Austrian MPs are holding a special session of parliament to vote on resolutions condemning anti-Semitism, amid a row over remarks by far-right strongman Joerg Haider. The opposition Social Democrats are to present a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, xenophobia and intolerance. The Green Party goes further, calling on the government to condemn Haider's comments as "clearly anti-Semitic." Mr Haider's latest controversial remarks were about the president of Vienna's Jewish Community, Ariel Muzicant. At a Freedom Party rally in a beer hall last month, Mr Haider said he couldn't understand how anyone called Ariel - also the name of a well-known washing powder - could have so much dirt on his hands. Mr Haider says the remark was an "innocent pleasantry", but Mr Muzicant is suing him for libel.

Regional elections
But the statement, and others referring to Mr Muzicant's business dealings, have been widely condemned as anti-Semitic, both in Austria and abroad. Opposition politicians are bringing the matter up in parliament because of what they see as a failure by the government coalition of the Freedom Party and People's Party to respond to the controversy. Austria's Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, earlier distanced himself from the remarks, but refused to say whether he thought they were anti-Semitic or whether Mr Haider should apologise. For her part, Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, who took over from Mr Haider as head of the Freedom Party last year, denies there's any anti-Semitism in her party. The row comes amid last-minute campaigning for regional elections in Vienna on Sunday.

'Tainted' image
With the Freedom Party lagging in the polls, some analysts believe this is a last-ditch attempt by Mr Haider to revive his party's fading fortunes. The party scored a historic success in the October 1999 general election, taking 27% of the vote before taking office in a coalition government in February 2000. However, in provincial elections later in the year, in Styria and Burgenland, it was unable to repeat its strong performance. The Vienna elections, in which Mr Haider has said he will consider anything over 20% satisfactory, are seen as a key test of the party's support before the next legislative elections in 2003. On Tuesday Austria's Jewish leadership issued a statement blaming Mr Haider for Austria's "tainted international image". It asked whether Mr Haider's comments in making such statements was an appeal to voters' "most basic instincts" prior to the Vienna election. Mr Haider has repeatedly denied anti-Semitism, despite in the past appearing to praise Nazi employment policies, and referring to concentration camps as "punishment" camps.
©BBC News

When Mary Robinson landed her job as UN Human Rights Commissioner in 1997 some observers back in Ireland speculated that this might be a stepping stone to greater things - perhaps the Irish President could go on to be the UN's first woman Secretary General. But those with more inside knowledge of the UN system knew that was always unlikely. The position of Human Rights Commissioner is less of a stepping stone and more of a poisoned chalice. Anyone who vigorously investigates and publicises the abuses perpetrated by governments will, by definition, be - in Mary Robinson's own words - "an outsider" or an "awkward voice". They will face opposition from UN member states and they will have difficulties persuading those governments to provide them with funding and political support. These pressures and constraints seem to have finally got too much for Mary Robinson. Regretting her departure, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described Mrs Robinson as a "staunch and fearless spokesperson" who had made a critical contribution to giving human rights a central role in the UN system.

Bold and independent
After some teething problems when she first arrived at the UN, Mrs Robinson impressed human rights campaigners as a bold and independent voice. She has visited 60 countries and criticised abuses in Algeria, Colombia, Sierra Leone and East Timor. Despite some reservations among Nato countries, she went to Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict and even-handedly expressed concern about both the impact of Nato bombing and the human rights violations of Slobodan Milosevic's forces. Perhaps Mrs Robinson's most high profile visit came last year when she went to the breakaway republic of Chechnya and took on Russia, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Campaigners disappointed
The Human Rights Commissioner has accused Moscow of failing to keep to its promises to set up an independent investigation into the continuing abuses in Chechnya. Human rights campaigners are disappointed by Mrs Robinson's surprise departure. There is some concern that Kofi Annan will come under pressure from governments to appoint a more compliant successor, perhaps from an Eastern European or Asian country. Mr Annan is himself soon expected to announce that he will seek a second term as Secretary General, something for which he needs UN member state's support.

Free to speak
Mrs Robinson has not specified exactly what she will do next. After taking a holiday, she is planning to remain an advocate for human rights, presumably within a pressure group or think tank. Without the constraints of working within a multinational system, she will be free to speak out and to "stand up to the bullies" as she herself recently described her job. But her words will no longer carry the authority that goes with being a UN Commissioner.
©BBC News

Asylum-seekers' allowance has been frozen for eight years
The German government's commissioner for aliens, Marieluise Beck - a member of junior coalition partners the Greens - has launched a campaign to increase asylum-seekers' allowances. Her demand, issued in Berlin on Friday, is based on the fact that regular increases are envisaged by statute and yet have been frozen since 1993. The law on asylum-seeker benefits, which for the first time pushed state contributions below the level of welfare payments, provides for payment of pocket-money in the amount of 80 marks (38 dollars) per month to asylum-seekers awaiting a decision on their applications to remain in Germany. Children up to 14 are entitled to just 40 marks. Food and lodging is offered as a benefit in kind or in the form of vouchers. Asylum-seekers have to pay for such items as transport out of their own pocket. This can be expensive, as they are often housed in special dedicated accommodation far from the nearest town. The law also provides for an annual appraisal to ascertain whether an increase is necessary. Labour Minister Walter Riester, a Social Democrat, has performed the check and proposed raising pocket-money in October. Adults should then receive 2.86 marks (1.36 dollars) a day, up 20 pfennigs on the previous figure. The new rate, which was intended to come into force on January 1, requires the approval of both Finance Minister Hans Eichel and Interior Minister Otto Schily, both Social Democrats, before it can come into effect.After that, the individual states will vote on the measure in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, as they will bear the brunt of the extra spending. "It is high time that the ministers agree," aliens' commissioner Beck told the Frankfurter Rundschau. "Otherwise we are getting dangerously close to a perversion of justice." In any case, she added, the rise was set "at the absolute lowest limit". The pro-refugee lobby Pro Asyl speaks of "decreed misery". Since 1993, the non-profit organisation says, state welfare rates have risen by 6.8 per cent. Beck insists that the sums involved are relatively small - she estimates 23 million marks per year. That sum, however, said Beck, was set to fall, as the planned opening of the job market for asylum-seekers would likely ease the financial cost. The question of asylum-seekers' rights was a "very emotional topic", said Beck, "one loved by neither a labour minister nor an interior minister." The increase in the allowance was, however, necessary, she said. The Interior Ministry in Berlin, meanwhile, refused to comment on the subject, saying that Riester's office was responsible. At Riester's Ministry of Labour, staff said that an agreement between the ministries "was not yet finalised" and a "definitive point in time" for the decision could not be named.
©Frankfurter Rundschau

Shortly after midnight on August 29, 1999, community tensions in Zámoly, a small village 70km west of Budapest, reached boiling point. A violent dispute broke out between three caucasian men from a nearby village and Hungarian citizens of Roma ethnicity.

During the incident one of the three men, a 20-year-old from Csákvár, was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head with a shovel. His two friends fled the scene. Despite the fears of police prejudice the Roma involved called an ambulance for the young man who, later that night, died in the hospital. When the dead man's companions were finally released after questioning they were not charged with any crime and claimed they merely went to the Roma residence looking for an acquaintance when they were attacked. But József Krasznai, vice president of the Roma Parliament and spokesman for the Zámoly Roma, flatly disagrees. "They were armed with clubs and brass knuckles," Krasznai said in an exclusive interview with The Budapest Sun. "They came to show the town how to get rid of the Roma." The man police believe may have landed the fatal blow is now in custody in Fejér county, awaiting sentencing for a crime that carries a maximum penalty of eight years. But what seemed like a sad story of racial intolerance has turned into a tale of international relations and intrigue after the Roma left Hungary to seek asylum in France. Hungarian officials admitted that the French decision to declare two Roma families who fled to France last year as refugees was "unfavorable". But the Govern-ment played down the case. "The problems of the Hungarian Roma community cannot be resolved in Strasbourg or in Canada, but in Hungary," said foreign ministry spokesman Gábor Horváth. As Krasznai praised the actions of France's Office for the Protection of Refugees (OFPRA) he said, "Hungary faces a choice: either it protects Roma, or it turns towards the far-right and all the Roma will have to leave the country." Now, the UK journal Jane's Intelligence Digest has caused a stir by alleging that the Zámoly Roma have been receiving encouragement from Russian operatives as part of a master plan to darken Hungary's human rights record and keep the EU from expanding East. If true, this charge would be in line with the recent Hungarian National Security Office Yearbook 2000 report, which asserts the existence of unnamed foreign secret service agents trying to cast Hungary in a bad light before domestic and international public opinion. Krasznai, along with many Western political scholars and Russian officials, called the allegations of foreign intervention "ridiculous". He maintains that the Zámoly Roma had ample reason to leave Hungary without any prompting from outside forces. "The groups list of complaints stretches back to October 1997," said Krasznai, "when a powerful storm destroyed the roof on one of the houses owned and occupied by some of those now in Strasbourg." When the local government was asked to help with repairs, the mayor of Zámoly, Dezsô Csete, ordered all of the houses demolished (without following appropriate Hungarian legal procedures). It didn't help matters when in April of that year Csete, said on national television, "I believe that the Roma of Zámoly have no place among human beings. Just as in the animal world, parasites must be expelled."

Death threats
"It was then that they began receiving death threats," Krasznai said while adding that another reason why the Zámoly Roma left Hungary to seek asylum in France was because, "friends of the three men had begun to polarize the community against them, saying publicly that they were going to smoke out these Gypsies." The group finally left for Strasbourg on July 24, 2000 and filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament. Then, in February this year, a series of events took place to thwart the asylum seekers efforts and salvage the reputation of Hungary. The Hungarian Justice Ministry asked the French government to extradite two members of the Zámoly group who had come under suspicion as accomplices in the murder case. Attila Monostory, legal counsel to the family of the man who was killed in 1999, has issued a request to the Council of Europe for international observers to monitor the proceedings, because the Roma in Strasbourg, "have not given a truthful account of the events leading up to their departure." Then last week, in a trip funded by Hungarian authorities, members of the Roma Minority Self Government from Ózd went to France to dispute Krasznai's claims that Hungary offered no assistance to its Roma community. Their request to take part in a press conference given by Krasznai and sponsored by French MPs and human rights groups was, however, rejected. Hungarian authorities argue the decision will not affect the country's chances of joining the EU. But, Roma rights groups view the judgement as a victory towards raising awareness regarding minorities and hope the Government will stop being defensive and go on the offensive to create a more just system for all its citizens. Claude Cahn of the European Roma Rights Center has an idea where to start. "One valuable step the Government could take would be to adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation without delay," he said.
©The Budapest Sun

By János Radó
On February 28, I visited Jászladány. It is a small town 120 kilometers south of Budapest, with a population of 6,200, of which 30% or 2,000 people are Roma. Five representatives of the Gypsy local minority government of Jászladány, led by László Kállai, were carrying out a hunger-strike protest, because the local Mayor, István Dankó, had been repeatedly refusing to speak to the Roma representatives to discuss major problems within the community. At the request of Kállai, three members of the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, led by Aladár Horváth, arrived to attempt crisis mediation between the Roma minority government and the Mayor. I was asked by Horváth to join them and document the event on behalf of the Roma Sajtóközpont (RSK), the Roma Media Center. Tensions had arisen in November 2000, when the local government of Jászladány announced they would offer their newly-built school, funded completely by public money, to a private foundation, in order to raise levels of education by creating a "selective" English-style "public school". All this in the hope of making it more attractive for local people to stay in the area. Naturally, the Roma minorities' representatives objected to the idea, because no Roma child would be able to afford to pay to go to such an elite school. The level of education and the situation of the remaining government school, which was already deeply lacking in certain areas, would worsen greatly. The Roma people also objected to other issues; funding of their minority local government had been savagely cut. The mayor had refused to negotiate with Kállai or any of the local Roma representatives. He granted Kállai a compulsory audience, which had to be requested in writing, 30 days prior to the meeting. Their meeting lasted eight-and-a-half minutes. Nothing was negotiated. Kállai was told that the budget had been set and that no money would be made available to the Roma minority government except for the payment of their use of utilities - heating and electricity. There has been a moratorium placed on all local development; the council will not approve any building or extension requests for three years. This makes it impossible for anyone, including Roma families, to take advantage of the much-advertised federal building assistance scheme which states, "Three children, three rooms, four wheels for all Hungarians." There are currently many instances of three generations of Roma families (up to 20 people) living in one room, one kitchen accommodation in Jászladány. Poor families who have three or more children can normally apply for this special scheme. Special needs and emergency welfare projects are hardly ever granted to local Roma people in Jászladány. The Gypsy quarter is right next to a large, five-meter-deep rubbish dump. Danger of infection and contagious diseases are high in the hotter months. Some of the scabs suffered by Roma children as a result of mosquito bites last year are only now healing. Despite repeated requests to the council, nothing has been or is being planned to clean up the rubbish dump. Horváth commented that these are the mayor's ways of discouraging Roma families from staying in the area, because he's frightened that the 30% Roma proportion will grow to a majority, as the Roma population is young - (51% of school-age children in Jászladány are Roma). Since the beginning of the tensions there have been more than five violent attacks made on Roma by people dressed in black, wearing hoods over their heads. The mayor made himself available to meet with Horváth and his two colleagues, Ágnes Daruczi and János Bársony. However, the meeting drew a blank as he refused to make any offers of compromise. Dankó refused to speak to any press except the local paper, which has presented articles which have been provocative and anti-Gypsy throughout the period of this tension. To me, he kept on repeating that he had always acted within the bounds of the law. The law gives the mayor 100% decision-making rights to allocate the annual budget. The law gives the mayor 30 days to respond to any request for an audience. It gives him the right to place a moratorium on development for up to three years. At the press conference of the local minority Roma government, Kállai announced that they were writing a letter to President Ferenc Mádl, asking him to intervene on their behalf and to negotiate with the mayor. In the past week, the Ministry for External Affairs funded a Roma politician to travel first class to Paris to disrupt the press conference of the Zámoly Gypsies seeking asylum in France. Also last week, a totally unfounded rumor was spread that it was the Russian Secret Service who had funded the Zámoly refugee seekers to undermine the Hungarian Government and to retard Hungary's entrance into the EU. The Russians, who have made it clear that it is within their economic interest that Hungary gain entry to the EU as soon as possible, refuted this. The majority of the Hungarian press dismissed the story, but it certainly created a strong wave of resentment in local people's attitude to Gypsies.
In my opinion, we Hungarians don't need to have our image run down by the Russians or anyone else; the Hungarian Government do a superb job themselves. I am beginning to feel ashamed of being Hungarian, these are not democratic practices and we Hungarians are a very long way from being worthy to enter the EU.
©The Budapest Sun

Police have arrested 103 people on suspicion of "hate crimes" in dawn raids across London. Scotland Yard said those suspected of racist, homophobic or domestic violence offences were detained in swoops on a dozen addresses, including one in Brighton. Alleged offences include racially aggravated death threats, harassment, the publication of racist or homophobic material, and assault.

