Far, in Malta. The court also found that her detention for 14 and a half months had been illegal, because the Maltese authorities had not taken any steps to deport her and had not reviewed the terms of her detention. In the case of Mr Suso Musa, the court found that his detention had been arbitrary and the authorities had taken an unreasonable length of time to decide whether to let him stay in Malta. He entered Malta illegally by boat in April 2011 and remained in detention until March 2013. Earlier this month Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said more than 400 migrants had arrived in the past week. As an EU member state it called for assistance from its EU partners to tackle the influx. The summer months often see a stream of boats carrying migrants from Africa. Many arrive in Malta or at the Italian island of Lampedusa, hoping to gain access to other parts of the European Union.
© BBC News

up  

Suriname wants Dutch compensation for slave trade

26/7/2013- The former Dutch colony of Suriname has joined Caribbean nations to press for compensation from the Netherlands, the UK and France for the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade. Caricom, a regional organisation for the Caribbean Community, has taken up the cause and is preparing for a long drawn-out battle with the countries' governments. It has engaged British law firm Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s, the Guardian newspaper reports. Caricom will target the Netherlands on behalf of Suriname, the UK on behalf of the English-speaking areas of the Caribbean, and France on behalf of Haiti. According to Caricom, the legacy of slavery includes widespread poverty and under-development. Saint Vincent prime minister Ralph Consalves told the Guardian any settlement should include a formal apology. Earlier this month, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher stopped short of an apology when he expressed the government's 'deep regret' for the Dutch slave trade. He was speaking at a ceremony to mark 150 years since the Netherlands banned slavery in its former colonies.
© The Dutch News

up  

'The Netherlands is a tax haven for firms which infringe human rights'

23/7/2013- The Netherlands is a tax haven for companies which are involved in human rights violations, according to new research by multinational research centre SOMO. The organisation looked at the relationship between Dutch tax and investment policy aimed at attracting international businesses to the Netherlands, and its official policy on human rights. The SOMO report focused on eight large multinational mining companies which are based in the Netherlands, all of which are associated with serious human rights violations abroad. These range from ‘environmental pollution to militia violence, murder and displacement’, the organisation said.

Head office
Oil company Pluspetrol, for example, has its head office officially in the Netherlands. ‘After decades of oil spills … the Peruvian government has declared an environmental state of emergency in the region in which Pluspetrol has operations, because of high levels of barium, lead, chrome and petroleum-related compounds,' the report said. In terms of international human rights obligations, the Dutch government fails - and shows no political will - to effectively regulate international businesses incorporated in its jurisdiction, SOMO says, adding that ‘corporations found to violate human rights abroad should not enjoy Dutch fiscal and investment benefits.’ The voluntary nature of corporate social responsiblity and the importance of corporate self-regulation is also an 'outdated and clearly insufficient' approach, SOMO said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Macedonia 'Concealing' Attackers of Gay Centre

Failure to locate who attacked a gay and lesbian community centre in Skopje a month ago raises suspicions of official complicity, Macedonian Helsinki Committee says.

23/7/2013- The Helsinki committee said that the sluggish response of the authorities was worrying, having in mind that police have video footage of the incident showing the perpetrators. “How can the police not find them when there is footage in existence?” Uranija Pirovska, head of the committee, asked on Monday, arguing that in a normal case the police would have located the attackers in half an hour. “This attitude of the police leaves an impression that violence is being legitimized and that anyone who opts for LGBT rights can be attacked,” Pirovska said. The committee published the security camera footage of the incident on June 22 in Skopje in front of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community centre. Footage shows a dozen young hooligans attacking the centre in broad daylight. Breaking windows and damaging property, the group injured a police officer who was tasked with securing the site.

The video also shows a subsequent attack on the centre by a similar-sized group of youngsters, this time when the centre was closed. Police deny trying to protect the attackers. They repeat that they are working on the case. The violence last month came during the first ever Skopje Gay Pride Week, a series of awareness-raising and educational workshops held throughout the city. The Dutch embassy condemned the attack on the LGBT centre, which it funds, calling for a "thorough investigation" by the authorities. A report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Rainbow Europe Index 2011, ranked Macedonia the worst country in the Balkans when it comes to legal protection for gays. Local and international rights groups complain of frequent remarks by ministers and officials that are homophobic. They also complain that Macedonia’s anti-discrimination law, adopted in 2010, does not envisage protecting people against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In May, the Helsinki Committee accused the authorities of ignoring and even concealing a rise in crimes inspired by ethnic, religious or gender-related hatred.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Memorial to Croatia Concentration Camp Victims Destroyed

A memorial plaque honouring World War II concentration camp victims who died on the Croatian island of Pag has been vandalised again, just weeks after being restored

23/7/2013- The Serb National Council in Croatia announced on Monday that this was the third time that the memorial on Pag had been demolished since the early 1990s. The attack came just weeks after the plaque was replaced at a commemoration in late June for the victims of the WWII concentration camp complex which included Slana and Metajna on Pag and Jadovno on the nearby Croatian mainland. “It is unacceptable that for the third time there is no reaction from the authorities who are obliged to protect the legacy and memory of the victims of World War II and the legacy of anti-fascism,” the council said in a statement. An estimated 40,000 people were exterminated at the camp complex during its brief period in operation between April and August 1941, mostly Serbs and Jews. It was run by the Ustasha authorities who ruled part of the former Yugoslavia during WWII in alliance with Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The plaque was installed by Coordination of Jewish Municipalities, the Jadovno 1941 Association, the League of Anti- Fascist Veterans and the Serb National Council in Croatia.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Montenegro's First Gay Pride March Attacked

Montenegro’s first Gay Pride march went ahead in the coastal town of Budva despite attacks by anti-gay protesters who threw stones and bottles.

24/7/2013- The country’s inaugural gay rights parade, named Seaside Pride, was attended by an estimated 120 people on Wednesday in Budva. The parade went ahead for around 20 minutes after delays caused by the homophobic demonstrators who threw missiles and chanted “kill the gays”, according to media reports. A few of the participants were injured and police arrested around 20 people suspected of attacking the marchers, local media reported. “Everybody who was against this today will be ashamed one day,” Aleksandar Sasa Zekovic, one of the organisers, said at the beginning of the parade. He also praised the police for enabling the march to go ahead. Rasko Konjevic, Montenegro’s interior minister, promised after the event that the police would be taking action against those who broke the law during the parade. “We must not send a message that we cannot demonstrate at least an elementary level of tolerance of differences,” he said.

The parade was also attended by representatives of the government, foreign embassies and human rights groups. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said however that he was unable to attend because he was busy taking questions in parliament, although he also told an MP that he was against “political parading”. The announcement of the event, which aimed to give more visibility to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Montenegro, had already sparked some negative reactions. Fake obituaries were published on the internet announcing the ‘death’ of Zdravko Cimbaljevic, head of the LGBT Forum Progress, the rights group which organised the parade. More than 2,000 people in Budva, which is considered to be Montenegro’s summer tourism centre, also signed a petition against the event.

The announcement of another gay parade, due to be held in the capital Podgorica in October by another rights group, Queer Montenegro, has also drawn strong opposition and attracted hate speech on social networks. Montenegro's first Gay Pride parade, organised by rights activist Zdravko Cimbaljevic, was to have taken place in May 2011, but was cancelled after two attacks on gays in Podgorica before the start of the event. The country’s hoped-for accession to the EU will partly depend on the government proving its commitment to human rights. Montenegro’s former minister for human and minority rights, Ferhad Dinosa, was accused of making homophobic remarks and subsequently sacked in late 2011. In May, Montenegro’s Anti-Discrimination Council supported a draft strategy aimed at improving life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals over the next five years.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Montenegrin Gays Ready for First Pride Parade

The first Pride Parade in the Balkan country is to be held in the coastal resort of Budva on Wednesday.

23/7/2013- Aleksandar Zekovic, of the LGBT forum Progress, has announced that the first Montenegrin Gay Pride will be held on Wednesday in front of the walls of Budva's old town. "This is a good chance to test the political will, the capacity of the Police Administration, and the LGBT community itself," Zekovic said. According to the organiser, the goal is to provide greater visibility for the LGBT community in the country. He suggested that the attendance of "more than three persons" would mean that the parade was a success, but he expected the support of non-government sector and politicians, and guests from the region. The Human Rights Minister, Suad Numanovic, has supported the event and has said that the government will send a representative to attend the rally. Police Assistant Director Nikola Janjusevic said the police were undertaking all measures to ensure the safety of the participants.

Montenegro's first Gay Pride parade, organized by rights activist Zdravko Cimbaljevic, was to have taken place on May 31, 2011. However, the march was cancelled following two attacks on gays in the capital, Podgorica, before the start of the event. Ferhad Dinosa, then the Minister for Human and Minority Rights, was accused of making homophobic remarks and subsequently axed in late 2011. In May, Montenegro’s Anti-Discrimination Council supported a draft strategy aimed at improving life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals over the next five years. Another Pride march is due to be held in Podgorica in October.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Walls are going up again (Slovakia)

In a region where walls and fences come with heavy historical connotations, all of them negative, people are again erecting walls. In Slovakia, an increasing numbers of cities and communities are walling off members of the Roma minority making it even clearer how little they want to have to do with them.

25/7/2013- Some 14 walls segregating predominantly Roma neighbourhoods have popped up across the country since 2008, the latest erected in the country’s second largest city earlier this month. The walls differ in size and scope, but all are designed to segregate the poorer Roma communities from their neighbours. While such walls exist elsewhere in Europe the Slovak trend is exponentially stronger than anything underway elsewhere, said Dezideriu Gergely, executive director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). “This reflects and ‘us and them’ rhetoric that says there needs to be a clear distinction,” he said.

Most recently in Košice, Slovakia’s second largest city and one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2013, a wall was erected to separate a densely populated Roma housing complex from a nearby estate. Last year city authorities had cut off water in the Roma neighbourhood, citing unpaid bills and illegal connections to water lines. While Košice city hall insists they did not grant official approval for building the wall, the local council cleared spending nearly €5,000 ($6610) and erected the barrier. Other towns in heavily Roma-populated eastern Slovakia, including Michalovce, Ostrovany and Šarišské Michaľany also have walls. The look of Ostrovany’s imposing 150-metre long wall has drawn comparisons with the Berlin Wall.

The phenomenon is not limited to the poorer eastern half of the country. In the village of Plavecký Štvrtok (a name that translates as Swimming Thursday) some 30 kilometres north of Bratislava, the capital, a series of walls and fences were erected to prevent Roma from a nearby settlement from passing through the village en route to buy groceries or visit a medical centre. Unlike the more formal social housing in the aforementioned Košice case, in Plavecký Štvrtok some 700 Roma, about one-third of the village population, live in an unlicensed settlement on the outskirts of town in self-made homes lacking running water, sewers or central heating.

A group of neighbours (citing security concerns) constructed a series of walls and fences to prevent Roma from passing through their neighbourhood. Though constructed on private property using private money, the village governmted permission to construct the walls. The results have been less than exemplary. “The Roma people are angry,” says Ivan Slezák, Plavecký Štvrtok’s mayor. “The situation in the village is worse and the walls, which were built two years ago, didn’t solve the problems.” Indeed there is no evidence that any of Slovakia’s walls have helped prevent crime in their respective locales.

Forced to walk a more circuitous path en route to the grocery store, Plavecký Štvrtok’s Roma children now linger near a more heavily trafficked road. “The walls complicate our lives,” said Nadežda Huberová, a 45-year-old Roma widow and mother of three. “Children can’t go anywhere, we are afraid of cars. We are upset about it. We feel separated.” About 2% of Slovakia’s population is Roma, according to the 2011 census, although the number is likely much higher with accurate statistics notoriously hard to come by in Roma communities wary of government surveys. A recent government study estimated the proportion to be closer to 8%. Some 40% of Slovak Roma live segregated from the rest of the population and unemployment among working-age males is more than 70%, according to the ERRC.

Mr Slezák is confronted with problems typical of local politicians dealing with tensions between Roma and the neighbours. As in Košice, unpaid water bills and illegal hook-ups have been an issue. A series of natural-gas pipelines pass through the settlement and national authorities point to safety concerns in saying the Roma settlement must be moved. It remains unclear why nearby non-Roma homes are not marked for a similar fate. “The [national] government says yes to knocking down the Roma homes, but you must find them a new place to live,” says Mr Slezák. “We don´t have enough money to do that and government leaves all these problems on our shoulders.”

For their part, the Plavecký Štvtrok Roma say they have no interest in moving. With some of the group claiming roots in the area that go back centuries, they argue they have as much if not more rights to the land they live on, regardless of formalities like land titles. Mr Gergely has a hard time explaining why the construction of walls is so prevalent in Slovakia and less so elsewhere, even in countries with larger concentrations of Roma. He groups attitudes toward Roma as similar in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, arguing that all have approached Roma from a “security perspective” rather than socio-economically, something he sees as a marked shift. “Before only the extreme right movement took up the Roma subject, now it is part of mainstream politics."
© The Economist

up  

Racism deeply rooted in Italian culture

From Dr Guido Franzinetti.

Sir, Philip Stephens (“Italy must throw out its racist politics”, July 19) rightly reproaches the Italian elite for its muted reactions to a racist culture. These racist attitudes, however, are deeply rooted in the nature of our culture (at both popular and elite level). Basically, Italian society refuses to take itself seriously, as demonstrated by the frequency of expressions such as: “We’re Italians, what can you expect?” These expressions reflect not simply harmless self-deprecation but a basic lack of respect for commonly accepted standards of behaviour in civilised society. Large sections of Italian society reason and behave as if Italy were a banana republic. After all, more than half of the electorate voted for two leaders who consistently behave as clowns (Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo). When a German opposition politician pointed this out, there was uproar in Italy, from the president of the republic downwards. Until Italian society refuses to take itself seriously, it is unlikely to curtail racist and sexist attitudes.

Guido Franzinetti, University of Eastern Piedmont, Alessandria, Italy
© The Financial Times

up  

'Racism in Norway survived the 22/7 attack'

A Norway-based Swedish survivor of the Utøya terror attack on Monday said Norway had learned little from the massacre of 77 people, claiming that the "undergrowth of hateful rhetoric" had recovered from the right-wing extremist attacks that shocked Norway and the world.

22/7/2013- While Norway has put the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik behind bars, think tank researcher Ali Esbati noted in an op-ed in the Swedish leftleaning tabloid Aftonbladet that one of Breivik's main inspirations, the Norwegian blogger Peder Nøstvold Jensen, who uses the online soubriquet Fjordman, recently received a 75,000 kroner ($12,600) scholarship to write a book. While the ensuing debate about Jensen soon becoming an author had centred on freedom of speech, Esbait argued that several commentators seemed not to understand the ramifications of legitimizing his far-right views. "They hold positions from which public debate can be treated like a racy board game, rather than an arena where real life conditions are at stake," Esbati wrote. "An arena where there is a constant tug of war about where the demarcation lines of what is acceptable should be defined, not legally but socially."

"Two years after the terror attacks, it is clear that Norwegian society has not been able to process the events. Instead, the attacks' very atrociousness has made it more difficult to counteract islamophobia and ultra-reactionary advances," argued Esbati, who survived the shooting spree on the island of Utoya two years ago, when Breivik killed 69 people after killing eight others with a bomb in Oslo's government quarters. Esbati attended the memorial service at Oslo Cathedral on Monday, at one point hiding his face in his hands as though overcome by emotion. "People reason that everyday racism is miles apart from Breivik's mass murder," he continued in his op-ed, in which he asked that Norwegians make more of an effort to put the terror attacks in their political context. Esbati claimed that debate about a "mass invasion of beggars", in which rumours swept Oslo after migrants from European countries travelled to Norway to beg for money last summer, showed that everyday racism still abounded.

"Oslo municipality issued rules against people sleeping in parks and by the roadside, which in practice was a ban aimed directly at the Roma," Esbati argued. "These signals from above gain strength, as always, from comments fields and social media, where you can read about vermin and the need to clean up and discharge people." "The debate is influenced by the fact that the rightwing populist Fremskrittspartiet (FRP) is big and well established today, which gives its views an immediate stamp of being popular and normal," Esbati wrote, noting that the party's approval rating had reached 20 percent in recent opinion polls and that the party has struck a deal with conservative opposition party Høyre to form a government after September's general elections if the Labour Party loses.

"One of FRP's most prominent MPs is Christian Tybring-Gjedde. The summer before the Utøya terror he wrote a long accusation letter against the Labour Party, asking why it had decided to replace Norwegian culture with multiculturalism, a miniature UN. He wrote about stabbing Norway's own culture in the back, and how he'd never be part of it," Esbati elaborated. While Norwegian commentators at the time of the attacks noted that there where parallels in Tybring-Gjedde's and Breivik's rhetoric, the former is back in "full swing", Esbati continued. "When he's not giving insinuating tips to Muslim parents about how to raise their children or broadcasting warnings that Oslo will soon have a non-Western majority population, he writes articles about how journalists ignoring the price tag of high immigration, which will be paid by their children instead," Esbati said.
© The Local - Norway

up  

Neo-Nazi Zschäpe 'lovely' says neighbour (Germany)

A witness described Beate Zschäpe, one of five alleged neo-Nazis on trial for crimes associated with the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror cell as “a lovely neighbour” in court on Wednesday.

25/7/2013- The man, who lived in the same building as Zschäpe in Zwickau, said in the evenings she often used to join him and other neighbours in his cellar for a drink, a chat, and a laugh. “There's nothing wrong with that, it was neighbourly. It's like that in the East,” said the unnamed witness, a labourer in his mid-40s. She was “a lovely, good neighbour...friendly, fun, you could have a laugh with her,” he added. She had even had her moments of generosity, he said, and told the court how she had once bought them all pizza while the group watched football in the back yard. Chatting over a beer – Zschäpe herself rarely drank, he said, enjoying only the odd glass of Prosecco or wine – they had never talked about politics, or foreigners, he insisted.

Also, she had never brought up or referred to the portrait of Adolf Hitler casually on display on top of the TV-set in his cellar. The man said he had inherited the memento from a deceased neighbour and protested that it had no political significance. The friends were close enough to call Zschäpe - who had told them her name was “Susann Dienelt” - by the affectionate nickname “Dienelt Maus” or “Diddl-Maus.” “First of all her name is Dienelt and second of all she's a mouse,” explained the witness. The man said he'd had little contact with Zschäpe's flatmates Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who together with Zschäpe are thought to have formed the nucleus of the NSU killer cell. She had told her neighbours that one of them was her boyfriend, the other her brother – but the witness hadn't known their names and had never asked.

In the end though, the “good neighbour” is thought to have set the whole house on fire - prosecutors say taking the neighbours' deaths, including that of an 89-year-old woman who also lived in the building, as possible collateral damage. When her two male accomplices died in a murder-suicide in early November 2011, Zschäpe is accused of pouring petrol all over their shared flat and igniting it, setting off an explosion so strong that part of the building's outside wall blew off.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Neo-Nazi attacks leave one dead, many scared (Germany)

A man has died after being attacked by a neo-Nazi in one of two violent attacks on foreigners in Germany over the past few days. The second incident involved members of the Bundeswehr throwing fireworks at a home for refugees.

23/7/2013- A known neo-Nazi is thought to have killed a Kazakh man and father-of-two at a Volksfest in southern Bavaria last week, shortly after goading other men of foreign extraction into a fight by hurling racist insults at them. An autopsy showed the 34-year-old man died in hospital last Thursday as a result of receiving a violent blow to the head, police announced on Monday. The man was attacked when he went to investigate a scuffle between a group of neo-Nazis and other foreigners during the festival in the city of Kaufbeuren near Munich last Wednesday night, police said. The suspected killer, named only as 36-year-old Falk H. from Thuringia, was arrested at the scene and is being held on suspicion of murder. Last year he came to the attention of the authorities after starting a fight with a DJ who objected to him shouting “Heil Hitler” and giving the Hitler salute at an event. Although the festival continued over the weekend, the incident shocked the Bavarian city and prompted over 500 inhabitants to attend a silent parade on Saturday.

On that very night, in another part of the country, two drunken soldiers attacked a refugee home with fireworks, in an apparent attempt to burn it down. When inhabitants of the home tried to stop them, the soldiers responded with a torrent of racist abuse and repeatedly showed them the Hitler salute. The culprits, aged 23 and 25, were arrested nearby the home in the town of Arnstadt, Thuringia, and have since been released. They face charges of incitement and criminal damage. The attacks come a week after statistics were released suggesting the German army had an estimated 300 far-right extremists in its ranks. Homes for asylum seekers - a frequent focus of violent race hate in the early 1990s – have recently attracted the attention of modern far-right activists.

For example, plans to convert an old school into a home for around 400 refugees in the Marzahn-Hellersdorf area of Berlin has sparked a hate-filled campaign from members of the neo-Nazi NPD party, who swamped a recent information meeting with cat-calls of "Germany for Germans", "No to the home" and "What do I care for others' suffering?” Some 802 racially-motivated violent crimes were registered last year, in the first increase in four years, according to official statistics released in June this year.
© The Local - Germany

up  

The hunt for Nazi war criminals continues (Germany)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has started a poster campaign with slogan "Late, but not too late." It wants the public's help in finding the last remaining Nazi war criminals.

23/7/2013- Efraim Zuroff is talking about "60 people, who, day in and day out over a lengthy period of time, were actively involved in mass murder." Now, Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, is starting a poster campaign in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, to try and bring to justice the last Nazi war criminals living with impunity in Germany. "There's no reason to ignore them, just because their passport says they were born in 1917 or 18, or 20, or 22 or 23 or 24." The campaign is mainly aimed at former concentration camp guards and members of the notorious SS "Einsatzgruppen" mobile death squads. Zuroff estimates that this amounted to some 6,000 men, of whom 98 percent have probably already died. If half of those who are left are too old or sick to stand trial, that still leaves some 60. Zuroff believes that there are many more people guilty of Nazi crimes than is generally thought, even if no one knows how many exactly.

A reward of 25,000 euros
The idea for the campaign emerged after the conviction of Ivan Demjanjuk two years ago in Munich. The court found that the fact that Demjanjuk had worked as a guard in the Sobibor extermination camp was enough to outweigh the absence of direct evidence of his involvement in specific incidents of criminal activity. Until that ruling, German courts had thrown out cases on the grounds that the accused could not be proved to have actually been directly involved in specific acts of murder or torture. Too much time had passed; too much evidence had been destroyed; too many witnesses had died. Zuroff hopes that the Munich ruling now opens the possibility of bringing a few more NS henchmen to justice, even though it's become increasingly difficult to provide the evidence needed. The poster campaign is intended to work with the public's support, says Zuroff: "We're saying that millions of innocent people were murdered by Nazi war criminals; some of those Nazi war criminals were never brought to justice and they're still alive: help us bring them to court." And he adds, "Worthwhile information can get a reward of up to 25,000 euros."

The offer of a reward has led to criticism. The German-Israeli historian Michael Wolffsohn calls it a bounty and says the action is tasteless and damaging, since it's more likely to lead to sympathy for the elderly war criminals. The former professor of politics Joachim Perels, whose father was executed by the Nazis and who has been working on issues concerning the Nazi period for years, says the Simon Wiesenthal Center has done much good in hunting down war criminals and in supporting the authorities with its research, but he says there's already a functioning prosecuting authority in Ludwigsburg with committed prosecutors who are currently pursuing cases against 50 former concentration camp guards.

Nazi continuity through the 60s
Perels agrees with the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the German justice system was for many years not interested in Nazi crimes: "Around 160 people were convicted in Germany: that's not many when you think of the extent of the killing of Jews, Sinti and Roma or victims of euthanasia." That was above all because of the continuity in the justice system. "In the 50s and 60s, three quarters of the judges and prosecutors had been active in the Third Reich in People's Courts, Special Courts or in normal courts," says Perels. That meant that, even decades after the war, there were "serious miscarriages of justice." For example, in the 60s, a man who had led an SS death squad, and had ordered the killing of 15,000 Jews, some of whom he had killed himself, was found by a Munich court to have been merely an accessory, on the grounds that he didn't himself have anything against Jews.

Not much time left
It was the same Munich court which found Demjanjuk guilty based just on proof that he had served in an extermination camp, and Perels sees that as evidence that the justice system has changed substantially in recent years: "It's because of the passing of that generation and a generally different view of the Third Reich." It's not just the young, critical lawyers who have made a difference; it's also German society, in which surveys showed for a long time after the war that more than half the population was opposed to the prosecution of NS crimes. Both Perels and Zuroff agree that, as a result of the failures of the justice system in the past, there's not much time left, and that it's a matter of respect for the victims that the hunt for the last remaining war criminals should be intensified before it's too late. Zuroff thinks the poster campaign is the right way to go about it: "We've been trying for the last half a year to get German companies to give us money to finance a campaign to publicize Operation Last Chance," he says. "We turned to 86 different foundations and companies, and only three were willing to help us."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Greece: Far-right party plays Nazi anthem at charity event

24/7/2013- An extreme-right political party in Greece played a Nazi anthem during a charity event Wednesday that authorities had attempted to ban. A Greek version of the Horst Wessel song — known as “keep the banner flying” in Greek — was played on loud speakers outside the central Athens offices of the Golden Dawn party, where members handed out bags of food and clothing. A video of the event, including the sound of the song, was posted on the party’s website. The song remains banned in Germany, along with Nazi symbols. Party members distributed the food parcels after checking recipients’ identity cards to insure that non-Greeks were excluded.

Golden Dawn, which has campaigned aggressively against illegal immigration and Greece’s international economic bailout, has seen a surge in support during the financial crisis and its dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment. The party won nearly 7 percent of the vote in general elections last year, with popular support continuing to rise, according to opinion polls. City authorities and the Greek police had banned Golden Dawn on Wednesday from using a nearby square to stage the charity event and set up a large police cordon to prevent possible protests against the decision. But large crowds of supporters gathered outside the party building chanting, “Foreigners out of Greece.”

“The crime we committed was that we wanted to hand out food to Greeks only. If we’d handed it out to Pakistanis and blacks, there would have been no problem,” party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos told supporters. Wednesday’s event was held on the 39th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece, following the collapse of a 1967-74 military dictatorship. “We didn’t choose this day by coincidence,” Michaloliakos said. “They say they are celebrating the return of democracy. But they are really celebrating state thievery, scandals, and treason.”

The government strongly condemned the choice of date, with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias early Wednesday describing Golden Dawn as a “pathetic copy of Nazi totalitarianism.” Officials from the government declined to make any further comment. Panos Skourletis, a spokesman for Syriza, the main left-wing opposition, called Michaloliakos’ comments and the playing of the Nazi anthem a “provocation to democracy.” “They are trying to align problems that people face in Greek society with their own message of hatred and Nazism,” Skourletis told The Associated Press. “Golden Dawn will only be weakened when the causes of (Greece’s) deep humanitarian crisis are addressed and stopped.”
© The Associated Press

up  

Greek neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn hails poll boost among the young

Golden Dawn says "Hail Victory" after latest polling. The party remains in third place in Greek politics

23/7/2013- The Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which shot to prominence at last year's elections, is hailing new polling figures showing the strength of its position among younger voters and that it remains the third most popular party in Greek politics. Golden Dawn, whose rallies feature Nazi style right arm salutes, and which actively promotes hostility to Jews and non-white immigrants, has seen its popularity soar amid the growing social chaos associated with austerity and economic crisis. According to the most recent poll by Pulse RC, Golden Dawn has 13 percent support, putting it behind New Democracy on 19 percent and top placed SYRIZA on 21 percent. Polling was conducted among a representative sample of voters between July 11 and 17.

Golden Dawn's "International Newsroom" website is also hailing more detailed polling figures on the strength of the party's position among younger sections of the population. Among 18-29 year olds it has 14 percent support. Among 30-44 year olds it has 16 percent. Among 45-59 year olds it has 14 percent and among voters over 60 it has 8 percent. "From those polls we can see," the website said, "that Golden Dawn is the second party among the age groups of the active population (ages 18-44) and that the old parties (PASOK - New Democracy) survive largely because of the elderly. Additionally, the polls reveal that 11% of New Democracy's voters and 7% of Syriza's voters are moving towards Golden Dawn.

"Hail Victory!"
Analysts say that "victory" is highly unlikely, though there is wide concern across Europe that a neo-Nazi party should remain in such a strong position. Overall unemployment stands at around 27 percent while youth unemployment in Greece is over 60 percent. As an indication of the kind of people the party attracts, the person who posted up the article goes by the title "BlueEyesWhiteSlav".
© The Commentator

up  

Greece: Number of racist attacks rising

22/7/2013- Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that a refugee named Omar Diallo suffered injuries during a recent attack on the street in Athens that required several stitches. Back in his home country of Guinea the 28-year-old was used to violence, but the hostile racism he has encountered in a Greece beset by crisis is a significant shock for him. In the quarter of Athens where Diallo lives, an area full of empty, graffiti-covered shops with "for rent" and "for sale" signs, it is becoming more and more dangerous to be a dark-skinned foreigner. "There are places here where we do not have the right to walk, or where we can walk only in groups," he said. Diallo was alone on the street when he was assaulted. The attack was quick and quiet, without any demands or racist insults. "Four people assaulted me on the street. One hit me on the head with something, I fell to the ground, and they beat me. They ran away when they were done," he says.

Diallo fled his West African home in September 2009 after a massacre broke out at a stadium in connection with a public assembly convened by the opposition. His father was among the 157 people who were killed and Diallo ended up in prison. After his release, Diallo decided to leave his homeland, as he had begun to fear for his life. However, just a few years after he succeeded in reaching Athens in hope of a better life there, he ended up lying on the ground with blood flowing from his head. Police officers discovered Diallo and took him to hospital. His case is by no means exceptional. "I saw a young Pakistani beaten up right in front of me by two giants who ran the length of an entire bus to get to him and kick him out onto the street. I didn't interfere because I was scared to death," a French pensioner who has been living in Athens for about one year told the AFP.

Officials who follow racially motivated assaults recorded 154 of them last year; of those, 107 occurred in Athens. In at least eight cases the victims or witnesses said they recognized their assailants were persons connected to the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. Diallo, who studied international relations in Conakry, feels that the number of racist attacks has been rising ever since conservative Greek PM Antonis Samaras took power in June 2012. Golden Dawn also made it into the Greek Parliament for the first time then, where its MPs have 18 seats in the 300-seat assembly. "They feel politically strengthened," Diallo said. According to a recent report on racially motivated violence in Greece, only 24 of the victims of racially motivated assault in 2012 ever filed formal charges with police. "As far as I can tell, the assailants aren't trying to kill anyone, but they are causing visible injuries in order to disseminate fear in those communities," said Doctor Nikitas Kanakis, secretary-general of the Greek branch of the NGO Doctors of the World.

Kanakis has long done his best to draw attention to this problem and the victims of racially motivated assaulted often turn directly to him instead of going to hospital. Thanks to his reputation, Kanakis has been able to draw attention to several such assaults, including the case of a 14-year-old Afghani boy whose face was sliced up by violent offenders using a broken bottle in a suburb of Athens dominated by neo-Nazis. "Racist assaults take place practically every day at various places around the country, but primarily in Athens," says Jorgos Tsabropulos, the head of the Athens office of the UNHCR. The government's response to this problem is full of internal contradictions. On the one hand, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, who has condemned Golden Dawn's assaults as unacceptable, recently told the BBC that "Golden Dawn is unequivocally a neo-Nazi party."

Dendias said a special police unit had been created to fight racist crime and that "people who behave illegally should end up in prison." However, in the same interview he more or less declared that "creating new laws won't help", even though Greece is under pressure from the Council of Europe to adopt new legislation in this area. Dendias said the rise in Golden Dawn's influence and its racist, xenophobic posturing is due to an influx of undocumented refugees into Greece, whom he called "an enormous burden on Greek society". He has called on the EU to provide Greece financial assistance so the country can better put up with rising numbers of refugees.
© CTK

up  

Russia: Gay teenagers tortured and made to come out on video by militant ‘anti-paedophilia’ group

A neo-Nazi Russian group has taken to social media to publicise images and videos of gay teenagers lured in on the promise of a date, before torturing them and forcing them to come out to friends and family on video.

26/7/2013- Gay victims aged 12-16 are reportedly lured in by the group Occupy-Pedofilyay, led by Maxim Martsinkevich, known under the nickname “Cleaver”. Videos are then circulated of the victims being made to come out as gay, with a view to parents, schools, or friends finding out about their sexuality. An uncensored image of one of the victims holding a sex toy, covered in red paint, and being held down, appeared on the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance blog. The accompanying report also included a video of the torture of one victim who was sprayed with urine in public, however YouTube has now removed the video.

A report from May notes that 19-year-old Alex Bulygin, a victim of the ‘fighters with paedophiles’ branch of the group, committed suicide after having his sexuality revealed online. It also quotes one member as having said: “If I had my way – I would kill them, but the state does not allow that.” The group was established with the intention of revealing the identities of paedophiles, but after turning to adult gay men, it has now begun targeting young teenagers.

The Spectrum report says that no police action has been taken against the incidents, despite numerous victims, and that over 500 similar groups have been formed across Russia using the VK social networking site. The upper house of the Russian Parliament voted last month to approve both a bill banning adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples and the nationwide anti-”propaganda” bill banning the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships to minors.

The bills, which have since been signed by President Vladimir Putin, bans foreign same-sex couples and unmarried individuals in countries where same-sex marriage is legal from adopting Russian children. Last week, speaking exclusively to PinkNews, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Russia to protect the rights of LGBT citizens following concerns about gay athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics. In May, a gay man from the southern Russian city of Volgograd who was tortured to death in an apparent hate crime, was sexually assaulted with beer bottles, and had his skull “smashed with a stone”, authorities said.
© Pink News

up  

Moscow: City of Xenophobia (Russia)

It is not in the provinces, but in Russia’s comparatively liberal capital, where resentment of migrants reaches its peak.
by Pal Kolsto 

26/7/2013- Moscow is buzzing with heated discussions on immigration and immigration policies. A frequent argument is that Russian culture is being eroded, and Muscovites now feel that they are strangers in their own city. To some extent this rhetoric echoes debates in other European cities – but, in the Russian capital, views that in Western Europe would be deemed beyond the pale may be expressed publicly. For instance, some Russians hold that Vladimir Putin’s regime has had a clear purpose in admitting millions of immigrants from alien cultures: to dilute the Russianness of the Russian people, in a strategy to cling to power. The topic has made its inevitable way into the current mayoral campaign.

In his campaign manifesto, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, the dark horse in the race, argues that migrants must be not only allowed but even encouraged to integrate. To that end, he calls for the establishment of special centers in Moscow where their children can learn Russian. More hard-line is the rhetoric of incumbent Sergey Sobyanin, who, in a May interview with Moskovskie novosti, said he wanted the migrants to go home. “If anyone should stay, it should first and foremost be Russophones with a culture that adequately meets our traditions. The compatriots, as we often call them,” he told the newspaper. “For people who speak Russian poorly, who have a very different culture, it is better to live in their own country. Therefore, we do not welcome their adaptation (adaptatsia) to Moscow.”

Immigrants from Central Asia, then, do not become “Russophones” even if they learn to speak Russian fluently since “Russophone” for the Moscow mayor is a cultural and not a linguistic category. This places immigrants who want to stay in Moscow in a Catch-22 situation: they are expected to be bearers of Russian culture, but if they don’t have it, they should not even try to acquire it. We also note that Sobyanin does not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.
Such ideas are presented also in the pro-Western press that generally adheres to a democratic orientation. Moreover, a recent opinion poll shows that xenophobic ideas resonate among considerable segments of the population. Remarkably, such attitudes are encountered more often in the Russian capital than in the rest of the country.

An increasingly frequent sight in Moscow is that of first-generation immigrants from the former Soviet republics in Central Asia working at poorly paid menial jobs. These people are regarded as carriers of an alien culture, even though they hail from countries that as recently as 25 years ago were part of the same state as Russia. The Russian language was a mandatory subject in these countries’ schools, and the pupils were raised in the same Soviet culture as the Russians. Even so, the Central Asians were never fully integrated into the Soviet way of life. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the cultural distance between them and ethnic Russians has increased further. Fluency in Russian is deteriorating rapidly, since the school systems in many of these countries have been severely degraded – along with the economy in general. When so many Central Asians today head for Moscow, the reason is almost invariably that the chances of finding a job at home are virtually nil. The wife and children are left behind, to live off the remittances Dad sends home.

The apprehensive tenor in the immigration debate in the Russian capital is all the more remarkable since Moscow is one of the most ethnically homogeneous big cities in Europe. In the 2010 census, as many as 92 percent declared their ethnicity as Russian, as against only 78 percent nationwide. This makes Russia one of the few states in the world in which the capital is more ethnically homogeneous than the rest of the country. However, the official figures do not tell the whole story. The gastarbeitery (guest workers) do not have Russian citizenship and often go undetected by the census takers. How many they are is anybody’s guess.

As a legacy of the Soviet period, Central Asians do not need a visa to enter Russia. More often than not, they fail to acquire an official work permit when they arrive. Labor immigration is regulated by quotas that are far too small to meet the demand – among Central Asian work-seekers as well as among Russian employers. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s population has shrunk, and the country desperately needs extra work hands, for unskilled labor in particular. With Central Asians coming in droves, unscrupulous employers go on illegally hiring labor migrants who have no work permit, paying them a pittance on no contract. Often these workers live in shacks that they rent at exorbitant prices. They have become a clear underclass deprived of basic rights.

Protests against immigration have long been a recurrent theme among right-wing Russian nationalists. Tellingly, one of the largest nationalist organizations is The Movement Against Illegal Immigration (Russian acronym DPNI), banned two years ago for inciting national enmity. Many of its ideas live on and are spread among ever new groups – as seen in the huge anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow one and a half years ago when many of their slogans featured. Before DPNI was banned, Navalny expressed sympathy with its goals and a desire to cooperate with the organization.

Articles by the highly respected journalist Yulia Latynina of the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy likewise indicate how entrenched skepticism to immigration has become in the democratic camp. In 2008 Latynina was awarded the American Freedom Defenders Award (presented by Condoleezza Rice) for her investigative journalism. In a July 2012 commentary for the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper – titled “What is happening to my nation? It is dying before my eyes” – Latynina lamented that every day when she walked the streets of Moscow, she would hear people speaking languages other than Russian. “I see dark-skinned Asian faces and feel like a white planter in Jamaica, surrounded by slaves with another language and culture,” she wrote.

The Putin regime, Latynina argued, lets immigrants from Central Asia into Russia as part of a strategy to cling to power: “Prior to elections, the street sweeper from Tajikistan is hurriedly granted citizenship and is bussed to the polling station where he votes for his beloved Putin. The Central Asian mentality even more than the Russian mentality, predisposes people to venerate the Khan.” Latynina’s solution to the problem she claims to have identified is simple and radical: “When a new government takes over in Russia, the first thing it must do it to send home all [migrant] workers engaged in slave labor.” (emphasis in the original).

Latynina’s opinion piece cannot be easily dismissed as idiosyncratic rambling: it expresses viewpoints that are widespread in Moscow. This is clearly shown in a recent survey of 600 respondents in Moscow and 1,000 nationwide carried out in May by the polling institute ROMIR in Moscow on behalf of an Oslo-based research project (“Nation-building and nationalism in today’s Russia,” financed by the Research Council of Norway). The survey documents not only the extent of xenophobia in the Russian capital, but also that such attitudes are more common there than elsewhere in Russia. That was not expected: xenophobia is commonly assumed to be more frequent among groups with less income and education, whereas Muscovites have higher levels of education and considerably more money than the average Russian. On the other hand, the influx of labor immigrant has been stronger in Moscow than elsewhere; while there are proportionately more (ethnically) non-Russians in other parts of the country than in the capital, they are for the most part members of national minority groups with deep historical roots in Russia. In Moscow by contrast, the non-Russians to a much larger degree are non-citizens, gastarbaitery.

Asked if the quota restrictions for the hiring of immigrant workers ought to be lifted, only 12 percent of the Moscow respondents in the survey agreed (fully or to some degree), whereas as many as 82 percent were opposed (fully or to some degree). This opposition was considerably higher than in the national survey, where 58.6 percent said they were opposed to a liberalization of the labor immigration regime. Further, 28 percent of the national sample, but only 15 percent of the Muscovites surveyed, felt that all immigrants and their children should be granted permanent residence in Russia. More than half of the Moscow respondents – 53.3 percent – said immigrants and their children ought to be sent home. By contrast, only 43 percent of the nationwide sample thought so.

Asked whether they believed that the immigrants represent some kind of threat to Russia, only 8 percent of the Muscovites answered “no,” whereas 25 percent associated them primarily with terrorism and thieving. Another 14 percent feared that immigration would lead to interethnic and religious hostility or violence, and 16 percent that it would undermine the Russian economy. (These questions were not formulated in the same way in the national survey.) Anti-immigration sentiments are combined with hostility toward Islam and with ethnocentric attitudes. Among the Muscovites surveyed, 74 percent agreed, fully or to some degree, that Islam represents a threat to Russian culture and to social stability in the country; in the national sample, only 25 percent agreed fully and 35 percent to some degree. Of the Moscow sample, 64 percent opined that ethnic Russians ought to play “a leading role in the Russian state.” The national average was considerably lower, at 47 percent.

In Moscow, then, there is significant potential for populist politicians to exploit the fears of an invasion of culturally alien immigrants as the city heads into the September mayoral election.

Pal Kolsto is a Russian studies professor at the University of Oslo.
© Transitions Online.

up  

Four Dutch nationals arrested in Russia on gay propaganda charges

22/7/2013- Four Dutch nationals have been arrested in Russia on charges of spreading ‘homosexual propaganda’, Nos television reported on Monday. The four were arrested at a festival in Murmansk, close to the border with Finland, and are due to appear in court later on Monday, the broadcaster said. They face a fine. One of those arrested is Kris van der Veen, who is a councillor for the left-wing green party GroenLinks in Groningen. He is also chairman of the foundation KGBT Groningen, which campaigns for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. Nos says the four were making a documentary about gay rights in Russia and had been questioning youngsters about their views. The four have been released pending their court appearance and Van der Veen used Twitter to say they are being helped by the Dutch consultate.

No court case for four arrested in Russia for gay propaganda 
Four Dutch nationals arrested in Russia on charges of spreading ‘homosexual propaganda’ have been released without charge, Nos television reported on Monday afternoon. The four were arrested at a festival in Murmansk, close to the border with Finland. Nos says they were making a documentary about gay rights in Russia and had been questioning youngsters about their views. Originally told they would appear in court on Monday afternoon and faced a fine, the four were released on a technicality, Nos said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Growth of cyber racism 'ignored at our peril' (Ireland)

Online hate speech is on the rise and now amounts to more than 10pc of all racism cases reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

22/7/2013- In the past 12 months, online hate speech has accounted for 11 of 100 racism cases reported to the council. Incidents reported include abuse through posts on social media and disturbing pictures and posts on right-wing websites. The council has compiled a dossier of offensive and disturbing posts directed at non-Irish nationals. The majority of the complaints are against one website in particular which has a forum where users post offensive, racist content. Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said cyber racism had a significant impact on online users. "Individuals, even though they were not always targeted directly, reported that they felt upset, distressed and horrified by the language used on the internet," she said.

The figures on online hate were released by the council to coincide with the European Day for the Victims of Hate today. The council is joining campaigners across Europe to mark the second anniversary of the massacre of 77 people in attacks in Oslo and Utoya Island, perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik, by calling for firm action against hate speech. "The use of websites, social media and blogs to spread hate is a challenge which Ireland and Europe ignores at their peril," said Ms Charlton. "The events in Norway two years ago today sent shockwaves across the continent, yet still the internet is being abused by those whose only message is of hate."
© The Irish Independent

up  

France's far-right ban targets ‘all extremism’

The French government’s decision to dissolve two far-right groups Wednesday was a deliberate move to calm tensions in France following suburban rioting and a growing number of Islamophobic incidents, according to one expert on far right movements.

