A Sharia Court in Nigeria has upheld Ms. Safiya Husaini's appeal.

Ms. Husaini had been convicted of adultery under Islamic law and sentenced to death by stoning.Ms. Safiya Husaini won her case after the Court in Sokoto said the original ruling was unsound. Judge Mohammed Tambari-Uthman presiding said that because the alleged act had taken place before adultery became a criminal offence under Islamic law, her case should be dismissed. He added that "The first court that convicted her did not follow the appropriate procedure. The police report also did not give all the necessary information related to the offence". Ms.Safiya Husaini was the first woman to be convicted of this crime under the Islamic legal system introduced in Nigeria's majority-Muslim northern states two years ago.At the appeal hearing, it was claimed that Safiya's former husband, from whom she was divorced two years ago, was the father of the child. She was not claiming that they had slept together after the dissolution of the marriage, but that the pregnancy had lain "dormant" in her womb - a valid defence within sharia law. It is possible to claim this defence of the "sleeping" embryo up to seven years after a divorce.

There has been widespread international pressure on the Nigerian Government to pardon Safiya. Islamic law has three categories of crime, huddud, jinayat and ta'zir. The first comprise a series of offences, which carry a strict penalty which must be applied and is therefore not subject to any discretion. There are six such offences, sariqa (theft), haraba (rebellion or highway robbery), zina (fornication), qadh f (unproven accusations of fornication), sukr(intoxication), and ridda (apostasy). The fixed penalties for these offences which include public stonings, whipping, amputations and executions receive a great deal of public attention. The other categories deal with murder and bodily harm, jinayat, and discretionary offencesta'zir. Islamic law, Shari'a, derives from the Qur'an and from the sunna. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is a sacred text which contains the basis for all aspects of life. The sunna comprises of the traditions of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions that elaborate the jurisprudence contained within the Qur'an. Islamic law was developed from the systematic application of the principles of the Qur'an and the sunna by leaders of the Islamic communities.

Mr. Kanu Agabi, the Federal Justice Minister opined in the week commencing 18 March 2002 had stated that he did not believe Nigerians should not be more severely punished just because they were residing in the Muslim States. He added that there were continual protests against the discriminatory punishments imposed by some Shari'a courts.
©Black Britain

An Islamic appeal court in Nigeria freed a 35-year-old mother due to be stoned to death yesterday, as it emerged that a second woman convicted of adultery had been given the same sentence. In the latest case Amina Lawal Kurami, a divorced woman from Katsina state, was sentenced on Friday after giving birth outside marriage. The sentence was passed on the day that the federal minister of justice condemned the harsh punishment imposed by sharia ourts in the northern Muslim states as unconstitutional. "We now have a critical situation, and the longer it remains unresolved the more serious it will get," Clement Nwankwo, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, said yesterday. "The government has got to take the matter to the supreme court and establish whether these sharia punishments are acceptable in terms of the constitution and international human rights treaties."

The sharia court of appeal in the northern state of Sokoto overruled the death sentence for adultery imposed on Safiya Huseini, on procedural grounds. In October she was condemned to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death. Denying adultery, she told the local sharia court that she had been raped by a neighbour. Yesterday a panel of Muslim clerics acquitted her on the grounds that her alleged crime would have been committed before sharia law was introduced in Sokoto early last year. "Today I am happy. I thank God," Ms Huseini told reporters as she cradled her one-year-old daughter Adama, the result of her alleged adultery. Had the original sentence been upheld, Ms Huseini would have pleaded that Adama was actually the daughter of the husband she divorced two years ago - a claim based on a Koranic teaching that pregnancy can last up to seven years.

Since strict sharia penal codes were adopted in several northern Muslim states, human rights groups have documented numerous cases of flogging and amputation. The federal government has largely ignored the controversy for fear of exacerbating the sectarian tension which claimed hundreds of lives last year. But on Thursday Godwin Agabi, the justice minister, said any court "which imposes discriminatory punishment is deliberately flouting the constitution". Sokoto's governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, denied yesterday that either the international outcry against Ms Huseini's sentence or the justice minister's statement had affected the appeal. "We believe in the ability of the sharia court to discharge and dispense justice to all and sundry," he said.

Human rights groups called for legal safeguards to be put in place, in spite of the Sokoto ruling. "We welcome the decision of the court but we do not think the risk of serious human rights abuses in Nigeria is over," said Michael Hammer of Amnesty International, which collected 600,000 signatures from Europe for a petition against Ms Huseini's sentence. "The second case we have learned about today just goes to show that Safiya Huseini's case is not the legal precedent we would like." The northern states have denied that Mr Agabi has authority over them, and have challenged him to test the matter in the supreme court. Analysts said Ms Kurami's case was unlikely to go that far, because the governor of Katsina state, a government loyalist, would probably quash the sentence. As a result, the constitutional crisis is likely to remain unresolved.
©The Guardian

Three corporations are accused of profiting from slavery in the first of an anticipated barrage of lawsuits by African-Americans seeking compensation for abuses suffered by their ancestors. The lawsuit, a draft of which was obtained by USA TODAY, names insurer Aetna, railroad CSX and financial services firm FleetBoston as defendants. The complaint, to be filed Tuesday in federal District Court in New York, asks for unspecified damages, restitution for unpaid slave labor and a share of corporate profits derived from slavery. The case comes amid growing interest in the issue of slavery reparations among lawyers, historians, activists and state and local governments.

The plaintiff is Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a New York legal researcher and activist who has documented links between modern-day corporations and slavery. Her lawsuit asks the court to bring the case to a jury on behalf of all African-Americans who can claim slaves as forebears — the majority of the nation's 36.4 million blacks. It reserves the right to add up to 100 more corporate defendants. The lawsuit says Aetna, CSX and Fleet were "unjustly enriched" by "a system that enslaved, tortured, starved and exploited human beings." It argues that African-Americans are still suffering the effects of 2 ½ centuries of enslavement followed by more than a century of institutionalized racism. The complaint blames slavery for present-day disparities between blacks and whites in income, education, literacy, health, life expectancy and crime. Separately, Paellmann's lawyers are sending letters to 13 other companies, as well as trade groups representing the tobacco and shipping industries. The letters warn the companies they will be sued unless they fund a historical commission examining slavery and give money to an "interim humanitarian fund" to improve health, education and child development among blacks.

Aetna has acknowledged issuing life insurance policies on an undetermined number of slaves, naming their owners as beneficiaries. Fleet's earliest predecessor bank was founded by John Brown, a notorious Rhode Island slave trader. CSX owns early rail lines built by slaves. USA TODAY, in articles Feb. 21, named the three companies and more than 20 others as having owned, rented or insured slaves, or profited in other ways from the pre-1865 slave economy. CSX spokeswoman Kathy Burns says there is "no legal basis" for the lawsuit. "It is an unfortunate misuse of the legal system to attempt to address issues well over a century old at the expense of today's workers and stockholders." Aetna, in a statement, says it already expressed "deep regret" for issuing slave policies. "Over the past 20 years, Aetna has invested more than $34 million in the African-American community. We are proud of our record of diversity and have nothing to hide." Fleet declined comment.
©USA Today

Pim Fortuyn concedes that he is a full-time agitator, proud of being gay and equally proud, it seems, of being an irreverent intellectual who openly derides Muslim immigrants as backward. But he flies into a rage when people call him a new Mussolini or the Dutch equivalent of the far-right Austrian politician Joerg Haider. "They are trying to make a demon out of me - I'm no fascist or racist," he said. "It's outrageous. Obviously, as a homosexual I know about prejudice. And Rotterdam is an international city, it's the biggest port in the world."

Fortuyn, once a professor of sociology with Marxist views, has become the most hotly debated Dutch politician since he and his followers won 36 percent of the vote in municipal elections this month in Rotterdam, the Netherlands' second largest city. It was the first run for office by "Professor Pim," as his supporters call him, and now he says he wants to become prime minister when national elections are held in May. His shaved head, his big, colorful ties and matching kerchiefs, are everywhere, on the covers of magazines, on newscasts and talk shows. So is his message: anti-big-government, anti-immigrant, anti-welfare and pro-law-and-order. This message bears striking similarities to those offered by Haider and other far-right politicians across Europe. Fortuyn delivers his with a passion and a hard edge that are nearly revolutionary in the liberal Netherlands. Over the past weeks, while mocking the "self-important political elite," he has provoked hoots of laughter with wit and theatrical gestures and deeply unnerved the calm, collegial world of Dutch politics.

Polls predict that he could get 20 percent of the vote, and the traditional parties of the right-to-left coalition government are searching for tactics to block him. Fortuyn's ideas have stepped up the once low-key debate about immigration, racism and anti-Muslim sentiments, long taboo in the Netherlands. These views have, however, also got him into trouble. In February, he was fired as the leader of the new party Livable Netherlands for slurring Islam and for proposing that a constitutional clause banning discrimination should be scrapped. He ran on a separate platform called Livable Rotterdam.

The finance minister, Gerrit Zalm, has no doubt what to make of Fortuyn. "He is a dangerous man. He deceives voters with promises that are not financially possible." Fortuyn appears to exult in his rise to fame. Asked in an interview if he had expected such success, the 54-year-old political showman raised a glass of rosé and replied: "Not in my wildest dreams." This was, after all, Rotterdam, home of dockworkers, shipping magnates, secretaries and truck drivers, a place with a reputation for sober, hard-working people. The Labor Party had dominated here for 50 years. How could this gritty port now back a far-right academic and enfant terrible? The answer, opinion polls show, is that Rotterdammers are fed up with eroding health care, public schools, crime and street violence. For all of this, they appear largely to blame gangs of immigrants from Morocco, Turkey and the Caribbean. So do the police. Of Rotterdam's 540,000 people, 45 percent are not of Dutch descent, city officials said.

At City Hall, officials have been analyzing the vote and said it did not appear to be simply extremist or xenophobic. "It's a lot more complex," said Michael Sijbom, a city official. "In one mosque with voting booths, 20 percent of the ballots went to Fortuyn." Fortuyn's voters appear to be as eclectic as his ideas. They include businessmen and financial backers who applaud his plans to cut back the bloated welfare state. At the Anders bakery here, Sjaan Meuldijk stopped cutting spicebreads to explain that she had been assaulted six times recently. "Pim tells it like it is," she said. "He says a lot of things out loud that other people only dare say in private. discrimination, Fortuyn said: "I only said that because we can't talk about the facts. If you tell the truth and say that 90 percent of youthful delinquency and street crime in Rotterdam is to blame on gangs of Moroccan, Turkish and Surinamese toughs, it's branded as racism."
©International Herald Tribune

A landmark German immigration reform narrowly cleared its final parliamentary hurdle Friday, but the conservative opposition charged that it passed only because of a "constitutional breach" of legislative procedure and vowed to challenge it in court. The bill was approved, 35 to 34, in a tumultuous vote along purely partisan lines in the upper chamber. If upheld, it would be Germany's first comprehensive immigration law. The center-left government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder portrayed the bill as allowing an increase in immigration of skilled labor to fill the needs of Germany's labor market and help it compete with other wealthy nations for scientists, programmers and entrepreneurs. The conservative opposition instead denounced it as opening the doors to a flood of newcomers who would be out of place in German culture. Either way, the bill ranks as a major piece of social legislation sure to be a central issue in national elections in September. It replaces decades of ad hoc practices to regulate who gets visas, jobs or refugee status. It creates a new Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and lays down precise language and cultural requirements meant to integrate the nation's fast-growing population of 7.3 million foreigners, amounting to 9 percent of the population.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it outlines provisions to expel foreigners with links to radicalism and violence. But the emotionally charged session left unclear whether the law, Schroeder's last planned legislative reform ahead of the election, is valid. "We are in a constitutional crisis," said Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian premier and Schroeder's challenger in the election. By contrast, Schroeder said, "I am very pleased with the vote," adding, "I do not see any obstacles for it to take effect." Commotion erupted in the Bundesrat, the upper house of Parliament that represents Germany's 16 states, after the state premier of Brandenburg, who is an ally of Schroeder, cast the decisive vote over objections of his own coalition partner, who is an ally of Stoiber. In the past, states that cannot agree on legislation with their own coalition party partners abstain from voting. The bill had already cleared Parliament's lower house earlier this month. Premier Manfred Stolpe, who belongs to Schroeder's Social Democratic Party, voted "yes" in the roll call. Immediately, his interior minister, Joerg Schoenbohm, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, shouted out a "no" in what traditionally would have canceled Stolpe's vote.

"The decision we just took violates the constitution," charged Bernhard Vogel, a member of the opposition Christian Democratic Party in Thuringia. "This is unprecedented in the 53 years" of the Bundesrat's existence. Conservatives claim that Germany's postwar constitution bars states from casting more than a single vote. Mayor Klaus Wowereit of Berlin, who holds the chamber's rotating presidency, resolved the impasse by having Stolpe use his position as the state's highest official to break the tie and clarify the state's position. Wowereit, who belongs to Schroeder's party, was jeered as he cited an article of the constitution to justify his move. "This is a calculated breach of the rules of our constitution," said Roland Koch, a leading Christian Democrat and Hesse state premier. Conservatives urged President Johannes Rau not to sign the bill into law. If Rau, who also is a Social Democrat, gives it his signature, the opposition said they would file a complaint with the nation's constitutional court. A spokeswoman for Rau said the president would treat the issue "calmly and carefully." "I would not sign it if I were president," said former President Roman Herzog, who preceded Rau in the office.

Legal uncertainties, and opposition charges that Schroeder "manipulated" a chamber of Parliament, overshadow what otherwise should have been a much-needed po ©International Herald Tribune

Switzerland shirked its moral responsibilities to victims of the Nazis as the Holocaust raged, cloaking itself in neutrality to justify business as usual with the Axis powers, international historians concluded on Friday.

In a final report after a five-year study of Switzerland's wartime role, the nine-member panel blasted a refugee policy that turned back thousands to near-certain death, excessive cooperation with Nazi Germany and failure to return wealth to its rightful owners when World War Two ended. The 600-page, government-commissioned study stems from Swiss efforts to explore their recent past given allegations, especially from Jewish groups, that Switzerland and its secretive banks coolly enriched themselves amid the wartime agony that ripped the continent but left the Alpine state practically unscathed. The emotional debate escalated into a bitter feud that was defused only when Switzerland's biggest banks agreed in 1998 to pay $1.25 billion to settle all Holocaust-era claims against the banks, Swiss industry, the central bank and the government. The report casts a withering look at an anti-Jewish wartime refugee policy, extensive Swiss gold purchases from Nazi Germany even when it became clear some of the gold was looted, the use of 11,000 forced laborers in Swiss-owned factories in Germany, and a "disreputable" trade in stolen goods that sprang up. The panel was chaired by Jean-Francois Bergier, a Swiss historian. Other members included Israeli professor Saul Friedlaender, Harold James of Princeton University in the United States and Poland's Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp.

Critics say report slanted
Critics lambasted the study as hopelessly slanted. "A free country should not shell out taxpayers' money to confirm...the opinions that were already in the heads of historians selected on one-sided political criteria," the right-wing Swiss People's Party said. However, the Berne government hailed it as a big contribution to the public debate on Swiss history and a reminder of how the country and its leaders at times acted less than honorably. Berne apologized in 1995 for its wartime refugee policy. Elan Steinberg, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, called the report "a devastating historical and moral indictment that vindicates the testimonies of Holocaust victims and their heirs. The report concludes that neutrality cannot be a watch word for insensivity." Parts of the report, published in German, French, Italian and English, had already been released, but the final version is a comprehensive review based in part on unprecedented access to Swiss public and private archives. It heaped scorn on Swiss authorities for asking Germany in 1938, before the war broke out, to stamp German Jews' passports with a "J" so the Swiss would know not to grant them asylum. Switzerland also sealed its borders in 1942 as the Nazis accelerated the slaughter of Jews and others deemed unworthy to live, many of whom saw Switzerland as their only hope of flight. "As other historians before us, we were forced to acknowledge that this policy was excessively restrictive, and uselessly so," panel chairman Bergier told a news conference. "The refugee policy of our authorities contributed to the most atrocious of Nazi objectives -- the Holocaust." Switzerland did offer refuge to around 60,000 civilians -- slightly less than half of them Jewish -- for weeks or even for years during the war, the study found. But the country turned away or deported 10,000 others at the very least and probably more than twice that many, not counting the 14,500 whose applications for asylum were rejected. The report dismisses suggestions that Swiss services, exports and loans to the Axis powers influenced the course or duration of the war significantly. It also found no evidence that deportation trains passed through th ©Reuters

On Wednesday, debate in the National Council centered largely on alien and refugee policy. First, the lower chamber approved by a vote of 96 to 52 a parliamentary initiative by the Legal Committee providing the possibility of appeal for persons whose application for Swiss citizenship is refused at the municipal and cantonal levels on the basis of arbitrary or discriminatory decisions. In the past, some decisions on citizenship applications have pointed to the need for such an appeal path. The best known examples were votes by the township of Emmen in Canton Lucerne. There, on two separate occasions, citizenship applications by persons from the Balkans were turned down virtually on a collective basis. Under the new arrangement, appeals against such decisions will be able to be carried all the way up to the High Court, if violations of constitutional rights can be shown.

The second item on the agenda on Wednesday was the People's Party's initiative on asylum, which was rejected by a clear majority of the National Council. Aimed against abuses of the asylum process, the SVP initiative contains few clear and implementable demands – and those few are either already being met or else would be impossible to carry out. In the latter category is a provision stipulating that an application for asylum could not be acted upon at all if the applicant has entered Switzerland from some other safe country. This provision could not be consistently implemented under international law and would only lead to difficulties.
©NZZ Online

Five Belgian police officers must stand trial for the death of a Nigerian asylum seeker who died of suffocation in police custody while being deported in 1998, a Brussels court has ruled. Semira Adamu, 20, who had been shackled hand-and-foot, suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage after her face was pushed into a pillow to subdue her on an Africa-bound flight from Brussels. Three of the officers face charges of assault, battery and involuntary manslaughter. The other two, who were supervising the deportation, are charged with failing to help a person in danger.

Foreign parallel
Ms Adamu had applied for asylum because her family was forcing her to marry a man more than three times her age who already had three wives, but her request was refused. Her death led to a public outcry over the country's asylum procedures, in which pillows were frequently used to subdue asylum seekers, and forced the resignation of an interior minister, Louis Tobback. It is unclear when the five will stand trial. The case has striking parallels with a case in Austria, where three policemen have gone on trial over the death of another Nigerian asylum seeker. Marcus Omofuma, 25, died three years ago after being bound and gagged while being deported on a flight from Vienna. The men face ten years' imprisonment if they are found guilty of charges of physical torture resulting in death. One of them has already revealed before the court that gagging asylum seekers who resisted deportation was standard practice.
©BBC News

For many Americans, the issue of slavery is fodder for the history books or the occasional miniseries. But for advocates of financial reparations for the descendants of slaves, the issue is one of both painful historical wrongs and pressing present justice.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) has introduced legislation examining the lingering socioeconomic effects of slavery on American society and weighing the case for reparations in every congressional session since 1989. The bill has failed to win a hearing every time. Undaunted, Conyers has been one of a chorus of African-American legislators, political and religious leaders and scholars who have pressed the case for reparations. At the heart of the reparations question is whether the descendants of American slaves should be compensated for the unpaid labor of their forbearers and for the legacy of officially sanctioned discrimination and economic privation that followed 2 ½ centuries of American slavery from 1619 to 1865. Advocates compare the struggle for economic remuneration for black Americans to reparations given by various governments to survivors of the Jewish Holocaust and their descendants and to survivors of Japanese interment camps in the United States during World War II. Says Conyers: "There is no question that the federal government has a moral responsibility to investigate the possibility of compensation to those who have been injured by its actions."

According to The Chicago Tribune, more than 80,000 survivors of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were interned in the U.S. during World War II were paid roughly $20,000 apiece under a 1988 Federal Restitution Law. Some Holocaust victims have successfully sued German companies like BMW and their subsidiaries, as well as governments, whom they charged benefited from the exploitation, deportation, and murder of Jews during the Second World War. Between 1951 and 1998, the government of Germany paid out more than $61.8 billion in reparations to Israeli and other Holocaust victims and their descendants, according to figures released by the German Finance Ministry. In addition, a 1965 law called the Federal Restitution Law required the German government to pay reparations to "all persons who were persecuted during the Third Reich era on the basis of race religion, origin or ideology." No such law exists in the U.S. (despite Rep. Conyers yearly efforts and similar legislative attempts at the state level in Michigan and Illinois). That has prompted some advocates of reparations to try to find a remedy in the courts.

The legal case for reparations has been spearheaded by Harvard Law School professor and legal scholar Charles Ogletree, who with a high-powered team of lawyers announced last year that they would file reparations lawsuits against the U.S. government and specific American corporations and individuals who they say directly benefited from slavery and its aftermath, including Jim Crow segregation. Ogletree's legal team includes Alexander Pires Jr., who won a $1 billion settlement for black farmers in a discrimination suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Richard Scruggs, who won a $368 billion settlement on behalf of states suing the big three tobacco companies, and prominent California attorney Johnnie Cochran. Opponents of reparations argue that blacks have been effectively compensated for the wrongs of slavery by federal dollars that came in the way of welfare benefits, public housing, and the benefits derived from affirmative action programs. Another argument states that unlike the case of the internment camp or Holocaust survivors, or the survivors of more contemporary tragedies such as the massacre of Black residents of Rosewood, Florida in 1923, the victims of slavery are no longer living, and their descendants are so far removed from the suffering induced by slavery that they have no standing to demand that essentially, the "sins of the forefathers."

Undeterred by the arguments against reparations, proponents like author Randall Robinson, whose book The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks builds the case for reparations, continue to argue that federal and state governments, as well as corporations and individuals, must be held accountable for the financial and other benefits they derived from the unpaid labor of slaves. In a March 13, 2000 article entitled "America's Debt To Blacks," Robinson wrote: "... when the black living suffer real and current consequences as a result of wrongs committed by a younger America, then contemporary America must shoulder responsibility for those wrongs until such wrongs have been adequately righted. The life and responsibilities of a nation are not limited to the life spans of its mortal constituents."

The first legal test of those arguments will occur in a U.S. District Court in New York, where a lawsuit was filed Tuesday against financial services company FleetBoston Financial, Jacksonville, Fla. railroad firm CSX, insurer Aetna Inc. and seven other corporations. The lawsuit accuses the companies of conspiracy, human rights violations, unjust enrichment (from their or their predecessors' roles in the slave trade) and profiting from the unpaid labor of slaves. A second lawsuit was also filed in federal court in New Jersey Tuesday, naming five undisclosed companies as defendants. The question of whether modern blacks can claim compensation for those "wrongs committed by a younger America," is central to whether a legal case for reparations can succeed, according to Professor Toni Alfieri, director of the University of Miami Law School's Center for Ethics and Public Service. Commenting on the strategy of pursuing reparations in court, Prof. Alfieri said that three issues would be central to whether such lawsuits can survive summary judgment:

  • Establishing a credible cause of action

  • Establishing that there are court remedies available

  • And establishing the standing of the plaintiffs.

    According to a report Tuesday in the Associated Press, the plaintiff of the New York lawsuit is 36-year-old Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a New York activist, law school graduate and legal researcher who says she has established links between modern corporations and monies derived from slavery. The complaint requests that the case be brought before a jury on behalf of all blacks in the United States who can claim slaves as their ancestors -- which would be most of the country's 36.4 million blacks, USA Today reported Tuesday. In her lawsuit, Farmer-Paellman seeks a share of company profits she says derived from slavery. She says the companies were "unjustly enriched" by "a system that enslaved, tortured, starved and exploited human beings." Advocates of reparations say that the wrongs committed under the institution of slavery did not end with the emancipation of slaves in 1865. Robinson and others charge that the socioeconomic effects of slavery lingered for more than a century, citing the institutionalized racism that marginalized blacks in the U.S. until the modern era, and the continuing wealth, education, healthcare and other gaps which exist between whites and blacks to this day. The plaintiffs in the Aetna case must establish a "cognizable cause of action," Alfieri said; in other words, one in which a discernable set of wrongs can be established And while Alfieri calls the lawsuits championed by his friend and colleague Ogletree "a noble and worthy cause," and "an heroic litigation strategy." he says such cases "may be frustrated by the constraints of the federal [legal] system" and the difficulty of establishing a clear case for relief by the courts.

