APARTHEID TRIALS 'TOO COSTLY' (S.Africa)
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to hand over its delayed final report on political crimes committed during the apartheid era to South Africa's head of state. However, TRC Chairman Desmond Tutu says he does not believe the state can afford to prosecute those who were not given an amnesty. The commission gathered the testimonies of 21,000 people from 1996 to 1998. It granted amnesty to 1,200 people, but turned down more than 5,000 applications. Many of the offenders worked for the white nationalist government. "There are very many, I agree, who should have applied for amnesty and who didn't," he told AFP news agency. But he said that if they were charged, "the burden on our system would be quite intolerable... and the cost astronomical."

Cases
A prominent case that did go to court was that of germ warfare expert Wouter Basson - dubbed "Dr Death" in South Africa - who did not seek forgiveness at the TRC. But he was released in April last year after a two-year trial costing the state $4m, when a judge found that the state had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty of 46 charges including murder, fraud and drug-dealing. The South African Government have set up a special unit to investigate human rights abuses during the apartheid era, committed by both those who were not granted amnesty and those who did not apply. But any future investigations are hampered by the fact that they cannot use testimonies already presented to the TRC.

Delays
The final TRC report was delayed by legal challenges, including one from the mainly-Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party over passages on political clashes that left nearly 12,000 people dead. One of the Commission's key members, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, told the BBC's Network Africa that some of the truths brought before the body had been sanitised by both the security forces and the liberation movements of South Africa. And he added that the Commission had failed to narrow the gap between the rich, whom he described as including mainly whites, and the poor, whom he portrayed as blacks. Archbishop Tutu, who is presently working at the University of North Florida, has returned home to hand over the last volumes of the report to President Thabo Mbeki. He said there was some solace to be found, even if perpetrators are not prosecuted. "This is a moral universe. You may walk as if you were free, but there is no doubt whatsoever you are going to have a trial living with yourself," he said.
©BBC News

RACIST THREATS TO MPs (Bulgaria)
The end of last week at least five MPs from the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) received threatening phone calls and messages on their mobile phones. Among those threatened were Stanimir Ilchev, Vessela Draganova, Yuliana Doncheva, Milena Milotinova and Nina Chilova. Doncheva said a male voice threatened that she or someone from her family would die unless she resigned from Parliament. The man identified himself as a member of an organisation that Doncheva was unaware of. "The caller's number showed on my mobile phone and I still have it," she said. Parliamentary Speaker Ognyan Gerdjikov said that in his opinion, the threats were racially based as all of those threatened were Jewish or of Jewish origin. "There was a similar thing last year around Holocaust Day," he said.

Milotinova said she was told that her face would be splashed with acid unless she withdrew the draft of the new media bill from Parliament. "I do not think the threats are racially based as I am not Jewish," she said. Chilova, however, said the caller dubbed her "Jewish bitch". She also said he threatened to kill her unless she left the country within ten days. Ilchev was called "American Jewish agent" by the caller and was also threatened with death. The five MPs said they did not feel worried by the threats. Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said that they were a prank rather than serious threats. "It was probably some mentally ill person or a psychopath who called the MPs," he concluded. Ilchev said that this was probably the act of someone who wanted to see himself in the newspapers.
©Sofia Echo

SEXUAL HARASSMENT: AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE
Sexual harassment is a problem people face in practically every part of the world. About 85 percent of such cases involve women who are harassed by their superiors or, less frequently, by colleagues on the same or lower position.

Coinciding with International Women's Day, South African Ambassador Sikose Mji organized a seminar entitled Sexual Harassment: International Perspective in Warsaw March 10. The seminar was designed to encourage an exchange of opinion on sexual harassment. It attracted nearly 40 women representing diplomatic missions of countries in which the problem has already been thoroughly discussed, accompanied by representatives of the Polish government and nongovernmental organizations, journalists and women involved in scientific work. Mji opened the conference by emphasizing that the main purpose of the seminar was to attempt to define the problem as precisely as possible. "We live at different latitudes but the problems afflicting us are the same everywhere," said Mji in welcoming participants.

Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, Polish government commissioner for equal treatment of the sexes, presented the scope of interests and activity of her office and briefly discussed the frequency and scope of sexual harassment in Poland. According to Jaruga-Nowacka, the relatively low number of reported cases of harassment stems from the specific mentality of Polish women. Women in Poland underestimate improper behavior on the part of their coworkers and assume that it not worth the hassle. On the other hand, they are paralyzed by false shame and fear of the reaction of others in the workplace and at home. This is the wrong way to perceive the problem since, as Jaruga-Nowacka emphasized, "sexual harassment is not only the victim's private matter."

The first part of the discussion was chaired by Ewa Hancock, the Women's Voice editor, and the second by Prof. Renata Siemienska, a sociologist from Warsaw University. The program included a discussion of procedures countering sexual harassment in state offices in South Africa, presented by ambassador Mji, an analysis of the behavior of actual and imagined victims of harassment, conducted by Sladjana Pantelic from the Dutch Embassy, and a speech by Magdalena Nelken-Zbik, representative of the Women's Rights Center in Warsaw. However, the seminar also encouraged participants to engage in a lively discussion. Polish women at the seminar complained that Poland lacked a precise definition of behaviors that could be qualified as sexual harassment. They also mentioned the language difficulties encountered when trying to translate the term into Polish.

Participants concluded that Polish women failed to react to sexual harassment because of a lack of proper and effective legal regulations and the fear of losing their job. According to Nelken-Zbik, in order to change this situation, some women will have to throw their own good name onto the scale and risk rejection by their colleagues. Only then will it be possible to convince the public that women are not responsible for the improper behavior of men around them and that they are the victims. An issue that remained unresolved after the discussion ended was the establishment of a list of behaviors that could be defined as sexual harassment, since every woman has to estimate the seriousness of the situation herself. One of the criteria used in such situation is whether the given behavior, commentary or joke meets with acceptance or whether it makes the person concerned embarrassed and causes his or her discomfort. For one woman, sexual harassment may be constant repetition of lewd jokes and for another the boss's persistent fawning with implied sexual innuendo.
©The Warsaw Voice

SPRING FITTING TIME TO REKINDLE FIGHT AGAINST RACISM(Canada)
By Doug Cuthand

March 21 may be the first day of spring but it has a far greater significance for me. March 21 is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The origins of this day are tragic and should never be forgotten because they represent the evil of racism. On March 21, 1960, about 5,000 unarmed black South Africans marched on a police station in the town of Sharpeville. They were protesting the despised pass law which required all black South Africans to carry a pass that gave their address and identification. By law, they were segregated from the minority white population. "Apartheid" or "living apart" was the official racial policy of South Africa. The police reacted swiftly to the demonstration and opened fire, killing 69 and wounding another 180. This act of treachery and cowardice became the watershed for the long battle against racism that was to follow. South Africa is now a multiracial country, but racial discrimination has not been eliminated. The economic disparities still exist and services for the poor are still substandard.

In Canada, racism has been declared illegal and our rights are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But, before we get too smug and claim moral superiority, we have to examine our own past. Canada has a long history of racism against non-white immigrants and aboriginal people. The Chinese immigrants were largely male and employed in the construction of the railway. When they raised enough money to bring in their families, they were charged a head tax. To bring a Chinese person into the country, they had to pay an additional tax. No other group of immigrants was penalized in the same manner. In 1912, the Saskatchewan government made it illegal for a Chinese Canadian to employ white women. In Moose Jaw, Quong Wing was fined $5 for employing two white women in his restaurant. He refused to pay and took the case to the Supreme Court, where he lost.

War brings out the worst in governments as paranoia and hatred take over from common sense. During the First World War, members of the Ukrainian community were placed in holding camps because they were felt to be a security risk. And of course there was the shameful treatment of the Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Most of the Japanese community lived on the West Coast where the people had fishing boats or worked in the fish canneries. They lost their property, including homes and boats. They were sent to the interior and interned in camps until the end of the war. Today, Japanese Canadians are scattered throughout Canada. The once-thriving communities on the West Coast are no more. Of course, our own stories are a part of Canada's shameful past. Boarding schools, repressive Indian agents and legislation that forbade freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom to organize politically are all part of the historical record.

Today, First Nations people are a rapidly growing group within Canadian society, particularly in the West. Our challenge for the future is going to be how we can live together in harmony and mutual benefit. Racism hurts all parties. It retards development, creates depression and uses up misplaced energy. We need to understand and learn from each other. March 21 is also the first day of spring. This is an important day in the First Nations calendar. The coming of spring marks a completion of the circle of life. This is when the south wind, Sawin, returns to heal the land from the ravages of Kewatin, the north wind. In First Nations mythology, the four directions were brothers who went to the four corners of the world. Kewatin went north and Sawin went south. However, they didn't get along and they fought each other. Sometimes, Kewatin would push south and send Sawin away. Later, Sawin would return and push Kewatin back t © The StarPhoenix

NATIONALISTS CELEBRATE FIRST SLOVAK STATE
Small crowds of people gathered in various Slovak cities on March 14 to celebrate what many see as a controversial day in the history of the central European nation - the founding of an independent Slovak state 64 years ago. In Bratislava, primarily senior citizens and young men with shaved heads wearing bomber jackets and heavy boots gathered at the Martinský cemetery at the grave of Jozef Tiso, Slovakia's president during the second world war, and in front of the Presidential Palace.

Between 1939 and 1945, Slovakia served as a puppet state to fascist Germany. About 70,000 Jews were deported to death camps from Slovakia during that period. Supporters of the Tiso regime to this day celebrate the short period of the first independent Slovak state. No violent outbreaks were reported this year. About 80 people gathered in Bratislava to celebrate the anniversary, while about 30 people participated at a similar meeting in Nitra in western Slovakia. Dozens of young men in skinhead attire were reported to have marched the streets of another western Slovak city, Prievidza, carrying the Slovak national flag. Meanwhile, the local NGO People Against Racism organised a counter-protest, carrying posters that said: "The Slovak state was a fascist state" and "Apologies that our children did not come to school today, but the streets are full of neo-nazis".
©The Slovak Spectator

NEW LEADER, NEW EXTREMISTS, NEW STRUGGLES(uk)
By Jackie Ashley

If Trevor Phillips ever wonders, deep down, whether the commission for racial equality is really needed, then each day when he arrives for work he only has to glance at its doorway. The CRE's London headquarters have moved to a glass-fronted office in Borough High Street. Inside, Phillips's office is very nice, with cut flowers and grapes in a large bowl. From the outside, though, it's anonymous and easy to miss because the metal sign advertising the commission's existence has been vandalised so often that it has been removed. People out there really hate the CRE.

In the short term, a fresh wave of hatred has been directed at Muslims and is being returned by a small group of extremist Muslims who abhor western culture. The Iraq war is being felt on the streets of multicultural Britain and the subject is unavoidable. Phillips, with a long record of headline-making, has a tough message for the Islamophobes: Britain is going to become more Muslim, not less, and you had better come to terms with it. He is, however, coy about his own attitude to the war. The most he will say is that he wishes we weren't in this position. My impression is that he is very reluctantly in favour, but does not want to say more because he knows that the CRE's task of dealing with the consequences and fall-out from the Iraq crisis is difficult enough already. "The nation is clearly divided," he says, but he doesn't expect a crisis at home while the war continues because "the leaders of the Muslim community - I mean the real leaders, not the idiots who parade in front of the cameras at Finsbury Park - are dealing with this in a really very dignified way".

However, when the "hot war" is over, Phillips expects two things to happen. First, extremists such as the British National party, who are fielding local election candidates across new swaths of southern England, "will make, as they ever do, a sort of blanket attack on all Muslims" so that even the moderate leaders are painted as threatening. Second, though, "I think some of the extremists within the Muslim community essentially want to win a battle, particularly for young Muslims, and persuade them that being a Muslim is incompatible with being British. They will try to make this war an excuse for saying that you must cling to a faith, that you can't have anything to do with trying to integrate with your neighbours."

I get a strong sense that, while Phillips sees the BNP as an old enemy, relatively easy to confront intellectually, he is thinking harder about the Muslim extremists who, he adds, are now trying to tell their fellow believers that "we can only depend on ourselves because western governments will always want to attack us Muslims. I think that's where we are really going to have our struggle." His task, he says, will be to strengthen the moderate Muslims who are against the war but think they can express that "as part of the British polity" against those who want to divide communities. So how does he propose to do this? Phillips starts by trying to define the extremists. Al-Qaida, he points out, is largely made up of Saudis - "by and large rich Saudis who were educated in the west, so all of the arguments that say this is about fighting poverty, I never believe. "These are people who hate the idea of modernising Islamic states and the thing that is at the heart of it, you could characterise it very simply: they do not want their daughters to watch MTV. They hate that idea because they've been to the west; they think we're corrupt."

The extremists will use any problems, such as high unemployment or discrimination, to persuade Muslims "that their real problem is contact, and mixing with modern societies; and that really what they should do is to go back to this medieval - not fundamentalist, medieval - version of Islam. And the problem tha the fundamental point is that we need to make the phrase 'British Muslim' credible. We need to give it content." The task, he says, is to make the idea of a British Muslim as credible as the British Jew.

Accommodation
He has no clear definition yet, he says, of what the typical British Muslim will be, how profound questions about the role of women, for instance, will be settled: "But I think for the vast bulk of them, they want to find an answer, they want to find an accommodation, because most people who come to Britain come here because they like what it stands for, and they want to fit in with it." Analysing immigration, he concludes Britain is inevitably going to become more Muslim. "The population of Europe will fall by 94 million before it starts to rise again during this century. We need workers, so where are they going to come from?" When he was chair of the London Assembly, the London plan predicted a rise in the capital's population of about 700,000 and "the best part of that - I'm talking about two-thirds, maybe three-quarters - will be international migrants". The new migration is "largely Muslim. It's not English-speaking."

Politicians have to start telling the truth about this, he says, and without embarrassment. So what of his relations with them? Recently he tangled with David Blunkett when the home secretary seemed to suggest institutional racism didn't really exist. Phillips says he accepts that Blunkett was misunderstood: his point was that people were beginning to use it as an excuse for "not doing anything themselves. And you know the man: he's impatient with what he thinks is evasion, and idleness and cowardice." But part of his job, says Phillips drily, will be helping ministers "find the language that says what they actually mean". Finally, what of his daughter, privately educated at Westminster school and refused a place at Bristol University? He denounced the decision - but then his daughter wrote to the Sunday Telegraph saying she understood it entirely. He insists that he had a point - if widening access is used too bluntly to attack private schools, Asian students will suffer disproportionately. But as to his daughter? He laughs: "I think this is an indication of the fine old Phillips tradition of political independence." Let's hope so. He too is going to need a bit of that.
©The Guardian

LOCAL MUSLIMS FEAR BACKLASH(usa)
After war in Iraq began, 'people started looking weirder at us'

As soon as the bombing of Baghdad began Wednesday night, Fadwa Silmi, 26, felt a change in the way people at the grocery store looked at her. "At 5 p.m., a lot of us noticed people started looking weirder at us," said Silmi, who typically wears a long robe and traditional Muslim head scarf. "We became the 'other.'" Many local Muslims like Silmi fear the war against Iraq will heighten already inflamed anti-Muslim sentiment here. Strange looks may be just the beginning, Silmi said, cradling her 2-year-old niece, Yazmin, close. "What if all of a sudden all Muslims and Arabs are considered terrorists and are put in internment camps?" she asked. "It's been done before, and I don't like the direction we're headed." According to Agha Saeed, president of the American Muslim Alliance, Silmi's fears are not unfounded. In the past year, Arabs have been consistently and unconstitutionally targeted by FBI and Immigration and Naturaliza- tion Service sweeps, said Saeed, a professor of political science and communications at the University of California, Berkeley, and at California State University, Hayward. He noted the collapse of the constitutional right to due process when U.S. citizens are labeled as "enemy combatants." These suspects then can be detained indefinitely without being charged or granted legal counsel. Saeed added that singling out Arabs for INS interviews and mandatory registration is racial profiling and unconstitutional.