25/7/2013- The French government on Wednesday announced it was banning two far-right militant groups after outlawing three others earlier this month, in a move one expert on far right movements said was a direct response to growing Islamist radicalism. “There is no place in our country for hate, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or anti-Muslim acts,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said following a cabinet meeting that agreed to dissolve L’Oeuvre Francaise (The French Work) and the Jeunesses Nationalistes (Nationalist Youth). The timing of the announcement is significant, according to leading French researcher on the French far-right Jean-Yves Camus. Camus pointed to a rise in the number of Islamophobic incidents in France, a recent flare-up in tensions over its Muslim and Roma populations and clashes in the Paris suburb of Trappes following a police check on a woman wearing a Muslim veil.

‘Islamophobia a huge driver of Islamist radicalism’
While banning groups will have “little impact” on the politics of their supporters, the “gesture” of banning an organisation sends a strong message that the government is fighting extremism “in all its forms”, he said. “Valls has shown he is willing to make exceptional gestures,” Camus told FRANCE 24. “It shows that he understands that extremism feeds the hatred of groups at the opposite end of the spectrum. “The Islamophobia engendered by these groups is a huge driver of Islamist radicalism, and while Valls has been vocally critical of Islamists following the riots in Trappes, banning these groups shows that he is targeting all forms of extremism.” Earlier in July the government moved to close the extreme-right Troisieme Voie (Third Way) organisation and its militant wing — some of whose members were allegedly involved in the June brawl which resulted in the death of leftist militant Clément Méric — along with a third group called Envie de Rever (Desire to Dream). The government says the five banned groups form the hard core of around a dozen far-right movements, with up to 3,000 members, who have gained visibility as the anti-immigrant National Front has sought to become a more mainstream political party.
© France 24.

up  

France bans two more far-right groups

France’s Socialist government has banned another far-right group along with its youth wing in the aftermath of the killing of anti-fascist activist Clément Méric. L’Oeuvre Française and Jeunesses Nationalistes are private militias that spread racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, according to Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

24/7/2013- Founded in 1968, l’Oeuvre française is the oldest of the many groupuscules on the French far right. It is openly anti-Semitic and was involved in some of the most radical demonstrations against this year’s gay marriage law, such as the breaking up of a meeting that one of the law’s architects, Socialist MP Erwann Binet, was due to address. Jeunesses Nationalistes was founded in 2011 under the leadership of Alexandre Gabriac, a regional councillor in Rhône-Alpes who was expelled from Marine Le Pen’s Front National after photos of him giving a Nazi salute were made public. The two organisations are most active in the southern French city of Lyon. The older group “propagates a xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology, racist and negationist ideas” and declares its support for leaders of Marshall Philippe Pétain’s collaborationist regime during the German occupation of France, Valls told reporters after a cabinet meeting Wednesday that voted for the ban. It is “organised as a private militia with military-style training camps”, he said, adding that the Jeunesses Nationalistes “propagates hate and violence, glorifies collaboration and pays tribute to the [Pétainist] militia and the Waffen SS”.

Gabriac, for one, remained defiant. “The belief that banning our groups with a piece of paper will stop our determination and our progress is a fantasy,” he tweeted. “The future is ours.” After Méric’s death last month the government banned the three organisations most implicated in the killing, Troisième Voie, Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnnaires and Envie de Rêver. Envie de Rêver appealed against its dissolution to the Conseil d’Etat, the highest appeal court in the land, on the grounds that it was an abuse of power.
© RFI

up  

French far-right groups disband ahead of ban

Two French far-right militant groups announced on Tuesday they were voluntarily disbanding after the French government had vowed to ban them. Supporters of the groups were implicated in the recent killing of anti-fascist activist Clément Méric.

24/7/2013- Serge Ayoub, also known as ‘Batskin’, leader of the far-right nationalist militant group Troisième Voie (Third Way) announced on Tuesday that he had formally disbanded his organization. Claiming that “the government has no reason to break us up,” Ayoub added that he himself had dissolved the group, which was founded by neo-fascists and skinheads in 1985, “so as not to be disbanded by others.” For his part, Alexandre Gabriac, leader of the Jeunesses Nationalistes Revolutionnaires (Revolutionary Nationalist Youth, JNR), said he too was disbanding the small group, whose members were considered to be the more combative “forces of order”, providing protection for Troisième Voie. Regional daily Le Dauphiné Liberé reported this week that Gabriac had received a “procedure for dissolution” letter from French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, giving JNR ten days to justify their continued existence – an instruction the regional councillor in Grenoble decided against following. He vowed, however, to “continue to act” and said the group’s dissolution would not “stop nationalism from expressing itself.”

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced a fortnight ago that three right-wing extremist groups would be broken up by July, after sympathisers from Troisième Voie were implicated in the fatal attack on 18-year-old anti-fascist activist Clément Méric in Paris on June 5th. Along with Third Way and JNR, the third group targeted by the French government is L’Oeuvre Française, a far-right anti-semitic organization founded in the late 1960s and currently led by Yvan Benedetti, who is a regional councillor, in Lyon. Both Gabriac and Benedetti were banned from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party in 2011.

Meric was killed after an angry exchange of words between left-wing activists and right-wing skinheads when they met by chance at a private clothing sale in an apartment on Rue Caumartin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris on June 5th. As the confrontation escalated, Meric was punched unconscious. He was pronounced brain dead in hospital and died the following day. It emerged this week that the fight had been caught on CCTV. The man who is suspected of delivering the fatal punch is Esteban Morillo, aged in his 20s, who was arrested in the aftermath of the fight along with four other far-right radicals, including a 32-year-old woman.
Morillo is likely to face manslaughter charges after police sources say he had admitted throwing a punch but insists he did not mean to kill the student. Despite consistent denials from Ayoub and Gabriac that their groups were responsible or involved in Meric’s death, Morillo has been revealed to be a JNR and Troisième Voie sympathiser, and French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed he would be “merciless” in cracking down on the groups.
© The Local - France

up  

French MP forced to quit after Hitler Roma rant

The French MP who allegedly made shocking remarks that "maybe Hitler did not kill enough Gypsies" has been forced to resign from his party. Gilles Bourdouleix's comment is also the subject of a criminal probe by French authorities.

25/7/2013- A French lawmaker who was allegedly recorded saying that maybe Hitler "did not kill enough" Roma (also known as Gypsies) has resigned from his party, just days after investigators opened a criminal probe into his comment. The centrist Union of Democrats and Independents said Gilles Bourdouleix had resigned in a letter sent to the party headquarters on Wednesday, hours before executive committee members were due to meet to discuss his fate. Bourdouleix reportedly muttered the remark on Sunday as he confronted members of a travelling community who had illegally set up camp in the western town of Cholet, where he is mayor. According to a recording posted on the site of regional daily Courrier de l'Ouest, he is heard saying "maybe Hitler did not kill enough," after the travellers, who were not from the Roma community themselves - had reportedly given him the Nazi salute.

His comment sparked huge outrage, with Interior Minister Manuel Valls calling for the lawmaker to be "severely punished" for the comments. Yves Gambert, a local prosecutor, said his office had opened a preliminary investigation into the remarks on charges of "defending crimes against humanity". Bourdouleix faces up to five years in prison and a €45,000 ($60,000) fine if convicted on the charge. Prosecutors have also ordered that the recording of the remark be analysed to see if it was altered. Bourdouleix has said his comments were taken out of context and alleged the recording was tampered with. The lawmaker has made controversial remarks about Roma in the past, including in November 2010, when he threatened to drive a truck through one of their caravan camps, and last November, when he said France was facing a "new invasion" from the community.

Confrontations between French authorities and Roma erupt frequently. France has a policy of systematically dismantling illegal camps and repatriating Roma of Bulgarian and Romanian nationality - a policy whose legality has been questioned by the European Union, the United Nations' human rights arm and other watchdogs. The Roma, a nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination and are frequently accused of carrying out petty crimes. They were killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazis during the Second World War, alongside Jews and homosexuals.
© The Local - France

up  

MP faces prosecution in France over Hitler Roma remark

A French MP is facing prosecution for allegedly endorsing Hitler's crimes against the Roma (Gypsies) during a confrontation with travellers.

23/7/2013- Gilles Bourdouleix has tried to defend himself after he was recorded saying "maybe Hitler didn't kill enough of them" during the incident on Sunday. He says he was just repeating the words of the reporter who recorded him. But Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he should be punished "very severely" for the "unacceptable" remarks. The MP also faces expulsion from his own party, the centre-right UDI. Up to half a million members of the Roma community were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. The European Commission says many of the 12 million Roma now living in the European Union face prejudice, social exclusion and poverty.

'Intolerable'
Mr Bourdouleix was involved in a stand-off with travellers illegally occupying private land near Cholet, a town in western France where he also serves as mayor. According to regional newspaper Le Courrier de l'Ouest, the MP became exasperated by "Nazi salutes" and "accusations of racism". Its reporter captured him making the controversial remark in an audio recording which was published on Tuesday, after Mr Bourdouleix accused the paper of distorting his words. He later told the iTele TV channel that his words had been manipulated and he had merely been repeating a phrase used by the journalist. By his account, he had been confronted by 30 to 40 travellers who made Nazi salutes at him and called him a "dirty little Hitler". Accusing the paper of bearing a grudge against him, he dismissed the reporter with a crude term of abuse and said he would like to give him "a couple of punches''. The French interior minister said he would ask for the MP to be prosecuted for seeking to "justify a crime against humanity". UDI secretary-general Jean-Christophe Lagarde tweeted that the party would seek to expel Mr Bourdouleix, whose words were "intolerable" and incompatible with the party's values. According to AFP news agency, the travellers involved in the dispute left the land on Monday. France is home to some 400,000 travellers, who are 95% French. The group involved at Cholet are said to belong to belong to a Protestant missionary movement, the Life and Light Association.
© BBC News

up  

French Politician tells Gypsies: Hitler Did Not Kill Enough Roma

22/7/2013- A French politician sparked outrage by telling a group of travellers that, perhaps, not enough gypsies were killed during Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Gilles Bourdouleix, a 53-year-old member of the National Assembly for the centrist UDI party and mayor of Cholet, north western France, made the controversial remark as he was confronted by a group of travellers who had pitched camp on the city's soil. "Maybe Hitler had not killed enough," Bourdouleix was quoted as saying by French newspaper Le Courrier de l'Ouest. Bourdouleix was visiting a 150-caravan strong camp set up by members of gypsy evangelic community Vie et Lumière on a field outside Cholet.

The mayor initially denied making the remark, saying he had been misquoted. Bourdouleix threatened to sue the newspaper, claiming he actually told the nomads that "if he was Hitler, they would have been dead," after they welcomed him mimicking Nazi salutes. However, shortly afterwards Le Courrier de l'Ouest posted the disputed remarks on its website, prompting calls for Bourdouleix to be thrown out of his party. UDI leader Jean-Louis Borloo condemned Bourdouleix's comments and said the party would take action against him.

"Even if [made] out of emotion, Bourdouleix's remarks are intolerable and incompatible with our values ​​and with being part of the UDI," added party secretary Jean-Christophe Lagarde in a tweet. "The only possible sanction is the expulsion from the party." It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands gypsies died in Nazi regime concentration camps.
© The International Business Times

up  

France forced to defend ban on Islamic veil

France's so-called "Burqa-ban" has once again been making headlines across the globe in recent days after riots were sparked in a Paris suburb when a Muslim woman was stopped by police. On Monday the French government defended the controversial law.

22/7/2013- France's interior minister moved to defend the country's controversial ban on full-face veils after it triggered yet another bout of unrest outside Paris, which he said had now been "contained". The weekend violence in the suburb of Trappes erupted after a man was detained for allegedly attacking a police officer who had stopped his wife over her full-face veil -- a practice that is banned in France, outraging many in the Muslim community. "The law banning the full-face veil is a law for women... It is not for a second a law against Islam," Manuel Valls told RTL radio. "It is a law against practices that have nothing to do with our traditions and our values, and the police did their work perfectly well." France, home to Europe's largest Muslim population - estimated at 5 million - has banned women from wearing full-face veils in public since April 2011, and authorities say about 300 women were caught breaking the law in the first year it was in force.

Violations are punishable by a fine of up to €150 ($200) or mandatory citizenship training, and the ban has caused huge resentment and has led to flare-ups of violence. It has also led to landmark court cases, such as that of the nursery assistant who was sacked for refusing to remove her Islamic head scarf. The decision was later annulled by an appeal court, on the grounds of religious "discrimination". There have also been cases, albeit rare, of citizens taking vigilante action against Muslim women for wearing veils in public. Recently it was reported that a pregnant Muslim woman lost her baby after being kicked in the midriff by one such vigilante.

'Police treated us like animals'
French prosecutors say the husband of the Muslim woman who was stopped last week allegedly attacked and tried to strangle the officer. Valls said it was "unacceptable that someone would want to avoid being stopped and worse still attack the police". Valls said he had no doubt that the police maintained a respectful attitude during the stop. But in a statement released on Monday, the man's lawyer denied the allegation, saying it was "false" without elaborating. Wenceslas Ference said his client "wants it to be known that his wife has always accepted to show her face to police and cooperate during previous ID checks, of which there have been many." The man, identified as Mickael, was released from custody on Saturday and is due to appear before a court in September.

France's Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) has denounced the "strong arm" action of the police, which they said was "violent and provocative". On its website CCIF published a statement made by the woman in which she details her version of events when police pulled her aside. The statement, which was published in both French and English reads: "The policeman grabbed me by the head of my veil and dragged me with a dreadful strength to press me on the hood of the car, while yelling: “You’re talking to me?? You’re talking to me??” "I turned and I saw my husband hold on the ground by two policemen who were putting him the handcuffs. "Once in the police car, they yelled at us like we were animals. They threatened my husband: 'What are you gonna do now, uh! Bastard!' with their clenched fists." "Once we arrived at the police station, people called me “a ghost” (because of the full-veil)."

In a statement on their website the CCIF added: "We ask the police forces to fulfill their mission to protect the population, without intimidation or provocation." A similar outbreak of unrest occurred last month when authorities stopped a 25-year-old woman who was wearing a full-face veil in Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris. An angry crowd gathered and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.

Politicians blame lack of integration in France
Various politicians from France's right-wing parties have blamed the veil riots on a lack of integration and said the Socialist government has done nothing to help. Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far right National Front party said “These kind of riots have been increasing for years, both under the UMP and Socialist governments. The French Republic has too weak a hand: due to the laxity of various governments it is losing its power struggle with the thugs, the Islamists and the ringleaders.” Mayor of Paris's 7th arrondissement Rachida Dati said in a statement: "This violence shows lack of integration, creeping communitarianism and it’s an insult to republican authority. This explosive cocktail has been ignored by the Left for a long time. “The right should not be exonerated from responsibility. For more than 30 years, we have abandoned all ambitious integration politics in the Republic." And the outspoken UMP mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi tweeted: "Trappes is a territory of the French Republic and the state must make sure the laws are respected. The government must react and no longer be laxist."
© The Local - France

up  

Violence flares in Paris after Islamic veil arrest (France)

A 14-year-old boy has been seriously injured in clashes between police and protesters in the western suburbs of Paris after officers stopped a woman for wearing a veil.

21/7/2013- The teenager suffered an eye injury after being shot in the face on Friday evening. It is not yet known who fired the shot. The youth was in hospital on Saturday. Several police offers were also injured. Some 250 youths had gathered in the suburb of Trappes on Friday evening throwing stones at police who responded with tear gas. The 14-year-old was hurt during an "intense phase" of violence, official Erard Corbin de Mangoux said. Trouble had started around 8:30 pm and carried on sporadically through the night until 2am. It had been sparked by an incident on Thursday when an officer stopped a woman wearing a veil. During this, the woman's husband attacked and apparently tried to strangle the officer, according to Versailles prosecutor Vincent Lesclous.

This version was disputed by the Collective against Islamophobia in France, who said trouble started after police "provocation". France introduced a law in April 2011 banning the wearing of full face veils in public places. Since that time more than 700 inspections have been carried out by police. Politicians and community leaders called for calm. Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who was in Marseille, said: "To attack the police, institutions, public goods makes no sense, does not solve any problem and is unacceptable." The president of the Observatory against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri appealed for calm.
© The Local - France

up  

'Go home' ad campaign targeting illegal immigrants faces court challenge (UK)

Refugee group sends 'letter before claim' to Home Office after complaints about intimidating nature of message

26/7/2013- A government advertising campaign that targets racially mixed areas with mobile billboards warning illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest" is being challenged through the courts. Vans carrying the abrupt message have been driven around six boroughs where there are high numbers of immigrants as part of a pilot scheme that has caused a coalition split and has been described by Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, as "nasty". The Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (Ramfel) held "an emergency tension-monitoring" meeting with Home Office officials on Friday afternoon after receiving complaints about the intimidating nature of the message. Rita Chadha, from the group, said it had sent a "letter before claim" to the Home Office and warned that the initiative had created "a sense of apprehension, tension and confusion" among her clients.

The move will cause further unease in Westminster where Nick Clegg's office is understood to have registered its anger at the week-long campaign, which was launched on Monday by the immigration minister Mark Harper. The campaign has been widely seen as a way for Conservative ministers to appear tough on immigration in the face of rising support for Ukip. But the initiative has caused a wave of complaints from clergymen, MPs and their constituents. Bishop Patrick Lynch, who oversees migration for the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said: "Let's not mince our words, this mobile billboard campaign is a very inappropriate way to discourage illegal immigrants from staying in the UK, not least because the message that is often received is that all immigrants and foreigners are unwelcome in the UK."

He said some so-called illegal immigrants were failed asylum seekers, often with children, who had already been through very difficult situations. "These cases need to be dealt with compassionately, especially when there are children involved." Vans have been driven around the London boroughs of Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge carrying billboards as part of the £10,000 pilot. The billboards show residents how many illegal migrants have recently been arrested in their local area and carry a text number for overstayers to use to arrange their return home.

The posters read: "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention." If deemed successful, the vans could be rolled out across the country, the Home Office said. One Lib Dem source pointed out that the Home Office caused anger earlier this month by posting tweets warning "There will be no hiding place for illegal immigrants with the new #ImmigrationBill", accompanied by a picture of a handcuffed man of Asian appearance being placed into a van. "To what extent are these genuine attempts to address immigration and to what extent are they just 'dog whistle' politics?" the source said.

Diane Abbott, the Labour MP whose Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency is one of the target areas, went further and warned it had already caused real concern in her constituency. "It is not so much dog-whistle politics as an entire brass band," she said. "It is akin to scrawling 'Paki go home' on the side of buildings. I don't believe this policy is going to achieve anything besides stoking fear and resentment." Home Office staff have also grown uneasy with the campaign, it emerged. Mike Jones, from the PCS union, sent a letter of protest on Thursday to the permanent secretary, Mark Sedwill. "This is exactly the thing rightwing racist and fascist organisations such as the BNP, EDL, EVF and others feed off" to "stir up racial tension and hatred in these very same London boroughs", he wrote.

A Home Office spokesperson said the initiative had received several positive responses which would be assessed after the pilot ends on Monday. "This pilot is about targeting people who are here illegally and giving them the opportunity to leave the country voluntarily and with dignity, rather than be arrested, detained and removed. "Voluntary returns are the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants and save the taxpayer money," she said.
© The Guardian

up  

Tomorrow's far-right protest 'not welcome' (UK)

26/7/2013- More than 300 people have signed an open letter to the English Volunteer Force (EVF) ahead of the anti-Islamic group's planned demonstration outside the UK Border Agency's Lunar House headquarters tomorrow (Saturday). The letter has been organised by the Oasis Trust, which runs a number of academies in the borough and sends the EVF the message that they are not speaking for the people of Croydon. It says: "Freedom of speech is an important part of life in Britain. However, it is our view that the EVF is in no way attempting to make a positive contribution to debate or dialogue. "Instead, this protest is destined to spark fear and intimidation in Croydon's communities and damage the borough's reputation as a place of happy diversity and tolerance." Originally, the EVF had planned a march from Lunar House to the Croydon Mosque, in London Road, but police restricted the group to a static demonstration at the front of Lunar House in Wellesley Road. The demonstration is due to start at noon and there will be two counter demonstrations; one by Croydon trade unionists and the other by anti-fascist groups. These demonstrations will, according to a police spokesman, take place in Bedford Park, which runs along the side of Lunar House. There will be no public access to Lunar House on the day.
© This is Croyden Today

up  

Far-right to march during Edinburgh Festival (UK)

The far-right Scottish Defence League has been given permission to march down Edinburgh's Royal Mile during the middle of the Festival.

26/7/2013- The group, which opposes what it considers to be a spread of Islamism, initially applied to stage their procession down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament on August 24, but agreed to move the date to avoid clashing with the Festival of Politics. Supporters will now make their way down the Mile on Saturday, August 17. Meanwhile, authorities in the west of the country have banned an SDL procession through a multi-cultural area. Edinburgh City Council approved the march after consultation with Police Scotland, which said other events involving the group, an offshoot of the much larger English Defence League, had not caused trouble.

A counter-protest within the vicinity of the parade is expected, with the United Against Fascism group gathering wherever SDL events are held. Coaches carrying the SDL will be met by police on the outskirts of Edinburgh and escorted to the start of the march. In a letter to the council, ­Assistant Chief Constable Mike McCormick said: "There have been four main SDL events in the city over the past few years – February 2010, September 2011, May 2012 and September 2012. "Although the February 2010 event was unstructured and required the attention of a sig­nificant number of police resources, the others have been more organised and there have been no significant public order issues at any of the events."

The SDL yesterday failed to attend a meeting at Glasgow City Council as the authority refused permission for the group to march through the city's Pollokshields district. Police Scotland had lodged a strongly worded objection to the march, citing threats of widespread disorder, damage to community relations and, crucially, the experience of previous SDL events in the area. As the group failed to appear, there was no discussion on ­alternative dates or locations. A city council spokesman said: "Committee ruled the planned procession should not take place on Saturday. "Any new date and route would have to be mutually agreed by the organiser, the council and police."

Police Scotland said that, if the SDL attempted to stage the march regardless of the ban, it would be policed appropriately. Objecting to the event, Police Scotland had said: "The presence of the SDL in Glasgow provides a significant risk of serious public disorder breaking out and as a consequence, serious disruption to the life of the community. "Police Scotland strongly opposes any proposal for the SDL to hold a procession in Glasgow due to this significant threat to public safety and disorder." The move was welcomed by local Tory and SNP councillors.
© The Herald Scotland

up  

Let us speak for ourselves: five women's experiences of Islamophobic attacks (UK)

Muslim women and their clothes, their relationships with men and their place in British society are written and talked about and discussed and debated to death - but rarely are Muslim women included in those discussions themselves. In an attempt to correct this, Huma Qureshi asks five women to share their experiences.

24/7/2013- What does it feel like to have your hijab yanked off your head by a man shouting abuse at you? Or to be chased down the street, shouted, sworn or spat at because what you are wearing identifies your beliefs? These are examples of what are described as anti-Muslim incidents specifically against women. Tell Mama, the government-backed organisation which records anti-Muslim behaviour, has said Islamophobic attacks against women have increased in the aftermath of the brutal killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May. It says approximately 70 per cent of the calls it received since then have come from women. Of reported street attacks, 75 per cent have been against Muslim women wearing Islamic dress.

For Andrew Gilligan, who has criticised Tell Mama’s statistics in the Telegraph and accused it of exaggerating Islamophobia, incidents such as “hijab yanking” are “at the lower level of seriousness” because they do not result in physical injury. Nothing has been as critical as the latest incident in France, where a pregnant Muslim woman miscarried last week after two men attacked her, but to entirely dismiss what some women have been reporting in the UK is still deeply undermining to those who have found themselves at the receiving end of unprovoked assault, physical or verbal, simply because of their faith.

Muslim women and their clothes, their relationships with men and their place in British society are written and talked about and discussed and debated to death - but rarely are Muslim women included in those discussions themselves. That’s why I contacted five Muslim women who have experienced varying degrees of anti-Muslim incidents to find out how it has affected them. Some have been terrified. Others say things are not bad. Some wear the hijab, some don’t. Most asked to be anonymous because they don’t want their family or jobs to be affected by what they say. All are horrified by Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder. None claim their experiences are representative of Muslim women as a whole - if anything, they are tired of being seen as a homogenous group.

Finally, all agree the media doesn’t help. “No one ever lets us speak for ourselves,” one woman told me. Some feel silenced and ignored by the press, not just because of their religion, but because of their gender too. By sharing their views, they hope they will be heard and not disregarded as statistics that some consider to be utterly meaningless. Here are their experiences.

Ayesha
Ayesha, a 32-year-old who works as an IT analyst in London, was verbally abused and followed on a work trip in Manchester, two days after the Woolwich murder. “I was going back to my hotel after work meetings. There was a pub down the road from my hotel and as I walked past I heard a group of white men shouting things like ‘Oi, Paki’ and ‘Oi, bin Laden.’ I quickened my pace because I didn’t want anything to kick off. I heard footsteps catching up with me. Then I felt my headscarf pulled back and something tugging on my abaya. At that point, I just ran to my hotel, told the receptionist what had happened and asked him to make sure the men didn’t come in. Then I noticed a slit in my abaya - it had been cut. That’s when I got really scared, because I realised the man who followed me had something sharp in his hands. I couldn’t stop wondering, ‘What if?’ I was shaking. I felt incredibly vulnerable. I just locked myself in my hotel room. Now, I worry about my mum going out on her own, and there have been days I’ve been scared to take the tube.

"Ten years ago, I was set upon by eight youths near my university campus. They called me a terrorist and beat me up. My mistake was to fight back; then they urinated on me. They left laughing. I couldn’t stop crying. The university reported it to the police, but they didn’t find them. "As a visible Muslim woman, I know I’m an easy target. But it’s cowardly to pick on a woman just because of what she is wearing. It’s not just Islamophobia - this is sexism, too. These men saw me as a weak target, and tried to assert their masculinity over me. I wish people could understand you can’t blanket an entire faith just because of a few individuals who had nothing to do with us.”

Leila
Leila is a 28-year-old who lives in Oxford. She worked as an accountant before becoming a full time mum to two young children. “I was walking home with my two kids in their pushchair through the park when a white man on his bike came towards me, looked at me, stopped and spat first at me and then at my children. I felt angry, embarrassed, anxious and scared. But more than anything, I felt shock. What upset me more was that he didn’t just spit at me, but my children too. I knew I had to get home, and as soon as I got in, I phoned my husband. Then I called Tell Mama. I didn’t call the police because, well, what would they do?

"This happened the day after the soldier was killed in Woolwich. Since then, I’ve been nervous to go out. I feel people looking at me though I don’t know if I’m being paranoid. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. I’ve been chased off a bus by three women who threatened to beat me up because of my hijab. Everyday I heard comments against me on the bus. I was terrified by what they said they’d do and was too scared to go out on my own. Eventually we moved house because of the threats. "I take my children to a playgroup in a church every week, and I’ve never even taken them to a mosque. It’s upsetting that just because I wear a headscarf, they might get treated differently. I blame the media. It portrays a distorted image of Islam and makes out all of us are bad. I hope things change for my kids.”

Sophia Ditta
Sophia is 34 and lives in Bradford with her family. Four severed pigs heads were left outside her home. “A fortnight ago, my dad found a pig’s head by our front door. He called the police to report it. I went into the garden to see if there was anything else, and there was another pig’s head. I smelt it before I saw it. It was foul. The police told us to ‘preserve’ them so we kept them under bags overnight until they could come round. They asked if there had been anything else, and I suddenly remembered two bags in the bushes while I’d been gardening two weeks before. At the time, they were too heavy for me to lift and I never got round to it. So we went into the garden and found two more pigs heads in the bags, badly decomposed. They had been there a month - since just after the Woolwich attack. They smelt foul.

"I’ve never suffered any discrimination. We’re not the most devout Muslims, we don’t really go to the mosque and I don’t wear a headscarf. You wouldn’t be able to tell we’re Muslim. I see this as racism not Islamophobia, because no matter how Western we are, or how integrated into society we are, some people don’t see us as British or English. I think this was someone jumping on an EDL bandwagon. They tried to scare us, but it didn’t work. It hasn’t stopped me or my mum from doing anything. I’m not offended by a pig, though I am offended by the foul smell. "However, I reported it to Tell Mama, because although the police were sympathetic, they told us it was an isolated hate incident and nothing like that had happened in our area before. But I later told my neighbour who is also Muslim. He had found a pig’s head on his property a month ago too, and reported it to the police then. So it just shows they didn’t listen.”

Mehnaz
Mehnaz is originally from the UAE and was living in America until three years ago, when she came to England with her husband and three children to study for her PhD. “I was dropping my eldest daughter off at school and was reversing the car when another car blocked us in. At first, I thought I was in the way, so I was ready to apologise but then I saw the two young men in the car were screaming and shouting, pointing at me and gesturing at my headscarf in a very aggressive and threatening way. I was just holding my breath all the time. I felt so worried, and all I kept thinking was ‘Please don’t get out of your car.’” I managed to turn the car around and moved, but I was really scared of what they might do. I didn’t want my children to see. It really unsettled me.

"I’m wondering whether this sort of behaviour will be a long-term thing or whether it will go away. My husband and I lived in the States, and even after 9/11, I never felt threatened. The media coverage of Muslims in Britain makes it worse - after the Woolwich murder, the media was so intensely focused on Muslims that I can see why it made people so angry, even though it had nothing to do with us. But we are not all bad, we are well-educated people who pay our taxes and contribute to the economy. Right now, we need an environment that fosters peace rather than hatred and I don’t think the media is helping.”

Ola Ashi
Ola is a 21-year-old psychology student who was born and brought up in Cardiff. Her parents are from Palestine. “Because I wear hijab, I always feel slightly more vulnerable. It’s always at the back of my mind that something might happen because of it - but it definitely doesn’t keep me up at night or stop me from living my life. "In the past, I’ve been followed home and spat at in my car. I often get people calling out ‘Paki go home’ when I’m out jogging. One time I came out my house, and people drove past shouting ‘BNP’. At school I used to get my hijab yanked. I’m not bothered what this is called - whether it’s racism or Islamophobia - as long as it’s tackled.

"But I also know that’s it’s just a minority of people who do this. Muslim people don’t like being generalised, and I think it’s important we don’t generalise non-Muslims too. I have plenty of non-Muslim friends and they completely disagree with this kind of behaviour. On the times when I’ve had to involve the police, like when I’ve been followed or harassed, they were very understanding. "Since the Woolwich attack, I have felt more concerned but mostly I see people sticking together a lot more. My friends and I, whether non-Muslim or Muslim, text each other to remind each other when there’s an EDL demo going on so we can be safe and stay away. "The way I see it is I just have to show the best side of Islam that I can. My cousins in Gaza worry everyday about staying alive or being bombed by Israel. All I have to deal with is a few slurs. That puts it in perspective.”

Some names have been changed
© The New Statesman

up  

This anti-immigrant ad campaign is racism, pure and simple (UK, opinion)

Adverts telling illegal immigrants to go home show little has changed in the UK since Enoch Powell's rivers of blood speech
By Kadija Sesay


23/7/2013- The policies the government is dreaming up to encourage illegal immigrants to leave Britain are becoming increasingly absurd. It is already targeting employers and landlords, and has tried persecuting children in schools. Now the Home Office is putting expensive advertising money into the mix: a new billboard campaign is being piloted this week telling illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest". And it is just a precursor to the next pilot scheme, a Christmas gift for families of ethnic minorities. From November, visitors from "high risk" countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, will be expected to produce a £3,000 bond to be allowed in to Britain. For many people, that could equate to up to six months' worth of salary. There is no less racism in Britain today than there was 50 or so years ago when my parents arrived. It has merely changed in type and style. And it has become bolder.

I am still biting my tongue with anger at the British Olympic Association's original decision (later reversed) not to give accreditation for a journalist at The Voice, Britain's oldest and biggest black newspaper, owned by a Jamaican publishing house, to the track and field events. Yet on the days that Usain Bolt ran, a man called Scott who sold national pins in Stratford's shopping centre, told me "everyone was Jamaican". And he sold out of Jamaican memorabilia – yes, even more than the union flag. But because we don't want to be seen with a "chip on our shoulder" we use polite terms such as "outrageous". Call this new advertising campaign what it is: racist. Two things about this latest scheme scare me. First, that the authorities are so bold with their racist tactics and their justification of them. Second, that this attitude risks encouraging and validating everyday personal racist incidents.

Racist attacks, both overt and covert, happen in small ways on a daily basis to many people in Britain. Sometimes they are laughable, because that is just a bit better than crying. And when I personally experience such an act, or see or hear of others experiencing it, I do feel like crying – for my parents, my friends' parents, and all the parents I don't know who came to Britain to make a better life for themselves; families back home and their children here. You can't tell by the colour of people on the streets who is in the UK legally and who is not. Has anything really changed since Enoch Powell gave his "rivers of blood" speech in April 1968? This advertising basically says, it is easier to get rid of them all. I wonder how many of our parents now, if asked, would say it was worth it.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

Salford councillor could be jailed over Twitter comment on BNP (UK)

A councillor could be jailed over ‘off the cuff’ Twitter remarks made during an election count.

23/7/2013- Howard Balkind was reported to police by the far-right BNP for tweeting that the party would be ‘lucky to get 10 votes’ at a by-election last month. It is alleged that Coun Balkind broke the law by revealing the results of postal votes before polls had closed the Weaste and Seedley ward. Coun Balkind, a prominent anti-fascist and anti-BNP campaigner in Salford, now faces a wait while the Crown Prosecution Service decided whether to press charges under the Representation of the People Act. Under the 1983 act, the maximum penalty for making ‘any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election’ before polls close is six months in prison or a £5,000 fine. The BNP’s complaint was made after polling closed, shortly before midnight on Thursday, June 20, over the tweet, posted the previous Tuesday.

Coun Balkind was interviewed by police under caution on the Friday morning after the complaint was lodged with police then passing the file to the CPS to decide whether to prosecute. Labour’s Paul Wilson eventually won the election with 785 votes while the BNP came fifth, Kay Pollitt polling 74 votes. The election campaign became mired in controversy after Salford council were legally obliged to supply Ms Pollitt with a room to stage a public meeting, leading to protests joined by Coun Balkind which caused the meeting to be moved at the last minute. The councillor has now shut down his Twitter account and says he and his family have received ‘veiled threats’ from the @BNPSalford Twitter account. BNP leaflets were also stuffed through his letterbox three days in row, Coun Balkind says. He added that the police are looking into the claims.

Coun Balkind, 61, told the M.E.N. that the remarks were ‘off the cuff’ and not an attempt to reveal the results of postal voting – and called the BNP’s complaint ‘vexatious’. He added: “The whole thing has become ridiculous. The BNP are claiming they suffered because what I tweeted cost them votes but it is their poisonous politics that cost them votes.” A GMP spokesman said: “On Thursday 20 June 2013, police were called following allegations of a breach of section 66 of the Representation of the People Act. A man was interviewed under caution at Pendleton police station and enquiries are ongoing.” A BNP spokesman confirmed that party members had reported Coun Balkind to the police.

He added: “After legal advice from Salford city council, the Electoral Commission and our own legal team it was established that Mr Balkind acted in a way that breached the secrecy code in regards to the election process by tweeting from his official account, results of the first postal vote opening that he had attended earlier that week, before the close of ballots of the recent Weaste and Seedley by-election. “We cannot comment any further as a criminal investigation is under way, and for the record the British National Party will press for charges. “In relation to further claims of harassment, that is nothing more than a smoke screen to cover up the key fact of him breaking the law.”
© The Manchester Evening News

up  

20 people arrested after EDL rally (UK)

20/7/2013- Police have made 20 arrests after bottles, cans and other missiles were hurled at officers during an English Defence League rally. West Midlands Police estimated that around 2,000 people attended the EDL demonstration and a counter-protest in Birmingham city centre. More than 1,000 police officers took part in a major security operation to ensure public safety and prevent rival protesters from clashing, but sporadic disorder broke out soon after the start of the EDL event in Centenary Square. At one point during a stand-off between EDL supporters and officers wearing riot gear, police dogs were deployed to quell an attempt to break through police lines into a building site. Officers were also showered with broken glass, pieces of slate and other objects after EDL supporters, some wearing balaclavas, confronted police near the Hyatt Regency hotel.

A police spokesman said: "Some disorder was seen at both events during the course of the demonstrations. A small number of protesters and police officers sustained injuries - with one police officer taken to hospital having suffered a head injury. He was this evening discharged having received treatment. Around 20 arrests were made in total, with supporters of both events being detained for public order offences." Speaking after the protests, Birmingham's chairman for social cohesion and community safety said he believed they had passed off relatively peacefully. Councillor Waseem Zaffar said: "We are obviously disappointed that the EDL chose Birmingham to host this demonstration. Birmingham doesn't really need this sort of attention but the police have executed a great plan to keep both groups apart." Pointing out that other nearby areas of the city centre had operated normally and were unaffected by the rallies, Mr Zaffar added: "My message to the EDL would be to stay away from Birmingham - your message of hate divides communities and is not welcome."

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe, the commander of the policing operation, said: "A great deal of time, effort and thought has gone into today's events and it is reassuring to see that both demonstrations have largely passed off without serious incident. We are aware of some instances of criminal damage and a number of assaults have been reported, which will be the subject of our ongoing inquiries as we move forward. "Most people who came to Birmingham to go about their daily business in the shopping areas would have done so without having been greatly affected by the protests, which is pleasing. Arrests were made where necessary and further inquiries will be made to determine if any other offences were committed. That said, this has been a successful operation, due in no small part to the excellent work between police, our partner agencies and representatives of our communities." She added: "We recognise that the people of Birmingham have been both concerned and inconvenienced and we would like to thank them for their tolerance, co-operation and patience."
© The Belfast Telegraph

up  

Scottish Jews 'deeply concerned' at rise in anti-Muslim incidents (UK)

The leading Jewish community organisation in Scotland has voiced its fears at an increase in reported anti-Muslim incidents following the death of soldier Lee Rigby.

21/7/2013- Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of killing Drummer Rigby in Woolwich on May 22 and will stand trial at the Old Bailey later in the year. The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) said it was "deeply concerned" at a reported increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and pledged to "stand with the Muslim community". Ephraim Borowski, the director of SCoJeC, said: "The Jewish community of Scotland is deeply concerned by the increasing number of hate crimes against Muslims" since the death of Drummer Rigby. He added: "According to a recent UK parliamentary answer, there have been over 240 reported anti-Muslim incidents, mainly verbal abuse, much of it on the internet, but also attacks on individuals, arson, and even two improvised explosive devices outside mosques.

"As the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has pointed out, hate crime does not only affect its immediate victim, but all those who share the group identity that made the victim a target. "We therefore stand with the Muslim community in condemning unreservedly the irrational hatred that holds entire communities responsible for the crimes of a a tiny number of extremists." SCoJeC pointed to the historical and contemporary experience of antisemitism as giving Jews an insight into anti-Muslim prejudice. The statement added: "The Jewish community's own experience of antisemitism, in its older and modern forms, enables us better to understand and relate to the manifestations of hatred against Muslims in Britain today."

Mr Borowski said that Scotland was a country of "many cultures, faiths, and traditions" and stressed that Jews stood "in solidarity" with anyone targeted because of their religious beliefs. He continued: “We deplore the message of hate of those who seek to stir up racial and religious tension, and express our solidarity with all those who are the target of their warped views. "We once again reaffirm our belief in a diverse Scotland of many cultures, faiths, and traditions, and wish the Muslim community a Ramadan Mubarak, a month of blessings, security, and peace."
© STV

up  

Headlines 19 July, 2013

Action day against hate crime and hate speech

On 22 July the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech Movement organises a European action day to commemorate and support victims of hate crime with the support of Norway.

19/7/2013- Continued and renewed violations of fundamental rights, including physical and verbal attacks on minority groups, immigrants, and on organisations defending human dignity urged European countries to act against discrimination and intolerance, including hate speech and hate crime. Norway shares the values of human rights and tolerance. As donor of the EEA and Norway Grant, the country is a strategic partner to the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech Movement on combating hate speech.

European Action Day for Victims of Hate Crime 22 July
On 22 July the Movement organises the European Action Day for Victims of Hate Crime and encourages people across Europe to commemorate and support victims of hate crime and to take action against hate crime. Recognition of hate crime and public awareness is an important part of the justice for victims. The date 22 July was proposed by the young people taking part in the No Hate Speech campaign to commemorate the victims of the 2011 terrorist attacks against the Government Quarter in Oslo, Norway and on Utøya. The explosion in the Government Quarter and the massacre on Utøya 22 July 2011 claimed 77 lives, many of them young people.

What can you do?
Go to the No Hate Speech Movement website and join the campaign against hate speech, racism and discrimination in their online expression. There you can also find out more about how you can get involved and what you can do on the action day.

Norwegian engagement
The Government of Norway has given priority to tackling increasing intolerance and hate in Europe. In May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted an international conference on right-wing extremism, hat crime and minorities under pressure.
© The Nordic Page

up  

Growing racism spurs rise in extremist parties, commission says (European Union)

Creeping racism and xenophobia in Europe may contribute to an upsurge of far-right MEPs following European Parliament elections next May.

18/7/2013- Speaking to reporters in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU has never before seen so many far right parties in elected bodies since the Second World War. “In many countries, xenophobia, populism, [and] racism is on the rise,” she said, noting such political parties will most likely be sending emissaries to the EU’s Brussels-based parliament next year. “Some of these parties have existed for a long time in the European Union, some are quite new, some are very close to entering into government,” she said. She described the growing phenomenon as counter productive for a struggling EU economy that is need of skilled workers currently not available in Europe, despite the high unemployment numbers.

Immigrants make up just over 4 percent of the EU population out of a total of some 504 million people, says the EU statistical office Eurostat. The commission says immigrants are needed to counter declining birth rates and offset the widening age gap between the young and elderly. Most residence permits in 2012 were issued to Ukraine nationals at around 204,000, followed by US nationals at 189,000, and nationals from India at around 179,000. The immigrant arrivals and pro-migration policy of the EU are common cannon fodder for Britain’s eurosceptic party, UKIP. On Wednesday, the right-wing party said it expects a strong anti-EU vote in the May EU elections. UKIP leader Nigel Farage. told Reuters in an interview that it will win most of the British votes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland next May. "Lots of eurosceptic groups with varying shades of euroscepticism will get elected from lots of European countries,” said Farage.

But Farage's UKIP popularity claims do not match an ICM poll out Tuesday in the Guardian newspaper. ICM says his group polled at only 7 percent - down 5 points compared to last month. Meanwhile, Malmstrom’s concerns on the rise of EU-wide xenophobia come in the context of an informal meeting of EU justice ministers in Vilnius. Ministers at the morning round-table session discussed the European Commission report on immigration and asylum and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria. The commission’s fourth annual report on immigration and asylum, published in June, noted a 10 percent increase in 2012 in the number of asylum applications. The increase is due in part to the Syrian crisis that has seen some 1.8 million seek refuge, mostly in neighbouring countries like Turkey. Around 45,000 have attempted to enter the EU.

For its part, the European Commission announced it would contribute an additional €400 million in humanitarian aid, on top of the €877 million pledged from member states and the EU budget. “We have from the commission added another €400 million to the neighbouring countries who are doing a fantastic job for 1.8 million Syrians who have left the country,” said Malmstrom.
© The EUobserver

up  

Jean-Marie Le Pen Sued for Calling Roma Gypsies 'Smelly'

18/7/2013- French Roma and Travellers groups have filed a lawsuit against far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for calling members of the Roma community "smelly" and "rash-inducing". The European Roma and Travellers Forum (Ertf), SOS Racisme and the French Union of Travellers Association have joined to launch legal proceedings against Le Pen, founder and former leader of the far-right National Front party. Le Pen is accused of "inciting racial hatred" for his comments made in the southern city of Nice when he called Roma "stinging and let's say, stinking". Le Pen is accused of "inciting racial hatred" for his comments made in the southern city of Nice when he called Roma "stinging and let's say, stinking".