At least one of the arrests was for alleged rape, say police. "Hate crime will not be tolerated in London," said Detective Chief Superintendent John Godsave. "Today's arrests are another example of the Met's commitment to show that hate crime will be robustly dealt with." Earlier this month the Metropolitan Police launched a campaign against hate crimes. As well as distributing leaflets and posters, officers have visited schools to discuss hate crimes with pupils.

Bollywood cinemas in campaign
A cinema campaign is also running urging young Londoners in particular to report hate crime. The month-long promotion dubbed March Against Hate will screen alongside films such as Proof of Life, The Gift and The Watcher. It is running in 300 cinemas including those specialising in Bollywood films.
©BBC News

Leaders of Slovakia's homosexual community told a parliamentary committee March 13 that Slovak gays and lesbians needed legislation to protect their human rights. The meeting was the first official dialogue ever between Slovak members of parliament (MPs) and gay rights leaders. The Inakos? (difference) Initiative, a coalition of Slovak gay rights organisations, appeared in front of the 10-member Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Nationality, calling for legislation protecting gays and lesbians in the workplace and legislation establishing registered partnerships for homosexual partners. "[Slovakia's] homosexual minority is forced to live with fear and guilt for their emotional and sexual orientation... resulting in suicidal tendencies, neurosis, and suppressed yearning for human relationships," said Inakos? spokesman Ivan Po gai. Slovak employees fire homosexuals with impunity, especially homosexual teachers who are thought to be unsuitable to work with children, says Po gai. And Slovak law ignores homosexual partners;Po gai cited a case where a woman was thrown out onto the street after her partner - who owned the flat where the couple lived - had died. "Homosexuals in Slovakia don't come out with these stories because they are afraid," said Po gai. "But even if they did, the law does not protect them, or give them any basis to fight for their rights in courts." Inakos? had failed to convince MPs to include laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in reform of the Constitution passed February 24. Furthermore, Paragraph 13 of a new Labour Code, approved by the government March 4, forbids discrimination on 20 different grounds, but sexual orientation is not among them. Inakos? wants the Committee on Human Rights and Nationality to add protection for homosexuals to the Code before it goes to parliament for a vote, which is expected to happen by the end of March. "We want it to be explicitly spelled out that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal," said Po gai. Coalition MPs at the meeting with Inakos? promised to help, but warned that parliament as a whole might not be ready for such a law. "I believe we can get Inakos?'s demands through this committee," said committee chairman Laszlo Nagy. "But we probably won't get it passed in parliament the first time around; even so, it is important to start the process." MPs from the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) chafed at the discussion with Inakos? leaders, who arrived in a swirl of reporters and photographers; they accused Nagy and others of posturing. "This is just a political game," said HZDS member of parliament Katarína Totová. Party-mate Jozef Kalman added "They [the ruling parties] are the coalition. If they really support gay rights, why didn't they include them in the Constitution they just passed?" Nagy responded that HZDS filibustering had required Speaker of Parliament Jozef Migaš to call an early vote on constitutional reform, thereby ending further debate on the reforms and preventing the subject of gay rights from being raised in parliament. But he also admitted that the coalition was not united behind gay rights. "When [MP 1ubomír] Andrassy spoke in parliament about discrimination based on sexual orientation, there was a very ugly response," he said. "It's not a political issue, it's an issue of tolerance. And for that, we have to be patient." Constitutional reform required all but one of the coalition's 91 votes in parliament; passage of regular laws, however, requires only a simple majority of MPs present in the 150-seat parliament for the vote, at most 76. But even that number, says Inakos?, will be difficult to achieve, since no party is fully behind gay rights. Inakos? leaders say they expect the conservative Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) coalition party, and its nine MPs, to staunchly oppose any law extending homosexuals rights or legal protection. The gay-rights group first bumped heads with the KDH in August 2000 when party member Alojz Rakús, a psychiatrist, said that homosexuals could be "cured", or changed into heterosexuals. Former party head and current Justice Minister Ján Earnogurský added that laws giving gay partnerships rights equal to married couples would not be passed on his watch because they "degrade the family". "Homosexuals should not be discriminated against in the workplace," said Rakús March 14. "But exceptions need to be made in professions [i.e. teaching] that affect our youth." Inakos? leaders say they are infuriated by such statements, which they feel imply that homosexuals are perverts or paedophiles. They add, however, that the KDH has unwittingly helped their cause. "The controversy with the KDH helped us bring the issue to the forefront. And now we're here today in front of a parliamentary committee, which is a big step forward," said Po gai. Po gai added that he was optimistic that when the Labour Code is passed in the upcoming months, it would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation; if it doesn't, he said Inakos? would continue its high-profile fight, including rallies and public discussions, until the Code was amended. The law on registered partnerships, which would give homosexual partners the same legal status as married couples, could be an even longer battle. Nagy promised to deliver a bill on registered marriages to parliament by this autumn, but he and Inakos? leaders predicted that it would take several years, and several bills, before it would be passed by parliament. But Po gai says his group is supported by European trends, and that once a society opens debate on homosexual rights, legislation inevitably follows. "There is no going back for Slovak society," he said. "Sooner or later these laws will be passed, it's only a question of time."
©The Slovak Spectator

Shouting skinheads and anti-fascist protesters disrupted traffic for half an hour on Mytna ulica in downtown Bratislava on March 14, the 62nd anniversary of the first Slovak state. Demonstrators on a 'March for Tolerance' were greeted by 75 unruly skinheads as they left námestie Slobody (Freedom Square) en route to the Presidential Palace and the Old Town. The 200 demonstrators stopped walking, put down their signs and yelled anti-fascist slogans at the skinheads. A small police unit on the scene prevented a physical confrontation between the groups while reinforcements arrived. Police in riot gear piled out of police vehicles and drove back the skinheads with German Shepherds and batons. A young skinhead who ran into the street and gave a Nazi fascist salute was taken into custody. A confrontation between the two groups seemed inevitable after the skinheads smashed a ceramic jar minutes before a pre-march rally at 16:00. Activist Ladislav Iurkovie of the People Against Racism NGO grabbed a microphone and shouted for police as the offenders fled the scene. After speeches by Holocaust survivors, anti-fascist, anti-racism and pro-gay activists, Iurkovie, who called the anniversary "a day for sadness, not for celebration", warned marchers to be careful as they left the park, and urged them not to travel alone if they left the main group. Minutes after their first confrontation with skinheads, marchers were prevented by police from rallying in front of the Presidential Palace, where another contingent of skinheads had gathered to celebrate the memory of Jozef Tiso, the leader of Slovakia's World War II Nazi puppet regime. Marchers stood in the street chanting "Never again a Fascist state" as police herded them toward the Old Town. Demonstrators and skinheads exchanged words for the last time on námestie SNP. No injuries were reported in the three encounters. Anti-fascist activists say they organised the march so that Slovaks wouldn't forget the estimated 70,000 Slovak Jews deported during World War II to Nazi concentration camps by the first Slovak State (1939 to 1945). They added that racism and fascism were still very much alive in Slovakia, in which 150 racially-motivated attacks and five race murders have been reported since 1989. The March for Tolerance ended at 17:30 in the Old Town near a monument for the deported Jews. Demonstrators lit candles and observed a moment of silence. "Fighting fascism and racism is an everyday struggle," said Iurkovie minutes later. "We have to fight to teach our society tolerance." Minister of Education Milan Ftaenik, who had marched with a "Slovaks are not fascists" sign, said to The Slovak Spectator that the afternoon's events had proven two things: "Slovakia is still divided on issues of racial tolerance and history, but there are more of us against fascism and racism than there are for. And those of us against fascism are not afraid to express ourselves." He added that he had been impressed with the way the police handled a potentially dangerous situation.
©The Slovak Spectator

British cities are becoming segregated into poor, ethnic minority neighbourhoods and prosperous, white middle-class suburbs, according to a study. The Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission looked at how organisations in the city should respond to Sir William Macpherson's report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The commission - a group that includes a judge, a bishop, a university academic and a head teacher - found that institutions and their leaders are failing to tackle racism and racial inequality. Its report warns that this is potentially disastrous for Birmingham.

Split city
It says it will lead to a split city, which will be mirrored around the country, where ethnic minorities are socially excluded and geographically segregated in deprived inner-city neighbourhoods like Handsworth. Birmingham City Council, which commissioned the 15-month study, is due to give a statement responding to it on Thursday morning. No one has ever been convicted of the killing of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in Eltham, south-east London, in 1993.

'Institutionally racist'
The Macpherson inquiry into the murder investigation was severely critical of the police's handling of the case. A report of the inquiry's findings, published in February 1999, found racism played its part in the investigation. It labelled London's police force "institutionally racist" and condemned officers for committing "fundamental errors".
©BBC News

Survey finds 14 per cent of Europeans still xenophobic
European Union citizens show conflicting attitudes towards immigrants and minorities, with acceptance and tolerance increasing at the same time as fears grow that those same groups could threaten social peace and welfare. According to the Eurobarometer 2000 Survey conducted on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), published on Tuesday, 14 per cent of Europeans are openly xenophobic. The study also found 21 per cent of Europeans to be "actively tolerant," 39 per cent to be "passively tolerant" and another 25 per cent to be "ambivalent". That last group believes, on one hand, that minorities enrich a country's cultural and social life but, on the other, also fears they cause increased competition for jobs. According to EUMC-director Beate Winkler, that is also the group most easily positively influenced by appropriate political policies. The study also shows that the percentage of those who see immigration as enriching a country's cultural life has risen from 33 to 48 per cent. Over the same period, however, the number of Europeans who view minorities as a cause for concern rose from 37 to 42 per cent. The number of those who believe immigrants should abandon their own culture in order to become fully accepted members of the country to which they have moved remains at 20 per cent. There are of course a number of differences in the statistics produced by individual countries. In Spain, for example, the survey uncovered the lowest levels of intolerance - four per cent - while Greece ranked highest with 27 per cent. Germany was above average with 18 per cent.The highest levels of "active intolerance" were found in the countries of the north: Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Greece came lowest in this category with a mere seven per cent and Germany was above average with 24 per cent. The survey produced some surprising figures for Germany: there is very little tolerance in the country for immigrants who compete alongside Germans on the jobs market, and the percentage of people in Germany who want immigrants to be sent back to their country of origin is higher than anywhere else in Europe. Winkler called on politicians to show more leadership in this area through education and training as well as publicly speaking up for minorities. She said this would encourage the development of a social climate which, in turn, could encourage greater acceptance of cultural diversity across Europe.
©Frankfurter Rundschau

Austria's far-right Freedom Party suffered losses in a local election in Vienna on Sunday after dominating the campaign with verbal attacks on foreigners and Austria's Jewish leader. One leading candidate linked the loss of Freedom Party popularity to inflammatory statements by its leader, Joerg Haider, but the results generally seemed to reflect disillusionment with the party's participation and performance in the federal government. "There is no place for anti-Semitism in this city," said Christoph Chorherr, a Greens candidate. "I am happy this party did so poorly." Helene Partik-Pable, the far-right's mayoral candidate, said the slump was due to the heavy criticism of the party's campaign. "The reason for this is the unbelievably malicious campaign against the Freedom Party," she told state television. With 75 percent of votes counted, the Socialists had captured more than 48 percent of the ballots, finishing more than nine percentage points stronger than in the last municipal elections five years ago. The Freedom Party had just over 20 percent, a loss of 7 percentage points. Third was the centrist People's Party with just over 15 percent, a slight loss, while the environmentalist Greens captured nearly 12 percent, almost 4 percentage points more thanin 1996. With the strongest party getting most of the ballots of those parties that ran but failed to clear the 5 percent hurdle needed to get into city hall, the Socialists appeared set to gain a controlling majority of more than 51 seats in the 100-seat assembly. They now govern in a coalition with the People's Party. While the vote was restricted to Vienna, results also appeared to reflect a loss in popularity nationwide for Mr. Haider's party, continuing a trend. The Freedom Party already lost support in October and December in two provincial elections. On the national level, the Freedom Party was propelled into the government coalition in February 2000 after winning 29 percent of the ballot in national elections. European Union sanctions imposed in February 2000 as a protest were lifted in September, having accomplished little except to generate a strong anti-EU backlash in Austria. Voters appear disillusioned with the federal government in general because of its cuts in social benefits and a decision to increase taxes. Seeking a rebound in Vienna, Mr. Haider and his party invoked some of the themes of anti-Semitism and racism that worked so well in the last national campaign. Mr. Haider is governor of Carinthia Province and did not run for a seat in the Vienna election. Mr. Haider, 51, has become notorious for praising some aspects of the Nazi era. Before the elections, he was criticized for comments about Ariel Muzicant, a local Jewish leader, during a rowdy beer-hall meeting. Mr. Haider also has suggested that the election campaign of the Socialist mayor, Michael Haupl, was anti-Viennese because one of his advisers was an American Jew "from the East Coast," alluding to a perceived Jewish dominance of the northeastern United States. The Freedom Party also tried to exploit Austrian suspicions of foreigners and fears that hordes from Eastern Europe would overrun their country once former Soviet-bloc countries join the European Union. Posters featured the photo of Helene Partik-Pable, and slogans like: "Foreigners - I understand the concerns of the Viennese!" The placards were often juxtaposed with others expressing her worries about criminality. Another Freedom Party candidate, Nikolas Amhof, was heard pledging to make his district "foreigner-free." Political rivals condemned that as reminiscent of the "Jew-free zones" in Germany propagated by the Nazis. Ms. Partik-Pable on Sunday did not comment on whether the anti-foreigner campaign backfired, but accused the Socialists of an "unbelievable hate campaign" against her party. She attributed the Freedom Party losses in part at least to "irritation" with federal government policy.
©International Herald Tribune

The police do not have sufficient grounds to remand two of Norway's most notorious neo-Nazis in custody and are expected to release the pair on Monday. Tore Wilhelm Tvedt (57) and 36-year-old Ole Korgstad were arrested on Friday and charged under Norway's racism paragraph. Many items of Nazi paraphernalia were seized during the raid. "We questioned both Tvedt and Krogstad at the weekend, but have decided we haven't enough to request permission to keep them on remand. Therefore, they will be released on Monday," said Tom Sřreide from Asker and Bćrum police district. For several weeks detectives have been investigating suspicions that Tvedt and Krogstad are involved in the distribution of racist propaganda. "Based on our findings, we searched (a premises) and arrested two men. We confiscated a stock of goods, which led us to investigate economic crimes also," explained Sřreide. Detectives will continue their investigation, but Sřreide was extremely unwilling to reveal how they were intending to proceed. The men's passports have not been withdrawn. It's understood the police will want to establish whether the suspects were running an unregistered, illegal business.