    Minister Ivan `imko has said that he expects to see more racial violence in 2002. In presenting a report to cabinet on the security situation in Slovakia in 2001 on March 13, `imko said: "It is expected that racially motivated attacks will continue to grow in numbers and brutality. The number of physical attacks especially against the Roma minority, African and Asian people will also increase". The report bases these expectations on the ministry's forecast of better organised extremist groups and increased immigration. "It can be expected that extremist groups will be more organised in their activities and will have a more conspiratorial nature. An increased influx of foreigners and prevailing youth unemployment are factors which could accelerate extremist crimes," states the 2001 safety report. With several police brutality and racially-motivated beating cases now on the books, Slovakia's minority rights record is being closely watched by the European Union.

    Ladislav Ïurkoviè, head of the People Against Racism non-governmental organisation, said that the fact that `imko had actually spelled out such frightening expectations in an official report was a step forward. He added, however, that the ministry was also expecting tougher government action against racism to raise the total number of reported cases - darkening the official picture of race hate crimes, but not necessarily reflecting an actual rise in extremist violence. "If the police start acting as they should, then the number of cases will increase. And if people re-gain trust in the police and report all the cases that occur, there will be a massive increase indeed," Ïurkoviè said.

    Klára Orgovánová, the cabinet-appointed plenipotentiary for Roma communities, told The Slovak Spectator on March 18 that she too interpreted `imko's words as "an expectation that the number of racial crimes reported will increase, which is a positive rather than negative development." "In my job I often feel goose bumps running over my back, but this can actually be good news. Until now there has been a tendency to cover up racial motives. I think we can expect to see greater will [from the police and courts] to uncover and investigate similar cases," she said. Although official police statistics on racially motivated crimes show that last year there were 40 incidents, and that 23 of these were solved, anti-racism activists have dubbed the official figure a "mockery" of the true situation. Ïurkoviè estimated the number to be "at least 100 times higher". "In Germany last year they had almost 16,000 racially motivated cases. With our 40 cases, we'd be lucky if that was true," he said.

    In a similar report in 2000, police recorded 35 racially motivated crimes, and 21 in 1999. But Ïurkoviè, who tracks the extremist scene in Slovakia, agreed with the ministry's forecast of rising violence by neo-Nazi groups. He estimated that there were "several dozen groups and around 5,000 skinheads in Slovakia". Only 10 police officers monitor skinhead activity in Slovakia, he said, compared to 160 in the Czech Republic. Orgovánová agreed work remained to be done, but noted that the cabinet was showing greater concern for racial violence and discrimination than she had observed in the past. `imko set up a joint NGO and police force commission at the end of 2001 whose members regularly discuss problems and co-ordinate activities related to racial crime and prevention. The cabinet recently approved a 2002 and 2003 strategy to fight racial crime and hatred, and cabinet legislators are working on a law for setting up an Equal Treatment Centre, an organisation to oversee and prevent racial discrimination in the workplace. Following last year's murder of Roma Karol Sendrei, who was beaten to death at a police station in eastern Slovakia's Revúca, `imko hired a Roma advisor, Ladislav Fízik, in an effort to combat police racism. Ïurkoviè ©The Slovak Spectator

    Aboriginal leader Geoff Clark labelled native-title legislation legal apartheid yesterday, saying it had failed to help indigenous Australians get land rights and find their place in the community. The Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission chairman said in an address to the ATSIC National Policy Conference that the Commonwealth Government was spending $50 million fighting native-title claims in the courts. "Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent providing security and certainty of white Australians [such as miners and pastoralists] while the enjoyment of native title has been minimal because of the discriminatory nature of those titles," Mr Clark said outside the conference. He said the Government's 10-point plan under the legislation had been a failure and indigenous Australians needed to keep pounding on the human-rights door to bring the discrimination to the attention of the international community. He criticised the Government's response to the United Nations special rapporteur's report into racism in Australia, saying the language was inherently racist. "The black nations of the world are not going to tolerate the intolerance of white nations," Mr Clark said. Aborigines also needed to be wary of people moving into their communities and ripping them off and leaving those communities damaged. He said many of the problems facing indigenous communities would not be resolved until a treaty was reached. "We need to get rid of our colonial past and only a mature debate, only a resolution such as a treaty can bring about that." Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock ignored Mr Clark's attack on native title, but said the amount of money being spent on litigation was unlikely to be $50 million. I've asked for some detail on that Geoff, as I was a bit surprised there was that much money. I'm told the figure is more like $2.5 million," Mr Ruddock told reporters as Mr Clark challenged him during a media doorstop. "Native title is going to be best pursued if we are going to be able to get more negotiated outcomes and that means less conflict."During his address to the conference, Mr Ruddock unveiled a plan to focus the debate on how progress could be made. He said substance abuse ought to be a central focus for improving Aboriginal health and welfare dependence should be replaced by jobs by targeting indigenous children to ensure they had the necessary skills to succeed.
    ©The Canberra Times

    The northern cities hit by last summer's racial disturbances should force white and ethnic communities to integrate to avoid further trouble, Gurbux Singh, the chairman of the commission on racial equality, says today. He believes that white, black and Asian families should be obliged to live in the same areas even when they do not want to. In an interview with the Guardian that is bound to spark controversy Mr Singh says he also wants an end to the practice of dumping black and Asian people in the worst housing. After "a very depressing year" caused by the summer race riots and the backlash from September 11, Mr Singh says the only answer is to "bring communities together" by developing "public policies which actively encourage integration".

    That means, specifically, integration through housing and education. Racism is waning in white communities, he believes, while minority communities must "open out, realise they are living in Britain and embrace the wider community". Mr Singh says he understands the "desire to create little Punjab", but offers "a plea to those communities to become much more actively engaged". His comments coincide with the launch today of a drive to bridge the racial divide by creating special action teams to advise councils. After spending much time in towns including Burnley and Blackburn, where the trouble started, Mr Singh says he was shocked by the degree of alienation between communities. "The white kids were saying they have nothing in common with the Asian kids and the Asian kids were saying we have very little in common." Yet all were "from Burnley, brought up in Burnley, brought up in the same education system, within the same geography".

    Both in the north and in London, public housing policy in the past produced "large-scale concentrations of ethnic minority communities" dumped on the worst estates. The GLC put Afro-Caribbean families on to the worst estates in Hackney, Haringey and Lambeth, he says. Meanwhile, in the private sector in the 1970s and 80s, estate agents and building societies encouraged racial segregation through the practice known as "red lining and blue zoning" - directing black people away from traditional white areas and vice versa, to protect the value of white properties. But Mr Singh argues that research has shown property prices rise after people from minority communities move in. In the sphere of public housing, he suggests that just as public policies contributed to the current segregation, "public policy can be adjusted to change it".

    Mr Singh is sharply critical of Whitehall for not doing enough to encourage black and Asian people. He wants to see 60 to 70 MPs from the ethnic minorities, compared with the 12 at present. He strongly supports the view of David Blunkett, the home secretary, that immigrants should be forced to learn English: "If you can't speak the language, who the hell will employ you?" Ministers will today announce that Ted Cantle, the former chief executive of Nottingham who headed a government inquiry into the riots will lead a 10-strong community cohesion panel. Where necessary, the group will send action teams to areas feeling the strain and provide what the Home Office minister John Denham describes as a "mentoring role" for councils.
    ©The Guardian

    Digital Renaissance By Henry Jenkins, director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT

    The color-blind Web: a techno-utopia, or a fantasy to assuage liberal guilt?

    "In Cyberspace, nobody knows your race unless you tell them. Do you tell?" Several years ago, I put this slogan on a poster advertising an MIT-hosted public forum about race and digital space. The resulting controversy was an eyeopener. Like many white liberals, I had viewed the absence of explicit racial markers in cyberspace with some optimismseeing the emerging "virtual communities" as perhaps our best hope ever of achieving a truly color-blind society. But many of the forum's minority participantsboth panelists and audience membersdidn't experience cyberspace as a place where nobody cared about race. Often, they'd found that people simply assumed all participants in an online discussion were white unless they identified themselves otherwise. One Asian American talked of having a white online acquaintance e-mail him a racist joke, which he would never have sent if he had known the recipient's race. Perhaps covering up for his own embarrassment, the white acquaintance had accused the Asian-American man of "trying to pass as white." Even when more than one minority was present in a chat room, the forum participants said, they didn't recognize each other as such, leaving each feeling stranded in a segregated neighborhood. If they sought to correct ignorant misperceptions in online discussions, they were accused of "bringing race into the conversation." Such missteps were usually not the product of overt racism. Rather, they reflected the white participants' obliviousness about operating in a multiracial context.

    Perhaps when early white Netizens were arguing that cyberspace was "color-blind," what they really meant was that they desperately wanted a place where they didn't have to think about, look at or talk about racial differences. Unfortunately, none of us knows how to live in a race-free society. As Harvard University law professor Lani Guinier explains, "We don't live next door to each other. We don't go to school together. We don't even watch the same television shows." Computers may break down some of the hold of traditional geography on patterns of communication, but we won't overcome that history of segregation by simply wishing it away. And as the Web culture becomes more globalized, it will only get more complicated. So far, these topics have entered the national conversation through talk about the so-called digital divide, the gap between white and minority, rich and poor, in computer access and use. Such talk often assumes that if we combat the technological and economic problems of access, cyberspace will become more democratic. I do hope governmental and corporate resources are brought to bear on the problem, but equal access is not the same as equal participation. Giving everybody broadband is a problem of a very different order than broadening our minds.

    When art museums lower economic barriers, offering free or reduced admission, they still attract mostly white upper-middle-class patrons; many lower-income and minority citizens don't feel entitled to attend. Where museums have successfully diversified their communities, it has been through educational outreach and collaboration with minority communities. Efforts to bridge the digital divide must internalize these lessons. Some have argued that class, rather than race, may be the strongest indicator of who has accessthough we need to recognize that in a society where the average black family income is roughly half that of the average white family income, race and class are not easily separable. It is hard to imagine universal computer literacy in a country that has yet to ensure that all citizens can read and writeand again, there is a strong correlation between race, class and literacy rates. There are some hopeful signs that rac been technological innovators rather than seeing them as constantly lagging behind. In the end, we will need to give up any lingering fantasies of a color-blind Web and focus on building a space where we recognize, discuss and celebrate racial and cultural diversity. To achieve that goal, all of us—white folks and people of color—will have to shed the defensiveness that surrounds the topic of race. Many are experimenting with new ground rules and modes of communication that enable us to explore the potential of digital technology to bring together people who would historically have never had contact and encourage them to compare notes, test assumptions and overcome ignorance and stereotyping. Out of such conversations might come practical approaches for combating racism, not only online, but off.
    ©Technology Review

    Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will not seek another term when her appointment ends in September. The former Irish president, who had already extended her initial four-year term for another year in 2001, announced her decision in a speech to the annual session of the UN Human Rights Commission. There has been much speculation in recent months as to whether she would choose to stay on in her role, especially after the events of 11 September, says the BBC's Geneva correspondent Emma Jane Kirby. Mrs Robinson described that as an attack on the very system of international relations on which the commission is based. Mrs Robinson, 57, had already said she wanted to leave in March last year over lack of funding for her Geneva-based department. But she changed her mind when Mr Annan pressed her to stay. In her statement to the Human Rights Commission, Mrs Robinson said: "I know that at times my voice may have been awkward, but my inner ear was always tuned to the secretary general's words of advice - stay an outsider within the United Nations." The US delegation is for the first time in the commission's history not attending the meeting because it failed to win re-election to the 53-country panel a year ago and has been relegated to the status of observer.

    Hard to follow
    As an outspoken voice on human rights, Mrs Robinson has attracted much criticism from international governments, especially from the United States when she questioned the US bombing campaign in Afghanistan and criticised the treatment of Taleban prisoners.But human rights groups have praised her for standing up to powerful national governments and world leaders. One campaigner said the announcement showed the US had prevailed against supporters of the former Irish president. "She has paid a price for her willingness to confront publicly big governments like the United States and Russia when they violate human rights," said Reed Brody of the New York-based Human Rights Watch. "She will be a hard act to follow," said a spokeswoman for Amnesty International
    ©BBC News

    The United Nations' top human rights official, Mary Robinson, unexpectedly declared today that she would not be a candidate for a new term when her appointment expires in September. Mrs. Robinson, a former president of Ireland, made the announcement on the opening day of the annual session of the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations' chief monitor of rights abuses worldwide. Mrs. Robinson was known to be interested in serving another term, but her outspokenness on human rights issues had increasingly irritated some of the major powers, including the United States, Russia and China. The United Nations secretary general makes the appointment based on recommendations from his aides and member countries.

    "She paid a price for her willingness to confront publicly big governments like the United States and Russia when they violate human rights," said Reed Brody, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, based in New York. Mrs. Robinson, 57, had expressed concern over what she termed the "disproportionate" number of civilian casualties during the American airstrikes in Afghanistan and the treatment of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners held by the United States at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba. She had also been criticized over the outcome of the United Nations onference on racism in Durban, South Africa, last summer. The United States and Israel walked out on grounds over criticisms of Israel in conference documents. The United States also opposed attempts to require reparations for slavery. The depth of American anger was reflected in an article, titled "Durban Debacle," by Rep. Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, in a recent issue of the foreign policy journal of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

    Today in Washington, a senior Bush administration official said, "We made clear, quietly, our views that she shouldn't be renewed." Mrs. Robinson further alienated Washington by insisting publicly, as she did in her speech today, that the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks had jeopardized human rights norms and standards. This has been regarded as implicit criticism of some American actions to stamp out terrorism. At the State Department, the spokesman Richard A. Boucher told reporters, "We wish her well in her future endeavors."

    In her speech today, Mrs. Robinson renewed her call for human rights standards to be applied in how "those who are arrested or detained are treated." The Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war "should be applied in times of stress," she said. "That's the whole value in having these safeguards." She also criticized the Russians in connection with allegations of atrocities in Chechnya, and the Chinese for repression of religious and other minorities. Mrs. Robinson had also opened the annual session a year ago by announcing that she would step down when her term ended in September, believing she could do more in the private sector. She complained of under-financing for the human rights office in Geneva as demands grew, but Secretary General Kofi Annan persuaded her to stay another year. Mr. Annan, in Costa Rica today, was asked today about Mrs. Robinson's plans to step down. He alluded to the controversy that his commissioner for human rights had sometimes generated. "She's put human rights on the map, and she'd put lots of energy, creativity and courage into very difficult work," Mr. Annan said. "It's the kind of work that every day you make some friends  and some enemies. Whatever you say offends somebody, but she has brought her drive and application and integrity to the office, and she can leave in the full knowledge that she has made a major contribution."

    No successor has been named, but Mrs. Robinson left the door open to continue in the job by sidestepping questions about whether she could be convinced to stay. "I know there are many who would wish for me to ©The New York Times

    The Brazilian government accused a United Nations rights envoy of bias today after he reportedly said that famine in Brazil amounted to genocide and that thousands were being "assassinated" by malnutrition in a class war. In a strongly worded statement in response to the comments by the envoy, Jean Ziegler, which were reported in a leading daily, Brazil's Foreign Ministry said it "profoundly regretted" their "nonconstructive and unbalanced tone." Six weeks ago, Brazil became the first country in Latin America to extend an open invitation to the United Nations to probe rights issues. Mr. Ziegler, who arrived in Brazil last month to research famine among the country's 170 million people, was reported today in the daily Folha de São Paulo as saying: "There is a class war in Brazil. Some 40,000 people are assassinated every year, statistics show. For the U.N., 15,000 is an indicator of war. "The statistics indicate that a third of Brazilians suffer from malnutrition," he was quoted as saying. "In Brazil, where the soil is fertile and rich in the tropical climate, famine is genocide. Who dies of hunger in Brazil is assassinated." Mr. Ziegler's office was not available to confirm the report.

    Defending the government of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's record on human rights, the ministry said Mr. Ziegler's comments "put at risk the objectivity of his mission." The ministry said the standing invitation given to the United Nations to investigate rights in Latin America's largest country "showed maximum openness on the part of the country toward constructive dialogue with the human rights mechanisms of the U.N." Mr. Ziegler, who was designated by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, will report his findings to the organization later this year. In its statement, the ministry said Brazil had made significant progress on human rights and social issues in recent years, with 97 percent of Brazilian children attending school and all Brazilians benefiting from state health care. The state-run Institute of Applied Economic Studies says 22 million Brazilians live in extreme poverty, earning under $1 a day.
    ©The New York Times

    Norway's immigration agency has signaled that it plans to establish more centers for asylum seekers in northern Norway than in other areas of the country. The agency says it's too difficult to find new sites elsewhere. "We have good access to well-suited facilities in northern Norway," regional director Bjørn Fridfeld told Norwegian Broadcasting on Friday. "We lack that in other parts of the country." The agency, known as Utlendingsdirektoratet (UDI), has been dealing with a growing surge of asylum seekers and needs new facilities where they can be placed while their cases are being processed. The head of Norway's Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) sees no problem in sending more refugees up north, as long as they receive the same offers of support to which they're entitled. But politicians from northern Norway are not so keen on the idea. "This does not appear to be very well thought-out," said Ivar Kristiansen, a member of Parliament from the Conservative Party ho hails from Nordland. Kristiansen said he doesn't want northern Norway to get "an over-representation" of asylum seekers, and rejected claims it was difficult to find other suitable locations around the country.

    The US State Department released its annual Human Rights report on Hungary last week, which again drew a largely positive picture while highlighting the continued instances of abuses by both officials and the public, especially against the country's Roma minority and to a lesser extent foreign nationals. The State Department has produced the Human Rights Reports on most countries since 1977. They are submitted to the US Congress to comply with the Foreign Assistance Trade Act, and used as reference throughout the US Government. US Embassies, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), press reports and foreign government agencies are the main sources of the material contained in the reports.

    Despite its focus on areas judged by the State Department to be problematic, this year's report praised Hungary's efforts to improve the situation, especially in regard to women and the disabled. It did, however, describe the trafficking of women and children as a serious problem with the Government only providing limited assistance to victims. It did note that the Interior Ministry had established a Victim Protection Office and the Ministry of Youth and Sport had initiated a prevention and information program for teenage students. Spousal abuse of women was "believed to be common" according to the report, with victims receiving little support from authorities. "While there are laws against rape, it is often unreported for cultural reasons," the report continued, adding that police attitudes remain largely unsympathetic towards victims of sex crimes. Police abuses still persisted in 2001, the report said, mentioning instances of Roma citizens subjected to physical attacks by police and in some cases denied due process under the law.

    The report said "negative stereotypes of Roma as poor, shiftless and a social burden persist". Roma families were said to have been subjected to forced evictions and relocations which concentrated the most vulnerable Roma families and had "in effect, created ghettos". According to the report, Government efforts to improve the status of Roma in Hungary had been only marginally successful. Advocacy groups reported to the State Department that crimes against foreign residents was declining, although police continued to show an indifferent attitude towards foreign victims of street crime. Political influence over the media, in particular State television, was also cited as an area of concern due to the continued bias towards Government-appointed executives on the boards of State TV and radio despite the law demanding politically proportionate representation. The media's political coverage was said to be generally fair, however, with the National Television and Radio Board monitoring and in some cases censuring both private and State media following complaints of biased coverage. At a press conference with US Ambassador to Hungary Nancy Goodman Brinker on Monday, Foreign Minister János Martonyi said the report's mention of positive developments in relation to the Roma, women's rights and the disabled were welcomed by the Government.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    I am pleased to address you today on the opening of the 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission is the forum at which the most comprehensive debate on the state of human rights in our world is pursued. It is also the time when the range of activities undertaken on behalf of the Commission to advance the protection and promotion of human rights is reviewed and assessed.

    This will be the last year I will address the Commission as High Commissioner. As you know, in March of last year the Secretary-General prevailed upon me to extend my term of office for a year, and this was approved by the General Assembly. When I agreed I could never have imagined what lay ahead - the events of 11 September, which I characterized as a crime against humanity, had a profound impact on our world and, in a very particular way, on the work of my Office.

    It has been a period which challenged us all and which I believe highlighted once again the importance of having a strong and independent Office with a principled commitment to the universal application of human rights standards, and with the integrity to stand up and speak publicly about those issues in all states, even in the most difficult circumstances.

    I know that at times my voice may have been considered awkward but I must say my inner ear was always tuned to the Secretary-General's words of advice to me at the time of my appointment as High Commissioner: "stay an outsider within the United Nations". Those words were echoed, and welcomed, by human rights activists and supporters in all parts of our troubled world over the past four and a half years, and I thank the Secretary-General for his trust and support and for providing me with such an apt motto.

    I pledge to him, to you all and those you represent, - and in a special way to those who will never hear these words, the victims of human rights abuses, - that in my remaining six months as High Commissioner I shall serve with great enthusiasm and to the best of my abilities. I am very proud of the team of colleagues that I lead and will be proud to leave to my successor an Office that has developed a high standard of professionalism and a clear and vital role in the United Nations human rights programme.

    The events of 11 September were not only of monumental consequence for the people of the United States and the victims who came from over 80 other countries. These acts were an attack against the very system of international relations on which this Commission and the entire work of the United Nations is based. The buildings that were destroyed on 11 September can be replaced. But if the pillars of the international system are damaged or demolished, they will not be so easy to restore.

    Let us recall that the foundations of the international human rights system rest in the Charter. The Universal Declaration and the corpus of standards that flowed from that historic statement of principles and goals, provide the structure within which the system has developed. The Vienna World Conference affirmed the integrity of the structure by recognizing the indivisibility of the individual's human rights and the legitimacy of international concern for their protection. Finally, the UN Millennium Declaration gave us a renewal of the pledge of international co operation in the context of a globalising world and the acceptance by states of their collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level.

    I believe that those international human rights standards are at some risk of being undermined and that there is a particular responsibility on this Commission to defend them vigorously. It was important in the aftermath of 11th September that the Security Council acted firmly by adopting Council Resolution 1373. It also established a new mechanism, the Counter Terrorism Com only by legislative and security measures but with the armory of common values, common standards and common commitments on universal rights that define us as one global community and which enable us to reach beyond our differences.

    We have valuable new agendas from the World Conference on Racism and last year's United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilisations. The Plans of Action from both of these initiatives are even more relevant after 11 September. At a time when there is a sharp rise in Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Semitic expression these plans of action need to be implemented fully by all States. I am pleased that the General Assembly has supported the Anti-Discrimination Unit, which will give OHCHR a solid foundation to play our part in combating racism and discrimination.

    Mr. Chairman, distinguished colleagues,
    I visited Afghanistan last week. Afghanistan now stands at a crossroads. After years of war and darkness, its people want to return to a time without abuse by their own leaders, the ability to choose their own destiny without foreign interference, and restoration of their place in our family of nations. I was delighted to mark International Women's Day in Kabul. It was a remarkable opportunity to celebrate with the women of Afghanistan their determination to claim their rights and proper place in Afghan society.

    The first Afghan national workshop on human rights was convened in Kabul with the support of my Office and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Afghanistan, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi. The Workshop brought together 90 participants who included members of the Interim Administration, the emergency Loya Jirga Commission and civil society from all around the country, to undertake joint planning for the implementation of the core human rights provisions of the Bonn Agreement.

    My Office is committed to providing technical and financial support for the four standing working groups set up to focus on the establishment of an independent human rights commission, on addressing issues of accountability and transitional justice, on a national program of human rights education, and on women's rights. These working groups provide important processes that link the various ministries of the Interim Administration and civil society. They provide a useful framework to discuss the best ways to establish mechanisms for ensuring respect for the rule of law and human rights in the country.

    Chairman Karzai took a significant step during the Workshop by announcing his commitment to establishing a truth commission for Afghanistan. He indicated that the Commission should seek to uncover the atrocities committed over two decades of war and to seek accountability for perpetrators of past abuses of human rights. My Office is committed to assisting Afghanistan in this endeavour. The most pressing need in Afghanistan today is human security. It was encouraging to see that Kabul has relative stability thanks to the efforts of the International Security Assistance Force. The rest of the country remains unsafe. The situation in the north of Afghanistan is particularly worrying.

    When I visited Mazar-i-Sharif, I met with men and women of the Pashtun community who spoke of the killings, looting, and the theft of animals that is taking place now in this area. Women told me about how the militias currently in control of the area subjected them and their young daughters to multiple rape. I am pleased that Chairman Karzai is taking reports of abuses such as this very seriously and has sent a three-member commission to the area to examine the situation. The responsibility to restore human security lies with the Interim Administration and there is a need for an immediate de-commissioning of weapons. But until the Interim Administration becomes effective in protecting the people of Afghanistan, the extension of the mandate of the International Force beyond Kabul is, I believe, imperative.