"I'll give you a prognosis: you have some concerns, it appears, with a few hundred Roma who have a stinging, let's say stinking, presence in the city... that's just the tip of the iceberg," Le Pen said addressing his party members. "I announce that within 2014 around 50,000 Roma will arrive in Nice. Also, from the 1st of January, the 12 million Roma that live in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary will have the possibility of moving in all the other European countries". The Roma forum slammed Le Pen's remarks as "hurtful, insensitive, outrageous and xenophobic" and claimed that they breach French law.

The complaint also denounced remarks by Nice mayor and centre-right UMP deputy Christian Estrosi, according to The Local website. In 5 July, the opposition politician labelled the Roma community "criminals" and proposed tougher measures for dealing with them, notably the use of CCTV camera in the Roma and traveller camps. The daughter of Jean-Marie, Marine Le Pen - current leader of the National Front - had been stripped of her immunity as a former member of the European Parliament and could face charges of incitement to racial hatred.
© The International Business Times

up  

Neo-Nazi musician Vikernes freed after arrest in France

A Norwegian neo-Nazi musician has been released two days after he was arrested in central France on suspicion of "preparing a major terrorist act".

18/7/2013- Kristian Vikernes was arrested after his wife bought four rifles. Officials say questioning of the suspect did not bring to light any evidence of a terrorist plot. Vikernes had in the past received a copy of a manifesto from right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.
Officials say Vikernes will have to answer charges of incitement to racial hatred over the content of some of his writings on the internet, but no charges relating to terrorism have been filed. Kristian "Varg" Vikernes was arrested along with his French wife on Tuesday in Correze, a region in central France. She was released from custody on Wednesday evening. Officials say she had a legal firearms permit when she bought the four rifles.

Racist ideology
Interior Minister Manuel Valls had said that even though Vikernes was not thought to have a specific target in mind, the arrest was justified by the need to "act before and not after" with regard to terrorism. An official at the Paris prosecutor's office said there were "several indications that made the services fear he could possibly carry out a violent act". The official said Breivik had sent a copy of a manifesto setting out his ideology to Vikernes, who is also a convicted murderer. Breivik planted a bomb in central Oslo and went on a shooting spree on the nearby island of Utoeya in July 2011. He was imprisoned for the maximum 21-year term last year. Vikernes, a black-metal musician and writer known as Varg, was convicted in 1994 of stabbing a man to death in Oslo and burning down several churches. He was released in 2009 and moved to France with his wife and three children. Since then he has continued releasing music and writing. Through his writings he promotes what he calls "Odalism", an ideology based on the idea that White Europeans should re-adopt "native European values". It includes racism, anti-Semitism and elements of ethnic European paganism.

Kristian 'Varg' Vikernes
1991: Founded one-man music project Burzum
1992: Took part in the arson of several churches in Norway
1993: Stabbed to death fellow guitarist Oeystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth
1994: Sentenced to 21 years in prison
2009: Released after serving almost 16 years
2013: Arrested on "suspicion he was preparing a major terrorist act"
© BBC News

up  

Noose protest against Italy's first black minister

16/7/2013- Italian police on Monday were investigating far-right militants suspected of hanging nooses to protest Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge, two days after a senator compared her to an orangutan. The nooses appeared on lampposts with posters signed by far-right group Forza Nuova in the city of Pescara where the minister for integration was visiting for a conference on immigration and citizenship. "Immigration, the noose of the people!" read one of the slogans on the posters. Another said: "Everyone should live in their own country". Kyenge, who is of Congolese origin, has called for a reform of Italian law to make it easier for children born to immigrant parents to acquire citizenship. Prime Minister Enrico Letta called for an end to the insults against Kyenge, saying this was a "shameful chapter" for Italy and could lead to a "major clash".

Ever since being named to the cabinet in April, Kyenge has faced a barrage of abuse -- particularly from members of the anti-immigration Northern League party. Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio said her nomination was "bloody stupid" and that she had "a face like a housewife", while one local party activist said the minister should be raped in a vicious Facebook rant about crimes committed by immigrants. Northern League senator Roberto Calderoli, who has courted controversy for years with a series of racist, sexist and Islamophobic jibes, on Saturday said: "When I see pictures of Kyenge, I cannot help thinking of similarities with an orangutan".

In an interview with La Repubblica daily out on Monday, Calderoli then claimed that he had animalistic comparisons for all the ministers, including ones who looked like a frog, a peacock and a St Bernard's dog. Letta on Monday said Calderoli's remarks were "unacceptable" and called on Northern League leader Roberto Maroni to put an end to the attacks by his party members "as quickly as possible". Calderoli is deputy speaker of the Senate and there have been calls for his resignation from centre-left lawmakers and anti-racism campaigners.
© AFP

up  

Finnish police: Roma beggars not victims human trafficking or linked to organized crime

Remember the hostile reception that Romany beggars have got in the past from some Helsinki municipal politicians like mayor Jussi Pajunen, Christian Democrat Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, Perussuomalaiset (PS) MPs like Olli Immonen and National Coalition Party MP Arto Satonen, who wants to make begging illegal?

15/7/2013- The Finnish police now claims that Romanian and Bulgarian Roma beggars that come to Finland aren’t victims of human trafficking or in league with organized crime but come on their own will, according to Tampere-based daily Aamulehti. The news is quite a setback for those that lobbied for a get-tough approach to Roma beggars. Just like the ludicrous claim that Muslim women should stop wearing veils and headscarfs because they are “being oppressed” by men, a similar argument is being used by some Finnish politicians to “help” Roma beggars. The only way to end begging by the Roma – they argue – is by criminalizing it on the grounds that those that do it are either human trafficking victims and/or exploited by organized crime.

Left without any credible excuses, it’ll be interesting to see what politicians like Satonen come up with to continue victimizing Roma beggars, who make between 10 and 20 euros a day, according to the police. PS MP Immonen said last year on his Facebook page that the only way to deal with Roma street beggars from Eastern Europe was to make begging a crime and forcibly deport them back to their home countries. Even if the Roma are the ones being targeted by some politicians, it’s the same suspicion and fear of foreigners that we have seen for so long in this country.
© Migrant Tales

up  

Hate Speech Aagainst Serbian Journalist Condemned

Several dozen journalists from the Balkans have signed a petition condemning an online article aimed at intimidating a well-known Serbian journalist and human rights activist

17/7/2013- Some 50 journalists from various former Yugoslav countries have signed a petition condemning what they call the hate speech used in an article attacking a journalist from Serbia's northern Vojvodina province. The article, published on the Serbian web portals koreni.com and intermagazin.com, is entitled "Vojvodina man Nedim Sejdinovic has been lustrating Serbs for years and compares Germany under Hitler to Serbia under [Slobodan] Milosevic". In it, the author, P Petrovic, denies that Bosnian Serb forces carried out an act of genocide against Bosniaks [Muslims] in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995, and calls Sejdinovic, who was born in Bosnia, an "Islamic thinker" and a "Vojvodina separatist".

The article suggests that Sejdinovic should not think he has the right to walk the streets of his home city of Novi Sad safely. The article also prompted angry follow-up posts, demanding Sejdinovic's home address. "We condemn this impudent attack on our colleague. Journalists from the region are united in denouncing unprofessionalism, chauvinism and calls for a lynch," the journalists said in the petition, published on Tuesday at kontrapress.com portal. Among the journalists signing the petition are the president of the Independent Association of Vojvodina Journalists, Dinko Gruhonjić, and the president of the Croatian Journalists Association, Zdenko Duka.

In their statement, they note that Sejdinovic lives in a country, Serbia, "in which three journalists were killed during the last 20 years", adding that none of these cases was solved."We won't accept calls for a lynch becoming a normal part of public speech," the journalists added. Sejdinovic, a journalist, writer and human rights activist from Novi Sad, is cofounder of the Independent Association of Vojvodina Journalists and of Citizens' Vojvodina, an NGO.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Anti-racism group condemns Crimestoppers poster (UK)

19/7/2013- A new Crimestoppers poster portraying a black drug dealer handcuffed and lying on the ground has been condemned by anti-racism campaigners. The poster is being put up around Glasgow and shows a black man in tattoos grimacing as he lies pinned to the ground by a mobile phone, which represents the people who contacted Crimestoppers to help prevent crime, in what appears to be a multi-storey car park. A knife and two bags of white powder, one of which has spilled onto the ground, lie beside the booted figure and the word “Drugstoppers” is emblazoned above him along with “£293 million of drugs seized, thanks to your calls”. The poster aims to highlight the role that the charity, which allows people to report crime anonymously, has played in stopping crime.

However, Graham Campbell, vice-chairman of the African and Caribbean Network in the city, said picking a black man to depict a drug dealer was hugely insensitive and went against efforts to create racial equality. He said black people in Scotland were far more likely to be the victims of crime than to commit crimes. According to the last census in 2011, black people made up just 0.1 per cent of the population, with 5,700 people describing themselves of African or Caribbean descent. Last year 574 racist crimes against black people were recorded in Scotland, 9 per cent of the total and more than those where the victim was Chinese or Irish.

Speaking after one billboard was placed in Garscube Road in the Maryhill area, Mr Campbell said: “This is not an image I would want to see associated with black people in Glasgow. “These type of billboards were a problem when I was growing up in London back in the 1980s and we’ve moved on since then. “But we rarely see black people represented at all, so it’s hugely disappointing that when we do they are portrayed negatively.” The African and Caribbean Network, based at a centre in Glasgow’s Trongate, is a coalition of around 30 groups which represents around 2,000 people.

Mr Campbell said Crimestoppers appeared to have failed to carry out a race equality strategy which would have led them to use more sensitive images. He added: “This billboard sends out completely the wrong message about who are the perpetrators of crime and who are the victims. “Black people are statistically more likely to be victims of crime. “I’m also concerned that this billboard has been placed in Maryhill Road, where a lot of the black community live. “The implication is being given that to people that they should mistrust their neighbour.”

A Crimestoppers spokeswoman said the campaign was in place to thank the public for providing information on a range of different crimes, including drugs, which represents a high number of the 1,000 calls it receives daily. The image is one of 11 different crime types used across the country that depict a number of offences. She added: “The charity aims to unite communities in doing so and provides a platform for people to do something positive in making their town or city a safer place to live irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or beliefs. “We are a non-judgmental charity here to help and support communities. “This is a national campaign and as such the posters created will be placed across the UK.

“A number of the crimes we deal with may be more prevalent in one area than another and the perpetrator and victims of such will again be different from one town or city to another. “Should any of the poster cause offence, Crimestoppers would like to extend an apology and would be happy to discuss a alternative way in which we can promote the work done by the charity and also to thank the people of Glasgow and elsewhere for their support over the last five years.”
© The Scotsman

up  

Roma Gypsies targeted in dawn raid (UK)

More than 60 Roma Gypsies sleeping rough and begging in central London have been targeted in a dawn raid.

19/7/2013- The group at the Marble Arch end of Park Lane in Westminster was surrounded at about 04:00 BST by Home Office officials and the Met Police. Their immigration status was checked and all were offered free flights to Romania. About 20 accepted with some flying out on Friday afternoon. Those who did not may be issued with a 30 days notice to leave the country.

'Hijacking' areas
The raid was part of Operation Chefornak which has been targeting rough sleeping, begging and associated criminality within Roma communities in Westminster, the Metropolitan Police said. It added that since 8 July, 20 people had voluntarily returned to Romania as part of the operation. Nickie Aiken from Westminster City Council said: "The squares, gardens and subways of London are for the people who live, work and visit here - not for hijacking by groups of people who have no intention of contributing to the city. "Residents and businesses are fed up with small encampments springing up with the mess and disturbance that follow in their wake."
© BBC News

up  

Six Met police officers could be sacked over racist joke text messages (UK)

News emerges as part of watchdog report saying force is failing in way it handles racism complaints against officers from public

17/7/2013- Six Metropolitan police officers are facing the sack for sending each other racist jokes, it has emerged on the day that the police watchdog said the force was letting down the public in the way it handled racist complaints. The officers, from the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in west London, are alleged to have sent a total of 31 text messages described as being of a "highly offensive nature" in the summer of 2012. They are due to face a gross misconduct hearing in November, where the maximum sanction is dismissal without notice if they are found guilty of the discreditable conduct alleged. Of the six officers, one is a sergeant with nine years service and five are constables. Two of the six, the sergeant and a PC, have been suspended, while the rest are now on restricted duties.

Eight other officers were sent messages, one of whom reported the offensive nature of the texts to his bosses in July 2012. Those eight officers have been dealt with by management action, such as words of advice. The case is being investigated by the Met's directorate of professional standards, which believe the texts were sent when the officers were off-duty. The incident was not made public by the Met. Instead it is contained in a report released by the police watchdog, finding the Met is failing in the way it handles complaints of racism against officers, over a decade after the force vowed to stamp out prejudice in the ranks. The report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission led the Met to admit it was letting down the public in the way it handled racism complaints.

The report followed allegations of police racism in 2012 in a series of incidents, some of which were revealed by the Guardian. Those allegations led to IPCC to investigate. The IPCC said it was "crucial to public confidence" that racism complaints were handled fairly. It found that 511 racism complaints were made against officers in April 2011 to May 2012. In some the Met investigation comprised of asking the officers to respond by email, than accepting their denial and finding against the complainant. The watchdog also found the Met issued a "standard, generic apology" regardless of what the investigation found which of "very little value".

IPCC commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "This report shows that, though there are some examples of good practice, in general there is an unwillingness or inability to deal with these complaints robustly and effectively. "Too often, complaints are dismissed without proper investigation or resolution, complainants are not properly engaged with, and lessons are not learned." The IPCC report is the latest dent to the Met's claims to have done all it can to clean up racism. It has recently faced criticism over stop and search, and to have attempted to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence, murdered in a racist attack, whose killers were left free in part because of institutional racism, according to the 1999 Macpherson report.

Izekor said: "We know that there is less confidence both in policing and in the complaints system among BME [black and minority ethnic] communities. If the Metropolitan police service is serious about building that confidence, there will need to be a cultural change to complaints handling." The IPCC called for "a cultural change in the way the MPS deals with such complaints, supported by training, monitoring and community feedback". The IPCC paid special attention to 20 cases where the Met was left to investigate racism cases itself. It found in the majority, 13 cases, "the investigating officer made no effort to obtain additional evidence that could have supported the allegation of racism".

In its response, the Met vowed to reform and learn. The assistant commissioner, Simon Byrne welcomed the report's critical findings and said: "It is powerful, showing the way we deal with complaints involving racism is letting down the public." He added the force was determined to "be less defensive and accept when we are not performing as well as we should be". Byrne said the force favoured an independent ethics panel to oversee misconduct proceedings for the Met, and wanted senior officers to meet those who felt let down to humanise complainants and improve their negative experiences of complaining about police racism.
© The Guardian

up  

Birmingham EDL rally "a distraction to fighting crime" (UK)

Policing chief says families would rather see resources used to tackle offenders than staff demonstration

17/7/2013- A policing chief has described a planned Birmingham EDL rally as a ‘distraction’ to officers who could be tackling crimes which “matter most’’ to locals. And Bob Jones, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, said Saturday’s scheduled demonstration by the far right group is an attempt to exploit two recent attacks on mosques in the region. More than 1,000 police officers, including some drafted in from forces across the country, will be policing the event and a counter demonstration in the city centre. English Defence League members are expected to flock to Birmingham's Centenary Square for a static demonstration about Islamic extremism on Saturday, a week after the Kanz-ul-Iman Jamia Mosque, in Tipton, was attacked in a nail bomb blast. It is also just three weeks since a firework bomb was discovered at the Aisha Mosque in Walsall.

Campaigners from the Birmingham Unite Against Fascism project will carry out their own protest in nearby Chamberlain Square. Commissioner Jones said: “Whilst fully supporting the right to peaceful protest, if this had been a march or procession I would have fully endorsed a request from the city council and the Chief Constable to the Home Secretary to ban it. “In the current situation extremists will be seeking to provoke reactions and feed on one another’s inflammatory actions to seek to divide the community. “I am confident that the Birmingham and West Midlands community will not allow any extremists to undermine the united determination to condemn the outrages and criminal acts of these fringe groups. “The demonstration will cause anxiety and is an attempt to exploit recent incidents.

‘‘This protest is a distraction from ensuring that victims of those incidents and their families get the justice they deserve. Police time is better spent in neighbourhoods.” Elders at the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif in Small Heath have called for calm ahead of the planned weekend protests.
© The Birmingham Mail.

up  

Police must change 'stop and search' tactics says report (UK)

16/7/2013- More needs to be done to solve "mistrust" between some black and Asian communities and Notts Police, a report has said. Professor Cecile Wright's study into how people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds view the force also made 31 recommendations. Made public yesterday, the report said the force should overhaul how it uses stop-and-search powers and draw up an action plan to tackle hate crime. The 61-page study was commissioned by Notts Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping. It involved a survey of 550 Notts people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, plus focus group discussions and one-to-one interviews.

Its key findings included the fact that 42 per cent of respondents had been stopped by police and 30 per cent of these had been stopped and searched. Only one in five would consider working for police and more than a quarter had experienced hate crime. Mr Tipping said: "I think there is a hunger for change. People in the city think they've waited and waited for a long time. "That's why I decided I was going to ask the community in Nottingham to speak for themselves. Among the report's pages are snapshots from interviews of how some black and Asian people view the force. One black 20-year-old student from St Ann's said: "I look at my dad's generation, they don't like the police. "When I look at my granddad, my grandad doesn't like the police. "If you lot say you are going to train the police over five years, I'm still not going to really like the police. "We need to sort it out."

A number of people also said they had been left feeling "violated" after being stopped. The report highlights a "long-standing mistrust" which has existed between parts of the black and ethnic minority ethnic communities in Notts. Prof Wright, of the University of Nottingham's school of sociology and social policy, concludes in her report: "Although punctuated with examples of excellent police work the consistent message is that the situation needs to improve with regard to how the public and police engage with and relate to each other." Chief Constable Chris Eyre said Notts Police had already been reviewing how it used stop-and-search and used it much less than other forces. Figures suggested there was a match between where officers used the power and where crime hot spots were, he added.
© This is Nottingham

up  

Gay marriage bill clears UK House of Lords, set to become law

15/7/2013- Britain’s gay marriage bill has cleared its last major hurdle, passing through the House of Lords and prompting celebrations from campaigners outside Parliament. Supporters of the bill in Parliament’s upper house wore pink carnations Monday as the Lords agreed to send it back to the House of Commons, where lawmakers will review government amendments before it becomes law. That is expected to go without a hitch, as the House of Commons earlier passed the bill 390 to 148. The bill will enable gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales, though the Church of England, which is divided on the issue, is barred from offering same-sex ceremonies. Currently, same-sex couples can form civil partnerships, which carry similar rights and responsibilities to marriage.
© The Associated Press

up  

Manic Street Preachers start legal action after EDL use anti-fascist song (UK)

15/7/2013- Indie band Manic Street Preachers are understood to be starting legal action after the far-right English Defence league (EDL) used one of their songs to promote a demonstration in Birmingham. The band's song If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next is used in the background of a video about radical Islam. The choice is particularly ironic given the song is inspired by anti-fascist propaganda during the Spanish civil war. The title is from a poster highlighting the death of children in bombing raids and the song includes the famous line, also from the Spanish Civil War: "If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists." Michael Wongsam, chair of West Midlands Unite Against Fascism, said: "This song takes its title from an anti-fascist slogan used during the Spanish Civil War where anti-racists and anti-fascists from all over Europe tried to stop Franco's fascists from taking over the country.
© Politics UK

up  

Ban on Discrimination in Job Ads Comes into Force (Russia)

15/7/2013- As of midnight on Saturday, July 13, employers are no longer allowed to indicate the desired race, sex, ethnicity, marital status, faith, age or physical appearance for applicants in job advertisements. The changes come under new regulations passed by the Federation Council in June and signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 2, and lawmakers say they aim to tackle workplace discrimination, news reports said. "Discrimination will not be rooted out completely. That takes time. It's just that there are some underhand employers who want to hire 20-year-old saleswomen, for example […] and now they'll have to interview 20 year olds and 30 year olds," Lawmaker Mikhail Tarasenko told Gazeta.ru on Saturday. "Those who only want to hire young people, or who don't want to hire people of certain ethnicities will now not be able to find any justification for doing so," Tarasenko added. To date, employers in Russia have been able to be very specific about who they want to hire, specifying physical attributes, age, or ethnic origin. From Sunday, violations result in fines ranging from 500-1,000 rubles ($15-$30) for individuals, 3,000-5,000 rubles ($90-$150) for individual entrepreneurs, and 10,000-15,000 ($300-$450) for legal entities.
© The Moscow Times

up  

Foreign journalists shocked about Czech deputy's statement on Jews

15/7/2013- Public Affairs (VV) deputy Michal Babak's statement that "no Jew can be worse for the state coffers than Mr Kalousek," hinting at the ethnic origin of new Finance Minister Jan Fischer, is shocking and dilettante, foreign journalists based in the Czech Republic told CTK yesterday. If something like this happened in Western Europe, the politician would have to resign or at least leave the party, BBC correspondent in Prague Rob Cameron and German paper Die Welt correspondent Hans-Joerg Schmidt said. Spanish EFE news agency correspondent Gustavo Monge said Babak's words were populist, cheap and arrogant. "Don't seek any racist hints in it, but no Jew can be worse for the state coffers than [former finance minister Miroslav] Kalousek (TOP 09)," Babak said on Czech Television on Sunday. Babak has said he could not see anything wrong in his statement.

Cameron said in Britain, a deputy would take his words back and apologise or resign or he would be fired. He said such a vocabulary was not part of European politics and was only used by extremist parties. Cameron said he considered this evidence of dilettantism and political desperation. Schmidt said Babak's words were shocking and the politician should be at least immediately expelled from the party's deputy group, "if the VV does not want to gain potential voters from the extreme rightist fringe." Babak's statements do not correspond to the standard of a person who, as a politician, should mainly seek public well-being and social peace, Monge said. Head of VV deputies Katerina Klasnova said the party was not about to expel Babak from the group. She said she might deal with the statement if any of the party members proposed this.

Babak said he insisted on his statement and he could not see anything racist in it. He said the word Jew was no insult, adding that he himself had Jewish roots. "If anything, those considering the word automatically an offence should think about themselves," Babak said. "I only stressed the generally known quality, the art of dealing very well with money, which is historically their quality. After all, it is known from anecdotes. I could have equally said a Pole or a dachshund," he added. He said a number of orthodox Jews did not consider the statement offensive. "Besides, the statement clearly aimed at Kalousek and the way he managed the Finance Ministry," Babak said. However, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic said Babak's statement reflected old anti-Semite stereotypes, radicalised the political scene and instigated anti-Jewish prejudices in Czech society.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

CE concerned about anti-Roma protests (Czech Rep.)

15/7/2013- Council of Europe (CE) Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks has expressed concern about recent anti-Romany incidents in the Czech Republic, he said in a statement released yesterday. Czech authorities should send a clear warning signal saying they would not tolerate any manifestations of hatred, Muiznieks said. He added that he was monitoring with a high concern the organised and repeated anti-Romany demonstrations in Duchcov, north Bohemia, and Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia, in the past months. Muiznieks called on the mayors of the towns concerned to take all necessary steps to prevent further violence against Romanies. These incidents must be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted, he said.

Anti-Romany demonstrations and marches have been staged in Ceske Budejovice for three weekends and they turned into clashes between ultra-right radicals with the police. They arose after a conflict at the Maj housing estate, inhabited by many Romanies, on June 21 when a brawl between children at a playground turned into a fight in which a hundred of adults got involved. The situation in Duchcov has been tense since May 18 when five Romanies attacked a married couple there. People in Duchcov decided to support the Ceske Budejovice protest this weekend. The CE has long criticised the situation of the Romany minority in the Czech Republic. In February, Muiznieks in his report called on the Czech Republic to intensify its effort to improve the Romanies' conditions. According to his report, the segregation of Romany kids at schools is still a serious problem and Romanies have been the most frequent victims of racially motivated violence in the country.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Police detain some 60 radicals at anti-Roma demonstration (Czech Rep)

13/7/2013- Czech police detained some 60 radicals during Saturday's anti-Romany rally at the Maj housing estate in Ceske Budejovice who refused to leave the place in spite of the police calls and now the police have withdrawn from the estate and are only monitoring it. The demonstration was participated in by some 300 radicals whom the police that outnumbered them succeeded in preventing from approaching the area inhabited by Romanies. Compared with the situation two weeks ago when the demonstrators clashed with police, the situation was relatively calm Saturday. The demonstration at the Maj housing estate was called under the name Against Police Brutality. Mounted police were also on the spot and the situation was monitored by a helicopter. After the noon, another meeting was to take place in the town's square. The organisers expected some 1000 people to take part. But few people came and the organisers abolished the event without stating any reason.

Jaromir Pytel, mediator between the town hall and organisers, told journalists that the organisers abolished the event out of fear. A participant told journalists in the square that reports started to disappear from the Facebook, someone was all of a sudden slowing down communication. People in Duchcov, north Bohemia, decided to support the Ceske Budejovice protest. Some 50 met at an event that was not announced beforehand. The situation in Duchcov has been tense since May 18 when five Romanies attacked a married couple there. Unrest in Ceske Budejovice has continued for a third weekend. During the previous ones, the police accused five men of violence against an official person. Five persons have been accused in connection with the protests from June 29 and July 6 so far. Hundreds of riot police intervened on every occasion.

The conflicts at the Maj housing estate started on June 21 at a playground when a brawl between children turned into a fight in which a hundred of adults got involved. In reaction a demonstration was held on June 29. After it several hundred participants moved to Maj where some of the participants clashed with the police. Another protest was held last weekend.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Buchenwald memorial gives names to Sinti and Roma victims (Germany)

Two hundred stones, hand-painted with the names of Sinti and Roma, have been laid along the old railway track from the World War II Buchenwald concentration camp. They were sent on to their deaths at Auschwitz in 1944.

21/7/2013- On September 25, 1944, the Buchenwald concentration camp delivered its first train full of prisoners to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Two hundred young Sinti and Roma prisoners, deemed unsuitable for forced labor by the Nazis, were on board. At this late stage in the war, Adolf Hilter's regime began ordering the transportation of Jewish, sick and weak prisoners to from Buchenwald to Auschwitz. As of Sunday, 200 stones with the victims' names hand-painted in various colors line the old site of the railway line.

The head of the Central Council for German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, said at the unveiling that the display would serve as a symbol against extinction and anonymity. More than 300 young people from summer camps in 30 countries have painted the names of the victims onto the stones ready for the unveiling. In parallel, a website with biographies of the dead - www.gedenksteine-buchenwaldbahn.de - was published. The memorial stones project was due for expansion, and should eventually honor all of the roughly 2,000 children and young people who either died at Buchenwald or were sent on to their deaths elsewhere. Work on the memorial project along the old railway line began in 2007.

The Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar and Erfurt was opened in July 1937. Almost 240,000 people were incarcerated there before it was liberated in April 1945. It was later used as an internment camp in the Soviet sector of occupied postwar Germany.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Suspected Terrorist Network: Police Raid Neo-Nazi 'Werwolf' Cell (Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands)

German prosecutors have been investigating six neo-Nazis suspected of forming a terrorist group, SPIEGEL has learned. Police searched homes, offices and prison cells in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland in raids on Wednesday.

17/7/2013- Police and anti-terrorism units raided 11 homes, offices and prison cells in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland on Wednesday in a joint operation targeting a suspected international neo-Nazi cell. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the raid is part of a secret investigation launched months ago by Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office on suspicion that several individuals were planning to form a terrorist group. Six neo-Nazis, together with an unkown number of accomplices, are suspected of planning bomb attacks to overthrow the German politicial system, investigators believe. The plot was named "Werwolf," in memory of the Nazi "Werwolf" plan for a commando force to launch attacks behind enemy lines in the final stages of World War II.

Prosecutors suspect two Swiss right-wing extremists, named only as Robert S., 54, and Sebastien N., 25 of leading the group. Sebastien N., who is in prison in Switzerland, has Nazi symbols tattooed on much of his body. He is alleged to have shot a young man in Zurich in May 2012, and was arrested in Hamburg 48 hours later before being extradited to Switzerland. His prison cell was searched on Wednesday along with the cell of another neo-Nazi, Roberto K.

Data Encryption Complicating Investigation
In Germany, police searched the homes of Denny R., 29, and Heiko W., 32, in the northern states of Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania respectively. No arrests are believed to have been made. The investigation so far is based on witness testimony and is proving difficult because the suspects have been using an encryption system they developed for their electronic communications. The police have also been unable to gain evidence of any concrete plans for attacks. Police confiscated computers and other data storage devices in the raids. Awareness of the threat of neo-Nazi terrorism has grown since the chance discovery in November 2011 of the National Socialist Underground. The group is believed to have committed at least 10 murders between 2000 and 2007, killing eight immigrants of Turkish descent, one Greek man and a German policewoman, as well as orchestrating a nail bomb attack in Cologne in which 22 people, most of them Turkish immigrants, were injured. The trial of the last surviving member of the three-person cell, Beate Zschäpe, and four alleged accomplices started in May.
© The Spiegel

up  

Neo-Nazi Trial: Damaging Testimony Against Zschäpe (Germany)

A police officer who interrogated an alleged accomplice of the NSU terrorism group claims that Beate Zschäpe, the main defendant in the Munich neo-Nazi trial, was an "equal member" in the trio that is believed to have killed 10 people, most of foreign origin.

17/7/2013- A federal police officer questioned in Germany's neo-Nazi terrorism trial in Munich on Tuesday provided testimony that is some of the most damning yet for the main defendant, Beate Zschäpe, who is accused of being an accomplice in 10 murders and a member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group. The officer said the alleged accomplice Holger G., accused of supporting the NSU, had said during interrogation that Zschäpe had been an "equal member" in the group alongside the other two members, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. The NSU claimed responsibility for murdering nine mostly Turkish immigrants and a German police officer. Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed suicide as police were closing in on them after they robbed a bank in November 2011. Holger G. also said Zschäpe came across "like a wife" with two husbands. "Decisions were always made together with Ms. Zschäpe," he allegedly said.

'Assertive' and 'Prepared to Use Violence'
Holger G. allegedly told the police officer he had experienced Zschäpe within the group as a person who was "assertive" and also "prepared to use violence". He said she wasn't the kind of woman who subordinated herself to others. Holger G. allegedly told the police officer about one incident when Zschäpe slapped a punk woman on a bus because she had "looked at her in a funny way." Holger G. told the police officer that Zschäpe was responsible for the group's finances. He also spoke of "benefit concerts" and "ballad nights" at which money had been collected within the far-right scene for the group in hiding. G. himself donated 3,000 deutsche marks (just over €1,500 or $2,000) for the purpose -- money he was later paid back by Zschäpe. The police asserted that G. had accused co-defendant Ralf Wohlleben of helping to organize the concerts.

Holger G. looked very similar to Böhnhardt, and allegedly made both his passport and his driver's license available to the group as well as other documents, making it possible for them to rent vehicles used in bank robberies and to help facilitate their lives underground. He was indispensable to Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe. But it was a role he wasn't entirely comfortable with. G. reportedly told the federal police officer that he was concerned the second time he secured a passport for Böhnhardt. He didn't want to lose everything that he and his girlfriend had built up over the years.

Help for the Sake of Friendship
At the beginning of the Munich trial, Holger G. testified that he had broken with his right-wing radical past when he moved from the former East Germany to Hanover and met a girlfriend there. Still, the federal police officer testified that he had continued to be available to support Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe afterwards for pure reasons of friendship. The testimony from the police officer could prove damaging to the defense because Holger G. spoke often during his interrogations of "the three," or "the trio". It indicates there were no differences in the hierarchy and could prove important to prosecutors in proving that Zschäpe was a member of a terrorist organization. In addition to aiding the terror group, Holger G. is also alleged to have delivered a pistol to the group. The gun was allegedly bought by co-defendant Ralf Wohlleben. The federal police officer said Holger G. had brought the investigation forward "massively" by saying who obtained the weapon. Initially, G. told police he didn't know he had been carrying a weapon, but he eventually conceded his knowledge of it.

A Weapon Delivered Despite Reluctance
Holger G. said he was reluctant to deliver the weapon but did so because he didn't believe Böhnhardt or Mundlos would use it. This came despite the fact that there had been numerous discussions within the inner circle of the NSU about whether the group should be armed. Both Böhnhardt and Mundlos had clearly stated they were prepared for violence. Wohlleben has been charged with being an accomplice to murder in the case and Holger G. with supporting a terrorist group. The only reason G. hasn't been charged with being an accomplice to murder as well is that the weapon he delivered to the group has not been linked to any of the killings. Holger G. had a close relationship with the group and even went on vacations with them -- trips that Zschäpe allegedly paid for in exchange for yearly "system checks" by Holger G. to ensure that the cover he provided them in securing documents under Uwe Böhnhardt's name would still work. So far, Holger G. has not been willing to be questioned in court.
© The Spiegel

up  

Germany unveils memorial to NSU neo-Nazi victims

A memorial to the victims of the alleged National Socialist Underground neo-Nazi terror cell has been unveiled in Dortmund. The alleged surviving member of the cell is currently facing a high-profile trial in Munich.

13/7/2013- The memorial commemorating the 10 victims - one Greek and eight Turkish immigrants and a German policewoman - killed between 2000 and 2007, was opened near Dortmund's main railway system on Saturday. The 10-meter (32-foot) memorial stone lists the names of the dead, along with the locations and dates of the killings. Dortmund is believed to have been the location of the NSU's eighth killing in April 2006, when 39-year old Mehmet Kubasik, a native of Turkey, was shot at his kiosk. The memorial also bears a text jointly worded by the cities of Nuremberg, Hamburg, Munich, Rostock, Kassel, Heilbronn and Dortmund, where the killings took place. Further memorials are to be built in the other six cities.

The text reads: "We are dismayed and ashamed that these acts of terrorism were not recognized for years for what they were: murder in contempt for humankind. We say: Never again!” Members of Kubasik's family, along with Turkish Consul General Sule Ozkaya and the German commissioner for the NSU victims' families, Barbara John, attended the inauguration. The memorial was unveiled by Dortmund Mayor Ullrich Sierau, who said it should "remember the deeds and honor the victims." At the ceremony, the minister for integration for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Guntram Schneider, condemned the perpetrators. Schneider apologized on behalf of the state government to the victims for their suffering.

Trial of the decade
The surviving member of the National Socialist Underground neo-Nazi terror cell, Beate Zschäpe, is currently on trial in Munich for her alleged role in the killings. She is believed to be one of the founding members of the NSU, a group that went undetected in Germany for over a decade. The group's cover was blown in November 2011 with the dramatic apparent suicide of two of Zschäpe's suspected accomplices - the torching of an apartment believed to be shared by all three alleged members of the cell. A few days after the fire, Zschäpe turned herself in to police in the eastern city of Jena. It was only after this that German investigators linked the series of murders to the far-right, having earlier suggested that they may have been carried out by organized criminals from immigrant communities.

The case has deeply embarrassed the authorities and led to the resignation of the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency and some of his counterparts at the state level. Adding to the trial's high profile was a media accreditation debacle that has drawn negative attention to the upper regional court in Munich where the trial is being held. The initial accreditations, given on a first come, first served basis, gave 50 journalists access to cover the trial. However, none of the reserved press seats had been given to foreign journalists as none had applied early enough. A Turkish newspaper appealed to Germany's top court about the allocation of seats and a quota was implemented.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Hundreds of far-right extremists in army (Germany)

Last year 400 extremists were serving in the German army, most of whom had far-right extremist views, the secret service military branch said at the weekend. The service now wants increased powers to track them down

15/7/2013- Three hundred far-right extremists and 50 Islamists were among those flagged up last year by the German Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) – a special branch of the secret services dedicated to protecting the army. Most of those labeled as extremists were men aged between 18 and 25, MAD president Ulrich Birkenheier told the Deutschlandradio broadcaster at the weekend. Army life often attracted extremists, said Birkenheier, because of access to weapons training and life under "particular structures." But extremist soldiers cannot always be removed from service - they can only be stripped of their uniform if a court finds they have been actively perpetrating extremist ideas. Whereas there was “no place” for extremism in the army, Birkenheier said, authorities often failed to collect enough evidence for a successful conviction and dismissal.

It's unusual for the authority to publish such internal figures, which are usually kept under wraps by the German secret service branch, the Frankfurter Rundschau regional newspaper said on Monday. MAD hopes that revelations of the extent of the problem may put pressure on politicians to give the authority permission to investigate potential recruits as well as army employees. Currently, MAD is not allowed to track army applicants - only those already employed, and only then if the authority has had tip-offs from other soldiers or army staff about suspicious views or behaviour, said Birkenheier. Green Party MP and security expert Omid Nouripour told the paper the army had a weighty responsibility to prevent extremists learning how to use weapons. “It is therefore good that there's a growing sensibility for the fight against extremism in the German army,” he said.

But Nouripour said giving MAD more surveillance powers to keep tabs on recruits was not the answer to the problem. Instead, he argued the authority should be dissolved so that the civilian intelligence agencies could take over the work of tracking extremists heading for the army. MAD was founded in 1956 to protect the then West German army and Defence Ministry. The authority has come under fire for its handling of the NSU neo-Nazi terror cell case, after burying the file it had opened on NSU ringleader Uwe Mundlos.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Asylum policy debate intensifies in Germany

Residents of Berlin are fighting a new home for asylum seekers with xenophobic rhetoric, while refugees in Munich are staging hunger strikes. Both sides of the asylum debate are becoming more vocal in their protests.

13/7/2013- Some residents in Hellersdorf, a district in Berlin, have been increasingly worried of late: about home and property values, about peace on their streets, and about the well-being of their children. They don't want asylum seekers to end up living in their neighborhood, and their arguments against a new residence for asylum seekers are becoming increasingly xenophobic. A few weeks ago, residents of another Berlin neighborhood collected signatures against establishing emergency accommodation for refugees. Such buildings are desperately needed, because the number of refugees in need of help in the German capital has increased since last year and now stands at around 6,000. Even politicians of the major parties fan the flames when it comes to giving the cold shoulder to foreigners, said Bernd Mesovic from the asylum seeker's organization Pro Asyl in Germany. "Certain mayors, in Essen or near Lübeck for example, are really aggressive on this subject," Mesovic told DW. "Some politicians float the idea that there could be problems in the areas where the asylum seekers are meant to be brought." Problems relating to crime are an example, and Mesovic said that members of Germany's right-wing NPD party use this as a reason to push the discussion further. Right-wing extremists mingle at meetings of residents' organizations to recruit supporters.

Hatred of foreigners not a marginal issue
It is well known that in Germany, asylum policy is a touchy subject and xenophobia is on the rise. According to a study conducted in 2012, more than a quarter of Germany's 80 million people harbor xenophobic tendencies. The study was conducted by the social psychologist Elmar Brähler along with other scientists for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a political think tank with ties to Germany's Social Democratic Party. "In the former East German states, xenophobia is very widespread", Brähler told DW. He said more than half of Germans in the former East Germany wish that foreigners would get sent home, because jobs are hard to come by there. Brähler added that one reason is due to the fact that East Germans have less contact with foreigners. In the western part of the country, Germans more often have regular contact with foreigners through work, friends, or family, he said.

But it's not just the Germans whose resentment about the country's asylum policies is growing. The other side is also developing a harsher tone. Refugees are raising public awareness about limitations on their personal freedoms, and protest initiatives are becoming bolder. Through his work at Pro Asyl, Mesovic knows that Iranian refugees, for example, who fought for democracy in their native country, won't let themselves be reduced to victims in Germany. "It's an interesting development. The young, engaged Iranians see themselves as activists for democracy here as well," he said, referring to the fact that they feel unjustly treated in Germany.

March on Berlin
The suicide of an Iranian asylum seeker, who hanged himself in his apartment in early 2012 , marked a turning point. Other asylum seekers responded and began to get organized. A protest march from Würzburg to Berlin - a distance of over 400 km (250 miles) - drew attention last fall: the activists called, among other things, for an end to the residency requirement that forbade asylum seekers from leaving certain areas assigned to them by the authorities. "What we experienced last year was a movement of previously unknown proportions," said Mesovic about the march. Around 90 refugees made headlines at the end of June for setting up a camp in the middle of Munich and beginning a hunger strike. They called for the recognition of their asylum applications, though the police cleared their camp after a week. Mesovic believes the explanation for the tense situation is clear: Germany has underestimated the number of asylum seekers.

"Plans were made for a very low number of asylum seekers on the basis of historic data," he said. "These were accurate as of four years ago. Back then, there were about 30,000 to 40,000 asylum seekers per year. But this year it could climb to 90,000." That's no reason to dramatize the situation, Mesovic added, saying the number is far from the extremely high numbers seen in the 1990s, but he says the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees failed to get enough personnel involved. The result is refugees who wait over a year for an answer regarding their asylum application. During this time, their freedom is severely limited. They often live in isolation and lack the ability to determine their own fate. It's beneficial to refugee agencies that the discussion regarding asylum seekers is coming into public focus and that a dialogue is taking place. However, the organizations are also calling on politicians from all parties not to abuse the subject for their own purposes as part of the upcoming election campaign.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Hotels boycott David Irving's Berlin plans (Germany)

Notorious Holocaust-denier David Irving is planning to visit Berlin in September - but may have to sleep on a friend's a couch, and hold his meeting in a living-room, as hotels in the German capital have united to boycott him.

16/7/2013- Irving, who was banned from Germany altogether for ten years in 1993, says he will be in Berlin on September 10 for a meeting, promising to be in the "heart of Berlin" for attendees to pay €91 to hear him speak. But after Green Party manager Volker Beck got in touch with the German association of hotels (Dehoga), the group said they would not offer Irving a place to stay. "I trust that Irving will not be accommodated by our members," Dehoga manager Thomas Lengfelder told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. Most of the capital city's large hotels are members of the group, although smaller guest houses are often not. Many hotels avoid renting out event rooms to doubtful customers as far-right extremists often attract the attention of left-wing groups - who have promised demonstrations if they discover where the 75-year-old British historian is speaking. Irving was extradited from Germany in 1993 after being convicted of insulting the dead after he disputed that gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp had killed hundreds of thousands of people. He successfully appealed against the Munich court's decision to keep him out of Germany until 2022, and saw the ban lifted in March this year.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Against xenophobia in Moldova

Source: Never Again Association 
14/7/2013- The anti-racist ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association joined forces with the African organization Fatima and the Eco-Tiras NGO for joint educational events taking place on the bank of the beautiful river Dniester in Moldova, on 12 July 2013. A multi-ethnic football game against racism was organized in the stadium of Energetik in Dubossary, a town on the territory of the unrecognized Republic of Transnistria, the site of a frozen military conflict which started in the early 1990s. Players and numerous enthusiastic supporters came from various ethnic groups living on both banks of the river Dniester, and the match symbolically brought together the divided community. Dr Keita Abdramane, the founder of Fatima who comes from Mali and lives in Moldova, was the referee.

The game was preceded by a discussion about issues of racism, stereotypes and xenophobia with young people who received information about the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, Fatima, and the FARE Network, including the ‘RESPECT Diversity – Football Unites’ activities during Euro 2012. The discussion featured Dr Keita Abdramane and Dr Rafal Pankowski and it was moderated by Natalia Sineaeva-Pankowska. The session took place at the ‘Nistru’ youth centre in frames of the Summer School ‘Dniester 2013’ organied by Eco-Tiras International Environmental Association of Dniester River Keepers, which was supported, among others, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Finnish Embassy and the National Endowment for Democracy (USA).