Recent allegations of police brutality and hate-crimes committed against Slovak Roma in the Prešov and Košice regions have been not only denied by police, but also interpreted as an attempt by some Roma to generate sufficient hysteria among the minority to fuel another wave of migration to western countries. The police reaction has highlighted the gulf in how the Roma and law enforcement officers perceive each other, a gulf which analysts say is preventing solution of the minority's serious problems. In the latest apparent incident of racial violence, a 38 year-old Roma woman from Košice, named Eva Csiszárová, alleged March 20 that a group of around 15 skinheads had beaten her and her 10 year-old daughter Ivana, doused her in gasoline and tried to set her aflame. According to the daily paper Sme, the skinheads departed after failing to find matches; the two victims then fled to their home in the Luník IX Roma ghetto. The Roma mother said she had lost consciousness during the attack. "I remember only that they came towards me, one poured gas on my legs and shouted 'Die, Gypsy bitch'. Then the others started kicking me. I could hear my daughter shouting 'Mama!'. Then I don't remember anything." After recovering her wits, Csiszárová was taken to hospital, where doctors treated her for multiple facial and back wounds and discharged her. Police laid charges against unknown assailants on March 20 after reading of the incident in a local Košice paper. But Ľubomír Kopčo, head of a Košice district police department, said that he did not believe the beating had taken place as reported. Kopčo noted that the police had not been able to find any evidence of gasoline on the clothing of the victims, nor had they noticed more than one bruise on the mother. "In my opinion, she made it up," he told The Slovak Spectator March 22. "I don't know why she would do it, but the Roma are probably preparing the groundwork to leave [the country and apply for asylum in the West]. "Unfortunately, attacks happen in this country," he added. "But the Košice Roma think that everyone whose hair is shorter than five centimetres is a skinhead."

Worlds apart
The Košice incident, for the Roma, is part of a general pattern of violence aimed by the Slovak majority at the darker-skinned Roma minority. Three weeks before the beating, the Legal Protection of Roma Office in Košice had initiated a petition signed by 95 of 98 adult Roma in the eastern Slovak village of Hermanovce, charging local police with brutality. The petition has been sent to the Interior Ministry, the European Commission and other international organisations. The petition, and the recent beating, have left the Roma and the police as far apart as ever. Roma leaders say that the minority faces constant discrimination and violence in Slovakia, and that their complaints are rarely investigated. The police, meanwhile, argue that almost every allegation of police brutality against the Roma has been discovered to be unfounded. The Košice Roma Office on March 1 accused local police of conducting several heavy-handed raids in January in the village of Hermanovce, which falls under the police jurisdiction of the Jarovnice district near Prešov. In the report, the Roma charged the local police with having committed several lewd and wanton acts. The report, which describes an early morning police investigation of Frederik Kaleja, a Roma suspected of theft, reads: "Police from the local station in Jarovnice arrived early in the morning January 12, and without any explanation or warrant violently broke into the house of the Kaleja family." According to video-taped testimony of the Kaleja family, police then sprayed tear gas into the eyes of Frederik Kaleja, struck him several times with batons, shouted racial epithets at him and his family, then took him to the police station for questioning. Kaleja said he had asked the officers if he could get dressed first "because it was minus 20 degrees Celsius", but that the police had refused. At the police station, Kaleja said he was intimidated into admitting to a theft he had not committed, and was forced to testify that his brother, Valent Kaleja, had also been involved in the crime. He also alleged that one of the young police officers sexually harassed him and forced Kaleja to "perform oral sex" on him. The Košice Roma Office released a video recording of Kaleja saying he was ordered to touch the officer's penis under threat of physical violence. Kaleja said that after performing the act, he vomited and was beaten again. "At first we were just shocked that police investigations could be so brutal and tough," said Košice Office head Edmund Muller. "We have decided to file a complaint because this is not human, this should not be allowed." The Office said that the police "broke into" several more Roma dwellings in Hermanovce after the original incident, accusing the Roma inhabitants of various thefts.

No comment
Representatives of the Jarovnice police department would not comment on the reports. Jozef Čontoš, head of the District Police Headquarters in Prešov, also declined to comment directly on the allegations. "I don't know anything about the complaint," he said March 19. "But I do know that the Prešov Regional Police are taking some measures against the gypsies." The Prešov Regional Police Headquarters, however, said that they had heard of the allegations only through the media. "Without an official complaint addressed to us we cannot take any steps," said Magdaléna Fečová, spokeswoman with the Prešov Regional Police Headquarters. "On what grounds should we act? Unofficial media information?" Fečová added that Prešov police had investigated the allegations in cooperation with Jarovnice police officers, but "only for our internal purposes." Čontoš said that complaints against police officers were not rare, but that most proved to have been fabricated. "Since I took my post a few years ago, we have never had a complaint from the Roma based on truth," he said. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry's Police Inspection office has begun an investigation of the January events in Hermanovce. "We'll have to hear from all parties involved, including the Roma settlement inhabitants who witnessed the events," said Ladislav Barkol, head of the Department of Complaints at the Inspection office. "The process will take us about two months." He, too, added that in his experience, investigations of Roma complaints usually proved the allegations unfounded. "We don't register whether the complaining party is a Roma or any other minority," he said. "That would be discrimination. However, of the 3,917 complaints against the police in 2000, only 18.7% - that is, 522 complaints - were founded on valid points." In 2000, he added, not a single Slovak police officer had been convicted of racism or police brutality against Roma suspects.

Nothing to be proud of
The Roma, on the other hand, say that the police should not congratulate themselves on not having had one of their members charged with race violence. Miloslav Kováč, a Roma activist from the Roma NGO Roma Gemer, said that Slovak police were never prosecuted for crimes against the Roma because investigations were often swept aside. "The Roma feel helpless because their complaints are often forgotten in the drawers of a police investigator's desk," he said "They complain, but nothing ever happens to the police officers." He said that unexpected and violent police raids were not uncommon for Roma in many villages and towns. "But if they complain, the usual result is that the issue remains unanswered." The Interior Ministry's Barkol disagreed. "I protest against such allegations," he said. "We take all complaints very seriously. But citizens have to realise that they not only have rights in a democracy but also duties. I'm not saying there aren't policemen who sometimes might have incorrect attitudes on how their jobs should be done, but they are very few and far between, and people shouldn't generalise about Slovak policemen in that way." As for police allegations that the Roma are faking beatings to justify another wave of migration, minority experts say that if another Roma exodus occurs (see related article, this page), it will be caused by the real discrimination the Roma face, not spurious allegations of police brutality. "There is concern that another exodus will happen," said Michal Vašečka, a sociologist and Roma analyst at the IVO think-tank in Bratislava. "There very well may be an exodus to the liberal Scandinavian countries, such as Norway. The Roma are unsure of their safety in this country, and these cases could definitely influence them to leave."
©The Slovak Spectator

As demand for foreign information technology experts grows, the German industry is worried that the right-wing violence against foreigners is becoming a major deterrent to such experts coming to work in Germany. The poor response by foreign IT experts, particularly Indians, Russians and East Europeans, to the German Government's green card programme is attributed by many German companies to foreign applicants' fears over their safety and that of their families in Germany. The green card is a yearly renewable labour permit with a maximum life of five years. Although the five-year limitation of the green card tends to have a dampening effect on the enthusiasm of foreign applicants, many German companies feel that racially-motivated right-wing attacks against foreigners have dissuaded them more than anything from taking up these highly specialised jobs. There has been an increase in the number of racially-motivated assaults on foreigners, including many Asians. The Federal Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry last year prepared a study on the impact of right-wing violence on the German industry. The study was based on answers given by German companies on questionnaires sent to them. The majority of respondents admitted that their image was suffering because of the right-wing violence. An indicator of the low interest by foreigners is reflected in the number of green cards issued to foreign IT experts so far. Although the German Government had set aside a maximum of 20,000 green cards for foreign IT experts, some 6,000 have been actually issued so far. The majority of the green cards was issued to Indians, targeted by many German companies for recruitment. But the "hordes of foreigners" who were expected to invade Germany, as some German politicians were saying to whip up anti-foreigner feelings, have yet to arrive. Alarmed by the shortage of IT experts and the reluctance of foreign specialists to accept job offers in Germany, German IT companies announced at the ongoing CeBIT computer show of Hannover that they were launching an initiative against the growing right-wing extremism in the country. Patrik Bohn, the spokesman of the initiative known as "IT Companies Against Right-Wing Violence and Xenophobia", said at the CeBIT show that the initiative was established to send a "clear message" that foreigners are welcome in Germany. The initiative is also aimed against the right-wing extremist propaganda that is proliferating on the Internet. A statement issued by the organisers of the initiative says the message needed to be sent not only because the industry is dependent on foreign experts, but also for the sake of a peaceful co-existence between all cultures. With the onset of globalisation, German companies have realised that they have to remain highly competitive to survive the fierce competition that is being unleashed in the global markets. Germany's best bet is to get foreign IT experts as soon as possible to keep pace not only with technology, but also to remain competitive in terms of pricing. It is not only in the area of information technology that the German industry is hungry for foreign experts. The country is already facing an overall shortage of not only software experts but also engineers urgently needed by the machine-building, electrical engineering and aerospace industries. The powerful Berlin-based Federal Association of German Industry, popularly known by its acronym BDI, claims that there will be an urgent annual demand for 450,000 foreign skilled workers. Even with extended working hours and increased productivity, the country would still need, in the best scenario, a "net immigration" of at least 350,000 skilled workers, the association's president Robert Henkel said recently. In a white paper, the BDI has urged the Berlin Government to extend the green card programme beyond the IT sector to other sectors and remove restrictions on the green card to surmount the shortages of skilled labour. According to the BDI, Germany is facing problems filling in some 1.5 million vacancies although the country has some four million unemployed people. The IT sector alone would need some 150,000 skilled workers who would have to come outside of the European Union member countries because such manpower is not available within the EU. The president of the Frankfurt based Association of German Manufacturers of Machinery and Industrial Plants, Eberhard Reuther, said that the machine-building industry desperately needed some 10,000 engineers.
©German Times

The new Spanish Law of Foreigners, implemented this week, and which has resulted in several restrictive measures in legalising immigrants, has failed to set the alarm bells ringing among Portuguese authorities who say they do not fear an influx of immigrants into Portugal.