Beginning March 1, the INS was folded into the Department of Homeland Security and renamed the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. "The people of Iraq, along with all Arabs and Muslims, have been painted as 'the other,'" he said. "This has an alienating effect on Muslims which affects their assimilation and integration into society." Many Muslims say their world was darkened by the racism that surfaced after the 9/11 attacks. Rumi Nsour, 23, a student and Arabic translator at Hayward's Zaytuna Institute, recalled walking down the street and hearing a man yell, "Hey, terrorist!" as he pointed a rifle at him. Police later arrested the man, who was jailed under the "Three Strikes" law, according to Nsour. Now, Nsour, who normally dons a long robe and turban, fears that anger toward Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein and his army will surface locally through slurs and hate crimes. In spite of these anxieties, Nsour and others say their main concern lies with the potential loss of innocent life in Iraq. Homeira Wassel, 27, who teaches kindergarten at Zaytuna, said she mourns most for the Iraqi children. As she watches images of distant explosions in Baghdad, she remembers the terror she felt as a 5-year-old when bombs rained down in her neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the Soviet invasion. "You can't imagine how much fear a child feels when the sirens go off and they're running to the bomb shelters. They will never be the innocent children they were before," she said as she helped a student correctly shape Arabic letters. "People who haven't experienced that have no idea. Everything stops for the children -- life comes to a halt. They just know they could die any minute, and they see people get killed."

Other Muslims, such as Mohammed Nusratty, secretary of the Abu Bakr Sediq mosque, say they believe President Bush knows best when it comes to political matters. "The U.S. government knows better than me what's best for America," Nusratty said. "Of course, peace is better. War is war. But anything that is for the benefit of this country is good."
©San Mateo County Times

PUPIL SCOOPS ANTI-RACISM AWARD(uk)
Talented youngster Christopher English has scooped an anti-racism award for his work in beating the bigots. The five-year-old, a pupil at Coulson Park First School, Ashington, was crowned champion in a competition organised as part of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. Christopher will now travel to an awards ceremony at Leeds United's Elland Road stadium after winning the contest's North of England section. He saw off hundreds of rivals more than three times his age to take the award, and is now waiting to find out what his prize will be. Christopher, of Chiltern Close, North Seaton, said: "I was really pleased when I found out I'd won. I'd forgot all about the competition until the teacher told me I'd won. "We watched a video at school about racism then had to do a bit of writing about what we thought about racism."

The five-year-old's winning entry read: "A racist is somebody that calls another person horrible, horrible names because they come from a different country. "I won't be a racist because it hurts other people's feelings. It does not matter what colour a person's skin is because I want a nice world where people do not fight." Now Christopher's proud parents, Carol and Brian, are preparing to travel to Leeds with younger son Joseph for the awards ceremony next month. Schools from around the country entered the contest backed by all Premiership clubs, organised to nip the seeds of racism in the bud. Teachers at Coulson Park chose Christopher's entry ahead of other pupils after deciding it was by far the best.

Christopher's class teacher, Jenny Hopper, said: "It was a national anti-racism competition and Christopher won the Northern section for his age group. "The children had to either do a piece of writing or a poem or a poster about what they thought about racism. "It's a difficult subject for this age group to talk about and we gave them a couple of titles to work under, which were `what is a racist?' and `why I will not be a racist'. "Christopher's piece of writing was really good and he did a wonderful drawing of a black person and a white person holding hands. "We had to send one entry for our school, and we chose Christopher's because it was the best one."
©icNewcastle

IRELAND OPENS DOOR TO EU ACCESSION STATE WORKERS
Tens of thousands of workers from Eastern Europe will be free to live and work in Ireland from May next year. The Government has decided to allow citizens from 10 EU accession states to work here without requiring a permit or visa. The decision, which sparked angry rows during last year's Nice Treaty debate, was welcomed by union and business leaders. Tánaiste Mary Harney said she decided not to implement a clause which would deny workers free access to the Irish labour market for up to seven years, as a sign of support for enlargement. This contrasts with member states like France and Germany, which plan to use the clause to protect domestic jobs against growing unemployment. Ms Harney said however that the Government could withdraw this full freedom for accession-state workers if the labour market deteriorated.

"To a large extent we're going into the unknown here. But we reckon the Irish labour market will continue to require people from outside the country to supplement our own labour pool," Ms Harney told RTÉ News. There were 40,000 work permits issued to foreign workers last year, 35% of which were given to workers from the accession states of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta and Cyprus. The new legislation, the Employment Permits Bill 2003, will also create criminal offences for employers or employees operating without permits. They could face fines of up to 250,000 and 10 years in prison. The Government's liberal position on the work permits issue shared by other member states such as Britain and Spain was welcomed by business leaders, who say they cannot find enough Irish employees to fill low-paid jobs.

Mark Fielding, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), called for a loosening of work permit regulations to tackle labour shortages. Joe O'Toole, president of the umbrella union group ICTU, said he welcomed the Government's decision, but warned our first priority must be the labour needs of our own citizens. He also said it was important that foreign workers were not exploited, and that employers must respect their rights.
©Irish Examiner

CLAUDE MORAES: IT IS THE DUTY OF POLITICIANS TO FIGHT THE FAR RIGHT(eu)
From a lecture given by the MEP to the British Institute of Human Rights in London

You could look at the Vlaams Bloc in Belgium, you could look at the List Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, the Danish People's Party in Denmark, the Northern League and MSI in Italy – survey all the European Union countries, decide for yourself what kind of threat the far-right parties present, and you can come up with all sorts of conclusions. My conclusion, however, having observed it from within Brussels and Strasbourg and travelled to countries where the far right has been an issue, is that it isn't just a question of the far right gaining power, or gaining absolute power– they haven't actually got a majority in any national government. The issue for me is one of what I would call mainstreaming. There are ideas created on the far right that find their way into the mainstream of politics. There are ideas which become acceptable because the far right has gone through a kind of trajectory of initiating or reinitiating these ideas. Those ideas then lose their shock value and become more acceptable; they are seen as as "populist", and are therefore taken on board by mainstream governments and coalitions.

We have an ageing European population, and at some point in the next 15 to 20 years we may need some immigration. But so politically sensitive is immigration that policy-makers and governments don't want to talk about it or prepare for it, because if they do they are often criticised. The mainstream of politics and mainstream of government is thus affected by far-right fears and ideas. We will soon have a European Union of 25 countries. When I began as an MEP, I was put on the Legal Affairs Committee, where I had to analyse a report on racism and anti-Semitism in the candidate countries. It was shocking to look at the way the Roma lead their daily lives in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Issues such as sterilisation are commonly spoken about, and even in government you find that the old ideas are still very much alive. Mainstream politicians simply fail to set a tone of leadership that states that such ideas are unacceptable. It is the duty of politicians to fight the far right. If we don't detect racism and stamp it out, we are guilty of allowing mainstream governments to take those ideas and to put them into practice.
© Independent Digital

ANTI-HATRED, DISCRIMINATION BILLS PROMISED(Hungary)
A new penal code provision on incitement against a community and an anti-discrimination bill will soon be submitted to Parliament, Socialist MP Magda Kovács Kósa, chairwoman of Parliament's human rights committee, told reporters yesterday as she marked World Anti-Racism Day. Justice Minister Péter Bárándy said the new bill will define the concepts of disadvantageous discrimination, as well as direct and indirect discrimination. Uniquely in Hungarian law, the bill will reverse the burden of proof, compelling defendants to prove that they do not engage in disadvantageous discrimination.
©The Budapest Sun

IN SOUTH AFRICA, A 'SIGN' OF THE BATTLE AGAINST RACISM
Four hundred businesses in rural South Africa are now displaying a small window sticker with a strong message: 'No racists allowed.'

POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA - Entering the Heavenly Touch Hair Studio is like taking a step back in time. Red plastic swivel chairs sit on a checkerboard of retro black-and-white linoleum. But amid the faded posters advertising hair straighteners and dye there is a decidedly modern South African touch. A small, black and orange sign warns visitors that here at Heavenly Touch, certain behavior just won't be allowed. "Right of admission reserved," it reads. "No racists allowed."
Over the past year, the "no-racists" signs have been showing up in business windows around this notoriously conservative town. While their reception by whites has been lukewarm - and at times even hostile - and most here say that there are still miles to go on the road to equality, the signs are a symbol of growing black empowerment in a former apartheid stronghold.

"These signs are a warning that racism and violence aren't acceptable in the new South Africa," says Jeanne Nolte, a soft-spoken white housewife and mother of four who developed the stickers as part of her new nongovernmental organization, the Anti-Racist Movement (ARM). "[Racists] have got to realize they're outnumbered. They're never going to win." Polokwane, until recently called Pietersburg, is a small, provincial capital in the heart of South Africa's great northern plains. The city was founded in 1886 by white Afrikaans farmers trekking their way northward from the Cape in search of fresh farmland. Though its once segregated downtown now throngs with blacks, the city and surrounding farmland is still known as a bastion of white conservatism. This area was the only part of the country that rejected a referendum supporting then-President F.W. de Klerk's efforts to end apartheid, South Africa's state-sponsored discrimination policies. Several high-profile incidents of racial violence have occurred here. Two years ago, for example, a 17-year-old boy was beaten to death by nine members of a rugby team after being caught poaching. But Randy Mashele, the young, married owner of the Heavenly Touch, whose elaborately braided hair is a walking advertisement, says that for most South African blacks, it's often the little things that still rankle. She offers an example. "In the banks, most of the white people don't queue," she says. "They think that because they're white they shouldn't have to wait in line. But when you confront them, they just use vulgar language and make you feel bad. "Things are 5 percent better, but 95 percent the same," she says sadly. "There were places where blacks could not go where now we can go, but the attitude of whites has not changed."

Goal: every business window
Ms. Nolte initially began selling the signs as a fundraiser for her fledgling organization, but they've now taken on a life of their own, becoming far bigger and more visible than the group itself. About 400 businesses in Polokwane now display the sticker, and hundreds more have been sent to admirers in the country. Nolte would like to see every window in every town in South Africa bear her sign. But not everyone has reacted well to the campaign. Nolte herself received threats after her phone number was printed in a local newspaper, and workers for her organization have been run off properties while trying to sell the signs. Most of the signs have been sold to black or Indian shopkeepers or to whites whose customer base is primarily black.

J.P. Nel, owner of the Thatch Palace, a small hotel, butchery, and liquor store, is insulted by the insinuation in the signs that he is a racist. "My company is not racist, neither do we support racism," he says, explaining why he will never put the orange and black sign in the window of one of his businesse ©Christian Science Monitor Service

NATIONALIST KEEPS EYE ON TOP JOB IN JAPAN
The man who would rearm Japan, who would bomb North Korea, who urged the United States to get on with Iraq ''like we did with Pearl Harbor,'' waits in the wings, offering advice, and waiting for the chance to become prime minister. Shintaro Ishihara, 70, the governor of Tokyo, has long been a political presence hovering over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Now, as Koizumi appears increasingly to be floundering in the job, some political pundits are predicting Ishihara's move toward the nation's top office. Japanese politics, rich with blandishments and oratorical fog, would never be the same. Ishihara has been called blunt, outspoken, outrageous, anti-American, warmongering, and racist -- only some of which he disputes. ''I think if I became prime minister, it would be good for Tokyo and good for Japan,'' he said.

But he is not seeking that job right now. Ishihara recently announced that he would seek reelection as governor of Tokyo. He will not go after a seat in parliament or form a party that might propel him into the prime minister's office. But he said that he was not giving up his pulpit to talk about ''the issues that hold sway over the destiny of Japan.'' Nor is he giving up his political ambitions. ''When Japanese politics gets in an impasse and confused, then in an instant, I may come out'' to run for national office, he said. ''I cannot rule out that possibility.'' Some have predicted it would take a historic upheaval to bring such a controversial figure to power; Ishihara said jokingly that it might take a North Korean bomb. Despite his many controversies -- or perhaps because of them -- he remains a political force that the establishment cannot ignore. The most recent national opinion poll, taken last April, showed him with a 78 percent approval rating, a stunning figure in a nation that roundly scorns its politicians. ''He has been, and still is, seen by many as a prospective prime minister,'' said the Japan Times, an English-language daily, at his announcement that he would seek reelection to the top post in this city of 12 million. ''I like Ishihara,'' said Yosuke Narita, 28, a manager of musicians, on a street in Tokyo. ''He makes radical comments, but they are better than lies.''

Over his career, which includes 25 years in parliament and four years as Tokyo governor, Ishihara has made headlines on a variety of topics. He thumbed his nose at the United States with the bestseller ''The Japan That Can Say No: Why Japan Will Be First Among Equals.'' He has implied that illegal immigrants, specifically Chinese, are criminals and likely to go on a rampage after an earthquake. He has gleefully made disparaging remarks about women and seemed to embrace racism. His critics have likened his tactics to Adolf Hitler's. ''He's despicable,'' said Takao Saito, a journalist and author of a recent scathing biography of the man titled ''Empty Little Emperor.'' His fans applaud him for saying things that other politicians are too timid to say. ''He's concerned seriously about the Japanese civilization,'' said Kanji Nishio, a professor emeritus of German philosophy who is helping an effort to write Japan's World War II atrocities out of history textbooks. ''As for Chinese criminals, he only stated the facts.'' Ishihara acknowledges that he revels in the bad-boy image. ''Your paper once called me a Japanese devil incarnate.'' He paused, with a comic's timing. ''I loved it.''
©Boston Globe

RIGHT WING HOLDS ON TO POLL LEAD(Switzerland)
The rightwing Swiss People's Party is holding on to a narrow lead, according to the latest poll on voting intentions for October's general election.

With 24.6 per cent, the People's Party is only just ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats. The poll, conducted by the Bern-based GfS institute at the beginning of March, said the People's Party clocked up strong gains last autumn in the run-up to a vote on toughening Switzerland's asylum laws. The party's popularity has receded - down 1.4 per cent since last October - but it is still well ahead of the 22.5 per cent share of the vote secured during the 1999 election. Public attention had now shifted to economic concerns, according to GfS, a trend which has worked in favour of the Social Democrats and the centre-right Radicals, who hold 24.2 and 20.6 per cent of the vote respectively. The Radicals have seen their popularity rise since January by almost two per cent, while the centre-right Christian Democrats continue to flounder at the bottom of the league, with 15.1 per cent support.

Improvement
The Radicals have been boosted by a change at the head of the party, with newcomer Christiane Langenberger received positively by the media. The four parties make up the Swiss government under the “Magic Formula” which has existed since 1959. Two cabinet posts go to the Radicals, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, while the People’s Party has just one seat. The populist People’s Party is looking for a strong showing in October’s general election to lend weight to its campaign for a second cabinet seat.
The poll, conducted on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, interviewed 2,012 people across the country.
©Swissinfo

IN A REFUGEE CRISIS, TURKISH FORCES WOULD ENTER IRAQ
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Tuesday that Turkey was preparing to send forces up to 20 kilometers into northern Iraq to deal with refugees but would only move if a crisis situation developed. Gul's statement in an interview follows intense U.S. pressure on Turkey not to send its forces unilaterally into northern Iraq. Washington fears that Turkish forces could end up clashing with local Iraqi Kurdish fighters or engaging in friendly fire incidents with U.S. forces. Gul said that Turkey was determined to act to avoid any flood of refugees. Following the 1991 Gulf War, hundreds of thousands of starving, freezing Iraqi Kurds fled Saddam Hussein's forces for the Turkish border, creating a humanitarian disaster for Turkey. Gul said that Turkey was looking to create a 20-kilometer (12-mile) zone on the border. We want to keep all of the refugees there. This is very clear,'' he said in an interview in his office. Gul said the move was for security reasons,'' adding, If the need is there, this is our plan.'' When asked how many soldiers Turkey would send, Gul replied: It depends on the need.'' An American special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in Ankara on Tuesday for talks with Turkish officials. A senior U.S. official said the goal of Khalilzad's talks was to keep Turkish troops out of northern Iraq. The official said that Washington was offering to work to contain any refugee flow in order to keep Turkish forces out of the region.