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an educational and monitoring organization established in Poland in 1996. It is a regional East European partner of the FARE Network. In 2009, in cooperation with UEFA and the FARE network ‘NEVER AGAIN’ set up the East Europe Monitoring Centre documenting racism and xenophobia across the region.
© HOPE not Hate

up  

Walled off in the mind (Slovakia, opinion)

By Beata Balogová, Editor-in-Chief 

15/7/2013- One would have thought that people who once lived behind the Iron Curtain would be sensitive to the different kinds of walls dividing countries, regions, towns or communities. Yet the walls that the non-Roma population erected over the past two decades to separate themselves from Roma communities tells a different story: Slovakia has not learned its lesson about walls and dividing lines. Most recently Košice, Slovakia’s second largest city, which also became the European Capital of Culture for 2013, has made it to the map of communities with walls separating Roma settlements from the majority population. The wall was erected near Lunik IX, a densely-populated housing estate inhabited mostly by Roma and where, for example, last year city authorities shut off the water supply for some 400 flats. Authorities blamed extensive damage to water pipes and what they called “suspicious leaks of water” from individual apartments for their decision. Over time Lunik has become a symbol of poverty as well as a regular stop for foreign journalists who are guaranteed to come back with shocking images of a ghetto and a misrepresentation of richly structured Roma communities. According to the last census, Lunik IX officially has 6,032 inhabitants, but the number is likely even higher.

A wall, which will purportedly prevent the passage of Roma from Lunik IX to Lunik VIII, is the last thing that either of the Luniks needs. However, a local deputy for Smer more than readily gave the news website Sme.sk reasons why the wall is needed, including the argument that people were afraid of parking their cars in the area because of repeated damage as well as theft. So, local deputies approved €4,700 to build a kind of concrete fence – public money they consider well-spent, according to Sme.sk. The irony of the situation is that Košice city hall, as reported by the Pravda daily on July 11, said that the construction has not been approved, making it illegal. The city’s spokesperson suggested that though the city received the construction request, no decision has been made. And yet the wall is already standing. Meanwhile, the relevant suburb office claims that the city has approved the construction. In short, not only is the wall itself wrong, but it was built at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. It merely temporarily eases symptoms, while in no way addressing the core issues of the problems. These problems are so complex that many state officials grow tired from merely trying to list all its aspects.

Michalovce, Ostrovany, Šarišské Michaľany try to justify their walls with a varied set of arguments, most of which pretend to be protecting the “decent people” from their “nonadjustable neighbours”. For example, residents of the Východ neighbourhood that directly adjoins the Roma settlement of Angy Mlyn in the eastern Slovak town of Michalovce, raised €3,000 themselves to build the concrete barrier that forces Roma from the settlement to take a longer route to the town centre instead of a short cut through the neighbourhood. Back in 2010, the Sme daily quoted one of the Roma residents as saying that it seemed like the Berlin Wall to him.

Then there is a 150-metre wall in Ostrovany, which the local government built back in 2009 to protect the houses and gardens neighbouring the Roma settlement. Another concrete wall grew to keep the Roma away from certain dwellings in the city of Prešov. That eight-metre wall prevents residents of a Roma settlement from taking a short cut across a green area into the city. Here too, the wall was built in response to various complaints, including thefts. The Roma, who were moved from dilapidated homes in the city centre to new residential buildings in the area, where at that time, according to the SITA newswire, various services for the buildings had not been completed, said that the wall violated their rights.

Critics of Slovakia’s peculiar wall architecture are sometimes bombarded by comments such as “so why don’t you go and try to live there” or “move in for a week and you will see”, while completely missing the point: walls will not make things better; they only deepen the schism which equally affects all who live in the country. And perhaps politicians who with their rhetoric encourage people to think that walls and iron-hand policies can solve the complex Roma problems are separated by a huge mental wall from the rest of us.
© The Slovak Spectator

up  

New Country Profiles on Roma from ERRC

17/7/2013- The European Roma Rights Centre has published new country profiles today, which outline some of the major issues affecting Roma in 10 countries. The short reports indicate that, despite some efforts to improve the situation of Romani individuals and communities, they still are denied basic human rights. According to the findings presented in the country profiles, Romani individuals and communities still have to face violence and hate speech and cannot enjoy the same opportunities and standards as the rest of the society in access to essential services such as education or housing. The ERRC country profiles are produced to give a snapshot of the situation of Roma and the work of the ERRC in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine in 2011-2012, focusing on ERRC core themes such as education, housing, violence and the state response to violent incidents

Sub-standard housing and ongoing evictions continue to be one of the major problems affecting Roma in France, Italy, Serbia, and Romania. In most cases, the evictions that took place violated international standards. Segregation of Romani children in education is still widespread across Central and Eastern European countries. In the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia, Romani children are placed in special schools where they are taught a reduced curriculum which lowers their chances of fulfilling their potential, and teaches them and their peers that it is acceptable to label, stigmatise, and segregate. In Russia and Ukraine, many Roma lack proper identification documents, which prevents them from accessing basic services such as education and health care. In Slovakia and Romania, Romani settlements are segregated by walls, creating new ghettos. In Turkey, little progress has been made towards a comprehensive strategy and action plan to address the problems that Roma face.

The ERRC reports underline once more that long-rooted negative stereotypes and strong anti-Romani sentiments are the chief obstacles in improving the life standards of Roma. Discrimination in all fields of life is still the common factor in all countries. ERRC Executive Director Dezideriu Gergely said, “Our country profiles establish that there is a long way to go to reach a discrimination-free Europe. Roma matters are a litmus test for European values. Governments must put their commitments to fight discrimination into action.” The ERRC country profiles provide an overview on the situation of Roma in some key countries, and provide information that should strengthen research and advocacy by and for Roma across Europe. The findings were gathered from specific ERRC research, ongoing work by ERRC country monitors, media scanning and research from other sources. The profiles also list the international legal human rights tools that each country is a signatory to.
© European Roma Rights Center

up  

Twitter data release offers insight on online anti-Semitism

15/7/2013- Twitter on Friday (July 12) agreed to release data identifying users to French authorities in response to a January ruling by a French court regarding anti-Semitic tweets posted last October under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew). Users had jumped on the chance to tweet phrases like “a good Jew is a dead Jew,” ultimately forcing the French Jewish students’ union (UEJF) to file a lawsuit against Twitter for allowing that content to appear. Friday’s decision by Twitter was “a great victory in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism” and “a big step in the fight against the feeling of impunity on the Internet,” said Jonathan Hayoun, president of France’s Union of Jewish Students, in a statement. When the French court had decided last January that Twitter must reveal the identities of users who sent out those anti-Semitic tweets, Twitter initially refused to release the data. UEJF then sued Twitter for 38.5 million euros. In a rare move, Twitter agreed to release the data and said in a statement that the social network will work with UEJF “to fight racism and anti-Semitism” and “to improve the accessibility of the procedure for notifications of illicit tweets.”

The French incident, which led to a cross-continental debate on the difficulty of defining and policing anti-Semitism online, is hardly the first case of hate in social media and on the Web. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2013 Digital Terrorism and Hate Report found more than 20,000 hate and terror-related websites, social networks, forums and more, a 30 percent increase from 15,000 in 2012. Also in Europe, a February report by the Community Security Trust showed that the number of anti-Semitic incidents via social media in the United Kingdom grew nearly 700 percent in the 12 months before it was released. “Social media is becoming more and more of a problem for us if you look at anti-Semitism,” said Ronald Eissens, co-founder of the Dutch anti-racism group Magenta Foundation and the International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH), which works to counter cyber-hate and has 21 members in 20 countries, in an interview with JNS.org. “There’s a lot of it around. Prosecution is a lot harder because most social media are based firmly in the U.S.”

In France, the Gayssot law of 1990 was passed to repress racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic acts and criminalizes Holocaust denial. French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson later claimed the law violated his right to freedom of expression and academic freedom, but the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled against him. France punishes the dissemination of racist content online with fines and terms of imprisonment. These penalties increase if the dissemination was public — for example, on a website rather than in a private email — according to the American Jewish Committee (AJC). France has faced off against an American online giant before. In 2000, France prosecuted Yahoo! for selling Nazi memorabilia online. In France, it is illegal to display such items unless they are in a theatrical or museum setting. A French court ruled at the time that Yahoo! had to make the auction site inaccessible to French users or pay a fine. Although it never legally accepted the French ruling, Yahoo! eventually chose to remove the auction.

Then, in 2012, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube complied with German law by either taking down material posted by a neo-Nazi group or by blocking users in Germany from access to the content, according to the New York Times. Additional broad laws have been passed on racism and cyber-hate. The Council of Europe’s Additional Protocol to the Cybercrime Convention was passed in 2003 and became enforceable in 2006 after receiving the required number of signatures. The protocol criminalized racist and xenophobic acts committed through computer systems. The European Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia was then passed in 2008. In 2005, the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)’s Working Definition of anti-Semitism was released, defining the phenomenon as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.” “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities … More specifically, manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as Jewish collectivity,” the definition reads.

Though that definition was never legally binding, various international bodies, several law enforcement agencies and European courts have used it in their investigations. It is essentially meant to “help police forces who are monitoring anti-Semitism on the ground to have a better understanding of what anti-Semitism is,” Kenneth Stern, the AJC’s specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism, told JNS.org. Under the First Amendment, hate speech in the U.S. must be likely to cause violence or harm before it can be deemed criminal. But in the European Union, speech can be prohibited even if it is only abusive, insulting or likely to disturb public order, noted Talia Naamat, legal researcher at the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry in Jerusalem.

There are many laws on Holocaust denial in Europe, including in Germany, Belgium, and Austria, where British Holocaust denier David Irving was convicted and imprisoned in 2006. In Spain, Holocaust denial was a criminal violation until 2007, when a court ruled in the case of neo-Nazi activist Pedro Valera that Holocaust denial could not be punished with imprisonment because the act falls within free speech. But in January, Spain’s justice minister proposed a new bill that would make Holocaust denial a criminal offense if it incites violence. The bill is expected to be approved later this year. “I believe this case best encapsulates the debate (in Europe) between freedom of expression versus incitement to hatred, as well as the varying degrees of protection from hate speech,” Naamat told JNS.org. But frequently, such European laws appear as part of a broader code against “incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred or discrimination,” or as part of the general prohibition of genocide, she said.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch penal code includes a broad anti-discrimination provision, “so, anti-Semitic content in essence will be prosecuted if it’s brought to the prosecutor as falling under the anti-discrimination legislation,” Eissens said. Last year Jeroen de Kreek, a Dutch Holocaust denier who posted his material on several websites, was sued in court. “His material is blatantly anti-Semitic,” Eissens said in February. In June, a Dutch court ruled that though Kreek’s anti-Semitic statements are punishable, he cannot be punished due to insanity, according to Eissens' Magenta Foundation. The U.K. has only general legislation regarding harassment and discrimination, The Public Order act of 1986, which states that “a person who uses threatening words or behavior, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.” Other laws, the Protection from Harassment Act, the Malicious Communications Act, and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, were passed in subsequent years.

“Our perspective is that things which are illegal offline should be illegal online,” said Dave Rich, spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which conducted the February survey on social media anti-Semitism in the U.K., according to the International Business Times. “Racial abuse laws were made from incidents in the street, not online.” European laws on the issue, however, are not uniformly applied across the E.U. Even the European Court of Human Rights does not offer an accepted definition for “hate speech,” instead offering only parameters by which prosecutors can decide if the “hate speech” is entitled to the protection of freedom of speech. Prosecutors therefore exercise a great amount of discretion, as do policemen, who must classify the act as a hate crime or not, and judges, who must assess which action or speech is likely to disturb public order. “That assessment can be subjective,” Naamat said.

INACH’s Eissens emphasized that prosecuting anti-Semitism is “a thing we do but not the only thing we do.” The organization is also highly focused on counter-speech projects, education and prevention, though Eissens does believe that the law is necessary in some extreme cases. “It’s a bit like the police arrests 20 people this week and the same people are back on the streets doing it again one month later, or they’re joined by another 40; it doesn’t mean that the police has to stop working,” he said. Stern believes that it is generally “more effective to have hateful speech marginalized than censored,” particularly by having high-ranking officials or politicians call it out. In 2005, Stern was part of a debate in the U.S. between Jewish groups on the issue of anti-Semitism online. One school of thought was in favor of removing anti-Semitic content, the other side believed such content “is a way to train kids in this new medium,” on how to distinguish hateful speech from benign speech, he said.

The bigger problem, Stern said, is when anti-Semitism, online or otherwise, is expressed as normal, polite dinner conversation. “I’ll be less worried if it’s half a dozen neo-Nazis with tattoos sitting in a bar someplace,” he said.
© Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

up  

Why Aren’t Hungarians Protesting?

Perhaps they simply don’t want democracy
by Balint Szlanko

17/7/2013- What with a shrinking economy, above-10-percent unemployment, political corruption, and a government that displays a sometimes unbelievable arrogance, surely there are plenty of reasons for Hungarians to be out on the street? Yet in a summer that has seen huge middle-class demonstrations in countries such as Turkey, Brazil, and even Bulgaria – all fed up with the ineptitude and arrogance of their elected rulers – Hungarians remain docile, apathetic, and frankly bored. It is one of the clichés in the Central European lexicon of national character traits that Hungarians are unusually prone to pessimism and are cynical to a man.

Didn’t Endre Ady, the poet, write:
I am the son of King Gog of Magog
I’m banging doors and walls to no avail
Yet I must ask this question as prologue
May I weep in the grim Carpathian vale?


Yet isn’t another cliché about Hungarians – splendidly dramatized by Michael York’s explosive, table-banging Count Andrenyi in the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express – that they are temperamental and quick to anger? Isn’t it true that not one but two of their national holidays – 15 March and 23 October – celebrate revolutions and wars of independence? Perhaps the Hungarian, brooding, lost in deep sighs of wretchedness, will eventually reach boiling point and explode? Perhaps he will. Yet surely more important is that the summer demonstrations in Turkey, Brazil, and Bulgaria have displayed a remarkable democratic spirit. In fast-growing Turkey and Brazil they are not even about economic issues. They express the confidence of their newly empowered middle classes that they will simply not take it anymore, least of all from their shameless politicians. There are few signs of such a resolve here. Heaven knows, the last 20 years have been tortuous, with economic crises, corruption, even a brief upsurge of mafia war in the 1990s. But perhaps the biggest disappointment is the almost total lack of interest Hungarians have shown in their newly found freedoms and democratic institutions.

Among the depressing findings of a recent survey of university and college students is that a mere 40 percent agree that democracy is the best system of government, while nearly one-third think that in some situations a dictatorship would work better. (To be fair, this is perhaps not an especially well-formulated question: some situations could mean anything.) Only 43 percent of the supporters of the ruling, conservative Fidesz party think democracy is the best option, while among the voters of Jobbik, the anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party, that is down to 22 percent. The overall figure of 40 percent is likely so low because far-right Jobbik is the most popular party among the respondents, with 29 percent support among those who say they will definitely vote. Fidesz gets 26 percent and the center-left Egyutt 2014 party gets 23 percent. Some might look at those results and see a widespread disgust with traditional parties that has young people flocking to the neo-Nazis.

I’m more tempted to say, if that’s want you want, you illiterates, then you can have it. People over 18 have no excuses. If they want to vote, they’d best be able to read the newspapers and look beyond ask.fm. If one of every three wants an unapologetically neo-Nazi party to govern, then I say let them all drown. This week the Financial Times tried to explain why the Germans are particularly upset over Edward Snowden's revelations about America's NSA spy agency. Supposedly they have learned from their Gestapo and Stasi past. They realize, as adults will, how precious freedom is once it’s lost. In Hungary no one gives a fig about the NSA revelations. If anything, most people probably assume the government has been listening in on their phone calls since the telephone was invented. (The important difference between recording call data and the actual content of the call is obviously lost on everybody.) To wit, parliament recently passed a law, now under court review, that would allow the government to listen in on the phone calls of every civil servant for 60 days out of each year and to investigate their family members. I recall no outcry.

I have to conclude that Hungary simply deserves what it gets. As readers of this column will know from my endless complaints, in the last three years this government has essentially cut down liberal democracy, its independent institutions undone and plowed under one by one, to practically no domestic opposition. That is fair, I reckon. Democracy is a game for adults. Politicians can act and pretend and lie all they like – as a Hungarian literary character (whose creator, Jeno Rejto, was incidentally murdered by his own Nazi-allied government) says, “a clever man can only be had twice.” Well, we’ve been had a number of times and we don’t seem to care much. Incompetent, corrupt, and authoritarian government is what we get because it is, evidently, what we want. So why would anyone protest?
Balint Szlanko is a journalist in Budapest. His most recent book is about democracy
© Transitions Online

up  

Hungary Anti-Semitic Page Yanked by Facebook

Kuruc.info Spouts Propaganda of 'Jewish List' Jobbik Party
By JTA

18/7/2013- Facebook removed an official fan page of Kuruc.info — a U.S.-based website in Hungarian which features anti-Semitic hate speech and propaganda by Hungary’s ultranationalist Jobbik Party. The removal on Wednesday of the Facebook page, which had garnered 70,000 followers, came following a plea to Facebook by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, and its Hungarian counterpart, the Hungarian Jewish community’s Budapest-based Action and Protection Foundation. Several Jewish organizations hailed the closure of the Facebook page as an important step toward limiting the reach of the anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, homophobic and anti-Democratic messages of Jobbik, Hungary’s third largest party.

But within hours, individuals with ties to Kuruc were able to open a new page on Facebook, a social network run by Facebook Inc. — an American private company whose main offices are based in Menlo Park, California, south of San Francisco. Kuruc’s new Facebook page acquired nearly 6,000 followers almost immediately after its opening. Still, the ADL praised Facebook for closing the original Facebook page of Kuruc, which ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said was “conveying threats against Jews and Roma, inciting to violence, spreading vile anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, all of which are crimes in Hungary.”
According to Laszlo Bartus, editor-in-chief of the Amerikai Magyar Népszava, the oldest Hungarian-language paper in the United States, Hungarian authorities have tried to shut down Kuruc.info but failed because its servers are based in the U.S., which has more liberal legislation than Hungary’s on the limits of free speech. “The deletion of the Facebook page of Kuruc.info is a first victory,” said Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament. “Now, the actual website Kuruc.info, which is the non-official front of the Jobbik neo-Nazi party, must be shut down. In the interest of preventing the repetition of worst times of European history, it is high time for turning off the cyber faucets of hate.”
© The Forward

up  

Gay rights versus far right (Hungary)

Organisers claim march was largest yet but questions are raised over violence and police response

13/7/2013- Heavy police security ensured that the annual Budapest Pride parade passed off peacefully on Saturday, with several thousand participants marching from Heroes’ Square to Olympia Park on the Danube riverside – a record attendance according to the organisers. However, an alleged attack on three homeward-bound participants by far-right thugs has prompted a police investigation and expressions of concern from civil rights ombudsman Máté Szabó.
The small liberal party SZEMA said three of its members were assaulted near Nyugati railway station shortly after the official end of the event. According to a statement, some 30 “uniformed neo-Nazis” beat up their targets while shouting “Gypsy faggots”. SZEMA demanded an explanation from police and the Interior Ministry after it alleged that the three victims were subsequently subject to ID checks while the perpetrators were allowed to leave the scene.

Police responded on Sunday that the attackers had already gone when the victims approached police to complain about the assault. The following day, however, an investigation was launched into an attack carried out against “members of a community” by a group of unidentified perpetrators. According to a Monday statement on the national police website, the three victims were interviewed over the weekend and had backed up their allegations with medical reports from outpatient clinics. One of the men, media later reported, was the headmaster of a grammar school. Witnesses, especially those who may have photographic or video evidence, have been asked to come forward. Ombudsman Szabó noted on Tuesday that to ensure the right to free assembly, police have a duty to ensure the safe passage of participants as they disperse, not only to secure the event itself. Police had informed him that the operation to keep an estimated 300 anti-gay protesters away from the 4,000 participants in the march had been successful, but that a number of arrests were made elsewhere in the capital.

Biggest yet
Organisers put the number of participants at 8,000 and said the 18th annual march was the largest Budapest Pride event to date. As in recent years, the unbroken fencing that lined the route meant that only those who began on Heroes’ Square were able to join the march. Among the speakers at a “civil picnic” in Olympia Park was Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek. Domestic politicians from the opposition Socialist Party, green LMP and Dialogue for Hungary were among the participants. Representatives of several embassies took part, with 18 of them having previously endorsed the event. The Christian Democrats, junior partner in the ruling coalition, issued a statement describing Budapest Pride as a “parade of political opportunists”.

The party called on participants not to provoke people, families and communities who were not “with them”. The event actually hinders the acceptance of homosexuality by bringing sexual orientation out into the open rather than keeping it where it belongs “inside the bedroom walls”, the party said. The extreme-right Jobbik party held a rally on Érzsébet tér (square), ostensibly celebrating “camaraderie”. The party had earlier said it would never have allowed the event to go ahead under a Jobbik government. In an internal memo obtained by news website index.hu, the party’s Budapest leadership banned members who wanted to “attend” the “poofter parade” in a private capacity from wearing party insignia.
© The Budapest Times

up  

Srebrenica mothers ‘beaten by Bosnian Serb police’(Bosnia-Herzegovina)

A group of women broke Saturday through a police cordon and entered a former warehouse in Bosnia to lay flowers where their loved ones were killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Bosnian Serb police said they didn’t use force, but the women — who are Muslim Bosniaks — alleged that the police beat them, injuring eight.

13/7/2013- The head of the Bosnian Serb police, Gojko Vasic, said the women had no permission to enter the facility because it is private property but that they cut their way through a fence. He said one woman hit a police officer over the head with her mobile phone. Munira Subasic, who led the group of women, said she was bruised when police beat “us with elbows and feet.” On July 11, 1995, Serb forces overran the eastern town of Srebrenica and executed more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys in what became known as the worst massacre in Europe since the Nazi era. According to a U.N. war crimes tribunal, about 1,000 of the victims were brought to the warehouse in the nearby village of Kravice, locked inside and gunned down on July 13. Soldiers then threw hand grenades inside to finish off potential survivors. The bodies were buried in mass graves but then excavated again a few months later by the perpetrators with bulldozers and buried at other locations to hide the crime. Many of the bodies were torn apart.

This past week, Subasic buried two bones of her then-18 year-old son; more of his remains have not yet been recovered. Ethnic tensions still simmer in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the warehouse lies in the Bosnian Serb half of the country, which has its own police force. Relatives of the victims have never been allowed to visit the warehouse to pay their respects, but this year the women, carrying pliers, were determined to get inside. Subasic said the people injured mainly suffered bruises, but that “every victory had a price and so does this one.” “In 1995, they forced our children inside and today they beat us to prevent us from getting in,” she said.
© The Associated Press

up  

Headlines 12 July, 2013

Twitter says it disclosed details of French anti-Semitic users

Twitter has disclosed details of users in France who posted anti-Semitic messages, the U.S.-based website said.

12/7/2013- The California-based micro-blogging platform said in a statement Friday that it had handed over to French authorities details about the users to end a legal fight which started last year, when several French anti-racist groups sued Twitter for allowing hate speech. “Further to discussions between the Parties and in response to a valid legal request, Twitter has provided the prosecutor of Paris, Presse et Libertés Publiques section of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the Vice-Prosecutor believes have violated French law,” Twitter said in a statement to JTA.

Twitter declined to say how many users it reported or or what details it transmitted, but said the disclosure “puts an end to the dispute” between Twitter and the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, which sued Twitter last year along with several other anti-racism groups. Last month, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld a January 24 ruling that said Twitter must provide data on some users to the UEJF and four other organizations that filed a complaint against the company in November 2012. The users were guilty of violating French hate speech laws and Twitter must release information about the offenders, the court ruled.

The complaint came after the hashtags #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #unjuifmort (“a dead Jew”) became hugely popular because they were used in what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.” Hashtags are labels used to index tweets on a particular topic. Twitter argued in court that since it is an American company it adheres to U.S. laws and is protected by the First Amendment and its broad free speech liberties. In its statement Friday, Twitter said that it and other parties “have agreed to actively continue contributing together to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, in keeping with their respective domestic laws and regulations, such as by taking measures to improve the accessibility of the reporting procedure of illegal Tweets.”
© JTA News

up  

Bulgaria far-right leader stripped of ethics chief role after outcry

11/7/2013- Bulgaria's parliament on Thursday stripped the leader of the far-right Ataka party of his role as ethics chief in a bid to ease anger over his appointment, seen as the latest blunder by the country's embattled one-and-a-half-month old government, AFP reported. The firebrand ultra-nationalist Volen Siderov's appointment last month as head of parliament's corruption, conflict of interests and ethics committee fanned angry anti-government protests which began on June 14. Mass protests against the new government erupted after the controversial appointment of a new security chief, but soon turned against a government and political class that protesters say are too dependent on shady corporate interests.

The demonstrations come just months after anti-poverty and corruption rallies forced out the previous conservative government in February, prompting a snap election in May. In a move to appease protesters, parliamentarians voted Thursday to form a new committee on religions and ethics, but left Siderov in charge of corruption and conflict of interests. Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and the committees in the legislature carve out all major pieces of legislation in their areas. Siderov, who has long been known for his strong anti-minority rhetoric, drew public ire by refusing to stand up when the EU anthem was played during the inauguration of parliament on May 29. He has also verbally attacked journalists and recently threatened a policeman.
© FOCUS News Agency

up  

New website allows public to report racism (Ireland)

11/7/2013- See it. Send it. End it. That is the message behind a new website being launched today that lets the public report racist incidents in confidence. iReport.ie has been set up by the European Network Against Racism Ireland, who said there is a serious lack of data on the subject at the moment. They're encouraging users to break the silence and come forward if they see anything. Emmanuel Sone encountered racist chanting on public transport after moving here from Cameroon. "I was embarrassed, feeling insulted and threatened," he said. "You felt really not welcome, it’s a feeling you get but the reality could always be different "People need to stand up in a civil society we cannot allow something like that to happen."
© The Irish Examiner

up  

Thousands Head for Srebrenica Massacre Memorial

Thousands travelled to the memorial at Potocari near Srebrenica on foot, on bicycles and on motorbikes ahead of the reburial of 409 victims on the massacre’s 18th anniversary on Thursday.

10/7/2013- More than 200 motorcyclists from Bosnia, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Turkey and Croatia set off from Sarajevo on Wednesday as part of the Moto Marathon to Srebrenica 2013 intended to commemorate the anniversary of the massacres by Bosnian Serbs which killed some 7,000 people in July 1995. They will join around 5,000 people who set off on foot from Nezuk near the Bosnian town of Tuzla on Tuesday. The aim of the motorbike ride, one of the organisers said, is to keep alive the memory of the mass killings in Srebrenica, which international courts have defined as genocide. “Yesterday we had guests from six countries. Everyone is aware of what happened in Srebrenica,” said organiser Enver Suljic. The thousands who are heading for the memorial in the village of Potocari on foot are taking part in an 80-kilometre Peace March. The route from Potocari to Nezuk was one by which dozens of men managed to escape the massacres – the only safe way out of Srebrenica in the summer of 1995.

Around 200 people are also cycling on from the north-west Bosnian town of Bihac to Potocari in the east to attend the mass burial of the remains of the 409 victims. Some are also running a marathon from Bihac to Potocari in support of the Nezuk Peace March. A group of nine cyclists from the Serbian capital Belgrade are also heading to Potocari, a journey of around 220 kilometres. The Serbian peace group Women in Black said that the activists aim to show solidarity with the victims of genocide and their families and also to remind citizens of Serbia of the need to face the crimes committed in their names. Four Croatian war veterans, two of them Bosniaks, also started a 227-kilometre-long road race from the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar to Srebrenica on Saturday.

Eighteen years ago, military and police forces from Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska attacked the UN-protected ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica, and subsequently killed around 7,000 men and boys and forcibly expelled around 30,000 women, children and elderly people. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, has defined the crimes in Srebrenica as genocide in several of its verdicts. The ICTY and the Bosnian state court have so far handed down prison sentences totaling more than 500 years for war crimes in Srebrenica. There are several ongoing trials over the genocide, including the prosecutions of the political and military leaders of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
© Balkan Insight

up  

A Mosque in Reykjavík Threatens Icelandic Culture

10/7/2013- Former mayor of Reykjavík claims a mosque will threaten Iceland’s culture and safety. Ólafur F. Magnússon, who was mayor for little less than 7 months in 2008, is highly pessimistic about plans of a mosque being built in the open space of in the eastern part of Reykjavík, Eyjan reports. City council approved of the plans last week, after Muslims in Iceland having waited 13 years to get a property to raise the first mosque in Iceland. Ólafur writes in Morgunblaðið today, expressing his concern about the matter. “It is worrying that Muslims here don’t seem to have any difficulties financing the project, receiving aid from Muslim organizations abroad. Those organizations might want to increase the influence of Islam in Iceland, as well as in other countries.” Instead of a mosque, Ólafur suggests a temple of the Nordic gods to be built in the plot. “Such a cultural gem would bring joy to the majority of the city’s residents, as well as other Icelanders, and wouldn’t be as out of place as a mosque would."
© The Reykjavik Grapevine

up  

Hungary Roma Group Welcomes Ban Of ‘Nazi’ Guard By Europe Court

10/7/2013- An influential group defending the rights of gypsies, also known as Roma, has welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that banning a Hungarian "far-right, anti-Roma and anti-Semitic" paramilitary group is lawful. The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) told BosNewsLife that it was involved in the case "as a third party" to support the decision by a Hungarian court to forbid the Magyar Gárda, or 'Hungarian Guard' Association, whose members marched through Roma villages in uniforms and carrying flags resembling the Nazi-era. Hungarian Guard activists also attacked Jews and their marches added to anxiety among especially elderly Hungarian Holocaust survivors, who still recalled Hungarian fascists sending them to Nazi death camps during World War Two. Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust as well as thousands of Roma.

Gábor Vona, chairman of the Hungarian Guard Association and current leader of the far-right Movement For a Better Hungary (Jobbik) party, had asked Europe's top court to overturn the ban, saying it "violated" his "freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights." But in its Chamber judgment on Tuesday, July 9, the ECHR concluded that forbidding the Hungarian Guard did not violate Article 11 as its activities included paramilitary rallies in villages with large Romani populations and advocacy for racially-motivated policies. They reportedly also intimidated Roma across Hungary, violating their human rights.

Preventive Measures
The Hungarian "State is entitled to take preventive measures to protect democracy…if a sufficiently imminent prejudice to the rights of others undermines the fundamental values upon which a democratic society rests and functions," the ECHR added in its ruling. "One of such values is the cohabitation of members of society without racial segregation, without which a democratic society is inconceivable.” ERRC's Executive Director Dezideriu Gergely told BosNewsLife that "Today’s decision reinforces the fact that Roma enjoy protection of their security, and that the activities to keep ‘Gypsy criminality’ at bay were racist in essence.” The official said, "We fully support the opinion in the judgment that the use of the expression ‘Gypsy crime’ - which suggests that there is a link between crime and a certain ethnicity - constitutes a racist form of speech intended to fuel feelings of hatred against the Roma." In 2007, the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched a court action seeking the dissolution of the Hungarian Guard Association saying that "intimidating Roma" was an integral part of the group and an "abuse of the right to freedom of assembly."

Domestic Courts
Hungarian courts agreed and dissolved the organization, prompting Chairman Vona's complaint to the ECHR. ERRC investigators said they successfully convinced the EHRC to uphold the ban by taking "into account attitudes towards racism in a democratic society and discrimination against Roma, among others, when it considers restricting freedoms of association and assembly, guaranteed under Article 11." The ERRC referred to international law, signed by Hungary, which mandates "the prevention of racial hatred by states." The group also presented material on reported discrimination against Roma in Hungary and other countries and argued that minorities, especially Roma, "enjoy special protection under Article 14" of the European Convention on Human Rights. There are believed to be up to 750,000 Roma people living in Hungary, just over seven percent of Hungary's nearly 10 million population. Exact figures are difficult to get as many decline to reveal their ethnic origin amid fears of discrimination, researchers say.
© BosNewsLife

up  

Iraq refuses to accept refugees who don't want to be sent back (Netherlands)

10/7/2013- Iraq will not help the government in its efforts to deport Iraq nationals who have failed to become officially recognised as asylum seekers, junior justice minister Fred Teeven told Nos television. Teeven has just returned from a visit to Iraq, but the country is refusing to accept failed asylum seekers who are being deported against their will, Teeven said. Only Iraqi nationals who volunteer to go back are accepted. ‘They were intensive talks because Iraq is not enthusiastic,’ Teeven told the broadcaster. ‘It is a question of taking a deep breath and there are many obstacles to overcome. There is willingness to cooperate on a cautious scale.’ The group of failed refugees who have been living in tents and former churches in the Netherlands include many Iraqis. They cannot be deported because they don’t have the proper paperwork but are not entitled to official accommodation from the Dutch state. According to Nos, Iraq says too many of its citizens are returning to be taken care of and found jobs. Last year, over 65,000 families returned from abroad. Teeven’s predecessor Gerd Leers offered Iraq €5m in development aid to accept deportees but Iraq demanded $10,000 per person instead, Nos said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Macedonia: Spate of Anti-Gay Attacks

10/7/2013- The Macedonian government should ensure a thorough investigation into the series of anti-LGBTI attacks in June and July 2013, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The victims included human rights defenders who gathered in the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex) Support Center in Skopje at the beginning of the Gay Pride Week and a famous actor who had come out as a gay man. In the most recent attack, on July 5, unidentified people tried to set fire to the LGBTI Support Center in Skopje. Preliminary findings by the fire brigade and the Skopje Police Inspection Department show that someone had climbed on the roof, removed a dozen roof tiles, spilled gasoline on the roof planks, and set them on fire.

“Anti-gay thugs are targeting people who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Macedonian government seems to be turning a blind eye,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Not a single government official has publicly spoken out against these blatant attacks, leaving LGBTI people even more vulnerable to violence and discrimination.” Skopje’s Pride week was opened in the LGBTI Support Center on June 22. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that about 40 LGBTI activists were inside, at a film screening. A mob of about 30 people gathered outside, shouting derogatory and homophobic slogans and threatening the people inside. The assailants threw stones, bottles, and bricks at the center, wounding a police officer who had arrived on the scene, the witnesses said. One of the leaders of LGBT United Macedonia, who was inside the center at the time of the attack, has since received several death threats on Facebook.

On June 25, a mob gathered outside the house of the openly gay actor and LGBTI human rights defender Petar Stojkovikj, who was inside with his partner. The mob threw stones at the house and shouted threats and homophobic slurs.

Most of the targets of the attacks filed complaints with the police. But no one has been arrested and the authorities have not provided information about any investigations they may be undertaking. “The police have a responsibility to protect all Macedonians, and to investigate all crimes,” Dittrich said. “The prime-minister and the other government ministers should show some political leadership by calling on all Macedonians to halt the anti-LGBTI violence and discrimination.” Since 2005 Macedonia has been involved in a “stabilization and association” process with the European Union as a candidate for future membership. Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which entered into force in December 2009, prohibits discrimination, specifically including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The European Commission wrote in its progress report on Macedonia in 2012:
"The Anti-Discrimination Law is still not fully in line with the acquis; discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is still omitted. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community continues to suffer from discrimination and stigmatization.... The framework law on anti-discrimination does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in employment and occupation and is therefore not fully in line with the acquis. A structured and systematic data analysis on discrimination has not been established. Awareness raising activities on equity and non-discrimination need to be intensified." On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted recommendations to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe and its foreign affairs minister agreed to the recommendations.

The governments agreed to ensure effective, prompt, and impartial investigations into alleged cases of crimes and other incidents in which sexual orientation or gender identity could have been a motive, leading to appropriate punishment. They also agreed to take appropriate measures to combat all forms of expression that would promote discrimination against LGBT people, including in the media and on the Internet. They said that government representatives should promote tolerance and respect for the human rights of LGBT people when speaking with representatives of civil society, including media, sports, and political organizations, and religious communities. And they said public authorities should publicly condemn any unlawful interference with freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, notably for LGBT people.

The Macedonian government needs to abide by these commitments, Human Rights Watch said. Officials should publicly denounce violence and hate speech against LGBTI people, investigate discriminatory incidents promptly, thoroughly, and fairly, and bring those responsible to justice. The authorities should take all necessary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. “This troubling spate of anti-LGBTI attacks makes it all the more critical for the Macedonian government to take its Council of Europe commitments seriously,” Dittrich said. “The government silence after these attacks, combined with its general disregard for the basic human rights of LGBTI people, contributes to a vicious climate in which hate-filled people believe they can harass and threaten LGBTI rights defenders with impunity.”
© Human Rights Watch

up  

France bans far-right groups after fatal brawl

Three French far-right groups implicated in the death of an anti-fascist activist during a brawl in Paris last month were officially banned by the government on Wednesday. The ban has been slammed as "an abuse of power" by the leader of one of the groups.

10/7/2013- France officially banned three far-right groups on Wednesday whose sympathizers were implicated in the death last month of a left-wing student in a Paris street brawl. Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the three groups -- the Third Way, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR) and the "Desire to Dream" association -- had been officially dissolved. Five people linked with the groups are facing charges over the June 6 death of 18-year-old Clement Meric, a student at the prestigious Sciences-Po university, who died after a clash in a busy Paris shopping area between skinheads and left-wing activists. Serge Ayoub, the founder of the Third Way and JNR, told AFP the decision was an "abuse of power" and said he would appeal it before the Council of State, France's top administrative court. Earlier this month The Local reported that the groups had disbanded of their own accord ahead of the expected government ban.

Ayoub, also known as ‘Batskin’ had said he was dissolving the group “so as not to be disbanded by others.” For his part, Alexandre Gabriac, leader of the Jeunesses Nationalistes Revolutionnaires (Revolutionary Nationalist Youth, JNR), said he too was disbanding the small group, whose members were considered to be the more combative “forces of order”, providing protection for Troisième Voie. He vowed, however, to “continue to act” and said the group’s dissolution would not “stop nationalism from expressing itself.” In the aftermath of the fatal attack on Méric in Paris French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault moved to quell the public anger by insisting all three groups would be banned. Along with Third Way and JNR, the third group targeted by the French government is L’Oeuvre Française, a far-right anti-semitic organization founded in the late 1960s and currently led by Yvan Benedetti, who is a regional councillor, in Lyon. Both Gabriac and Benedetti were banned from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party in 2011.

Meric was killed after an angry exchange of words between left-wing activists and right-wing skinheads when they met by chance at a private clothing sale in an apartment on Rue Caumartin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris on June 5th. As the confrontation escalated, Meric was punched unconscious. He was pronounced brain dead in hospital and died the following day. It emerged this week that the fight had been caught on CCTV. The man who is suspected of delivering the fatal punch is Esteban Morillo, aged in his 20s, who was arrested in the aftermath of the fight along with four other far-right radicals, including a 32-year-old woman. Morillo is likely to face manslaughter charges after police sources say he had admitted throwing a punch but insists he did not mean to kill the student. Despite consistent denials from Ayoub and Gabriac that their groups were responsible or involved in Meric’s death, Morillo has been revealed to be a JNR and Troisième Voie sympathiser, and French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed he would be “merciless” in cracking down on the groups.
© The Local - France

up  

Anti-Roma statements in France: a race to be the most outrageous? (ENAR press release)

10/7/2013- On 7 July, Christian Estrosi, French Member of Parliament and Mayor of the city of Nice, made public racist statements targeting the Roma and
Traveller population and threatened, among others, to install surveillance cameras in Roma and Traveller camps. A few days before, Jean-Marie Le Pen had made similar anti-Roma statements. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns this stigmatising competition using hate speech to gain electoral support and calls on politicians in France and across Europe to instead start proposing constructive solutions to ensure Roma inclusion for the benefit of all.

ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said:
These anti-Roma statements are disgraceful, all the more so coming from Christian Estrosi, an elected representative of the mainstream UMP political party. Comments fuelling hatred and stigmatisation against any group on the basis of their ethnic or national origin have a particularly damaging impact when they come from public figures and politicians.” Instead of proposing populist and ineffective repressive measures, French local politicians such as Estrosi should start by implementing the law requiring that towns with populations exceeding 5,000 provide suitable camping grounds for Traveller communities. This law has so far not been respected in Nice.

Politicians should live up to their responsibilities as elected representatives to provide for all their citizens on an equal basis and not indulge in such dangerous and divisive statements. Together in Europe, we can achieve great things. Let's just do it” , said Isal.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

New Russian video game takes aim at punk band riot

A Russian Orthodox youth group unveiled a video game on Thursday that gives players a chance to "kill" members of the punk band Pussy Riot, whose profanity-laden protest in a Moscow cathedral last year angered the church and offended some believers.

11/7/2013- Two women from Pussy Riot are serving two-year jail sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for the "punk protest", which the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called part of a campaign to curb its post-Soviet revival. "You have to kill them with a cross before they get into the church, That's the point," said Boris Yakemenko, who organized a Russian Orthodox youth festival in central Moscow where the video game was on display. "It's revolting," said Dmitry Litvinov, 22, said of the game as he got up from the table where the game was displayed on a flat-screen TV.

A legal representative of Pussy Riot declined to comment on the video game. Neither members of the band nor Russian Orthodox Church officials could immediately be reached for comment. Players use a mouse to move a cross over the screen and zap colorful cartoon representations of the women from Pussy Riot - each with a balaclava like those worn by the band members in their protest - as they try to enter a white church. When one of the brightly colored guitar-wielding band members gets there, a little red devil dances across the screen.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were sentenced to two years in prison last August for bursting into Christ the Savior Cathedral and belting out a song calling for the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin. Samutsevich was freed on appeal. Maria Voskresenskaya, who drew the cartoon figures for the game, suggested the members of Pussy Riot had opened themselves up to such treatment through their actions. "We have problems in the church, we don't deny it, but that doesn't justify the actions of those girls - they made a mistake," said Voskresenskaya, 24. She declined to say who came up with the idea for the game, which she said took two weeks to create.
© Reuters

up  

Poverty afflicts Germany's older 'guest workers'

Older foreigners who live in Germany and have worked there many years are more commonly affected by poverty than German citizens. Although the problem has been known for a while, it's only now becoming more evident.

11/7/2013- Eser Gökler represents an exception among his generation of Turkish-German migrants. The 65-year-old Turk came to Germany in 1969, graduated from secondary school and went on to study economics at university. He worked for many years in controlling at large firms, later becoming self-employed. Early on, he invested in small properties. "That's why I don't have to pay rent and can get double out of my retirement money of 1,200 euros ($1,575) per month," Gökler said. But that's not the situation for the migrant community at large. Many members barely have enough to survive.

The labor behind Germany's 'economic miracle'
Thousands from southern and eastern Europe migrated to Germany in the 1960s and 70s. Most were fleeing poverty in their own countries, while Germany was booming and in need of a labor force. Germany long courted migrants to come to the country, dubbing the laborers "guest workers." Drawn by the prospect of a better life, they worked in steel factories and mining, in automobile manufacturing and cafeterias. But only a few attained prosperity. A newly published study by the economic and social sciences institute within the Hans Böckler Foundation indicates that today, more than 40 percent of migrants in retirement age are affected by poverty. This is more than triple the poverty rate among German citizens. Under the European Union definition, those considered to be poor or threatened by poverty live off of less than 60 percent of the average income - that amount is 848 euros ($1,092) for single people in Germany, and 1,278 euros ($1,673) for couples. The study looked not only at singles, but also couples and larger families. "If the one person [in the household] has more than 848 euros but the other nothing at all, they're both in poverty," said Eric Seils, who co-authored the report.

Poorly paid and quickly unemployed
Social researcher Seils sees three main reasons for the high poverty rates among older migrants: Even though they often worked in large companies, they performed low-skilled work and were poorly paid; many were let go in the 1980s when the industrial sector slumped and the service industry grew; and finally, they were excluded from becoming government officials, a large and prosperous sector not at all affected by poverty. In addition to that, many foreigners came to Germany once they were already older adults, therefore presenting an interrupted work history. "They came from countries with a booming informal sector. So they often received no benefits for the first years of their working lives," Seils pointed out.