    As you are aware, over the last two years, I have been engaged in a "clean-up" operations by the federal military, with the detention of civilians, allegedly often accompanied by beating, torture, disappearances and murder. Indeed, too many people have been displaced; too many families have lost their sons and daughters. It is time to stop the cycle of violence. Both sides should sit down in good faith seeking a political settlement to the problems of Chechnya.

    In May 2001 my Office embarked on a human rights needs assessment for the Central Asia region, which was welcomed by most of the countries in the area. The aim is to formulate a programme to assist these countries in developing their national capacities to protect and promote human rights. Kazakhstan received an expert delegation from OHCHR in December, and further missions, to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are currently underway. Support from UN and OSCE offices in the region has also been heartening. I am hoping for a positive response from the government of Turkmenistan on receiving a similar delegation.

    Chairman, Ladies and gentlemen,
    I recently had a short but constructive number of visits to Egypt, Bahrain and Lebanon. In Bahrain, I welcomed the King's decision, taken during my stay, to accede to CEDAW. I also noted the important provisions of the National Action Charter aiming at the establishment of a democratically-elected legislative body, affirming women's political rights to vote and to stand for elections, the planned guarantees for the separation of powers, and for an independent judiciary, the safeguards for individual rights and freedoms. The challenge of implementing that programme is one for the people of Bahrain to meet and they deserve the encouragement and the support of the international community.

    While in the region, discussions also focused on the tragic cycle of violence that is worsening in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Last year, the Commission had the opportunity to consider the report of my visit to the region in November 2000. Regrettably, as we know all too well, efforts of the international community, including those of the Commission on Human Rights, have not brought an end to the hostilities and Palestinians continue to be subjected to a wide range of human rights violations related to the ongoing occupation. Israel also continues to suffer from deliberate killings of civilians. I re-iterate my call for internatio nal observers to be present on the ground as a deterrent to the violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and also to promote human security against suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians. Let me just underline the negative impact of the ongoing conflict in the whole region in that it risks undermining respect for the principles and common values that we have struggled to build over the past 50 years.

    Sierra Leone is a country in which my Office has been supporting the transition from conflict. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act was adopted by the Sierra Leone parliament in February 2000. Our Office is implementing several technical co-operation projects supporting its work. In order to provide the resources for the functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during the first fifteen months of its operations, I recently issued a special appeal, to which I hope donors will respond generously, to enable the Commission to commence work as proposed on 1 June this year.

    We have just seen a difficult election conducted in Zimbabwe. On the African continent some observers have declared their satisfaction with the election process, while other African observers pointed to very serious flaws. The Commonwealth group, among others, condemned political violence by government supporters which they said even targeted election monitors. Before the election I had expressed my growing concern at the violence, intimidation and lack of respect for the rule of law and other democratic norms in Zimbabwe. Perhaps most worrying is the devastating effect that the political situation has had on the econom project has involved human rights training for police officers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers.

    Technical cooperation between my Office and the Government of Indonesia regarding the prosecution of human rights violations committed in East Timor in 1999 was suspended pending the revision of the Presidential Decree 53, of 23 April 2001, establishing the Ad hoc Human Rights Court. The Presidential Decree limits the jurisdiction of the court to those cases arising from the violence that took place after the popular consultation held on 30 August 1999 and therefore excludes the many human rights abuses which occurred prior to that date. It also places geographical limitations on the jurisdiction of the court. Nonetheless, we will observe how the current trials proceed and assess whether it may be possible to offer technical support in the future.

    The present OHCHR programme of technical cooperation in China is based on an amendment to our MOU which signed there in November 2001. The programme for 2002 will continue the earlier work on human rights training for police, punishment for minor crimes and human rights education. New areas of work this year are training for judges and lawyers and prison administrators, activities in the provinces to promote economic, social and cultural rights, fellowships and support for academic institutions. While co-operation with China is progressing well, I have also during my visit of last November, as on previous visits, had to raise with the Chinese authorities a number of human rights concerns.

    Regional Strategies
    As you are aware, we have strengthened our activities at the regional level through the ap pointment of OHCHR regional representatives based in the UN Economic Commissions and at the seat of sub-regional institutions. Our objective is that the regional representatives will enhance our capacity to be of service and to assist you, the Member States. Experience has taught our Office that presence in the regions will enable us to be more efficient and more responsive to requests for advice. And it will ensure that we remain conscious of the need to fulfil our commitments to follow up any activities agreed upon under the regional human rights frameworks. Having regional representatives in place will also provide much needed support for our work with UN country teams and will enable us to deepen our contacts and co-operation with international, regional and non-governmental organizations within a given region or sub-region.

    So I feel that we are on the right path in responding effectively to requests for technical assistance and capacity building from Member States. But, clearly, much work remains. With our UN partners we have continued our efforts over the past year to build further momentum around the human rights mainstreaming agenda and to give it a clearer sense of direction. For example, we have organized in cooperation with them a number of expert meetings and seminars on issues such as human rights and the environment, bioethics and trafficking. In cooperation with UNDP, we have recently finalized a revision of HURIST programme, designed to enhance UNDP programming capacities and develop tools and methodologies for the integration of human rights within several of its key practice areas, including pro-poor policies and governance.

    We have also taken steps to strengthen our work with UN country teams. And the presence of human rights specialists is becoming a standard feature of peace-keeping and other UN operations. Last week a meeting of experienced practitioners and rights-based programming experts from UN agencies, programmes, funds and our field offices from around the world was organised to consider a strategy to enhance OHCHR's catalytic role in human rights mainstreaming at UN Country Team level, for the benefit of all stakeholders in development. Field work is an essential dimension in OHCHR work, whether in connection with the human rights elements of peace-keeping, peace-building or with respect Commission itself. But the true strength of an institution such as this is determined by the values of its members, as much as by the efficiency of its procedures.

    I would like to put an idea to you for your consideration: that membership of the Commission brings with it obligations as well as rights. I am not speaking of legal obligations. These are already set down in international law and are common to all. What I mean is that, whilst the obligations created by the Charter and the Universal Declaration apply to every State, they should be felt most keenly and applied most rigorously, by those who sit as members in this pre-eminent human rights forum. The Commission has a distinguished history of achieve ment. But if it is to continue to enjoy the trust and respect of the broader international community, including civil society, then membership of the Commission should be clearly seen as meaning more than the protection of national interests.

    In practical terms, what can or should Commission Members do to advance the credibility and reputation of this body? An answer might be for States to use the period of their membership of the Commission toconsider afresh adherence to those human rights instruments to which they are not yet a party and to improve compliance with their treaty body reporting obligati ons. A growing number of States, 35 to date, have agreed to issue a standing visit invitation to all thematic rapporteurs. It would be a strong message if this list of States were to include all the members of the Commission.

    Looking forward
    As this session of the Commission begins, we should also consider how our work over the next six weeks relates to other upcoming UN events of vital importance to the greater realiza tion of human rights around the world. The International Conference on Financing for Deve lopment is getting underway today in Mexico. As the Secretary-General has put it, there is a global deal on the table in Monterrey: developing countries doing more to reform their econo mies and increase spending on the needs of the poor, while the rich countries support this with trade, aid, investment and debt relief. It is critical that the outcome of Monterrey contributes to the greater realization of the right to development.

    In May 2002 the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will have its first session at UN Headquarters in New York. For the first time we have a body in which indigenous peoples are real partners, 8 of whom are government appointments and 8 of whom have been nominated by indigenous people. The Forum will benefit from the participation of community representa tives, elders, youth, women's groups, indigenous teachers, health associations, and so on. And if the experience of the UN's Working Group on Indigenous Populations is anything to go on, they will enormously enrich the discussions and legitimacy of the Forum.

    The Forum is not a project of OHCHR alone. The Permanent Forum mandate extends beyond human rights. So we must find a new management tool to ensure we serve the new Forum in a new way. I believe we have together come up with such a tool. The UN system, including the World Bank, has established an inter-agency steering group for the Permanent Forum which is preparing to take joint managerial responsibility for the secretariat team that services the Forum.

    A further event in May is the General Assembly Special Session on Children, which was postponed due to the events of 11 September. It provides a valuable opportunity to advance the rights of the most vulnerable members of the human family  our children. I look forward to the final outcome reaffirming the centrality of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the best possible international framework for ensuring the well-being of children and the protection and promotion of their rights worldwide. The links between human rights, children, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in August, are clear. We may all agree on the idea of sus ©UNHCHR

    Just weeks ahead of general elections, a far-right party described by critics as anti-Semitic and extremely nationalistic attracted 100,000 people to a rally held Friday to mark a national holiday — far more than gatherings of rival parties. The rallies functioned as de-facto campaign events ahead of the April 7 parliamentary election as Hungarians commemorated the 154th anniversary of a failed revolution against Austria. While the far-right Justice and Life party is not expected to match the strength of the governing Fidesz-Hungarian Civic party and the opposition Socialists at the polls, its turnout reflected relatively strong support ahead of the elections. Party leader Istvan Csurka told the crowd he would try to keep the leftist Socialist and Free Democrat parties out of power. Csurka's party has promised to recall its candidates in the second round of the elections in districts where candidates of the center-right government coalition stand a better chance of winning.

    "The worst (government) candidate is still better than the best Socialist or Free Democrat candidate," Csurka said. Csurka also spoke out against foreign ownership of Hungary's private media and said he supported Hungary's traditional churches. "We are here because we see that our Hungarian identity is in danger," he said. The government's rally attracted 30,000 people. Parliamentary speaker Janos Ader, delivering the keynote speech, said the expected inclusion of Hungary and its neighbors in the European Union (news - web sites) would give Hungarians living in the country and abroad an opportunity to reconnect. "The time has come for the nation to be united again ... within the boundaries of a broad European home," Ader said.

    Approximately 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians live in neighboring countries, on territories Hungary lost after World War I. Hungary has a population of 10 million. The Alliance of Free Democrats, one of the main opposition parties, said the current government was similar to the Habsburg empire — which the failed 1848 revolution targeted — because it limits democracy. "Our freedom has been strongly curtailed," Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky told the 3,500 people gathered for the party's rally. Demszky criticized what he called pro-government bias in state-run media and accused the government of using the tax police to harass its political opponents. "Today's government is using its proteges to form a new, privileged, feudal ruling class," Demszky said. Recent polls show a tight race between the Socialist Party and the government coalition led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party. The two-round election will be held April 7 and April 21.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    The Italian Government is expected to declare a state of nationwide emergency in response to the arrival of nearly 1,000 Kurdish boat people in Sicily. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has called for a cabinet meeting in Rome on Wednesday to prepare for such a move. But the BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey says the move is more of an administrative measure to provide immediate funding for food and shelter, than a cause for alarm. The new measures should give administrators in southern Italy and Sicily - where illegal immigrants usually land - immediate access to funds for humanitarian aid.

    Mixed messages
    Our correspondent says Italians are currently getting two opposing messages on the asylum issue. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who is visiting the prosperous north-east of Italy, is busy defending the decision to take in the recent arrivals. Mr Ciampi said Italy had to show a "spirit of humanity" in dealing with the boatload of Kurdish refugees who were taken to Sicily after their stricken ship, the Monica, reached Italian waters on Monday. He said the flow of immigrant workers to Italy's north-east, where many thousands of foreign workers are already employed in small factories and agriculture, was necessary to replenish the declining Italian labour force. But the minister for reform, Umberto Bossi, leader of the anti-immigration Northern League party, said the government should send the refugees home immediately. He is telling supporters that unless the government acts firmly, the "hordes" of new immigrants will gradually take over. Mr Bossi said the European Union should contribute to the cost of trying to stop illegal immigrants from entering Italy and repatriating those who got through. "We need action. I have broad shoulders but there is a limit to everything and I'm fed up with these crocodile tears," Mr Bossi was quoted as saying.

    Refugee problem
    The debate over asylum was revived by the large arrival on Monday of 928 Kurds who claimed to be Iraqi. They were towed into the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday after they threatened to throw their children into the sea. They were taken to a military base near Bari in southern Italy on Tuesday, where authorities will process their applications for asylum. The arrival of the refugees was the largest single shipload to reach Italy in nearly five years. Italy, with a 4,720-mile (7,600-kilometre) coastline, is a popular target for asylum seekers, many of whom use it as a gateway to Europe. According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Italian interior ministry has warned of an influx of as many as 50,000 refugees in the coming weeks. Correspondents say patrols have been stepped up around Sicily's coastal waters in search of other vessels that may be harbouring illegal immigrants. Expulsions of asylum seekers from Italy have increased by about 30% since Mr Berlusconi's conservative coalition came to power in June last year promising to take a tough line on refugees.
    ©BBC News

    Approximately 600 people gathered here over the weekend to mark the anniversary of a Latvian Nazi SS unit. In addition, the Latvian National Soldiers Association commemorated Saturday with more than 100 people at a military cemetery outside of Riga. The group had cancelled its annual march through the city to commemorate the SS unit, saying an international controversy could harm Latvia´s bid for NATO membership. Instead, the association assembled at a military cemetery in Lestene, where the legionnaires are buried, about 75 miles outside Riga. Last week, Latvians bickered over how this tiny Baltic nation should handle the sensitive date that one local newspaper called "a hot potato." In 1988, Latvia officially declared March 16 as the day of Latvian soldiers. The holiday commemorates March 16, 1943, when the Latvian legionnaires unit was established. The partially volunteer unit fought alongside the Nazis, hoping to drive out the Soviet occupiers. More than 50,000 of the 140,000 Latvian legionnaires died in the losing cause.

    Efraim Zuroff, director of Simon Wiesenthal Center´s office in Jerusalem, says the Latvian legionnaires were not a murder squad, but many members voluntarily participated in the murder of more than 30,000 Jews in 1941 and 1942 under Arajs, a Latvian Nazi security police squad. Zuroff, long a student of Holocaust history in the Baltics, is outraged that the soldiers association halted its annual march due to fears of the fallout from NATO, rather than out of good will. "They don´t get it," Zuroff said. "They never reached the obvious and logical conclusion that people who fought alongside Hitler should not be proud of themselves. We praise the decision of the City Council but, to be perfectly honest, a lot of work has to be done in Latvia about World War II lessons and the horrors of Nazism. Many of them were no Righteous Gentiles." Although they joined the Nazi effort out of resentment at the Soviets  who occupied Latvia in 1940  "they knew who the Nazis were" since more than 30,000 Jews already had been murdered, Zuroff said. "The fascist spirit was quite strong in Latvia," Zuroff said. "If you get into bed with Nazis, you are supporting them." Latvians were "willing to give their lives so Nazi Germany would win World War II," he said.

    Nikolajs Romanovskis, chairman of the soldiers association, said Latvians who resisted the Nazi draft either were sentenced to death or deported to concentration camps. "Mr. Zuroff has gone too far," Romanovskis said. "He has no right whatsoever to tell Latvians how they should appraise World War II," and "how we mark it is nobody´s business." In Riga, the crowd consisted mostly of youth and middle-aged nationalists who sought to honor their fallen compatriots. Several radical youth organizations staged a procession at the Freedom Monument and placed flowers at the site, a traditional venue for Latvian ceremonies. They sang the Latvian anthem and other patriotic songs, while some displayed posters reading, "Be Saluted Legionnaires." Fatherland and Freedom Party leader Aigars Kimenis said Latvians should not be ashamed of the legionnaires, whom he called "an honor to the people." Police patrolled the streets, but reported no major incidents.

    Last week the Riga city council revoked the permission it had granted to two radical organizations to gather officially. The city council reversed its decision after the its security commission raised concerns of public order. Janis Silis, president of Klubs 415, told Latvian TV that the legion was formed as a response to Soviet repression. Latvian Parliament member Yacov Pliner, who is Jewish, said, "Those who were called up into the legion were unhappy people and it is their tragedy, but those who entered the legion voluntarily are criminals." Zuroff caused a stir here earlier last week when he said: "It is high time that Latvians ©JTA News

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon started adopting its concluding observations and recommendations on the initial to fourth periodic reports of Moldova in which it expressed concern about reports of police violence against persons belonging to minority groups, in particular the Roma population.

    The Committee recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to prevent and punish excessive use of force by members of the security forces against minorities. It also expressed its concern about reports that minorities experienced discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education and health care; it recommended that the State party undertake effective measures to eradicate practices of discrimination against minorities and, in particular, the Roma population.

    Among the positive aspects, the Committee noted with satisfaction the efforts undertaken by the State party to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights through the adoption of the 1994 Constitution, which guaranteed a wide spectrum of human rights. It welcomed the decrees the State party had adopted with the purpose of ensuring the functioning and development of the languages of ethnic minorities and the development of the national cultures of minorities. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of specialized institutions demonstrating its commitment to combat racial discrimination, and the efforts undertaken by the State party to implement human rights education programmes.

    Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Reports of Moldova
    Among the positive aspects, the Committee noted with satisfaction the efforts undertaken by the State party to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights through the adoption of the 1994 Constitution, which guaranteed a wide spectrum of human rights. It welcomed the decrees the State party had adopted with the purpose of ensuring the functioning and development of the languages of ethnic minorities and the development of the national cultures of minorities. The Committee also welcomed the establishment of specialized institutions demonstrating its commitment to combat racial discrimination; and the efforts undertaken by the State party to implement human rights education programmes.

    The Committee noted the absence in the report of disaggregated data on the population, providing detailed information on the ethnic composition in the country; and it recommended that the State party provide the relevant data in its next periodic report in order to understand the ethnic characteristics of the population in Molodova. It noted the absence of examples of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention in practice; and it recommended that information should be provided on effective penalties and sanctions imposed in cases of conviction for racial discrimination or racism.

    Further, the Committee recommended that the State party take measures to guarantee more fully for ethnic minority groups economic, social and cultural rights; it said that landlessness had been reported among persons belonging to minorities and working in collective farms as a consequence of privatization of land held by collective farms of the Soviet era; and recommended that information be included in the next periodic report about the remedial measures to address the economic condition of the landless ethnic minorities. The Committee also recommended that the State party continue and extend its educational and cultural programmes in order to raise public awareness of issues of racism and racial discrimination.

    The Committee said it was concerned by reports of police violence against persons belonging to minority groups, in particular the Roma population; it recommended that the State party take all necessary measures to prevent and punish excessive us ©UNHCHR

    Loss to economy of underpaying immigrants estimated at $15 billion a year

    Discrimination against immigrants is creating a "brain waste" that costs Canada's economy up to $15 billion a year, a new study concludes. Immigrants are paid less than native-born Canadians because employers and professional bodies here discount education, professional training and work experience in other countries, says the study, by U of T sociologist Jeffrey Reitz. The discrimination is likely a combination of racism and genuine confusion about standards in other parts of the world, Reitz said. The pay gap — on average, 20 per cent — is especially evident among immigrants from non-European countries. Reitz, who based his work mainly on detailed results from the 1996 census, says immigrants face a double hit in Canada's labour market:

    First, they work at jobs well below their level of skill and experience. In the past few years, The Star has reported on scientists who can't get low-level research jobs and end up making pizzas, and surgeons driving cabs. This "skill under-utilization" short-changes skilled immigrants by a total of about $2.4 billion a year.

    Second, when immigrants do get work that uses their skills, "they are simply paid less than native-born workers doing the same or similar jobs," Reitz found. He set the total loss for this wage discrimination at $12.6 billion a year.

    Every census since 1981 shows the problem is getting worse, he said. On average, Canadian-born men are paid an additional $2,157 for every year of education. Immigrant men get $1,220, Reitz said. Canadian-born women are paid $1,815 for every year of education, compared with only $956 for immigrant women. The gap is smaller for those who came to Canada at a young age and had most of their schooling here, Reitz said. The same pattern holds for work experience. Canadian-born men are paid, on average, $2,156 more for each year of work experience; immigrant men get about $1,700. Canadian-born women receive $1,437 per year of experience, while immigrant women get $965. Most of the increases for immigrants appear to be from experience they gain after coming to Canada.

    The research shows that "the labour market value of foreign work experience in Canada is effectively zero," Reitz said. "Immigrants who have not worked in Canada, regardless of their age or work experience in their homeland, are generally compared to young Canadians who have just completed their schooling." Reitz says his figures are adjusted to take into account the language skills of immigrants, how long they've been in Canada and where they live. He admitted his research doesn't assess whether there is actually any difference in the quality of Canadian and foreign education and work experience. But some evidence points to racial discrimination, he said. Canadian-born racial minorities are also paid less than the average. For blacks born here, the shortfall is about the same as for black immigrants. And, Reitz said, "it seems striking that race seems to be a more reliable predictor of how foreign education will be evaluated in Canada" than an immigrant's country of origin. Whites from Africa, for example, report less pay inequity than blacks. But the study also notes that Canadian universities, professional bodies and employers seem to be over-cautious because they're unable to assess the qualifications of immigrants.
    ©The Toronto Star

    Demand that partners of gay and lesbian victims be included in Compensation Fund

    John Aravosis is mad as hell. But, unlike Howard Beale, the news anchor in the movie, "Network," Aravosis is not going to the nearest open window and sticking his head out and yelling "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" He is too media wise and Internet savvy to do that.

    In March 2000, Aravosis and a few friends set up to convince Paramount not to air the upcoming "Dr. Laura" TV show. The site was a huge hit. In an email Aravosis told me: "As a result of the 60 million hits this pro bono site received in just 10 months, and the 300,000 visitors per month we continued to get throughout the campaign, we organized over 31 protests in cities across the country and Canada; more than 150 advertisers dropped [the] show, including some 70 or so advertisers that Canadian activists got to drop her in that country alone! And over 30 advertisers dropped her radio show costing her nearly $30 million on the radio show alone!

    "In addition, the entire nation of Canada canceled the TV show completely, and TV stations across America started dropping Laura Schlessinger like a hot potato, or banishing her to the wee morning hours, until she was finally canceled just before April Fool's day, 2001. All this on an $18,000 budget, raised mostly from the online sale of t-shirts." Aravosis is now raising his voice on behalf of equity and justice for the families of gay and lesbian victims of September 11.

    Feinberg rules
    Kenneth Feinberg, the Special Master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, laid out the Administration's position regarding the families of gay and lesbian victims of 9/11 on the March 10 edition of NBC's "Meet the Press": "[Gays and lesbians are] left out of my program to the extent that their own state doesn't include them. I cannot get into a position in this program, which has a one-and-a-half or two-year life, [and] start second-guessing what the state of New York or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the state of Virginia or New Jersey, how they treat same-sex partners, domestic live-ins, etc. I simply say this: What does your state law say about who is eligible? If your state law makes you eligible, I will honor state law. If it doesn't, I go with the state. Otherwise, Tim, I would find myself getting sued in every state by people claiming that I'm not following how the state distributes money. I can't get into that local battle. I've got to rely on state law."

    Stick with me here. This is going to get a little complicated. Aravosis says that Feinberg's explanation is basic Washingtonese -- a little misleading. "In layman's terms, the money goes to the estate of the Sept. 11 deceased, and state law dictates how that money goes to a family. If the deceased had a will, and the will designated the partner as getting a portion of the estate, they're covered. But most people in America do not have wills. That's why they have to rely on state law. And almost no state recognizes the gay partner of the deceased. "In fact, even in some states that recognize domestic partners who register, like California, if you don't have a will, your gay partner will still not get any money from your estate. As there are only three states that in any way recognize such partners --California, Vermont, and Hawaii, as well as Washington DC -- I have been told by lawyers representing gay and lesbian survivors that they expect some survivors will not get benefits. The state of Virginia, for example, has already sent a letter to the 18-year partner of one woman who [died] in the Pentagon that as her 'friend' she won't see a dime."

    In essence, in a rather complicated and convoluted decision, families of gays and lesbians will not be given federal compensation unless they have wills, or the states they live in have laws reco to the families of gays and lesbians. According to Aravosis, early in the week, "they got 8 comments in one day, then 350 in a day, then 650 in a day. And that's only up to Wednesday of last week. The comments are really quite telling, and in a way kind of newsworthy themselves -- they're rather beautiful in and of themselves."