U.S. hopes to deter Turkey
David Rohde and C.J. Chivers of The New York Times reported earlier from Salahuddin, Iraq:
American military officials say they have established a new military command in northern Iraq. The move appears to be part of the effort to dissuade Turkey from sending its troops into Iraq. In a brief, tightly scripted news conference Monday afternoon, Major Gen eral Henry Osman of the U.S. Marine Corps said his new command would do many of the tasks the Turkish military had outlined for itself in northern Iraq. The general, whose arrival pleased Kurdish officials, said his command would coordinate the efforts of American, Turkish and Kurdish forces and facilitate the work of aid groups. This is all part of the U.S. effort to support humanitarian assistance efforts and coordinate U.S. and international activities, and provide a stabilizing influence in northern Iraq,'' Osman said. Osman declined to answer questions, and it was unclear what role, if any, his command would play in opening a northern front in the American invasion of Iraq.

Kurdish officials adamantly oppose a Turkish incursion, while Turkish officials have made it clear that they do not trust the Kurds. Over the past several weeks, the two sides have massed their troops on the border, and Kurdish officials have issued orders for their men to fire on advancing Turks. It is believed that Turkish tanks would quickly overwhelm lightly armed Kurdish forces. Osman said he had met with Turkish military officials in Ankara and Kurdish military officials in Dahuk. He said he arrived Sunday in Salahuddin, a mountain resort that is the home base of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls the western half of the Kurdish zone in northern Iraq. Turkish officials fear that if Kurds gain control of Kirkuk, and its oil, in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and flourish, it could reignite separatist desires among Turkey's Kurdish minority. Kurdish and American forces are expected to start a ground attack soon against Ansar al Islam, a militant Islamic group that the State Department says has links to Al Qaeda. Over the weekend American planes and missiles bombarded the group's small enclave, between Kurdish and Iraqi government lines near the Iranian border.

In the initial attack against Ansar, U.S. cruise missiles also struck the offices of another Islamic group, Komali Islami Kurdistan, which controls Khurmal, the t ©International Herald Tribune

CHECHENS VOTE TO STAY RUSSIAN
Chechens voted overwhelmingly yesterday for a new constitution that aims to end the 3½-year war by giving the republic some autonomy within Russia, according to early results. The constitution was supported by 95.5 per cent of voters, while 4.1 per cent voted to reject it, a Chechen election commission official told the Interfax news agency. The figures were based on results from four districts. Two other laws, on electing a president and a parliament for the republic, were approved by 96 per cent of voters. Russian special forces stood on the roofs of many polling stations, where war-weary Chechens, drawn by promises from President Putin of compensation for lost homes and handouts to young mothers, gathered to vote. "Choose peace not war," posters around the buildings urged, appealing to a nation too befuddled by conflict to question the possible consequences of the referendum. Mr Putin gave a television address to the Chechen people a week ago in which he promised them wide autonomy in Russia. Although a decade of war has reinforced suspicion of Russia within Chechnya, Mr Putin's emotive address worked magic. "We did not expect it from him," Zohara Soduev, who was selling champagne and plastic flowers outside one polling station, said. "After I heard his sympathy for us, I decided to vote."

It is a desperate measure by Russia to consolidate its power in Chechnya. It has been humiliated in recent months by two terrorist attacks: the seizure of a Moscow theatre and the destruction of a government building in Grozny. Journalists were taken on a tour of Chechnya, designed to show a country on the mend. Federal forces have gained the north of the country, but rebel activity remains in the mountainous region and Grozny is still a war zone. The city is in ruins: bullet holes pepper walls and not one building stands entire. In his address, Mr Putin promised compensation for the 280,000 homes destroyed by the war, an appealing prospect for a displaced people. Displaced Chechens were also pushed to take part in the referendum. Polling booths were set up in refugee camps in neighbouring Ingushetia, where food rations were handed out with registration forms. The 5,000 Chechens living in one camp were told that it would close if they did not sign the forms. At the end of last year, refugees were given financial enticement to return to Chechnya in another attempt by Russia to create a semblance of normality.

The Russian authorities have refused to have any negotiations with rebels since the theatre siege in October. Officially ignored, they may be driven into yet more desperate acts to attract attention to their cause. Chechen groups and human rights activists say that the referendum was an attempt to legitimise a brutal campaign and they fear a civil war. Many doubt that Moscow has the moral authority to administer justice in Chechnya, where there have been tens of thousands of civilian casualties in the past decade. Two polling stations were burnt out last weekend and six federal soldiers killed. Security in Moscow was tightened over the weekend and 18,000 police were flown into Chechyna to guard the polling booths. Yesterday, the local election committee said that more than 350,000 Chechens had voted, meaning that the referendum legally had taken place. Russia has many promises to keep after the referendum if it is to maintain the trust of the Chechens who voted: not merely to pay compensation but also to show them continuing support as citizens of the Russian Federation.
©The Times Online

UNCONVINCING CHECHEN REFERENDUM
By Catherine Fitzpatrick

The English statesman John, Viscount Morley, Britain's secretary to Ireland and India, was famous for having said, "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." If he were alive today, he might find that a good way to silence dissent is to hold a seemingly convincing public referendum. With the vote on the new constitution in Chechnya this week, Chechen citizens were given an opportunity to say what they think. Yet questions linger about the manner in which the referendum was conducted, the legitimacy of its results, and its real impact on ending the conflict, despite a reported 96 percent vote in favor and more than 80 percent turnout. While Chechens who did turn out seemed to articulate their desire for peace rather than war (not surprisingly), what had been silent for months before the referendum is their television sets.

Many families in the war-torn republic do not have them, and what coverage they have received, from local or national news, could not be said to constitute a serious, open debate of the issues of Chechnya's future. Even at public voters' meetings, Russian officials followed a long-established Soviet tradition of repressing public opinion even as it is ostensibly sought by filming attendees, and activists who went on a hunger strike or staged other nonviolent actions to protest the referendum were detained to dampen their influence. Public referenda have a long and discredited history in the post-Soviet region. More often than not, they have been manipulated by authoritarian governments eager to stay in power both to paper over civil strife or feign massive support in the face of significant challenges. Experience has shown that if a referendum is quickly organized, is made complicated, deals with multiple questions, and phrases them in a certain way, almost any results needed by a government in power can be obtained. In most democracies, referenda are usually held on far narrower issues than a constitution or social system itself, and other checks and balances such as a free media and robust political party life exist to put them in context. Post-Soviet leaders have made a specialty of packing as many complex legal and political issues into plebiscites in their restricted societies, so that even if free and fair conditions prevail -- and they often do not -- the results can be misleading.

In March 1991, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev staged a referendum in which 75-80 percent of the population took part, of whom 75 percent voted seemingly in favor of keeping the Soviet Union together. Rather than being asked directly if they wished to preserve the USSR as such, the question was worded as follows, "Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal, sovereign states-republics in which the rights and freedoms of persons of all nationalities will be fully guaranteed?" Feeling that this offer might be as good as it gets, and concentrating on the words "renewed" and "rights and freedoms" which they were hearing for the first time, many Soviet citizens voted "yes." The three Baltic nations, Armenia, Moldova, and Georgia did not participate. Gorbachev recalls in his memoirs how Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, speaking on Radio Rossiya about the first draft of the new union treaty, said: "The referendum is being held in order to win support for the current policies of the leadership of the country. Its aim is to preserve the imperial unitary essence of the union and the system." By December 1991, Gorbachev had resigned and the union was dissolved. In Belarus in 1996, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka engineered a referendum to extend his term under a new version of the constitution, ultimately disbanding the constitutional court and the parliament. The turnout was 64.7 percent of the population, 75 percent of whom voted "yes." Not to be outdone, Azerbaija too long in fear of the knock at the door in the middle of the night from Russian troops. Later, in a meeting with religious readers, he even conceded that "mistakes had been made" even at the federal level. Before the vote, Russian and pro-Moscow Chechen officials flip-flopped on whether displaced Chechens in Ingushetia would be allowed to vote at all in their camps, or be bussed to border towns to cast their vote, and finally some were delivered to polls. Migration officials said rebels were intimidating refugees from voting, Interfax reported on 27 February. Refugees themselves told reporters that officials were threatening to close their tent camps in Ingushetia and cut off their services if they did not participate in the vote, AP reported on 12 March. In the end, at least 65,000 displaced persons were said to have voted. Local human rights groups and some European officials marveled at the Kremlin's decision to allow 38,000 Russian troops -- far from their home towns in the heartland of Russia -- to vote in the referendum, out of 80,000 troops overall who remain in the region, some of whom guarded polling stations. Yet there was the even more curious matter of the Russian census in Chechnya in October 2002, which seemed to turn up far more Chechens than anyone believed to have existed, prompting some observers to wonder if the numbers were cooked. As part of the federal effort, census takers working for just two days in Chechnya (they cited security concerns) collected more than a million questionnaires. The phenomena was explained away by the pro-Moscow government as resulting from fewer war casualties than human rights groups claimed, and new births even in wartime. After subtracting Russian soldiers, it was unclear where the "extra" Chechens had come from, although some in the Chechen diaspora in other parts of Russia returned to vote. The last census held in Chechnya in 1989, had 1.27 million residents, but in Chechnya and Ingushetia combined.

Expectations that large numbers of Chechens would boycott the referendum appeared to be misplaced, although some mothers whose children had disappeared in Russian military sweeps demonstrated in a main square of Grozny, telling RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that they would only go to the referendum if the authorities returned the young people. Russian officials persuaded reluctant international organizations to come to the region, despite their security concerns, to witness the event. Conditions for voting were "less than perfect," conceded these observers, but they were inclined to celebrate any show of reconciliation from the Kremlin in an effort to stop the war. A reporter from the "Chicago Tribune" saw only handfuls of people voting in districts where much greater participation was claimed, and a "Le Figaro" journalist was able to vote himself when he showed his French passport. Citing "Prague Watchdog" and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the Jamestown Foundation's "Chechnya Weekly" reported this week that local officials were either doling out benefits on the eve of the referendum, especially for children and the elderly, or intimidating people at voters' meetings by filming them. A form of silent protest leading up to the ballot was the persistent tearing down of many posters promoting the referendum. Memorial Society Human Rights Center polled 665 people in 17 regions, many of them teachers at the time of the referendum. Seventy-eight percent said they didn't believe proper conditions for a referendum existed; 43 percent said that without monitoring, it was hard to trust the results. Perhaps most tellingly, 76 percent of those polled by Memorial said in any event that Russian authorities would not obey the new constitution for which they had so carefully obtained a consensus, 7 percent said it would only be "selectively" enforced, 3 percent said it would be, and 15 percent were undecided, providing a microcosm of the difficulties in building convincing consensus in the future.
©RFE/RL

KOSOVO FOR THE KURDS(opinion)
Which peoples should govern themselves? Our answers are as confused as ever
By Timothy Garton Ash

Here's a riddle with an explosive core: there's a hardy, mainly Islamic people, who have long been oppressed by a different ethnic group running a repressive state. They've been tortured, shelled, bombed, driven out of their homes; some of these oppressive state actions qualify as attempted genocide. A fighting people with a long tradition of mountain banditry, they've responded by armed uprising and guerrilla war; some of the means they have employed would qualify as terrorism. Who are they, and what are we doing about them?

Answer 1. They are the Albanians in Kosovo. We intervene militarily against their oppressor. American special forces work first covertly and then overtly with the Kosovo Liberation Army. We secure them effective independence from Serbia, under an international protectorate. As a result, one day there will either be a little state called Kosova (the Albanian spelling) or a greater Albania.
Answer 2. They are the Kurds in Turkey. We wring our hands, wave our dollars or euros, and tell Turkey that since it's a member of Nato and very much wants to be a member of the European Union, it should please, please, in the name of God, Allah and the World Bank, treat its large Kurdish minority a little better. After all, Turkey thinks it's part of Europe, doesn't it?
Answer 3. They are the Kurds in Iraq. We intervene militarily against their oppressor. American special forces work first covertly and now overtly with the Kurdish liberation armies which over the last decade have rallied under the aerial protection of British and American planes patrolling the "no-fly zone". Since Turkey has refused to allow US troops to move across its territory to open a northern front against Saddam in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Anglo-American coalition may have to depend more on these Kurdish forces. But Turkey is threatening to send (or, perhaps, already has sent) its own special forces into Iraqi Kurdistan. This is ostensibly to fend off a potential flood of refugees into Turkey, but is mainly to deter the Kurds of Turkey from imagining that they can follow the example of their brothers and sisters across the border.
All three answers are correct.

So, what is to be done for the Kurds? Bush and Blair in Camp David today, divided EU-rope, the UN, "the west" (if it still exists), and "the international community" (whatever that is now), will all pretend that we have an answer. Any reader of this column could write the spokesperson's brief: "minority rights", "internal autonomy but territorial integrity of Iraq", "federal structures", etc. But let me whisper this truth in your ear: we don't have an answer. We're flummoxed and floundering, as so often when faced with the issue of self-determination. The Kurdish question raises a cardinal dilemma for the Anglo-Saxon liberal imperialism on which we have so curiously re-embarked at the beginning of the 21st century. When London and Washington were briefly making the case for the Iraq war as a "humanitarian intervention", it was the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja that they always cited, and the killing of an estimated 100,000 Kurds by Saddam's men. Though such comparisons are always odious, the Kurds have suffered even more terribly than the Kosovans. The moral case is also strong for two other reasons. The Bush (senior) administration encouraged the Kurds to rise against Saddam in 1991, and then let him massacre them with the helicopter gunships that Washington let him keep. Britain has its own special responsibility, since the first people to bomb the Kurds were us, when they revolted against the Iraq we created after the first world war. (Since Tony Blair has apologised for the potato famine in Ireland, will he be apologising for this?)

Watching the television footage from Iraqi Kurdistan, I am irresistibly reminded of Kosovo - tough, gnarled mountain people, dusty roads, village minarets, peasant women in Muslim headscarves, a still brothers-in-arms across the frontier in Iraq. That's not the only potential knock-on effect. Turkey is the biggest headache, but the Kurds also live in Iran, Syria and Armenia. At an estimated 20 to 25 million they are, it is claimed, the largest stateless nation on earth. If you think it's a little academic to ponder the fate of stateless nations while the war still rages around Baghdad, think again. The Kurdish question is the largest unexploded bomb in all Iraq. And its future will also be determined in the heat of battle over the next few days and weeks. If the Kurdish forces contribute significantly to the American victory on the northern front, while America's traditional ally Turkey refuses to help, and even actively hinders it by a cross-border incursion, the balance of American opinion will swing in their favour, as it did in Kosovo. Anyway, in one of the stranger freaks of international affairs, the Kurds in the north of Iraq have been enjoying far-reaching, de facto autonomy under our "no-fly zone" for a decade already. Hard to imagine that we will now abandon them to their fate.