The Immigration Office (SEF) said this week that while it was concerned about "the illegal migratory influx" into Portugal, it was "not specifically concerned about the Spanish situation". The same SEF source, who spoke to the Lusa News Agency this week, said that Portugal has been working closely with Spain in order to increase control of these so-called migratory tendencies. The majority of illegal immigrants in Spain are said to originate from Northern African and South American countries, though the numbers of immigrants who hail from the former Eastern Bloc have also been rising steadily in recent months, the SEF spokesman was quoted as saying. In Portugal, similar migratory trends are reported, though given the shortage of labour here (as opposed to Spain) Portugal has expressed a greater willingness to facilitate the legalisation of illegals who have found work in the country.
©The News

Forum, the Dutch institute for multicultural development, considers that non-Christian religious festivals should be treated the same way as Christian ones. Forum calls this justified because the Netherlands now has so many Muslims, Hindus and Jewish residents. The institute believes it is time to end the automatic basing of official holidays on Christian festivals. Non-Christian religious festivals should also be recognised, and immigrants should be given days off on these occasions. The establishment of fixed holidays is a matter for employers and unions, but State Secretary Vliegenthart (Welfare) is willing to discuss the idea with Social Affairs Minister Vermeend and his colleague Van Boxtel of Integration Policy. In any case, the subject has already been put on the agenda for discussions within the framework of some collective labour (CAO) negotiations. Under the CAO accord concluded this year for the 200,000 workers in the cleaning industry, employees in principle have a day off on non-Christian festivals too. If the employer fails to honour this agreement, the matter is brought before a special commission. Many immigrants work in the cleaning sector.
©Netherlands Info Services

Nations of the South demand compensation for exploitation, slavery - West prefers to look to future
The nations of Africa are demanding compensation from their former colonial rulers for the exploitation and slavery endured under colonialism. They say it is responsible for the continent's slow economic progress and are calling for their demands to be met at the upcoming world anti-racism conference, due to open at the beginning of September in Durban, South Africa. Preparations for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance are among the most delicate topics on the agenda of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the latest session of which has just got underway this week in Geneva. This Wednesday has been designated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement he issued on the topic that while racial injustices "are the grim realities of our time...they need not be the inevitabilities of our future." But many African states are no longer content with such promises. At a regional meeting held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, at the end of Januaryin preparation for autumn's global conference against racism, the countries of Africa united behind the idea of asking those states that profited from colonialism and slavery to pay up. The unanimously-supported draft action programme drawn up at the meeting foresees the creation of a compensation fund to finance development aid for the victims of colonialism and the slave trade. The text of the draft declaration stipulates that compensation should be paid on a collective basis by those states that profited materially from such historical practices. Participants at the regional meeting declared that this fund must not only include money from public sources, but should also comprise contributions from firms that have - directly or indirectly - profited from racism. The Africans are demanding a compensation scheme similar to Germany's programmes to compensate both Jewish victims of the Nazi regime and former slave and forced labourers - which is one reason why German diplomats are following the discussion in the human rights commission with some apprehension: Germany, too, once possessed colonies in Africa. Any rejection of African compensation demands, the diplomats fear, could lead to accusations that, for racist reasons, Germany's government discriminated against Africans in favour of eastern Europeans and Jews. The US government recently made clear that it has no intentions of paying so much as one cent in compensation for US slavery, saying that countries should expect nothing beyond the apology called for in the Dakar declaration. A member of the German delegation to the human rights commission says, however, that Germany would be willing "to contribute somewhat more than an expression of regret" - although he did not mention specifics. Western diplomats are now trying to persuade their African colleagues that it would be better to move beyond the past and concentrate on the future instead. Paramount in this view is the need to prevent racism, not atone for it. Hunting for the guilty parties in colonial exploitation and slavery would open up a Pandora's box, argue western diplomats. After all, they say, the US army was not responsible for catching the ancestors of African Americans in Africa, and point out that many slave hunters and slave traders were themselves blacks or Arabs. According to the criteria laid down in the document approved in Dakar, North African nations should also be made to pay compensation for the slave trade - even though they today find themselves on the side of the victims.
©Frankfurter Rundschau

Saami Rights in Swedenan outrageous story of opression, discrimination and denial.
Sweden holds chairmanship in EU current period. Outside the nation borders, Sweden wants to appear as a rolemodel concerning democracy and human rights. Sweden speaks out for opressed people over the whole world. When it concerns the Saamis, the indigenous people who have lived in northern Europe since beginning of time, Sweden fails to live up to the Human RightsThe UN Committee against Racial Discrimination gave sharp chritisism in a report of the year 2 000, since Sweden hesitates to acknowledge the traditional land rights of the Saamis, especially with reference to hunting and fishing, and attach to the ILO convention 169 for Indigenous Peoples. The UN-Committee advices Sweden to establish a law that will acknowledge the Saami traditional landrights and reflect the central roll of reindeerherding as a way of living for the indigenous people in Sweden. Furthermore the Committee holds the opinion that the new language law should be enforced in the whole of the Saami region - not only in four of the council districts, which is now the case.

We urge the government and parliament to immediately sign and ratify ILO convention NO. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in independent countries, and at the same time make an amendment to the constitution, chapter 1, paragraph 2, last part about ethnical minorities
"the Saami holds status as an indigenous people and are therefor in an unique position",

  • to recover the ancient rights to hunting and fishing for saami, to apply the Minorities Language Convention to all of Sápmi,
  • to see to that costs for the parties in law suits concerning reindeer grazing land is contested by means of public funding,
  • to carry through a cencus of population to gain accurate and reliable information of our numbers,
  • to accomplish the implementation of the ILO Convention 169, elect an international boundarysetting commission, thus avoiding a commission burdend by connected to various pressuregroups, remaining depreciation of the saami and remnant prejudism,
  • to guarantee that the coming information campaign regarding the saami is given a wide approach and also ensure against diminished campaign by reduced appropriations.
  • Finally, in accordance with the ILO Convention 169 we demand, regional self government through a populary elected, independent Saami Parliament.

    For futher information, kindly contact
    Lilian Mikaelsson

    The Saami Association in Stockholm will be on Sergels Torg 3-5, on friday 23rd of March, between hrs 1600 to 1800, and on 24th of saturday, hrs 1200 to 1400. Spokesmen will answer your questions during the ongoing demonstration on the spot. There will also be pressmaterial for further information.

    Article by Jorge Calbucura

    Mapuche Documentation Center, Ńuke Mapu

    The US State Department released its annual Human Rights Report on Hungary this week, concluding that, although the Hungarian Government "generally respected the rights of its citizens", there were "problems in some areas". Among incidents specifically mentioned were the defacing of Jewish graves by skinheads in Szombathely, the Governing coalition's attempts to "balance" the media towards a more conservative stance and the fact that Hungary's prisons are at 160% capacity. The report also mentioned that Hungary was once primarily a source of women and children who were sent to illegal prostitution rings in Western countries, but that recently it had become more of a transit and destination point for "trafficking of persons" from Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. The most scathing remarks were reserved for Hungary's police force. Fidesz MP János Hargitai described the human rights objections as "well founded", but also said that it was clear the US considered Hungary a state governed by the rule of law. The report stated that "police abuse continued, including use of excessive force, beatings of suspects, and harassment," adding that most of this mistreatment was aimed towards Hungary's Roma community and various "dark skinned" foreigners. Special attention was drawn to the rising trend of official complaints against the police - 2,397 in 1999 compared with 2,296 in 1998 - and to the comparatively small number of court cases that resulted (377 and 312, respectively). The Justice Ministry declined to comment to The Budapest Sun on these figures. The report singled out the case of a Cameroonian asylum seeker who died while being deported from Hungary - after a heart attack, according to the official record - in the town of Hajdúhadház. In 1999, Hajdúhadház had the highest number of reports of police violence in the country and the Minister of the Interior admitted that half the town's police force was under investigation for allegations of abuse. János Báthory, President of the National and Ethnic Minority Office, said that while the report was mostly accurate, parts of it were misleading. "The report mentions the rise of police abuse from 1998 to 1999, but does not note the drop of such incidents in 2000," Báthory said, although he did not have specific figures for last year and the Hungarian Statistics Office said an exact number was not yet available. Magda Kovács Kósa, Socialist MP and Chairman of Parliament's Human Rights Commission, noted that Hungary is regularly criticized for its social problems. She added that both pro-Government and opposition MP's must renew their efforts to deal with the issues pointed out by the State Department.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    A group of leading German firms has said it is prepared to make up a $700m shortfall in a fund to compensate Nazi-era slave labourers. The $4.8bn fund was created last summer and was supposed to have included equal contributions from the German Government and German industry. It soon emerged, however, that the foundation representing industry did not have enough money to cover its half. The shortfall threatened a deal under which the firms would be protected from lawsuits in United States courts if they compensated World War II slave labourers.

    Payments yet to begin
    It is still not clear when the estimated one million surviving victims of Nazi-era slave labour camps will actually get the money they have been promised. Wolfgang Gibowski, a spokesman for the industry fund, said on Tuesday that payments would begin "as soon as sufficient legal security is reached - and that should be the case as soon as possible." A judge in the US may have given impetus to the industrial fund-raising efforts last week. She refused to dismiss a Holocaust-related suit, noting that the compensation fund was not yet in operation. Under pressure, a number of founder members of the industrial fund - such as auto-maker BMW, Dresdner Bank and Deutsche Bank - agreed to double their contributions to make sure targets were met. The firms reportedly agreed to contribute around 0.2% of 1998 turnover, up from an agreed 0.1%.

    Slave labourers
    The fund is designed to pay compensation to the people who were forced to work in German-owned factories during the World War II. The survivors - mostly eastern Europeans, but also Jews and prisoners of war - will receive one-time lump-sum payments of up to 15,000 marks ($7,160). The level of compensation will depend on their experience during the war. Additional monies from the fund will be used to fund Holocaust-related projects. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pushed hard to make sure industry came up with its half of the funds. He is planning to meet leading industrialists on Wednesday to make sure the money is forthcoming. "German industry knows what its responsibilities are", Mr Schroeder said on Tuesday.
    ©BBC News

    Ł80,000 award could lead to avalanche of claims

    Two asylum seekers who each spent three months in prison after being convicted of travelling on forged passports have been awarded a total of Ł80,000, in the first of a rash of claims which could cost the government millions. The Home Office faces a barrage of compensation claims after the high court ruled in 1999 that prosecutions of asylum seekers for using false papers breached Britain's obligations under the 1951 Geneva convention on the status of refugees. The court delivered a strong rebuke at the time to the home secretary, Jack Straw, and the crown prosecution service. Lord Justice Simon Brown said no one in the criminal justice system had given "the least thought" to article 31 of the convention, which states that asylum seekers should not be penalised for entering a country illegally. As a result, he said, many were in prison who should not be there. The married couple, who each received Ł40,000, have asked not to be identified. The husband, 29, and the wife, 22, left Albania just before Christmas in 1998 intending to travel via Heathrow to Canada. They were stopped, like most of those prosecuted, by airline passport checkers rather than immigration officials, and turned over to the police. They were taken to court the next day and advised to plead guilty by a duty solicitor because they had no defence to the charge. They were convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, of which they served three. Their solicitor, Fiona Lindsley, from the London law firm Birnberg Peirce & partners, said the couple were "overwhelmed and delighted" by their award. The payment will come from the Home Office ex gratia compensation scheme, which pays out in cases of serious default, and in miscarriage of justice cases where the accused person has been completely exonerated. Ms Lindsley said her claim on the husband's behalf had emphasised the horrors of Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London, where he served his sentence, drawing on official reports. The wife spent her term at Holloway prison in north London. The couple have since been accepted as genuine refugees and granted permission to stay in Britain indefinitely. Ms Lindsley said she was dealing with around 10 cases, some involving compensation worth considerably more because there was evidence of severe trauma. In one case, an asylum seeker from Iran had pictures to show he was sent to prison with still unhealed sores from whipping. Lawyers had expected an award of Ł10,000 for a typical case. Between 500 and 1,000 are thought to have been prosecuted each year between 1994, when prosecutions were stepped up, and the judgment in 1999. Most sentences were for six months, some were nine months, and a few 12 months. Ms Lindsley said Amnesty International argued in a 1996 report that the prosecutions breached the convention.
    ©The Guardian

    An industrial tribunal yesterday called on the chief constable of Merseyside police to apologise to a black woman officer, who was intimidated by colleagues' racist comments. PC Dawn Devanna, 31, was awarded Ł5,000 for hurt feelings by the tribunal in Liverpool, where two white officers were also given verbal and written disciplinary warnings. The tribunal unanimously recommended that Norman Bettison, chief constable of Merseyside, make a formal apology to PC Devanna, who broke down in tears at the hearing. She is still a serving officer with the force which issued a statement after the verdict, saying that "inappropriate behaviour" by its officers would not be tolerated. The four-day tribunal had been told that references to "Toxteth buckesses" were intended only as harmless banter, but the chairman dismissed that as an unacceptable excuse. Elaine Donnelly, giving the verdict, said: "For many years, both women and non-white people have had to accept such banter with good grace. The world has changed, particularly since the Macpherson Report." The tribunal had been told that Ms Devanna, who was brought up in the Toxteth area which was scarred by rioting in 1981, had been left "bewildered, bullied, initimidated and angry" by comments from Alan Richards and Anne Baker, at Huyton police station. They had referred to the riots in a stream of what they claimed were "office jokes".
    ©The Guardian

    Two more Hungarian gypsies were granted refugee status here Wednesday, bringing the total number to 10, said Georges Federmann, the president of a support committee for the refugees. Last week, eight Hungarian gypsies received refugee status in this eastern French city, saying they had been subject to racial attacks in their homeland, a frontrunner candidate for entry to the European Union. The eight refugees were among a group of 46 that arrived last July in Strasbourg, claiming persecution in Hungary. The decision is noteworthy because it recognizes a violation of human rights in a country attempting to enter the European Union, Federmann said. He identifed the Hungarian gypsies granted asylum on Wednesday as Elemer Kolompar, 51, and Peter Keleti, 67. Kolompar and Keleti said they were victims of violence in their hometowns of Zamoly and Csor, both about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Budapest. Hungary's Roma population numbers between 500,000 and 800,000 in a country of 10 million. Due to poor health and living conditions, Hungarian gypsies live 10 years less than the national average, while less than 46 percent of Roma children completed primary education. "France recognizes the efforts by the Hungarian authorities to improve the situation, but they need to be continued," said French foreign ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau. Hungary "has no reason to be ashamed" by the decision, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Wednesday in Budapest. "Hungary has no reason to be ashamed. Hungary compares well with any other western European state concerning the situation of human rights," he added. "In Hungary, we have not seen what quite a few European Union member states have had: that people have lost their lives in ethnic clashes," Orban told television late Tuesday. A Hungarian government spokesman had attacked the French decision Tuesday, calling it "dangerous" because it could strengthen anti-gypsy feelings in the country.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Human Rights Watch claims government's 'lack of political will' allows discrimination against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