    Here is a small sampling:
    "I have read conflicting accounts of whether same sex partners will receive death benefits from the deaths of their partners. Although many states do not legally recognize these relationships, these TAX PAYING people have gone through a horrific ordeal and deserve the same benefits that every other victim is receiving from the 9-11 fund. To prevent these people from doing so would be an exercise of horrible cruelty worthy of the Taliban. -- Mission Viejo, CA

    "Lesbian and gay people are full citizens of this country and deserve to be treated as such. One of our own has been lionized as a hero for his role in the crash of the jet in western Pennsylvania. But if he had a domestic partner, someone whom he would have married had the U.S. government recognized the sanctity of his relationship, I guess that man would have to be satisfied with press clippings and sound bites, while his heterosexual peers, even the illegal aliens among them, were being compensated financially for lost wages and pain. This is horrifying. Shame on you all, and shame on Kenneth Feinberg, John Ashcroft and George W. Bush in particular, for failing to equally and fairly honor and respect ALL the victims of this terrible tragedy." -- Brooklyn, NY

    "The rhetoric of 'whatever the law is in your state will apply' is a ridiculous cop-out and a pitiful attempt to shift any blame for such a policy from the governing bodies directly involved to the State of the victim. The many gay and lesbian victims, heroes, and their families and loved ones are no less affected by this tragedy, regardless of who they love. God forbid a young person looks to, or as a role model of what a true hero is, because according to the Government of the United States of America, they are nothing. To call ourselves United States is blasphemy...apparently we're only United when it's convenient and doesn't pose a problem to some politician's public image. To say that you represent, love and honor America...SHAME, SHAME, SHAME." -- Chicago, IL

    'It's not over until it's over'
    Unfortunately Feinberg's decision is final. As Aravosis says, the March 21 deadline "is simply for public comment on the final rule that has already been implemented. We are already toast. The Department of Justice's final rule," he adds, "de facto codifies discrimination against gay people in the distribution of the fund." Nevertheless, it is important to continue to make your voice heard loud and clear. In Washington, it is rare that things are ever really over. If there is going to be any future changes, it will have to come from Congress. According to Aravosis, "Congress can amend the law, but they have to have the political will to help all the heroes of September 11, rather than just a portion."
    ©Working For

    Today, 21 March 2002, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and marks the start of a week of solidarity with The peoples struggle Against Racism and Racial Discrimination, 21 - 27 March 2002.

    According to the United Nations, "Racial Discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life".

    The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". In 1966, the UN General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. According to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, March 21st is "a day to celebrate the many steps the world has taken to free itself from racial hatred, and a day to reflect on the challenges that remain, and our commitment to overcoming the".

    Following the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Disrcimination, Xenophobia & Related Intolerance in South Africa in 2001, Mr. Reed Brody said,"If governments would really put in practice what they agreed to here, we could make real headway in combating racism. We're pleased that the conference gave the United Nations a strong role in making sure that the promises made in Durban don't die here". At the Conference in South Africa, there was recognition of the criminality of slavery and the moral obligation to repair its lasting damage.

    In Britain, there are just two Asian or black people in Whitehall's top four grades and only 58 among its 3,000 senior policy-makers. There are still no ethnic minority generals or high court judges. There are still only 12 ethnic minority MPs in the UK House of Commoms. A succession of reports has shown racism thriving in the health service, probation, housing and the prosecuting system in Britain.

    All UN Member States are required to take measures to promote governmental, national, and local policies and programmes against racial discrimination including measures which have the purpose of ensuring adequate advancement of an individual or group of individuals of any particular race, colour, descent, nationalty or ethnic origin for the enjoyment or exercise of human rights. These rights according to the UN are exercisable provided they do not result in seperate rights for different racial groups, and do not remain in force after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved. Additionally, United Nations expects all human beings to be protected equally against racial discrimination including the right to just and adequate redress for damage suffered as a result of such racial discrimination.
    ©Black Britain

    According to a new report, by the Institute for Public Policy Reform, the UK government has failed to consider the impact of its policies on ethnic minorities because race has been marginalised as an issue. The Report, "Separate Silos - Race and the Reform Agenda in Whitehall" argues that Civil Service Departments and the Whitehall centre should consult, and design policies around, the diverse range of service users in order to drive up standards in policy making and deliver improvements. The Report further states that work on equality issues needs to be focused more strongly on outcomes and delivering tangible gains to the public. For this to happen states the Report the quality of policy makers' information base, and their ease of access to that information,needs to improve. According to the Report, if the Prime ministerial promise that the delivery of public services to all is to be achieved then the focus needs to be on diversity which it states makes business sense because within the next ten years ethnic minority and mixed origin groups are projected to account for more than half of the growth in working age population.

    The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is said to offer an opportunity to bring race questions into the mainstream of Whitehall decision-making but it stated that Whitehall departments are still failing to ask themselves the right questions such as "What are we trying to achieve for ethnic minorities, and for social cohesion, with this policy? What impact might this policy or service have on ethnic minorities and community relations? Have we consulted the right people to know the answer to those questions? Have we put in place a means to monitor the outcomes? ..."

    The report opined that "The Race Relations (Amendment ) Act potentially has strong synergy with the public services reform agenda. It effectively puts evidence based and consultative policy making on a statutory footing in relation to race. Further, as shown above, an equality focus can shine a light on areas finding it hard to adjust to the rigours of the 'modernised' policy making process. The RRAA also has the potential to broaden the focus of the diversity work undertaken under the Civil Service Reform Programme. It can help it become more outward looking and focused on service deliver".
    The report warns that the Act could turn into a "tick-box charter", with officials going through the motions of complying with reforms while failing to take the action needed to foster social cohesion in race-riot cities like Bradford and Oldham.

    The Director of the Citizenship and Governance programme at the Institute for Public Policy Reform, Ms. Sarah Spencer said, "Three years on from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, it is astonishing to find that policy-makers are still routinely failing to consider the potential impact of policies on minorities and community relations. The new Race Relations Amendment Act presents an opportunity for ministers to overhaul the way policy is made across Whitehall, but there is little sign as yet that they intend to take it".

    The UK government insists racial equality is top priority and maintains that the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 would be properly implemented and opined that improved race equality in the public sector will contribute to the changes in the delivery of public services that the Government wants. Ms. Spencer however added, "If public policy is genuinely to deliver real gains for all citizens, recognising our diverse needs and complex community relations, we need a policy-making process that has been designed to produce that result".

    The Report recommends that the current Home Office's Public Service Agreements target on race equality across public services should be rethought in light of the positive duties in the 2000 Act, and a that transparent monitoring framework to assess the impact of the Act on ©Black Britain

    By Matt Bourne

    During the election campaign which was held at the end of last year 2001 (election day was 20.11.01) the now governing party The Liberal Party explained that they would dismantle a whole row of "unnecessary advisory committees and governmental funds" in order to save money, which would then be spent on the health sector and later to cut taxes.

    The governmental coalition which was elected on 20th November 2001, consisting of The Liberal Party and The Conservative People's Party, with The Danish People's Party completing the Parliamentary coalition, promised to present their Budget to Parliament by the beginning of March 2002.
    The Danish People's Party is the party that supports in its party programme the removal of §266b on hate speech from the Danish criminal code.

    On 31st December 2001 The Danish People¹s Party made the ultimate conditional demand for voting for the government's national budget that a whole row of organisations working with issues such as integration, anti-discrimination and human rights be systematically dismantled. The Danish People¹s Party named specifically The Board for Ethnic Equality, The Danish Centre for Human Rights, The Documentation and Advisory Centre on Racial Discrimination, DAMES (Danish Centre for Migration and Ethnic studies) and The Council of Ethnic Minorities as those organisations to be closed.

    A short description of these organistions and advisory bodies:

  • The Board for Ethnic Equality is an organ established under the Ministry for the Interior in 1997. It is an independent advisory state institution that works for ethnic equality and against racial discrimination. It has a staff of 9 full-time employees, plus 2 students.

  • The Danish Centre for Human Rights was established by a parliamentary decision on 5 May, 1987. The objective of the Centre is to gather and develop knowledge about human rights nationally, regionally, and internationally. The work of the Danish Centre for Human Rights includes research, information, education, and documentation relating to Danish, European, and international human rights conditions. In 1993, the UN General Assembly encouraged all countries to establish a National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) with a mandate clearly set forth in a constitutional or legislative text, specifying its composition and its independence. It has a staff of approximatly 70. Much of DCHR¹s work is directed towards conditions outside of Denmark. However, DCHR has also produced statements on the implications of new and present Danish law with regards refugees, immigrants and ethnic minorities vis-á-vis international conventions.

  • The Documentation and Advisory Centre on Racial Discrimination (DACoRD) is a non-governmental independent organisation. The Centre was founded in 1993 and is today entrusted to a board of trustess comprising of 15 persons of whom many are leading experts in Denmark on issues pertaining to discrimination, and of whom 8 have an ethnic minority background. With its foundation in international human rights conventions The Documentation and Advisory Centre on Racial Discrimination documents racially motivated discrimination in Denmark and provides free legal advice to victims of or witnesses to racial discrimination. The other prime activity is the publishing of material and manuals on anti-dicrimination focusing on identifying different forms of discrimination and developing concrete methods and strategies which can be used by businesses, organisations, the public sector, hospitals, etc. and society as a whole to lessen the occurance and effects of discrimination. In the absence of a complaints commission in Denmark to deal with comp advisory boards, committees, and so-called centres² would indeed be closed and/or have their funding removed. He justified his decsion by labelling these bodies and organisations, plus the people working for them as "the judges of taste" (smagsdommere), accusing them of being "so-called experts" (meant negatively), of being politically correct, of having the "correct opinions" and of attempting to "repress the public debate with their expert tyranny".

    On the 11th January 2002 the government issued the so-called "death list" containing the names of the advisory bodies and governmental funds that would be affected by these cutbacks in the coming Budget. The list contains a whole range of organisations from different specialst ares. Especially boards and organisations from the environmental, consumer and anti-disrimination/ethnic minority areas have been affected. With relation to CERD is is naturally the organisations working with racism and discrimination which are of interest, and therefore these are the focus of the rest of this section.

    Included on the "death list" are the organisations named by The Danish People's Party on 31st December, plus a series of other organisations working with immigration and ethnic minority issues are either directly or indirectly named. Since this list was published there has been an intense debate in Denmark about the organisations on the list, their function and their future. This debate is still as yet unresolved. The Liberal Party and The Danish People¹s Party have consistently used the strategy of labelling the people who work for these organisations as "tyrannical experts", who censor the free debate with their politically correct opinions. Prominant members of the Danish People¹s Party (namely Søren Krarup) have gone so far as to attack the whole Human Rights approach, accussing it of being the new God.

    Three organisations have essentially been at the centre of this debate, namely The Danish Centre for Human Rights, The Board for Ethnic Equality and to a lesser degree The Documentation and Advisory Centre on Racial Discrimination - these are the three organisations that The Danish People¹s Party have repeatedly demanded be closed as an absolute condition for voting for the Budget.

    The Documentation and Advisory Centre's future was quickly decided. After repeated demands from The Danish Peoples¹ Party that the Centre be closed, (it should be remembered that The Documentation Centre is a private NGO and therefore cannot be closed by the government), it has been unequivocally decided between the Budget negotiation parties that the Centre will not have its grant reissued after the Budget. It must be noted that in a letter sent to the Minister for Refugees, Immigrants and Integration, Mr. Bertel Haarder, the Chairperson of the board of trustees of The Documnetation and Advisory Centre asked if the government had evaluated The Centre¹s work before reaching its decision on the removal of funds.

    The Minister answered: "I can clearly say that there has not in the consideration of whether The Documentation and Advisory Center should receive future financial support been an evaluation of the quality of the Centre's work. This is therefore not a criticism of the work of The Documentation Centre". (author's own translation).

    As regards The Danish Centre for Human Rights the government originally suggested that it be merged with four other governmental organisations The Danish Institute for International affairs (DUPI), The Centre for Development Research, The Danish Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and The Copenhagen Peace Research Institute to form a mega-institute to be called The Danish Academy for Interntaional Affairs (DUPA), and that this new institution be placed under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. However, this suggestion led to a massive critique from both internal and international actors, including Mary Robinson, as this would mean the Centre would lose its independent status.

    At the same time the Government suggested that The Board for Ethnic Equality and The Council of Ethnic Minorities be merged together and that its annual funding be reduced. In addition, and as a reply to criticism of the decision to remove The Documentation and Advisory Centre's funding, The Minister for Refugees, Immigrants and Integration stated that this removal of funding is actaully not a problem as a new complaints commssion for dealing with complaints of racial discrimination, which the Danish State has obliged itself to establish according to the European Union article 13 directives on fair treatment (2000), will be placed under The Board for Ethnic Equality in the year 2003.

    Owing to the afore mentioned criticsm of the loss of independence of The Danish Centre for Human Rights the Government then suggested (26.02.02) that it (and the new DUPA institition) instead be merged with The Board for Ethnic Equality and that the new institution¹s independence be guaranteed. According to this suggestion there would be created one new international centre with two independent units. The one unit, entitled The Institute for International Studies would consist of DUPI, The Centre for Development Research, The Danish Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and The Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, and the other unit, ent for Human Rights and The Board for Ethnic Equality provided that the new Centre be equipped with a new leadership. This was a direct attack on Morten Kjærum, the Director of the Danish Centre for Human Rights and member of CERD, and Bishop Kjeld Holm, the Chairperson for The Board of Ethnic Equality, both of whom The Danish People's Party regard as two of Denmark's biggest judges of taste on immigration issues.

    Kristian Thulesen Dahl, a leading member of The Danish People's Party, has acknowledged that their demands are not about economics and savings, but are purely ideological (Jyllands Posten 28.02.02). The Danish Peoples' Party's explicit goal has been to reduce the amount of what they refer to as "tyrannical experts" and "judges of taste" on issues of immigration and ethnic minorities in Denmark. If they cannot remove the actual job function then they openly have gone after the individual if the individual has previously critised their policies - noteably Morten Kjærum and Bishop Kjeld Holm.

    In addition, The Danish People's Party's insistence on the closure of The Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Dicrimination should be seen in the light of that this Centre has on several occassions reported the members of the Party to the Police for hate speach in accordance with §266b in the Danish criminal code, which as mentioned The Danish Peoples' Party wants abolished.

    On the 5th March 2002 the government announced its final decision on the future of The Danish Centre for Human Rights and the Board for Ethnic Equality. It has been decided that The Board for Ethnic Equality be closed down at the end of 2002 and that The Danish Centre for Human Rights be merged with the four other previously mentioned institutions under a new leadership. Morten Kjærum's position as director is uncertain.

    The Danish People's Party has accepted this decision and and regards it as a political victory. Meanwhile, this means that the future of The Council of Ethnic Minorities is unknown.

    With regards the afore mentioned complaints commission, which the Danish State is obliged under the European Union to establish before the summer of 2003, it has been decided to place this under the new Institute for Human Rights. It seems, however, illogical to place a complaints commission which should deal with individual cases of racial discrimination in Denmark in a centre whose work is overwhelmingly concerned with human rights issues at the international level.

    Meanwhile, the new Budget will either totally remove or reduce funding to a whole series of organisations that work with immigration, ethnic minorties and against racial discrimination. Although the final resolution produced at the end of the UN conference on racism in Durban, SA, 2001 stated that organisations working against racism and race discrimination should be strengthened and their financing secured the situation in Denmark is presently the opposite (para 90-91/162).
    The Government’s policy for foreigners

    Amric Singh Rathour never thought he'd have to choose between his religion and working for the Police Department. But that's what the Sikh, 25, said he had to do in August when he was fired for refusing to remove his turban and shave his beard. Under the tenets of their faith, Sikhs do not cut their hair or beards and wear turbans. "When I was there I was really proud to be a member of the service," said the ex-traffic agent from Ozone Park. "I thought that today I would be wearing that proud uniform. Eventually I would have tried to become an officer." Rathour, who has taken a job with Federal Express, said "the way I feel now, I feel my beliefs weren't good enough for the city."

    Rathour and the Sikh Coalition have started a campaign to abolish the department's no-turban rule and have collected more than 3,400 signatures online at, said Prabjot Singh, director of operations for the coalition. In a statement last week, police defended the dismissal, saying traffic agents "must wear a white vinyl eight-point hat properly fitted on the agent's head, without any articles visible." On "numerous occasions," the statement said, Rathour was told he was violating dress code. He was fired for failing to obey a direct order, the statement said. Rathour, whose father and brother also are traffic agents and agreed to trim their beards, has since hired lawyer Ravinder Bhalla and is hoping to resolve the issue outside of court.

    "In New York City, the most diverse city in the world, there's no reason why the NYPD should not embrace Sikhs and allow them to serve on the Police Department with their beards and turbans," Bhalla said. If no agreement can be reached, Bhalla said, a discrimination lawsuit may be filed because the no-turban rule "has the affect of preventing otherwise qualified Sikhs from serving on the NYPD." The argument was used to challenge a similar policy at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1990. The Mounties now let Sikhs wear turbans. They developed guidelines making turban length, color, fabric and appearance all uniform. Bhalla said Rathour would like to replicate those guidelines here. Rathour began his eight-week training program at the Queens Plaza training facility on June 18. He was wearing his beard and turban. A supervisor told Rathour to contact the department's Equal Employment Opportunity office. A detective there told him he could not wear his turban and needed to shave his beard, Bhalla said.

    Rathour continued to wear his turban. He also asked for a religion waiver, Bhalla said. The department rejected his request on June 28. After returning to work from the July 4 weekend, he was granted a temporary religious accommodation pending a hearing. On July 31, the day of the hearing, Rathour was told his beard could be no more than 1 millimeter in length and that religious head ware must fit completely under the traffic-agent hat. The beard accommodation was made for Muslims, and the hat rule allows nothing bigger than a yarmulke or skullcap, Rathour said. "They told me that I have to submit to a Muslim religion accommodation. That's fine if you're Islamic, but not for my religion," he said, adding that his hearing was postponed to Aug. 31 after he said he wanted a lawyer present. Then on Aug. 27, he received a letter saying he had been fired.

    A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials told Rathour that other Sikhs, including his father and brother, comply with the guidelines. Rathour didn't want to discuss his father or brother, saying "this is not about them, this is about me and the New York Police Department." Singh, of the Sikh Coalition, said Rathour's father and brother have been "bullied" into accepting rules they would like to oppose. "His father and his brother aren't comfortable with the guidelines," Singh said. "It's a shame that ©Newsday

    A riot by illegal immigrants demanding immediate repatriation after an escapee was allegedly beaten to death on Saturday had to be quelled at the Lindela repatriation centre in Krugersdorp on Monday morning.The riot started at about 9.30am with a large group of the 2 600 people held at the West Rand centre saying they were unhappy with conditions there and wanted to go home immediately, West Rand police representative Superintendent Milica Bezuidenhout said.The police's operational reaction service, previously known as the public order police, along with private security guards and Home Affairs officials moved to quell the riot and ordered the people back to their rooms Policemen were posted outside each room and Bezuidenhout said police would remain at the centre on Tuesday Home Affairs Department representative Leslie Mashokwe said damage was minimal and nobody was injured."They were toyi-toying and a Zozo hut was damaged but the situation was stabilised."On Tuesday Home Affairs officials from nearby offices would be redeployed to the centre to help process the paperwork required for repatriation. "There are procedures to be followed — embassies have to issue emergency travel certificates — the delay is not always from Home Affairs," said Mashokwe It was hoped that the first group, Mozambicans, would be repatriated by train on Wednesday Five illegal immigrants escaped from the centre on Saturday with three later caught by the camp's security They were allegedly badly assaulted and an ambulance was summoned. The 25-year-old Nigerian man died on his way to hospital He had severe head, back and chest injuries as well as lacerations from barbed wire, Bezuidenhout said on Sunday.Two other people were in a stable condition at the Leratong Hospital while the other two had not yet been apprehended On Tuesday, five staff members of the centre which is privately run for the Department of Home Affairs will appear in the nearby Krugersdorp Magistrate's court in connection with the death and injuries Home Affairs authorities are also investigating.
    ©Daily Mail&Guardian

    The government was right to bar Louis Farrakhan from the UK because he is well known for holding anti-Semitic and racially divisive views, the court of appeal was told today. The home secretary, David Blunkett, launched an appeal against a high court ruling that quashed his predecessor's decision to deny the Nation of Islam leader permission to visit Britain. Monica Carss-Frisk QC, representing Mr Blunkett, told a panel of three judges that the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Human Rights Convention did not apply in a case involving a decision on whether to allow a non-national into the country.

    Last July Mr Farrakhan, a US national, made legal history when he successfully challenged a personal decision by then home secretary, Jack Straw to extend a ban dating back to 1986. It was the first time the high court had quashed an exclusion order made by a home secretary. Successive home secretaries have acted on concerns that his presence could lead to public disorder. Mr Farrakhan has described whites as "devils" and said Judaism is a "gutter religion".

    Ms Carss-Frisk said that the high court judge, Mr Justice Turner, was wrong to interfere with Mr Straw's judgment on what was conducive to the public good. "The home secretary was entitled to conclude that Mr Farrakhan is well known for expressing anti-Semitic and racially divisive views, particularly at a time of political unrest in the Middle East. To allow him into the country would pose a significant threat to community relations and public order and was therefore contrary to the public good." Mr Blunkett said after the high court ruling that he was "astonished" that Mr Justice Turner had ordered him to reconsider the ban. "If Mr Farrakhan comes to this country, publicity will inevitably focus on views he has said previously and language he has used," Ms Carss-Frisk told the judges. She also added that at no time had he withdrawn these remarks, expressed regret or recognised how offensive they were.
    ©The Guardian

    Governor-General Peter Hollingworth (Sydney) has defended his silence on the detention of asylum-seekers, saying it is not his job to criticise Federal Government policies. Dr Hollingworth told human-rights advocates while opening an anti-racism conference in Sydney yesterday that it was not appropriate for him, or any other governor-general, to judge the Government's treatment of boat people.It was a protest-free visit for Dr Hollingworth, who is under sustained public pressure over his handling of child sex-abuse allegations against churchmen while he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane. He said Australia needed to move beyond mere tolerance of ethnic and religious diversity. "Xenophobia, a concept needing no explanation for this audience, is something we should have left behind long ago and I hope we soon will," he said. "Racism thrives on denial and it can easily be hidden behind a public semblance of tolerance," he said. "[Let's] move beyond the idea of tolerance to something that might be described as an inclusive society."

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission chairman Geoff Clark spoke about the continuing racist taunts suffered by his family. "I am not here to please whites, I am here to advocate rights and if it gets up someone's nose, bad luck," he said. Aborigines needed resources to run their own programs, he said, calling for the signing of a treaty to secure indigenous rights. "[A treaty] doesn't mean we're a separate nation and we'll be joining the al-Qaeda network,'' he said. Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner Bill Jonas called for a national review of systematic discrimination, denial of racism, and the rights and cultural survival of Aborigines. The conference heard from members of the Jewish, Arabic and indigenous communities, refugees and asylum-seekers. Democrats Leader Natasha Stott Despoja, Labor MP Carmen Lawrence and Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharan Burrow will address the conference today.
    ©The Canberra Times

    The Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians of France(AGLA) is calling on gay groups and human rights organizations to put pressure on Armenia's delegation to the Council of Europe to change its penal code condemning homosexuals. The National Assembly of Armenia is expected to hold a debate on the abolition of the country's law persecuting homosexuals. Article 116 of Armenia's penal code, which condemns for 5 years of prison the persons practicing homosexual relations, should have been removed last year when the country became a member of the Council of Europe. The law, however, still stands. The AGLA claims the government is postponing its decision on changing the law, as local media reports maintain feeling is high to keep the anti-gay law. At the same time gays continue to be persecuted in Armenia, alleges the AGLA, including blackmail and extortion by the police. The AGLA is urging the gay community to take action by lobbying the head of the Parliamentary Delegation of Armenia demanding the law be changed.

    The head of the Austrian organisation set up to compensate victims of the Nazi regime who had property and assets seized during World War II has revealed that not one property claimed by the Austrian Government has been returned to its rightful owner in the fund's first year of operation. Hannah Lessing of the Austrian Fund for Nazi Victims expressed concern that many victims were dying before they could be compensated. She also claimed that the general settlement fund, set up in January 2001 contains a capped amount of $210 million and has a filing period of two years. Claims are being processed and the amount will be divided up between the victims pro rata.

    Ms Lessing told Sarah Montague for BBC HARDtalk that the fund will start to pay out from May 2003 onwards, but denied that the fund was not working. "The people do understand that we need time," she said. "Our advantage is that we received a year ago $150m from the Austrian Government as an immediate payment, so it covers again a certain time until we are at the end of the filing period and we can again make payments." "We are losing on a daily basis, people are passing away."

    Ms Lessing - who is Jewish and the daughter of a holocaust survivor - went on to comment on the fact that, in the year 2000, a third of the Austrian people voted for the far-right Freedom Party under the then leadership of Joerg Haider. "I think that the Freedom Party has maybe 3% of old Nazis as electorate, then you have some followers," she said. "We have from the election analysis seen that many people voted for Haider because they were really tired of the old coalition system of socialism conservatives." She also offered an explanation as to why the Freedom Party has been so successful in Austria. "The issue was that the Freedom Party has an image to the outside of a young very dynamic party and if, from time to time they say something on a gathering of old Nazis, [the Austrian people] don't care about it," she said. "I don't agree that we shouldn't care about it."