Rise in elderly migrant poverty
The difficult situation of migrants in retirement age is nothing new. Already in 2006, a study on elderly poverty by the German Institute for Economic Research brought the issue to light. What's changed since then, Seils said, is the number of those affected. "The number of foreigners in old-age poverty has increased from 170,000 in 2006 to around 270,000 today," Seils told DW in an interview. And that number is likely to climb further, he added. In order to protect future generations of immigrants from old-age poverty, the pension fund for the German state of Baden-Württemberg together with a number of charities as well as the state's integration office launched a large-scale project in 2009.

Citing the failure of old age planning courses in reaching migrants, they instead developed the "Network for Migration and Social Security," explained Andreas Schwarz, manager of the state fund and head of the project. The project targets migrants from the three largest guest-worker groups - Turks, Italians and Greeks - supplying them with information on retirement planning and healthcare. "The social security system is complicated - we offer seminars that deliver content in a very simple way," Schwarz said. "In addition, participants are able to ask questions in their own language," he added.

The first courses received a positive response when they launched in 2012, Schwarz reported. There are also similar projects in other German states, he said - although he asserted that they didn't do as much advertising and are, therefore, less known. And there's still no such program at the national level. Customers include cultural organizations, migrant groups and labor unions, Schwarz said. But anyone can join in. Network partners who participate could also help out answering questions in one of the mother tongues, Schwarz added.

Too ashamed to ask for help
The state project is not really useful for migrants already in retirement age, but there are a few other aid groups for poor migrants. Migrants with no other options can always apply for basic social assistance if their retirement income is not enough. One problem with that approach, Seils explained, is that needy migrants are more likely to shy away from asking the government for help due to a sense of shame.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Neo-Nazis using social media to attract young people (Germany)

Germany's far-right extremists use the Internet to reach young people - and are using more and more foreign providers in order to avoid the law. Meanwhile, big sites like Facebook are taking action against extremism.

10/7/2013- While still active in the far-right scene in the state of Lower Saxony, one former neo-Nazi spent all day looking after the extremist network's online presence. It was his main source of income, paid by "some funds from the scene," reports Martin Ziegenhagen, a qualified pedagogue and now project leader for an organization called Online Beratung gegen Rechtsextremismus (Online Counseling against Far-right Extremism). Ziegenhagen often finds parents turning to the advice center he works at because their children have drifted into the far-right milieu, which often finds its first contact to the young people via the Internet - through YouTube videos, Facebook chats, or Twitter. Often the parents seem fairly helpless. "They barely know what Facebook is," he told DW. "Often they don't know what their children are doing on the Internet."

German neo-Nazis are spreading hate propaganda primarily and pointedly through the social media networks popular with young people. That was revealed in an annual report from the state-financed organization jugendschutz.net ("youthprotection.net") presented on Tuesday (09.07.2013) in Berlin. The group trawls the Internet for criminal and "youth-endangering" content. In 2012, the report said, it found 1,600 criminal items - 80 percent of which discovered on social media sites. Last year, jugendschutz.net also found 5,500 far-right contributions on social media in Germany - an increase of almost 50 percent on 2011. Twitter is also playing a much bigger role for far-right organizations and individuals - here again, jugendschutz.net found close to 200 far-right accounts in 2012, as opposed to 141 in 2011.

At first glance - harmless
Often the Facebook profiles of far-right groups seem fairly innocuous at first glance. "Right-wing extremists don't stand out with pure, clumsy propaganda," says Thomas Krüger, president of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb). He has seen that the far-right has become more adept at disguising itself on the Internet. "At first glance they just sound things out with content that young people always like: lifestyle, music, events." Racist and discriminatory aspects are often hidden, and often only appear after several clicks. "Most of what is on offer is not legally assailable," confirms Stefan Glaser, deputy director of jugendschutz.net. On top of that, racism is often presented as "black humor," such as anti-Semitic jokes, explains Glaser. Providers like Facebook tend to leave such content up, since it doesn't directly violate their guidelines. "Facebook must draw a clear line on this," said Glaser.

Cooperation with Facebook
But both Glaser and Krüger underline the fact that their cooperation with major Internet platforms like Facebook and Google has improved. Such sites react with "more and more sensitivity and readiness" to complaints from individual users or organizations like jugendschutz.net, says Krüger, who reports that content is often removed from sites, and profiles are often blocked fairly quickly. That's one reason why many far-right Internet users have begun to prefer lesser-known servers - particularly that of Russian provider VK.com, a social network which claims to have more than 100 million users, including Polish and Czech neo-Nazis, as well as Germans. "The hardcore neo-Nazi scene has been advertising extensively from VK.com beginning in the middle of last year," said Glaser - particularly by users whose content has been blocked by Facebook and other services. But in the past few days, Glaser says his organization has established "direct contact" with the operators of VK in order to remove hate content as quickly as possible. He said the service had been "willing and grateful for the information."

Individual tasks
But hate videos and propaganda tirades will likely simply migrate to other corners of the Internet - Ziegenhagen is convinced that far-right extremists have started to create new Internet presences. For instance, there are already smart phone apps to help extremists download far-right radio broadcasts and podcasts - developments that Ziegenhagen says are difficult to combat. That's why political education remains important for groups aiming to counter extremists. "It's about shaking people awake both inside and outside the school," says Ziegenhagen, adding that he believes all Internet users should ask themselves what they are doing to oppose hateful content online.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Gay pride parade draws more than a million (Germany)

More than a million people took to the streets in the west German city Cologne on Sunday for the Christopher Street Day gay pride parade. The celebrations went without a hitch as onlookers revelled in the sunny weather.

8/7/2-13- Christopher Street Day (CSD) is an annual gay pride parade that takes place in both Cologne and Berlin. This year's attendance surpassed all previous records and even the police's expectation of a 900,000-strong turnout. Around 86 different groups, dressed up in the most flamboyant of costumes, made up the parade. Snaking from Deutz bridge to the city centre, participants were promoting legal equality for same sex couples. Police reported a peaceful day, with only one incident of drama when an allegedly very drunk man threw a bottle of beer at Green Party co-chairwoman Claudia Roth. She was sitting on the party's float when the bottle came hurtling at her. Luckily, it missed. Right-wing group Pro Köln wanted to have a float in the parade but were barred entry by Cologne's lesbian and gay association which organized the event.

RELATED PHOTO GALLERY: A gallery of Christopher Street Day revellers
© The Local - Germany

up  

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on San Marino

9/7/2013- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on San Marino. ECRI’s Chair, Ms Eva Smith, said that, while there are positive developments, some issues of concern remain, including the legislation on citizenship and the absence of a comprehensive civil and administrative legal framework aimed at combating racial discrimination in all fields of life. Society in San Marino continues to believe in dialogue and tolerance. The Criminal Code contains new provisions against discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation. The system of residence and “stay permits” has been reviewed extending the maximum length of “stay permits” for foreign workers.

However, citizenship continues to be granted only by means of extraordinary laws, which each time may provide for different requirements to fulfil, procedure to follow and deadline to respect; the fact of compulsorily interrupting one month per year the work contract of private carers is particularly disadvantageous for this category of foreign workers; San Marino still lacks an independent body to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance at national level.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following two require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

To establish an independent body specialised in combating racism and racial discrimination;
To revise the legislation on stay and work permits for foreigner private carers so as to reduce their precariousness of employment.

The report is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to San Marino in March 2012 [Press release of 13 March 2012] and takes account of developments up to 5 December 2012.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

up  

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Portugal

9/7/2013- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Portugal. ECRI’s Chair, Ms Eva Smith, said that, despite positive developments, there were issues of concern. For example, the racial discrimination complaints procedure continues to be lengthy and complicated and the principle of sharing the burden of proof is not applied. Portugal has taken steps to combat racial discrimination and eliminate stereotypes in the media; Roma socio-cultural mediators have been appointed to town halls with the aim of improving Roma communities’ access to services and promoting communication; a Second Plan for Immigrant Integration has been adopted; integration services are provided by three national and numerous local immigrant support centres around the country; negative decisions on asylum can be challenged in the administrative courts with automatic suspensive effect.

However, there is no criminal law provision expressly making racist motivation an aggravating circumstance for all offences; the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue does not have investigation powers nor the right to initiate and participate in court proceedings; a large number of Roma continue to live in barracks, shacks or tents, in isolated areas often lacking basic infrastructure and some Roma settlements have had walls built around them.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

To put in place a system of collection of data indicating whether particular groups may be disadvantaged or discriminated against on the basis of “race”, ethnicity, religion or membership of Roma or other vulnerable communities;
To simplify and speed up procedures following the lodging of complaints with the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue and consider ways in which the principle of sharing the burden of proof could be put into effect;
To eliminate all walls and other barriers segregating Roma communities.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Portugal in September 2012 and takes account of developments up to 6 December 2012
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

up  

Council of Europe: Finnish police guilty of ethnic profiling?

The Council of Europe’s anti-racism body has expressed concerns that police in Finland demand to identity papers based solely on individuals’ appearance. Police deny any discrimination. The interior minister, meanwhile, says that police may be gaining expanded powers to monitor foreigners.

9/7/2013- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Tuesday publishes its fourth report on discrimination against immigrants in Finland, which has one of Western Europe’s smallest immigrant populations. According to the report, Finland’s Aliens Act allows ethnic profiling, which is forbidden by Council of Europe guidelines. The report says there is a particular risk of ethnic profiling during annual police crackdowns on foreigners. During these specially-designated weeks, law enforcement officers may stop and question foreign-looking people in places where officials believe they may be causing a disturbance or where undocumented immigrants are known to frequent. “There is one [regulation] which increases the risk of racial profiling by the police, so this is the police singling out people based simply on the basis of their visible appearance,” Council of Europe communications officer Andrew Cutting told Yle. “Another issue [the report] raises is that foreigners can be detained whilst their identity can be ascertained in certain situations, and that this too is discriminatory.”

Stop-and-search “a sensitive question”
Such week-long periods of stepped-up surveillance are held several times a year. Deputy National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen denies that such monitoring is solely aimed at foreign-looking people. “It’s a sensitive question, that this surveillance must be based on something besides ethnic profiling, which is banned. Appearance cannot play a role,” he told Yle. Kolehmainen explains that surveillance weeks may focus, for instance, on combating human trafficking. “In such cases, monitoring is broader. We don’t just check all the dark[-skinned] people, for instance,” he says.

Minister: More powers to come?
Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, who oversees the nation’s police, says she has not heard of any cases where a police officer has been found guilty of profiling based on individuals’ appearance. “I want to study the report more carefully before I can say what the European Council’s concern is based on,” Räsänen said to Yle on Monday. Paradoxically, she notes that there are moves to expand police powers to track foreigners. “The government platform includes an agreement to step up efforts to fight the use of illegal foreign labour,” she points out. Legislation currently under preparation would grant police “the right to monitor places such as restaurants and construction sites where they suspect that illicit labour is being used,” explains Räsänen.

Citizenship laws eased
The Council of Europe also criticises Finland for what it calls the weak status of the Ombudsman for Minorities. “The Ombudsman’s operations are too limited to the Helsinki region,” asserts Cutting. “She needs more resources in order to operate nationally.” The National Discrimination Tribunal should also be given more authority to operate in immigration issues, the ECRI says. On the plus side, the Council praises Finland for moves to lower the threshold to gaining citizenship and for defining racism in criminal law. Finland has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1989.
© YLE News.

up  

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Finland

9/7/2013- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Finland. ECRI’s Chair, Ms Eva Smith, welcomed positive developments, but regretted that a number of concerns persisted. For example, immigrants still suffer discrimination in various fields including employment and the Aliens’ Act contains discriminatory provisions. Criminal law punishing offences motivated by “race”, colour, ethnic or national origin, religion and beliefs was improved; a Discrimination Monitoring Group was established to gather information on the efforts to combat discrimination; the national policy on Roma was published; and the residence period required for acquiring citizenship was reduced.

However, risk of racial profiling of visible minorities by the police remains; the National Discrimination Tribunal does not award compensation to victims of discrimination nor deals with cases of discrimination in employment or immigration matters; a shortage of human and financial resources affects the efficiency of the Ombudsman of Minorities and the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations. In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

To expand the Ombudsman for Minorities’ field of activity and resources to combat discrimination on grounds of colour, language, religion or “race”;
To extend the scope of the National Discrimination Tribunal’s mandate in immigration matters and multiple discrimination;
To improve monitoring of racist acts, in particular concerning the follow-up given to them by the judiciary and the police.

The report is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Finland in February-March 2012 [Press Release – 13.03.2012] and takes account of developments up to 22 June 2012.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

up  

Greek Union Chief Blames Far-Right Group for Athens Mayor Assault

8/7/2013- The head of Greece's municipal workers' union denied Monday any involvement in an assault on Athens Mayor George Kaminis, blaming the country's far-right party Golden Dawn for the attack Sunday night. "There is a far-right-wing group, members of the Golden Dawn party, which is active in the municipality of Athens, which was at the core of the attack against the mayor," municipal workers union leader Themis Balasopoulos told local TV-station SKAI. He also said he wasn't scapegoating the mayor. No one at Golden Dawn was immediately available to comment.

The local authority chief was attacked after a meeting with mayors from all over Greece to discuss the austerity measures agreed by the government and international lenders, which include layoffs and job transfers in the public sector, affecting thousands of municipal employees. Dozens of unionists were gathered outside the building of the Confederation of Greek Municipalities, known as KEDE, to protest the measures when the incident happened. Mr. Kaminis briefly checked into hospital. He has not pressed charges and Greek police have not yet questioned anyone about the incident. "I was verbally and physically attacked," Mr. Kaminis told SKAI TV. He blamed Mr. Balasopoulos for being the "moral instigator" of the attack.

"By targeting the mayor of Athens, the POE-OTA president is trying to cover up his longstanding involvement in the clientelistic system in local government," the mayor's office said in a statement after the incident. The statement accused Mr. Balasopoulos of leading union members "down a dangerous road." The union condemned the attack, blaming "provocateurs" for the incident. KEDE has also spoken out against the "fascist and unacceptable attack." Talks with international creditors had stumbled in Athens over demands for civil-service cutbacks, an issue that nearly toppled Greece's coalition government last month. After meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Poul Thomsen, the International Monetary Fund mission chief in Greece, said progress had been made between the two sides and that a final agreement could be reached Monday, just hours before euro-zone finance ministers meet on whether to unlock Greece's next aid slice worth 8.1 billion euros ($10.4 billion).

Under the terms of the latest bailout agreement, Greece agreed to place some 25,000 public workers this year in the labor-reserve pool. Half of them were due to be placed in the program by the end of June, but Greece has already missed that deadline. There the workers will be paid 75% of their wages until they are transferred to other positions. If other jobs aren't found in a year, they will be dismissed. Greek government officials have indicated that Athens has now been given an extension of a few months to meet this target. Greece may receive only part of a scheduled loan tranche if its international creditors aren't satisfied with progress made on its economic-reform program. Municipal workers walked off job at noon Monday and are expected to protest in central Athens, as KEDE leadership meet with the Minister of Internal Affairs Yannis Michelakis and the Minister of Administrative Reform Kyriakos Mitsotakis to discuss public-sector jobs.
© The Wall Street Journal*

up  

Ceske Budejovice faces further anti-Roma violence (Czech Rep.)

11/7/2013- The South Bohemian capital Ceske Budejovice faces an imminent threat of another wave of violence as Mayor Juraj Thoma Wednesday failed to persuade the organisers to cancel local anti-Roma protests scheduled for Saturday, he told CTK. The demonstrations will be part of a series of protests at Maj, a housing estate with a community of Roma whom the majority population criticises as unadaptable fellow citizens who are to blame for petty crime rise. Many locals also say Roma abuse the too generous welfare benefit system. There have been several clashes in Maj in the recent days. The first incident that increased the tension between the white majority and the local Roma occurred on June 21 at a playground: a brawl between children turned into fight in which a hundred of adults got involved.

On June 29, an official demonstration was organised in reaction to this conflict. Several hundred people moved to Maj after the official event where some of them clashed with the police. On July 6, the police raided tens of participants in an unlawful anti-Roma rally that was dispersed in order to prevent the crowd from marching to Maj. Six protesters and two policemen were wounded in the clash. The police have charged first two participants in the unauthorised demonstrations with violence against an official. One of the two suspects, aged 20, threw stones at the intervening police on June 29. The other, aged 38, physically attacked the police on July 6. "At least two rallies will be held on Saturday, July 13, one of which will [start at 14:00 and] include a march to the Maj housing estate. The rally is officially called Against discrimination against decent citizens of Ceske Budejovice," Thoma said. "Another rally, called Against police brutality, is to be held in front of the cinema theatre," he said.

The two events' organisers have been asked to say whether they are opposed to their rallies meeting near the cinema. If so, the march would be terminated before reaching the cinema building, Thoma said. The third rally to be held at Maj on Saturday is a cultural and social meeting organised by Markus Pape, a journalist and activist focusing on human rights of minorities. "I tried hard to persuade him to cancel the meeting and not to provoke anyone, but all in vain," Thoma said. A meeting aimed against violence will precede the anti-Roma protests on Friday. Its goal is to show that violence, either on the part of extremists or Roma, has no place in the town, its organiser Radka Dolezalova said. A number of civic groups have condemned the anti-Roma demonstrations. Stricter security measures have been adopted due to the unrest at Maj, a housing estate with a population of 20,000.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Model of wartime camp for Czech Roma unveiled

8/7/2013- A model of the Nazi internment camp for Czech Roma as it looked like in 1942 was unveiled at its original site in Lety Monday. The model was made of an environment-friendly material by students of a secondary business school in Teplice, north Bohemia. It was difficult to find a period photograph of the Lety camp on the basis of which its true model could be created since none of the survivors from the camp is alive now, Cervencl said, adding that the last one died in 2012. The creation of the model was very important for the young people since they could thereby learn a lot about the WWII history and they will keep this knowledge in the future, Cervencl said. He noted that the students from the Teplice secondary school could also make similar models of Lidice and Lezaky, Czech villages obliterated by the Nazis in 1942.

Over 1300 Roma were interned in Lety during the German Nazi occupation, 327 of whom perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) where most of them died. A memorial to the Romani Holocaust was set up at the former burial ground of the Lety concentration camp for Roma. However, it is near a pig farm situated at the site now. Roma and human rights activists have protested against it for years demanding that the pig farm be abolished. Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats (ODS), who resigned in min-June, said last year the government had no money for the purchase of the farm. A total of 12,000 people visited the Lety memorial in 2012.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Former Czech Interior Ministers debate neo-Nazi activity

8/7/2013- Former Czech Interior Minister Martin Pecina, now a candidate for interior minister in the caretaker government of incoming Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok, wants to increase the number of police officers in the country and their salaries. He would like to augment police forces particularly in areas of the country experiencing security troubles. Pecina also wants to significantly step up the fight against extremism and revive a project to hire crime prevention assistants from the Romani community to aid police. Speaking on Sunday, 7 July on the Czech Television program "Questions with Václav Moravec" (Otázky Václava Moravce), Pecina made those suggestions during a discussion with former Czech Interior Ministers Radek John and František Bublan. Outgoing Czech Interior Minister Jan Kubice refused an invitation to participate.

Pecina criticized the current state of affairs, saying the country has too few police officers. In his view the current number of around 38 500 is "a total catastrophe". The incoming Interior Minister said he could imagine an increase of roughly 2 500 more officers. "I will definitely do my best to increase the number of police officers and to lift the cap on their wages, because the decline that has occurred not only in the police but among firefighters and other public service officials is unheard-of," he said. Pecina served as Interior Minister during the caretaker government of former Prime Minister Jan Fischer. He said it would not be possible to increase the police budget until next year. The incoming minister said he would like to increase the numbers of men and women serving on police forces particularly in areas where the police have long recorded problems. "I will certainly do all I can to increase deployments in the troubled areas in particular - North Bohemia, North Moravia, and possibly South Bohemia," he emphasized.

Pecina, who once headed the country's anti-monopoly office, would like to focus on the fight against extremism, which will be given a lot of space in the program declaration of the Rusnok government. "After we succeeded in dissolving the Workers' Party, after we succeeded in breaking up the most aggressive neo-Nazi cells, it can be seen that the neo-Nazis are raising their heads once again and we're back to zero," he said. The incoming minister also reminded viewers of the "Dawn" (Úsvit) project. "It is much more efficient to pay Romani people a minimal salary than to disburse what is essentially the same amount of money to them in welfare. What has happened here is that people are not being given money for their housing, so they are moving into residential hotels, and that costs the state even more because someone is making an inordinate amount of money on those arrangements, and that's bad, of course. We should probably review what has happened in the past in order to figure out why this horrible system was ever introduced, and it should abolished," he said.

Pecina went on to say that unlike the government of outgoing Prime Minister Petr Nečas, the new government will really implement its program declarations in practice so that they do not remain just words in paper. "We will really take action the way I did four years ago," he said. The incoming minister believes the primary point is to do something with the Czech economy, which is in decline for a sixth straight quarter. He believes work must be found first for "normal" citizens and then officials should consider how to employ socially excluded citizens. Former Interior Minister Radek John said he believes the collapse of the Nečas government began with the Šluknov scandal of 2011. In his view, that cabinet never resolved many essential matters. "This is mainly a matter for the executive branch. There was a need to adopt a law on garbage, and when the legislators passed resolutions stating that people's roofs and sewer pipes could not be resold to scrap dealers, the Environmental Ministry and the Ministry of Industry were unable to agree on the wording of the implementing decree. Even though a law has been adopted, copper gutters and roofs continue to be stolen and buildings are being torn apart, all because the executive branch has failed," John said.

Former Interior Minister František Bublan reminded viewers that blanket reductions were recently made to the country's welfare system, stating that in his view Romani people are better able to take advantage of the welfare system. "When welfare was reduced, the practice for the most part was that it was reduced across the board, and that affected those who have been dishonest as well. It is known that the Romani sector of our population is a bit more aggressive, is better able to take advantage of the social system than the rest of the population. That is what prompts the hatred we saw now in České Budějovice," he said. All three expressed appreciation for the intervention by police officers yesterday in České Budějovice. "Those interventions were excellently handled, the boys have really got it down. I want to stand up for them," Pecina said. The incoming minister also said drawing money from EU funds will be another priority. "I believe it will be one of the biggest tasks of this government to get us out of the mess that is coming down on us from Brussels," he declared.

Pecina was referring to recent criticism by the European Commission that the Czech Republic still does not have a valid law on public officials in place. The Czech Republic risks being unable to draw on EU subsidies worth roughly CZK 500 billion in future if it does not adopt correct legislation. Pecina said he does not want to change a bill on this issue now being debated in the Czech Senate. The incoming minister also said he had reached out to the head of the Czech "secret service" protecting government officials, Jiří Komorous, to become his deputy minister, but that Komorous had rejected the offer. Pecina said he has another name for his deputy, but because he has not yet been appointed minister he will not publicize it. The caretaker government should be appointed by Czech President Miloš Zeman this coming Wednesday. Rusnok's cabinet will then have to request the Czech Parliament to take a vote of confidence in it within 30 days.
© Romea.

up  

Roma Children Kept Separate, and Unequal (Czech Rep.)

Roma students in the Czech Republic are still routinely put at a disadvantage because of their placement in either segregated schools or school for children with learning disabilities, despite criticism from rights groups and a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that called the situation discriminatory.

7/7/2013- A disproportionate number of Roma are placed in what are called “practical schools,” meaning institutions that use a simplified curriculum for children who have mild mental disabilities or who need remedial training. In a parallel problem, others are segregated into Roma-only schools that keep them isolated from the mainstream education system. In 2010, about one-third of Roma students in the Czech Republic were in practical schools, according to the Czech Schools Inspectorate. In 2012, that number dropped to 26 percent, though Roma children were still overrepresented, given that the Roma make up less than 3 percent of the population. “For many people here, it took time to realize the ruling wasn’t just about the plaintiffs, but about the system,” said Jiri Nantl, the country’s deputy minister for education, youth and sports, referring to the 2007 case.

The Czech school system has been repeatedly pushed to address the problem. Last year, the European Council of Ministers underlined the importance of rectifying the situation highlighted by the 2007 judgment, while the country’s Public Defender of Rights office concluded that the practice amounted to segregation. Mr. Nantl said that changes were planned for this school year, starting in September. These include increased classroom support, as well as a new assessment system that would follow students throughout their education. In the past, students sent to practical schools were often not re-evaluated to see whether they would succeed in mainstream schools, leaving many stuck in the system as they progressed. Roma students also do not always have the early support that other children do, a result of poverty and low education levels among many parents.

“Roma children usually start their educational careers in mainstream schools, but after a few months they are distinguished as ‘problematic,”’ said Petra Klingerova, education programs manager for Programy Socialni Intergrace, a nonprofit group that works with disadvantaged children. “Teachers can send the child for an examination in a special assessment center where the child is examined and often labeled mentally retarded. With this diagnosis, the child is moved to a practical school,” she explained. “Roma children are often placed in practical schools because they need individual teacher support. Czech schools are not able to offer it, so teachers prefer to have special-needs children out of their classroom.” “Local municipalities don’t want to change the status quo, and the majority of Czechs don’t want their children to go to school with Roma,” she said. “Roma are satisfied because the schools aren’t so difficult. Teachers are satisfied because if they have a ‘problem’ child, he or she can go somewhere else. Practical school teachers are satisfied because they have well-paid jobs.”

A report last year by Amnesty International and the European Roma Rights Center noted the problems that come from Roma’s being placed both in practical schools and in Roma-only schools, which are technically mainstream schools, but which tend to use a simplified curriculum. “No education means no job and being supported by the state,” said Martina Parizkova, a media officer for Amnesty International. “We are trying to explain that this problem has consequences for society in general.” She also cited the problem of Czech parents’ asking that their children be removed from classes with Roma. “To change people’s minds and attitudes will be very difficult,” Ms. Parizkova said.
© The New York Times

up  

Police detain 136 people during anti-Roma protest (Czech Rep.)

7/7/2013- Eight people were injured and 136 detained during a clash between anti-Romany demonstrators and policemen in Ceske Budejovice that ended in the night, police spokeswoman Lenka Holicka told CTK yesterday. The police launched criminal proceedings in six cases on suspicion of assaulting a public officer. No one has been accused yet and all detained persons have been released, Holicka added. Misdemeanours were committed in 130 cases and another 22 people were brought to the police station to find out their identity, Holicka added. Policemen seized 25 weapons from the demonstrators, such as knuckles, gas weapons, baseball bats and rods. Ceske Budejovice Mayor Juraj Thoma said the police intervention was fully professional. "Doctors treated eight people from the demonstration in a hospital in Ceske Budejovice on Saturday - six activists and two policemen. All but one who suffered concussion were released from hospital. The others mostly suffered bruises and lacerations," hospital spokeswoman Ivana Kerlesova told CTK.

Thirteen people, ten activists and three policemen, were treated in hospital with light injuries after the first anti-Romany rally in Ceske Budejovice a week ago, on June 29. On Saturday evening, the police raided on the participants in an anti-Romany demonstration at the Maj housing estate. They moved to the area, inhabited by many Romanies, after the Town Hall had their demonstration in the centre dispersed since it had not been officially announced beforehand and permitted. The demonstrators wanted to march to Maj together, but the police prevented it. Then they went there in small groups. Hundreds of policemen were deployed at the housing estate over the protests. Armoured and mounted police pushed out the demonstrators trying to separate them from the housing estate's inhabitants. Policemen used tear gas against the demonstrators. Police patrols stayed at the Maj housing estate in the whole night. They keep monitoring the situation yesterday.

Tension has existed at the Maj housing estate with some 22,000 residents, including about 400 Romanies, since June 21 when an incident between Romany and majority children and then adult people occurred on a local playground. Some local inhabitants complain about the problematic cohabitation with Romanies. Several civic associations and church organisations operate at the estate. Their field workers primarily focus on free-time activities of children and youth from the minority community. A number of civic groups have condemned the anti-Romany demonstrations.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Neo-Nazi trio threatens ex-party leader Mona Sahlin (Sweden)

Three men from the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas Parti) followed and threatened former Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin in Visby on Friday night, calling her a "traitor", according to a report in the Expressen daily.

7/7/2013- "They seemed to hate me very strongly," Sahlin said, explaining that she recognised the men after having participated in a demonstration earlier in the day. The incident was witnessed by veteran Expressen reporter K-G Bergström. "Then came three people who walked past us, but one of them stopped a few metres feet away, staring at Mona. She calmly turned around and asked if he wanted anything. And then came the "traitor," Bergström told the TT news agency. There is a well-documented file of threats directed towards Mona Sahlin, who became something of a hate object in right-wing circles for her stance against racist and tolerance for immigrant communities in Sweden.

Since resigning as party leader in April 2011 and subsequently leaving the Riksdag Sahlin has however been without Security Service protection and she was alone in Visby at the time. Bergström said that Mona Sahlin had told him that this type of situation was a fact of life for her since leaving formal Swedish politics. "She is incredibly vulnerable because of her courageous fight for tolerance towards immigrants. What would Säpo say if something happened to her?" K-G Bergström said. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt reserved warm praise for his former political adversary in his speech on Wednesday. He gave Mona Sahlin credit for a consistent stance against racism, and the Sweden Democrats.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Italy to vote on bill protecting gay people from hate crime

Bill criticized by LGBT-friendly lawyer group saying it will not protect transgender people from trans-motivated hate crimes

11/7/2013- Italy's Justice Commission of the lower chamber of the parliament has approved the first draft of a new law protecting gay people from hate crimes. The bill, which proposes to extend the Italian anti-discrimination law to violence and crimes motivated by homophobia, will now be discussed and voted by the whole parliament from 22 July. Ivan Scalfarotto, an openly gay member of parliament from Partito Democratico, proposed the bill. ‘This is a good example of good policies. We have done a great job,' he said.

But not all LGBT activists are happy for the new bill. Gay-friendly and pro-gay lawyers’ group Rete Lenford wants the draft to be changed as it does not include the definition of gender identity. According to the association, trans people will not be protected by the law, saying: 'This lack [of the definition of 'gender identity'] could discriminate transgender people, because we are not male and female only.’

The Italian anti-discrimination law dates back to 1993 and is named after Nicola Mancino, the former Home Secretary who proposed it. The Mancino Law protects Italians from nazi-fascist groups, racial abuse and religious discrimination, but does not protect them against homophobia. In the past, Italian LGBT groups have tried several times to get the government to pass a hate crime law, but it is only now legislation has reached parliament.
© Gay Star News

up  

As Pope prepares visit to Lampedusa, government ‘fans flames of racism’ (Italy/Malta)

7/7/2013- Just as Pope Francis was preparing to visit irregular migrants and “weep for the dead” in Lampedusa, in the words of his Gozitan papal secretary Alfred Xuereb, on his first papal trip outside the environs of Rome, the Maltese government was otherwise busy on Thursday fanning the flames of racism after 290 irregular migrants were rescued and brought ashore. In his first trip as pontiff, Pope Francis will visit Lampedusa tomorrow, where he will celebrate Mass with migrants at an immigration centre notorious for its overcrowded conditions. He will also cast a wreath into the sea to honour the many migrants who perished during the perilous voyage to Europe. “His visit signals that while there are wealthy, wasteful people in the North, there are people who come to us in search of a better life but instead are often greeted with death,” Mgr Xuereb said.

The Pope, according to a Vatican statement, was profoundly touched by a recent fatal shipwreck off the island of a boat carrying migrants from Africa. The surprise announcement came days after the island was besieged by new arrivals. But among those dozens of boats was one carrying 290 irregular migrants, who were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta and brought ashore, to the apparent chagrin of the Maltese government, which immediately adopted something of a hard-line stance on the issue. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat threatened to use Malta’s veto at EU level, on any issue and not just on issues related to migration, to force the EU into helping share Malta’s immigration burden. He has also threatened resorting to pushbacks, the highly controversial practice of returning migrant boats to Libyan shores. “If pushbacks are necessary, they will be used,” he said. “The island cannot be taken for granted – we have a problem.”

He did say that Malta had acted in a humanitarian way as the sinking boat included people who were injured, apparently shot by Libyan authorities as they tried to escape from detention, children and pregnant women. Malta, he said, would definitely not have left them to drown. On Thursday morning, Dr Muscat phoned EU Council president Hermann Van Rompuy to give him formal notice that Malta will use its powers to demand solidarity on immigration. “This is not business as usual,” Dr Muscat told the press in the wake of the 290 migrants being brought ashore. “This is the Mediterranean crisis,” he said, stressing that he would defend the national interest. Describing the arrivals as ‘illegal immigrants’, as opposed to the legally correct term of ‘irregular migrants’, Dr Muscat said Malta would be compassionate with the weak but strong with politicians, adding that did not mind being labelled “hard” or “heartless” on the issue.

The Opposition, in reaction to Dr Muscat’s comments, accused him of populism. “It is a cheap attempt to gain popularity and to appear decisive in blatant disregard of the suffering of those who arrived overnight,” the Nationalist Party said. “If the Prime Minister thinks he can win support at European level by using threats, he has another think coming. This approach goes against the basic premises on which the European Union is built and it will only serve to isolate Malta from the other EU member states.”

600 migrants land in Malta so far this year
According to the UNHCR, migrant landings in Italy and Malta exceeded 8,000 over the first six months of this year – 600 of which ended up in Malta, while the remaining 7,800 ended up in Italy – nearly double the amount from the corresponding period last year. Last year, some 15,000 migrants and asylum-seekers reached Italy and Malta – (13,200 and 1,800, respectively) by sea. UNHCR recorded 40 deaths in the first six months of 2013 by people attempting to cross the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy. The figure was based on interviews conducted with people who reached Europe using boats. Last year, almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea, the UNHCR said, adding that the decrease in deaths this year was due in part to the efforts of the Italian and Maltese authorities in effectively coordinating rescue at sea. On the issue of pushbacks, Jon Hoisaeter from the UNHCR Malta office said, “In this situation, it is evident that forced return or pushback of asylum seekers to Libya is not an option, as this would constitute a breach of international law.”

Migrant pushbacks would endanger lives – NGOs
Returning migrants to Libya or failing to rescue them from sinking boats would put them at serious risk of inhuman and degrading treatment and could threaten their very lives, a group of environmental NGOs said on Friday in reaction to Dr Muscat’s threat. The Aditus Foundation, the Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Migrants’ Network for Equality, SOS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, KOPIN, Integra Foundation, the Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, and the Organisation for Friendship in Diversity underscored how last week the Maltese Court of Appeal ruled that the forced return of two Somali nationals to Libya in 2004 violated their human rights. “The ruling underscores the unacceptable nature of the government’s declaration that Malta does not exclude returning migrants to Libya when it is tragically clear from countless reports that they will be in serious danger if returned,” the NGOs said. Several migrants who arrived in Malta on Thursday described the suffering they faced in Libya. Many were detained for a long time in very harsh conditions and faced severe abuse. At least one migrant was shot in detention.

They said sub-Saharan African migrants are still targeted for abuse in a scenario of rampant violence and insecurity in many Libyan towns and villages, where firearms and other weapons are readily available. Their accounts are confirmed by credible reports from human rights agencies, which document several instances of deportation, torture and ill treatment of migrants held indefinitely in Libyan detention centres. Little more than a week ago, Amnesty International reported that on their visit to detention centres in Libya they met many migrants, including women, who had been brutally beaten with water pipes and electric cables. Some were left permanently disabled by their injuries, the NGOs said. “While we support Malta’s calls for increased responsibility-sharing in migration issues, we, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Maltese government to publicly commit to ensuring full respect for the life of each and every migrant who needs protection and for Malta’s international obligations,” the NGOs said.

Macho attitude for banana republics - AD
Meanwhile, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson Arnold Cassola, said: “$Dr Muscat’s macho attitude is good for certain banana republics but not for civilised countries. If the Prime Minister had the proverbial attributes he should have shown his great ‘courage’ in the past by telling Gaddafi to his face that he was a brutal dictator, rather than remaining silent, meek and subservient. “While it is good to show that Malta should be treated with respect, Prime Minister Muscat should realise that threatening to send back irregular migrants to Libya is a no go area.” Prof. Cassola added, “The pushback policy not only goes against basic human rights but also Libya, not having signed and ratified the Geneva Convention on refugees, is not a safe country where people can be sent back to. Malta should insist with the EU on the concepts of responsibility sharing, solidarity in practice and the revision of the Dublin Convention.”

MEP accuses PM of far right sentiments and of ‘fanning racism’
Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola on Friday accused Dr Muscat of “fanning the flames of racism” with his strongly worded statements on what he terms as ‘illegal’ immigration. Speaking at a news conference on Friday at the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Dr Metsola said that were Dr Muscat still an MEP, he would find himself most comfortable on the far right fringes of the European Parliament. Dr Metsola insisted that the best way forward was to proceed with “tact and diplomacy,” slamming the Prime Minister’s “short-sighted and misguided approach”. Over the past few days the Prime Minister has threatened to use Malta’s veto in order to push the EU into helping share Malta’s immigration burden. He has also not ruled out resorting to pushbacks, returning immigrants to their port of origin. Dr Metsola pointed out that such pushbacks are actually illegal.

The MEP warned that Malta risks isolation within the EU if the government keeps up its current rhetoric. On the previous administration’s own track-record on the immigration issue, Dr Metsola said she never denied that there was room for improvement, but she insisted that the way forward is by respecting international norms and highlighting Malta’s geographical challenges. She said that 300 immigrants arriving in Malta was the equivalent of thousands arriving in a mid-sized country.
© The Malta Independent

up  

‘We wanted Europe to wake up and smell the coffee’ (Malta)

Prime Minister says provocative action to deport asylum seekers has put migration burden on EU agenda.

10/7/2013- Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today said the European Union had to "wake up" to Malta's immigration burden, in an interview on Al Jazeera English a day after his provocative action to deport a group of 45 asylum seekers without having placed a claim for protection. The pushback was blocked by an interim measure from the European Court of Human Rights, which has demanded the government to explain why it planned to deport the asylum seekers before considering their claims. Muscat indicated a scale-back in his intentions to carry out the pushback. "Even when we were at this particular juncture - to consider all options - we were rescuing people at sea. We will meet our obligations, because we are totally committed to our international obligations," Muscat said. The prime minister added that he was sure that the action had made the EU stand up and pay attention to Malta's migration burden.

"We considered all options and we took this decision, to consider all options, because we wanted Europe to wake and smell the coffee, and I believe we managed because finally this humanitarian and Mediterranean tragedy is back on the agenda," Muscat said. "There is a feeling among our people that we have been abandoned [by the EU] while we are rescuing these people being left to sink at sea, and this is why we made this conscious decision." Muscat complained at the lack of solidarity from the EU, saying this had left his government with no room but to "consider all options" as he described a decision yesterday to send 45 migrants on two Air Malta flights bound to Mitiga airport, in Libya. "The EU has been quick to rescue its banks, and we have contributed financially to bailouts. Why should it not be as quick to rescue people as well? The burden cannot be left to us, a small member state, alone." In brief comment to MaltaToday following a lengthy debate in parliament yesterday, Muscat reiterated that everyone should shoulder the responsibility for how things developed yesterday evening.

Even though pushbacks are deemed illegal by the European Court of Human Rights and condemned by international human rights institutions, it was "one of the options" Joseph Muscat's government was considering in order to convince Europe that Malta needed help. He said that given the European Court of Human Rights had now specifically stopped Malta from deporting the migrants, the government would now "shoulder the responsibility for not excluding that possibility". "Likewise, responsibility should also be shouldered by those who led to that decision [the Court's injunction]," Muscat said. He said Malta would continue to make its arguments while following what the ECHR says.
© Malta Today

up  

Malta cancels migrant deportation to Libya

Malta has cancelled flights it had booked to return migrants to Libya, after an emergency intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

10/7/2013- The government had planned to send back people who had arrived by boat, but said it would abide by the ECHR order. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said more than 400 migrants had arrived in the past week. Malta last week called for assistance from the European Union to help cope with the influx. Some 291 people were rescued from a single drifting boat last week. It is thought they had departed from Libya but many of them came originally from Eritrea. Another 68 people were brought in by Maltese patrol boats on Wednesday. Mr Muscat said the Maltese authorities were also monitoring further boats in the Mediterranean. The summer months often see a stream of boats carrying migrants from Africa. Many arrive in Malta or the Italian island of Lampedusa, hoping to gain access to other parts of the European Union.

'Not pushovers'
On Monday Pope Francis visited Lampedusa, where he met migrants and said Mass for them, and condemned the "global indifference" to their plight. The European Court issued its order on Tuesday after an emergency request by non-governmental organisations concerned by reports that the Maltese government was preparing to deport the migrants. The NGOs said this was the same policy of "push back" that was declared illegal by the court last year after it was used by Italy in 2009. Mr Muscat confirmed the government had been discussing the return of migrants with Libya, but said this was not "push back". "This is not push back, it is a message that we are not pushovers," he told the Times of Malta website. But on Tuesday the EU's Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem expressed concern about the plan to return migrants, saying: "All people arriving in EU territory are entitled to file an asylum request and to have a proper assessment of their situation."
© BBC News

up  

Oxford Union invites far right leader (UK)

12/7/2013- The Oxford Union has confirmed that it invited English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson to speak. The leader of the far right group was asked via Twitter to address the debating society. Union spokesman Robert Natzler said it was not affiliated to the university student union or the university and added: “For over 150 years it has been hosting debates and working to enable members to interrogate controversial figures. “A formal invitation in no way represents an endorsement of an individual’s beliefs and merely reflects a desire to question an individual’s views in open debate.” The union’s Simon Blackaby said “If everyone thought the same the debate would be boring.” Mr Robinson said he would be willing to appear but had not received an invitation.
© The Oxford Mail

up  

Cafe owner sparks 'subtle racism' debate with 'I am black' sign (UK)

Other examples of insidious racism come to light after Martha-Renee Kolleh makes a stand 

11/7/2013- A cafe owner who put up a sign warning customers she is black has prompted a debate about "subtle racism". Martha-Renee Kolleh told The Independent that she was fed up with people walking out of the Yeanon Cafe in Ossett, West Yorkshire when they saw the colour of her skin. So she posted a sign saying: "Attention! Everyone be aware, I am a black woman, and always will be." It went on: "If you are allergic to black people, don't come in. But if you prefer quality wholesome meals in a pleasant and clean environment, come in. I don't bite!" Kolleh, who has run the cafe for two years, said she had even hired a white woman to test her theory. "She did very well and we had a lot of custom, but as soon as I was back behind the counter, nobody comes in," she said.

Councillor Tony Richardson, who represents Ossett, told the BBC that he was "utterly appalled". He said: "We have got to say it potentially could smack of racism and if it does we have to crush it with everything we have got." The cafe's Facebook page has been filling up with messages of support from across the world. Several people shared their own experiences of 'subtle racism', such as not being served in shops or having doors shut in their faces because of their skin colour. Others questioned whether racism was involved and cast doubt on Kolleh's suspicions that people were walking out because she was black. But Lola Okolosie in The Guardian says it is exactly this "room for doubt" that makes this subtle form of racism so deeply damaging.