    Greece's human rights record will be put under a microscope this weekend at United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is scheduled to conclude its review and publish its opinion on Monday. According to Greece's 20-page report on how it complies with CERD's guidelines, "vulnerable groups within Greece such as Roma people [Gypsies] and their children, migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers, and their human rights situation, are at the core of the concern of the authorities." Greece also stresses that "new measures have been envisaged in order to facilitate the integration of migrant workers into the social, economic and cultural life of the country". The Greek delegation will be headed by UN Ambassador in Geneva Dimitris Karaitidis, as well as officials from the foreign affairs ministry. They will try to show the committee that Greece has made great strides in recent years to combat racism and xenophobia as well as to protect the rights of minorities. However, local and international human rights groups have sent critical commentaries to the committee stating otherwise. A five-page letter from the New York-based International Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director of Europe and Central Asia Division, Holly Cartner, specifically addresses migrant workers. "We urge CERD members to encourage the Greek government to strengthen legal safeguards against discrimination and to halt the use of policies and practices that discriminate against migrants." HRW also argues that "discrimination against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers persists and there is a lack of political will on the part of the government to take necessary steps to stem the tide of prejudice". It calls on CERD to ask the Greek government delegation "why it continues to execute discriminatory sweep operations in violation of its international obligation to provide safeguards against discriminatory treatment at the hands of the police". HRW also points to the hotly debated immigration bill, which they say contains provisions that directly violate the rights of undocumented migrants. Meanwhile, a 25-page report on Greece's compliance with the CERD provisions was also submitted by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), Minority Rights Group - Greece (MRG-G) and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Rainbow - Organisation of the Macedonian Minority in Greece. This report covers human rights concerns of the Muslim minority of Thrace, Gypsies, and migrants. It also focuses on issues concerning naturalisation, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association. "Like in all countries, there are many phenomena of racism in Greece at the administrative, the intellectual and media as well as the public opinion level," reads the report. "What differentiates Greece from most traditional democracies is the lack of reaction to racism, to the extent that one has the impression that racist actions, opinions and ideas are acceptable variants in society... In Greece, there is 'tolerance to intolerance'."
    ©Athens News

    Vigilance needed to prevent patriotism turning to racism, report says

    Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, will have to take a hard look at the issue of right-wing extremism within its own ranks, says a new report by the Bundestag defence ombudsman, Willfried Penner. Penner presented his report for the year 2000 in Berlin. He said: "The plague of right-wing extremism has not stopped at the camp gates." said Penner, admitting that he expects there will be as many offences in the ranks this year as there were last year. A total of 33 cases with right-wing extremist backgrounds had been recorded in the Bundeswehr this year by the end of February. If that rate were maintained for the entire year, it would rival 2000 when 196 incidents were recorded, he said. This compared with 135 in 1999. Most of the incidents were expressions of opinion, he said. For example, extremist signs and slogans were smeared on bathroom fittings, pro-Nazi songs were sung or played from compact discs. The vast majority of the offences were committed by national servicemen serving their obligatory term or by longer-serving volunteers. The ombudsman described one case where a drunken lance-corporal abused a foreign fellow soldier by saying: "What's this nigger doing in a German bed. This wouldn't have happened when Hitler was around." The state prosecutor is investigating the case. Penner used the case to show that the Bundeswehr is reacting sensitively to extremist tendencies and no no longer avoiding the issue. The Defence Ministry, while pointing out that only 11 of the cases involved violence, added that "every case is one too many." Penner said that the Bundeswehr was an attractive proposition for young people with neo-Nazi tendencies and that constant vigilence was needed so that "the firewall of patriotism" did not become porous and allow patriotism to turn to chauvinism, xenophobia or racism. He suggested that the changing demands on the Bundeswehr were leaving their marks on the ranks. Although he stopped short of saying that "morale was low everywhere," he said that parts of the force were dissatisfied. Above all, units stationed within Germany were levelling "justified criticism" because of a shortage of material and inadequate medical treatment. Penner warned that taking steps to make the force more attractive as a way of gaining professional qualifications - as called for by Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping - needed to be acted on. Among the ranks of non-commissioned officers there was "a considerable amount of deep-seated frustration" because of the lack of perspective, he said. The federal constitutional court will this year issue a ruling of principle on the constitutionality of the conscription obligation, he said. This was the upshot of a ruling by the Potsdam district court in 1999 in which it said that compulsory military training violated the constitution under the present security policy situation.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    A top immigration official claims many Russian asylum seekers are criminals who have come to Norway to steal. He says they engage in criminal activity while their applications are being processed. Bjřrn Fridfeldt said many get caught for larceny and hold-ups. "It's pretty simple to draw the conclusion that a large percentage of these asylum seekers come to Norway to enrich themselves during the short time they are here," he said. The number of Russians seeking asylum in Norway has skyrocketed in recent years. In 1997, 39 Russians sought safe haven in Norway, while the number hit 471 last year. Most get sent back to Russia.

    The UN Human Rights Commission is scheduled to open its annual session here Monday amid reports of continuing Russian abuses in Chechnya, a worsening situation in the Palestinian territories and crackdowns by China on religions and political dissent. Beginning its six-week deliberations, the commission also faces accusations that its authority is being undermined by new member countries with checkered records in safeguarding human rights. The Bush administration said last month that it would spotlight China's suppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, as well as its treatment of workers and its repressive policies toward Tibet. While U.S.-sponsored measures have failed in the past, how energetically the Americans will seek support is being viewed as a gauge of the Bush administration's seriousness about human rights. Diplomats said U.S. officials had been lobbying in capitals, even though some key players, including the head of the U.S. delegation, would be getting into place in Washington only as the gathering opened. Washington is not planning to send a high-ranking official to the commission's meeting; last year, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came to Geneva. With its bid for the 2008 Olympic Games up for decision in June, China has been campaigning to thwart any vote that could hurt its international image. It is likely to be helped by the change in commission membership, with the addition of developing countries that have long sided with Beijing. China has lobbied fiercely against censure by the commission. China also recently ratified a major human rights treaty, although it opted out of a free-unions clause. The situation in the Russian republic of Chechnya is on the agenda once again this year. Last year, the commission took the unprecedented step of rebuking Russia - the first time the body's ire was visited on one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - for excessive use of force against separatists. Human rights campaigners contend that Russia has not met the requirements of a resolution last year calling for a national body to investigate torture, kidnappings and executions committed by the Russian military against the separatists. One year later, there are no effective prosecutions, no national commission of inquiry, and because of this ongoing environment of impunity, atrocities continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis in Chechnya, said Reed Brody, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York. The European Union is negotiating with Moscow, and diplomats say it is likely that another resolution calling for the Russians to police themselves will result, instead of the independent international inquiry favored by human rights campaigners. Israel's use of force against the Palestinians could also be a flash point at the gathering. At a special session in October, the commission adopted a resolution, offered by Arab and Islamic countries, that condemned Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An inquiry team, authorized at the special session, visited the Mideast last month and plans to report to the commission by March 27. Israel boycotted the mission, which is expected to criticize the Israelis for using excessive force. Among the nearly two dozen other countries that will be scrutinized for human rights abuses are Cuba, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Burma and Sudan. The Czech Republic is expected to introduce a resolution that criticizes both rights violations in Cuba and the U.S. embargo of the island.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    A Turkish lawyer has asked the European Court of Human Rights to suspend a French law recognising the killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide, and to order Paris to pay compensation, the Anatolia news agency reported Saturday. Sedat Vural argues in his petition to the court that there was no reference to an Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks in either international agreements signed after World War I, or in oral or written resolutions of the United States. "The French parliament does not have the authority to issue such a law and has unjustly accused all Turkish citizens of genocide," said the petition, carried by Anatolia. "France has degraded my humanity and is obliged to compensate me," it added. Turkey hit back with economic reprisals, especially in the arms sector, after the French parliament voted on January 18 to acknowledge that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against the Armenian minority during World War I. Armenia maintains that 1.5 million people died in orchestrated massacres between 1915 and 1917 during the years when the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating. Turkey rejects the genocide claims and contests the Armenian figure.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has unexpectedly announced that she will not seek a second term in the post. Former Irish President Mrs Robinson said that she thought she could achieve more outside the "constraints" of the UN. Her announcement came as a surprise to senior staff and diplomats who had believed she might follow the example of other UN chiefs and seek a second term. Mrs Robinson, only the second person to serve in the post, is scheduled to step down in September at the end of her four-year term. "I will continue to work wholeheartedly for human rights in the way that I know best, as an advocate. "I believe that I can, at this stage, achieve more outside of the constraints that a multilateral organisation inevitably imposes," Mrs Robinson said.

    Mrs Robinson told the 53-member nation commission at the start of its six-week session: "I know some will feel that I should have sought to continue working from within the United Nations and I ask them to respect my decision." Mrs Robinson has been a high-profile and outspoken UN commissioner, on occasion angering governments with criticism of their human rights record. She said UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, had advised her to "stay an outsider" while working within the organisation in as far as she could. And this, said Mrs Robinson, had at times made her "an awkward voice", both for colleagues in the UN and governments. "I make no apology for this," she added. Mrs Robinson's mandate expires after the World Conference against Racism, to be held in South Africa from 31 August to 7 September. "Racism and xenophobia, manifesting themselves through discrimination and all forms of intolerance, are the wellspring of many of the world's conflicts," Mrs Robinson said in her address to the commission. The forum which opened in Geneva is expected to focus on alleged human rights abuses in hotspots including China, the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
    ©BBC News

    By Maryam Namazie

    Perry Wacker, a lorry driver, is currently on trial for the deaths of the Dover 58, the 58 Chinese who were found suffocated in a lorry in Dover, Britain last June 18. In court, the only 2 survivors of this tragedy relived the last desperate hours as 54 men and 4 women suffocated around them when the air vent was shut in order to evade the authorities. They described how they pounded on the side of the lorry and screamed for help as they gasped for breath and how they kicked at the doors of the sealed truck as the air ran out during their hellish journey. Wacker is being held responsible for this tragedy and being charged with 58 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to smuggle the so-called illegal immigrants into the country.

    However, this is not the real story. Wacker is in fact the fall guy and scapegoat.
    The real story is that 60 living, breathing human beings with lives, with friends and families, with hopes and aspirations, were forced to hide like animals in a container to reach Britain because closed borders and Fortress Europe left them no other choice. In fact, the air vent was shut so that border control guards would not hear their voices and find them.

    The real story is that the "illegals" were genuine not "bogus" asylum seekers who fled hardship, low wages, unemployment and lack of religious, political and personal freedoms. Had they arrived alive, they would most likely have all been refused as one survivor was. At present, poverty, misery and lack of freedom in China are not politically expedient to amount to persecution for the West. At one time they were.

    The real story is one of collaboration with persecutors to stop the flow of people seeking more tolerable lives. Just last month, an EU delegation visited China to hammer out strategies to stem the flow of Chinese "sneaking" into Europe. The real story is that racist Western government policies and asylum procedures condemn the vast majority to lives not worthy of human beings.

    In fact, the real story is not about Wacker; he was merely facilitating their escape and entrance into Britain. He is but a scapegoat, diverting attention away from those who are truly responsible. Clearly, Wacker is being made to take the fall for top-level officials and policies, which should be on trial instead of him.

    As an aside: On February 23, another scapegoat, Mohamed Aflanzadeh, an Iranian truck driver who tried to smuggle 81 Kurds into Greece was sentenced to nine years and five months imprisonment. Western governments portray their war on smugglers as concern for the lives of "illegal immigrants," yet the 81 Kurds – found alive - are to be forcibly deported back to persecution where they can be suffocated and murdered by repressive regimes...
    ©International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR)

    "Foreigners: I understand Viennese people's concerns," reads an election poster plastered all over the Austrian capital in recent weeks. It's ballot time, and the far-right is back. Ahead of municipal polls on March 25 in the Austrian capital, the party made internationally notorious by Joerg Haider has put immigration firmly back on the top of its campaign agenda. "Viennese people are concerned about it. The Freedom Party gives people the chance to voice that," Helene Partik-Pable, the party's top candidate in Vienna, told the weekly magazine News. To the outsider, the unabashed virulence of the party's anti-foreigner message is almost shocking. The directness of the campaign would be difficult to imagine in any other major European capital. To the city's huge immigrant population, the message is all too familiar. "It is nothing new. We have seen this in the past, and we knew it will come again. And it has come again," said Niyazi Oguz of the Turkish-Austria Friendship Union, a member of the city's 130,000 strong Turkish population. "But it makes us bitter. People who have been here for 20 or 30 years have paid as many taxes, have worked as much as any Austrian and they don't understand the brutal use of this theme in the election," he told AFP. Before October 1999 national elections the Freedom Party put up posters in Vienna including one warning of "Ueberfremdung," a term meaning too many foreigners used by the Nazis to denote too many Jews. The poster was specifically slammed in an EU-commissioned report last year, which nevertheless recommended the ending of seven-month diplomatic sanctions slapped on Vienna over the far-right's entry into a coalition government. Barely six months later, it is wheeling the anti-foreigner guns out again. In particular the party is campaigning against allowing immigrants access to public housing, the right to vote, or a variety or other rights such as non-German teaching in schools. "It's a topic which plays on certain fears, rational or irrational of the the lesser educated, the less secure parts of population who think immigration could jeopardize their social position," analyst Anton Pelinka told AFP. Ljiljana Milosavljevic, a 44-year-old who came to Vienna 20 years ago from her native Yugoslavia, says she still cannot come to terms with the strong anti-foreigner feeling in her adopted country. "It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You bring so much to this country, and they give you so little back," she says, sitting in a Vienna cafe in one of the many Vienna neighbourhoods chiefly inhabited by "foreigners." Vienna, for decades on the Iron Curtain's frontline, and within a few hours' drive of several ex-communist countries, has a long tradition of multi-ethnicity. This has accelerated since World War II, with surges of immigrants arriving from uprisings in neighbouring Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, followed by the huge exodus after the collapse of communism across the region, and then the ex-Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. Today up to 20 percent of the city's one million plus population is immigrant, with Yugoslav and Turk emigres the largest minority group, as well as other ex-communist nationals and a significant number of black Africans. In this context, the anti-immigrant vote has always had potential for the far-right. But it has become all the more pressing given the electoral slump the Freedom Party has suffered since the heady days of 1999. Last year it lost support in two local ballots, and the Vienna poll is seen as a crucial test. Worse, opinion polls do not look good. Most show that support could slump below the symbolic 20 percent level, which Pelinka said would be a "dramatic" setback for the party. Not unexpectedly, Haider is taking a key role in the Vienna ballot campaign. Only last week he warned that, were Social Democrat mayor Michael Hauepl to be voted back into office, he would be "speaking Nigerian and Serbo-Croat in parliament." But Pelinka underlined that, in fact, the far-right has so far been relatively restrained in its anti-foreigner rhetoric. However that could change, he says. "They are using the topic, emotionalizing it but using a less extremist rhetoric. That is their war plan. The problem is that ... opinion polls show it isn't helping enough, then they will be tempted to go more extreme. "It's an open question. We will see over the next weeks."