    Ms Lessing also explained why she decided to take on her role when her grandmother died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. "For me sometimes people say 'why do you feel like you have to deal with it, you're Jewish, you're a daughter of a survivor' and I say 'because I'm Austrian and this is my history'," she said. Nearly a million Austrians served in the German army during Word War II. However Ms Lessing maintained that you cannot blame the entire Austrian nation for Nazi atrocities. "There are many, many who were guilty, but collectively the whole Austrian people were not guilty."
    ©BBC News

    HOSTAGE TO FORTUYN(Netherlands)
    An anti-immigration message prevails in municipal elections. Is the famed Dutch tolerance finished?

    The Netherlands ought to be one of the toughest places in Europe for the far right to get a toehold. Prosperous and with low unemployment, tolerant and proudly multicultural, the country has long been a place where the politicians fine-tune consensus in long, well-behaved coalition talks. But into that idyll last week crashed Pim Fortuyn, 54, who rode an unapologetically anti-immigration platform to a substantial victory in local elections in Rotterdam, the country's second city, where many of the country's 800,000 Muslims live. His local party, Livable Rotterdam, won 17 out of the 45 seats in the municipal council, besting all three of the country's ruling coalition parties. "It's shocking that someone without a clear political program can get so many votes," said Labor Party leader Ad Melkert. If he sounds worried, no wonder. Less than two months before May 15 national parliamentary elections, Melkert and the Dutch political establishment now have to face up not only to their own electoral mishap, but also to a potentially powerful demagogic force. Some polls suggest that his newly formed national party, Fortuyn List, could land as many as 18 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, enough to play a key role in the formation of a new government coalition.

    Fortuyn clearly holds no truck with consensus. Less than a month ago he was tossed out of Livable Netherlands, the national party he joined late last year, for insulting Muslims. His opinions should have come as a surprise to no one. A former academic sociologist, the openly gay Fortuyn gained notoriety in the late 1990s through his spicy column in the weekly Elsevier. In 1997 he published a book calling Islam "a backward culture," saying: "For Muslims, as a homosexual, I am less than a pig. I am proud that in the Netherlands I can come out for my homosexuality, and I'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much." In the campaign, Fortuyn called for a total freeze on immigration to the Netherlands, which he says is "full." He also said the Dutch should scrap the clause in the constitution that bans discrimination. Opinions like that, along with his shaved head and in-your-face attitude, have assured Fortuyn no shortage of media attention. Indeed, some blamed the media for Fortuyn's success. After his own party's disaster became clear last Wednesday, local City Party leader Manuel Kneepkens left Rotterdam city hall sneering at journalists: "You've got this on your conscience. You've created a monster."

    Would that it were that simple. Like others of his ilk, notably Austrian Jörg Haider, Fortuyn has surely profited from a sense of public frustration over the cozy consensus among established Dutch political parties. He has played incessantly on distrust of Muslims, and his promises to beef up police evidently appeals to urban dwellers who feel unsafe on their own streets. "Everyone in my local pub voted for him, because there is a small gang of Moroccan kids that terrorize the neighborhood," says Cathy Brouwer, a human-resources worker in Rotterdam. "They somehow think Fortuyn is the answer, which, of course, he isn't." Many fear that Fortuyn is likely to sow more fear than he dispels. "People basically voted against their own neighbors," says Rotterdam psychotherapist Danny de Vries. "This is a very worrying situation." The Turkish community in the city's Afrikaner neighborhood tried to mobilize the Muslim vote by setting up a polling station in a mosque, but turnout was low.

    Fortuyn may have plenty of charisma, but he doesn't yet have much of a political operation. His success in Rotterdam, though, will no doubt help him add to the some 30 candidates  including doctors, lawyers and one police chief  on his Fortuyn List. The ultranationalist Vlaams Blok in neighboring Belgium, which had the strong ©Time Magazine

    A partnership between Help the Aged and British Gas has launched Scrap it! - a UK-wide campaign designed to expose and challenge age discrimination. A report by the partnership, Age Discrimination in Public Policy, reveals that half the population (51 per cent) think this country treats older people as if they are on the scrap heap, and 44 per cent of managers have experienced age discrimination. Forty-four per cent of those polled feel that older people are considered a burden on society. The launch of Scrap it! coincides with the final month of the Government's consultation on plans to outlaw discrimination in employment on the grounds of age, sexual orientation and religion. The partnership says blatant discrimination is evident in health and social care, social security, transport, employment and education.

    It says older people being excluded from the jobs market has a dramatic impact on physical and mental health, and it is costing the economy an estimated £31bn in lost production. Help the Aged director of policy Paul Cann said: "The insidious scourge of age discrimination blights and restricts the lives of older people. Help the Aged welcomes government steps to end discrimination, but these will be thwarted if age continues to be an arbitrary way of rationing resources and barring access to vital services." Help the Aged wants legislation on age diversity, required by the European Equal Treatment Directive for 2006, to be brought forward and extended to cover goods, services and facilities.
    ©Personnel Today

    Sicilian magistrates have seized an amateur video that is expected to cast light on allegations that Italy's navy did little to prevent the deaths of scores of illegal migrants at sea. The magistrates have opened an inquiry into alleged manslaughter and failure to help in an accident after more than 50 people, mainly north Africans, drowned on Thursday when their fragile boat overturned in heavy seas off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. A sailor on board an Italian trawler, the Elide, which was trying to tow the vessel to safety, recorded the rescue on film. The cassette reportedly shows the bedraggled migrants waving and yelling, "We're safe, we've made it" as the trawler attached the tow line. A short time later the boat was flipped over by a wave. The crew of the Elide have accused the navyvessel Cassiopea of failing to save lives. "Only after a lot of passengers went under the waves did they put a launch into the water," one fisherman said. Nine immigrants were rescued by the Elide, while the 1,500-ton Cassiopea saved only two. Six lifeboats were not used. A law sponsored by the xenophobic Northern League and the "post-fascist" Alleanza Nazionale was passed in the Senate last week. It allows vessels suspected of smuggling migrantsto be turned back, boarded or seized.
    © Independent

    Dzeno Association boasts of success in preparing youth for media jobs

    Richard Samko, often dubbed "the most successful Roma" by his fellow Roma, has been working as a news reporter for Czech Television (CT) for three years. The effervescent 23-year-old with boy-next-door good looks is a newscaster for CT1's morning show Dobre rano. But Samko might not have made it out of Nachod, east Bohemia, had it not been for a 1998 media training course run by the Dzeno Association. He says that the course changed his life. "Thanks to them, I was able to start working for Czech TV. I like working as a journalist and I want to keep on doing that as long as I can."

    The Dzeno Association promotes the economic and cultural interests of Roma and trains young Roma for careers in the media. They have had more than a few success stories. Dzeno is a Romany word used to refer to a honest and devoted person. In September 1998, Dzeno, with the support of the Minority Rights Group from Great Britain, gathered 18 students to attend a "Media Minimum Course for Young Romanies." For four months, the students from around the Czech Republic were trained by teachers from the School of Journalism in Prague, a private college in the capital. During the course, students were placed in different media outlets to gain hands-on experience. "Considering our possibilities, I think the students have been very successful," said Jarmila Balazova, head of Dzeno, who is also editor-in-chief of Amaro Gendalos, a Romany monthly magazine, and anchor of a TV Nova program. "About half of them [the students] work at places where communication and journalistic skills are required -- the social and civic sector, working with Romanies addicted to drugs," said Balazova. "Five people have been placed in media." Among those five students are Richard Samko, Ondrej Gina Jr. and Jan Misurec, all of whom have made their way into prominent positions at the country's better-known television and radio stations.

    A key figure in helping them get a foot in the door, including Samko, was Zdenek Samal. During Samko's initial training, Samal was editor-in-chief of Czech TV. He is now a moderator for TV3 in Slovakia. Samal said he has very good experiences hiring students of the Dzeno program and he'd hire them again in the future. "The students I hired were qualified enough to do their work well," he said. "But I must say that they were also at a disadvantage due to their previous education, which may not have been complete or didn't give them general knowledge." Samal was referring to the largely inferior education that Roma receive in the Czech Republic. Seventy-five percent of Roma are sent to special schools for the handicapped, and only a few finish high school, much less attend a university.

    The United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations have called for the Czech government to put an end to systemic discrimination against Roma, particularly in the field of education. Not every instance of Romany media employment has been wholly successful. Ondrej Gina Jr. became internationally acclaimed as the country's first Romany televison moderator. He began as a part-time news anchor for CT in 1998 and joined the station full-time in 1999. Gina, however, was mixed up in a scandal that hurt the image of Romany as professionals. He and his father, Ondrej Gina Sr., a prominent Romany activist from Rokycany, were put under investigation for tax evasion and welfare fraud in August 2000. Gina was put on temporary holiday from Czech TV during the investigation but has since returned to work. Currently at Radiozurnal, there is only one Romany reporter, Jan Misurec. His supervisor said that the media outlet has had some problems with Misurec's work ethic. "He has to be pushed to work hard. However, as a reporter he is OK," said editor-in- something."
    ©The Prague Post

    Annual U.S. appraisal critical of police and treatment of Roma

    An annual human rights report by the U.S. State Department critical of the Czech Republic is meeting strong resistance from government officials. "The report is clearly based on wrong information," Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures said. Released March 4, the report is based on 2001 data and targets the country's slow court system. It accuses police of abusing their powers, points to continuing discrimination against women and the Roma, or Gypsy, minority, and cites cases of government interference in the media.

    Roman Krystof, a member of the governmental Council on Romany Affairs, said the document is based on ignorance and contains "very disputable and exaggerated allegations." While some officials were rankled by the U.S. criticism, Human Rights Commissioner Jan Jarab praised the report. "Overall, it was of a very high quality and very well informed," he said. "I found the criticism by some government members and politicians hard to understand. I think it's absolutely absurd to look at it that way." Each year the State Department compiles human rights reports on all UN countries and other nations receiving U.S. aid. They are intended to outline the status of international human rights standards in each country.

    The European Union, the UN and various nongovernmental organizations all publish such evaluations on the Czech Republic and other nations each year. Only the report of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva is legally binding for the Czech Republic under international law. But Jarab says the U.S. report carries added weight, especially with national elections slated for this June. "Based on the reactions, this [report] is seen as more important for the politicians," he said. "It's more political." Communist member of the Chamber of Deputies Miloslav Ransdorf said America's own record on human rights, including its refusal to send U.S. officials before international war-crimes tribunals, disqualified the United States from criticizing allied nations. "The United States is criticized so much that they cannot be taken seriously in this regard," he said, adding that the report showed "a lack of understanding of Czech conditions" and "was unobjective and stupid." Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Prague declined to comment.

    The report states that Czech police "occasionally used excessive force and abused their authority," citing several cases in which police were charged with beating prisoners. It also noted the closing of a government investigation into alleged police abuses during the IMF/World Bank summit held in Prague in September 2000. When globalization protests turned violent, Amnesty International claims the police responded with tactics that "may have amounted to torture." Though the government found evidence of wrongdoing at two police precincts during the summit, officials said there was insufficient evidence to press charges. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has adamantly stood by the police and brushed off criticism of their conduct -- a stance he maintained in his response to the State Department report. "I resolutely reject that brutal treatment would be usual or frequent in police cells," he said. "If an exceptional incident occurs, it is investigated, but according to our information these are isolated cases."

    Justice Minister Bures reacted hotly to the report's claim that a slow and sometimes incompetent judiciary leads to lengthy pretrial detentions. Bures was the architect of an ambitious justice-reform package that went into effect this year. "It completely ignores the fact that the judiciary has become the government and state budget's top priority," he said. The report also criticizes libel complaints government officials lodged against several journalists, including Prime Minister Milos Zeman's pledge last fall to "liquidate" the we education. We know what to do. The tragedy is that we aren't doing what we know works."
    ©The Prague Post

    Extreme-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, a long-term fixture of French presidential campaigns, said Thursday his campaign could be stopped short before this year's vote despite enjoying wide support. Candidates are due to start handing in nominations supported by a 500-name list of backers, but a furious Le Pen claims a plot masterminded by President Jacques Chirac could cost him his chance to stand. "There is a campaign, we know where it's coming from: it's Jacques Chirac. The result is I still don't have 500 backers," he told reporters. In elections in 1988 and 1995, Le Pen's populits anti-immigration pro-law and order stance won him around 15 percent of the vote, and polls this year show him on course to earn around 10 percent, putting him third behind Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and the right-wing Chirac. But the former paratrooper could still come unstuck on what should have been a technicality.

    Since 1976, all candidates for the French presidency have had to back their bids with 500 signatures from elected officials -- local mayors, regional councillors, MPs or senators -- from 30 of France's 96 regions. With the first round of the vote looming on April 21 and the deadline for supplying the signatures on April 2, a varied list of candidates is racing to fill up their petitions, and some -- including Le Pen -- risk falling short. There are more than 36,000 local mayors in France and in previous elections no serious candidates have had difficulty rounding up backers, but experts say a new mood has gripped local leaders. Buoyed by municipal election results that show a clear preference for local leaders championing local issues, mayors are holding national politicians at arm's length and are refusing to be whipped into line.

    "You can't eliminate someone who has twice won 4.5 million votes," Le Pen growled recently. "You could do that in Managua or Puerto Rico, but not yet in France." The founder of the National Front admits he still has around 80 names to collect, and on Wednesday accused Chirac of masterminding a campaign to intimidate local mayors into witholding their backing from him. "Mayors are receiving letters saying 'Signing for Le Pen is a vote for Jospin'," Le Pen charged. Candidates began handing in their completed backing lists Thursday, and Le Pen's cloest challenger for third place, Trotskyist veteran Arlette Laguiller, was able to hand in her 500 signatures. Le Pen was not. National Front spokeswoman Martine Lehideux said that a "fair portion" of the necessary names had been given to the Constitutional Court, as required, but that not all were ready. Chirac's spokeswoman Roselyne Bachelot said it would be "regrettable" if anyone was eliminated because of a lack of backers and insisted her Gaullist party, the Rally for the Republic, had done nothing to undermine Le Pen. She added: "A system has been put in place to prevent the presidential election becoming a showcase for a handful of wackos."

    There's little doubt that Chirac would like to see Le Pen's right-wing challenge dented, but other commentators see the National Front's woes stemming from a broader dissatisfaction with national politics. "Even the big parties are having difficulty getting mayors to sign up as backers because they're on a sort of strike," said Jean-Louis Borloo, spokesman of the centre-right UDF. Borloo said mayors are less and less ideologically bound up with national movements and more and more concerned with practical local solutions. "We are trying to lock them into a reduced vision in which they no longer believe," he said, comparing the attitude of mayors to that of the large numbers of French voters expected to abstain. Borloo later called for the election to be postponed if the major minority candidates fail to gather enough names.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    The far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) continued to try and tempt the governing Fidesz-Hungarian Democratic Forum (Fidesz-MDF) alliance into coalition with an offer of support at the general elections. MIÉP chairman István Csurka said his party would be prepared to withdraw 100 of its candidates after the first round of voting in favor of Fidesz-MDF candidates, provided that reciprocal support was given by Fidesz and the MDF for 10 to 20 MIÉP candidates in the constituencies where MIÉP had the best chance of winning. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Fidesz President Zoltán Pokorni and MDF President Ibolya Dávid all rejected the MIÉP offer.

    Orbán told reporters that Fidesz had already concluded all the co-operation agreements it required, namely with the MDF, the Hungarian Christian Democratic Alliance (MKDSZ), Fidelitasz (the Fidesz youth wing) and the Roma minority organization Lungo Drom. "We will not be entering into any agreements beyond these," he said. Pokorni said current Fidesz agreements "cannot be expanded, either to the right or the left," and Dávid said, "In its cooperative agreement with Fidesz, the MDF has established its intentions with regard to the coalition and the limits of its cooperation." Csurka indicated to Hungarian daily newspaper Népszabadság he felt the Fidesz-MDF alliance could yet change its mind following the first round of voting. "We are recording and filing these evasive and occasionally contradictory statements made by Fidesz, which we will bring up again following the results of the first round so they can be reassessed. "It will be worth listening to what is said at that point," Csurka said.

    Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) president László Kovács said MIÉP's offer now meant that "freedom, democracy and the rule of law as opposed to a far-right dictatorship are now at stake in these elections". Association of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) President Gábor Kuncze claimed a future government including Fidesz and MIÉP co-operation would prevent Hungary's accession to the EU. Earlier in the week, MSZP Prime Ministerial candidate Péter Medgyessy threw down a challenge to Orbán, inviting the Prime Minister to a televised head-to-head debate with no studio audience on March 26 or 28. Medgyessy said the debate should be broadcast on commercial telelvision in reflection of his "loss in confidence over State TV's impartiality". Orbán responded with a counter-offer of two debates before a studio audience at the University of Economics in Budapest, to be broadcast live on all terrestrial channels on April 5 before the first round of voting, and April 19, two days before the second round. Medgyessy rejected Orbán's counterproposal, claiming that the dates would not give the electorate and the press adequate time to reflect on the debate before voting. Kovács said Medgyessy would be prepared to accept April 2, 3 or 4 for the debate. Meanwhile, Independent Smallholders' Party (FKgP) President Jozsef Torgyán announced his party was not interested in participating in any coalitions.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    But bill to attract workers faces 2d test

    The lower house of Germany's Parliament passed a landmark immigration bill Friday, but it is expected to be rejected by the upper house and become an important issue in September's election. The law is intended to facilitate the immigration of skilled foreign workers, needed because of Germany's aging, declining population and sizable modern industries. With the votes of the governing Social Democratic and Green coalition, the bill passed the lower house, 321 to 225. But in a bitter debate imbued with election-year politicking, most members of the conservative opposition parties voted against the bill and promised to try to block it March 22 in the upper house, where the government does not have a firm majority.

    The German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, faces strong opposition in September from the conservative candidate, Edmund Stoiber, who is Bavaria's premier. Stoiber insisted Friday that Germany had reached the limits of its ability to integrate more foreigners at a time of growing unemployment, and said he wanted at least 16 changes to the bill. Essentially, Stoiber wants the bill to restrict immigration, not loosen it, demanding, for example, that a concrete job be waiting for each immigrant. Friedrich Merz, the parliamentary leader for Stoiber's sister party, the Christian Democratic Union, said: "Such a law opens the labor market to even higher immigration when we have 4.3 million unemployed, and it allows more immigration into the social security system, and that is why we reject it."

    Schroeder is reported to have decided to press ahead with the bill in any case, because he believes it can work for his party in the election and make the conservatives seem too extreme. Awkwardly for Stoiber, whose reputation is associated with economic competence and friendly relations with big business, German industry groups strongly support the bill. Michael Rogowski, president of the Federal Association of German Industry, said: "We cannot afford this blockade." Germany needs immigration, he said, and if the bill finally fails, "tactical games from both sides will be to blame." Dieter Philipp, the president of the Craft Association, said: "Business requires in the long term an immigration policy based on its needs. Passing a law, however imperfect, with a broad majority would be the signal that Germany is open for qualified people willing to integrate." Three conservatives voted for the bill, including Rita Suessmuth, who led the original, high-level study into immigration that strongly supported similar changes in July of last year and whose work was integrated into this bill. The bipartisan committee has urged Germany to allow 50,000 qualified foreigners a year to live and work here. Businesses say they most require qualified engineers, especially in computer sciences.

    Currently, Germany's 7.3 million legal foreign residents, of whom some 2.5 million are Turks, account for about 9 percent of the population. At the present birthrate, the German population will contract by a quarter from its current 82 million by 2050. Schroeder, at the end of the debate Friday, called the law "a careful balance between what is economically needed for our country and that which is humanitarian." The law also tried to speed up the processing of asylum claims. Schroeder, with no apparent irony, asked the opposition not to make the bill a political issue in the upper house. "The Bundesrat is not the place for the battle between a candidate and a chancellor," he said.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Tanzania Former news executives accused of incitement

    A trial is unfolding far from the spotlight in this East African town, but its outcome may one day ring out around the world. It is the trial of three journalists that focuses on the question, can freedom of speech degenerate into genocide? Or put differently, can journalism kill? According to prosecutors of the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda, the answer to both questions is a forceful yes. The three men in the dock, all former Rwandan news media executives, stand accused of genocide and incitement to genocide through their use of radio broadcasts and newspapers. Their trial is also examining the full scope of the role played by the news media in the massacre of more than 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. It is the first time since Julius Streicher, the Nazi publisher of the anti-Semitic weekly Der Stuermer, appeared before the Nuremberg judges in 1946 that a group of journalists stands accused before an international tribunal on such grave charges. Prosecutors have drawn stark parallels between the vitriolic campaigns against the Jews by Der Stuermer before World War II and the actions of some Rwandan media organizations before and during the 1994 slaughter of the Tutsi. At Nuremberg, the charge of genocide did not yet exist.

    Legal specialists believe that the outcome of the current trial may set a crucial precedent for future international cases, in particular for the permanent International Criminal Court, which is expected to open later this year to handle accusations of grave rights violations. "A key question will be what kind of speech is protected and where the limits lie," said Stephen Rapp, an American lawyer who is the senior prosecutor in the case. "It is important to draw that line. We hope the judgment will give the world some guidance." National laws inevitably vary, and as for international legal standards, "there has been no decision since Nuremberg," Rapp said. The Allies' military court at Nuremberg, which sent Streicher to the gallows, may seem far away, and the Rwanda tribunal has no death sentence. But questions about the effects of hateful propaganda and whether journalists should exercise self-restraint or even self-censorship in dangerous moments are topical. "This is very much a living issue," said a judge at the Rwanda tribunal. "People have found Osama bin Laden's hate talk against Americans objectionable. So why did some American media use self-restraint or even self-censorship in his case? Clearly because there were larger values involved."

    The accused in what is informally called "the media trial" are Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who the prosecutors say founded and controlled a Rwandan radio station and directed its news coverage, and Hassan Ngeze, a former newspaper publisher and editor. Prosecutors charge that all three were part of a well-prepared plan to use their outlets first to spread ethnic hatred and then to persuade people to kill their enemies, the Tutsi and moderate Hutu. That required demonizing the Tutsi, prosecutors said, and the media played a key role in accomplishing this. To make their case, prosecutors have armed themselves with 50,000 documents, more than 600 audiotapes of what they say are inflammatory broadcasts from Radio Mille Collines and stacks of copies from the pictorial newspaper Kangura, peppered with vicious cartoons and nasty texts. The radio, nicknamed Radio Hate, was the mouthpiece of the extremist Hutu Power movement. At first, it addressed its Tutsi opponents with warnings like "You cockroaches must know you are made of flesh. We won't let you kill, we will kill you." Once the massacres had begun, the prosecution said, the broadcasts goaded Hutu militia groups to "go to work" and kept inciting people with messages like "the graves are not yet full." Defense lawyers have Tutsi. He is also charged with joining militia gangs on their killing sprees. The media trial, one of the tribunal's high-profile cases, has been going on since October 2000, plagued, as other cases here, by management problems. Its prosecutors have changed several times, and it may still be months from completion. About 40 witnesses have already been heard. Complicating matters, two of the defendants opened their own Web sites, and they are reported to have leaked some confidential court data. One of the defendants, Barayagwiza, a former government information official, is refusing to show up in court, although his two court-appointed lawyers are attending. He became outraged after some judges had first ordered his release, ruling that the prosecution had violated his rights, and then the ruling was reversed. The reversal followed a public outcry in Rwanda and an appeal by the prosecution. Barayagwiza said he would not bother to attend a trial in a court that was politicized and biased. Prosecutors argue that their case is not about freedom or excess of the press, but about a criminal conspiracy. They say Radio Mille Collines and the newspaper Kangura were as much part of the well-prepared plan to kill Tutsi as was the creation of extremist militias and the importation and distribution of machetes well before the killing began. In Rwanda, a nation of few televisions, radio has enormous power, the prosecutors say. Witnesses told the court that once the slaughter had begun - it lasted about 100 days - Radio Mille Collines was vital in steering the militia and calling direct hits. They said the station would broadcast the names and addresses of people who were targets along with their vehicle license plates and the hiding places of refugees. "There was an FM radio on every roadblock, there were thousands of roadblocks in Rwanda," a police investigator said. He told the court that in prison interviews, "many people told us they had killed because the radio had told them to kill."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Amnesty International's secretary-general accused Australia Tuesday of stoking the fires of racism with its new hardline policy on asylum seekers. Addressing journalists at the National Press Club, Irene Khan said Australia's human rights record was tarnished by its policy of turning away all asylum seekers trying to enter the country on boats operated by smugglers. Most asylum seekers are from the Middle East and Asia. Those attempting the journey now are ferried by the Australian navy to neighboring Pacific islands, who agreed to house the asylum seekers temporarily in return for aid. Khan said it was easy in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States to vilify foreigners on the grounds of border security, but lawmakers were obligated to resist the temptation. ``It is all too easy to feed people's fears that the threat comes from abroad, to create a climate of suspicion, mistrust, xenophobia and racism,'' Khan said. ``It is all too easy to confuse those fleeing terror with those who are suspected of causing terror.'' Those who entered Australia before the policy was implemented in August have been kept in detention centers, many in the remote Outback, while their asylum applications are reviewed. ``I am afraid the image of Australia today is less of a carefree, sunburnt sporting nation and more the image of ... riots and protests at Woomera, of Australian-funded detention centers on the Pacific Islands,'' Khan said. Prime Minister John Howard has refused to meet Khan during her five-day visit, but Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock and Attorney-General Daryl Williams will meet her.
    ©Associated Press

    In an attempt to deal with some of the causes of racism, some parents at six primary and secondary schools in Oldham are being invited to anti-racism classes and hopefully prevent repeats of the summer riots of 2001. Following the riots in Oldham in the summer of 2001, it emerged that some responsibility lay with the practice in the town of segregating children in schools. The subsequent Inquiry into the riots had said among other things that parents in Oldham had a responsibility to help their children be part of a multi-cultural society. The race awareness classes Oldham Council says are its response to a section in the Inquiry's report which said, "All parents should be mindful of their responsibility to equip their children with the skills and attitudes necessary to live in a multi-cultural society". Oldham council also wants to encourage the town's faith schools to admit Muslim pupils, although any changes to admissions policies in those schools are down to the governing bodies and church authorities. Secondary faith schools in the town with sixth forms already have a policy of admitting pupils of all backgrounds following the riots in the summer of 2001.