So clever specialists are already designing schemes for a "federacy", involving autonomy for Iraqi Kurdistan and individual rights for Kurds throughout Iraq. But Iraqi Kurdistan in what borders? With or without the Kirkuk oilfields? How can you guarantee such individual rights for Kurds in the other parts of a chaotic, occupied country? Or for Iraqi Arabs in Kurdistan? (Remember that British soldiers ended up guarding individual Serb grannies in Kosovo.) If such delicate constitutional arrangements still don't avert inter-ethnic conflict in developed European countries like Spain (where Catalonia is just pressing for an enhanced autonomy that comes remarkably close to independence), what chance have they here? What would it mean for the democratic self-determination of all Iraq if this bit of radical devolution were immediately dictated by the occupying power? What if the majority of all Iraqi voters don't accept what the majority of Iraqi Kurds obviously want?

Let's face it: when this bleedin' war is over, we'll be back in 1918, confronting many of the same questions in the same places that our grandparents wrestled with, from the Balkans to the Middle East. And we still don't have answers. Sometimes I think we should reinvent the Ottoman empire.
©The Guardian

ROMANI CRISS: IMPLEMENTING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION AT LOCAL LEVEL
On Friday, 21st of March 2003, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Tolerance) and EUMC (European Centre for Monitoring Racism and Xenophobia) organised the meeting "Legal Solutions for Fighting against Racism. The meeting debated three themes: "Application of effective national legislation against racial discrimination, incitement to racial discrimination and violence at local level"; "Youth and the fight against racism and intolerance" and "Mechanisms for dialogue, co-operation, conflict resolution and the necessary conditions for their success  community cohesion: the UK experience". The representative of Human Rights Department within Romani CRISS discussed about the stage of anti-discrimination legislation in the context of the Centre and South-Eastern Europe countries. Despite the comprehensive law on discrimination and the real progress in this matter, Romania had to harmonise its internal legislation to the standards imposed by the Directive 43/2000 adopted by the European Union Council.

The participants underlined that the harmonisation process of the anti-discrimination legislation according to aquis communitaire of European Union was slow, and the implementation at local level, including in the EU member countries is also slower. Discussing the case of the candidate countries, the CRISS representative mentioned there was a risk that the adopted legislation not to correspond to the discrimination standards in the context of a certain international pressure. Moreover, some countries, like Romania, have unrealistically deadlines for establishing mechanisms of implementing the law. The National Council for Fighting against Discrimination functioned effectively after two years of the adoption of the Ordinance and the Governmental Decree, even though the legal regulations stipulated 60 days for establishing the Council. On the other hand, an obstacle in applying the law was the lack of this body itself and the Courts of law interpreting the law differently in the discrimination cases brought in front of the Courts. With this specialised mechanism lacking, the judiciary procedures and the difficulty of proving the discrimination determined a delay in taking decisions regarding ethnical discrimination of Roma persons.

The paradox of this situation is that the non-governmental organisations, especially Romani CRISS, succeeded to obtain the first sanctions in the discrimination matter, not based on the comprehensive law regarding anti-discrimination, even though adopted, but based on legal stipulations from different normative documents. Therefore, a well-known Romanian newspaper had been sanctioned administratively for publishing discriminatory ads regarding services or selling/renting buildings, and a restaurant's owner had been sanctioned for displaying a notice at the entrance of the place and for the unjustified refusal of services for persons of Roma ethnicity. In the debate of the theme regarding local implementation of the legislation, the participants marked out positive practises in implementing anti-discrimination legislation in the west European countries. In Great Britain, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland, the specialised mechanisms in fighting against discrimination have national coverage through networks organised at local level, establishing free telephone lines for the discriminated victims, possibility of mediating the discrimination cases, legal assistance for the victims, etc. In this context, Robin Oakley, expert within European Dialogue (Roma Rights and Access to Justice) from Great Britain presented the projects jointly implemented with Romani CRISS, Romania, taking in consideration the experience from Great Britain in preventing and fighting against discrimination, and also a study realised by the Human Rights Department within Ro legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination.
©Romani CRISS

THE LIMITS OF SOLIDARITY: ROMA IN POLAND
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation, respectfully submits herewith The Limits of Solidarity: Roma in Poland After 1989, a comprehensive report on the human rights situation of Poland's Romani minority, published by the ERRC in September 2002, for assistance the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee) during the review of Poland's compliance with the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the Convention), at its 62nd Session, March 3-21, 2003.

The ERRC believes that the upcoming session of the Committee offers an opportunity to highlight some of the most significant respects in which the Government has failed to honour its commitments under the Convention. In particular, the ERRC draws the attention of the Committee to violations of Articles 2, 3, and 5 of the Convention, as documented by the report submitted herewith. The ERRC is aware of measures taken by the Government of Poland (the Government), as they are described in the report submitted by the State Party to the Committee under Article 9 of the Convention. To date, however, these measures have been insufficient to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention where the human rights of Roma in Poland are concerned. The Government has thus far failed to act to guarantee Roma equal rights and to take effective measures to overcome widespread discrimination against Roma. In particular:

  • The Polish Government has failed to adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation;

  • The Government has failed to act to combat racial segregation in schools;

  • The Government has failed to act adequately to combat a dramatic outbreak of racially motivated crime in Poland after 1989.


  • A brief outline of the concerns detailed in the ERRC report follows:

    1. Discrimination against Roma (Article 2 of the Convention):
    Polish anti-discrimination provisions are at present grossly inadequate. In the absence of anti-discrimination legislation, and in the circumstances in which a culture of prejudice and stereotyping has developed deep roots in Polish society, Roma find themselves repeatedly blocked from accessing basic rights and social services. Direct and indirect discrimination pervades all aspects of the relationship between the non-Romani majority and the Romani minority in Poland. Legal prohibitions against discrimination are vague and limited, and provide for ineffective remedies. Although the Polish Constitution provides a generic ban on discrimination, it is unclear how a person suffering discrimination would make use of the Constitutional provisions in practice; anyone seeking redress for arbitrary or differential treatment based on race or ethnicity on Poland would be forced to make use of civil and administrative provisions only tangentially related to discrimination, such as civil law provisions related to personal honour. The ERRC knows of no instance in which Romani victims of discrimination received due remedy.

    2. Segregation (Article 3 of the Convention):
    2.1. Segregation in education: During the 1990s, the practice of segregating Romani children into so-called "Roma classes", or into special classes for the developmentally retarded, was implemented in many areas of Poland. Poorly equipped and staffed, with curricula that reflect racist stereotypes and prejudices, these classes offer substandard education to their students and in effect promote further marginalisation and exclusion for Romani children.

    2.2. Segregation in the field of housing: The majority of Roma in Poland live segregated from the rest of the population, inhabiting sub-standard housing, barracks or shanties located on the outskirts of municipalities or in de facto ghettos inside major cities. Moreove with reported neo-Nazi sympathies have attacked Romani persons, communities, or households have been reported with increasing frequency throughout Poland during the late 1990s. Reporting such violence and harassment to the authorities has frequently led to further attacks and threats against the Romani victims.

    4. Failure to protect Roma and denial of justice for Romani victims of racially motivated crimes (Article 5(a) of the Convention):
    The Polish police and judiciary have been slow to react to reports of crimes against Roma and to acknowledge the racial motivation of such crimes. Polish authorities have often failed to react to such reports at all, leaving the victims unprotected from further violence and unable to seek remedy for crimes against them. When investigations into racially motivated crimes have been launched, they have frequently been stalled or discontinued altogether, often with the justification that the authorities did not find sufficient evidence to issue arrest warrants, indictments, or judicial sentenceseven in cases in which the alleged perpetrators had been identified by victims and/or witnesses.

    5. Violations of economic, social and cultural rights (Article 5(e) of the Convention):
    5.1. Failure to register Roma as locally resident: The ERRC has identified the discriminatory practice of refusing to register Roma as residents in local administrative units as one of the sources of the denial of the rights for Romani people in Poland. Since registration as a resident in a particular locality is often a precondition for access to housing, social aid and other public services, the systematic refusal of some local authorities to register Roma as residents effectively bars Roma from the realisation of fundamental social and economic rights. Roma appear to be the only group in Poland systematically precluded from local registration by local authorities in Poland.

    5.2. Discriminatory practices in the field of housing (Article 5(e)(iii) and 5(d)(v) of the Convention): Roma in Poland are denied access to public housing, security of tenure, and the right to enjoyment of private property. The ERRC has documented discriminatory practices in the allocation of public housing, as well as in the provision of basic public services to Romani settlements, such as water, sanitation or even electricity by municipal authorities. Furthermore, local authorities and private landlords subject Roma to forced and arbitrary evictions, segregation, and ghettoisation. Even in areas inhabited by Romani communities for a long time, Roma frequently do not enjoy even rudimentary security of tenure, a situation that leaves the door permanently open for abuse.

    5.3. Discrimination in employment (Article 5(e)(i) of the Convention): Many Polish employers refuse to hire Romani applicants, and state labour offices often treat Roma as responsible for, rather than as the victims of, discriminatory practices in the workplace. While the national government recognises that unemployment is rampant among Roma, there is no official acknowledgement of racial discrimination as an underlying factor for this state of affairs.

    5.4. Discrimination in access to medical care (Article 5(e)(iv) of the Convention): Romani communities lack basic health care services. The ERRC has documented instances in which health care providers refused to treat Romani patients as a result of their ethnic background.

    5.5. Discrimination in the provision of social support (Article 5(e)(iv) of the Convention): The ERRC report documents instances of discriminatory treatment of Roma in the provision of social welfare support. When authorities deal with Roma at all, they frequently do so only after giving preferential treatment to non-Roma. This pattern compounds the effects of massive unemployment, forcing many Roma to live in extreme poverty.

    5.6. Discrimination in education (Article 5(e)(v) of the Convention): When they do attend integrated schools, Romani children in Poland suffer discrimination and a Eastern European countrieshas been used by Polish authorities to downplay the problems that Romani communities face and to deny the persistent and pervasive nature of anti-Romani sentiment among the majority population. In a country that is relatively ethnically homogeneous, such as Poland today, the statistical weight carried by human rights violations against a small minority will be low. Furthermore, Roma in Poland are concentrated in several localized areas, such as the Malopolska region, where the rate of human rights violations is much higher than nationwide surveys would suggest. Thus, countrywide statistics mask the real situation of Roma on a local level, and they have unfortunately become a popular tool to downplay both the scale of the antipathy Roma face in Poland and the responsibility of the Polish authorities in addressing human rights abuses arising from that antipathy.

    Due to intense anti-Romani sentiment, Poland is a place where Roma are in a state of undue exposure to violations of their basic human rights. Since 1989, violence against Roma has increased significantly, as has the number of exclusionary or hateful pronouncements made by leaders and activists of racist groups. Throughout the 1990s, Polish authorities have systematically failed to respond to a wave of anti-Romani crime, as well as to ingrained patterns of racial discrimination.

    Measures to date to remedy the human rights situation of Roma in Poland have been inadequate, where such measures have been taken at all. The only substantive programme the Polish government has designed to improve the situation of Roma, the "Pilot Government Programme for the Roma Community in the Malopolska Province for the Years 2000-2003", does little to address the acute problems facing Roma or the root causes of racism in Polish society. While demonstrating some political good will in acknowledging the predicament of Roma in Poland, the Programme perpetuates racist stereotypes and segregationist practices in Poland.

    International bodies have become increasingly alert to the rise of racist, xenophobic, and anti-Romani-sentiment in Poland. For instance, in its Concluding Observations on Poland, released on December 19, 2002, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) stated that it was "deeply concerned about the recent increase in xenophobic manifestations and acts of violence against certain minorities, in particular Jews and Roma" and noted with regret that Poland "has not yet adopted and implemented a comprehensive programme to address the problems faced by Romani communities, in particular unemployment and inadequate living standards." The CESCR urged the Government to "provide updated information on the Romani population and to adopt a comprehensive programme to address the obstacles to the advancement of the Romani population, including measures to ensure effective remedy for cases of discrimination against Roma in employment, housing and health care" and to "adopt effective measures to combat the low school attendance and high dropout rates among Romani students and to provide for their integration into regular classes on an equal footing with other Polish children." Similarly, in its Concluding Observations on Poland released on October 30, 2002, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) noted with concern that "the principle of non-discrimination is not adequately implemented with respect to certain vulnerable groups of children, including children of the Roma and other ethnic minorities [&]. In particular, the Committee is concerned about their limited access to adequate health, education and other social services and about reports of racially motivated violence in which police have failed to protect the victims." The CRC was also "concerned that, despite pilot programmes aimed at improving the situation of the Roma in certain provinces, they still suffer from widespread discrimination which has in some instances impeded Romani children's right to education, health and soc 2000 "implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin" (the so-called "Race Equality Directive"), which is part of the acquis communautaire, the corpus of European Union law, and therefore binding on all accession countries, including Poland. However, the actions of the Polish Government to date give little, if any, indication that there is genuine political will to turn international obligations regarding discrimination into practice. Moreover, Poland's failure even to sign Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is among the most significant developments in Europe in the struggle against arbitrary discriminatory treatment, raises serious questions about the Polish Government's will to combat discrimination.

    Based on the findings of the attached report, the ERRC urges Polish authorities to act on the following recommendations:
    1. Promptly bring those responsible for racially motivated crimes against Roma to justice, and ensure that when racial animosity motivates or otherwise influences a crime, it receives due judicial recognition.
    2. Carry out thorough and timely investigations into all alleged instances of police abuse of Roma, including violence, unlawful searches and seizure of property, malicious investigation of violence against Roma, harassment, and failure to investigate racially motivated crimes and/or protect potential victims of violent attacks.
    3. Bring Polish law into conformity with the requirements of Council Directive 2000/43/EC, "implementing the principle of equality between persons, irrespective of racial or ethnic origin" by adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Ensure that the implementing body mandated by the Directive is strong, fully independent and adequately staffed and funded.
    4. Sign and ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention of Human Rights without delay.
    5. Without delay, sign and ratify the revised Social Charter of the Council of Europe, and make the declaration accepting the collective complaints procedure under Article D, paragraph 2 of Part IV of the revised Charter.
    6. Ensure effective remedy for cases of discrimination against Roma in the field of housing, employment, health care, as well as access to social welfare payments and to public goods and services.
    7. Undertake effective measures to ensure that local authorities register all persons actually residing in a given municipality, without regard to race.
    8. Provide security of tenure for residents of Romani communities and settlements, and protect the inhabitants from forced and arbitrary evictions, as well as segregationist local practices.
    9. Implement a comprehensive school desegregation plan, such that all Romani children may fully realise the right to education. Without delay, end the practice of segregating Romani children into so-called "Roma classes" or into classes for mentally disabled students. Integrate all Romani students into mainstream classes and, where necessary, design and implement adequately funded and staffed programmes aimed at easing the transition from segregated to integrated schooling.
    10. Design pre-school programmes for Romani children to learn the primary language of schooling and to attain a level ensuring an equal start in the first class of primary school.
    11. Develop and implement catch-up or adult education programmes aimed at remedying the legacies of substandard education and non-schooling of Roma.
    12. Where instances of abuse in the school system are reported—abuse including exclusionary practices, physical and verbal assault, humiliating treatment, and failure by teachers and school administrators to protect Romani children from peer abuse—without delay, punish school authorities responsible, and implement measures aimed at preventing further abuse.
    13. Develop curriculum resources for teaching Romani language, culture, and history in schools, and make them available to all schools, so that all children in Poland learn of the valuable contributions Roma have made to Polish society.
    14. Provide free legal aid to members of weak groups, including Roma and the indigent.
    15. At the highest level, speak out against the problem of anti-Romani sentiment and racially motivated crimes against Roma; at all levels, acknowledge and speak out against racism, racially motivated crime, patterns and practices of discrimination, and segregation. Address the root problem of anti-Romani racism in Poland by developing and implementing anti-racism curriculums for schools and campaigns for the media, so as to address widespread negative attitudes against Roma and racism generally.
    16. Conduct comprehensive human rights and anti-racism training for the national and local administration, members of the police force and of the judiciary.
    17. Proactively recruit qualified Roma for professional positions in the administration, the police force and the judiciary.