Okolosie highlights the difficulty of challenging "insidious" racism and claims that many black people experience it today. "If, indeed, you are able to confront the subtle racist, you are told that 'you see racism everywhere', as if to say, it isn't. Worse still, you are called aggressive and if you are particularly lucky, told that you, in fact, are the racist," she writes. Reni Eddo Lodge, a blogger for The Independent, writes on her own website that Kolleh's story "tells us something significant about the subtleties and implicit biases of an embedded, structural racism". She adds: "This is the sort of racism that doesn't spit in your face and tell you to go back to where you came from, but will smile at you politely and tell you that you didn't get the job this time because there was someone else a little more suitable, and a little more white."
© The Week

up  

Far-right group march ban (UK)

11/7/2013- The Scottish Defence League has insisted a ban by Glasgow city council will not keep them away from Pollokshields. The far-right group submitted an application to the council to march on July 27. A spokesman for the council said: “The application has not been approved. We have concerns about the proposal in terms of public order and disruption to the community. “We are in discussion with the organisers and Police Scotland to attempt to reach a resolution.” James Smith, a spokesman for the group, said: “All we want to do is peacefully pay our respects. We will organise a static demonstration in Pollokshields, if the police stop us, then we will move the protest elsewhere.” The protest is timed to coincide with the birthday of Kriss Donald, a Pollokshields teenager murdered by an Asian gang in 2004. Pollokshields councillor David Meikle submitted a formal objection, calling on police to halt the protest on grounds of public safety. Glasgow southside MSP Nicola Sturgeon added: “I am completely opposed and have made my concerns known to the police and council. The SDL are racists. They are not welcome in Pollokshields.”
© The Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra

up  

EDL leader Tommy Robinson set to hijack Lee Rigby funeral (UK)

10/7/2013- It is all about hijacking whatever cause you can these days if you are a far right leader and want to live a rock and roll lifestyle, funded by your supporters. Recently we have seen the Tommy Robinson hijack the death of Drummer Lee Rigby and announce he was going to do a sponsored walk and at the same time hijack Armed Forces Day. As it happened he made a show of himself in Tower Hamlets and got arrested along with cousin Kevin Carroll. The media circus had trundled through central London when a couple of football Casuals started berating them on the Tower Hamlets border outside Aldgate East tube station. Carroll lashed out and the whole group ended up in the back of a van. The original sponsored walk was to raise money for Help for Heroes until the charity told them they wanted nothing to do with Tommy's money.

An emergency face saving exercise was required so the internet was trawled for a dying child for Tommy to exploit. This did not work out too well for the publicity hungry leader as the Neuroblastona Alliance charity also told the EDL they wanted nothing to do with their money or their toxic brand. The chosen child sadly passed away last week. We are sure that this will be a funeral that Tommy will not be able to resist in his ever desperate attempts to get himself on the front page of Hello Magazine. With an ego to feed and upset with the Met Police for arresting them for trying to use a dying child to stir up trouble outside East London Mosque, Tommy Robinson has now announced he will redo the route but circumnavigating Tower Hamlets which his bail conditions prohibit him from entering.

He has not chosen any old day to do it, he has decided that the day of drummer Lee Rigby's funeral (July 12) would be a perfect day to grab some headlines for himself. Even among other far right groups, Tommy's shameless decision has been met with disbelief. 'Surely he is only one step away from turning up uninvited at the funeral and demanding he carries the coffin' one EDLer told us. Another told us that it is what they would expect from his arch rival, BNP leader Nick Griffin. Even the shameless Hitler enthusiasts at the Infidels think Tommy has gone too far with this one and they are correct.

Over at Casuals United, they have at least had the decency to instruct their small following to keep away from a funeral they are neither wanted at or invited to. Drummer Rigby's parents have made it clear that Lee was not a racist and would not have liked his death to have been hijacked by the far right. His family wishes were completely ignored though, as the death of a soldier came at a good time for the EDL as before the soldier's tragic death, their cash cow was chewing it's last clump of grass and was about to keel over permanently. Now a week in Marbella has been planned. It is now blatantly clear that there is no cause that the EDL leader will not use to get his face in the media and the money rolling in.
© EDL News

up  

Newcastle Division's Lee Patrick wants to gas Muslims (UK)

10/7/2013- If you are having a look around EDL Facebook groups you are never very far from a fully paid up neo Nazi. This week we are outing Lee Patrick from the English Defence League's Newcastle Division. He posts on their Facebook group regulary and occasionaly on the Sunderland Division's group. 26 year old Patrick is a self employed painter and decorator so we are sure anyone Googling him would like to be aware of his vile views especially when the Houghton le Springs based racist wants to round Muslims up and gas them. Not having the balls to put himself on the front line and sign up for the British Army, Patrick likes to dress up as soldiers and post pictures of himself with guns. He makes himself look particularly stupid due to the fact that they are air guns which does not make him look that 'hard' at all.

Tragically, Patrick has a five year old daughter who he teaches to make Nazi salutes and pose with guns. Newcastle social services have been informed as have Northumbria police. On brighter note, social services will be investigating whether this little girl is being groomed into far right extremism and Northumbria Police will no doubt want to check out the legitimacy of his gun and knife armory. If you are thinking of leaving this idiot alone in your house to paint your ceiling, think again. If you have children in the house, think again. 
© EDL News

up  

Harpenden Town Council condemn 'fake' Gypsy site notice (UK)

A fake planning notice with details of a proposed 200-pitch Gypsy site has been condemned by the local council.

9/7/2013- The notice was put on a fence around the former Westfield Road allotments in Harpenden, Hertfordshire - land being considered for development. It warned that under plans for Roma Gypsies, residents' parking would be limited and trenches would be used until toilets could be built on site. Mayor Rosemary Farmer said: "It was a very inappropriate joke in poor taste." "It was put up where there are a number of elderly residents, who could potentially have been very worried by it, if they hadn't realised it was a spoof," she added.

No logos
The notice, which appeared over the weekend in Beeching Close, was headed "Planning Application Site Notice" but did not have any official council logos. It said the area had been allocated for use as a residential site for Eastern European Roma Gypsies and entry to and from the area would be via Beeching Close and Willoughby Road. It read: "Residents are therefore requested to limit the hours that they park their private vehicles to allow access to this area. "Toilet facilities for the the site will be installed in the future; but in the initial stages of occupation slit trench facilities will be provided." It also claimed stand pipes would be erected for clean water and animals such as donkeys, dogs, pigs and horses would be allowed, but "limited to one per family".

'Promoting tensions'
Joseph Jones, spokesperson for the Gypsy Council, said the "inappropriate" sign showed a lack of respect. "In a way it shows how the whole gypsy traveller lack of accommodation is being manipulated by people to promote tensions in the community," he said. "I don't know what the motive was of the person that did it, but it does highlight how gypsies and travellers are often used as a political football." Mrs Farmer says the council is currently considering the sale of the site for affordable housing and for use by the charity Harpenden Mencap for residential accommodation and a children's unit. Those against the land's development have expressed concern that protected Roman Snails had been found there - but the council said there was "no evidence of any colonisation" on the site. The mayor said they had "absolutely no idea" who had posted the notice but when the council was made aware of its existence, it was immediately removed.
© BBC News

up  

Right-wing extremists launch bid to revive Fascist party (UK)

7/7/2013- A sinister new group of right-wing extremists is trying to revive Oswald Mosley’s notorious British Union of Fascists party. Calling themselves the 21st Century Blackshirts, members look up to former Smethwick MP and Nazi sympathiser Mosley as their spiritual leader. In the 1930s Mosley’s British Union of Fascists aligned itself with Nazi Germany and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini while its paramilitary footsoldiers, dubbed the Blackshirts, terrorised Britain’s Jews. Now far-right defectors from groups like the British National Party and English Defence League have resurrected the party re-labelling it the New British Union party (NBU) Set up in January, the party has named 54 “officers” from across Britain on its web page which has already had more than 50,000 hits. A Sunday Mercury investigation has discovered that its top two Midland representatives are former soldiers while other district officers in the region include failed local election candidates for the British National Party.

Others have links to the English Defence League including the party’s Gloucestershire Divisional Officer Clive Cerrone who is currently awaiting trial accused of setting fire to a local mosque last month. The party website also lists representatives in 11 nations including the US, Australia, Italy and Poland. One banner on the site reads: “Some people are fascist. Get over it.” It adds: “New British Union. 21st Century Blackshirts Marching On For Britain.” Members are encouraged to dress in paramilitary blackshirt style uniforms, like the type worn by fascist Mussolini’s private army during his authoritarian rule. Their site — which shows Mosley’s fanatical followers performing the stiff-armed fascist salute — boasts: “This will be an historic occasion, the first official Blackshirt meeting to be held since the Second World War, heralding the return of a registered fascist political party in Britain.”

The NBU lists its Birmingham Divisional Officer as former RAF Gulf and Kosovo war veteran Ian Starks, who was the unsuccessful BNP candidate for Sheldon Heath in last year’s local elections. The 45-year-old, from Sheldon, Birmingham, lists Paganism and Wicca as pastimes on his Facebook page.

The party’s West Bromwich officer Jennifer Howells has also stood for election under the BNP banner in local government elections. She sought to represent Sandwell in 2010.
And its Worcestershire officer Brian Meaker, who strikes a menacing pose handcuffed in an Gutanamo Bay style orange jumpsuit, is a life-time member of the BNP.
The NBU’s latest recruit is its Walsall officer Matthew Moloney, a 35-year-old dad-of-two and former soldier with the Royal Monmouthshire engineers regiment. He claims to be a carpenter for Birmingham City Council, but a council spokesman said he was not directly employed.

The BNP has tried to distance itself from the fascist party saying it was a “nondescript sideshow.” Deputy BNP leader Simon Darby said: “We don’t condone or have official links with any other parties and I think you’ll find such splinter groups rise and then break up very quickly.” A key NBU member is former ‘Policies Officer’ Matthew Gill, a charity worker and Doctor Who fan, who heads the Warwickshire chapter. On the NBU website an article on immigration in Gill’s name reads: “There are those who will say there is nothing wrong with massive Third World immigration so long as they learn the language, adapt to the local culture and so on. This presupposes that the human being can be intentionally colour blind.” Gill’s blog posting adds: “The truth, of course, is that even if a Kenyan can speak perfect English, even if he wears English clothes, uses English slang and attends the C of E, none of that makes him English!”

The party claims not to be racist or anti-semitic but a careful look at its constitution reveals a bitter hatred of multiculturalism and non-white immigrants. Its immigration policy states that immigrants “... must be prepared to totally leave their past nationality behind them. Racially and ethnically they must be compatible with the majority population where they wish to settle. “This does not mean being exactly the same, but that they are at least similar enough that their assimilation will be smooth, and have no negative effects on the native population. “The same goes for religious beliefs. They must be the same as the majority or at least similar enough so as to have no problem adopting the established values and moral code of the nation.” “Differences cause problems and excessive diversity leads to nothing but trouble.” It adds: “Freedom of religion would not be absolute. All ties with the former homeland of the immigrant will be cut. “Multiculturalism does not work and only ruins all cultures involved.”

The party takes a bizarre stance on education policies simply stating: “One goes to school to learn, not play and not have subsidized orgies.” Gerry Gable, from anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said that the NBU was a sinister organisation with many members claiming to be Pagans or followers of Satanic and Wiccan cults. He said: “Mosley was a Nazi sympathiser and he eventually changed the name of his party to reflect Hitler’s influence and called it the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists. “This new incarnation of his notorious Blackshirts is clearly attracting the dregs from other far-right groups but I don’t think it will survive.” Gary Fiennes-Hastings, editor of far-right monitor website EDL News added: “Time and time again groups try and reform the fascist ideology but this country has a long and proud tradition for fighting fascism. “We must never forget that our grandparents and great grandparents gave their lives fighting the ideology that these people are promoting.”

The Sunday Mercury has contacted each of the Midland members identified as NBU members to ask them to comment on their views. But each one directed us to their head office. Last night Gary Raikes, NBU founder – who has taken on Mosley’s preferred title of Leader and signs off his correspondence with ‘Hail Britannia’ – told the Sunday Mercury that he was in favour of racial segregation. He said: “We do not imply that only people from Caucasian Christian origin would be welcome to the UK, we state that whatever their racial origin it would be better if they settled in areas that are made up in the majority of that origin, black, white or whatever. “Officers can belong to whichever political party they wish at this time. “We have no official links to either EDL or BNP, both failed movements, in our opinion, and have nothing to offer British Fascism.”

Moseley - A Man Captivated With Italian Dictator Mussolini
Sir Oswald Mosley was born into an aristocratic family in 1896 and grew up in Staffordshire before serving as a Labour MP for Smethwick in the 1920s. In January 1932 he visited Benito Mussolini and was so captivated with the Italian dictator and his National Fascist Party that later that year he founded his own British Union of Fascists, BUF. In 1938 Mussolini passed laws barring Jews from universities and many professions and later when Germany occupied parts of the country, more than 7,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps, with many dying at Auschwitz. Mosley returned to England to organise marches policed by his paramilitary Blackshirts and the government was sufficiently concerned to pass the Public Order Act 1936, which banned political uniforms and quasi-military style organisations.

An MI5 report from a British Union of Fascists rally in the 1930s revealed: “The significant feature was to express determination to defeat the enemy (The Jew) if not by the ballot box then by other and more drastic means, a sentiment cheered to the echo.” In May 1940 the BUF was banned by the Government, effectively killing off the movement, and Mosley was interned for most of the rest of the war. On his release an undeterred Mosley continued to campaign on an anti-immigration platform, calling for forced repatriation of Caribbean immigrants as well as a prohibition upon mixed marriages. His papers are housed at the University of Birmingham’s Special Collections.

Police Alerted to Mosque Threats
Police are investigating a Midland man after the Sunday Mercury alerted officers to threats he made against local mosques. Peugeot worker John Molloy, from Coventry, told followers on the English Defence League Facebook website that he would “guarantee a few will get bombed tonight” just days after the Woolwich terror attack last month. He went on to urge people to “Take to the streets” in support of English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson after he was arrested. Robinson has been released on police bail after he was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police in London. Mr Molloy, from Wyken, could not be contacted for comment last night. A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “ The Force Intelligence Department will assess the content of the files you have sent to us and take any appropriate action.”
© The Birmingham Mail.

up  

Police forces to examine Macpherson Inquiry records (UK)

The Home Office has asked more police forces to check records to see if they bugged anti-racism campaigners involved in the public inquiry set up after the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence.

6/7/2013- West Midlands and Avon and Somerset forces will review records from the time of the 1998 Macpherson Inquiry. The inquiry examined police failings in the original murder investigation. It comes after an ex-officer said he authorised secret taping of a meeting with Stephen's friend, Duwayne Brooks. Former Met deputy assistant commissioner John Grieve said he had given permission for one meeting in May 2000 - between Mr Brooks, his lawyers and detectives - to be recorded. Mr Brooks's lawyer, Jane Deighton, who was at the meeting, said in a statement: "Duwayne Brooks is going to take some time to absorb the enormity of the admission that former DAC Grieve deliberately deceived him in the guise of providing him with victim support." The Home Office order and details of the secret recording follow claims by former undercover officer Peter Francis that he was asked to find "dirt" on the Lawrence family in the years following the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Stephen in Eltham, south London. The home secretary has ordered two existing inquiries to look at the allegations and the Lawrence family has demanded a public inquiry.

'Institutionally racist'
The Macpherson Inquiry uncovered failings in the investigation of the crime and its 100,000 page report concluded the force was "institutionally racist". At hearings across the country, local race relations organisations, victim support groups, probation services and police gave evidence on problems with race crime and how they were tackled. On Wednesday, it was revealed the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had been asked to investigate concerns that Sir Norman Bettison tried to influence the way a key witness gave evidence to the Macpherson Inquiry, in Bradford, when he was assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police. Greater Manchester Police has also referred itself to the IPCC after it was alleged its Special Branch sent a memo to officers asking for information on "groups or individuals" due to attend the inquiry in Manchester.

West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said: "Following recent events across the country and subsequent correspondence from the Home Office, West Midlands Police are undertaking checks to see whether there is any material held that suggests intelligence or surveillance activity was ordered or carried out in respect of the Macpherson Inquiry or those connected to the inquiry." The force would report back to the Home Office by 10 July, he added. A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said the force had already "looked into any implications from the Stephen Lawrence case a couple of weeks ago but didn't find anything". "However, in light of a letter from the home secretary we are now carrying out a separate review to make sure we didn't miss anything." Meanwhile, Mr Grieve has said he authorised a secret recording of Duwayne Brooks because he wanted to keep an "unassailable record" of police discussions with him. Mr Grieve said he feared that if he had asked the other participants for approval to tape the meeting overtly it would not have been given. He said he deeply regretted "any distress, dismay or alarm that my decisions may have caused".

'Within frameworks'
Mr Grieve said: "Every decision made was based on the information available at the time and conducted within ethical, legal, necessary and proportionate frameworks." Mr Brooks's lawyer, Jane Deighton, has said she believed taping had taken place on more than one occasion. Scotland Yard is investigating claims police briefings attended by Mr Brooks had been secretly recorded at the offices of Deighton Guedalla, in Islington, north London, in 1999 or 2000. In a statement, the Met said its Directorate of Professional Standards investigators had found documentation authorising the recording of one meeting in May 2000. It said Mr Grieve authorised the recording and at this stage it believed the "relevant policy" had been followed.
© BBC News

up  

Headlines 5 July, 2013

Azerbaijani Feminists Take on Official Sexism

Feminist activists in Azerbaijan have sent a blow-up doll to a government official who said that the proper place for women was either “in the grave or in the kitchen”.

5/7/2013- Comments made by transport ministry spokesman Namik Hasanov to the website www.publika.az provoked fury among women’s rights defenders across the country. “A woman is good only in the grave or in the kitchen,” he told. “A woman's place is only in the kitchen. Even in the 22nd century, I'd like to see women in the kitchen.” Hasanov’s comment was particularly ill-timed as it came just before International Women’s Day on March 8. To formulate a response, a Facebook group was set up to discuss possible options. Members collected 200 manats, about 260 US dollars, to buy an inflatable sex toy abroad, since such things are not available in local shops. The group waited until just before Armed Forces Day on June 26 – which they described as “Man’s Day”– to send the official their gift.

“In making his comment, Hasanov gave us women a present for the women’s holiday, so we tried to reply in kind,” said Ulviya Mamedova, one of the activists behind the plan. “We aren’t trying to offend anyone. We just want Namik Hasanov to respect women’s rights.” While the sex toy was meant as a light-hearted stunt, campaigner say sexist stereotypes remain a serious problem in Azerbaijan. At a June 20 press conference, the campaigners publicised an open letter addressed to Hasanov. “We’re sending you this technological innovation just in case you aren’t already aware of it. We hope our present will look good in your kitchen, or in a grave somewhere,” the letter said.

According to Mamedova, the letter “reminded Namik Hasanov of the international conventions to which Azerbaijan has signed up, and the obligations our country has assumed. We also remind him of the laws of the land, of which he may be unaware.” Interviewed later by RFE/RL, Hasanov said he never intended to cause offense, but then went on to dig himself deeper. “My comments about women were taken out of context. In actual fact, I just think women look best in the kitchen,” he said. “I don’t want a woman to destroy her family for the sake of her work or career. I’m not saying women shouldn’t work – it’s just that I think that if women spend a lot of time working, it will destroy their families.”

Matanat Azizova, head of the Women’s Crisis Centre, said Hasanov’s comments were particularly worrying as they set the tone for other officials. “When the journalists interviewed Namik, they were speaking to him as a representative of the state,” she said, describing his comments as “as a kind of instruction to all state employees on how they should treat women”. Azizova said that on previously occasions, she had complained that women’s rights were deteriorating, only for officials to accuse her of making a fuss in order to win grants from foreign donors. “So we shut up,” she said. “But now Namik has shown what the true situation is, and if any government agency ever tries to insist that everything’s fine again, we’ll know they are lying.”

The casual denigration of women translates into systemic discrimination. In the Global Gender Gap survey for 2012, produced by the World Economic Forum as a way of ranking countries on a range of economic, political, educational and health measures of sexual equality, Azerbaijan came in 99th out of 135 countries – below every other former Soviet state included on the listing. Lawyer Asiman Nasirli, who was part of the campaign, argues that the persistence of chauvinist attitudes at the higher levels of government is closely connected with the lack of women in senior positions. “If you compare us with European countries, there are basically no women among senior officials, and there isn’t a single female minister,” she said.
© The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

up  

Muslim And Jewish Youth: 'Believe Something Is Possible That Everyone Says Is not.' (Bosnia)

Students and young professionals from around the world have gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia to exchange experiences and fight prejudice and hatred. They represent different cultures and races and speak dozens of languages, but they share either one of two identities: they are all Muslims or Jews.

5/7/2013- As religious tensions flare and Islamophobia and snti-Semitism plague societies, these courageous young people are determined to forge a future of greater peace and understanding. The conference is the fourth organized by The Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC), a Vienna-based organization whose goal for the conference, according to their website, "is to provide the next generation with a learning experience for life and a positive outlook for establishing intercultural relations and sustaining Muslim-Jewish partnerships." In three years, the MJC has attracted more than three hundred young leaders from fifty countries to lead and participate in conferences in Vienna; Kiev, Ukraine; Bratislava, Slovakia, and now Sarajevo. Jay Schultz, an American currently living in Israel, and Shanza Ali, who is from London, spoke to The Huffington Post from the conference. Both explained how they have taken advantage of this unique opportunity for an open and honest dialogue with the "other" that seems impossible at home.

"I came to the conference from Israel where I don't get to interact with Muslims outside the Israel Arab debate," Jay explained. "Butt for me, the theology is so interesting, what it means to both the be the descendants of Abraham and work together together to create 'chesed' or kindness in the world. Being able to discuss how to work hand-in-hand is not something I get to do with Muslims in Israel because of the conflict." For Shanza, the university life in the United Kingdsom is where she finds the divide between Muslims and Jews. "The conference gives me the opportunity to interact with Jews from so many backgrounds, but most of all I have made some incredible friends. I am in the gender and religion project at the conference and we are working together to find solutions to mutual problems we face on that topic. The conference has proven intellectually and spiritually beneficial."

Ilja Sichrovsky, founder and Secretary General of MJC, started the conference in 2009 with 15 volunteers from six countries. It has expanded to include 30 volunteers from 16 countries. Sichrovsky explained that each year they look for outstanding applications from Muslims and Jews who have an important perspective to share, but who are also interested in listening to the perspectives of others. The conference also acknowledges that it is not only important to have a good balance between Jews and Muslims, but also a balance between the more secular and more religious participants. One of the surprise benefits of the conference has been the intrafaith conversations that take place alongside the interfaith ones, as well as the intrafaith conversations that happen when participants return home to their family and friends in 39 countries.

When asked about the organizers measure of success, he was quick to mention the six committees that the participants work on, including conflict transformation, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia through cinema, hate speech and its influence on public opinion, introduction to Judaism and Islam, gender and religion, and education and the effects of historical narratives. But when it comes down to it, success is something much more basic. "It's not always what you can measure, but the fact that young Muslims and Jews from around the world would journey out of their countries daring to believe something is possible that everyone says is impossible."
© The Huffington Post

up  

A First in History (Serbia)

In Serbia, an eighth-grade Roma student upends expectations and beats long odds to become a nationwide history whiz.

5/7/2013- Stefan Radu is no longer a student at the Vuk Karadzic primary school in the tiny village of Konak in northeastern Serbia. Unlike so many other Roma, however, he has not dropped out – he’s merely moved on. On 26 June, Stefan received his primary school diploma, and in September he will attend high school in a town 25 miles away. But at the small ceremony in a classroom in Konak, Stefan was given not one but a handful of certificates, making him so special that national media in Serbia have told his story.

It began in May 2012, when Stefan placed fifth in a nationwide contest of students’ knowledge of history. That showing wasn’t bad, he acknowledged, sitting in the small but cozy and colorful home in Konak that he shares with his mother and two siblings, “but I set myself the goal that I had to be No. 1 this year.” And he did just that, advancing from the local competition through the regionals and into the nationals, where he emerged victorious from a field a 300 eighth-graders. At each step, he scored the maximum number of points. Of course, someone wins the competition every year, but never has it generated so much media coverage. “It wouldn’t be so strange if we didn’t know in what conditions Stefan has been studying, and living,” said Sanvila Ivovic Radojkovic, his English teacher.

Just as Stefan was preparing for the national contest, the family’s electricity was cut over an unpaid bill, and he had to study by candlelight. But not for long: teachers, pupils, and strangers on Facebook stepped in, making sure the Radus had not only electricity, but a bathroom and many other things they had never been able to afford. More than his poverty, however, it is Stefan’s ethnicity that has drawn the spotlight. “The pupil who demolishes prejudices through knowledge,” one headline read about the Roma boy with all A’s on his diploma. “I wanted to show that a Roma kid can win the contest, too” said Stefan, who recently turned 16 (students in Serbia sometimes do not enter first grade until age 7). “Because whenever people hear about people of Roma ethnicity, they mostly associate Roma with not attending school, stealing, etc.”

About 20 percent of Serbia’s Roma cannot read or write, according to UN statistics cited by Praxis, a Roma rights group in Belgrade. Further, only about 28 percent of Roma adults in Serbia graduated from primary school, compared with more than 94 percent in the overall population, Praxis found in a 2011 study. Numbers like that bolster a widespread prejudice that Roma do not value education, a sentiment that partially underlies the surprise at Stefan’s achievement. But Ana Martinovic, a lawyer with Praxis, said it’s not a question of valuing education, which is technically free and universal through high school in Serbia. Rather, she wrote in an email, it’s a matter of setting priorities under extremely difficult circumstances. Many Roma families lack water, electricity, and other household basics, so that even feeding and bathing their children is a challenge. Add to that the long hours it takes to earn a meager living through a common occupation among Roma – collecting scrap metal – and such conditions “make it impossible for the parents to take the children to school, and make sure that they do their homework,” Martinovic said.

That is true for most Roma, but Stefan said he wanted to show that regardless of living conditions, or ethnicity, “it’s possible to reach the goal that you’ve set for yourself.” Radojkovic, the English teacher, said Stefan’s “very strong will made him able to somehow shake off the very bad conditions under which he, like many Roma, lived and clear the way to a better life.” Praise for Stefan’s drive and determination are obviously earned, but they can be laced with what some call the bigotry of low expectations – the flip side of which is the common practice of placing Roma children in special education classes regardless of their demonstrated abilities or test scores. In Konak, around 75 pupils attend the village school, and the only Roma are Stefan and his sister, 14-year-old Kasandra, who is also an A student. Principal Julkica Kozina Ruza said 10 percent of the school’s enrolled students are Roma, but most never show up.

Located in the Vojvodina province, Konak is a multiethnic village of Serbs, Hungarians, and Bulgarians, with some Roma and Romanians sprinkled in, Ruza said. “We’ve been mixed up so much that no one thinks about who’s of which ethnicity, especially not the pupils.” Stefan echoed that rosy account. He and his classmates “share good and bad, joy and sorrows,” he said. “We’re very close outside school, as well, and constantly together.” Likewise, Stefan’s mother, Biljana, said she’s never experienced abuse for being Roma. Not that they are naïve about anti-Roma prejudice elsewhere. As for the scrap pickers, Stefan said, “They’re often mocked, but what are they supposed to do? If they haven’t gone to school, they can’t find work, and they have to put bread on the table.” Which is where Stefan’s strong will and love of learning come in. He said he has a vision of his life that does not involve traveling for low-paid work or not being able to give his family what they need. “Stefan could be a guiding star for his people and make them see that they’re able to change their lives through education,” Radojkovic said.

Pioneers
That torchbearer effect remains a hope for many who work to promote education among Roma. For his part, Stefan is trying. “I’ve told some of them that they ought to go to school,” he said of the truant Roma kids he knows. Occasionally, the nudging works, ”but very soon, they just stop coming,” he said, shrugging. Stefan and his mother, who left school after the fourth grade, said ultimately the decision to pursue education must be the student’s. “I didn’t finish school, and see how I live. I don’t have a job and survive thanks to social handouts – I wouldn’t like my children to live like that,” she said. Stefan’s father does not live with the family, although the teenager said he sees him and they get along. Biljana Radu’s hope for her son’s future is key to the success of an effort to improve the lives of Roma in Vojvodina. The province has adopted an incremental approach, enrolling “a few dozen students a year” in school, the provincial employment secretary, Miroslav Vasin, told local media last year. The goal, he said, would be for “the Roma themselves, and the Roma intellectual elite, to start taking care of their people.”

Vojvodina has also awarded scholarships to about 700 Roma high-schoolers since 2007, according to another provincial employment official. Statistics from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city and Vojvodina’s capital, show a huge increase over the past decade in the number of Roma students entering the university – from four in the 2003-2004 school year to 117 in the year just ended. Vice Rector Zita Bosnjak estimates that 300 Roma study at Novi Sad now. Martinovic, of Roma rights group Praxis, said the conditions for Roma education are generally better in Vojvodina than in the rest of Serbia. The province has integration strategies, and civil society groups and local government work together to shepherd children into school and monitor their progress, she said. Significantly, Roma language and culture has been taught in some Vojvodina schools since 1997, 16 years before its roll-out elsewhere in Serbia in the upcoming school year.

Cheering Him On
To outsiders, just as fascinating as seeing a Rom turning prejudices around is the eagerness with which many people have helped him do so. Stefan’s English teacher has given him a laptop, a camera, a television, and a bicycle. Principal Ruza’s daughter started a Facebook campaign to collect money for the Radus’ electric bill. Another teacher arranged for the family to get free Internet, and a stranger traveled 25 miles to build them a bathroom. And the assistance has been more than material and financial. Stefan said his history teacher, Borivoje Jerkovic, “has helped me a lot, giving me advice not only about school, but about life.” He said Jerkovic has helped prepare him for September, when he will leave his family to live in student housing at his distant high school. “He has prepared me psychologically, urging me not to give up even when it seems to me that I’ve failed,” Stefan said. After high school, Stefan plans to enter the Serbian Military Academy in Belgrade or go to college to study history. “But in four years, I’ll be older and maybe have a clearer idea about what I want,” he said.

Asked if there’s any particular historical episode that fires his imagination, he has one at the ready: the Battle of Kolubara in December 1914, during the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia in World War I. “The Austro-Hungarian army was far larger than the Serbian but [Serbian army commander] Zivojin Misic managed to raise his troops’ spirit,” Stefan said. The Serbs triumphed, he continued, ”because they set themselves a clear goal, which was to defend their country at any price.” It’s hard not to recognize his own philosophy embedded in the story. ”Exactly!” he said, smiling.

Story by Uffe Andersen, a freelance journalist in Smederevo, Serbia.
© Transitions Online

up  

Wake-up call to EU countries on Roma integration

The European Commission's progress report and recommendation on Roma integration send a strong message, but the political determination of member states to stop discrimination remains to be seen
by Belén Sánchez-Rubio

4/7/2013- In 2012 the European Commission called on European Union member states to implement national strategies to improve the economic and social situation of the continent's 10 to 12 million Roma. Since then, member states have developed these plans in response to the commission's EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. On June 26 the commission launched a progress report on Roma integration taking stock of how member states are implementing their national plans to improve the lives of Roma communities in their country under this framework.

The commission's main conclusion is that insufficient progress has been made and another push to Roma integration needs to be done. Commissioners Viviane Reding and László Andor have sent a wake-up call to member states to make them reiterate their commitment to stop excluding Roma from society. This assessment of national progress has been reinforced by the presentation of a recommendation to member states, to be adopted by the EU Council. Indeed this proposal for a council recommendation sends a strong message to national governments that strategies need to be properly implemented in order to make a positive difference on the ground and not only remain a commitment on paper.

Fortunately the commission seems to have finally made a clear link between social inclusion, discrimination, racism and Roma participation. However, a lot still needs to be done, especially at national and local levels. As highlighted by the commission and many other relevant stakeholders, the overall financing is still inadequate for the implementation of the strategy, specifically regarding the use of structural funds, and coordination mechanisms at national, regional and local level have not been properly implemented as a means to assure effective and efficient public policies for tackling inequality and discrimination of Roma in member states.

Despite the fact that the commission's current standpoint can be considered a step forward for Roma inclusion, its tangible impact remains to be seen: whether it will mean a real new impetus to the EU framework, since as of today national Roma integration strategies are far from making a positive change in daily lives. European Roma are still suffering from highest levels of discrimination and poverty and not much political commitment seems to be present at national levels to stop such a shameful reality in Europe. It is urgent that member states become politically determined to face for once the inequality and discrimination suffered by many Roma in Europe. In fact, both financial and technical tools are available to do so; what is missing is the will to bring together the efforts of various actors on the ground and work towards achieving tangible results and social change.

The situation of many Roma is worsening as they are both increasingly affected by discrimination and racist attacks and by the economic crisis. It has been acknowledged that so far the EU framework has not improved their socio-economic situation nor visibly decreased anti-Gypsyism. And indeed, such a comprehensive political tool should be used to alleviate the situation of Roma, one of the most disadvantaged groups in Europe, and to defend their vulnerability as targets of shameless racist attacks.

Civil society has repeatedly called on the commission and member states to do so and to also specifically and actively pursue anti-discrimination measures. In fact, in the commission's report member states have received bad marks particularly in the fight against discrimination. Countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia are, for instance, singled out for continuing and pervasive school segregation. The assessment confirms the urgency of pressing member states to immediately implement European anti-discrimination law in practice. Where necessary, the commission should trigger infringement procedures to ensure compliance.

It should follow closely the reaction of EU nations following its progress report and the council recommendation. The next Roma Platform should be one of the spaces to follow up on these developments, focusing on quantitative and qualitative indicators that provide information about the progress made in the four key areas of education, employment, housing and health; in terms of Roma participation in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the national strategies; in equal treatment; and in the fight against discrimination. Indicators for genuine Roma participation and empowerment as well as for antidiscrimination advancement should be introduced and followed up. Member states should adopt the proposed council recommendation and clearly show their political determination to serve all EU residents, including Roma, on an equal basis. Roma must be considered full citizens that deserve their governments to fulfil their rights, just like anybody else.

Belén Sánchez-Rubio works at the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, a Spanish intercultural NGO whose mission is to promote the equal access of Roma to rights, services, goods and social resources. She holds the current chair of the European Roma Policy Coalition
© Public Service EUrope

up  

Anti-semitism: case against policeman dropped (Austria)

4/7/2013- Prosecutors in Vienna have dropped judicial proceedings against a policeman after a case of anti-Semitism against a rabbi by a football fan in the city centre last summer. The incident happened at the end of August last year, when fans of the Greek football club PAOK Saloniki gathered in the context of an Europa-League match against the Viennese team, SK Rapid. According to reports, a football fan hurled anti-Semitist insults at a rabbi whilst policemen three metres away, watched without taking any action. The words "jews out!" and "Heil Hitler" are thought to have been said.

The Vienna police special investigations unit took over the case when the rabbi filed a complaint. The investigation against one police officer was dropped in December. Spokesperson for the Viennese prosecution service Nina Bussek said: "No punishable behaviour could be proved with the evidence at hand." She added that an ongoing case against several unknown policemen had not been dropped but "discontinued." Non-judicial, disciplinary proceedings against the police officers with sanctions ranging from simple warnings to dismissal were also possible, but no action was effectively taken, according to the police spokesman, Roman Hahslinger.

Police were unable to trace the man who insulted the rabbi. The cases was a catalyst for renewed debate on providing police with numbers or names on uniforms during large scale events – a move which was strongly opposed by Viennese police.
© The Austrian Times

up  

Position of LGBT population in Serbia "improves"

The legal standing of the LGBT population in Serbia improved in 2012, Lesbian Human Right Organization Labris has said.

4/7/2013- The group presented its annual report to state that in the area of rights, 2012 was marked by introduction of binding aggravating circumstances for the pronouncement of verdicts in hate crimes inspired by discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Pointing out that at a joint proposition of the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a hate crime is now defined just like any other crime described in the Criminal Procedure Code, program coordinator Jovanka Todorović said that this point will exert long-term effects on the reduction of intolerance and violence in the Serbian society.

The Labris representative listed as positive examples the two court rulings which she qualified as historic because of the influence these should exert on the legal position and everyday life of the LGBT community in Serbia. Official of the Serbian Government Office for Human and Minority Rights Borjana Peruničić noted that the planned Pride Parade was not held last year due to security reasons, which was qualified in the report as violation of the right to freedom of assembly and helplessness before hooligans. Peruničić expressed the hope that the Pride Parade would be held in September this year.

Equality Commissioner Nevena Petrušić stated that five percent of complaints filed to her office covered instances when the rights of LGBT population were brought in jeopardy, adding that such proceedings rank as top priorities in the agenda. This is the eighth annual report issued by Labris and it points to certain progress, Petrušić said.
© B92.

up  

EGAM very satisfied with the adoption of the Tavares report by the European Parliament

3/7/2013- Thanks to a pluripartisan vote, the Tavares report on Hungary, tackling the issues of democracy and rule of law, has been adopted by 370 votes in favor, 249 against and 82 abstentions. EGAM has been very actively involved in an advocacy campaign to get this positive vote, and is thus extremely satisfied with this outcome. This vote is a long awaited message of support to the fundamental values of the European Union and of warning to the authorities who are tempted not to respect them. It is clearly heard all over Europe, especially in Hungary, by Human Rights defenders and the leaders of the pro-democracy and antiracist civil society. Regarding Hungary, this is an important first step in order to settle democracy back in the country for all the individuals living there, especially the persecuted minorities. To be effective and meaningful, this important move must be a starting point of a renewed involvement of the EU to promote its fundamental values and democracy, which must be the first priority of its policies. In particular, this implies a shift in the EU attitude towards Greece and all the countries where democracy is at stake.
© The European Grassroots Antiracist Movement EGAM

up  

Far-right to note Gay Pride Parade (Hungary)

5/7/2013- The far-right party Jobbik has announced it will hold a rally on Erzsébet tér (square) in central Pest this Saturday to coincide with the annual Gay Pride Parade which will pass close by. The event is ostensibly to mark “fellowship day” and, beside Jobbik leader Gábor Vona, speeches will be given by the head of the New Hungarian Guard, the latest incarnation of Jobbik’s militaristic uniformed wing (although the wearing of such uniforms is now technically banned by law).
In recent years the parade has been conducted behind metal barriers and with a heavy police security presence after attempts to attack participants and violent scuffles between police and skinheads.

The British Embassy has once again lent its support to the Gay Pride event, as one of 17 embassies – among them most of Western Europe, the US and Israel – that signed a statement in support of gay and lesbian rights. “We look forward to the Pride celebrations, to the respect for them which the Hungarian people will show and to the determination of the Hungarian authorities not to allow those of extreme views to disrupt what should and will be joyful occasions,” the statement said. The march will proceed from Heroes’ Square to Olympia park on the Danube embankment, where a picnic will be held and speeches made by invited dignitaries.
© The Budapest Times

up  

Kim Lane Scheppele: In praise of the Tavares Report (EU/Hungary)

Today Europe acted to hold the Hungarian government to the constitutional values that it eagerly endorsed when it joined the European Union nearly a decade ago.

3/7/2013- The action came in the form of the Tavares Report which sailed through the European Parliament with many votes to spare. The report provides a bill of particulars against the Fidesz government and lays out a strong program to guide European Union institutions in bringing Hungary back into the European fold. With the passage of this report, Europe has finally said no to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his constitutional revolution. The Tavares Report is by far the strongest and most consequential official condemnation of the Fidesz consolidation of power over the last three years. And it creates a strong set of tools for European institutions to use in defending the long-term prospects for Hungarian democracy.

The report passed with a surprisingly strong vote: 370 in favor, 248 against and 82 abstentions. In a Parliament split almost evenly between left and right, this tally gave the lie to the Hungarian government’s claim that the report was merely a conspiracy of the left. With about 50 of the 754 MEPs absent, the total number of yes votes was still larger than the total number of MEPs of all of the left parties combined. In short, even if all MEPs had been present, the left alone still couldn’t account for all of those votes. And since the 82 abstentions had the effect of allowing the report to go forward, they should be read as soft “yeses” rather than undecided or negative votes. Most of the abstentions no doubt came from Fidesz’s own party in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP). Many EPP members signaled ahead of time that they could not back Orbán but also would not vote overtly against the position of their party, which officially supported him without whipping the votes. FIdesz had been counting on party discipline to save it. But now it is clear that Fidesz is terribly isolated within the EPP.

The tally on the final report was not a roll-call vote, so we do not know for sure just who voted for it in the end. But the roll-call votes on the proposed amendments to the bill (see pp. 106-119 of this complicated document) revealed that many members of the European People’s Party (EPP) and the even-more-conservative group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ERC) voted to keep the report from being diluted at crucial junctures. Each attempt to weaken the report was rejected openly by 18-22 EPP votes and by 8-12 ERC votes. We can guess that the MEPs who rejected the hostile changes must have voted in favor of the report in the end, along with even more of their colleagues who could at that point vote anonymously.

For a government that believes that majorities are everything and supermajorities are divine, it must have been hard for Fidesz to see only one-third of those in the European Parliament voting in its defense, when conservatives occupy about half of the seats. Since many of the votes in the Fidesz column were from cranky Euro-skeptics who simply did not want the EU to gain more powers rather than from those who were solidly backing the broader Fidesz view of the world, the defeat is even more humiliating. Where was the United European Right when Orbán needed them? Apparently not in his camp. When he dramatically appeared in the European Parliament for the debate yesterday, Orbán claimed that the report represented the persecution of a well-meaning right-wing government by the unified and hostile European left.

Today, with this extraordinary vote, we saw a coalition of left and right MEPs standing up together for the values of Europe. The Tavares report is named after Rui Tavares, the Portuguese MEP who was the rapporteur on this patient and careful study of the Hungarian constitutional revolution. He deserves much of the credit for the factually impeccable report and as well as for skillfully guiding it through a complicated and perilous process. Despite repeated attempts to amend the report, gut its strong conclusions and weaken its remedies by Fidesz MEPs and their allies, all efforts to change the report in any substantial way failed at every stage.

With its acceptance today of the Tavares Report, the European Parliament has created a new framework for enforcing the principles of Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union, which proclaims that the Union is “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.” So what, concretely, does the report do? It puts a very clever system of monitoring and assessment in place. While there are many elements in the report, the most important four elements are these, identified by paragraph number in the report as voted by the Parliament today:

An “Article 2 Alarm Agenda” which requires the European Commission in all of its dealings with Hungary to raise only Article 2 issues until such time as Hungary comes into compliance with the report (para. 69). This Alarm Agenda effectively blocks all other dealings between the Commission and Hungary until Hungary addresses the issues raised in the report.

A “Trilogue” (a three-way dialogue) in which the Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament will each delegate members to a new committee that will engage in a close review of all activities of the Hungarian government relevant to the report (Para. 85). This committee is charged with assessing the progress that Hungary is making in complying with the list of specific objections that the report identifies. The Trilogue sets up a system of intrusive monitoring, much more intrusive than the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) from which Hungary just escaped. Under the EDP, European bodies only looked at the budget’s bottom line to determine whether Hungary’s deficit was within acceptable bounds. Under the Trilogue, the committee can examine anything that is on the long list of particulars that the report identifies as within its scope.

A “Copenhagen Commission” or high-level expert body through which a panel of distinguished and independent experts will be assigned the power to review continued compliance with the Copenhagen criteria used for admission to the EU on the part of any member state (para. 78-80). The idea behind this body, elaborated in a report by my Princeton colleague Jan-Werner Müller, is that non-political experts should be given the task of judging whether member states are still acting on the values of Article 2. Since Orbán kept claiming double standards and dirty politics all of the way through this process in the European Parliament, a Copenhagen Commission consisting of impeccable experts and modeled on the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) would move the process of fact-finding and assessment from political officials to non-partisan experts.

And in the background, there is still Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union. Article 7, which identifies a procedure through which an EU member state can be deprived of its vote in the European Council and therefore would lose representation in the decision-making processes of the EU, is considered the “nuclear option” – unusable because extreme. But the Tavares Report holds out the possibility of invoking Article 7 if the Hungarian government does not comply with the monitoring program and reform its ways (para. 86). Because the Tavares Report lays out detailed expectations of the Hungarian government, the Parliament and the Council who would have to vote on Article 7 in the end would have a strong factual record to work with if they decided to go nuclear.

These are important tools in the toolkit that European institutions can now use to ensure that a member state of the European Union maintains its European constitutional commitments.

Yesterday at the plenary debate, both Commission President José Manual Barroso and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding indicated their willingness to follow the Parliament’s direction. We can therefore expect an eager uptake from the Commission on the elements of the report that require the Commission’s active participation.