    The Cantle report following the Oldham riots had said that a major cause of friction between the different communities was as a result of them living "parallel lives". The Report had also criticised the government's policy of encouraging single-faith schools for raising possibility of deeper divisions. Teaching unions have welcomed the proposals, saying Oldham council is courageous to recognise that segregation is harmful to the town. On Thursday 28 February 2002, Oldham Council presented to the Home Office its Interim Response to the Oldham Independent Review report by David Ritchie. The response was prepared by Oldham Council, Greater Manchester Police and the Greater Manchester Police Authority supported by the Local Strategic Partnership and addressed key recommendations and findings contained in the Ritchie Report. The Chairman of the Local Strategic Partnership, Mr. Richard Knowles stated that "Whilst the Interim Response is comprehensive, it is by no means the end of the story. Rather it is the beginning. Some issues have been fairly easy to address, others will need further consideration before we can fully respond". The Council is still inviting comments from local people and interested parties before the final response due at the end of June 2002. Mr. Knowles added that "All responses will be considered by the various working groups who are looking into specific issues. Discussions are continuing with the Government, local businesses, the voluntary sector, community groups and other key local and regional organisations…". The Oldham Race Equality Partnership (OREP) stated that the report makes positive recommendations in a number of areas which would help to bring together the people of Oldham. OREP added they particularly welcomed the proposal for a Race and Diversity Strategy Committee and local Race and Diversity forums. Oldham Race Equality Partnership sees the local forums as a medium of exchange on race and diversity issues, and as a method of establishing mutual respect and finding solutions to local problems.
    ©Black Britain

    The editor of Britain's leading black newspaper, The Voice, has called for an increase in police stop and search tactics to combat rising gun crime. Trevor Phillips, deputy chair of the London Assembly, believes the call emphasises the growing concern over violent crime. But leading anti-discrimination campaigner Karen Chouhan says stop and search is part of a racist criminalisation of black communities.

    Trevor Phillips
    " The Voice's editor is probably right to make this dramatic gesture. But we need to be clear about what it means. Post Macpherson, the police claim that they have been disinclined to use the power to stop and search for fear of being accused of racism. If renewed use of the power will stop these oh-so-sensitive souls bleating about their hurt feelings, then Mike Best has done the right thing. Perhaps then we can focus on the real problems, instead of being dogged by a pointless argument about police morale. There are other positives here. By performing what sounds like a dramatic u-turn, the Voice may corner the small minority in our community who want to belittle the threat posed by black criminals. More importantly, it emphasises that the mainstream of the black community is deeply concerned about the spate of arbitrary and violent crime which is disfiguring our cities - and , by the way, bearing down more heavily on us than on anyone else. However, no-one should kid themselves that it will prevent a single shooting. Contract killers do not saunter down the street carrying their semi-automatics in a convenient back pocket. And though it may frighten some kids, stop and search will not prevent teenagers being backed into an alley and having their mobile phones extracted. "

    Karen Chouhan(Director of 1990 Trust)
    " Increasing the powers that police have to stop and search people is a bad idea firstly because the existing powers they have got are being abused. If we knew that the issue of the disproportionate number of stop and searches of black people was resolved - if we could see evidence that it had changed - then we would be in a position to hear the arguments for increasing police powers. But that doesn't mean that the case is proven. In fact, the policy of stop and search is really not supported by the number of arrests that follow from it - only about 5%. The harm to communities and the amount of negative publicity generated by stop and search outweighs its benefits. Police should put more time and powers into investigating burglary from homes and racist attacks which are of prime concern in black communities. We need much more attention to the fact that black people are disproportionately victims of crime rather than perpetrators. I am a bit puzzled by Mike Best's comments. Perhaps he is suggesting that if we as the black community are calling for more powers it looks as if we are being more responsible citizens. But we should not pander to that or the continued racist criminalisation of black communities. Over the years as we have tried to be good citizens, the only response that we have had is that we should go to citizenship classes. Once again it seems as though the home secretary has allowed the agenda to be one of blaming the ethnic minorities for the wrongs of society rather than racism itself.
    ©BBC News

    The work of the Committee of Independent Historians on Switzerland's role in World War II not only altered this country's historical image, it also prompted the Federal Council to create a fund with the rather clumsy title "Projects Against Racism and for Human Rights." The sum of 15 million Swiss francs was deposited into the Fund for the years 2001-2005, and on Tuesday a report was made public on its first year of operations. A total of 2.3 million Swiss francs was disbursed in 2001 to registration and counseling centers for victims of xenophobic attacks, and for special events and educational materials. There was (and is) no lack of possibilities for using the Fund's assets in a meaningful way. In Switzerland there is a whole range of project ideas and of organizations dedicated to fighting against racism. These ideas and organizations are chronically under-funded. Thus the government's Fund meets a definite need and fills a gap.

    During the Fund's first year, applications for 175 projects with financing needs totaling 13 million Swiss francs were submitted. Of those, 40 projects were chosen to receive support ranging from a few thousand to half a million francs. Smaller amounts were awarded, among other things, to relevant conferences and events. Significant support was also granted to the francophone Swiss contact service SOS Racisme, which operates under a uniform telephone number throughout western Switzerland, and to the Team for Intercultural Conflict and Violence, which is operated by the Swiss Charitable Society and counsels officials of municipalities and organizations in the event of conflicts with a racist background. By providing support for projects which are expected to have a broad public impact, it is hoped that a process will be set in motion which goes well beyond the limited temporal and financial scope of the federal assistance itself.
    ©NZZ Online

    The employment rights of British gay men and lesbians could be severely compromised if the government goes ahead with plans to exempt religious groups from new legislation outlawing discrimination in the workplace. In a response to a government report on the proposed new legislation outlawing discrimination at work on grounds of sexuality, religion, age and disability, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) says that thousands of jobs controlled by religious bodies could be denied to "out" gays and atheists. Terry Sanderson, a spokesperson for GALHA, said: "The proposal to allow religious bodies to continue discriminating against those they disapprove of -- which almost inevitably means gay people -- could see gay teachers working in church schools, or others working in the religion-controlled welfare sector, losing their jobs."

    GALHA said the government's plans would permit religious groups to employ only those people who adhered to that particular religious view. Sanderson said: "Some of these jobs are paid for by the taxpayer -- such as in church schools. It is totally unacceptable that religious groups could reserve all these jobs for their own kind. Just what difference does a person's personal beliefs make to their ability to be a nurse in a hospice or a career in an old people's home? Why does a teacher have to be straight in order to teach French or biology?" Legislation to give gays and lesbians job protections is expected in this session of Parliament.

    Experts Welcome Switzerland's Popular Vote to Join the United Nations

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this afternoon started its consideration of the second and third periodic reports of Switzerland by hearing a Government official say that his country was resolutely committed to fundamental human rights. Introducing the report, Nicolas Michel, Ambassador and Director of the Direction of International Public Law of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, said that the people and cantons of Switzerland had decided yesterday to join the United Nations. By accepting the vote on adhesion, the people of Switzerland had not only subscribed to the universal objectives and fundamental values of the United Nations but had also affirmed their stand that Switzerland had defended for a long time within the international community through its resolute commitment in favour of fundamental human rights. Tang Chengyuan, the Committee Expert who served as country rapporteur to the report of Switzerland, said that the recommendations made by the Committee on the initial report of Switzerland had been fulfilled through various ways, including considerable Government achievements in reforming legislation and enforcing it. Mr. Tang drew the attention of the Swiss delegation to the decision of the Emmen community denying the right to naturalization to 20 immigrants in a vote; and said that the Government had to consider the case seriously so that such an incident might not be repeated in the future.

    At the beginning of the meeting, the Chairperson of the Committee Ion Diaconu welcomed the popular decision of the people of Switzerland to accede to the United Nations. He said that Switzerland had already been actively participating in the UN's specialized agencies and had been contributing to the work of the United Nations. Other Committee members also congratulated the decision of the Swiss people to join the United Nations.

    Reports of Switzerland
    The second and third periodic reports of Switzerland (document CERD/C/351/Add.2) review the legislative and administrative measures undertaken to implement the provisions of the Convention. On 18 April 1999, the people and the cantons accepted a new Federal Constitution, whose articles constitute the essential legal foundations of the fight against racism. Article 8 says that "No one shall be subjected to discrimination on account of his or origin, race sex, age, language, social position, way of life, religious, philosophical or political convictions or disabilities". Men and women have equal rights. It also says that since 1980, Italian and Romansch have lost ground as national languages, both in absolute and in relative terms. The percentage of German-speakers has likewise declined slightly while French is the only national language to have strengthened its position. Besides the four national languages, there are other foreign languages spoken, including Spanish, Slav, Turkish, English, Albanian, Arabic and Dutch. On 23 December 1997, Switzerland ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of 5 November 1992, under which it made a commitment to promote the least widely spoken of its national and official languages: Italian and Romansch.

    The report says that the Swiss Government considers that it has an ongoing duty to engage in the action to combat racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Government has continued to attach great importance to action to combat all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and has highlighted the central role given to raising public awareness and preventive measures in this action. The Federal Council highlighted the importance of research and education in the fight against anti-Semitism and racism. The report notes that in May 1997, the Confederation established the Foundation entitle closely cooperated with the United Nations, as witnessed by its very presence before the Committee. Switzerland was proud of its cultural plurality and it had always been respectful of the principles of equality and non-discrimination, Mr. Michel went on to say. The country had ratified the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It had also ratified the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and on the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide. It had also ratified different conventions on the protection of human rights with a regional character. Mr. Michel said that with regard to Switzerland's migration policy, the issue of persons "without papers" had appeared very recently within the context of lack of workers in certain fields of economic activities such as agriculture and hotels. Foreigners without the necessary authorization to work were considered by the authorities as persons "without papers", and their presence in the country was illegal. The authorities had observed that those persons came from different walks of life; some of those foreigners had arrived in Switzerland legally. But when the duration of their visit expired, instead of leaving the country, they stayed on clandestinely. Others arrived illegally and lived, often for a number of years, without fulfilling the legal conditions for staying.

    Mr. Michel said that the policy of naturalization was in the process of being amended; actually a series of legislative reforms relating to naturalization were being tabled before the Federal Chambers. The acquisition of communal nationality, which was a prerequisite to Swiss nationality, constituted a political act which was not subjected to any juridical jurisdiction. The number of parliamentary interventions relating to the controversial communal decisions had incited the Federal Council to envisage, among other things, the introduction of a law of appeal. It was also envisaged to institute a law of appeal against arbitrary or discriminatory decisions in matters relating to naturalization. According to the draft, the cantons would create a judicial authority to deal with the decisions pertaining to naturalization. With regard to police brutality against persons of foreign origin, Mr. Michel said that concerning the procedure of lodging complaints against police harassment or abuse, the legislation of all the cantons provided to all victims legal and administrative redress.

    Consideration of Report
    Tang ChengYuan, the Committee Expert who served as country rapporteur to the report of Switzerland, said that during its consideration of the initial Swiss report, the Committee had recommended that the authorities envisage constitutional reforms and that they take preventive measures. It had also recommended that studies be carried out on the treatment of complaints relating to racial discrimination and the manner in which compensation was awarded to victims. The recommendations had been fulfilled through various ways, including the Government's considerable achievements in reforming legislation and enforcing it.

    Speaking on remedial measures for acts committed by law-enforcing agents, Mr. Tang said that positive developments had been made to create remedies. However, more measures had to be taken concerning discriminatory recruitment in employment and illegal dismissal of employees on racial grounds. In addition, complaints against excessive use of force by the police were investigated by the same police force. While the problem of excessive use of force by the police could happen anywhere, the situation in Switzerland had to be improved. According to some reports, border guards had caused the death of some individuals, which was a concern to the Committee. Such incidents might create a bad image for the country. Disciplinary measures had to be taken against the culprits. There should be an independent body to deal with such cases. In addition, preve asked if the racial implication of "Islamophobia" was manifested within the society, asking for more information on cases of refusal by some institutions of the wearing of the headscarf by Muslim women. Another Expert said that the revised Constitution of Switzerland recognized the principles of equality and non-discrimination; but it was said in the report that the Western European and EFTA countries were more favoured for integration than the "third world countries". However, Switzerland's consideration to withdraw its reservation on article 2 (1) (a) of the Convention might resolve the problem with that regard. Concerning the granting of nationality, the Expert said the naturalization process was the longest in the region and the country was lagging behind other European States. Discriminatory practices on grounds of national origin still subsisted during the process of naturalization. Other Experts also said that the report did not mention any exemplary sanctions or legal measures against any police brutality, and requested the delegation to provide any such measures. Did the authorities judicially intervene against the agents involved in the forced expulsion of foreigners, which involved abuse of the individuals? Had the objectives of the Paris Convention on the setting up of national human rights commissions been realized?

    When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 5 March, it will hear the response of Switzerland to the various questions raised by the Committee members.
    ©UNHCR in the News

    The United Nations is marking this year's International Women's Day (IWD) by focusing on the plight of women in Afghanistan. As part of UN and other events organised around the world, America's First Lady Laura Bush will address a conference at the UN in New York. One of the main events will be the gathering in Kabul of 800 women from all over the country. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that after years of conflict, hardship and human rights violations, hope had returned to women and girls in Afghanistan who were again exercising their rights to education, work and an active role in society. Queen Noor of Jordan and Sima Wali, a delegate to the UN peace talks on Afghanistan, are also on the list of speakers at the commemoration at UN headquarters. According to UN figures, only about 3% of girls received some form of primary education during the Taleban's rule. Afghanistan still has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Afghan women have also suffered domestic and other types of violence for the past 25 years, not just under the Taleban, says the UN.

    Human rights
    As military action in Afghanistan focused world attention on the Taleban's repression of women, the repression of women in nearby countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remains largely unscrutinised, said Amnesty International on Friday. "Violence against women is one of the most pervasive yet hidden forms of human rights abuse throughout the world," Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan said. Amnesty also cited the case of Turkey, where around 200 girls are killed in the name of honour every year, and the US, where it says there are continuing reports of mental, physical and sexual abuse as well as medical neglect in women's prisons. The UN Children's Fund, Unicef, also said on average, one woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every minute of the day - about 515,000 women a year - mainly in developing countries. "It is unacceptable that in the year 2002 so many women die in the basic act of giving life," Unicef director Carol Bellamy said. "There has been no significant decline in maternal mortality since the early 1990s, and that is a tragedy," Ms Bellamy said. Amnesty's Irene Khan said the greatest challenge human rights activists faced was "the fleeting, tokenistic interest that governments take in women's human rights".
    ©BBC News

    Pim Fortuyn's fortunes are on the rise.

    In February, the maverick anti-Islam politician was sacked as leader of his own party, Livable Netherlands, after overstepping the mark with calls to scrap a constitutional clause banning discrimination. But the controversy has, if anything, enhanced Mr Fortuyn's reputation. He has just won around one-third of the votes after standing as a candidate in municipal elections in the country's second largest city of Rotterdam. And as the Netherlands looks to general elections in May, everything suggests that Mr Fortuyn and the list of candidates he plans to put forward could pick up enough seats in the country's 150-seat parliament to become a significant political force in their own right - and could even enter the government. His anti-Muslim views, calls for an end to all immigration and pledges to come down hard on crime have hit a chord with voters despite the country's proud reputation for liberalism and religious tolerance that stretches back to the 16th Century.

    Sexual politics
    Mr Fortuyn is openly gay, distinguishing him from the bulk of Europe's far-right, traditionalist politicians. He uses his sexuality as fuel for his fire against Islam, which - as many other religions - does not accept homosexuality. Islam, he says, is a "backward culture", a view which he has expounded at length in a book "Against the Islamisation of our Culture". About 800,000 Muslims, mainly of Moroccan and Turkish descent, live in the Netherlands, accounting for around 5% of the population. The majority live in the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Mr Fortuyn wants significantly to reduce the number of immigrants and asylum seekers who arrive in the Netherlands each year from a current 40,000 people to just 10,000 people "in no time at all". "This is a full country," he says. "I think 16 million Dutchmen are about enough".

    Mr Fortuyn appears to have a particularly strong appeal amongst the young. Nearly one half of 18-30 year-olds recently polled want to see zero Muslim immigration, and said they would be voting for Mr Fortuyn in May's ballots. Even those who do not intend to vote for him say he has a certain attraction. "He is the only politician who admits that there are problems with the multiculturalism of Dutch society and has stopped the issue of immigration being a taboo subject in politics," said Judith, a teacher, who lives in Maastricht. "I won't vote for him, because I don't think he is a serious politician, but that does not mean I don't think he has a point." Analysts say Mr Fortuyn has not only found support among voters who would traditionally veer to the far-right, but also among those fed up with the existing political landscape and centre-left government. "Dutch politics is dominated by multi-party coalitions and too many bland compromises," said Andre Krouwel, professor of political science at the Free University of Amsterdam. "Mr Fortuyn is a wake-up call for Dutch leaders. There is a large section of the electorate who don't feel represented on the national stage and are looking for a more radical answer to their problems." But immigrant organisations are increasingly worried about the kinds of lessons that politicians will draw from the example of Mr Fortuyn. "The real problem is that other political parties are starting to see Mr Fortuyn's strategy as a vote winner and may start to follow suit," said Edgar van Lokven of the Amsterdam Centre for Foreigners. "Mr Fortuyn takes peoples' discontent and fears and erroneously links them with immigration and foreigners. Unfortunately some people fall for it."
    ©BBC News

    The German government wants to take action against alleged discrimination directed at minorities in business life with an anti-discrimination law. A proposal worked out by Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin, a Social Democrat, will prohibit any discrimination "on the basis of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion or ideology, handicap, age or sexual orientation." The law effects all contracts that are "offered publicly," such as newspaper advertisements offering an apartment for rent, a credit financed through repayment rates -- or even a used washing machine. The law also prohibits "indirect disadvantages" that are only seemingly justified by objective reasons, as well as "harassment." Ms. Däubler-Gmelin wants to set "a clear signal" that the federal government "outlaws actions motivated above all by racism or xenophobia" in all areas of law. The ministry said that ,after all, respecting the Law of Equal Treatment had "not yet become self-evident for all citizens"

    The proposal is based on a European Union directive, but formulates even more far-reaching obligations. It also applies to so-called service contracts; the Labor Ministry, however, is currently working on a different legal proposal for labor law, which will not be finished before the next legislature. Public contracts and subsidies might only be granted to companies that adhere to the new law. No exceptions to the rule apply to the church and other "enterprises serving political purposes." The federal government will only be able to award public contracts and subsidies to companies that adhere to these regulations. Whoever maintains that he or she had been discriminated against can go to court under the proposal. In this case, what applies is the reversal of the burden of proof: The supplier of goods or services has to prove that there were "objective reasons" for rejection. Should the supplier be unable to do this, the supplier has to seal a contract against his or her wishes. Should this no longer be possible because, for example, an apartment has already been rented, the supplier is penalized by having to pay damages. Not following such a court ruling will, in its own right, become a separate criminal offence. The proposal will not -- as originally planned -- be passed by the government in the coming week, said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice on Thursday. First, a coalition committee had to deal with the proposal, the spokeswoman said. Contrary to expectations from business circles, the only thing left to resolve were "technical questions," she said.

    Industry associations are opposed to the new legislation. The Federation of German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) laments the "deep-reaching limitation of contractual freedom." This was particularly worrying to the insurance sector, which often set rates according to risk criteria such as nationality, the association said.
    © Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    Europe's top human rights body has urged Nigeria not to allow the stoning to death of a woman convicted of having a child out of wedlock, calling the penalty "barbaric." In an appeal on the eve of Friday's International Women's Day, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer the plight of Safiya Hussaini Tangar-Tudu illustrates how women suffer abuses in many countries. She was convicted by an Islamic court in northern Nigeria in October and sentenced to be stoned to death while buried up to her waist in sand. Capital punishment under Islamic law was introduced in Nigeria in 2000. "Every day, worldwide, women face harsh treatment and discrimination because of their sex," Schwimmer said in a statement. "This sad case proves that pressure must be constantly maintained in order to bring equal rights to the world." Schwimmer appealed to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to commute her death sentence. He also urged his European colleagues to join him in the fight for women's rights in all parts of the world. "International organisations, governments and religious authorities must do everything in their power to change both laws and attitudes and to bring an end to such barbaric practices," he added. The 43-member Council of Europe is the continent's premier human rights watchdog and the guardian of the 1952 European Convention of Human Rights, which bans the death penalty. Hussaini's execution was postponed last Saturday after Obasanjo intervened amid pressure from the international community.

    In a letter to the Nigerian leader last week, European Parliament member John Corrie said international human rights standards should be respected by all countries and that the views of the international community must not be underestimated. Hussaini's case was also discussed at a women's rights conference at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday. "The problem of violence against women constitutes the main issue for discussion to celebrate International Women's Day," said Anna Karamanou, chairwoman of the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities.
    ©Cable News Network

    Spanish E.U. Presidency Needs to Address Migrants' Rights

    The government of Spain is violating the rights of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive illegally on Spanish shores, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

    In the 35-page report, entitled "The Other Face of the Canary Islands: Rights Violations Against Migrants and Asylum Seekers," Human Rights Watch criticized the substandard detention conditions and the inadequate procedural rights afforded migrants and asylum seekers upon their arrival to the Spanish islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Conditions there fall below standards set in both national and international law and should spur a drive to improve the treatment of migrants in Spain and throughout Europe, Human Rights Watch said.

    The detention facilities in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are a makeshift response to the rapid increase in the number of migrants arriving to the Canary Islands in recent years. The number of illegal migrants intercepted upon arrival in the Canaries rose dramatically from 2,241 migrants in 2000 to 4,035 arrivals in 2001. Recent figures suggest that arrivals in 2002 will be even higher, reporting close to 500 arrivals in January alonealmost double the arrivals for January of last year. Migrants come from North Africa, principally Morocco and the Western Sahara, and from sub-Saharan African countries such as Cameroon, Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea Conakry, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. "Spain faces a real challenge in the Canary Islands," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "But locking people up under such appalling conditions isn't the solution. Immigration controls have to go hand-in-hand with protections for migrants' basic rights."

    Human Rights Watch's investigation, conducted at the end of 2001, involved interviews with over thirty migrants who had been detained in the Canary Island facilities, as well as lawyers, doctors, migrants aid organizations and government representatives familiar with the situation.