    The ERRC is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has undertaken first-hand field research in more than a dozen countries, including the Poland, and has disseminated numerous publications, from book-length studies to advocacy letters and public statements.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONCLUDES DISCUSSION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
    (Reissued as received.)
    GENEVA, 25 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights completed this afternoon its annual debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, hearing from a series of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contending variously that not enough had been done to implement the Declaration and Programme of Action of the Durban World Conference against Racism, and that discrimination was mounting against Muslims, Jews, and groups such as migrant workers, persons of African descent, and indigenous peoples. The Commission's Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Doudou Diène, summed up the discussion by saying that racism was still prevalent, that new and more subtle forms were on the increase, and that it was clear that the fight against racism could not be won if there was no culture of dialogue and respect between peoples, regions, and countries.

    Louis Michel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, delivering a general address to the Commission, said among other things that Belgium was extremely disappointed that the initiatives taken to ensure that Security Council resolution 1441 was implemented through peaceful and diplomatic means had failed, and that a war was now under way in Iraq. Belgium remained convinced that the diplomatic route, through disarmament inspections, could have led to the desired objective, Mr. Michel said -- an opportunity had been missed to disarm Iraq in an effective but peaceful manner, and as a result there had been effects on the credibility and efficiency of the United Nations.

    Several NGOs also criticized the military campaign now under way against Iraq, with the Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru" contending the United States-led assault was illegal and "part of a spiral of violence and State terrorism", and the General Arab Women Federation saying the United States Government was denying Iraqis their rights to survival, education, their own natural resources and to self-determination.

    Statement from the Podium
    LOUIS MICHEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said terrorism was the most hideous manifestation of intolerance and reflected a total disregard for human life. In a globalized world, terrorism represented a growing threat and the international community must face it with determination. The fight against terrorism was the common responsibility of all States. It could produce tangible results only through concerted action at the international level, above all within the framework of the United Nations. In this regard, the Commission had a crucial role to play in ensuring that the global fight against terrorism complied with fundamental principles of human rights. Furthermore, the fight against terrorism could not justify any deviation from the fundamental principles of the rule of law. Mr. Michel said ethnic conflicts generated by fanaticism and ultranationalist propaganda led to hate, armed actions, crimes against humanity, genocide and the displacement of thousands of people. All eyes were currently turned to the Middle East and Iraq. Belgium was extremely disappointed that the initiatives taken to ensure that Security Council resolution 1441 was implemented through peaceful and diplomatic means had failed. Belgium remained convinced that that the diplomatic route, through disarmament inspections, could have led to the desired objective. An opportunity had been missed to disarm Iraq in an effective but peaceful manner, with resulting effects on the credibility and efficiency of the United Nations. All must ensure that the Iraq of tomorrow would become a State of law that respected democracy and human rights.

    Mr. Michel said the African continent was not spared from conf continued to be frequently violated. The scandal of child soldiers, sexually exploited children, child labour, child starvation was revolting.

    Statements
    DJISMUN KASRI (Indonesia) said the eighteen months which had elapsed since the Durban Conference had witnessed a certain dimming of the high hopes originally felt by the majority of the international community as a result of this event. Meanwhile, an international climate marked by fear and distrust had gradually evolved out of the tragic events of September 11. This climate had nevertheless been allowed to degenerate to the point of favouring the resurgence of discrimination and prejudice which the Durban Declaration sought to eliminate. Suspicion and distrust on grounds of faith or citizenship of certain countries, targeting the broad mass of Islamic communities, had been reflected in an irrational search for potential extremists in their midst. The Government of Indonesia, for its part, was determined to act at home on all fronts to combat prejudices -- racial or religious -- which undermined the fabric of society by pitting communities against one another. Efforts had continued, under the Government's policy of democratization and reform, to restore trust and promote reconciliation, through dialogue, education and community projects, in areas of the country which had experienced clashes between communities on ethnic or religious grounds. These efforts had paid off and a definite improvement had been registered in these regions.

    HELENA MINA (Cyprus) affirmed that Cyprus strongly rejected and condemned all forms of racism and racial discrimination and pledged its determination to continue and intensify the efforts to eradicate any such phenomena. The country's commitment had already been demonstrated by the adoption of national policies. The Government had also adopted relevant legislation to combat these phenomena. Such laws were necessary prerequisites in any effort to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law. Governments had the obligation to educate and raise awareness about the scourges of all forms of racism and racial discrimination. Education was essential for promoting tolerance and respect for diversity. Full respect for the principle of non-discrimination was conducive to stability and social cohesion, and, as a result, the Government of Cyprus had initiated the introduction of educational programmes aimed at achieving that goal.

    ADRIAN CAMARASAN (Romania) said Romania continued to take important steps to promote equal chances and combat discrimination in order to ensure full respect for and implementation of human rights. The Romanian legislative framework, based on international and European legal documents, was based on the principle of equality among all persons, without discrimination on account of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, belief, political orientation, wealth or social origin. Sanctions for the perpetration of acts discrimination were also stipulated. A key element in internal legislation aiming at combating discrimination was the National Council for Combating Discrimination, a governmental body with the role of implementing the principles of non-discrimination and of sanctioning discriminatory offenses. The Council had elaborated a national action plan for combating discrimination, had reinforced legislation and had applied sanctions against racial discrimination. It also had launched an initiative to create a National Alliance against Discrimination.

    ELOI LAOUROU (Benin)said all of humankind, irrespective of colour, race, religion, culture or geographical origin, must benefit from equal, dignified and equitable treatment. This was why prejudice and discrimination must be discouraged in all forms and under all circumstances. The day-to-day life of all peoples needed to be based on principles of tolerance, respect, mutual understanding and solidarity. The effo the Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe into its national action plan. The Government awaited the Commission's report on its second visit to the country and was convinced that it would be helpful in identifying measures for further improving national legislation. About 34.4 per cent of the country's residents were non-nationals. They came from 80 different countries. Liechtenstein quite literally was a "global village". Integration was a key responsibility not only of the State but of all members of society.

    KLAUS NETTER, of the Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations, speaking on behalf of B'nai-B'rith International and the International Council of Jewish Women, said that during the past few years, anti-Semitism had grown exponentially in many parts of the world. During the single month of April 2002, the American Jewish Committee had counted almost 200 anti-Semitic incidents in the world, with particular frequency and ferocity in Western Europe. American university campuses had also witnessed expressions of unabashed anti-Semitism, such as slogans in praise of the Holocaust and demands for visual identification of Jewish students and teaching staff. One of the most lamentable incidents of anti-Semitism over the last year was the broadcast throughout the Arab world of a 41-part "historical" drama called "Horsemen without a Horse" by Egyptian State television which was based on the infamous forgery called the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion".

    DANIEL LACK, of World Jewish Congress, in a joint statement with the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said the Commission must express its abhorrence and unambiguously condemn Egypt and other Arab States whose television networks had disseminated on at least 22 successive occasions a blatantly racist TV series entitled "Knight without a Horse". The series was based on the notorious Tsarist secret police forgery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was quoted extensively in Hitler's "Mein Kampf" as the Nazi leitmotif leading to the extermination of European Jewry in World War II, and it constituted an incitement to hatred, violence and genocide. By permitting the televising of this obnoxious series on State controlled television, Egypt and other Arab States were in clear violation of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racism and Racial Discrimination, to which they were parties.

    CHARLES GRAVES, of African Society of International and Comparative Law, speaking on behalf of Interfaith International and World Federation of Democratic Youth, said it was most unfortunate that the war of aggression that was being waged by the United States and its allies against Iraq was being carried on despite opposition from millions of peace-loving people in different parts of the world. This war would deepen the misunderstanding among nations and exacerbate unhealthy feelings of superiority and intolerance which were currently rearing their ugly heads in a disturbing manner. During the last two years there had already been a sharp increase in incidents of racism and xenophobia in many parts of the world. The revival of such unhealthy racist and discriminatory sentiments, as well as the unmatched degree of hatred and intolerance that had underpinned the attacks of 11 September, must always be a reminder to the world of the importance of the noble message of combating racism in all its forms and manifestations. Efforts to combat racism and racial discrimination would not make progress unless the world embraced all human beings on an equal footing, and unless justice prevailed for all people.

    MAN HEI YIP, of Lutheran World Federation, also speaking on behalf of The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism and Minority Rights Group International, said that in an incident in December 2002, a Dalit woman was beaten by two upper-caste people because she had agreed to prepare a midday meal for school children. In October 2002, fi allowed for the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. It was regrettable that the most developed countries focused all their efforts on implementing economic, social and cultural rights and considered that the promotion of civil and political rights in the poorest countries was sufficient. This attitude was often based on the conviction that some societies had not attained the level necessary for an effective implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.

    FRANCOIS GARAI, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said during these troubled and complex times, it was necessary to end the trend towards the defamation of religions. Already, last year, the Commission had adopted a resolution against the defamation of religions. It was unfortunately clear that despite such progress, religions had been taken hostage in political rhetoric and had been victim to defamation. Those who did this kind of thing could not imprison the religions of others. World leaders had asked all show respect for religions, and that they not use religion to invoke violence, discrimination or exploitation of others. The Commission was informed that last Saturday, here in Geneva, Christians, Jews and Muslims had gathered and appealed to States not to resort to any conflict by pitting religions against each other. The World Union for Progressive Judaism hoped that a time would come when religions would no longer be used as instruments or political tools.

    DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said that six years ago, an extraordinary event occurred regarding racism, known as the "Blasphemy Affair" which resulted in censorship decision 1997/125. The then Special Rapporteur on Racism, Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo, was criticized on the last day of the fifty-third session of the Commission for quoting a factually correct sentence in his report, under the heading: Islamist and Arab anti-Semitism. Other than resigning his mandate, the Special Rapporteur had no alternative but to take "corrective action", which he did. No State backed him. In all subsequent reports, he avoided referring to Judeophobic anti-Semitism in the Arab-Muslim world, which was nourished by a deliberate "culture of hate", spilling over dangerously into Europe. Now Judeophobic anti-Semitism was recognized as endemic in the Arab-Muslim world and in parts of Europe. In his 43-page report, the new Special Rapporteur, Doudou Diène, had barely nine lines on this subject.

    RINCETTA NAIK, of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, said that due to a lack of funds, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was unable to hold more than a few seminars during the entire Third Decade to Combat Racism. It was regrettable that the implementation of the Durban Programme of Action had been disappointing, too. And it was incorrect and harmful not to allow NGOs to interact with the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action. It was regrettable that only 16 members of the United Nations had provided information to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of racism. It was important that States should make more substantive commitments to combat racism in all its global and changing forms

    KADIR JATOI, of International Institute for Peace, said Pakistanis in general and Sindhis in particular had become an ongoing target of the greed and tyranny of the Pakistani military, the Inter-Service Intelligence Services and their time-tested comrades -- the Jihadi mullahs. The tragic alliance between the Pakistani military and the ultra-right through which fundamentalist Jihadi Islamists had destroyed most democratic institutions in Pakistan, pierced the rule of law, brought the administration of justice into disrepute, and alienated the people of Pakistan. Pakistan's judiciary had become a slave to the military establishment. Indeed, since the early 1950s, the independence of the judiciary had consistently eroded continued to separate children from parents and brothers from sisters. How could the French authorities claim to fight against discrimination while themselves being the authors of such discrimination?

    JEAN JACQUES KIRKYACHARIAN, of Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, said that since the Durban Conference, racism had been seen by the international community as an intolerable injustice. Racism could be perceived as a reaction by those who had a superior status to a threat from those who could only be inferior. This definition applied to all areas. If some people were considered to be inferior, there was also racism. Durban had stressed racism as victims conceived it. It was essential that the victims of racism should finally be able to take the floor but this did not constitute an absolute weapon. In this regard, the conclusion drawn by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of and follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference Against Racism was enlightening and worrying:
    by May 2002, only 16 countries had sent in replies to the questionnaire from the High Commissioner summarizing their efforts to implement the outcomes of the World Conference Against Racism.

    BRUNA FAIDUTTI, of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, drew attention to the fact that among the three United Nations human rights conventions which had received the largest numbers of ratifications were the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention which dealt with this particular item of the agenda. It was therefore disturbing to note that only a miniscule minority of States parties had discharged the obligations set forth to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding and tolerance among racial or ethnical groups.

    LAZARO PARY, of Indian Movement "Tupaj Amaru", said the measures taken by the United States after the 11 September events had affected many people of Arabic origin. The Government of the United States had responded with violence and terror to the demands of liberation movements and to those who legitimately sought freedom. The terrorist attacks had also prompted the United States to take revenge against Muslims, Hispanics, indigenous peoples and minority groups. The illegal war by the United States against Iraq was part of a spiral of violence and State terrorism. The war of conquest committed by colonialist Spain centuries ago had been considered a crime against humanity. The Spanish colonial system had erected a colonial system on the American continent and even today people continued to consider original Americans as "Third World". As a result, indigenous peoples and people of African descent and members of other minorities on the American continent were suffering.

    GAY MCDOUGALL, of International Human Rights Law Group, said the organization was concerned about the situation of people of African descent in Latin America. Their exclusion was a daily matter in Nicaragua, where people of African descent suffered poverty and were subjected to massacres. In war-torn Colombia, approximately 3 million people had been displaced, 50 per cent of whom were of African descent. Some 80 per cent of the needs of the population could not be satisfied. The Commission was urged to act upon the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the fight against racial discrimination and xenophobia, and to set up a trust fund for people of African descent, as it had done for other indigenous groups.

    SHANI O'NEAL, of International Possibilities Unlimited, said the educational system and the criminal justice system were increasingly intertwined for Blacks and Latinos in the United States. Primary and s weeks, millions of demonstrators in more than 600 cities all over the world had said no to war. This was an authentic indication of the strong wave and widespread sentiment against the wrong approach taken by evil and arrogant elements in the United States and United Kingdom. Citizens did not agree with the decisions of their governments and leaders. The massive demonstrations that had taken place in cities like Washington and London reflected the wide gap between the people and their leaders. It was the duty of all today to meet under the banner of human rights to confirm and emphasize the magnificent human sentiments and values which had driven those people and had driven others, such as Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter, to the streets to express their opposition to war, misery and destruction. The United States' and United Kingdom's national borders were not being threatened; and any military action by them could not be considered legitimate acts of self-defense. Iraq had not attacked them -- there was no connection between Iraq, which had been isolated under severe international economic sanctions for 12 years, and what had happened to the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001.

    KANG LONG NHAN, of Pax Romana, drew the attention of the Commission to the importance of identity. Today, identity politics in many parts of the world had become a vehicle of power and a principle of governance, leading to consistent patterns of new forms of discrimination and racism. Victims of these policies included minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Pax Romana welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism but stressed that cultural pluralism was disappearing as a governing principle and had been replaced by discriminatory policies. Therefore, while fully endorsing the strategies proposed by the Special Rapporteur, the organization invited him to study discrimination concerning enjoyment of and access to the right to self-determination; to include in his next report economic and social dimensions and the integration of gender perspectives; and to pay attention to the interaction between local and global identities in the context of globalization with regard to discrimination.