But perhaps the most breathtaking part of the report is the list of what these various monitoring bodies can examine. Here it is worth quoting at length from the report itself, because the scope and breadth of the complaints against the Hungarian government indicate that these monitoring processes will be authorized to look at the most fundamental elements of what it means to be a robust democracy committed to the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Here is the list of items that the Hungarian government must address, taken from para. 71 of the report, where the Parliament . . .

Urges the Hungarian authorities to implement as swiftly as possible all the measures the European Commission as the guardian of the treaties deems necessary in order to fully comply with EU law, fully comply with the decisions of the Hungarian Constitutional Court and implement as swiftly as possible the following recommendations, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe and other international bodies for the protection of the rule of law and fundamental rights, with a view to fully complying with the rule of law and its key requirements on the constitutional setting, the system of checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary, as well as on strong safeguards for fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, the media and religion or belief, protection of minorities, action to combat discrimination, and the right to property:

On the Fundamental Law:
– to fully restore the supremacy of the Fundamental Law by removing from it those provisions previously declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court;
– to reduce the recurrent use of cardinal laws in order to leave policy areas such as family, social, fiscal and budget matters to ordinary legislation and majorities;
– to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission and, in particular, to revise the list of policy areas requiring a qualified majority with a view to ensuring meaningful future elections;
– to secure a lively parliamentary system which also respects opposition forces by allowing a reasonable time for a genuine debate between the majority and the opposition and for participation by the wider public in the legislative procedure;
– to ensure the widest possible participation by all parliamentary parties in the constitutional process, even though the relevant special majority is held by the governing coalition alone;

On checks and balances:
– to fully restore the prerogatives of the Constitutional Court as the supreme body of constitutional protection, and thus the primacy of the Fundamental Law, by removing from its text the limitations on the Constitutional Court’s power to review the constitutionality of any changes to the Fundamental Law, as well as the abolition of two decades of constitutional case law; to restore the right of the Constitutional Court to review all legislation without exception, with a view to counterbalancing parliamentary and executive actions and ensuring full judicial review; such a judicial and constitutional review may be exerted in different ways in different Member States, depending on the specificities of each national constitutional history, but once established, a Constitutional Court – like the Hungarian one, which after the fall of the communist regime has rapidly built a reputation among Supreme Courts in Europe – should not be subject to measures aimed at reducing its competences and thus undermining the rule of law;

– to restore the possibility for the judicial system to refer to the case law issued before the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, in particular in the field of fundamental rights;
– to strive for consensus when electing the members of the Constitutional Court, with meaningful involvement of the opposition, and to ensure that the members of the court are free from political influence;
– to restore the prerogatives of the parliament in the budgetary field and thus secure the full democratic legitimacy of budgetary decisions by removing the restriction of parliamentary powers by the non‑parliamentary Budget Council;
– to provide clarifications on how the Hungarian authorities intend to remedy the premature termination of the term of office of senior officials with a view to securing the institutional independence of the data protection authority;

On the independence of the judiciary:
– to fully guarantee the independence of the judiciary by ensuring that the principles of irremovability and guaranteed term of office of judges, the rules governing the structure and composition of the governing bodies of the judiciary and the safeguards on the independence of the Constitutional Court are enshrined in the Fundamental Law;
– to promptly and correctly implement the abovementioned decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 6 November 2012 and of the Hungarian Constitutional Court, by enabling the dismissed judges who so wish to be reinstated in their previous positions, including those presiding judges whose original executive posts are no longer vacant;
– to establish objective selection criteria, or to mandate the National Judicial Council to establish such criteria, with a view to ensuring that the rules on the transfer of cases respect the right to a fair trial and the principle of a lawful judge;
– to implement the remaining recommendations laid down in the Venice Commission’s Opinion No CDL-AD(2012)020 on the cardinal acts on the judiciary that were amended following the adoption of Opinion CDL-AD(2012)001; [NOTE: Venice Commission reports on Hungary can be found here.]

On the electoral reform:
- to invite the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ ODIHR to carry out a joint analysis of the comprehensively changed legal and institutional framework of the elections and to invite the ODIHR for a Needs Assessment Mission and a long and short term election observation.
– to ensure balanced representation within the National Election Committee;

On the media and pluralism:
– to fulfil the commitment to further discuss cooperation activities at expert level on the more long‑term perspective of the freedom of the media, building on the most important remaining recommendations of the 2012 legal expertise of the Council of Europe;
– to ensure timely and close involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including media professionals, opposition parties and civil society, in any further review of this legislation, which regulates such a fundamental aspect of the functioning of a democratic society, and in the process of implementation;
– to observe the positive obligation arising from European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence under Article 10 ECHR to protect freedom of expression as one of the preconditions for a functioning democracy;

– to respect, guarantee, protect and promote the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, as well as media freedom and pluralism, and to refrain from developing or supporting mechanisms that threaten media freedom and journalistic and editorial independence;
– to make sure that objective, legally binding procedures and mechanisms are in place for the selection and appointment of heads of public media, management boards, media councils and regulatory bodies, in line with the principles of independence, integrity, experience and professionalism, representation of the entire political and social spectrum, legal certainty and continuity;
– to provide legal guarantees regarding full protection of the confidentiality-of-sources principle and to strictly apply related European Court of Human Rights case law;
– to ensure that rules relating to political information throughout the audiovisual media sector guarantee fair access to different political competitors, opinions and viewpoints, in particular on the occasion of elections and referendums, allowing citizens to form their own opinions without undue influence from one dominant opinion‑forming power;

On respect for fundamental rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities:
– to take, and continue with, positive actions and effective measures to ensure that the fundamental rights of all persons, including persons belonging to minorities and homeless persons, are respected and to ensure their implementation by all competent public authorities; when reviewing the definition of ‘family’, to take into account the legislative trend in Europe to broaden the scope of the definition of family and the negative impact of a restricted definition of family on the fundamental rights of those who will be excluded by the new and more restrictive definition;
– to take a new approach, finally assuming its responsibilities towards homeless – and therefore vulnerable – people, as set out in the international treaties on human rights to which Hungary is a signatory, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and thus to promote fundamental rights rather than violating them by including in its Fundamental Law provisions that criminalise homeless people;
– calls on the Hungarian Government to do all in its power to strengthen the mechanism for social dialogue and comprehensive consultation and to guarantee the rights associated with this;
– calls on the Hungarian Government to increase its efforts to integrate the Roma and to lay down targeted measures to ensure their protection. Racist threats directed at the Roma must be unequivocally and resolutely repelled;

On freedom of religion or belief and recognition of churches:
– to establish clear, neutral and impartial requirements and institutional procedures for the recognition of religious organisations as churches, which respect the duty of the State to remain neutral and impartial in its relations with the various religions and beliefs and to provide effective means of redress in cases of non‑recognition or lack of a decision, in line with the constitutional requirements set out in the abovementioned Decision 6/2013 of the Constitutional Court;

One more item was added to this list by amendment from Rui Tavares in the Parliament this morning:
– to cooperate with the European institutions in order to ensure that the provisions of the new National Security Law comply with the fundamental principles of the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, respect for private and family life and the right to an effective remedy.

In short, this is a huge list of items, which together constitute the core of the Fidesz power grab. This section of the report identifies the list of things that the Hungarian government must now change, and the mechanisms I identified above are the key ones through which compliance will be monitored and assessed. It is hard to imagine a more sweeping indictment of the Fidesz constitutional revolution in Hungary over these last three years.

But back to where we started: with today’s vote in the European Parliament. This long list of offending actions of the Hungarian government was agreed to by left and right in the European Parliament, by a large majority and with serious tools to ensure that the Hungarian government changes its ways and returns to the path of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

The European Parliament is the most diverse and democratic institution in Europe. One day when the history of the European constitution is written, the Tavares Report and its enthusiastic acceptance in the European Parliament will stand for Europe at its best.
© Hungarian Spectrum

up  

Montenegro Gay Pride Rally Planned for October

A new campaign group called Queer Montenegro said it was determined to organise a gay pride parade in Podgorica after a previous attempt in 2011 was cancelled amid violence

3/7/2013- “Queer Montenegro repeats that it is about time for things to start changing,” the new campaign group said in a statement, insisting that a pride parade would take place on October 27 this year. The group, which says it is campaigning for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) people, said that the planned parade would show whether the authorities were genuinely against discrimination. "The pride parade is a test which will demonstrate whether Montenegro is ready to apply in practice so far declarative statements in support of the LGBTIQ community," it said. Two representatives of the group, Ana Dedivanovic and Danijel Kalezic, said that police had said they were prepared to protect the parade's participants. They also appealed to politicians to take part in the event and demonstrate that their support for gay rights was genuine.

Soon after the announcement, Jelko Kacin, vice-chairman of the European Parliament's delegation for the western Balkans, told Montenegrin news agency MINA that holding the parade would help the country’s EU membership talks progress. Montenegro's first Gay Pride parade, organized by rights activist Zdravko Cimbaljevic, was supposed to have taken place on May 31, 2011, but was cancelled following two attacks on gays in Podgorica before the start of the event. Ferhad Dinosa, then minister for human and minority rights, was also accused of making homophobic remarks and subsequently removed from office in late 2011. In May this year, Montenegro’s Anti-Discrimination Council unanimously supported a draft strategy aimed at improving life for the country’s gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals over the next five years.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Olso mosque invites anti-Islamists to coffee (Norway)

Norwegian convert Yousef Assidiq has invited the anti-Islamist organization SIAN to come and drink coffee with congregation members at an Oslo mosque, tweeting "Dialogue, baby!" when the RSVPs began tumbling in. He tells The Local why it is time for a coffee break.

2/7/2013- Assidiq sent out the invite to the organization Stop The Islamization of Norway (Stopp islamiseringen av Norge - SIAN), hoping they would accept and come for coffee on July 20th at the Galgeberg mosque in Oslo. "I realized that we have to take their fear seriously,"Assidiq told The Local on Tuesday. "They are genuinely scared that we have some kind of plan to take over and that our intention in society is to break it down and oppose the values of liberal Western democracy." On Monday he tweeted that several SIAN members had already told him they were interested in attending the informal chat, but that he was still waiting for an official response from the organization's leader. "I hope that meeting them face to face and showing that we take their concerns seriously and opening our mosques for them(...)will at least get us a little closer as humans," Assidiq said. SIAN's leader, meanwhile, said he was hoping for more than a lecture in what Islam stands for. "Our initial response is that SIAN is very grateful (for the invitation), because it means we get the chance to explain what we stand for," Arne Tumyr told NRK. "If their intention is to give us a monologue about Islam, we'll see what happens."
© The Local - Norway

up  

Norway to get tough on deportation flaunters

Norwegian police warn that a rising number of foreigners who are deported from Norway manage to return, with police citing the "appalling situation in Europe" as the reason for people making their way north.

2/7/2013- The police in Oslo said that the numbers of returnees who are breaking their ban on entry has near doubled in the past two years. Lawmakers are now planning to get tougher on foreigners who have returned despite being deported from Norway, which is not part of the European Union. "In simple terms, conditions across Europe are so appalling that people come to Norway to make a living," Oslo police spokeswoman Britha Røkenes told the NRK network on Tuesday. "But that is just one of several reasons why they come back." NRK reported that six out of ten people arrested at Grønland police station are foreign nationals, who have neither an address nor a job in Norway. Many are deported. Lawmakers are set to double the amount of time in prison for deportation flaunters. Previously, returnees risked 35 days behind bars, but they will now face a minimum of one year in jail. "We hope this will act as a deterrent, so people refrain from returning," Røkenes said.
© The Local - Norway

up  

Anti-Muslim acts rising in France, rights group says

Anti-Muslim attacks and insults have risen steadily in France in recent years as some politicians and media increasingly present Islam as a problem for French society, a Muslim rights group said on Wednesday.

3/7/2013- Hostility rises when Islam is in the news, for example last year when an Islamist killed seven people or when a politician accused Muslim children of stealing classmates' snacks,the Committee against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) said. The CCIF welcomed a European Parliament decision on Tuesday to lift the legal immunity of far-right leader Marine Le Pen so she can be tried on racism charges for comparing Muslims praying in the streets here to the wartime Nazi occupation of France. The group said in its annual report (French) that anti-Muslim acts rose to 469 last year, after 298 in 2011 and 188 in 2010. The rise reflected trends cited by other recent reports that also noted increasing levels of anti-Semitism and racism in France.

CCIF President Samy Debah said Le Pen and other politicians were making anti-Muslim rhetoric commonplace. France's estimated five million Muslims form the largest Islamic minority in Europe but are poorly represented in politics and business. "There is a link between the political discourse and the rise of these violent acts and discrimination against the Muslim community," Debah told a news conference. The CCIF report said anti-Muslim acts were increasingly aimed against people, especially women, rather than institutions such as mosques, cemeteries and shops. Attacks against mosques had almost doubled to 40 in 2012 compared with 2011, it said.

"Vector of Islamophobia"
The report called France's civil service "one of the principal vectors of Islamophobia" because it said bureaucrats often over-interpreted official secularist policies to wrongly refuse to serve Muslim women wearing headscarves. By law, civil servants and girls in state schools are barred from wearing headscarves, but adults using a public service are not. The report said some officials, though, refused to conduct a civil wedding or issue documents if the woman concerned covered her hair. Debah said the CCIF hoped an investigating magistrate would now order Le Pen to stand trial for the comments about Muslims praying in the streets, which happens when small mosques overflow with worshippers, especially on Islamic feast days. This briefly closes some streets in large cities, which prompted Le Pen to describe it as an occupation in 2010. She used her immunity as a European Parliament deputy to avoid answering a summons to meet an investigating magistrate.

"I stand by my words and I'll defend them in court," she told BFM television after the parliament voted to lift her immunity at the request of the snubbed magistrate. Her far-right National Front party ranks almost equal in polls with the main opposition UMP party, whose leader Jean-Francois Cope raised a storm last year by saying Muslim children stole chocolate pastries from non-Muslim classmates to keep them from eating at school during Ramadan. The National Front has also gained ground as high unemployment and an embarrassing scandal sap support for the governing Socialists. Le Pen's argument that she is being harassed by political opponents has proved popular with her supporters. If found guilty of inciting racial hatred, she would face a maximum penalty of one year in jail and 45,000 euros in fines.
© Reuters

up  

Marine Le Pen expected to face charges for incitement to racial hatred (France)

French far-right leader's immunity is lifted after vote by European parliament

2/7/2013- Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National, is expected to face charges of incitement to racial hatred in France after the European parliament voted to lift her parliamentary immunity. The French state prosecutor in Lyon had asked the European parliament to lift Le Pen's protection from prosecution as an MEP so she could face charges over a speech in 2010 in which she likened Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France. The case threatens to upset Le Pen's careful public relations strategy since taking over the party from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She had sought to project a modern, more palatable face of the far-right in France, free from the type of comments about the second world war and Holocaust denial that resulted in her father being convicted of contesting crimes against humanity. Marine Le Pen, who has been an MEP since 2004, this week called herself a dissident who was being pursued for political reasons for a "crime of opinion" and said she stood by her comments.

In December 2010 during her party's internal leadership campaign she made a speech in Lyon that denounced Muslims holding prayers in the streets, at a time when a lack of mosques in France had forced many to pray outside. She likened the outside prayers to an occupation and added: "For those who like to talk about world war two, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same, and it weighs on people." Previously she had said of street prayers: "Very clearly, like in 1940, some think that they can behave in France in 2010 like an occupying army in a conquered country." On Monday on French TV she repeated her comments about occupation, saying she was being targeted "for having dared to say what all French people think, that street prayers – which I must add continue to happen on French territory – are an occupation". But she did not explicitly evoke the second world war parallel.

The Front National is currently at a high in the opinion polls, after a strong score in a byelection in Villeneuve-sur-Lot in south-west France, where the party knocked out the Socialists and scored 46% of the vote in the final round. A recent poll for YouGov about voting intentions in the European parliament elections next year put the Front National on 18%, one point behind the traditional rightwing UMP and ahead of the Socialist party. The party is hoping for gains in the French local elections next year. After the European parliament stripped Le Pen's immunity with a show of hands by members, the Front National said it was a sign of the "growing fear of the oligarchy" faced with "the irresistible rise in power" of the far-right party in France. Members of the European parliament have immunity from criminal and civil liability for opinions expressed as part of their duty, although immunity had been lifted in a number of cases previously.

Le Pen said she had been targeted because she was a "political adversary" and vowed to defend herself. She suggested she was proud of losing immunity, which was like getting a "medal pinned to my jacket". If found guilty of inciting racial hatred, Le Pen would face a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a €45,000 fine.
© The Guardian

up  

'I will fight to tell truth,' vows Marine Le Pen as she loses EU immunity (France)

The National Front has accused the European Parliament of behaving like the Soviet Union after MEPs refused to give Marine Le Pen a hearing before voting to lift the French far-Right leader's parliamentary immunity.

2/7/2013- The vote means that Ms Le Pen loses her diplomatic protection as an MEP to face prosecution in Lyon under race hatred laws for comparing Muslim immigration to the Nazi occupation of France. The far-Right leader, who was present for the vote in the parliament's chamber in Strasbourg along with her father and National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen attacked the vote as violation of her freedom of expression. "I am a political adversary who is more dangerous than the others because of my results in the polls," she said. "I will now defend myself in court and I am absolutely convinced that it will rule in my favour and defend my right to tell the French the truth about the situation." Bruno Gollnisch, one of three National Front MEPs, attacked the EU assembly for not allowing the French far-right leader the right to address the house before the vote on her immunity. "The person concerned has not been able to express herself. This procedure is like the old Soviet Union rather than one fitting with the rules of this house," he said.

The parliament rebutted the accusation by noting that Ms Le Pen could have spoken to assembly's legal affairs committee but declined to do so three times. MEPs enjoy the same immunity as diplomats because they are representatives in the multinational EU assembly. "I am pleased that the parliament with a wide majority chose to follow my recommendation, namely to waive the immunity of Marine Le Pen. Now it's up to the French judiciary to try her case," said Cecilia Wikstroem, a Swedish MEP. Ms Le Pen faces race hate charges for a speech to her far-right's party conference in December 2010 where she compared Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France. "For those who like to talk about World War II, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same and it weighs on people," she said.

Sajjad Karim, a Conservative MEP, rejected the National Front's free speech case against her prosecution and accused her of "hiding behind her EU immunity when she espouses anti-EU and anti-immigration sentiments". "Using Nazi occupation in France as a comparison to Muslims praying on the street is appalling, insulting and highly inflammatory on so many levels. Her remarks do the complete opposite of trying to forge a social fabric of peace, understanding and respect," he said. Mr Karim attacked Ukip MEPs for voting against the lifting of Ms Le Pen's immunity. "What is deeply revealing is that as an overwhelming majority of MEPs voted for Le Pen to lose her immunity and face a criminal investigation into race hate charges, extremist MEPs and UKIP voted to protect Le Pen," he said. A Ukip spokesman said: "We voted to keep her immunity because we believe that freedom of speech is sacrosant.Immunity should not be lifted just because you don't like the MEP's politics."
© The Telegraph

up  

Landmark case challenging ethnic profiling in France

ENAR and Stop le Contrôle au Faciès call on the French government to stop discriminatory police practices 

3/7/2013- The first public hearing in a lawsuit against the French state for carrying out discriminatory identity checks on the basis of ethnic profiling takes place today at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris at 1:30 p.m. ENAR and Stop le Contrôle au Faciès condemns all forms of ethnic profiling and calls on the French government to seize the opportunity to deliver on its earlier promise to end ethnic profiling, as this violates fundamental human rights. 13 individuals from various regions in France have filed a joint lawsuit because they have suffered from targeted discriminatory “stop and search” practices. Some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they are stopped and searched by the police several times a week. A 2009 study by the Open Society Justice Initiative showed that Blacks were 6 times more likely than whites to be stopped, while people of Arab origin were 8 times more likely to be stopped than whites in Paris.

Ethnic profiling has elicited strong reactions throughout Europe, with numerous cases in France. In 2005, nationwide riots erupted following the death of two teens running away from “stop and search” tactics in the Paris area. Advocacy initiatives like Stop le contrôle au Faciès! have consistently demanded political commitment to stop discriminatory police checks, and President Hollande made a vow during his election campaign in 2012 to end ethnic profiling. The French government officially promised at the United Nations Human Rights Council United in Geneva on 6 June 2013 to end ethnic profiling in France. ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said: “Despite these commitments, France has yet to prove its real political will to stop the abusive police checks negatively affecting thousands of citizens. This joint case is an unprecedented occasion to ask for government accountability in living up to its promises”.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

Could Georgia’s Orthodox Church Become a Font of Intolerance?

With its leader aged and possibly infirm, a struggle over succession, and the soul of the church, has quietly started.  
by Molly Corso

1/7/2013- In the two-plus decades since the Soviet collapse, the Georgian Orthodox Church has emerged as one of the South Caucasus country’s most respected and influential institutions. But some observers and theologians now worry that ultra-conservative clerics within the church are gaining too much power. The growing sway of fundamentalist and nationalist elements within the church was on full display on 17 May, when a clergy-led mob attacked gay-rights demonstrators in Tbilisi. That priestly outburst of bigotry was not an isolated incident. Previous occurrences of ultra-conservative muscle-flexing included a mass mobilization against Georgian ID cards, allegedly because ultras believed the cards referenced the sign of the devil. Ultras also actively campaigned against President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement Party during the run-up to the October parliamentary elections – despite the patriarch’s request that they stay out of politics.

The parliamentary election experience suggests to some church watchers that the patriarch, Ilya II, is losing his grip over the clergy. Ilya II is 80 years old and rumored to be in poor health. Although his word is final in all areas of the church’s internal workings, age may have significantly diminished his ability to pay attention to details and promote general doctrinal unity among the clergy. While the patriarch remains a popular leader of the church, it’s difficult to tell where many bishops stand. What is increasingly evident is that a philosophical split is developing within the church. Theologian Levan Abashidze describes the divide as “serious.” A spokesman for the church did not respond to an interview request. According to some outside observers, the Georgian Orthodox Church has been moving in a steadily conservative direction since 1997, when it left the World Council of Churches (WCC). A major factor in this retrograde drift is a decline in the educational level of clergy members.

“The Orthodox Church in Georgia today reflects all those problems that have been problematic for the Georgian nation and state: poor education, economic shortages and unemployment, the lack of civil society, underdeveloped democracy, a long gap in the organized church life, unqualified clergy … all these factors supporting its isolationist and exclusivist tendencies,” noted Tamara Grdzelidze, a program executive within the Faith and Order Secretariat of the WCC in Geneva. When Ilya II became the patriarch in 1977, the Georgian church counted only about 50 priests. Since the lifting of Soviet-era controls over religious life, the ranks of the clergy have exploded, with upwards of 1,700 ordained priests active today. Not all members of the clergy have gained a thorough grounding in theology via training at a seminary or theological academy.

Limited oversight over the preparation of priests means that the quality of their religious teachings varies widely. Rapid growth helped strengthen the church, but it created a “vacuum” of knowledge, noted one theologian close to the patriarchate who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution. “[People] should know that [beating people] is not Christian, is not Orthodox, is not Georgian. …There is a vacuum of theology,” he said. Priests who lack proper training are more apt to be part of the ultra-conservative movement within the church. “[We need to] learn how to think,” the theologian said. “If we start to learn philosophy … tomorrow we will not throw rocks.” The philosophical struggle within the church seems set to intensify as Ilya II grows older and attention focuses on succession. In the Orthodox Christian faith, the patriarch is a lifelong appointment. After the sitting patriarch’s death, a successor is chosen by the church’s governing body of archbishops, the Holy Synod.

The outcome of the current succession maneuvering could have far-reaching implications for Georgia’s domestic and foreign policy, given patriarch’s ability to shape public opinion. Ilya II was identified as Georgia’s most trusted public figure in a March survey by Caucasus Research Resource Center. Since the 17 May upheaval in Tbilisi, Ilya II has been an advocate of moderation and tolerance. “We need to value people,” he said during his 2 June sermon. “We need to see in people … these positive elements that God awarded them. It is possible that a person has negative sides. But the positive is infinitely more.” Abashidze noted that there are “certain groups” within the church that are already engaged in a “strong fight for power.” “There are groups who are more, let us say, open minded, and who understand that the church needs real education, real theological education, and people with theological knowledge – because otherwise the church cannot survive,” he said.

Liberals, however, are in the minority, and there are few willing to publicly break ranks with conservatives. In an interview with the Georgian magazine Liberali after the 17 May mob attack, however, one priest urged his colleagues to speak up. “Probably a lot of religious people were very surprised by what happened,” said Dekan Iakob Makhniashvili. “For every religious person, this day should serve as a good example that religion should not provoke people into aggression and hate.”

Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.
© Eurasia Net

up  

Right-wing party tops Dutch poll

Freedom Party would become biggest in parliament if election held tomorrow, a boost leader Geert Wilders puts down to fury over austerity

4/7/2013- Right-wing leader Geert Wilders has called for a series of mass demonstrations in the Netherlands following an opinion poll that shows his anti-euro Freedom Party would become the largest political party in the Dutch parliament if an election were held tomorrow. The poll showed that just one in three voters – 34 per cent – want prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal-Labour coalition to complete its four-year term, down from 63 per cent after the government was formed last October, and from 44 per cent in February. Worse still for the government, the Liberals, with 42 seats in the 150-seat parliament, would retain just 21 seats if an election were held tomorrow. Labour, on 28, would fall back to just 16. The big winners would be the Freedom Party, which would almost double its seats from 15 to 29, a boost Mr Wilders said shows the Dutch are “furious” with the coalition’s programme of austerity.

Impact of crisis
A second survey, published by the government’s sociocultural policy unit, showed the number of people who said they were feeling the impact of the economic crisis was up from 41 per cent in 2009 to 62 per cent. It showed support for the EU was at its lowest level for five years, while support for the euro was also down, from an already low 36 per cent to 28 per cent. After those two damning polls there was a rare moment of respite for the government when new figures showed its budget deficit for 2013 will stay within the EU limit of three per cent of GDP. However, it was indicative of how challenging the economy remains that even the prime minister was downbeat about the latest figures, which forecast a deficit of 2.9 per cent after calculating downwards the cost of nationalising the financial services group SNS Reaal.

“This is purely a book-keeping exercise – and does not alter the urgent need to make spending cuts,” said Mr Rutte, who had originally been expecting a deficit of about 3.5 per cent, which could have damaged the country’s triple-A international credit rating. “We should not congratulate ourselves just yet,” he added, referring to tensions emerging between his centre-right Liberals and Labour as they struggle to find €6 billion worth of cuts on top of €13 billion already agreed.
Labour leader Diederik Samsom – who strategically did not become deputy prime minister when his party entered coalition – attempted to distance himself from the new cuts, saying they would not come from healthcare, public housing or childcare benefits.
© The Irish Times.

up  

Geert Wilders spreads his European wings, talks to Lega Nord (Netherlands)

3/7/2013- Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV, is hoping to work together with Swedish and Italian nationalist parties as well as Belgium's Vlaams Belang and the Front National in France, Nos television reports. Wilders, who has made no secret of his contacts with the Belgian and French nationalists, told Nos he has now had contact with the Eurosceptic Sweden Democrats and will also meet officials from the Lega Nord in Italy. These are parties which share a lot of similar attitudes to Europe as the PVV and now is a good time to work together, the PVV leader said. Elections for the European parliament take place next spring. 'I think we should talk to other parties which are critical of Europe to see if we can work together,' Wilders said. Criticism by other PVV supporters of some of the parties' opposition to gay rights and gay marriage are 'understandable' but not relevant to the campaign against European control and mass immigration, he said. 'These are not reasons not to work together,' Wilders told the Nos.
© The Dutch News

up  

Asylum seeker rules do not need change: report (Netherlands)

1/7/2013- The rules governing asylum seekers who are refused permission to stay in the Netherlands for no fault of their own should not be changed. This is the conclusion of a report published on Monday by the government's advisory commission on refugee affairs ACVZ. Asylum seekers who through no fault of their own cannot return to their country of origin can be issued with a residence permit if they comply with a host of conditions. Labour party leader Diederik Samsom promised party members he would have the conditions relaxed. The commission sees no reason for this, Nos news reports.

Willing return
Commission chairman Adriana van Dooijeweert said it is seldom the case that asylum seekers cannot return to their own country. 'Most countries will take their citizens back, certainly when they return willingly,' she said. The commission does advise the government to give a temporary residence permit to people waiting longer than a year for documents from their embassy or consultate. Waiting times for documents are often much longer, says the commission. One asylum seeker waited for 13 years.
© The Dutch News

up  

The big shift right (Greece, interview)

Stripped of political credibility, Greece's mainstream parties are playing into the hands of Golden Dawn, says constitutional law expert Nikos Skoutaris 
By Harry van Versendaal

5/7/2013- The discrediting of Greece’s mainstream political parties, brought about by the four-year debt crisis, has opened a political can of worms by strengthening the hand of far-right extremists, says Nikos Skoutaris, a European constitutional law expert at the London School of Economics. Speaking to Kathimerini English Edition during a two-week workshop in Thessaloniki on nationalism, religion and violence in Greece and SE Europe, Skoutaris voices concern about the right-wing shift of the Greek political agenda as reflected in the government's decision to repeal the migrant citizenship law and the controversial decision to shut down public broadcaster ERT. “A far-right xenophobic agenda has become steadily more influential on the Greek political scene,” he says.
Locked in an uneasy government coalition, the once-dominant New Democracy and PASOK have been leaning to the right in a bid to dampen the influence of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Currently polling in third place, the party is widely connected to an upsurge in racially motivated attacks.

Skoutaris is critical of government foot-dragging in introducing legislation against hate speech, but remains skeptical of an all-out ban on the party. “We do not need to outlaw Golden Dawn but make sure that the state applies the criminal law,” he says. The 32-year-old academic is a senior research fellow at the LSE's European Institute, where he has developed a research project on the constitutional accommodation of ethno-territorial conflicts in Europe. Skoutaris is program director of the Thessaloniki seminars, which have brought together over 30 experts from some 20 institutions. The event is organized by the International Hellenic University in partnership with Charles University in Prague, the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) of Cyprus, and with the support of the LSE's Southeast Europe research unit, LSEE.

From the mid-1990s and for more than 15 years, Greece’s Socialist and conservative parties won elections by hijacking the center of the political spectrum. Three years into the crisis, voters as well as parties have all but deserted the middle ground. Are you concerned by the growing polarization of Greek politics?
More than the desertion of the middle ground, I am increasingly concerned about the rise of far-right extremism. This extremism, however, is not evident just in the presence of Golden Dawn in the Parliament and its increasing popularity in the polls, but also in the adoption of a far-right political agenda and discourse by the dominant political parties. The Loverdos incident with the HIV-positive prostitutes, the debacle concerning the amendment of the Ragousis citizenship law and even the way that the government decided to shut down the public broadcaster without having secured Parliament’s approval are some of the incidents suggesting that a far-right xenophobic agenda has become steadily more influential on the Greek political scene.

How can coalition partners PASOK and New Democracy, the two parties that dominated Greek politics for almost 40 years, enforce the rule of law when they are seen as the main culprits behind the collapse of the country’s social contract?
It is true that PASOK and New Democracy bear the greatest responsibility for the financial and political collapse of Greece. And in that sense it is only fair for one to wonder how they can enforce the rule of law and set a new paradigm when they have failed to do so, so miserably, during the 40 years of their rule. I do not think there are any easy answers to this question and personally I am rather pessimistic as I do not believe that the current political elites – especially the ones connected to those parties – can live up to the challenges of this rather arduous task.

Has toleration of leftist violence in the post-1974 period also led to the rise of far-right extremism in Greece, as some analysts and historians have argued? Has the Greek left enjoyed a certain level of immunity that needs to be re-examined?
The argument concerning the “rise of the two extremes” is well known. I am neither a historian nor a sociοlogist nor a political scientist, so my view is not one of a specialist but rather of an unsophisticated constitutional lawyer who tries to follow Greek politics and make sense of it. With this in mind, I would associate the rise of far-right extremism with the delegitimation of the Greek political elites through the crisis and the emergence of Greece as a “failed state” rather than with the fact that the Greek left has resorted to practices that could be deemed illegal in certain instances. If there is a question that I would pose to the left – being a leftist myself – it is whether a discourse that supports violent forms of struggle for social justice still serves its strategy. My personal view is that a real and radical transformation of the democratic functioning of the Greek state and of capitalism in general is absolutely necessary. However, I have my doubts whether the rhetoric of the left has managed to express it in a sufficient manner.

Meanwhile, Greek conservatives, but not just them, have lashed out at attempts by revisionist historians, as it were, to challenge the dominant historical narrative and question “myths” seen as key to collective memory and national self-understanding. Do you think that this is a bad timing for this because of the crisis?
I do not think there is such a thing as bad timing when it comes to research in any area of knowledge and in particular the social sciences. To put it the other way round and with regard to the attempts to which you refer, I do not remember anyone saying at any moment in Greek history that “now is a good time to deconstruct the national myths.” Social scientists have an obligation to research and present their results to society. And personally, if the dilemma is between a painful truth and a comforting lie, I choose the former even at times when Greek society suffers.

Do you think that the proposed anti-racism bill could curb the wave of racially motivated crimes and the influence of Golden Dawn?
No, I don’t believe that any law could curb racially motivated crimes or the influence of a neo-Nazi party, at least not in the short term. Those are very complicated issues that could only be successfully dealt with through long-term comprehensive policies that would also contain a strong educational dimension. This does not mean that as a society we should not put out a strong political message that we do not tolerate any form of racism, including anti-Semitism. In that sense, I consider the recent debacle concerning the anti-racism bill as more evidence of the unwillingness and the incapacity of the Greek political elites – and the governing coalition in particular – to show that they can rise to the challenge that the existence of far-right extremism poses.

Would a ban on hate speech, including genocide-denying legislation, not imply restrictions on free speech?
To the best of my knowledge there exists no legal order where the right of expression is unfettered. To give but one example: In Greece one may not “offend the honor of the President of the Republic.” So, the right question is not whether we should have restrictions, but rather what kind of restrictions and what the scope of those restrictions should be. As I see it, keeping social peace in a Greek state that wishes to respect multiculturalism warrants such restrictions.

Do you think it would be a good idea to outlaw Golden Dawn altogether?
First of all, let me point out that the legal toolbox that the present constitutional framework provides for does not contain a procedure according to which we could outlaw Golden Dawn in the same way that the German or the Turkish constitutional orders do. Of course one could argue in favor of the amendment of the constitution to the effect that such a procedure would be included. It is a matter of belief and conviction whether one supports this idea of “militant democracy” according to which a constitutional order can outlaw political parties. Personally I am not convinced, not least because international experience suggests that such procedures have proved ineffective. Political parties that were outlawed “resurrected” merely by changing their names and paying lip service to constitutional rules. The cases of the Turkish Islamist parties or Vlaams Blok / Vlaams Belang in Belgium are indicative.

Notwithstanding the absence of such procedures, one also has to note that a number of Golden Dawn members have clearly committed criminal offenses. Take for example the Ilias Kasidiaris incident on Antenna TV [where the Golden Dawn deputy and spokesman slapped a female Communist Party MP multiple times] or the repeated protests outside the Hytirio Theater in Athens [which led to the cancellation of the staging of Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi”]. To deal with those incidents, we do not need to outlaw Golden Dawn but make sure that the state applies the criminal law. More worrying is the fact that members of Golden Dawn claim to be enforcing the rule of law. In a democratic state where rule of law applies, it is state institutions that are entrusted with the exercise of its powers. Golden Dawn members and their militia have no right to enforce the law, as it were, by checking immigrants’ IDs in flea markets or requesting truck drivers from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to remove their country code bumper stickers. The Greek state, if it wants to call itself democratic, has to make sure that it does not share the so-called monopoly of violence with Golden Dawn members, even if they are elected.
© Kathimerini

up  

Greece: Gay rights campaigners appalled as health minister sanctions forced HIV tests

In another sign of growing political intolerance in Greece, the country’s far-right health minister has reintroduced a measure to allow the police to carry out forced HIV tests.

2/7/2013- Introduced shortly before the May 2012 general election, the policy was suspended several weeks ago by former deputy health minister Fotini Skopouli, who subsequently resigned following the Democratic Left party’s withdrawal from government. The policy resulted in the round-up and subsequent forced testing of hundreds of women. Seventeen, who were found to be HIV positive, had their names, personal details and photographs published in the media, on the grounds of protecting public health. Despite no evidence of them being involved with sex work, they were branded “prostitutes” and accused of being “health bombs”. They were detained in custody for several months.

According to the Greek independent news website EnetEnglish, Adonis Georgiadis, Greece’s new health minister, has reintroduced the draconian policy. In a statement LGBT campaign group HOMOphonia-Thessaloniki Pride said: “Public health is not protected by the castigation of people who are HIV positive, but through the implementation of integrated programmes against HIV/AIDS, through the introduction of sex education in schools, and regular public campaigns.” Mr Georgiades was previously a member of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally. In 2007 he published a book titled “Homosexuality in Ancient Greece: the Myth Collapses” in which he claimed social acceptance of homosexuality in Ancient Greece had been overstated.
© Pink News

up  

NGOs urge new justice minister to proceed with anti-racism law (Greece)

1/7/2013- Greece’s new justice minister needs to focus on drawing up new anti-racism legislation, the Racist Violence Recording Network, a collection of 30 nongovernmental organizations initiated two years ago by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), said in a statement. The anti-racism law was a source of friction in the coalition government recently, with New Democracy arguing that new legislation was not needed. Greece’s newly-appointed Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said last week that the anti-racism legislation was not a priority. “The matter will progress and the differences will be overcome,” he said. The NGOs argued that Athanasiou needs to focus on protecting victims and witnesses of racist violence and create legislation that treats racist attacks as distinct crimes. The Racist Violence Recording Network registered 154 racist attacks last year.
© Kathimerini

up  

Norman Bettison 'had smear file' on anti-racist campaigner (UK)

Former police chief allegedly co-ordinated campaign against man preparing to back Stephen Lawrence family's campaign

5/7/2013- A man decorated for his community work has been officially informed that he was the potential victim of an alleged smear campaign orchestrated by the former police chief Sir Norman Bettison, as he prepared to publicly back the Stephen Lawrence family's campaign for racial justice. Mohammed Amran told the Guardian he was going to denounce police racism in the West Yorkshire force where Bettison was a senior officer when dossiers are alleged to have been compiled on him. Bettison, who went on to become the chief constable of the West Yorkshire police, has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the claims by his own former colleagues. Bettison stood down from his role as one of Britain's most senior officers earlier this years over disputed claims over his role in a police cover-up of the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

On Thursday night, Amran, 37, a former top official at the Commission for Racial Equality said he had been warned the alleged smear campaign may have targeted him. He told the Guardian that officials at the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) covering West Yorkshire told him on Wednesday of the claims. Amran says the officials told him dossiers about him were found at West Yorkshire police, allegedly prepared as he got ready to testify in 1998 at the Macpherson inquiry into the failings by police in the hunt for Lawrence's killers, which also examined the records of officers across the country on race. Amran, who became one of the youngest ever commissioners of the former official race watchdog, the CRE, said: "I am shocked that someone who was a CRE commissioner can be treated in this way. "If what the PCC is saying is true, it is a breach of Sir Norman's position."

The PCC for West Yorkshire and the force itself say documents raise serious concerns that a witness due to appear before Macpherson's hearing in Bradford was targeted. Amran said his evidence concerned "police racism, stop and search and the treatment of young people by West Yorkshire police." West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said there were "concerns about the motivation for the report" and that three documents recently discovered "raise significant concerns over the role of Sir Norman Bettison at the time he was assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire police in 1998 in commissioning a report to be prepared in the respect of a key witness appearing before the Macpherson inquiry." It is believed that West Yorkshire special branch officers may have been involved.

Amran said he had gone on to work alongside Bettison, working as a community advisor for the national policing body Centrex, which Bettison led, and which later became the National Policing Improvement Agency. Amran said: "He was always polite and pleasant to me. If I see the documents I may blow my top. I don't know how personal they are." The claims follow revelations in the Guardian that an undercover Metropolitan police officer was asked to find dirt on the Lawrence family and the key witness in the case, Duwayne Brooks. Brooks, who was with Stephen Lawrence on the night he was murdered, will meet Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, on Friday to discuss allegations of police misconduct, his solicitor said. The meeting was set up after Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, alleged that he had been told to find information to smear the Lawrence family after the killing.
© The Guardian

up  

Far right march organisers invoiced for Ł820 by Burnley Council (UK)

3/7/2013- The organisers of a far right march through Burnley will be slapped with a bill for £820 by Burnley Council. The council warned the North West Frontline Firm, which organised the demonstration along centenary Way last month, that it would be billed for costs incurred by the council. The costs included the erection of crowd barriers, the removal of plant containers and the provision of temporary toilets. Mark Townsend, deputy leader of Burnley Council and the executive member for resources and performance management, said: “The council has billed the organisers for £820. “This covers the council’s direct costs only. “Burnley taxpayers should not have to pay a single penny towards this pointless protest that was nothing to do with Burnley.” The biggest cost for the event was for policing, but this will be met by Lancashire Police, and not by the council.
© The Lancashire Telegraph

up  

Jewish-Muslim partnership offers hope (UK)

Just when it seems that religious strife is at its worst, a ray of hope gleams.

2/7/2013- First, the bad news. In Great Britain, a watchdog group found that just about half of all mosques and Muslim centers had been attacked since 9/11 — victims of physical attacks, computer hacking, arson or other attacks. Islamophobia has risen tenfold since the horrific daytime attack on British soldier Lee Rigby last month. He was hacked to death on a London street by two men who told police they were avenging deaths of Muslims at the hands of the British military. Yet glimmers of hope quickly emerged. Jews, all too familiar with religious persecution and terrorist attacks, have reached out to help protect mosques from the backlash. Police-trained guards called Shomrim, originally formed to combat anti-Semitic attacks, have agreed to protect mosques in Hackney, the London neighborhood where Rigby was killed. Since the Rigby attack, someone burned down a Somali cultural center there and someone also placed a homemade bomb at a local mosque. The community-based Shomrim will expand their routine patrols to include the mosques along with synagogues and offer Muslims security training.

The Shomrim operate similarly to a neighborhood watch. Members are trained to track and detain suspects, if necessary, until police arrive. They also run a 24-hour hotline to which people can report suspicious activity. In a world where religiously motivated attacks claim lives daily, it's encouraging that in such a hard-hit area, those with cooler heads and an eye toward the future realize compassion and cooperation are key to moving forward. Despite the number of anti-Islamic attacks, Shomrim supervisor Chaim Hochhauser told a local newspaper that most Muslims and Jews get along well and want to work as a team. "It's a shame it's not like this all over the world," he said. Shomrim and their Muslim neighbors' unusual alliance offers a positive example to that troubled world. Despite the dire headlines — suicide bombers, assassinations, the destruction of religious holy sites — most people don't harbor deep antagonism toward people outside their own faith group and want nothing more than to live their lives in peace. That is just as powerful a motivator as religious hatred. Successfully tapping the desire for peace is the challenge of today.
© The Pocono Record

up  

Muslim graves at Christchurch Cemetery, Newport, desecrated by racist vandals (UK)

1/7/2013- Muslim graves at a Newport cemetery have been desecrated with racist graffiti. The vandals used white paint to write "Lee Rigby murder", "white power" and drew swastikas on four gravestones at Christchurch Cemetery. They also wrote the initials of the British National Party (BNP), the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the National Front (NF). People visiting nearby graves spoke of their disgust and shock at seeing the painted messages, which were still wet this morning. Julie Thomas and her 89-year-old aunt Elfriede Robinson were visiting the grave of Mrs Robinson's husband George nearby. "I think it's absolutely disgusting," said Mrs Thomas, 51, who lives in Christchurch. "These people are dead and gone now, what is the point? It is the ultimate disrespect. What's next? My aunt is quite upset by the swastikas, she is German and has lived here for 60 years."