    The Human Rights Watch report describes detention conditions for migrants and asylum seekers held in two extremely overcrowded old airport facilities on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. At times, more than 500 migrants are kept in a space that the Spanish Red Cross has determined to be fit for fifty people. Detainees are cut off from the outside world. There are no telephones. Visits are not permitted. Detainees can never leave the premises; they cannot exercise, and they have no exposure to fresh air or sunlight. The state of medical care and sanitary conditions in the facilities also raises serious concern, particularly since the volunteer doctors at the facilities recently suspended their services there in protest over the conditions.

    Human Rights Watch found that as a matter of course migrants and asylum seekers arriving illegally to the islands on small boats or rafts are issued orders of deportation and detained in these substandard conditions for up to forty days. Detainees receive virtually no information about their rights, are rarely provided with interpretation or translationeven when asked to sign documents for their deportationand have inadequate access to meaningful legal representation and individualized judicial oversight of their cases. Asylum seekers experience serious difficulties in their attempts to apply for asylum.

    The Human Rights Watch report lists a number of steps the Spanish government can take to address the situation, including:

  • Immediately pursuing ways to alleviate the severe overcrowding, particularly in the Fuerteventura facility, and other appalling conditions of detention, including the absence of communication, exercise, and fresh air;
  • Providing all United Nations, Council of Europe, European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to address its concerns in the Canary Islands and elsewhere in Europe where similar conditions persist. "Spain is not alone in needing to improve its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers," Andersen said. "There is clearly a need for heightened attention to the effect of European immigration policy on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. As a country that is grappling with these challenges at home, we hope that during its current E.U. presidency Spain will put migrants' rights squarely on the Union's immigration policy agenda."

    The report on conditions on the Canary Islands is part of a series of Human Rights Watch investigations into the treatment of migrants in Europe. Human Rights Watch published several commentaries on conditions in Greece last year. Reports on implementation of Spain's new foreigner law and on the treatment of Moroccan children in the North African Spanish cities of Melilla and Ceuta will be published later this year.

    The report is available in English
    in Spanish
    and the summary and recommendations in French

    ©Human Rights Watch

    Jewish scholars and leaders were cautiously optimistic at the announcement this past week that the Vatican would release more of its World War II-era files on Pope Pius XII in 2003. Jewish leaders have repeatedly pressed for full disclosure to fully determine what Pius XII did or didn't do to stop Hitler's slaughter of millions of Jews. This past July Jewish scholars and leaders publicly lambasted the church for releasing a skimpy 11 volumes of wartime documents that revealed almost nothing about the Vatican's dealings with Hitler. They demanded that the Vatican open all its books on that period. The Vatican foot dragged for six months before finally agreeing to release more documents. It was virtually an article of faith during the decade I attended Catholic schools that Pius XII would one day be canonized a saint. The priests and nuns routinely punctuated their prayers with fulsome praise of the goodness, and greatness of Pius XII. They urged us to pray for his continued health and well being. In the decades since his death in 1959 Pius XII's march to sainthood has been wracked by fierce debate over his dealings with Hitler and his refusal to speak out on the Holocaust.

    There was great hope that this would change when John Paul II took over the Vatican reins two decades ago. Over the years, he has raked Catholics over the coals for saying and doing nothing about colonialism, slavery, and the pillage of the lands of indigenous people. But his continuing unwillingness to confront the Vatican's complicity in Hitler's Holocaust is another matter. Vatican defenders cloud Papal guilt in the Holocaust by incessantly reminding that the Nazis murdered thousands of Catholics in and outside of Germany who aided the Jews. They also remind critics that Pius XII poured millions into relief for war refugees, gave sanctuary to Jews inside the Vatican, and played a huge role in post war recovery efforts and the restoration of democracy in Western Europe.

    In 1998, the church made a mild stab at public atonement for past injustices when it formally apologized for centuries of Catholic anti-Semitism and the failure to combat Nazi persecution of the Jews. But the Vatican made no mention of Pius XII's stone silence on Nazi atrocities. And it's this continuing blind spot that riles many Jewish and church scholars. The Vatican continues to keep mute on its Holocaust involvement for a painful reason. Its silence was not due to the moral lapses of individual Catholics, or that the church was ignorant of, or duped by, Hitler's aims. It was a deliberate policy of appeasement crafted by church leaders. Before he ascended to the papacy in 1939, Pius XII was the Vatican's ambassador to Germany and secretary of state during the crucial period when Hitler rose to power, and knew full well what Hitler was up to.

    In his well-documented work, "Hitler's Pope: the Secret History of Pius XII." John Cornwell, Jesus College, Cambridge University professor notes that the Vatican signed its ill-famed concordat with Hitler in 1933 to prevent him from grabbing church property and meddling in church affairs. In return the Vatican pledged the absolute obedience of Germany's Catholic priests and bishops to Hitler. As Pope, Pius XII senta letter praising "the illustrious Hitler," and expressing confidence in his leadership. Even as evidence piled up that thousands of Jews were being shipped to slaughter in Nazi concentration camps, Pius XII refused to reverse the Vatican's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil political course. He ignored the pleas of President Roosevelt to denounce the Nazis. He declined to endorse a joint declaration by Britain, U.S and Russia condemning the killings of Jews, claiming that he couldn't condemn "particular" atrocities. He was publicly silent when the Germans occupied Rome in 1944 and rounded-up many of the city's Jews. Many were later killed in concentratio the world still has not rid itself of the horrors of genocide. John Paul II's apology for the sins of Catholics against the oppressed is a refreshing and needed step toward exorcising the wrongs of the past. But without an honest public admission from him that the Vatican said and did nothing while Hitler murdered millions the church can never attain the purified conscience that he professes to want so badly.
    ©The Black World Today

    Immigration reshapes a once-monolithic community

    America's black community, which now includes more West Indian and African immigrants than ever, is no longer the monolithic group that many politicians, civil rights advocates and demographers say it is. A new African American community is being forged, sociologists say, in which culture and nationality are becoming more important than skin color. It is as diverse - and as divided - as the Latino community or the Asian American community, each of which is made up of migrants from numerous nations. Nearly two decades have passed since Odehyee Abena Owiredua arrived in New York from Ghana, yet she can't say she has lived the black American experience. She once rented an apartment in Harlem, but "I didn't feel comfortable around African Americans," she said. And though friends consider her attractive, "I have not dated an African American, because very, very few approach me." she said. "I love black people, but there is a negative relationship between immigrants and African Americans," said Abena Owiredua, 34. "They look down at me, not at me. I feel inferior around them. It's the ignorant questions I get: 'Do you guys live in houses over there?' When I get those kinds of questions from black Americans, I feel very hurt."

    In Miami, the West Indian population - now 48 percent of the black community - is expected to surpass the native-born African American population within eight years, according to Census Bureau projections. In New York City, nearly one-third of the black population is foreign-born, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer. "This is an important story for demographers and policymakers who are used to lumping together the black population," said Frey, a white demographer at the University of Michigan. "The foreign-born African Americans and native-born African Americans are becoming as different from each other as foreign-born and native-born whites, in terms of culture, social status, aspirations and how they think of themselves."

    In New York, the brown-complexioned men and women on the street could easily be Haitian, Jamaican, Senegalese or Nigerian. In Washington, they might be Ethiopian, Eritrean or Somali. Yves Colon, a Haitian immigrant who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Miami, said black students at his high school thought "I was just another brother until I opened my mouth." Flore Zephir, a Haitian who is an associate professor of Romance languages at the University of Missouri, said: "Black is very diversified. "White people don't see it because they lump everyone together and don't take into account nationality and culture. Haitians resent being lumped together with other groups. This doesn't mean they don't know they're black. They consider the classification that you're either black or you're white very nefarious."

    That black-white classification has been a fact of history since it was laid down by Virginia slaveholders in the 1700s. Black Americans, no matter how dark- or light-complexioned, were united in their suffering. By the 1950s, historians say, black unity led to the formation of the modern civil rights movement and created a powerful Democratic voting bloc to fight white oppression. But the fact of black unity in everyday life, and the history that led to it, was lost on many of the black foreigners who started arriving in droves after the 1965 Immigration Act. Unlike black people in the United States, West Indians and Africans had grown up among black majorities that were ruled by black governments. "Black Is Beautiful" was a given, as was black pride, because there had been no white-imposed segregation after their liberation from colonialism. Issues that divide the black community in New York have attracted almost as much attention as the incidents that bring its members together. The Democratic primary last year between Una Clarke, a Jamaican American, and Representative M ©International Herald Tribune

    The junior partner in Germany's coalition has backed away from key positions on immigration in an effort to win support from the political opposition for the evolving legislation, officials said on Monday. In talks that began on Friday and lasted through the weekend, leaders of Alliance 90/The Greens relaxed their positions on two issues for which they had won changes from their senior partner, the Social Democrats. The two issues are the maximum age at which children could join their immigrant parents in Germany and the residency status for people who are subject to non-state or gender-related persecution.

    In November, German Interior Minister Otto Schily compromised with the Greens on both issues. Under that plan, Mr. Schily abandoned his effort to set the age limit at 12 and agreed that it could be raised to 14 -- and even to 18 under certain conditions. Victims of persecution were to have received a limited residency permit instead of a pledge against deportation. In the latest compromise, the coalition partners agreed to reduce the age back to 12 with certain exemptions being granted to older children who know German. The two parties also agreed to drop the language on persecution and instead apply the definition of a "refugee" under the United Nations' Geneva Refugee Convention. The changes are aimed at creating Germany's first immigration law, which political leaders hope will help attract highly skilled employees who will strengthen the country's economy. To win passage, the coalition has to have the bill approved in the national parliament and in the Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the states on many national issues.

    The coalition can push the bill through the parliament on its own, but it must rely on other parties in the Bundesrat, where it does not have a majority. The state that the new changes are designed to sway is Brandenburg, which is governed by the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats and has the four vital votes necessary to win a majority in the Bundesrat. Jörg Schönbohm, the Christian Democrats' leader in the state, said he was pleased by the movement. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, meanwhile, is contacting the leaders of other states where his party governs inside coalitions, hoping for additional support for the proposal. These efforts included talks on Sunday with leaders from the Party of Democratic Socialism, the successor to East Germany's communist party, which is in coalition with Mr. Schröder's Social Democrats in the city-state of Berlin and in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. "I think the chancellor is moving our way," said Helmut Holter of the PDS, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's deputy premier. His party also has raised questions about the age at which children could join their parents.
    ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    Wars are being declared all over the planet these days, it seems. There are wars on poverty, wars on drugs, wars on "infidels," wars on the weather, and wars on things and people who have done absolutely nothing but exist or belong to another caste.

    Africans and Africans/Blacks in the Black Diaspora once declared a war against Racism, Colonialism and sanctified Racism. One of the first wars against racism by Blacks occurred in Egypt against the Hyksos who about the 1700's Before Christ to the 1500's Before Christ, invaded Egypt and ravaged the land and people. They plundered, destroyed and tried to enslave the Blacks of Egypt. After about 300 years of tyranny, they were defeated a driven back where they came from. The hero of that fight was Pharoah Ahmose.

    One of the longest and still existing wars against racism happened in India, where about 1700 B.C. to 1500 B.C., 'Indo-European" nomads invaded the great Black civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, India. Many historical sources state that the invaders did not immediately invade the Black India but used flooding as well as trickling in gradually. They weakened the nation and upon getting hold of the religious texts of that region, implemented the world's first system of "color consciousness" or caste racism on the Aboriginal Black Africa Kushites and African Dravidians, the two branches of the Black race who developed ancient India. After many centuries of war and genocide against India's original Blacks, the caste system, one of the most ancient and most devastating forms of sanctified racism was implemented on the Black population. Today in India, Blacks of prehistoric African origins whose ancestors were the very first people on that sub-continent are also called "Black Untouchables," or "Dalits," and the "Black Tribals," (and other tribal such as the Mongol Jats) and are among the world's most oppressed people. They have declared a war on racism, sanctified racism, poverty and oppression. Another war against racism, colonialism and sanctified racism occurred when the Arabs invaded Nubia-Kush (Sudan) in the 700's A.D. At that time, Kalydosos, the Emperor of Nubia used his great intelligence and military skill to crush the invading armies from across the Red Sea and from occupied Egypt. He kept the invaders out of Nubia-Kush for 800 years.

    Today in Sudan, Mauritania and parts of North Africa, Blacks are still being hunted down as slaves, while some Black nations do absolutely nothing about it. Africans in Sudan, especially in the southern part are being made into slaves by the 'mixed" descendants of the invaders, who continue to implement their racist policy of enslaving Blacks. One is reminded of the Christian policy of starting slavery and having a worldwide policy of enslaving "descendants of Ham," or Black people. Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya (where ancient humanoids were one million years ago), are the most sacred and Holy Lands for hundreds of millions of Blacks from the Americas to India, where the first high culture was established in Ta-Seti about 17,000 years ago, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and such lands are to Blacks around the world, what Israel is to Jews and Rome is to Catholics. Racism against Blacks is rampant in Euro-controlled nations like those of the Americas. In Latin America, racism is rampant against Blacks. Racism against Blacks in Latin America is among the worst on earth., In many Latin American nations, Blacks are systematically oppressed, kept poor and living in slums and Black children are hunted down in the streets like stray animals. In one Central American nation, Blacks are not hired for many jobs and racism is rampant. The Blacks in Spanish-Speaking Central America has declared their war on racism and one of America's oldest Tribes, the pre-Columbian Black Garifuna Nation (see National Geographic Magazine), whose tribal membership is about half a million ship arrived in the West Indies and tried to enslave these African merchants, whose people had been sailing and trading with the Americas for thousands of years. In North America, all types of tricks and legal schemes are used as a means to return Blacks to enslavement. In Australia and Britain, new tricks such as using drug abuse by some Blacks to return Blacks to modern slavery is in effect. In fact, Australia has laws like "three strikes," and "Mandatory Minimums," some of the most racist laws directed specifically at Blacks, many who are victims of alcohol and drugs deliberately introduced in Black communities in Australia. The Black originals of Australia are fighting for their independence and making the Northern Territories an independent nation will be in the benefit of Australia. But that nations must fortify itself with more Blacks and prevent the Malays from invading that land as they are doing in West Papua.

    Throughout the world, racism against Blacks is rampant and in some places it is acceptable policy. Tribalism and neo-colonialism, where Blacks are used against Blacks in order to keep them weak is also a major problem in much of Africa and parts of Asia and Melanesia. In the Americas, "Tribalism," is seen in the Black on Black violence that is caused by the drugging and pouring of alcohol in Black communities. It is more common to find a liquor store on every block in the Black community, sellers of poison on every corner and a church to spread pacifism and for collecting black money for other people's banks, in Black neighborhoods. In Black America, a war against racism has been declared and Blacks are uniting, their institutions, businesses and leadership to fight back.

    The hijacking of the World Conference on racism has led to the reuniting of the Black world on issues that affect the Black world. Racism and invasions of Blacks lands in Sudan and Mauritania, Indonesia and West Papua is one of the issues that affects the Black world, even though some of the participants in the system of sanctified racism in North East Africa are Black African, who would be reminded of who the are in Germany, the U.S., Libya, Israel, Russia, China, Latin America, India, Europe and parts of the Middle East, where the term "slave" would be used to call them. Racism in the Americas, continued racism in parts of Southern Africa, poverty, degradation and other forms of racism in Latin America, North America and elsewhere are issues to Blacks around the world. The World Conference on Racism was hardly about finding solutions to making racism impotent. It dealt with the issues of other people, while most of the world's oppressed Black people were left with nothing. The War on Racism now declared by the world's one billion seven hundred million Black or African peoples in every part of the world includes: Working to stop racism by fighting against it and supporting those fighting against it around the world, to stop sanctified racism and the use of religions to maintain oppression of Blacks, doing all that is necessary to stop poverty, economic exploitation and economic racism. They also include working around the world to create a single World Pan-African (Pan-Black) agenda, on strategies to fight and defeat racists, their policies and their agenda to support the independence, self-determination and cultural strength of Blacks around the world. The Black World's War on Racism, Tribalism and Neocolonialism was declared after the Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa. It is not a new war, it is the continuation of thousands of years of struggle by Blacks around the world. Finally Africans and Blacks around the world have realized that racism, tribalism, ethnic strife, casteism, and the genocide that accompanies it is a war against Blacks on a worldwide scale and the time has come to respond.
    ©The Black World Today

    Retaliatory acts led to 66% leap, report says

    Hate crimes in Toronto more than doubled after the terrorist attacks in the United States, a new police report reveals. In 2001, reported hate crimes — criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice based on someone's race, ethnicity, language, colour, religion, age, sex or sexual orientation — jumped 66 per cent, from 204 in 2000 to 338 last year. Of those, 121 incidents were linked directly to Sept. 11, according to the report prepared by the force's hate crimes unit, which will be presented to the police services board Thursday. Those 121 incidents, mainly threats, acts of mischief and assaults, represent about 90 per cent of the increase in hate crimes from 2000. Many incidents "resulted from the misguided efforts to imitate, repeat and retaliate against the terrorist activities," the report states. "This culminated in a marked increase of recorded hate crimes, initially committed against anyone who was perceived to be of the Muslim (Islamic) religion. "Hate crimes then evolved to include occurrences targeting U.S. and Canadian interests and the Jewish community."

    The biggest jumps came in September, which saw 99 incidents, and October, with 70. By December, the number of reported hate crime incidents had dropped to 16, closer to normal levels, police say. That trend continued in January. "There was a real spike in the first two months, and then the people who take advantage of these things either moved on or lost interest. I'm not quite sure why," Detective James Hogan, of the hate crimes unit, said yesterday. "I think it was an unfortunate situation in that it made a generally difficult situation worse, but I don't think it was unexpected. "I think that if something like that (Sept. 11) happened in the future, we would see it again." The biggest jump in reported hate crimes was against Muslims, the report says. In 2000, there was just one such incident reported; in 2001, there were 57. Of those, 45 were directly attributable to the terrorist attacks in the United States. "Invariably, these hate crimes were based on the suspect's perception, and the victims tended to include anyone who appeared Middle Eastern or East Indian," the report says.

    Last year, police made just 23 arrests in crimes motivated by hate. So far, eight people have been found guilty, 10 remain before the courts, and five had their charges withdrawn. All those charged were adults, in keeping with victim descriptions that suggest the majority of hate crimes are perpetrated by men older than 40. Included in the statistics were possible bio-terrorism incidents. Hogan said some cases, often phony anthrax scares, were investigated by the hate crimes unit. A special bio-terrorism section tracked 200 threats related to terrorism, the report says. Of those incidents, 79 were classified as criminal; in 19 cases, hatred was a motive, police say. No one was arrested or charged in relation to the biological threats, but a youth was investigated in one case. "He wrote a two-page apology to the victim," the report says. "The youth's age was a factor in the decision not to lay charges against him."
    ©Toronto Star

    David Irving lost the libel trial that saw him branded a racist. But, as the winners take him back to court to claim their due, Irving seems to have forgotten his defeat. It wouldn't be the first time his memory has been shown to be selective...

    On Valentine's Day David Irving offered his no doubt lonely and troubled supporters a little love story. Like all the best love stories, it seems to have been conceived when the whole wide world was fast asleep. Irving posted the tale on his website, a distinctly odd chatroom in which, typically, he converses entirely with his private obsessions, the unappealing voices in his head. He had, he suggested, the previous night, been at work until 2.30am, 'as usual', pausing only at two 'to pray quietly for the souls of the hundred thousand [sic] innocents we British burned alive at this moment in Dresden, 57 years ago', when he heard the news that Adolf Hitler's last private secretary, Traudl Junge, had died. The fact of the secretary's demise seems to have set off in Irving a sense of wistful romance. In particular, it triggered a memory of an encounter with another of the Führer's doting assistants, Christa Schröder, whom Irving met in the early Seventies, while researching his book, Hitler's War. His reminiscence, relayed with a bodice-ripper's sense of titillation and suspense, relates how Schröder once took him back to her apartment in Munich and allowed him to peep behind a curtain 'which she opened only for a few privileged friends'. Behind it hung her little gallery of photos and relics of her beloved Führer. Buoyed by this intimate recollection, Irving goes on to recall for his online audience how Schröder told him that once, while in hospital, 'A.H.' had brought her flowers: '[at this] a smile of half-remembered pleasures flickered across her face, and she added with a wistful chuckle, "He said, 'People are going to think I am visiting a secret lover!'".'

    Irving can't conceal his vicarious delight in this unconsummated passion, 'which remained a crush, at room's length, no more'. There is a payoff, too. Toward the end of her life, Schröder produced, Irving claims, a stack of 20 or 30 yellowed postcards from behind her secret curtain: 'From his bunker, Hitler told Christa to go through his private papers and destroy everything,' he writes. 'She had salvaged these postcards, sketches by A.H., as mementos: there was Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp, sketched by Adolf Hitler, and a Wandering Jew; a vast suspension bridge he was planning to build after the war... and a deft pencil self-portrait...' For some reason, Schröder wanted Irving to have one of the cards and 'of course' he chose the self-portrait. She wondered if she should sign it to authenticate it, but Irving, never much of a stickler for authenticity, replied, apparently, 'that she knew who drew it, and so did I, and that was good enough'. Hitler's childlike sketch of himself, in shaky profile, is thus reproduced on the website, along with a final footnote to the story. 'Later,' Irving adds, 'Christa must have regretted her kindness, and I was told she had remarked that she could have sold the postcard to pay for an expensive operation that she needed. I gave the person who conveyed this message to me an envelope with cash for Christa (in those days, before the enemy onslaught on Real History began, I was comfortably able to make such donations).' For those familiar with his work, or who followed the libel trial he brought against Penguin Books and the American academic Deborah Lipstadt at the High Court, this is all a classic piece of Irving propaganda. It mixes a sense of intimacy with the thrill of discovery; it is full of provocative detail that is impossible to verify - Hitler doodling a 'Wandering Jew'? - but which is designed to humanise the dictator in the minds of readers (and, as such, is part of Irving's somewhat thankless lifelong project). The final acceptance of the historian, he was told by Justice Gray that he had been proved 'an active Holocaust denier', that he is 'anti-Semitic' and 'racist', and that 'he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism'. At the time of this verdict, a series of cartoons appeared in newspapers picturing Irving denying that the trial, and its damning verdict, had ever actually occurred. These caricatures were, it seems, prescient. Despite having lost leave to appeal against the Penguin/Lipstadt verdict last summer, and though he still owes in the region of £2 million costs, of which, nearly two years on, not a penny has been paid, Irving insists on telling his acolytes and donors that the action against the publisher is 'ongoing'. It is one of half-a-dozen cases that Irving claims still to be involved in, and that he apparently requires funds to fight. On 5 March, Penguin will press a bankruptcy claim on him, in an attempt to recover at least a long overdue 'interim payment' of £125,000. They despair a little of ever seeing the balance. Worse, despite his defeat, Irving continues to behave as if he still has a reputation to defend, and unfortunately, this idea seems infectious. In the years before the Penguin trial, Irving attempted to bully and intimidate publishers and newspapers from criticising his work by threatening pre-emptive legal action. Even after being destroyed in court he has continued in this practice, and publishers continue to be cowed, presumably in the knowledge that even if they won a court battle with Irving, they would still, given his record of non-payment, have to foot the bill.