    VIOLA PLUMNER, of the December 12 Movement International Secretariat, said the organization had believed that the World Conference against Racism would provide the type of assistance which the United States Government would welcome, that the United States would use the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to correct the systematic racism it had practised for centuries. Instead, the United States did not have the best interests at heart of the many millions of African-American people it discriminated against, nor did it have enough humility and respect for all the working bodies of the United Nations to participate in the activities of those bodies. Some 2 million people were in the jails and prisons of the United States; 60 to 75 per cent were Black and Hispanic, with an ever-increasing number of Black and Hispanic women. More than half the prisoners on death row in United States prisons were Black. Every social index would attest to continued systematic racism in the country. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was and should always be a crime against humanity, and therefore compensation and restitution were due the victims and their descendants.

    ROGER WAREHAM, of International Association Against Torture, said the battle to eliminate racism would never succeed until those who birthed it, perpetuated it and continued to benefit from it were held accountable for their deeds. The Durban World Conference had reaffirmed the historical truth that no matter what contradictions might exist between them, the Western European and Others Group of countries always united in defense of racism and White supremacy. This racist unity was exemplified by these countries' initial opposition to holding a World Conference Against Racism, their subsequent attempt to children, women and the elderly. The American administration was clearly taking advantage of Iraq's cultural and religious diversity through a policy of divide and rule. The American administration had even ignored the voices of opposition to the war. The Commission was urged to condemn the American military aggression and to demand an immediate end to military operations against Iraq.

    SHIMON SAMUELS, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said the founder of his Centre, who was now 94, had announced that he had not witnessed such intensity of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism seemed to deny that by omission in both quantity and quality in his report. The Iraqi Minister for Information unabashedly had blamed "the Jews" for the coalition's current military action against Iraq. The Commission should suspend acceptance of report E/CN.4/2003/24 on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, until it was adequately corrected and showed a balanced treatment of the scourge of resurgent anti-Semitism. Mr. Wiesenthal, in the 1920s, had said that he was not so much worried by the voices of the Nazis as by the absent voices of the anti-Nazis.

    PEDRO MONTEIRO SENGELE, of International Committee for the Respect and Application of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, said the dawn of the Third Millennium saw the emergence of increasingly subtle and pernicious forms of racism and racial discrimination. Clear commitments had been taken by international community at the World Conference against Racism. But despite some modest progress, an upsurge in discriminatory practices had occurred in many Western countries, especially vis-à-vis Africans who were systematically refused visas to enter the Shenegan area and other European countries, or were expelled under particularly humiliating conditions. In recent months, Africans who did not have papers had often been forcibly repatriated from Europe to third countries. Some had even died during these operations, which were reminiscent of the slave trade. There was also an increase in discriminatory practices against Africans in the work place and in housing policies. In addition, through the scourge of HIV/AIDS, the African continent was experiencing the worst tragedy of its history, after the slave trade, colonialism and apartheid.

    TIMOTHY RICHARD GILL, of the Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that in May 1998, thousands of Indonesian citizens had been murdered and raped, and vast amounts of property destroyed during racist riots against the Chinese community in Jakarta. Five years later, those responsible for the atrocities remained at large. The Government's Joint Fact Finding Team established to investigate the massacre had found that the rioters were encouraged by the absence of security forces, and that the military had played a role in the violence. The team had even identified particular officials to be held accountable. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women had likewise concluded that massive sexual violence had been committed against the women of ethnic Chinese communities in Jakarta, and that evidence suggested that the riot had been organized. The Government of Indonesia had failed to act against the perpetrators of the massacre because many of its officials operated within a climate of impunity. The failure of the State to bring these people to justice sent a strong message that crimes against humanity were acceptable in Indonesia. The Commission was urged to address this situation. This was a matter of urgency not merely for victims of the massacre, but also for future generations of Indonesians who continued to live under the shadow of racially motivated violence and State impunity.

    CATHERINE FERRY, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the term apartheid had been legally defined by a number of international treaties as a war crime and a crime against humanity, with a broader meaning and applicability. The treaties included Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention; the International Criminal Court Statute (1998); and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1997). The domination and systematic oppression by Israel in the occupied territories was compatible with the descriptions of the Apartheid Convention, which included the denial of the right to life and liberty of person, murder, infliction of serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberate imposition of unacceptable living conditions, among other things. There were some striking similarities in Israel's brand of apartheid to that system used by the former regime of South Africa.

    GENEVIEVE GENCIANOS, of Migrant Rights International, said the organization was particularly concerned over worsening racist and xenophobic attitudes following the 11 September terrorist attacks, and with the effects of several counter-terrorism measures. In many parts of the world, non-nationals, particularly migrants, confronted the daily fear of being singled out, arrested, and detained for reasons of their colour, national origin, race, descent or religion. Migrants were among the most vulnerable groups of human beings. They were constan greatest objectivity, without responding to any pressure, wherever it might come from. Finally, it was dangerous to measure the degree of discrimination through the space given to it in his report. If the Commission felt that separate reports were needed on Islamophobia or on anti-Semitism, the Special Rapporteur would take this under consideration.

    PETER LESA KASANDA, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, said the Group had just started its work and was taking its tasks seriously. It was dealing with concrete measures that could affect the lives of persons of African descent who had been victims of discrimination. The report (E/CN.4/2003/21) was a consolidated one reflecting the two sessions held by the Working Group. He hoped that the Western Group would contribute much to the work of the Group. Every region had its responsibilities in the fight against racism and racial discrimination with regard to people of African descent. The Western Group was urged to appoint experts as members of the Working Group, which it had not done so far. Brazil, by contrast, had been doing a lot to support the Working Group.

    Rights of Reply
    A Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, speaking in right of reply in response to a statement made by Portugal, expressed indignation at allegations made by Portugal of human rights violations in Korea. Certain countries chose to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in order to detract attention from their own human rights violations. All attempts at politicization in the area of human rights must be rejected and the principle of objectivity and impartiality observed.

    A Representative of Egypt, speaking in right of reply in a response to statements made by the representatives of some non-governmental organizations, said the idea of anti-Semitism was a European concept and did not exist in other cultures. It was clear that the peoples of Semitic and Arabic origin were all sons of Abraham and the same. Therefore, anti-Semitism from Arabs would be resentment of oneself. Regarding the anti-Semitic films and books mentioned, it had to be stressed that they had covered specific historical periods and had nothing to do with the Jewish faith. In this connection, Egypt also wished to stress the importance of respect for all religions.
    ©UN News Centre

    UK MINISTER PROPOSES REFUGEE 'CAMP' PLAN(eu)
    Refugees seeking protection by European host governments might be expected to stay in special camps outside of the EU their while claims are being processed and their status established. The UK's Minister for Home Affairs, David Blunket, is expected to present the controversial proposal for dealing with asylum claims when he meets his opposite numbers from around the EU today. Home affairs ministers will meet informally in Greece to discuss ways of reducing the numbers of refugees entering the EU. Yet the plans have already met head-on a vanguard of criticism led by civil rights groups. Advocacy groups, who have seen drafts of the report, have been scathing, claiming the plans to set up "Transit Processing Centres" will in effect mean the creation of mass internment camps. Pressure groups say there are serious legal and moral questions to be resolved.

    Standards
    Mooted sites for the camps include Romania, Croatia, Albania and Ukraine. There are also plans to back-up these centres with ‘Regional Protection Areas' set up in regions that create large numbers of refugees such as Turkey, Iran or Morocco. The proposals are also expected to outline ways to improve standards in the asylum systems in these countries. "We are not sure yet which standards countries would have to reach", Daphne Bouteillet-Pacquet, asylum specialist at Amnesty International, said during an interview with EUobserver. Ms Bouteillet-Pacquet fears that the proposal would mean a lowering of standards, with guarantees of humane treatment limited to the protection from torture and inhuman treatment. The 1951 convention on the status of refugees forms the basis of existing rules and affords protection in many more areas. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is likely to be responsible for administering the camps, backed by EU funding. UNHCR boss Ruud Lubbers will speak with EU leaders during the course of the day.

    Incongruous
    There were reports earlier in the week that the council meeting may be proposed due to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq. Leading human rights group Amnesty International claims this should have been the case. "It is extraordinary that a proposal to reinforce 'Fortress Europe' is being debated at this time when war in Iraq may result in many people fleeing the country", said Dick Oosting, EU Director of Amnesty International. "It is doubly incongruous that the present proposals were initiated by the EU member state that is part of the military operations in Iraq", he added. David Blunket, speaking to BBC radio today dismissed the link but did add that "Britain had already taken 18,000 Iraqis in the last year from the Saddam regime".
    ©EUobserver


    EU REPORT: IMMIGRATION NOT CAUSE OF INCREASE IN CRIME AND UNEMPLOYMENT
    Key issues, which could impact on future EU immigration policies, are the focus of an EU funded report published today. The report reviews the findings of 17 different research projects, providing an up-to-date picture of migration and immigration in Europe. The report shows that there is no direct cause and effect link between immigration, crime and unemployment. Furthermore, the presence of a strong black economy can encourage immigration. The study also shows immigrants tend to accept marginal jobs EU citizens do not want, and, should immigration decrease, Europe could experience shortages of manpower. "Ignorance is the basis of racism," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "This new report will help to ensure that any future policies dealing with immigration issues take into account some of the latest information available about the problems that migrants encounter in Europe today." The studies explore situations in both new immigration countries and in countries with a longer tradition of immigration, such as France, Germany and the UK. The report emphasises the importance of comparative research and international exchange of experience, and suggests that similar transnational collaboration could serve as an important blue print for EU-wide action to alleviate the problems that migrants face today. The 17 research projects were conducted under the Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme (TSER).

    Migration in Europe: new trends
    The report points to evidence that immigrants do not cause the underground economy, but rather an informal economy encourages migration, both in Southern and Northern Europe. Attempts in Germany to clamp down on illegal entry failed to curb the informal economy. The presence of a black economy might act as a "magnet" for poorer immigrants, encouraging them to stay in Europe, once they were involved in such an environment. This in turn leads to Europeans stereotyping immigrants as a criminal class. Research also shows discrimination experienced by some immigrants in the early stages of settlement is likely to foster social inequality and fragmentation, ultimately encouraging crime. The level of immigration caused by families reuniting is increasingly caused by people migrating for work, although there remains much variation in how European countries interpret international conventions on this matter. However, the increase in female immigration is not only due to family reunification. It is also linked to demand for female labour in certain sectors, such as tourism and domestic work. Research indicates that that although the rights of immigrant workers to reunite with their families are underpinned by a variety of international conventions, in practice most Member States interpret the law in different ways, applying rigid conditions for family reunification. EU policy recognises family reunification, but its 1992 Copenhagen resolution on the issue is not legally binding.

    Quality of life
    A key finding of the research is that immigrants generally experience poorer living conditions than EU citizens living in the same areas, particularly in employment and housing. Immigrant children tend to perform relatively poorly in school, with greater problems and higher drop out rates. Research shows that there is a widespread perception that poor living and working conditions are the accepted norm for migrants. Unemployment represents one of the most serious conditions affecting many migrants in Europe. In Germany, for instance, the employment gap between foreigners and Germans has widened significantly, from 0.7% in 1979 to 8.5 % in 1998. Moreover, whereas only 38 % of unemployed Germans had no vocational qualifications in 1997, the figure among foreigners was 78%. The unemployment rate among 16-21 year-old foreigners in urban areas is estim exclusion, by isolating immigrants from the rest of the community. Some special services for minorities may hinder integration into the education system and the labour market. Public opinion appears in many cases to drive official policies. Attitudes have often hindered policies designed to achieve greater equality, or to break down barriers to integration. The media and political leaders play a big part in this. Finally, the research outcomes show the diversity of experiences of various groups of migrants, of various immigration countries, and of various sub-groups in each place. Policies need to reflect this diversity. On the other hand, there are also many similarities in settlement experiences, community formation and national laws and policies. This convergence can serve as the basis for collaborative policy making. It points to the value of comparative research and international exchange of experience. The transnational collaborative approach demonstrated by the multi-national TSER studies can serve as a blueprint for EU-wide co-operation in this field.
    © The European Commission

    DISMAY AS ANTI-SEMITISM CLOUDS ITALIAN TV CHIEF'S DEPARTURE
    The man chosen to revive Italy's state broadcaster threw in the towel six days after his appointment, without stepping inside his office. In his resignation letter, Paolo Mieli, the chairman-elect, cited "technical and political difficulties". The government benches in parliament erupted in applause at the news of his departure, but elsewhere there was widespread dismay. Rai has been in trouble for years, victim of the spoils system that gives important appointments to the parties in power. But the malaise has become a galloping cancer since Silvio Berlusconi's election victory nearly two years ago. Mediaset, Mr Berlusconi's commercial network, dominates private-sector television. With Rai in his pocket, Italy's richest man had direct or indirect control of nearly 90 per cent of Italian broadcasting. Mr Berlusconi has a strong commercial motive for running Rai down, so that Mediaset reaps the benefit in viewing figures and advertising business.

    Whether or not that was Mr Berlusconi's intention, Rai's audiences have slumped as its programme quality has crumbled, and the previous board quit after a year in the face of claims that it acted against the corporation's interests. Mr Mieli, a distinguished journalist who has edited two of Italy's best daily newspapers, was seen as a man with the experience and energy to revitalise Rai. From the centre-left, he was also distant enough from Mr Berlusconi to be immune from charges of complicity. But he laid down three conditions for taking the job. First, he demanded the restoration of two successful programmes that were axed when their anchormen offended the Prime Minister. He insisted on choosing his own director general to replace the incumbent, who is considered to be close to Mr Berlusconi. Third, he asked for a salary comparable to what he receives as director of the publishing group Rizzoli.

    The government balked; Mr Berlusconi commented that "it would be as if we hadn't won the election" to accept the demands. Anti-Semitic abuse was sprayed on Rai's office in Milan ­ Mr Mieli is half-Jewish ­ and a right-wing newspaper in Rome inveighed against "Jewish domination" of Italy's media. In discussing his decision to reject the post, Mr Mieli was philosophical. "There is a civil war going on in this country," he told La Repubblica newspaper. "Fortunately it's only mental but it is a war just the same." He was appointed chairman, he said, because even the governing majority "understands that there is a conflict of interest" in the control of Rai that had to be resolved before the corporation could return to health. Mr Mieli said he had hoped "to take [Rai] out of the civil war ... and return public television to commercial competitiveness." That challenge will be for the person who takes his place.
    © Independent Digital

    FAR-RIGHT GIVEN BOOST AS ANTWERP COUNCIL RESIGNS(Belgium)
    The entire Antwerp council, including its Mayor, resigned yesterday in a scandal over buying perfume, clothes and shoes on official credit cards, to the delight of Belgium's outcast far-right party, the Vlaams Blok. Two months before a Belgian general election, the furore has been a godsend to the extremist Blok, which has been excluded from power in Antwerp even though it won 33 per cent of the vote in municipal elections in October 2000. The daily newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen provoked the storm last month with a report that officials responsible for the police were suspected of fraud. The claims were initially denied.