Paul Burgoyne, 47, his wife Jill, 45, and their 19-year-old daughter Deanna, who were visiting his father Melville's grave, said cemeteries are neutral places. "Political views should stay outside cemeteries because the dead can't answer," said Mr Burgoyne. "This is consecrated ground. You can only see a name on a grave and what's in a name, you don't know their backgrounds." Mrs Burgoyne said: "My husband has French and Irish ancestry, what if they take a dislike to French people? How upset would we be if someone had done that to us?" Marc Collins, his mother Kay and his three-year-old son Olly were on their way to place flowers on the grave of his father Keith Collins when they drove past the vandalised headstones. "It is absolutely disgusting and appalling, and we don't agree with it or condone it," said Mrs Collins, 64. "If the relatives were here I would go up and apologise." Mr Collins, 35, said: "We come here every week and usually there are people at those graves at the same time as us. If it happened to us we would be very angry and upset, and we feel ashamed."

Paul Hemmings, 46, who had driven more than 200 miles from London with his wife to visit his father's grave, said he had never been so angry after seeing the messages. "I am embarrassed to be white and to be British," said Mr Hemmings, who is originally from Newport. "These moronic buffoons ought to be ashamed of themselves. What has religion got to do with absolutely anything? Islamaphobia has gone far too far, you can't be Christian if you are doing this." The group of 15 newly dug graves are in a separate area of the western side of Christchurch Cemetery. Superintendent of Newport cemeteries, Charles Dare, said there are six Muslim plots in St Woolos cemeteries and apart from an incident 20 years ago when the headstones were pushed over, nothing like this has happened before. Newport council's graffiti team were trying to remove the messages when Gwent Police arrived at the scene, around noon yesterday. A police spokesman said: "We are working with the council to get the graffiti removed and contacting the relatives of the graves that have been affected."
© HOPE not Hate

up  

Prosecutions for Antisemitic Criminal Acts 2003 - 2012 (UK)

1/7/2013- This list shows prosecutions for antisemitic criminal acts. CST hopes that it will encourage victims of antisemitism to report their experience and help press for action against the perpetrators. CST will continue supporting prosecutions against antisemitism and will update this list as required. CST assists the investigation of antisemitic hate crimes and can help support victims through the criminal justice process.

2012
December
Philip Hayes was convicted at Liverpool Magistrates Court of an aggravated public order offence after making antisemitic remarks to a Jewish Member of Parliament. He was fined and ordered to pay court costs.

September
Mark Symington was convicted at Perth Sheriff’s Court in September of making threatening antisemitic phone calls to his former wife during a three day drunken tirade, in which he had threatened to gas her, following their estrangement.

July
Margaret Walker, an elderly BNP supporter, was convicted of distributing anti Jewish and anti-Muslim leaflets at Fareham Magistrates Court and given a non-custodial Anti Social Behaviour Order, in July.
Mohammed Khalifa, 19, Aimen Mohamed, 19, Mohammed Jawad, 21, and Haider Al-Fardan, 21, were convicted of racially motivated attacks against Jews in July, after they had driven through the north London suburb of Golders Green the previous December throwing eggs at passersby and shouting anti-Jewish abuse. The four were all found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment and ordered to pay fines, court costs and compensation.

May
In May, veteran political campaigner Norman Scarth was convicted of racially aggravated harassment at Manchester City Magistrates Court, fined and subjected to a restraining order to prevent him approaching a Jewish judge who lived in Leeds, or any synagogue or Jewish community institution. Although no political extremist, he had subjected the Jewish judge to a campaign of threats following his conviction for other offences.

2011
December
James Casserly
was given a three month conditional discharge and ordered to pay compensation at Hendon Magistrates Court, north London, after pleading guilty to racially abusing a Jewish man standing at a bus stop.
Mohammed Sandia was sentenced to be admonished after his conviction twelve months earlier for inciting hatred against Jews by publishing antisemitic and threatening messages on the comments web page of The Scotsman newspaper. The courts had agreed to a twelve month review of his behaviour after his initial conviction. Scottish law allows a defendant to be admonished, without a custodial sentence, and for this to appear on his criminal record. This significant case led the Scottish First Minister (in effect, the Prime Minister) and Lord Advocate (in effect, head of the criminal justice system) to write to newspaper editors to remind them of their legal responsibilities over the content of their publications, including online.

September
Yacoub Osman, an Egyptian national living in London, was convicted at Blackfriars Crown Court of racially motivated criminal damage after daubing swastikas and antisemitic graffiti on the walls of a train station in Chalk Farm north London. He was given a 12 month community order with 50 hours unpaid work and fined.
Zbignigw Lebek was jailed for a year at Mold Crown Court, north Wales, for shouting antisemitic abuse and making Hitler salutes at an Orthodox Jewish youth working as a volunteer at a local hospital. A police search of his apartment revealed a Nazi flag with a swastika draped over the stairs.
Perry Merchant was convicted of racially aggravated common assault, and given 140 hours of community service and made to pay compensation and court costs, after driving his van in a threatening manner towards two members of Borehamwood Synagogue in Hertfordshire on their way to High Holyday services.
Paul Donnachie was convicted of racially abusing an American Jewish student at St Andrews University. He was sentenced to 150 hours community service and ordered to pay the court’s costs. He was also expelled from the university. The case against his co defendant, Samuel Colchester, was found not proven but he was suspended by the university for a year. Donnachie’s conviction led to demonstrations in his support outside Cupar Sheriff Court in Fife, by members of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, three of whose leaders had been denied permission to give evidence on his behalf. He subsequently lost his appeal to the Scottish High Court of Justiciary, in May.

July
Edna Beck, an 80 year old woman from Brighton, was given an Anti Social Behaviour Order by the local court after shouting antisemitic abuse at her neighbours.
Taha Osman, an Iraqi Kurd working as a taxi driver in Manchester, was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after he had shouted antisemitic abuse from his car at parents outside a Jewish school in Manchester. He was given a community order by the court.

June
Richard Brundritt was jailed for a year at St Albans Crown Court for religiously aggravated assault after attacking a supermarket guard, an Orthodox Jew.

May
Aaron Hanson and Liam Martin were convicted of racially aggravated harassment by a Manchester court after having driven around Broughton Park, a largely Jewish suburb of Manchester, shouting abuse. Hanson was given a 12 month community order and fined; Martin a six month community order and fined.

March
William James Hannaford was convicted of aggravated harassment against a Jewish newspaper at the Central Criminal Court London, after he had shouted antisemitic abuse down the paper’s office telephone hundreds of times.

2010
December

Lee Tucker was jailed for a year in December, at Cardiff Crown Court, for threatening to assault four Jews on their way to synagogue having first driven his car at them.

November
Mark Padgett and Karl Bowman were convicted of racially aggravated disorder and other charges in November, after abusing two yeshiva students at a Jewish college in Gateshead.

June
Neo Nazis Trevor Hannington and Michael Heaton were jailed at the Central Criminal Court in June for inciting racial hatred after they had posted numerous messages to the website of the Aryan Strike Force in which they threatened violence against Jews.

March
Clifford Nelson was convicted at Manchester Crown Court in March of racially aggravated harassment at Barnstaple Magistrates Court for daubing anti Jewish and other offensive graffiti on local public buildings.
Dean Parker, Shameem Parker and Barry Clark-Millar were convicted at Salford Crown Court in March of racially aggravated common assault after shouting antisemitic abuse at a group of Jewish children at whom they drove their car.

February
A 17 year old youth who could not be named because of his age, was the first person in the UK to be convicted of inciting racial hatred on YouTube in February after he had posted antisemitic and racist messages.

For 2009 - 2003 go here
© The CST

up  

EDL leader arrested on banned march (UK)

29/6/2013- The leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) was arrested on Saturday after breaching a police order banning a march to the London site where a soldier was murdered last month, the group said. Scotland Yard had warned Tommy Robinson and other EDL members they faced arrest if they went ahead with a planned walk and rally at the barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, where Lee Rigby was hacked to death. Two British converts to Islam are due to stand trial over the murder in November. Police said the EDL's plans risked causing "serious public disorder" and told the group to hold their rally, timed to mark Armed Forces Day in Britain, near parliament in central London. The EDL campaigns against what it says is the spread of radical Islam in Britain. But it has been accused of Islamophobia and previous rallies have ended in clashes with anti-fascist groups. Despite the police warning, Robinson went ahead with a sponsored walk through the capital with EDL co-leader Kevin Carroll, aimed to raise money for a children's cancer charity.

The movement said both were arrested as they entered Tower Hamlets, an east London borough with a sizeable Muslim community and a large mosque, on their way to Woolwich. Footage on Sky News television showed Robinson being handcuffed and taken into a police van, although police could not immediately confirm the arrest. "Tommy Robinson & Kev Caroll arrested for obstructing the police and carted off," the EDL said in a statement on its Facebook page, accusing police of acting like the Nazi Gestapo. The group urged supporters "to continue the walk and lay the flowers at the scene of Lee Rigby's murder". The government had already banned two US political bloggers from entering Britain to attend the EDL rally. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who set up Stop Islamization of America and operate the website Jihad Watch, were forbidden from entering Britain on the grounds their presence would "not be conducive to the public good".
© AFP

up  

Far-right archive opened at University of Northampton (UK)

An archive of a collection of UK far-right pamphlets and magazines has been opened in Northamptonshire.

29/6/2013- It has been loaned by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight and includes publications by the National Front. The university said it will provide resources for historical research into far-right parties. Dr Paul Jackson, history lecturer, said: "In the current climate, it is probably a good time to rethink the history of ultra-patriotic movements." The archive includes copies of Searchlight magazine which was first published in the mid-1960s. The university's School of Social Sciences offers training courses called Far Right Aware. Dr Jackson said: "Since the Woolwich attack in May [the death of Drummer Lee Rigby], we have a sharp rise in far-right activity. "The Searchlight Archive represents a major addition to our knowledge on extremist organisations. "Analysis of this rich resource will allow a much more detailed picture of Britain's post-war far-right activism to emerge." Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight, said: "I think it shows how anti-fascists can work together. "The common goal is to hold back fascism and racism, because far-right groups are still around in one form or another and post-Woolwich there has been an increase in attacks on mosques, Muslim community centres and property."
© BBC News

up  

Are the German police using racial profiling?

Activists say police officers often pick dark-skinned people out of a white crowd for security checks. The federal police reject the accusations of racism. They say anyone could be checked.

2/7/2013- Worn-out stairs lead to the second floor of an inconspicuous building in Berlin's hip Kreuzberg district. Colorful posters and stickers peel gradually off the gray concrete walls: one is a call to protest against asylum seekers' deportation, another a flier saying "Oury Jalloh was murdered," about an African asylum seeker who died in police custody. Biplab Basu is waiting at the heavy door of "ReachOut," a small organization that helps victims of rightwing extremism and racism. Basu himself has often encountered racism, he recounts. A couple of months ago, he and his daughter were the only ones who were checked by police in a train approaching the Czech-German border. Basu is certain that the officers approached him and his daughter, because their skin was darker than that of their fellow travelers. That he came to Germany more than 30 years ago didn't matter. Basu has filed a complaint, and might even go to court over the fact that he and his daughter were picked out of a white crowd. For years, he has fought against "racist police checks," as he calls them. He co-organized protests in the early 1990s and handed out fliers. He says that if only dark-skinned people are approached by police in trains or airports, fellow travelers will internalize the "dark skin equals criminal" idea.

'Structural Discrimination'
But Basu fears that he's one of the few fighting this corner: "The majority of people who are checked because of the color of their skin aren't doing anything about it, because they feel insulted and humiliated. For many of them," he adds, "police checks are a part of life, and not easily contestable." Racial profiling is explicitly prohibited. But the allegedly racist checks are often conducted in trains or airports, where the German federal police is, according to article 22 of the Federal Police Law, allowed to check individuals to "prevent and eliminate unlawful entry."

Who is picked out for checks is determined by random sampling, without concrete suspicion, Hendrik Cemer from the German Institute for Human Rights explains. "Police are are supposed to act based initially on a visual inspection, so what ends up happening is they are making judgements based on an individuals hair color, eye color and skin color." Thus the system's structure is set up with implicit discrimination, according to Cremer. That's why he demands the abolition of this particular article within the law. The legal expert has dealt with the topic in depth: he recently conducted a study on article 22 and attended many events over the last couple of months, "where police and critics sat face to face." Again and again Cremer experienced that police officers simply did not understand the accusations of racism. He wasn't surprised- after all, the officers are explicitly instructed by their superiors to conduct checks based on certain traits, Cremer says.

Police reject accusations 
The police strongly refuted these accusations when contacted by Deutsche Welle. Racial or ethnic profiling is not being practiced, the federal police said in a two-page statement: "Anyone can be the target of our measures." Random questioning and checks are conducted based on "border police knowledge," which includes significantly more than "only a person's ethnicity." Other factors that determine whether or not someone is checked are "information on traffic routes, possible locations, time periods, age group, gender and suspicious behavior," as well as clothing, luggage and "additional physical traits." So are there internal training courses on the topic of racism or discrimination in security checks on indidviduals? Police point out the training and advanced education courses offered to officers, which sensitize them to the fact that "police measures can't be based on a person's nationality or ethnicity alone." In addition, the federal police themselves employ more than 800 officers with a range of ethnic backgrounds.

Charged for complaining about racism?
"That's just wishy washy," Biplab Basu says about the police's explanation attempts. "The color of one's skin is the first and most important criterion in these checks. Everything else comes second, period. These kinds of checks are racist." His cell phone rings: a young man tells Basu that he was charged with insulting an officer after he had complained about racial profiling during a security check. Time and again, young men, who are the main target, sit on Basu's leather couch and report the same things. The activist says that it's easy to get charged.

Omar proudly reports that he has been charged 23 times already. He taped all the reports to his mirror, so that he sees them every day. The Afghan was charged, because he protested that no other passengers on the train were checked and accused the officers of racism. Or because he violated his residency requirement: asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the administrative district in which they are registered. Omar shrugs. He's not allowed to be in Berlin, but thinks he won't be discovered: "Because my skin isn't that dark." Some of his friends, like asylum seekers from African states, have more difficulties, Omar says. He came to Germany four years ago and has been checked numerous times, "but not as often as those with black skin."

Basu admits that he isn't checked that often himself. Maybe because he always wears a suit, the activist says and touches his gray suit jacket. So maybe skin color isn't the single greatest factor in security checks after all? Basu considers this for a moment and then shakes his head. A woman he knows proves his theory: the renowned professor from India was on vacation in Germany with her daughters. Over a short time period on a train, they were checked various times, Basu says. "And that was definitely because of the color of their skin."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

'Germany must face up to racist institutions' (comment)

Can a democratic state be racist? Of course, says Der Tagesspiegel's Andrea Darnbach - who argues that a nation with a past like Germany's must face up to the latent racism lying at the heart of German officialdom.

2/7/2013- Last week's report by the German Institute for Human Rights left no doubt as to its views on racism in the police force. Rules which allow police to stop and search people on the basis of their appearance are not only against EU law, said the institute, but "compromise human dignity." In the aftermath of the report, journalist Darnbach wrote that Germany must stop feeling offended and come to terms with persistent institutionalised racism: The human rights agency has thrown light once again on to a dark corner of political culture, which is the persistence of racism in the actions of the state. The institute examined the Federal Police Act – which regulates the force's remit and actions – and established that at least one paragraph illegally allows police to observe and watch people on the basis of their appearance. It is only a couple of words in a whole law. But it is illustrative.

It can be controversial to accuse a democratic country of racism, especially Germany of all countries. Not least because the wording of the law in question looks so harmless: In the text it only says that officers should rely on their “experience” - or rather their gut feeling. No police officer is explicitly told that they should concentrate on stopping and searching black people. But that appears to have been the result. German officialdom always likes to see itself as the model pupil of its own history, the story of how murderous race hate ended in genocide. To admit that even seventy years later the country is not completely finished with that process means that perhaps we have not learned our lessons quite as properly as we should have.

Racism also exists in democracies
But why? If we were talking about another issue, nobody would deny that even democracies which, on the whole, function very well are not immune to unsavoury developments more characteristic of dictatorships. The lively global debate about the USA's spying program proves exactly that point. But perhaps it is equality – always brutally destroyed by racism – which is so fundamentally a democratic principle, but one that democrats find can hardly bear being presented with the glaring reality so far from the ideal. That's what happens with racism, even more so when it's not individual racism that's the issue, but official, “institutional” racism on the state's account. Those who do not want to put a name to abuses are certainly not able to remedy them. The NSU murders could have almost certainly been prevented if racist bias by the investigating authorities hadn't prevented racism from being recognised as the motive.

Instead racism continues to be routinely trivialised, even though it's a danger for the whole society. And it weighs down on the lives of individuals: people who have to explain to their children why they are always asked to show their IDs, or why they cannot get a flat because of their skin colour or why they are always pulled off the train in full view of everyone.Racism may be a serious accusation. But it's much worse to do nothing about it.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Police clear Munich hunger strike camp (Germany)

Police in Munich moved in early Sunday morning to clear a camp of asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for a week. Talks broke down late on Saturday night after it emerged the protesters would not be granted residence permits.

30/6/2013- The group, camped out on the city's central Rindermarkt square, had originally been demanding the right to asylum in Germany but signalled they would be prepared to accept residence permits issued on humanitarian grounds instead. When this was not offered to them during negotiations, the group said they would continue the protest. Many said they were prepared to die. Doctors had previously warned that many of the protesters were in a critical condition. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, authorities had wanted to avoid moving protesters, who were camped out legally. However city mayor Chirtsian Ude said “protecting lives” was his “utmost priority.” Forty-four of the protesters were admitted to 12 hospitals, according to city spokesman Stefan Hauf.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Integration measures for Roma still insufficient, report says (Czech Rep.)

2/7/2013- Social housing still does not exist for Czech Romanies and their high debts are not being settled despite the government measures, says the report on the fulfilment of the national strategy for Romanies' integration in the past year, drafted by a coalition of NGOs, released yesterday. It is not clear how much individual programmes cost and how successful they were, the report said. The activists criticise the government for not having set any system of evaluation or monitoring. "As a result, it is not known how much it really spends on Romany integration annually, what measures had a real influence on the improvement of Romanies' situation or how many Romanies really received contributions," Filip Rames, from the Open Society Fund, said. Rames said the funding depended on short-term grants and uncertainty relating to future subsidies did not contribute to the functioning of the programmes, he added.

Absence of social housing poses one of the most serious problems, the report said. The government concept only recommends the establishment of housing for the poor to towns and villages. NGOs are of the view that this should be a legal duty for the local authorities. "The reality has shown that while some towns and villages try to help some citizens in need, others openly proclaim their intention to export their problems to other towns and villages, trying to move out the socially excluded people," the report said. Growing debts pose another problem. Information campaigns and consultancy for debtors are not sufficient, it added. "The only realistic way in which to come to terms with the growing problem of debts is to curtail the illegitimately high profits of those who trade in the debts by an efficient regulation," Jakob Hurrle, from the Centre for Social Affairs, said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

More police patrolling in Č. Budějovice after anti-Roma riots (Czech Rep.)

3/7/2013- The number of municipal and national police will increase at the Maj housing project with a large Czech Roma community after the Saturday anti-Roma riots, Mayor Juraj Thoma told journalists Wednesday. Tension has existed in the locality with over 20,000 residents since June 21 when a conflict between Roma and majority children and then adult people emerged on a playground at Maj. "In order to increase the feeling of safety, an immediate measure was adopted. The number of patrols of the municipal police was increased," Thoma said. "Along with a motor patrol, 12 municipal police instead of the current six will be available. Besides, the national police will send some more patrols to the housing project," he added.

The town hall asked all housing project residents not to join street rallies and not to support any militant groups. A meeting to discuss the current situation at the housing project will be called to the Sports Arena on July 9, Thoma said. During the Saturday conflict the police clashed with anti-Roma demonstrators. Ten people were injured in it. Director of the South Bohemia police Radomir Herman said he considered the police intervention successful as it prevented physical contact of two groups of people. During the conflict, the police detained 40 people, but no charges have been lodged. Some of the demonstrators shouted anti-Roma slogans such as "Black pigs."
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Police on racial riots: "We couldn't see it coming" (Czech Rep.)

2/7/2013- Czech police said that it was not possible to prevent the racial riots that shocked the capital of the South Bohemian Region on Saturday 29 June. The organizers of the two competing demonstrations allegedly complied with all requirements of the law on assembly and did not give any indication that their events could turn violent. "Similar meetings can be banned in advance, but such a ban must comply with the law on assembly. We monitored Facebook, the communication between the organizers, we consulted with experts, but we did not get a single piece of information indicating that the meeting would not be peaceful," said police officer Martin Soucek. Some 40 people were detained after the street battles in the 100,000 inhabitant city, seven have been charged with a criminal offense, the rest are accused of a misdemeanor. Several of the arrested are also suspected of extremism.

South Bohemia police officer Radomir Herman said that the Saturday demonstration that turned violent was called in response to an incident from June 21, in which two children and eventually several adults fought in a playground in a socially-excluded area in Ceske Budejovice's Maj residential district, a place of frequent racial tension. A meeting of members of the local Roma community and their sympathizers took place in the Maj neighborhood, while some 500 far-right protesters from Ceske Budejovice and other Czech cities met in Premysl Otakar II Square. After the latter demonstration ended at 5 PM, some of its participants moved to Maj where they clashed with police. Police had to use rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them. "I consider the (police) action a clear and demonstrable success," said Herman, explaining that his men managed to separate the two warring groups. Soucek also said that the mere fact that the far-right demonstration moved from its original place was not a sufficient reason to intervene for the police forces.
© Czech News

up  

Czech mayor blames police tactics in clash with neo-Nazi protesters

The mayor of a Czech Republic city that saw weekend clashes between right-wing extremists and Roma residents has blamed the police for not acting sooner.

2/7/2013- The mayor of a Czech Republic city says police reacted too slowly to head off weekend clashes between right-wing extremists and Roma residents.
Mayor Juraj Thoma of the south Bohemia city of Ceske Budejovice said the Saturday street battles in which 30 people were arrested and 10 treated for minor injuries could have been prevented if police had cut off a group of extremists who separated from a permitted event in the city center and marched into a Roma-dominated housing project. When asked Sunday by Czech Radio why police let the right-wing protesters reach a neighborhood where Roma were holding a peaceful assembly of their own, Thoma said it was a choice they made over which he had no control. "I told the police they had to pick up the protesters long before they reached the settlement," he said. "But this is a question for the police, why they chose this tactic."

The clashes came after several hundred right-wing demonstrators gathered in the city's Ottokar II Square Saturday night chanting racist slogans. A group of them then left the square and headed to the Maj settlement on the outskirts of the city, home to 22,000 Roma residents, the broadcaster reported. After the marchers reached the site, police deployed tear gas and smoke grenades to prevent them from directly engaging with the residents, who were holding their own sanctioned assembly to denounce what they called official indifference following a racially motivated fight between five women at a playground, the broadcaster said. The clashes happened in a narrow street between prefabricated houses and cars, with extremists throwing Molotov cocktails, stones and broken glass. Trash containers were overturned and some were burned while some cars were also damaged.

About 100 riot police, together with dogs and an anti-conflict team, tried to dissuade the attackers. The mayor said it was obvious the right-wing protesters were looking for trouble long before they reached the Maj settlement. "I said yesterday that, given that the marching crowd shouted 'Heil Hitler,' were raising their right hands and shouting Nazi slogans, police should have picked them up in the city center. "Police chose this method. They decided to do it primarily to prevent the extreme right-wing guerrillas from clashing in direct physical conflict with the Roma." Despite the weekend's hostilities, Thoma said the clashes were an isolated event sparked by out-of-town extremists who came to the city from across the country after a call was sent out through social media. "They boasted on social networks to come to Czech Budejovice and fight with 'the cops and gypsies,'" he said. "They literally described it that way on Facebook. The whole event was triggered primarily by people who came from outside and who just came to Ceske Budejovice to fight."

Roma residents, however, blamed the city for not addressing the problems of the sometimes violent discrimination aimed at them. When everyone has scattered, next week the threats, blackmail, theft and assault will start again," one unidentified Roma resident told Czech Radio. "Every day. Our children cannot play on the playground. Unfortunately, our council and our city does not do anything about it."
© United Press International

up  

Anti-Roma riots in České Budějovice point to extremist trend (Czech Rep.)

A small demonstration in the center of the biggest south Bohemian city, České Budějovice, on Saturday turned into an unruly xenophobic march to a neighborhood with a dense Roma population. It took many hours before the police, using smoke grenades and tear gas, were able to disperse hundreds of extremists who threw bottles and stones, lit up garbage containers, and chanted racist slogans. Thirty-nine people were detained.

1/7/2013- To understand the context of the situation, which comes just weeks after similar anti-Roma unrest in the north Bohemian town of Duchcov, I spoke to Miroslav Mareš, an expert on far-right extremism based at Brno’s Masaryk University, and asked him if this weekend’s events were any different from what we have seen in the past few year.

“I think the difference is mostly the location and the territorial spread of the ethnic riots from northern Bohemia to other parts of the Czech Republic. However, if we remember last year in Břeclav in Southern Moravia there were several similar riots to the ones now in České Budějovice. Maybe then we see that this type of ethnic riots, where the ‘normal’ citizens protest together with right-wing extremists, that’s nothing new in the Czech Republic. There is a stable progression [of these events], at least from [the riots] in Janov, in northern Bohemia, in 2008.”

So, why did the events of this weekend happen now? What could be the ‘bigger-picture’ cause for this? 
“This took place after the clash between a Roma family and ethnic Czech family, where one Czech woman was attacked by a Roma woman. So, this was the starting incident. However, we can see similar tensions in many so-called socially excluded localities around the Czech Republic. So, yesterday it was in České Budějovice, however next week it could be in Jihlava, or northern Bohemia or Přerov, for example.”

So, you are saying that this is part of a bigger trend?
“Yes, I think this is not connected only to the situation in České Budějovice. It is connected with rising ethnic tensions in the whole of the Czech Republic.”

Is this in any way connected to the economic situation right now, or does the extremism that accompanies these kinds of riots have roots in something completely different?
“I think there are many factors. Of course, the economic situation is one of them, however also the discontent with Roma crime and delinquency, as well as this subjective feeling of insecurity is a very important issue in this whole radicalization.”

And in terms of the influence that extremists have on the society as a whole…You said that there is a trend where non-extremists getting involved in these riots. Does this mean that these extremist movements will gain more popularity as time goes on? 
The Workers’ Party of Social Justice, which is the most important representative of the extreme right, is very weak. They only had one person running in the last election. So, this could potentially be a reason for the rise of a new populist movement. On the other hand, there are more important factors for electoral behavior in the Czech Republic, which are mostly in the socio-economic sphere, and it is mostly the dissatisfaction with established politics. Don’t forget, we now have a governmental crisis, we have many scandals involving governing parties and so on.”
© Radio Prague

up  

Czech Rep.: Neo-Nazis attempt pogrom on Roma, commit arson, nine injured, 28 arrests

29/6/2013- Roughly 200 people, most of them Romani, gathered after 13:00 CET today at the Máj housing estate in České Budějovice where the assembly and cultural program "Čikhatar Het/Z bahna ven II" ("Out of the Mud II") was held by the Konexe civic association together with the local Romani community. The gathering was in response to an anti-Romani demonstration that started at 16:00 CET on Přemysl Otakar II Square and was attended by about 500 people. The demonstrators headed for the Máj housing estate, where they attempted to attack the peaceful Romani assembly. Police intervened against them there.

Both gatherings were in response to an incident during which several children, their parents, and other unrelated adults got into conflict at a local playground. Several people were injured as a result of the clash between ethnic Czechs and Romani residents. A pregnant woman was one of those injured. It is not yet clear who started the conflict or how, because police have not yet publicized the exact causes and circumstances of the incident. "Our assembly is in support of the local Czech-Romani community of neighbors, to improve relations between them. We announced it to the town hall on Monday," Miroslav Brož of Konexe previously told news server Romea.cz. "We preventatively announced our reservation of the streets at the Máj housing estate so the march could not proceed there, as it might involve violence. We are organizing a peaceful action," Markus Pape also told news server Deník.cz on behalf of Konexe.

The predominantly Romani people attending the assembly pointed out that the situation at the housing estate might improve if Romani people were also members of the police patrols in the neighborhood. Several speeches were made at the event, which included musical performances and singing. The neo-Nazi gathering began at 16:00 on Přemysl Otakar II Square. About 200 people were on the square even before it started. By 16:30 the number of people had risen to about 500. Several small groups of right-wing extremists were among those assembled. On the square, the Baroque-era Samson's fountain became an improvised podium. News server Deník.cz reported that those speaking complained of a "double standard" in society and chanted racist slogans.

News server iDNES.cz reported that those on the square then said they wanted to go deliver a "message" to the Máj housing estate and end their gathering there. Small groups of hardcore right-wing extremists at the protest obviously were a potential problem. Last week similar groups wreaked havoc in the town of Duchcov, assaulting police officers with bottles and rocks. The marchers in České Budějovice were shouting racist and xenophobic slogans such as "black swine". Even though the demonstrators had not previously announced to authorities that they would march on the Máj housing estate, police did not intervene against the protesters when they set out from the square. Right-wing extremists with their faces covered made it all the way to Máj at about 5:30.

The marchers began throwing glass bottles and explosives at the Romani people gathered there. They set a garbage container on fire and a car caught fire as well. Police intervened against them at the housing estate using tear gas. The right-wing extremists fought back, injuring a police officer and also a passer-by who was struck by a rock. Just after 6 PM about 50 aggressive neo-Nazis were still on J. Bendy Street at the corner of Dubenská Street attacking the police with rocks. Police managed to split the right-wing extremists up into several smaller groups and calmed the situation for a moment. However, the neo-Nazis then regrouped on Antonín Barcal Street and resumed their rock-throwing at police. At the same time, housing estate residents were out doing their best to re-park their cars to keep them from being struck by the neo-Nazis' rocks.

"A police vehicle with a broken windshield is driving around, there will evidently be more damage and injuries," a reporter for news server Deník.cz described the war zone scene in České Budějovice. Officers attempted to push the mob back away from the housing estate by using stun grenades. Rumors began to spread at that time that police had started to make some of their first arrests among the demonstrators. Police spokesperson Lenka Holická was at the scene and told the Czech News Agency that she had not yet been informed of any arrests. As of this writing, the situation at the housing estate is still rather unpredictable. "Our assembly ended before 17:00. What is happening in the streets of the town has nothing to do with our activities and we cannot influence it in any way," Michal Choura, the convener of today's demonstration, told the Czech News Agency. Just before 20:00 CET, police announced they had arrested 28 people and were now evaluating how many had committed misdemeanors and how many had committed felonies. News server Romea.cz has been informed that nine people were injured during today's violence, two of them police officers.

Protest preparations underway for more than a week
Immediately after the playground incident at the Máj housing estate, a Facebook page was created called "Protest Actions against Inadaptable Citizens", the current cover term for all the anti-Romani actions being planned. The administrators of that page estimated between 700 - 800 demonstrators would attend today's protest. Organizer Michael Choura also informed the public about it earlier this week. "We invited the mayor of České Budějovice to Saturday's event when we visited him. In his view, however, we are exaggerating the situation around the Máj housing estate," Choura said earlier.

The housing estate is part of a locality where a high number of socially vulnerable families and individuals live. A large proportion of them are people from the Romani community. "[Last] Friday's conflict is simply the result of bad policy on the part of the municipality, the region, and the state. The economic and social situations of many people are truly desperate, and everyone is burying their head in the sand about it," former town councilor Marie Paukejová, who has long lived at the Máj housing estate, said previously.

The housing estate is the largest in the town, accommodating roughly one-fifth of its total population, and is one of many localities where no one wants to buy property. Real estate agencies report that the cost of real estate there is significantly lower than in any other part of town. At the start of the 1990s, people were moved to the Máj housing estate after the lucrative buildings in the town center where they had been living were privatized, some of them through restitution. "I am concerned that these conflicts will increase. I just hope blood doesn't start flowing," Paukejová said earlier this week.
© Romea.

up  

Police Detain 4 Gay-Rights Activists in Central Moscow (Russia)

This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.

2/7/2013- Four gay-rights activists were detained on Tuesday afternoon for staging an unsanctioned rally in downtown Moscow, the city's police press service said. Three of the activists were lying face-down in a puddle of fake blood with pictures on their backs showing “real victims of homophobia,” LiveJournal user Lanka_Red wrote in a post about the demonstration, which took place outside the presidential administration building. The fourth detained activist was standing nearby, holding a banner in protest of a recently introduced law that bans the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” in the presence of minors. Permission from Moscow’s City Hall is required for any protest in which more than one person participates at a single time. While critics of the ban on promoting “non-traditional sexual relations” allege that the measure violates the civil rights of gays in Russia, proponents say it shields children from harmful influences.
© RIA Novosti

up  

Dozens arrested as pro- and anti-gay rivals clash in Russia

29/6/2013- Russian police arrested dozens of people on Saturday after clashes erupted in the city of Saint Petersburg between pro- and anti-gay demonstrators.
The violence flared just days after parliament approved controversial legislation banning the distribution of so-called "gay propaganda" to minors, which critics warn will be used to justify homophobic actions and arbitrary prosecution of gays. "Homophobia is Saint Petersburg's shame" and "Down with fascism" chanted about 100 gay rights campaigners, while a group of about 150 rival demonstrators hurled bottles, stones and jam jars at them. Police said dozens of activists from both sides were arrested. Gay activists have blasted the bill, which won final approval from the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, as discriminatory. It was passed the same day as the landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court striking down the Defence of Marriage Act which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Russia's Putin signs 'anti-gay propaganda' bill into law
30/6/2013- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial bill punishing people for homosexual "propaganda", according to an official publication on Sunday. The law introduces fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($156) for citizens who disseminate information "directed at forming nontraditional sexual setup" in minors or which may cause a "distorted understanding" that gay and heterosexual relations are "socially equivalent", the publication showed. Critics have called the bill homophobic and so vaguely defined that it would inevitably be used arbitrarily against gays and stir hate crimes in the country. However, it sailed through the parliament and Putin had promised in advance that he would sign the bill. The fines go up to as much as 200,000 rubles ($6250) for officials if such "propaganda" is disseminated through the media or Internet. Foreigners will not only be fined but face administrative arrest up to 15 days and eventual deportation, the law says. Organisations face fines of up to one million rubles and shutdown of their activity for 90 days. Earlier this week Putin denied the law's anti-gay nature. "We are talking about protecting children from the respective information," he said. "We ask that (other countries) do not interfere in our regulation," he added, responding to massive criticism from Western countries and human rights groups.
© Expatica News

up  

Polish Jewish leader protests handling of anti-Semitism cases

5/7/2013- The president of Poland’s Jewish community is protesting two recent decisions by Polish prosecutors not to pursue investigations of anti-Semitic incidents. In April, a prosecutor in Bialystok declined to launch an investigation of anti-Semitic graffiti because, he said, the swastika is considered a symbol of good luck in Asia and therefore is not unambiguously fascist. More recently, prosecutors in Kielce dropped an investigation into anti-Semitic slurs against a local businessman who was called a “Jewish scoundrel” online. Prosecutors decided that the term was used in a sarcastic and satirical manner. In both cases, Polish authorities overturned the initial decisions and investigations of the incidents are proceeding.

Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, said the prosecutors’ reactions to the incidents were worrisome. “On behalf of the Polish Jewish community, I am deeply concerned about the recent decisions of the prosecutors of Bialystok and Kielce on anti-Semitic hate speech and fascist symbols,” Kadlcik said. “These decisions are part of sad and disturbing cancellations, failures or refusals to initiate proceedings connected to racist or anti-Jewish offenses.” Kadlcik also drew attention to the recent defacement of a monument in Jedwabne, the site of a 1941 pogrom in which several hundred Jews were killed, and the Jewish cemetery in Wysokie Mazowieckie. Both investigations failed to result in arrests. “I object to sending a signal by the prosecutors with permission to offend and threaten with the symbolism of extermination a particular people and community,” Kadlcik said.
© JTA News

up  

Polish prosecutor: Swastika a symbol of prosperity

The prosecutor’s decision provoked outrage in the Jewish community in Poland and among local residents.

30/6/2013- Two legal decisions have caused outrage among Jewish organizations and anti-fascists in Poland. In the first case, a district prosecutor in the northern city of Bialystok announced that he does not intend to open an investigation after swastikas were discovered painted on electrical transformers, despite complaints lodged by locals. The prosecutor explained his decision saying that in different parts of the world, for example in parts of Asia, the swastika is not necessarily associated with fascism or the Nazi movement. “Currently, in European countries and in the US, the swastika is associated almost exclusively with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, but in Asia it is widely used as a symbol for happiness and prosperity. In this case, it is difficult to see a painted swastika as a symbol promoting fascism,” the district prosecutor said in his statement. The prosecutor’s decision provoked outrage in the Jewish community in Poland and among local residents.

Rafal Gawel, director of a theater in Bialystok who runs the campaign “Paint over evil,” in which activists remove anti-Semitic and racist graffiti painted on the city’s walls, called the prosecutor’s decision “bizarre.” Robert Tyszkiewicz, a deputy for the ruling Civic Platform party, also criticized the decision and called it “a joke.” After the publication of the district prosecutor’s decision caused a storm in Poland, the case was transferred to the Bialystok’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office for reconsideration. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the decision not to open an investigation into the case was wrong. “The claim that the swastika is not always associated with Nazism is not true. Placing such symbols in public places should be definitely regarded as promoting Nazism and fascism,” said Tadeusz Marek, Bilaystok’s chief prosecutor. He announced that proceedings will start immediately.

In another decision dubbed by many in Poland as “strange,” a court in the southern city of Chorzow released Piotr P., a local who walked around the city wearing a T-shirt with a swastika painted on it. The judge ruled that the behavior of the defendant was reprehensible, but it did not promote fascism. In April last year, Piotr P., a 30-year-old resident of Chorzow, was detained after walking around the city with a black shirt with a swastika painted on the front and a black eagle holding a wreath with a swastika, the official symbol of the Third Reich, on the back. He was detained while drinking beer with friends. Breathalyzer test showed that he had a blood alcohol level four times higher than allowed by Polish law. The prosecutor asked for a two-year jail sentence for promoting fascism. The defendant claimed that he “borrowed the shirt from his sister and wore it to see what reactions he would get.” The judge denied the prosecutor’s request and acquitted the man, saying that his behavior did not promote fascism.
© The Jerusalem Post

up  

Swedish gay rights group in asylum case threat

The head of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) has been threatened with lifetime imprisonment by a Pakistani court if the organization does not stop supporting the same-sex marriage involving a person of Pakistani origin.

4/7/2013- "I have received a letter, on headed notepaper from someone who says he is a lawyer of the court stating that if our organization does not desist in supporting the marriage then they will proceed with legal procedures that could result in lifetime imprisonment," said Ulrika Westerlund to The Local. The Local reported on Monday that the person, who is legally defined as a man but identifies as transgender, is the target of a petition placed before the Sindh High Court in Karachi, Pakistan, calling for prosecution following the marriage to his same-sex partner in Sweden in late 2013. Same-sex couples were given equal rights to marriage in Sweden in May 2009 and since then more than 2,000 people have taken the chance to get married with many more converting their legal status from registered partnership to married. RFSL is assisting the person in their bid for asylum on the grounds of sexuality and Westerlund told The Local that the threats directed against them strengthen the case. "The Migration Board can't very well turn around and say that they are not threatened after this," she said.

The Swedish Aliens Act was amended in 2005 to include sexual preference and gender as grounds for asylum. A risk assessment is made as to whether the asylum-seeker faces a risk of persecution due to their sexual preference, gender, or gender identity in their home country. Westerlund argued that there are deficiencies in how the law is interpreted and argued that this risk assessment can create a certain Catch-22 situation for many LGBT refugees due to, among other things, the reasoning from migration authorities of the need for having manifested their sexual preference publicly. "Applicants could be asked whether they had lived openly as homosexuals, in say Sudan. When they answer 'no, I would have been killed' it can be interpreted that they had not then exposed themselves to risk and be denied asylum," she explained. "There is a lack of knowledge among migration authorities about the lives of LGBT people, but there also seem to be some absurdities in the law. It needs to be revised."

Oscar Ek at the Migration Board told The Local that a clear framework is followed for assessing all asylum cases, including those motivated by sexual preference. "The law is clear that a homosexual should not be forced to live in secret, as many do in many parts of the world. We aim to achieve the best results possible," he said. Ek added that some 20 staff have recently completed specialist training in LGBT issues and have since May been deployed at Migration Board offices across the country. "I would say the jury is still out on that one," he said, conceding that there is more that can be done with regards to training staff. "We need to increase knowledge about the hetero-normative society. It can resemble something of a dead end on the issue of how a relationship can be." He told The Local that there are no figures for how many people seek asylum on the grounds of sexual preference, gender, or gender identity as the Swedish constitution prevents tracking such information.

Same-sex marriage is permitted in 15 countries with several others considering bills or allowing same-sex marriage in some jurisdictions. Homosexuality is criminalized in some 80 countries across the world and in at least six countries the punishment can extend to the death penalty for homosexual acts.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Sweden Democrats invite extremists to Gotland

The Sweden Democrats youth organization (SDU) has invited several youth organisations to the Almedalden political week on Gotland, with experts warning that their agendas are openly racist and xenophobic.

30/6/2013- The police were out in force to monitor the event which is begins on Sunday evening. SDU is hosting a debate on Sunday entitled "The youth and the nation in Europe in the 2010s" featuring youth Politicians from Ring Freiheitlicher Jugend (Austria), Front National de la Jeunesse (France) and the Vlaams Belang Jongeren (Belgium). "We share their ideas and want to show that we are part of a larger movement. It is with pride we take them to Gotland," said Gustav Kasselstrand, chairman of SDU, to the Gotlands Allehanda daily. According to political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö at Gothenburg University the invited youth associations all have extreme racist roots. "National Front is clearly racist and the Sweden Democrats (SD) have previously classified them as too radical."
Johansson Heinö described Freiheitlicher Jugend as anti-immigration with anti-Islam policies and considers the Belgian Vlaams Belang Jongeren to be reminiscent of the National Front.

The Sweden Democrats have however rejected the associations. "It's downright wrong to claim that all are clearly racist," said Linus Bylund, SD press secretary, to the TT news agency. "You people in the media have to start to make a distinction between meeting people and having the exact same views. It's not the same," he said. When asked whether the Sweden Democrats have input in the speakers invited by SDU to Almedalen, Bylund replied: "I don't think so. And if we do, we'll take it up with them and not with you." For the duration of Almedalen week police resources have been reinforced by 60 officers deployed from Stockholm to ensure order. "We have cooperated with SDU throughout the spring to coordinate this so that there will be no surprises," said Ola Österling at Stockholm police to Gotland Allehanda. According to Österling, the police focus will be more on any counter-demonstrators than in those holding police permits.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Topless Femen activists target Swedish mosque

Three women from the feminist activist movement Femen entered a mosque on Södermalm in central Stockholm on Saturday morning, baring their breats and chanting "No sharia" and "Free women".

29//2013- The women entered the main central Stockholm mosque at around 11am on Saturday. Mosque employees called the police who dispatched several units to the scene. Shortly after their arrival they emerged with the still bare-breasted women and walked to a transport vehicle. According to the duty police officer Jonas Svalan the women are now suspected of disorderly conduct due to their nudity and assault for having allegedly shoved somebody. The women are reported to originate from Egypt, Tunisia and Sweden. Femen is originally a Ukrainian women's group that applies "sextremism" to draw attention to equality and democracy issues. The group's perhaps most high profile campaign came during the European Football Championship in 2012 when Femen's bare-breasted leaders capitalized on the massive media presence to stage protests against sex trafficking. The group has recently been very active in France and only last week several activists accosted the French President François Hollande as he visited the Paris airshow. Earlier this year they caused outrage when they bared all at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to bid their own 'adieu' to Pope Benedict.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to