    Britain needs immigrants to avert a crisis caused by falling birth rates and an ageing population, a new study revealed on Monday. The study, called Jewels In The Crown, found that as life expectancy grows, so does the need for a younger workforce. Its author, Dr Vaughan Robinson, said: "Britain's ethnic minorities provide us with an opportunity rather than a problem." The report concluded: "Without further international immigration, the UK population will fall from 58.6 million in 2000 to 55.59 million by 2050. "Immigration levels need to be increased by about 20 percent to help Britain maintain its current population size. "They provide a viable solution to Britain's population crisis as they are generally young and economically active." The report, commissioned by the international money transfer service Moneygram, added that only eight percent of immigrants were of retirement age. "The alternative to immigration is that British people continue working into their seventies to support the large number of elderly people, or fund more of their own health and pension care," researchers said. Britain has the highest number of asylum seekers in Europe and has recently said it intends to crack down on illegal immigrants, particularly from eastern Europe. Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for closer cooperation on the issue between European countries. But at the weekend, conservative opposition leader William Hague warned that a Labour victory in the next election would turn Britain into a "foreign land", where British people would no longer feel at home, with the pound scrapped and Westminster's powers increasingly transferred to Brussels. Hague also promised a clampdown on unfounded asylum claims, insisting that he would not be diverted from speaking out on sensitive issues by accusations of racism and bigotry.

    Norway is considering imposing mandatory genetic testing for immigrant candidates seeking to join relatives in the country, the newspaper Osloposten reported on Wednesday. Inger Egeberg, a senior official at the foreign ministry in charge of immigration, proposed the tests be made mandatory for everyone seeking to immigrate under statutes permitting family reunions, the newspaper said. As part of a pilot project begun last year, Somalis seeking to join relatives in Norway but who lack proper identity papers are offered DNA tests to prove their family ties. "An extension of this practice to all Norwegian foreign diplomatic stations would not cause an overload of work," Egeberg was quoted as saying in a written recommendation submitted to the foreign ministry. Osloposten quoted a foreign ministry official as saying the suggestion was under review. Ministry spokesman Karsten Klepsvik declined to comment on the newspaper report.

    By William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune Saturday, March 3, 2001

    Nationalism, and ethnic nationalism in particular, was the most powerful political force of the 19th century, and arguably it will be that of the 21st century, as well. Internationalism, in the guise of economic globalism and the propagation of democratic ideas, is conventionally thought to be the force of the future, but it is nationalism that expresses the profound human motivations that continue to make history.

    Internationalism's attraction is intellectual. The Western powers intervened in Bosnia in the 1990s to defend the idea of nonethnic liberal internationalism. Liberal values were part of the cosmopolitanism of Sarajevo before the Bosnian war. It stood for what the Serbian extremists hated. That is why they were so determined to destroy Sarajevo. Moderates now govern Bosnia. Moderate forces have unseated the intolerant Tudjman and Milosevic regimes in Croatia and Serbia. Nonetheless the future will probably see non-Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina partitioned between Croatia and Serbia. Today's Bosnia-Herzegovina, forced into birth by Richard Holbrooke during the Dayton negotiations of 1995, is probably too much of an artifice to survive. This is the outcome those two sides wanted in the first place. Conceivably, they could have had it peacefully, had they gone about it rationally. Whether a cosmopolitan Sarajevo will survive is more doubtful; the war purged its diversity.

    Beginning in the mid-1960s, the Indonesian dictator President Suharto caused a million people to be moved from their crowded home islands of Madura and Java (where two-thirds of Indonesia's population lived) to other parts of the politically fragile archipelago nation. This was given both demographic and economic rationales, but it was mainly a political maneuver meant to "Javanize" - with Muslim immigrants - regions with important Malay Christian and immigrant Chinese populations, and rich resources.

    The terrible explosion of rage by indigenous Dayak people against Muslims on Borneo during the past two weeks has produced hundreds of dead and thousands of refugees. Dayak resentment against these immigrants, who now dominate Borneo's economy, has been building up for years. It is now being manipulated by supporters of the ousted Mr. Suharto to destabilize his successors, or by forestry interests, but the nationalism of the Dayaks was an explosive waiting to be lit.

    Something similar has gone on since 1987 in Fiji, where immigrants, mainly of Indian origin and brought in as field laborers during the British colonial period, now outnumber the Fijians. An Indian-led coalition was elected to national government in 1987. The Fijians, Melanesian in origin, resisted rule by the Indian majority. A series of coups by Fijian military and civilians has attempted, without lasting success, to restore indigenous Fijian control of their country.

    The Rwandan genocide was inspired by the attempt by the minority Tutsi, traditional rulers of the Hutu farmers who are the majority population, to restore the old order. In 1959, an uprising by the Hutu drove the Tutsi feudal hierarchy out of power, forcing many into exile in Uganda. Democratic elections confirmed Hutu rule. But Tutsi guerrillas began returning from Uganda in the 1990s, to reclaim power. The slaughter of the Rwandan Tutsi in 1994 was a panicked attempt by the Hutu rulers of the country to block the Tutsi invaders. Something resembling that terrible episode could still happen in Burundi, where the majority Hutu control the civilian government, but where the army is Tutsi.

    The nationalism of traditional peoples, or of those with histories long connected with a particular territory, is a tremendously powerful force, able to confound the good intentions of the liberal nations.

    Serbian oppression of the Albanians in Kosovo, a policy that launched Slobodan Milosevic's career, put Albanian nationalism into play at a moment when Albania itself was a ruined relic of Communism. The chain of events set off has produced a drive to create a "greater Albania," led by fighters who worked with NATO forces in liberating Kosovo. Some of these Albanians have set out to "liberate" by force not only the Albanians of Kosovo, but of all the former Yugoslavia. The Balkan wars are not over. A force is at work that defies the good intentions of liberal internationalism and the "realism" of the NATO countries, substituting something more enduring.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Europe's growing trade in cross-border prostitution is to be the subject of a special session of the European Parliament on Thursday, with women's organisations demanding new rights for the victims of trafficking. The charities want guaranteed asylum rights for any victims of the sex-smuggling trade who agree to give evidence against the traffickers. They will put their case at the special hearing at the parliament, which is convening in Strasbourg at 1200 GMT on Thursday, to coincide with International Women's Day. Estimates suggest that as many as 120,000 women every year are smuggled into western Europe and forced to enter a life of prostitution. Many are teenagers lured or kidnapped from their homes by criminal gangs. The majority come from central and eastern Europe. When they arrive in the European Union, they often find they cannot escape their exploiters and are beaten and raped. But charities working closely with the victims of the traffickers say that, because they are illegal immigrants, the women are doubly trapped. "There is violence and we know it," said Belgian MEP Patsy Sorensen, from the campaign group Poyoke. "Sometimes when they give testimony, we have to take the girls to other countries, so we need protection programmes, which do not exist." She also wants increased penalties for traffickers; in Belgium, those convicted face a maximum jail term of five years.

    The European Commission says it will support the granting of temporary residency permits, but campaigners want the whole of the European Union to follow the example of Belgium and Italy, which grant victims the right to stay indefinitely if they are willing to give evidence in court. The campaigners say it is only through such a policy that women will risk helping the police and bring about an increase in the number of prosecutions. Ms Sorensen says that, under the Belgium system, women who agree to testify are given papers, allowing them to learn languages and build a new life. However, opponents of the idea believe a more effective strategy is to crack down on the traffickers themselves, and for European Union countries to agree far tougher common penalties for this growing and violent trade.
    ©BBC News

    Spanish politics are stumbling from incident to incident, in which politicians make unfortunate or outright racist remarks about immigrants. Catalan president Jordi Pujol, reprimanded his own wife last week who at a meeting warned that as a result of the ‘avalanche' of immigrants in the future there will be only mosques in Catalonia.

    Two weeks ago an open microphone of the Spanish television recorded the following remark in the Andalusian parliament: "Let those Moors all go back to Morocco, that's where they belong." the social-democrat party PSOE was quick to point the finger to the vice-chair of parliament, a member of the centre-right party Partido Popular (PP) as the guilty person.
    Reality proved otherwise. Three days later a crying PSOE member of the regional government resigned. "I was only joking, I wasn't really serious," he claimed. That same day he received an invitation from the king of Morocco to recuperate in his country. The next incident took place the following week, when the wife of the influential Catalan region president Pujol at a meeting for a cultural foundation was of the opinion that immigrants have little respect for local culture. "All they can say is: ‘Give me food', and that's all." Her husband would be ‘sick to death' that all social housing in the region would be allotted to immigrants.

    Pujol distanced himself from his wife's words as well as from the contents of a book he was supposed to be presented with the following Wednesday.
    The author of that book, former chair of the Catalan parliament Barrere, blames immigrants ‘To think they can just live in Catalonia without speaking Catalan'. He is of the opinion that: "The enormous influx of immigrants is threatening our language. "
    Pujol couldn't have been faster to cancel his presence at the presentation of the book, while elsewhere protesting immigrants called Barrere a ‘Catalan Haider'.

    All these incidents come at a time that immigrants all over Spain are protesting the new immigration law, that will reduce the rights of immigrants without a valid staying permit drastically.
    ©Translation by Magenta foundation

    Gypsy organisations in Ukraine have protested to Ukrainian state television about the broadcast of what they say were racist and degrading remarks about Roma communities. They protested about a reference in a weekly political programme Seven Days to the tent camp set up in Kiev by protestors demanding the resignation of President Kuchma. The programme referred to the camp as a gypsy encampment. The gypsy organisations say the programme went on to justify the camp's destruction by police. In an open letter, the Roma community leaders accused state television of racist abuse. Opposition groups in Ukraine have repeately criticised the state media for allegedly biased reporting in its coverage of the current political crisis.
    ©BBC News

    After the first round of France's municipal elections, the Socialists and their candidate Bertrand Delanoe seem poised to win power in Paris, while the mainstream parties of the centre right fought off challenges to their strongholds in several other places. One clear result of the nationwide elections is the sharp decline in the showing of the far right, which is now fragmented. This trend in France may reflect difficult times for right-wing parties across Europe. In France these results suggest that the far right is a spent force. The internal splits in the National Front under Jean-Marie Le Pen, resulting in the division of the far right-wing vote, has led to the loss of its biggest regional stronghold of Toulon in the south. In the parliamentary elections due in France next year, the far right can now have no hope of achieving its old goal of joining forces with traditional right-of-centre parties to join the national government. In Italy, however, in spite a decline in support for the post-fascist National Alliance to around 10%, the party hopes that its leader Gianfranco Fini will become deputy prime minister in a right-wing coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi after national elections due in May.

    Common beliefs
    The right-wing parties of France and Italy share a belief in nationalist sentiment and hardline policies on immigration. Italy's Northern League, led by Umberto Bossi, has also earned the label of extreme right-wing, through its tough stance on immigration and its call for independence for the northern part of Italy. And the League is also hoping for a prominent role in the next government. In Austria, the far right Freedom Party is trying to reverse its loss of support since it joined the government last year. Its populist former chairman, Joerg Haider, is campaigning hard before local elections due on March 25. Despite national differences, there is a loose alliance among the various right-wing parties of Europe. They tend to rise or fall together. The election battles of the next few weeks will be hard-fought.
    ©BBC News

    One of the most controversial political leaders in South Africa's modern history is back in jail. The leader of a neo-Nazi white extremist party in South Africa has handed himself over to the authorities to begin a six year jail sentence. Eugene Terreblanche, leader of the white supremacist AWB Party, was jailed for the attempted murder of a black security guard in 1996. Last week the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa rejected Mr Terreblanche's appeal against his conviction for the violent assault of the security guard in 1996.

    Notorious figure
    Mr Terreblanche is remembered in South Africa as a man who threatened to take the country to civil war in the early 1990s in an attempt to derail negotiations to end apartheid. He became a notorious political figure in the 1980s and early 1990s. As leader of a white supremacist party, he held rallies with supporters dressed in khaki uniforms and sporting a swastika-like badge on their arms. A striking figure with his blue eyes and beard, he became the self-appointed guardian of what he saw as Afrikaner values. He was a fighter for a tiny minority of Afrikaners who were determined to stop the forces of change in South Africa which were bringing about the end of apartheid.

    'I'll be back'
    This will be his second stint in jail in less than a year; on previous occasions he has ridden up to court on his favourite horse, but this time it was a low key affair. Mr Terreblanche handed himself over to the authorities in the town of Potchefstroom with little fanfare. A small crowd of white supporters serenaded him with Afrikaner songs while black South Africans jeered. And as he was led away, he turned to them and said: "Wait for me I'll be back."
    ©BBC News

    Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is launching a "Bin the BNP" campaign against far-right British National Party (BNP) candidate Michael Davidson, who is standing in the March 29 Beckton by-election following the death of Cllr Maureen Knight. Nominations closed today.
    Beckton ward, in south Newham, is an area where the BNP have done well in previous local government elections. In the May 1994 elections, Michael Davidson and another BNP candidate, Peter Hart, came within 66 votes of securing a council seat. Davidson has since stood in Canning Town & Grange in 1998, in the European elections of 1999, and for the Greater London Assembly in 2000. We are concerned that the Nazis will take advantage of the hostility to asylum seekers that the Labour Party and certain sections of the press have lately been encouraging. Voter indifference, especially so close to the upcoming general election - and in an area where local elections have amongst the lowest turnouts in the country - could give the BNP their first elected councillor since Derek Beackon on the Isle of Dogs in 1993. As part of our campaign, NMP is mobilising black voters in the Beckton ward to stop Davidson and the BNP from sneaking into office. We have led the campaign to drive the BNP and the far right out of Newham for over 20 years. In 1994, NMP succeeded in bringing black voters to the polls to stop the BNP in Beckton and in Custom House & Silvertown, in spite of a Newham-wide BNP vote of 33 per cent.
    A Newham Monitoring Project spokesperson said:
    "We are calling on everyone in Newham who is opposed to racist violence and harassment to take a stand against the BNP and support Newham Monitoring Project's campaign."
    NMP's campaign has been endorsed by the National Civil Rights Movement and the National Assembly Against Racism.
    For more information, email NMP at: .