    On Wednesday, the Blok's leader, Filip Dewinter, provided evidence that credit cards issued by the city had been used to buy goods and services for thousands of euros, including suits, hats, handbags, perfumes, birth announcement cards, shoes, a weekend in a hotel and a set of glasses. An offer to repay the cash did not prove enough to abate criticism, leading to yesterday's mass resignation. Mr Dewinter welcomed the move but said he feared a "whitewash" that would not bring any real change in the city government. The Mayor, Léona Detiège, said she would remain in office in a caretaker capacity. She and the 10 councillors who quit denied any wrongdoing. The revelations are deeply damaging to the mainstream parties because a rainbow coalition had kept the Blok out of power. The anti-immigration Blok can now trumpet itself as the only important political force untainted by corruption.
    © Independent Digital

    FIGHT AGAINST RACISM DRAWS POETS, POLICE(Canada)
    Week of events. Let's talk, not preach - U de M researcher

    You might be wondering what an ostrich has to do with racism. On posters across Quebec, the reclusive bird is pulling its beak out of the sand to confront discrimination head on. So should we, say the poets and police officers, dancers and demographers, filmmakers and fine artists coming together for anti-racism week, which kicked off yesterday. "Racism ... continues to be a scourge on society," said Maurice Shalom, one of the organizers and a researcher in comparative criminology at Université de Montréal. "But we don't want to preach, we want to talk about it." To that end, the activities run the gamut from conferences on discrimination in hiring practices to hip-hop concerts to the officially sanctioned occupation of the McGill métro station. "Last year we saw young black people start dancing in the métro with a jazz band of police officers," said Shalom, who is also a cultural communities adviser for the police. "It's important for the police to be involved, not just for their public image, but for all the ways they deal with these issues in the community."

    This year, organizers have invited leaders of cultural communities to go on the beat with the police - to see just what it's like from the inside of a patrol car. With guests from Latin America, Belgium, France and England, this edition of Action Week Against Racism is also a chance to see just how we've progressed - and where we've failed - right here in Montreal. "Four years ago when we started, even ministers didn't want to talk about racism," Shalom said. "They wanted to talk about harmony. But the public - young, old, police, academics, people on the street - said 'finally we can talk about it.' "

    Events lead to the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March 21 - exactly 43 years after an infamous clash between white police officers and black protesters in South Africa. On Friday, after a full day of debate, comes the "social event" of the week - Noctua: Rhythms Against Racism at the Medley. Raï music from Algeria, salsa from Mexico, Caribbean music from Toronto, and live painting everywhere. "Music and art let people see how others express themselves differently and appreciate it," says Uryah Collins, one of the organizers. "But music also forces you to bump into people and break down barriers."
    Full schedule of events

    ©Montreal Gazette

    EU WANTS GENDER EQUALITY IN PENSIONS AND HEALTH SECURITY
    Women and men should be put on an equal pay footing for pensions and health security, under plans currently being drawn up in Brussels. According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the Commission is considering proposing a regulation in June which will put an end to discrimination against women in private pensions and health security benefits by suggesting 'gender neutral' tariffs. If social affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, manages to get her way, then health insurance would have to work out new tariffs right through system. At the moment, women pay higher rates than men. An open private pension with the same input by both men and women yields 9 to 12% less for women. Handelsblatt writes that insurance companies are against the initiative which would mean higher payment input by men. A redistribution between the sexes is only possible in state systems and not in private insurance systems, said Franz-Josef Werle of the European Federation of National Insurance Associations (CEA). A new regulation in this area would have to be agreed unanimously by all EU member states.
    ©EUobserver

    ANTI-FASCIST SUCCESS AGAINST NAZIS(Netherlands)
    Anti-fascists inflicted a humiliating defeat on the nazis of the Nederlandse Volks Unie (NVU) in Apeldoorn on 8 March.
    By Jeroen Bosch

    The date and venue were not chosen at random. The NVU is contesting regional elections in Apeldoorn under the slogan "Stop asylum now" and 8 March was selected provocatively to celebrate a gruesome anniversary in the annals of Nazism: it was on that date 58 years ago that 117 Dutch citizens were murdered ­ just a month before Apeldoorn's liberation ­ by the German SS as reprisal for a Resistance action in which food had been stolen. This event is still commemorated in Apeldoorn but the value of the commemoration of the Nazi atrocity was thrown into question when the city council unhesitatingly gave the NVU demonstration the green light. To make matters worse, the council also outlawed a counter-demonstration by Anti-Fascist Action (AFA).

    On the morning of 8 March, however, over 500 people turned up ­ ban or no ban ­ for an anti-fascist demonstration and determined to stop the NVU nazis. And that is exactly what they did. The NVU's march, which was scheduled for the afternoon, failed to take place because the anti-fascists blocked their path and chased those nazis who turned up in small groups out of the city. On a nearby motorway, meanwhile, the main body of the NVU was ringed by riot police at a filling station. By the start of the afternoon, the city's mayor was forced to outlaw the nazi march, because the police were unable to remove the anti-fascists from the march route.This cancellation of the nazi parade was jubilantly celebrated as a major victory by the anti-fascist demonstrators, among them many football fans and Moroccan and Moluccan youth from Apeldoorn and surrounding towns.The only casualty on the day was the stabbing and hospitalisation of a young boy by nazis in the city centre.

    Nazi boss Constant Kusters was, as expected, furious at his humiliation at the hands of the anti-fascists and, in a fit of rage, led an attempt by his nazi playmates to block the motorway, where riot police duly forced them back into their cars. The day after the elections the NVU got in the end 1.120 votes at the provincial elections, by far not enough to win a seat. For the city council, the day was a rude awakening and it has pledged that it will not allow any further NVU demonstrations. This should have been its policy in the first place and the fact that council members needed to see a swastika-tattooed mob brandishing brownshirt SA-type shields before taking such action is nothing short of a disgrace. AFA had already warned the council about the nazis but it had refused to listen.

    Unfortunately, Apeldoorn council has not been isolated in its naivety when it comes to allowing nazi stunts. In Kerkrade, in March 2001, it was left to 3,000 anti-fascists and local people to stop the NVU after a court in Maastricht had allowed it to march. In January 2002, the NVU was again granted permission to demonstrate, this time in Rotterdam, and it took 800 riot police to keep anti-fascist protesters at bay. The nazi turnout was minimal and it was not long before German nazis, who had travelled to Rotterdam for this supposed Dutch nazi showpiece, were loudly complaining that it had turned out to be a short stroll through a derelict industrial area. In the end, some of the nazis were given a thrashing by anti-racist Feyenoord supporters. Finally, last May, the NVU staged a demonstration in Harderwijk, where Volkert van der Graaf, the alleged killer of right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, used to live. On that occasion, AFA decided that holding a counter-demonstration would lead to its being scapegoated by a local authority that had failed to prevent the nazis from fouling its streets. The NVU nazis did not escape unscathed, however, because when they turned up with ©Alert!

    EXTREME RIGHT-WING YOUTH CULTURE GROWING(Netherlands)
    By Jeroen Bosch

    In 1996, a large segment of Dutch youth culture was dominated by the so-called "Gabbers" and their music, "Gabber house", which is very fast and has a heavy beat. As well as a sound, "Gabber" was also a style and, in the big cities, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but also in a lot of smaller places, there emerged groups of (mainly white) boys with shaved heads and training suits, who hung around in groups on the streets, went to legal and illegal house parties and used drugs. Although they have no formal organisation or structures, the "Gabbers" declare themselves proud of their city and country and oppose the multicultural society. Because of the mushrooming of this subculture at the time and the import of, and mixing with, other subcultures and non-political ideas in the scene, the more hardline racist slogans tended to disappear into the background. Nevertheless, a hardcore of racists kept a foothold in the "Gabber" milieu and some were recruited by fascist parties like the now outlawed CP'86, even if their use of drugs was often a problem for the "political soldier"-type activities of the fascists. In the end, however, CP'86 was not very successful recruiting them, and, when the organisation broke apart, activity directed towards the "Gabbers" effectively ceased.

    Four years on, in 2000, the "Gabber" scene collapsed, but ex- "Gabbers" remained active in some towns and turned back to racism, on various occasions even resorting to violence, together with organised fascists, launching attacks on refugees and their homes. Foreign shops and snack bars were also targeted and terrorised. From 2000, these ex-"Gabbers" started behaving and dressing more and more like racist skinheads and were increasingly mobilised and more or less organised by Stormfront Nederland, another fascist organisation. This outfit was able to attract many ex-"Gabbers" to its meetings where rabble-rousing hate speeches and heavy drinking formed the main part of an evening's "discussion". Stormfront Nederland, however, has gone the same way as many other nazi groups before it, because the more events it staged, the more unwelcome attention it drew from the mass media, the law and anti- fascists. The catalyst for Stormfront Nederland's demise was a big fight at a hate rock concert in Geleen, in Limburg near the German border, a fiasco which cost the nazis their popularity among skinheads. At the same time, members of Stormfront were convicted for crimes like racial violence or daubing a Jewish cemetery with swastikas. As a result of the opposition and opprobrium, Stormfront Nederland's leaders proved incapable of holding the group together and, in any case, were too spaced out on booze and drugs to organise any more meetings. Thus, by 2002, Stormfront Nederland evaporated.

    That, unfortunately, was not the end of the story because, in February this year, public concern discussion about right-wing youth culture hit the headlines again, occasioned by problems at a school in Landgraaf, near Limburg, where apparel like army boots, bomber jackets and the Lonsdale brand were banned. The school's board of governors decided on this drastic measure because of an increase in racist behaviour by pupils wearing such gear. The move was not popular with the students who made a declaration claiming that "Lonsdale-clothes are used by the "house" culture, which is against racism". Some of the pupils claimed to support the slogan "Gabbers against racism and fascism" but other pupils said that the ban on the clothing was "a victory for the Turks".

    Since the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, tension has grown between young people of different ethnic origins, leading some groups to fall back on ethnic identity and their own group and culture. Thus, young Turks and Moroccans, but also Moluccans, unforeseen rise of Fortuyn, which now emphasises the problems of immigration in a bid to to appear "objective". The result has been a tangible heightening of racial friction exemplified by a recent case in which, after a magazine interview, police arrested two boys aged 15 and 16 years old. The two had proclaimed in the interview that "throwing a Molotov cocktail at a Turkish coffee house is OK" and that "it's impossible to send all foreigners back, so killing them, as Hitler did, is an option". Schools, youth workers and anti-fascists now face a big challenge of keeping young people out of the hands of the fascist parties.
    ©Alert!

    E-BAY TAKES LOOK AT RACISM, NEW POLICY ON OFFENSIVE ITEMS
    By Pia Sarkar

    Internet auction house EBay heightened its racial sensors by cautioning sellers against posting items that could be construed as offensive. Responding to complaints by minority activists that EBay's Web site contained racial slurs, the San Jose company said it will refine its policy so that a dialogue box pops up whenever sellers use a derogatory word and advises them that it "may be highly offensive to many in the EBay community." The dialogue box will also tell the seller that the listing "could be in violation of EBay's general policy against racially offensive items." EBay's policy stops short of actually blocking the item from being posted, but spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the company still reserves the right to remove any listings that it finds inappropriate. "If they proceed and the item violates our guidelines, it would be removed anyway," Pursglove said. EBay's current policy states that the company "will judiciously disallow listings or items that promote or glorify hatred, violence or racial intolerance, or items that promote organizations . . . with such views." But some people had complained that the policy did not go far enough.

    Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the National Alliance for Positive Action, a racial and social justice public advocacy group in Inglewood (Los Angeles County), said he was pleased with EBay's decision to revisit the issue. "It's a good message to send out and it's an educational message," he said, especially in light of the fact that more of EBay's customers are people of color. EBay's revised policy, which is likely to be put in place within the next 30 to 45 days, contains a provision that in some cases the use of a racial slur "is necessary to describe an item for sale, particularly if the word appears prominently on the item itself, or if it is the title of a book, movie or CD." Pursglove said it is important that EBay not be too restrictive so as to eliminate items that are not meant to be racially offensive. "What we've always tried to do is strike a balance between who wants to sell collectibles and those who prefer that those items be removed," he said. Hutchinson said there was always an acknowledgment that some items containing offensive language could carry some valid historical value, such as collectibles that might be displayed in a museum. "We never said they shouldn't be sold," he said. "But the responsibility is that if you're going to sell them, provide a context for them."
    ©San Francisco Chronicle

    BLUNKETT VOWS TO FIGHT 'HIDDEN RACISM' (uk)
    David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, vowed yesterday to fight "hidden racism" endured by ethnic minorities in employment, housing and education. He also pledged to help poor white communities where racism was bred by "fears and insecurity". Victims of "hidden racism", he said, included children who had done well at school but had been hindered by teachers who declared themselves to have no problem with ethnicity or religious difference. He also referred to the denial of equal access for ethnic minorities to job opportunities and public services. He promised that a strategy to "bring tangible improvements" to ethnic- minority communities would be published this summer.

    Speaking to the Kirklees Race Equality Council in West Yorkshire, where the British National Party recently won a town hall seat, Mr Blunkett said that strong, cohesive communities were vital to stop racist groups from driving wedges into society. The riots in northern towns in the summer of 2001 broke out, he said, because communities felt "powerless and isolated". The Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday the number of people prosecuted for racially motivated crimes in England and Wales increased by 16 per cent last year. It dealt with 2,674 defendants for racist crimes in the year to April 2002, up 373 on the previous year. Of those charged, 69 per cent entered guilty pleas and 14 per cent were convicted after trial. The overall conviction rate of 83 per cent remained the same.
    © Independent Digital

    MEMBERS NORTHERN LEAGUE PARTY CAUSE POLITICAL STORM(Italy)
    Two members of Italy's Northern League party who called on Italian railways to segregate immigrants from other passengers stirred up a political storm Friday. Enzo Erminio Boso and Sergio Divina, provincial councillors in the northern city of Trento, wrote to the council demanding that immigrants be segregated from locals in a special carriage on a northern commuter line. Both councillors are members of the party led by Reform Minister Umberto Bossi, number three in Italy's centre-right government. Immigrants using the Verona-Bolzano rail link showed no regard for other passengers by "sleeping on seats, taking off their boots and shoes and splaying themselves out on seats which could be used by other passengers," they said. The council should call on Italian railways to provide "special wagons for immi grants and special wagons for the poor Italians who respect the norms of civility, sitting down and occupying only one seat."

    The call outraged the left-wing opposition. "And when can we expect sealed wagons?" asked Gianclaudio Bressa, vice-chairman of parliament's constitutional affairs committee, alluding to the train wagons used by the Nazis to transport Jews to concentration camps. Gianfranco Pagliarulo, another member of the left wing Olive Tree opposition, accused the League of "wanting apartheid, like in the South Africa of old." Northern League president Lorenzo Conci issued a statement late Friday distancing the party from the views of its regional officials. Conci said the call "reflects the personal position of councillors Boso and Divina and not those of the League."
    ©AFP

    GERMAN NEO-NAZI BAN REJECTED
    Germany's constitutional court has rejected a request from the goverment and parliament to outlaw the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) party. "The proceedings have been dismissed," said presiding judge Winfried Hassemer. The court suspended proceedings a year ago after it emerged that the government's case against the NPD was based partly on provocative speeches made by its informants. The NPD said the government had told the informants to incite racial hatred and recruit violent neo-Nazis to strengthen its case. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government began a major effort to outlaw the party after a wave of hate crimes in 2000. Both houses of parliament also petitioned the court in 2001 to ban the fringe party, calling it a threat to German democracy. The government denies planting provocateurs.