    The key defence witness in the Penguin trial, Richard J. Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge, spent nearly three years tracking down Irving's original sources, to prove his concerted and deliberate efforts to pervert the historical record and to bend fact to his own political ends. This paperchase, which led Evans around the libraries and research institutes of Europe, was collated in a 750-page dossier, the basis of the defence against Irving: a catalogue of instances of his deliberate mistranslation and selective quotation that proved beyond any doubt the assertion that Irving's historical method was directed, as his detractors claimed, by his obsessive mission to rehabilitate' Hitler. In the weeks after the trial, Evans turned this dossier, and his astute reflections on the case and its implications, into a compelling book, Lying About Hitler, one of the most exhaustive and important pieces of scholarly investigation in modern times. The book immediately found a publisher in America, won dazzling reviews and sold 10,000 hardback copies. Nearly two years on, however, it remains unpublished in Britain, and, though it can be ordered from Amazon, Irving continues to use the anomalies of the British libel laws - which place the burden of proof on the defendant rather than the litigant - to keep it from bookshops. Evans's manuscript was first bought by Heinemann, part of the Random House conglomerate, who despite describing it in their blurb as 'a major contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust', opted to pulp it, apparently after receiving threats of writs from the already discredited Irving. Other publishers - with the notable exception of Granta Books, who were happy to accept the negligible risk but could not reach an agreement with Evans for other books - have refused to touch it, even though lawyers are offering to defend the book pro bono, and despite the fact it contains little that was not in the High Court judgment. Evans's experience was not unique. In terms similar to those Jeffrey Archer or Robert Maxwell were apt to use, Irving also wrote to potential publishers of the American academic John Lukacs's book The Hitler of History, which contained a devastating attack on his methods, telling them: 'A major British Sunday newspaper [the Sunday Times ] was [once] obliged to pay me very substantial damages for similar libels... I put you, and through your agency any such publisher, herewith on not Penguin, still £2 million out of pocket in legal fees, and Evans without a publisher prepared to touch his inspired and watertight research, it would be hard to dispute Irving's own verdict. Particularly as he continues to divide his time between his country house and his Mayfair flat, when the donations keep coming in for his self-inflicted 'freedom fight', and while he keeps on peddling his prejudices to all those disturbed enough to listen. And, of course, in Irving's mind, he is not finished yet. The pattern of his writs , increasingly desperate over his career, is that he has always sought to silence those who he believes can damage him most. In this sense, the Lipstadt suit was a prelude to an assault on his most long-standing adversary, the indefatigable journalist Gitta Sereny, now 76, who he is suing along with The Observer, where her article about him and others with a 'kind of obsession for the Third Reich' appeared in 1996. In advance of the Penguin/Lipstadt case coming to court, The Observer sought, with Sereny, to fight Irving's claims that the article had libelled him. To date, in preparing an initial defence for this case, which covers much of the same ground as the Penguin trial - how Irving has deliberately falsified historical record - this newspaper has had to spend £800,000 in legal fees. To apply to have the case struck off, because the allegations have already been heard and proven, would, with the prospect of a counter appeal by Irving, cost a further £50,000. In theory, The Observer might, if this application was successful, claim costs against Irving, (who, by defending himself, incurs none), but it would have to stand in line with Penguin and others, with little hope of receiving a penny. Sereny, speaking from Vienna, believes that for Irving to continue to pursue the case would 'of course be a monumental waste of everyone's, particularly the court's, time and money', but she is aware that this has not stopped him in the past, and that his animosity towards her runs deep. In part, this animosity seems to be a result of her gender. It is no coincidence that the two major suits Irving has brought have both been against women, who he believes, have been put on earth to bear men's children: 'They haven't got the capacity to produce something creative themselves...' He reserves a particular loathing for Sereny, however, because he knows she beats him at his own game. Like him (and, as he says, 'like Tacitus, like Thucydides, and like Pliny'), Sereny is not a professional historian, in that she does not have a history degree and is not attached to a university.

    For a long time, Irving used his streetwise independence to dazzle career academics with the arcane quality of his research. He could unearth the unlikeliest documents to support his claims. Even Sereny was initially impressed by his methods - 'He's so good at cross-searching,' she once observed. 'Take the Kommissarbefehl [the order to kill captured Soviet party cadres]. He would go in 12 different directions; he would check through what everyone was doing on the day it was issued, on who Hitler saw or phoned that day and where.' Even so, she was deeply suspicious of his findings and she had the skill and courage to deconstruct them. The pair's direct history goes back to 1977, when Sereny took it upon herself to examine the sources of Hitler's War. In doing so, she tracked down the document that up till then perhaps most embarrassed Irving. In support of his contention that Hitler knew nothing of the Final Solution, Irving had dwelt on a diary note he had discovered written by Ribbentrop in his prison cell about Hitler. The note read: 'How things came to the destruction of the Jews I just don't know, but that he ordered it I refuse to believe, because such an act would be wholly incompatible with the picture I always had of him.' The quotation seemed a direct support of Irving's fiction of Hitler's 'innocence'. However, when Sereny dug through the obscure archive and found the original source, she discovered that Ribbentrop w derived from the fact that he was 'actually very short of self-esteem,' and suffered great feelings of 'inferiority' which made him 'far more anxious about who [he was] and far more in need of kicking everyone and trying to make a big fuss and being the centre of attention than [he] actually realised'.

    In a profile for the New Yorker, Ian Buruma argued that Irving's insecurity was rooted in class, and 'a very English sense of feeling excluded'. D.D. Guttenplan's wonderful book The Holocaust on Trial traces this sense of betrayal back to Irving's dull childhood in Ongar, Essex, where he grew up in thrall to the Boy's Own exploits of his family in the colonies: 'A maternal uncle was in the Bengal Lancers. A great-great-uncle on his father's side followed Livingstone to Africa... where he was supposedly eaten by his bearer.' More telling, perhaps, was the story of Irving's father, whose ship, HMS Edinburgh, was torpedoed in the war. He survived, but he did not return home to his wife and young son, and Irving subsequently saw him only twice more. He was, instead, set adrift at a minor public school where he was beaten for his attention-seeking. ('It never,' he claims, somewhat contentiously, on his website, when describing a bizarre trip this year to his alma mater to discuss Goebbels with the senior boys, 'did me any harm.') It might not take too much in the way of amateur psychology to see how Irving's hurt at his absent father might have become so obliquely directed at the global events which took him away. Certainly it made him a sort of second-hand adventurer, forever playing up his schoolboy exploits behind enemy lines.

    What no doubt unnerves him about Sereny is that she had no need for these kinds of self-publicising thrills. While Irving was still playing pranks - unfurling a hammer and sickle over the main entrance, asking for Mein Kampf as a prize on speech day - at his stifling suburban school (also the alma mater of Noel Edmonds, and of Jack Straw), Sereny, a Hungarian national, was receiving an education of a far more telling kind. When war broke out, she was a teenager studying in Paris; she volunteered as an auxiliary nurse during the Occupation, working with a Catholic charity. In 1945, she joined the United Nations Relief administration, to work as a child welfare officer in camps for displaced persons in southern Germany. There, she cared for children liberated from Dachau, and had the task of tracing 'racially valuable' children kidnapped from Polish families and given to childless German ones. Her experiences of this horror never left her and informed every sentence of her extraordinary and unflinching investigations into the psychology of the Nazis: in particular her two masterpieces, Into That Darkness, a portrait of Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, and her life of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. Sereny's first-hand experiences of the atrocities provided her, too, with the moral certainty that Irving has long sought to undermine. 'We use the same sources,' she said at the time of Irving's original writ. 'I know many of the same people as he does who were of Hitler's circle. That is scary for him. He says we jostle at the same trough. The difference is that he loves that trough, and I don't... There is, I think, [for him] despair in all of this.' In a famous passage from The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi remembered the words of a guard at Auschwitz: 'Even if someone were to survive, the world would not believe him. There will be perhaps suspicions, discussions, research by historians, but there will be no certainties, because we will destroy the evidence together with you.' The crucial importance of the work of Evans, Sereny and Lipstadt has been to try eliminate those 'suspicions and discussions' that Irving, as the most visible Holocaust denier, has been so keen to propagate. In trying to cast doubt on the biggest certainties of the Final Solution - that it was a wilful, industrial programme of genocide, dictated by Hitler; that around six million died; that t Observer article concerned itself with a kind of obsession: 'The curious and, in some cases, I think, sad passion about Hitler and his Third Reich which has ruled and continues to rule the lives of a considerable number of people who write or inspire books.' This kind of passion, of course, will not go away or be easily defeated. Still, one of the saddest ironies of the outcome of the Penguin case is that Britain's libel laws seem, in effect, not only to favour poststructuralists - Evans's book still, in this country at least, 'does not exist' - but also to help further the cause of those, like Irving, who can't bear to hear the truth about themselves.
    ©The Observer

    Shalom Temim, who lives in this modern, soulless-looking suburb of Paris where the government has built row upon row of subsidized high-rises, knows that he is the only Jew in his housing block on the rue Delorme. So he does not doubt that the graffiti spray-painted in his stairwell - "Vive Hezbollah" and "Dirty Jew" - are directed at him. Nor is it the only sign of the hostility that surrounds him in this predominately Arab neighborhood. Six months ago a rock crashed through his living-room window, and after it, a smoky firecracker. On a recent morning, fresh spit was visible on his front door. "I have lived here for 32 years," Temim said. "All this is new. It was never like this before. And it seems like the public authorities are downplaying everything, which is of course very worrying." He is not alone in feeling this way.

    For nearly a decade, anti-Semitic violence in France had become fairly rare. But for more than a year the country has witnessed a wave of attacks on Jews. Increasingly, Jewish leaders are speaking out, challenging government statistics that they say minimize the problem and criticizing public officials who they say fail to denounce the mounting threats, insults and assaults directed at French Jews. Part of the current problem, they say, is that the attacks are no longer coming just from skinheads and other supporters of the far right as in the past. These days the assailants are often Arabs, who occupy the lowest echelons of this society. The increase in incidents has corresponded to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. Most often the attacks occur in Paris suburbs like this one, where poor and working-class Jews and Muslims live side by side in bleak housing projects.

    "Today's incidents are linked to some very real social problems in France, where many Arabs who are having a hard time or who are frustrated with what is going on in Palestine are taking it out on Jews," said Shimon Samuels, co-author of a recent report for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris. "The fact that the government is not willing to acknowledge this is a very big problem," he said. "People are scared." The Jewish leaders see a political component in the lack of outcry over the new wave of violence against Jews. More than 5 million Muslims - many of them from Algeria or other former French colonies in North Africa - live in France today, compared with 600,000 Jews. "It is clear that the Muslim community is more taken into account," the chief rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, said in a recent interview. But some Muslim leaders suggest that the extent of the problem may be exaggerated, and they worry that too much publicity about it will only incite more trouble. "I hear all this talk," said Said Kamli, director of the mosque in Amiens, a town north of Paris with large Arab and Jewish populations. "But I do not feel this all around me. If there are really big numbers, then of course we must sound the bell of alarm. "But my fear is that the problem will grow bigger if there is too much talk about it. The kids will start hearing that kids in another town are doing these things, and they'll start doing it, too."

    In a lengthy article on the subject in Le Monde, many young Arabs in the Paris suburbs dismissed notions that they would attack local Jewish institutions because of their feelings about the Middle East. But several of the youths quoted did complain about what they saw as preferential treatment of Jews in French society. One youth said that synagogues were visible, stand-alone buildings, while mosques were typically hidden away in basement suites. "The Jews," said another, "are always the victims, and it is always the Arabs who are always getting pushed around, over there and here." So far there have not been any deaths in anti-Semitic attacks in France.

    The French government has acknowledged a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents s window with a tire iron while another menaced the driver with a gun, telling him he was not in Tel Aviv. Recently, rocks were hurled at the windows, smashing one of them. "I keep trying to tell the kids it's nothing," said the bus driver, Saadoun Hanoufa. "But of course they are scared. No one wants to live like this."

    The French authorities, including President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, have made statements deploring the trend - but not often and not loudly. Some Jewish leaders contend that both men were far more outspoken in warning against considering all Muslims as terrorists in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Within intellectual circles a debate is raging about whether too much is being made of the attacks. In an article in Le Monde under the headline "We Are Not Victims," two prominent figures, Jean-Christophe Attias and Esther Benbassathat, argued that Jews in France, in comparison to Arabs, suffered no ostracism. Nor were recent attacks nearly as serious as the problems Jews suffered in the 1930s and 1940s, they wrote. But in the suburbs of Paris, Jewish residents, most of whom have immigrated from North Africa, say they feel a need to protect themselves. After several incidents, including a fire set in a closet in the rabbi's office, the synagogue in Garges-les-Gonesse installed new steel fencing all around the property. For Temim, who was born in Tunisia and has always lived among Arabs, these are particularly sad days. "There used to be a certain respect for each other," he said. "But the younger generation doesn't have it. They have grown up with cable TV from the Arab world. They have been radicalized."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The federation government of Bosnia has approved draft amendments to the federation constitution to give equal rights and status to the three main ethnic groups. The amendments have been referred to both houses of the federation parliament for consideration. Under the draft provisions, the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian languages would be given official and equal status. Cyrillic and Latin would be the country's official alphabets. The government proposed that the 140 deputies in the House of Representatives should be reduced to 98, while the House of Peoples would share 51 deputies equally. It is envisaged that the federation presidency would also have two vice-presidents from different ethnic groups, which would rotate during their mandate. Equal representation in the Bosnian judiciary was also proposed. The agreement follows the failure of constitutional talks yesterday between the ethnic groups and the international high representative. Reforms must be in place by mid-March, to allow elections to take place later this year.
    ©BBC News

    By William Pfaff, Los Angeles Times Syndicate International

    Elections coming up

    The prospect that Western Europe may swing toward the political right this spring offers little promise of reducing tension between Washington and the West Europeans over the way America is running the war on terrorism. Conservatives have a chance of replacing socialist governments this year in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Portugal. Germany and France are the swing countries. The Netherlands has always been unshakably Atlanticist.

    Edmund Stoiber, the most prominent conservative candidate, enjoys the advantage of governing prosperous, progressive, innovative Bavaria, home to Germany's highest-technology industries and its most dynamic economy. He simultaneously has the disadvantage of governing inward-looking, complacent, conservative, Catholic Bavaria, which is not much liked by other Germans. He is caricatured for his lederhosen and regional speech. His hostility to liberalization of immigration makes enemies not only on the left but in a crucial segment of the right, since industry likes immigration, which weakens unions. He thus far has failed to put himself over as a national politician, challenging Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who is in difficulty because of Germany's poor economic performance. But the Bavarian leader has been falling in the polls since announcing his candidature in January. He supports the idea of an American attack on Iraq. It is not so sure that the Germans do. The persistent controversy in Germany over the war in Afghanistan suggests otherwise.

    France is approaching elections that present shopworn candidates, on the scene for a quarter-century. Jacques Chirac, who wants re-election as president, has ruthlessly ruled the right since betraying then president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the second round of the 1981 election, keeping his followers at home and throwing the election to Socialist François Mitterrand. Since then he has cut down every conservative who might have challenged him, while managing through self-defeating manipulations to spend most of his career as prime minister and president in sterile "cohabitations" with the left, corrupting the political morality of France. Thanks to the party financing scandals that trail him, he has become, like Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, a faintly disreputable figure on the European right. His rival, the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, has been on the scene nearly as long. While he is grudgingly respected, he has worn out his popular welcome. His scandal is the revelation that he entered the Socialist Party as a Trotskyist agent, intent on secretly influencing the party. He has never offered the Socialists, or the French electorate, an intellectually serious clarification of his beliefs then or now. Chirac's re-election offers no closer alliance with the United States than now exists. Possibly it offers less of one, since the present government's foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, notorious in the United States for having called the United States a "hyperpower" and President George W. Bush's recent policy statements "simplistic" (both perfectly accurate comments), is actually more realistic about getting along with Washington than some on the French right. Chirac, after all, comes out of the Gaullist tradition.

    Washington's firmest ally has been on the left - Tony Blair, in command of a British Labour government with years of power before it.

    Berlusconi is also firmly in power in Italy. He would like to become America's other best friend in Europe, but because of the scandals that have shadowed his career he swings little weight outside Italy. He is a Washington friend more likely to embarrass than to strengthen America in European Union popular opinion. He nonetheless is currently very popular at home, and wants to lead Italy, Spain and Britain in a common work and will not run again for Parliament. The contrast with what is happening in France, Italy and Britain is edifying.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Interior Minister Ivan `imko has said racism will not be tolerated in the police force. Reacting to comments from a senior police officer in defence of a policeman who allegedly asked a Roma journalist for a "hygiene certificate", `imko blasted racism in the force February 14. "I will not tolerate racism in the police force, nor any disrespect towards the public. We must investigate every case where there are such suspicions," he said. `imko is set for a showdown with Preaov regional police chief Jozef Vojdula after he gave his backing to a police officer from the village of Jarovnice who allegedly made racist remarks to a Roma. The officer, not named by police, on February 8 allegedly refused to shake hands with Roma journalist Denisa Havrl'ová of the Romano l'il nevo newspaper. He then asked her for a document establishing her medical health. Havrl'ová has said the officer displayed obvious "racist conduct", and is demanding his immediate dismissal from the force. "It's not possible that a guardian of the law, who is supposed to ensure the protection of rights, can humiliate citizens in a racist way," she said.

    Vojdula issued a statement February 12 in which he said all police officers are obliged to protect their health while carrying out their duties, and that no police force rules dictate that an officer must shake hands with someone. He added he saw no reason to sack the officer until receiving the results of an internal investigation into the allegations. "According to preliminary investigations of the actions of the policeman while on duty I have not found any evidence of a serious violation of the code of conduct which would require his immediate dismissal from the police force. "I have decided to wait for the results of the investigating bodies, and on the basis of their findings to judge the degree of his guilt and to what extent his actions endangered society." Vojdula also said the officer involved had laid charges against Havrl'ová for attacking a public official.

    `imko said he was "surprised" and "disappointed" by Vojdula's reaction. He refused to rule out dismissing the policeman. "I will be going to Preaov for a serious discussion with Vojdula," he said. Havrl'ová allegations are not the first levelled against the Jarovnice police. In March, the Koaice Office of Legal Protection for Roma lodged a complaint over what it maintained was the racist conduct of police from the village. The organisation called on police inspectors to check on suspected police brutality and racist conduct during a police operation in nearby Hermanovce. The results have not yet been made public. Following the latest allegation the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Issues, Klára Orgovánová, said police regularly treated Roma without respect, and attacked the alleged conduct of the Jarovnice officer as "completely inappropriate". She added: "This case is only a drop in an ocean of similar incidents."

    Police conduct towards the Roma has been criticised on many occasions, not just by Roma and human rights groups in Slovakia but also by international bodies, such as Amnesty International and the European Commission. The EC demanded a full inquiry into the June 2001 beating of three Roma in police custody in the east Slovak town of Revúca. The Roma were allegedly beaten by police after being tied to a steel bar at the local police station. One man died as a result of the beating. Following an investigation charges of causing death by torture were later laid against seven officers. `imko's reaction to the Jarovnice case has been welcomed by local human rights groups, however. Ladislav Ïurkoviè, coordinator of People Against Racism, said: "We are very happy that the minister has said something. Until now he has said nothing about such things and we are pleased that he seems to be taking action. "We know a lot of police are racist, and if this policeman is dis ©The Slovak Spectator

    The Russian government's plan was to normalize the situation in Chechnya by 2001: with most troops withdrawn and most internally displaced persons expected to return to their homes. The events of three weeks in late June and early July 2001 shattered these hopes and painfully illustrated just how far removed Chechnya remained from lasting peace. Between June 15 and July 4, Russian troops conducted exceptionally harsh sweep operations in at least six villages in different parts of Chechnya. Troops rounded up several thousand Chechens, mostly without any form of due process, and took them to temporary military bases in or near the villages. According to eyewitnesses, soldiers extrajudicially executed at least eleven detainees, and at least two detainees "disappeared" in detention. Human Rights Watch interviewed twelve former detainees who gave detailed testimony of torture and ill-treatment, including electric shock, severe beatings, and being forced to remain in "stress positions." They said independently that dozens, if not hundreds, of other detainees had also faced torture and ill-treatment. Eyewitnesses also gave testimony about widespread extortion, looting, and destruction of civilian property.

    The sweep operations-a culmination of over a year of official tolerance of "dirty war" tactics in Chechnya-further eroded what little trust Chechen civilians retained in Russian troops and government structures, and underscored once again that a return to normal life and lasting peace in Chechnya is only possible if the Russian government takes effective steps to reign in its troops and remedy abuses. Hundreds of people fled border areas into Ingushetia in the aftermath of the sweeps and thousands of internally displaced persons already in Ingushetia were strengthened in their conviction that Russian troops made their safe return home to Chechnya impossible. Local officials, teachers, and other Chechens striving to return to a semblance of normalcy saw their efforts grossly undermined. As a teacher from Assinovskaia put it:
    Our school held on due to the efforts of the teachers, the students, and their parents. They worked, despite the real dangers. We received anonymous threats demanding that we close the school. Our wounds, caused by two wars, only just started to heal because we were thinking about the future. How are we going to restore the lost trust?

    The sweeps, however, did not come out of the blue. They occurred against the background of a highly volatile security situation and continuing serious abuses by both sides to the conflict. Between November 2000 and April 2001, Chechen rebel forces operated throughout Chechnya, clashing with federal troops, carrying out bomb attacks on federal positions, assassinating Chechens seen as cooperating with the Russian government, and kidnapping a foreign aid worker in broad daylight. Russian forces responded to this rebel activity with the occasional use of heavy weaponry and frequent large-scale, targeted sweep operations, during which numerous civilians were killed, tortured, ill-treated and disappeared."

    To address the persistent cycle of abuse, Human Rights Watch is calling on the Russian government to investigate promptly and impartially all allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the sweep operations and to swiftly prosecute those found responsible. The government should fulfill the requirements of U.N. Human Rights Commission Resolution 2001/24 of April 20, 2001, by establishing an independent national commission of inquiry into abuses and by allowing relevant U.N. special mechanisms to visit Chechnya. The government should prevent further violations by undertaking a number of measures. It should, for example, put all forces in Chechnya on notice that noncompliance w obligations for an effective accountability process.
    From the HRW report on Chechnya

    ©Human Rights Watch

    Fewer than 20,000 failed asylum seekers have been removed from the country over the last two years although more than 150,000 applicants have been refused, official figures showed yesterday. Although the number ejected was higher last year than in 2000, the statistics suggested that the Home Office will be hard pressed to achieve its target of 30,000 removals over 12 months. More than 70,000 principal applicants - 88,000 when dependants are added - claimed asylum last year, an 11 per cent fall on the record 80,000 total - 98,000 including dependants - for 2000. In the two years since asylum reforms came into effect with the aim of cutting the number of "economic migrants" seeking political refugee status, there have been 50,000 more applications than in the previous two years. The annual figures for 2001 showed that 118,000 initial decisions were taken during the year and 80,000 were refused after all procedures had been exhausted. The previous year, around 70,000 applicants were rejected.Yet only 18,200 of those who have been turned down over the two-year period have been removed. The figure is well below the Home Office's pledge to remove 2,500 failed asylum seekers each month.

    Britain has the highest number of applicants in western Europe, where nearly 400,000 claims were lodged last year. But while applications to Britain declined, those in Austria, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Germany increased. Lord Rooker, the immigration minister at the Home Office said he was pleased with the fall. "This is all the more encouraging when it is set against the rise in other European countries," he added "We are sending the message that, whilst Britain is not a fortress, neither is our country open to abuse." Lord Rooker said the slight increase in the number of removals of failed applicants last year was a "solid foundation" towards achieving the Government's target. However, Oliver Letwin, the shadow home secretary, said: "The figures may be down, but they are still much too high. Britain remains the asylum capital of Europe and our asylum system is in chaos." Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "These figures should kill off the notion that the UK is somehow uniquely affected by asylum applications. "It is urgent that Government ensures that there is a system in place which efficiently and fairly processes application. There are still 40,000 asylum cases outstanding, and worryingly high numbers of applications are still rejected on technical grounds." Afghanis continue to lead the table of nationalities from which most claims derive. In the last quarter of 2001, Afghan nationals made up the largest number of applicants (2,280), followed by Iraqis (1,835) and Sri Lankans (1,425). The number of applications from Zimbabwean nationals increased 61 per cent to 775, reflecting the country's growing instability. EU ministers yesterday agreed final details of the Eurodac system, which will record the fingerprints of asylum seekers across Europe.
    ©Daily Telegraph

    The Italian Senate Thursday endorsed Premier Silvio Berlusconi's crackdown on immigration, approving a bill that would send some illegal migrants to jail for up to one year. If the measure is also approved by the Chamber of Deputies, the new law will allow only those immigrants who can prove they have a job waiting to win permission to live in Italy. The bill also calls for Italian navy vessels to patrol the country's porous coastline. Berlusconi's immigration policies have drawn opposition protest. In January, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in Rome against them. Livia Turco, who drafted the immigration law under the previous, center-left government, said the new measures harm Italy's "economy, families and companies," while also showing a "hostile face" to immigrants. The bill was approved by the conservative majority in the Senate by 153 votes to 96, with two abstentions. The law also requires employers who hire immigrants to find them a place to stay and pay for their return ticket when their job are over. Legal immigrants would be allowed to bring only a limited number of relatives to Italy: children, spouses and parents. The new legislation calls for the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants. It would also allow authorities to put them in jail for up to one year if they are found back on the Italian soil after having already been expelled once. Currently, illegal immigrants are repatriated to their home countries, usually after a stay in a detention center. Most immigrants here take jobs many Italians are reluctant to do, including washing dishes in restaurants, picking crops and cleaning houses and offices. Italy has a negative birth rate and a shrinking work force and many experts say it needs immigrants to keep its economy going.
    ©Associated Press

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