    ©Newham Monitoring Project

    The ill-fated voyage of 58 Chinese immigrants to Dover was the third operation by the same criminal group, a Dutch court has heard. Six Dutchmen and three Turkish citizens have been charged with manslaughter or assisting manslaughter. Some face additional charges of human trafficking, forgery and membership in a criminal organisation. The 58 victims suffocated in an airtight truck container last year. Opening the case in Rotterdam, Dutch prosecutors said they would trace activities of the gang back to December 1997 when it smuggled another immigrant group from the Netherlands to Belgium and across the English Channel to Britain. The gang repeated the operation in April 2000, just three months before the Chinese immigrants died. Proceedings opened in a high-security courtroom before three judges without a jury in the port city where the truck is said to have set off on its doomed journey to Zeebrugge, Belgium and then across the Channel. On trial separately in Dover, is 32-year-old Dutch truck driver Perry Wacker, who is accused of manslaughter. Also on trial in England is Chinese interpreter Ying Guo, who allegedly was hired as a contact person for the immigrants after they had arrived.

    A US senator has apologised for using the phrase white niggers during a television interview. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia used the phrase when he was asked about race relations on Fox News on Sunday. In his early career, Senator Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In the interview with Tony Snow, Mr Byrd said: "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. "We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much." His office has now issued an apology. In a statement, he said: "I apologise for the characterisation I used on this program. The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society. As for my language, I had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone of another race."

    Peter Tatchell has urged French and Belgian human rights groups to arrest the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he visits those countries next week. President Mugabe is due to visit the European Commission in Brussels on Monday before travelling to Paris for a meeting with President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday. Mr Tatchell, from the pressure group OutRage!, made a highly-publicised attempt to make a citizen's arrest on Mr Mugabe in London last year. The veteran campaigner said: "President Mugabe should be arrested and charged under the 1984 UN Convention against Torture. "Given the evidence implicating Mugabe in acts of torture, it would be a dereliction of the legal responsibility if he was allowed to visit the countries." Mr Tatchell, 49, added that he was trying to contact Amnesty International and the French equivalent of the civil rights group Liberty about the matter. The incident involving Mr Tatchell and members of OutRage! happened on October 30 1999 as the African leader's motorcade left his hotel in Buckingham Gate. Running out into the road during a protest over the alleged torture of two Zimbabwean journalists, the campaigners forced Mugabe's car to stop. The campaigner opened the car door and told the African leader, who has referred to homosexuals as worse than pigs or dogs: "President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture. Torture is a crime under international law." Mr Tatchell said of the incident: "I grabbed him and put him under citizen's arrest. I think he thought his days were numbered. My only regret is that we did not succeed in arresting Mugabe."

    Victims' groups philosophical about compensation payments
    Irony, sarcasm and black humour do not necessarily spring to mind when it comes to officials of Polish victims' groups. In a country strewn with monuments to the victims of foreign invasions and occupations, outbreaks of mirth reminiscent of the Good Soldier Schweik will at best only provoke misunderstanding or a rueful shaking of heads. In more drastic cases, they could end with a black eye and a few missing teeth. But times are changing. Members of the Association of Jewish Combattants and Victims of the Second World War met this week in Warsaw's Jewish Theatre to hold a collection for Germany's obviously down-at-heel industry. With good reason:
    German companies do not seem to be able to come up with the five billion marks they pledged to pool into a government fund to compensate former slave and forced labourers. The first to place his donation in the collection box was the assocation's chairman Arnold Mostowicz, in the full knowledge, he said, "that the difficulties facing the German economy were not least caused by the fact that people like us are still alive." Another contributor begged German industry for forgiveness: "My offering is very modest and because of my advanced years will not last much longer." The organisers have kept the total figure they collected a secret, as they have the answer to the question of what form the donations will take when handed to German companies. Poland's Jewish combattants are not known as free-marketeers, with many of them claiming origins in socialist and communists organisations, and are sympathetic to the Social Democrats. But transformation through a rapport with the German business world does not seem totally out of the question. Instead of transferring the kitty, the veterans might do well to buy shares. This way they could enjoy the competitive advantages German companies were able to gain through their use of forced and slave labourers. Indeed, they would be insured in case they never receive compensation. Then German industry could use money put by for the labourers to raise earnings and dividends for shareholders.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    A young man and woman charged with incitement of racial, religious and ethnic hate after physically assaulting a 15-year-old Roma boy and his father in Nis denied being members of a skinhead group or that their attack on the boy was racially motivated. Acting on a criminal complaint filed by the Humanitarian Law Center, the district prosecutor in Nis late last year indicted Oliver Mirkovic, Natasa Markovic and A.K., a minor, alleging that they attacked D.A. and his father, Nebojsa Ajdarevic, on 8 April 2000 because of hate of Roma. Separate proceedings are being conducted against A.K. This is the first time in Yugoslavia that a prosecutor has characterized an attack on Roma as incitement of racial, religious or ethnic hate.
    At the trial on 1 March this year before the Nis District Court, Oliver Mirkovic said he was drinking beer with friends outside store and was intoxicated when he noticed two young Roma laughing on the other side of the street. He went over, caught D.A. by the sleeve and asked if they were laughing at him. Mirkovic claimed it was too dark for him to have seen whether or not D.A. was a Roma and denied making any racial slurs, adding that the fight started when D.A.'s father, Nebojsa Ajdarevic, and his other son appeared on the scene.
    For her part, Natasa Mirkovic denied she had been involved in the fight and thrown a bottle in the direction of D.A., but confirmed she had told Ajdarevic at the police station the following morning that she hated "Gypsies" and would drive them all out of Serbia if she could. She claimed to have been provoked by Ajdarevic's remark that he would kill them all if only he had a gun. She told the court she did not particularly like Roma but did not hate them either. Like Mirkovic, Natasa Markovic also denied being a skinhead.
    D.A. testified that he and his friend M.S. were passing the group outside the store when he heard someone say, "Look, Gypsies!" He said Mirkovic came up to him, caught him by the arm and asked if he was a Gypsy. When D.A. said he was, Mirkovic and A.K. set upon him, pulling his jacket up over his head, throwing him down on the sidewalk and kicking him. M.S. was able to get away and ran to Nebojsa Ajdarevic to tell him what was happening. With his wife and other son, Ajdarevic rushed to the store where he found his beaten-up son. Describing what happened next, he said the group started throwing bottles as he and his son approached them and then an all-out fight broke out. He said he told Markovic at the police station that he would have killed him if he had had a gun, to which Natasa Markovic retorted that she hated Gypsies. Ajdarevic and D.A. concluded that the attackers were skinheads because of their shaved heads and characteristic clothing.
    The trial is scheduled to resume on 22 March.
    ©Humanitarian Law Center

    For Antal Kote, Radio C is a revelation, a vehicle for Roma of all varieties and tribes to speak to one another. The first independent Roma radio station in Central Europe, Radio C can reach most of Budapest's 150,000 Roma, or Gypsies, who make up between 6 percent and 8 percent of Hungary's population of some 10 million. "This is a big thing in our lives," said Mr. Kote, 27, who runs a talk show on Radio C. "People are writing us letters and e-mails, sending us text messages on the phone. The community has never before felt such a direct relationship to a station." For all the excitement, Radio C is on a temporary lease - it started broadcasting on Feb. 11, and its license is good only until March 21. The national radio and television board, beholden to Parliament, is supposed to decide soon whether to award the rare vacant frequency to Radio C or another applicant, including two Christian evangelical stations and the popular pirate radio, Radio Tolis ("Forbidden Radio"). What happens if Radio C is turned down? "We don't even want to think about it," Mr. Kote said. "It would leave a major space behind. And more silence." The station is meant to be controlled by the Roma for the Roma; nearly everyone on air is Roma, and Roma news, music, culture and social issues like housing and jobs take priority. Famous Roma like Judit Jonas, an actress, have been eager to appear. A leaflet gives a flavor of the station's self-image, showing an old, beat-up car with an equally old boom box on the roof against the far backdrop of Hungary's Parliament. "Hey, are you listening?" the leaflet asks. "It's coming in." Hungarian state television and radio have hourlong programs aimed at the Roma, but Radio C, years in the planning, is broadcasting 24 hours a day - a mixture of news, music, public-service information, magazine shows and chat. Mr. Kote, for instance, does a morning show sometimes, where he telephones unsuspecting people to try to wake them, to ask them about their daily routines and even their dreams. When someone requested music by Bela Csoori, a popular Roma artist, he went out and bought the cassettes, "and the guy called back to thank us." Given the uncertainty around Radio C, Mr. Kote and most of the other 40 staff members have kept their day jobs; for the moment, the radio pays no salaries. Mr. Kote also works for a Roma monthly magazine called Amaro Drom (Bitter Way), whose editor in chief, Gyorgy Kerenyi, is the director of Radio C. The Roma represent one of the most vexing issues in Hungary and the rest of Central Europe, especially Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. There are more than 10 million spread over Europe, but they are politically and tribally divided, often hold themselves aloof from the dominant culture and suffer considerable racial discrimination here and elsewhere, from prospective employers as well as from the police. The collapse of communism has been a disaster for the Roma, who are generally less educated and have lost the right to the jobs, however menial, that communism granted them. They were among the first fired when the large industrial giants of communism closed and they are among the last hired now. Many live on the margins of society and engage in theft and petty crime, and they make up a large proportion of Hungary's prison population. "Discrimination is always there," said Mr. Kote. "It hasn't changed. When I walk on the street or get on the bus, I can see the attitude toward me, and people move away." As a journalist, he said, he was struck that it took him 90 minutes to get into Parliament for an interview. "Hungarian politicians who deal with Roma issues lose votes," he said. "But I hope it will get better." The problems of the Roma have led to widespread emigration, which has created a backlash and new visa requirements from a number of Western countries. Efforts to improve the lives of Roma where they live have been a big topic for the European Union - which all the former Communist-led countries want to join - in part because the rest of Europe is afraid of what will happen once the Roma of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have the right to travel, settle and work freely throughout the European Union. Radio C has consequently had considerable support from European Union diplomats and aid funds, as well as from the American Embassy here. Private groups, like the Soros Foundation, Levi Strauss and a local mobile telephone network, Pannon GSM, have also contributed, helping the station buy its equipment. So many foreign diplomats have come to the station, jokes Vladimir Nemeth, one of the few non-Roma employees, "that for a while we looked like the Foreign Ministry." "The Roma issue is very much on the agenda for the European Union," Mr. Nemeth added. "And we've run a strong campaign. But the best lobby for us is just being on the air."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov attended a service at the city's main mosque to mark Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, on Monday and promised to help provide more facilities for Moscow's million-strong Muslims. He urged Muscovites to embrace religious tolerance, a theme taken up in a message to Muslims by President Vladimir Putin, who spoke of "respect among all the peoples of multi-national Russia". This is only the second year that Russian leaders have taken the trouble to greet the Muslim community on their feast day, and some commentators see the attention as being an attempt to win support for the war against the Muslim Chechens. Certainly, the leadership of Russia's Muslims has been careful not to side with the Chechens. Supreme Mufti Talgat Tajuddin told worshippers in the Tatar city of Ufa that the war was a "necessary measure against terrorists rather than brothers-in-faith". The second most senior cleric, Moscow-based Ravil Gaynutdin, opened the country's first Islamic university in Tatarstan last September to prepare clerics, and was at pains to say it would "protect the country from foreign extremist teachings". The country's most prominent Muslim MP, Abdul-Vakhid Niyazov of the Refakh (Welfare) movement, sits in the pro-Putin Unity bloc in parliament.

    Subservient congregation
    There is, however, disillusion among many young Muslims at the political subservience and local complacency of their religious and community leaders, which has fed into Russians' traditional distrust of Islam to produce some ugly anti-Muslim acts. Ironically, Moscow's Muslims have long complained about the tone of Mayor Luzhkov's campaign against unregistered market traders, most of whom are Muslims from the Caucasus. Combined with antagonism stirred up by the Chechen war and alleged terrorist attacks on Russian civilians, this has led to an atmosphere of police intimidation and public suspicion against Muslims or people who simply "look Muslim".

    Doubts and divisions
    The Muslims of Russia number about 20 million, or 15% of the population. Perhaps four to five million of these are practising Muslims, although their higher birth-rate and increasing cultural and religious self-confidence mean that Muslims are likely to increase both in absolute numbers and in their proportion of the population. In terms of political orientation, they have tended to vote for the Communist Party, as the bastion of conservatism and regional elites, although nationalist and pro-Islamic parties are gaining popularity in Tatarstan and the northern Caucasus. The Muslims of the industrialised Volga - mainly the Tatars, Bashkirs and Chuvash - see Islam as a badge of national self-confidence and the role of their regional leaders as power-brokers. They traditionally supply the elite of the Muslim community, such as Tajuddin and Gaynutdin. The Muslims of the northern Caucasus - Chechens, Circassians and Dagestanis, among others - often feel like poor relations. They were absorbed into Russia much later, live in poor mountain areas, and have suffered most from their community's grim reputation among Russians. This reputation has been fed by media stereotyping and the growth of Sharia law and militant sects - such as the pro-Saudi Wahhabis - in the Caucasus. Russia's leaders may have decided the time has come to court the growing Muslim constituency before its loyal, Tatar leadership gives way to more militant trends that seek guidance from abroad.
    ©BBC News

    A state prosecutor in the South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice has called for prison sentences for seven out of twenty three skinheads on trial for an attack on members of the Roma minority. The attack took place while members of the local Roma community were celebrating in a restaurant. The twenty three accused are charged with attacking the restaurant with bottles and stones, during which they allegedly chanted slogans such as "Gypsies to the gas chambers and "black bastards". Six Romanies were injured in the attack. The state prosecutor has also proposed that twelve of the accused receive three-year suspended sentences, and the remaining four, who were under the age of eighteen at the time of the attack, receive a minimum of 300 hours community service. According to the state prosecutor, it has been clearly proven in court that the accused had committed a racially motivated crime.
    ©Radio Prague

    Riven by internal dissensions and slumping in the polls, France's far right Front National (FN) party has scant hope of using next week's nationwide municipal elections to stem its headlong retreat of the last two years. In 1995, when French voters last chose their 30,000 mayors, the FN was riding high and the clutch of four town-halls that it won in its heartland near the Mediterranean coast was seen as confirming an abiding electoral menace. But six years on, the party has gone through cataclysmic decline. A split between the FN's historic leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and his ambitious lieutenant Bruno Megret led to the creation of a new party, the National Republican Movement (MNR), and in European elections in 1999 neither scored more than 6 percent. Today of the four southern strongholds, two are in the hands of MNR dissidents; in the port of Toulon the mayor broke with Le Pen and is now an independent; even in the old Roman town of Orange -- the FN's best hope in Sunday's vote -- local leader Jacques Bompard is keeping his distance. "What's happening in Orange has nothing to do with the Front National," he said in an interview. "Everywhere in France people feel a deep rejection of politics. That is why I am running on a personal -- not a party -- ticket." Bompard's detachment may be purely tactical -- the 58-year-old former doctor remains on the FN's national bureau and he is the party's departmental chief -- but for the purposes of the coming elections it appears to be paying dividends. By concentrating on his record in office -- playing up all references to balanced budgets and mended pot-holes, playing down any mention of the party to which he belongs -- he is, according to the polls, the front-runner for his own succession. With its Roman amphitheatre and air of Provencal somnolence, Orange has long been a popular tourist attraction. Less well-known is its reputation as a hot-bed of far-right politics. According to local journalist David Bonnet, several factors explain the town's swing to the FN in 1995: a big military presence (the Foreign Legion has a base here), a large concentration of "pieds noirs" (French Algerians expelled on independence), and an aging population. In addition, of course, there are the immigrants.Of the town's 28,000 inhabitants, ten or 15 percent are North African, congregated mainly in three semi-abandoned groups of apartment buildings on the outskirts. In the Thursday market Arabic is heard almost as frequently as French. Bompard's policy in immigration is pure FN. "You don't need the figures to know that in this country we let in anyone who wants to come," he said. "The government encourages them to populate. It is a deliberate policy of immigration." In his six years in office, he has cut funding to about 20 local associations that ran services for the immigrant population and banned books from the library which he deemed insufficiently French. But according to Brigitte Laouriga, director of the last surviving social centre l'Oustaou de l'Aygues, Bompard's defining attitude towards one sixth of Orange's population has been less overt hostility, and more total neglect."The mayor never comes out here. Most of the people can't vote, so why should he bother? It's a policy of abandonment," she said. Laouriga admitted that Bompard has strong backing, built up through an affable nature, constant contact on the streets and popular measures like re-organising traffic and boosting police numbers. "People come here and expect it to be like Germany in 1937 because we have an FN mayor. It's ridiculous," she said. "In fact things are much more insidious. "It's distorted the human ties between people. People are marked. You are either for or against him. Suddenly you find yourself not going into a shop because you know the owner is for the far-right. In a little town like ours, it creates a climate of mistrust." Bompard says that if he is successful in the two rounds of voting on March 11 and 18 it will owe much to his own work, and little to the fortunes of the party he represents. For the FN as a whole he says, radical measures are needed. "Never has the national situation shown so clearly that the common sense ideas put forward by the patriotic right are correct. Everything we said would happen is happening," he said. "But the party needs to examine its conscience and analyse the mistakes that have led it to its current disastrous state. If you don't go back to the causes, you can't treat the illness."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Indigenous peoples from Australia to North America urged the United Nations on Thursday to call on governments to strike accords with their original inhabitants as a step to wipe out racism. In a preparatory meeting for a U.N. conference on racism, Aborigines from Australia, native Americans from the United States, Maori from New Zealand and Inuit from Canada said they continued to suffer discrimination, exploitation and low living standards. "The indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii and the United States have through colonisation suffered dispossession and loss of their ancestral lands and territories," the three-day meeting in Sydney concluded in a draft declaration. "The root cause of discrimination, which has been suffered by indigenous peoples and which continues to affect the lives of indigenous peoples today, is racism." The Sydney declaration will be sent to U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson ahead of the racism conference, to be held in Durban, South Africa, from August 31 to September 7, and which will draft a "Magna Carta" for victims of xenophobia. Among several recommendations, it urged the United Nations to denounce discrimination against indigenous peoples, and to call on governments to enshrine their basic rights in law. It said the Durban conference should demand states negotiate "constitutional arrangements, treaties, agreements, judicial, legislative and other mechanisms" to protect those rights, and improve the often impoverished conditions of tribes and clans.

    Treaty a thorny issue in Australia
    The United States long ago struck a deal with the Cherokee nation, for example. But the issue of a treaty has caused friction in other countries. Australian Aboriginal groups have been trying for 20 years to get Canberra to negotiate a pact, to recognise their ancient land rights, their culture and their languages, and to pay compensation for oppression and past massacres. When Britain set up a penal colony in 1788, it declared the vast Australian continent "terra nullius," or empty, and erased any claims the people already living there had to the land. Aborigines, who now number 400,000 out of a total population of 19 million, were covered under the country's flora and fauna laws until as late as 1967 when a constitutional reform recognised them as citizens. But the conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard has firmly resisted the call for a treaty. To the scorn of many Aborigines, Howard has also refused to apologise for a former policy of forcibly placing mixed blood children with white families. Thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their homes to form the "Stolen Generations." In an interview with Reuters this week, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, who also looks after Aboriginal affairs, ruled out a treaty that would in any way give Aborigines sovereignty. "Our approach to reconciliation ... is about unity, it is not about division, it's about inclusion, it's not about separation," Ruddock said. "If you want to develop concepts that are really about institutionalising separation, then we do have a concern." Aboriginal representatives rejected that view. "Aboriginal people have been treated badly," the chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Geoff Clark, told Reuters on Thursday. "This country is already separated. There are discriminatory laws against indigenous people on the basis of race. What we want is a partnership, we want to have an agreement, a treaty, that brings this country together."
    ©Associated Press

    Alois Brunner, one of the Nazis' most zealous murderers, will stand trial in absentia in Paris on Friday for sending 340 Jewish children to Auschwitz on the last convoy to leave France for the World War II death camps. The Austrian-born SS officer, who was deputy to the Gestapo "technician of death" Adolf Eichmann, would be 88 years old if alive. Nazi hunters believe he is in hiding in Syria, although Damascus denies the claim. Serge Klarsfeld, the French Nazi hunter who started court action against Brunner in 1987, feels that the trial for crimes against humanity is above all symbolic. "Brunner is the ghost of a criminal. There is no hope of seeing him return to France," Mr. Klarsfeld told Reuters. "What counts is the victims. We have kept this case alive for them."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Commissioner for European Union Enlargement Günter Verheugen, accompanied by the Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, visited Romani settlements in Jarovnice and Rudnany, and the Romani ghetto Lunik IX in Kosice. According to Verheugen, it is clear now that the Romani problem can not be solved before the country's acceptance into the EU. Verheugen further stated that EU will support Slovakia in solving the Romani issue, offering euro 10 million to assist in the task this year. The EU funds are to be spent mainly for the education of minorities and improving the social situation of Roma in Slovakia. For the visit Roma in Lunik IX prepared marikli, a traditional Romani food, and some Romani women sang the song Nane goda (He is not a statue). Roma in Rudnany also prepared a cultural event to welcome the visitors. Roma were openly involved in discussions with Verheugen and Dzurinda. During the visits in Jarovnice, local Roma pointed out the outrageous situation in their schools. Local Romani Vajda Dezider Lacko explained to Verheugen and Dzurinda, "we used to have a mixed school here of Roma and non-Roma, presently the Roma children go to one school and the white children to the other. Our [Roma] children are learning slower than before." Lacko also described how he sees the situation in local municipality politics: "In the municipality office our [Roma] MPs are always over voted by white MPs and our proposals are "put underneath the table." The mayor of Jaronice is not symphatetic to Roma, he does not communicate with us at all." When asked about the future and his expectations from this visit, Lacko replied that he does not expect anything to happen. He responded with the proverb: "Promises are made and fools celebrate." When asked about the result of his visit, Verheugen classified the discrimination of Roma as a largely social problem and stated: "I came here, because it is better to see with my own eyes what I know from books. I am not shocked, because for 25 years I have been an international traveler and I have seen various things. The situation is exactly how I expected it to be." Verheugen also welcomed some positive signs saying: "What I have not expected is a large number of positive signals and promising activities, but especially personal engagement of people, who show their good will to solve the Roma problem in Slovakia."
    ©Central Europe Review

    Pupils criticise delays in compensation for former slave labourers
    Some Berlin schoolchildren seem to have little sympathy for German business, but the pupils still want to do what they can to help German companies who, after spending two years negotiating the setting-up of a reparations fund to compensate former Nazi slave labourers, bogged down when it came time to making the pay-out. Over the next few days, the schoolkids hope to help the fund up off its knees and turn over to the German companies involved with it some 2,320 dollars currently deposited in an account belonging to the Heinrich Boell Foundation (accountnumber 3090003, bank sorting code 10020500). This is money for the victims. It comes with a guarantee that it is not linked to any kind of legally binding guarantee from courts in the United States - and can therefore be paid out to former slave labourers straight away. At least, that's what the pupils in one class at the Maerkisches Viertel Waldorf School in Berlin are demanding. Their involvement began with classes taught by Michael Benner. Last May, he focused students' attention on the compensation issue as part of their history classes and made it clear that "now something has to be done." Benner says that, following the classes, a working group was quickly set up which just refused to accept any further delay in payments being made to the ageing victims. It also set about promoting its plan around other schools in Berlin and laid down plans for helping the German businesses' fund roll up its sleeves and get moving. "We are giving the money to the fund with the request that it be passed on to the victims," says Benner - without the fund waiting until the US courts have thrown out all the class action lawsuits being brought against German businesses. "This money doesn't need any kind of legal security," he points out, which means the fund cannot stick to hiding behind this argument and further delaying payment: "With this money, they can get off to a brisk start." At the same time, the students adopted a "two-fold strategy" - after all, they have no intention of their pocket-money simply going to fund a collection of billionaire businesses. They regard the money they have given the fund as "credit" which they expect to have repaid once the fund has gathered together the money it was originally promised. The 2,320 dollars the students have paid is for victims "who have fallen through holes in the net of the eligibility criterion," according to the students' own website.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Far-right offenses in Germany jumped by 59 percent last year to their highest level since the end of World War II, among them brutal attacks on foreigners and minorities that have spurred renewed action against extremists, the government said Friday. In the most-watched development, the Interior Ministry's figures showed that violent far-right crime leapt by a third — confirming a trend that has worried politicians and Jewish leaders. Authorities registered 998 violent crimes with a far-right motivation last year — a jump of 34 percent from 1999 and the highest figure since 1,485 such offenses were registered in 1992. Three people were killed. ``The figures make clear that extreme right crime in Germany increased in 2000 not only in quantity, but also in its nature,'' Interior Minister Otto Schily said. Anti-Semitic crimes surged by 69 percent to 1,378, while crimes aimed against foreigners rose 57 percent to 3,594, the ministry said. When other offenses such as displaying neo-Nazi symbols or distributing propaganda were included, the total was 15,951 — an increase of 59 percent over the previous year. That was the highest overall figure in the postwar era, the Interior Ministry said. The highest previous total was in 1997, when 11,700 offenses were registered. Among the worst attacks in a year that put far-right crime at the center of attention were the beating death of a Mozambican immigrant by skinheads in the eastern city of Dessau, and the killing of a homeless man by four self-confessed far-rightists on the Baltic island of Usedom. Other incidents have ranged from an attempted arson attack on a hostel for asylum seekers to thugs shouting threats outside a Jewish couple's home. The ministry said some of that increase probably was a result of increased reporting by authorities and citizens. Partial figures released over the past six months have documented the rise in far-right crime, but Friday's data were the first total for the year. ``We can't say for sure how the far-right threat will develop this year,'' Schily said. ``But even if it decreases, that doesn't mean we can relax. The government will pursue its programs against right-wing extremism with the required toughness and resoluteness.'' Schily insisted, however, that ``it would be wrong to dramatize the situation,'' saying German democracy was secure and that the extreme right attracts a small minority. The head of Germany's domestic intelligence service, Heinz Fromm, told German radio he is ``convinced that right-wing extremism is on the rise, particularly the violent faction.'' The surge in violence has prompted measures from public awareness campaigns to a government drive to outlaw the far-right National Democratic Party and a government plan to assist neo-Nazis who quit the scene. In a decision released Friday, Germany's highest court declined to hear appeals from several local offices of the National Democratic Party against banks' closing their accounts in an effort to hinder their actions. The Federal Constitutional Court said the party, blamed for helping fuel the rise in hate crimes, hadn't proven that they couldn't open accounts at other banks and hadn't exhausted all other legal means. Germany's well-documented surge in rightist crime comes amid concern in other European countries. A black teen-ager was stabbed in Norway in late January, sparking debate about neo-Nazis and protests against racism in Scandinavia. Recent figures from Swedish security police showed 2,363 crimes classified as xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic in 1999, up from 1,752 in 1997.
    ©Associated Press

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