    Court's dissatisfaction
    But three of the court's panel of seven judges decided that the informers' presence made it impossible to restart the case. A two-thirds majority would have been required for it to be continued. Mr Hassemer said the decision was not a judgement on whether the NPD was unconstitutional. She said it reflected dissatisfaction with the government's methods. "The sentence most often heard from the judges' bench was: 'We have problems with the facts - how can we arrive at the truth?'" The NPD's best post-war election result was 4.3% in 1969. But as an officially recognised party it recevies state funding and is allowed to march in German cities. The case was the first attempt in Germany to ban a party for 50 years.
    ©BBC News

    SCANDAL OVER INFORMERS HALTS BANNING OF NEO-NAZIS(Germany)
    Germany's constitutional court rejected an attempt to ban the country's main neo-Nazi party yesterday after learning that the government had relied on evidence supplied by paid secret service informants to incriminate the organisation. The ruling is a severe embarrassment to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrat-led coalition, which pledged to outlaw the overtly racist National Democratic Party in a crackdown on neo-Nazi violence. The court argued that the government's case against the party was prejudiced by the presence of at least 10 paid intelligence service informers in the NPD hierarchy who acted as agents provocateurs in providing evidence to incriminate the organisation. Winfried Hassmer, the presiding judge, said: "The fact that state informers were active within the party leadership makes their influence unavoidable. The proceedings have been dismissed." The government's case was also rejected on the basis that its informers could have leaked the party's defence strategy to the prosecution, thereby rendering a fair trial impossible.

    Mr Schröder's Red-Green coalition began its attempt to ban the 6,500-member NPD more than two years ago, after a spate of neo-Nazi violence. This included at least three racist murders, attacks on synagogues, and a fake bomb delivered to the head of Germany's Jewish community. Although none of the attacks were directly attributed to the NPD, a party that has usually polled less than 0.4 per cent of the vote in elections over the past five years, the organisation is nevertheless considered to be active in promoting neo-Nazi violence. Embarrassing leaks about the secret service moles within the NPD's party ranks caused the government's case to unravel. Ten out of 14 NPD members who testified against the party have been outed as government informers. In one case that came to light, the NPD's deputy leader in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was not only a paid intelligence service mole but had himself made anti-Semitic statements to incriminate the party in court. Before yesterday's ruling, the government admitted that one in seven of all NPD regional and national leaders had at some point been paid informers for the intelligence services.

    Criticism of the government's handling of the case cut across party lines. Wolfgang Bosbach, a conservative Christian Democrat MP, said the action was conducted in "dilettante fashion". Hans-Christian Ströbele, a legal expert for the Greens, demanded that the government set up a commission to investigate the use of government informers. The German police warned that the failure to ban the party would encourage the far right. Leaders of Germany's Jewish community described the government's reliance on paid informers to find evidence against the party as "inexplicable and irresponsible". Two NPD officials were recently identified at a rally of the now-banned German branch of the Islamic fundamentalist Hizb-ut-Tahir group, expressing solidarity with "Islam's fight against America".
    © Independent Digital

    BLUNKETT'S ASYLUM APPEAL REJECTED(uk)
    The Court of Appeal has rejected the government's attempt to overturn a High Court ruling on a new policy clamping down on asylum seekers claiming benefit. Appeal judges rejected a bid by David Blunkett to reverse Mr Justice Collins' ruling that new rules aimed at asylum seekers who delayed their application had breached the European Convention on Human Rights. However the Court of Appeal judges said they could see no reason why the new regulations could not work effectively once a few changes had been made. Mr Blunkett said the ruling vindicated his decision to appeal and meant the law was not incompatible with the human rights convention. Legislation introduced in January prevented people from claiming state-funded food and shelter if they did not immediately apply for asylum on arrival. The High Court had heard six test cases of people fleeing countries such as Ethiopia and Iraq who had been refused state help while their claims were being processed because they had failed to apply for asylum at the port of entry.

    Overhaul complete
    Mr Justice Collins quashed the refusals in February and ordered the cases to be reconsidered in the light of his judgment. On Tuesday Lord Phillips, sitting with two other senior judges, said Mr Justice Collins's conclusion was correct as the six cases had been wrongly refused as a result of deficiencies in procedure. "We were told by the Attorney General that these procedures are being radically overhauled," he said. "When they have been put in order we can see no reason why (the new regulations) should not operate effectively." He said the new policy may cause the proportion of asylum seekers who claim asylum at the port of entry to rise significantly. "Those who claim 'in country' will be at risk of being denied support," he said. "This will almost certainly be the fate of those who remain in this country for an appreciable period without claiming asylum." Both the home secretary and groups campaigning for the rights of asylum seekers are claiming victory from the ruling. Mr Blunkett said in a statement that he was pleased the appeal court judges had backed the "key principle" of his legislation which would allow the asylum system to continue operating in the same way.

    'Devastating defeat'
    "We have already made changes to our procedures to ensure that individual cases get full and fair consideration," he said. "But it was the key principle that was at stake here and on this we won." He said the ruling upheld the view that it was entirely reasonable to expect people fleeing from persecution to claim asylum "as soon as reasonably practicable". He added that the Home Office would "consider if any further changes are needed in the light of the court's judgment". Civil rights group Liberty said it was a "devastating defeat" for Mr Blunkett which "provided hope for civilians fleeing Saddam Hussein's Iraq and other tyrannical regimes". Spokesman Mark Littlewood said the policy of denying asylum seekers access to welfare or the right to work "lies in tatters" after the ruling. "The Court of Appeal has ruled that denying asylum seekers support and the right to work would amount to degrading treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights. "We think it is reasonable to expect asylum claims to be made as soon as reasonably practicable, but there were factors the government was not considering, which forced people into destitution. "The operation of the law is now going to be much fairer - it will have to be made compatible with the human rights convention."

    No compromise
    Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: "This decision represents victory for the basic principles of humanity and compassion which the UK has historically extended to all those who are here. "Asylum seekers should not be treated differently to anyone else. "The ©BBC News

    HUMAN RIGHTS TALKS BEGIN AS WAR LOOMS(Switzerland)
    The United Nations' top human rights body began its annual session in Geneva on Monday against the backdrop of impending war against Iraq. Participants say the crisis is likely to dominate proceedings but Switzerland hopes other issues will not be overshadowed by it. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the United States gave Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country or face war. "We are all about to be tested," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, at the opening of the session. Around 3,000 representatives of member and observer states, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are taking part in this year's meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission. The purpose of their talks is to consider and condemn human rights violations around the world. "If a conflict starts in Iraq during the commission, it will certainly influence the general atmosphere and negotiations on different important resolutions," Jean-Daniel Vigny, a member of Switzerland's delegation, told swissinfo.

    Iraq
    The delegation's head, Peter Maurer, echoed Vigny's comments, but insisted that a war would not create divisions between Switzerland and other delegations, including the United States. "Iraq will be a priority for Switzerland& but we have always maintained that the Human Rights Commission should not be a forum for political debate and that it should really focus on human rights violations," Maurer told swissinfo. "We might agree or disagree with the use of force under a UN resolution or a non-existing resolution& but that shouldn't affect the work of the commission," he added. When asked whether the killing of civilians could constitute a violation of human rights, Maurer replied that the US had always respected the Geneva Conventions, which form the backbone of international humanitarian law and were designed to protect civilians and prisoners of war during conflict. "We might have differences from time to time in the application of certain articles of the Geneva Conventions," said Maurer, "but let me be clear that the US does not question their applicability in times of war."

    Swiss goals
    This year's meeting marks the first time Switzerland is taking part in the commission as a full member of the UN, having joined the world body last September. Maurer said Switzerland's new status within the UN would lend more credibility and legitimacy to its arguments. "What we say at the commission will be taken more seriously this year in the sense that we are now an electing member to UN bodies and we can also vote on political issues," he told swissinfo. Over the past seven months, Switzerland has made it clear that one of its top priorities is to become an eventual member of the UN Human Rights Commission. But the Swiss Mission to the UN understands that it's unlikely to happen right away. "A lot of countries want to become members of the commission so you have to carefully target when the time is ripe," said Maurer. "We have a lot of competitors within the Western country groups, so we hope to become a member by 2007." As a non-member, the Swiss delegation is still entitled to voice its opinion by co-sponsoring resolutions, making declarations and engaging in informal decision shaping.

    Humanitarian focus
    Maurer said Switzerland's priorities this year were in line with the country's strong humanitarian tradition. "We will focus very much on vulnerable groups, including children, women and minorities, as well as indigenous people and the handicapped," he said. "Serious violations such as extra-judicial killings, the death penalty and torture are also on our agenda." According to Vigny, Switzerland plans to co-sponsor around 40 resolutions, including one on counter-terrorism, which is expected to be put forward by Mexico. "The resolution will be designed to ens ©Swissinfo

    UN RIGHTS PANEL MEETS AMID PROTEST OF LEADER
    The UN Human Rights Commission, the world body's key group for protecting human rights, began its six-week session Monday under the presidency of Libya - a country that is widely accused of broad human rights abuses. "Censorship, arbitrary detention, jailings, disappearances, torture - at last the UN has appointed someone who knows what she's talking about," the rights group Reporters Without Borders said of the Libyan chairwoman, Najat Hajjaji. The group was expelled from the meeting after six members threw protest leaflets around the room during Hajjaji's opening speech, but its secretary general, Robert Menard, was unrepentant. "We had already said we wouldn't participate in this masquerade," he said. "The United Nations has lost the last of its credibility."

    The United States voted against the appointment in January, pointing to Libya's "horrible human rights record," and European countries abstained from the vote, but it passed nevertheless. The presidency traditionally rotates between regions, and Hajjaji was the only can-didate the African group presented. In her speech Monday, Hajjaji openly criticized Israel and insisted that war against Iraq would damage human rights. She expressed fears of a "catastrophic war that will destroy everything and will certainly violate all human rights and especially the right to life." In a reference to nations' tightening of immigration rules to keep out terrorists, Hajjaji said that "some countries have taken coercive measures violating the rights of migrants and refugees and minorities and even the rights of those who seek visas." The commission studies abuses of human rights ranging from torture and killings to the failure of governments to ensure adequate food, housing and education for citizens.

    Countries that are likely to face criticism this year include Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Cuba, Colombia and Russia for its actions in Chechnya. But with war looming, many countries are prepared to put aside some of the normal business to give more time for a discussion of the human rights implications of the situation. "We meet today at a time of unusual convulsion in world affairs," said the UN high commissioner for human rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello. He also expressed concern about anti-terrorism measures. adopted in many countries. "When security is defined too narrowly - for example as nothing more than a state's duty to protect its citizens - then the pursuit of security can lead to the violation of the human rights of those who are outside the circle of the protected," he said.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST SEIZED IN CHECHNYA
    A Chechen human rights activist was seized over the weekend by masked gunmen in the war-ravaged Russian republic and has not been seen since, a respected Russian human rights group said Tuesday. Imran Ezhiyev, a member of the Helsinki Group human rights organization, was stopped Saturday evening while driving with a colleague from Shali to Serzhen-Yurt in southern Chechnya, the Memorial group said in a statement. Memorial appealed for Ezhiyev's immediate release. Masked gunmen emerged from two cars, checked Ezhiyev's identity documents and then forced him into one of their vehicles, Memorial said. Ezhiyev, who also heads the regional office of the Community of Russian and Chechen Friendship, has been an outspoken critic of human rights violations in Chechnya. According to Memorial, he has been detained frequently by authorities. At the time of his seizure, he was collecting information for Moscow Helsinki Group's report on Chechnya. ``Without a doubt, the seizure of Imran Ezhiyev is directly connected with his professional activities,'' Memorial said.

    The Vienna, Austria-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Akhmed Kadyrov, the Moscow-appointed chief of Chechnya's administration, to help locate and free Ezhiyev. Human rights groups repeatedly have accused Russian troops of brutality against Chechen civilians, who often find themselves caught up in or targeted during security sweeps and roadway checkpoints. ©Associated Press

    RUSSIAN FEDERATION: FIGHT AGAINST RACISM ESSENTIAL TO END CLIMATE OF IMPUNITY
    Discrimination on the grounds of race is a reality for many members of ethnic or national minority groups in the Russian Federation, warned Amnesty International as it issued its latest report 'Dokumenty!' Discrimination on grounds of race in the Russian Federation on the eve of the United Nations International day against discrimination.

    "The clampdown on human rights across the world, including the Russian Federation, after 11 September 2001, remains one of the most pressing human rights concerns," Amnesty International said. "In situations of increased tension representatives of ethnic minorities, refugees and internally displaced persons are the most vulnerable sections of society. The state must take responsibility to preserve the human rights of all its citizens." Amnesty International's report gives examples from the numerous cases that have come to the attention of the organization and which illustrate the organization's concerns - African students and ethnic Tajiks beaten by skinheads and left without redress when the police fail to take appropriate action; Meskhetian Turks being refused registration and arbitrarily denied recognition as citizens of the Russian Federation, leading to denial of a whole range of basic human rights like the right of freedom of movement; ethnic Chechens being subjected to arbitrary document checks and detention; racist attacks on Jews and Roma. "Racism is an attack on the very notion of universal human rights. It systematically denies certain people their full human rights because of their colour, race, ethnicity, decent or national origin. The right to be free from racial discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law," the international organization said. As Amnesty International's document is being launched, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination will be preparing to debate in Geneva its draft conclusions and recommendations on the Russian government's periodic report. The Russian Federation is a signatory to a number of human rights treaties of particular relevance to race-related discrimination, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    Under international treaties the Russian government has the responsibility to ensure that the country's legislation and institutions address the causes and consequences of discrimination. The Council of Europe, The European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the UN have all raised their concerns about racism and discrimination in the Russian Federation and have made recommendations to the authorities. Russian non-governmental organizations continue to work to counteract racism, discrimination and intolerance in Russia. They face complicated problems which require long-term, consistent and careful work. "Although the anti-racist and pro-tolerance movement is new to the Russian civil society, it is growing and consists of human rights NGOs, ethnic and racial minority groups, organisations of migrants, anti-Nazi movements, and social research groups. They are gradually mastering the methods of monitoring, strategic litigation, legal and non-legal advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns, and understand the importance of coordination, shared perceptions and common strategies," Alexander Ossipov from the Human Rights Centre "Memorial" said. "The failure to hold to account those who commit, encourage or tolerate racial abuse frequently exacerbates the problem and helps create a climate of impunity for those who commit such acts," Amnesty International said.

    Background
    Amnesty International's report 'Dokumenty! Discrimination on grounds of race in the Russian Federation concludes with a series of re Amnesty International Russia Campaign

    EUROPEAN WEEK AGAINST RACISM(Ireland)
    European Week Against Racism takes place March 16t to 24.

    (1) Racism in Ireland:
    In recent years there has been a commencement of a public debate and dialogue about racism in Ireland. To date, this debate has often been robust, and at times conflictual, but has generally been constructive and reflective of the widely held concern by representatives of Government and broader civil society that racism deprives people of their basic human rights, dignity and respect and is a threat to social and economic cohesion within States. The public debate about racism has sometimes been limited in scope with racism sometimes reduced to, or equated with a discourse concerning issues around immigration, refugee and asylum policy. These issues have a centrality to the present debate, but a narrow focus on these policy issues on their own only provides us with an incomplete picture and understates other forms of racism in Ireland. Reducing the discourse on racism to a discussion on migration and asylum policy can also have the (albeit often unintentional) outcome of reinforcing the perception that racism is only experienced by recent migrants and that ethnic and cultural diversity in Ireland is solely as a consequence of recent migration.

    There are different forms of racism in Ireland, which are identified as:

  • Racism experienced by Travellers on the basis of their distinct identity and nomadic tradition.

  • Racism experienced by recent migrants, which includes migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and students studying in Ireland.

  • Racism experienced by people of colour' and minority ethnic groups, including black people on the basis of their skin colour and ethnic and/or national identity, irrespective of their legal status.

  • The intersection between racism an other grounds of discrimination, including gender, disability and sexual orientation.


  • The blaming of minority ethnic groups for creating racism in Ireland and the adoption of racist slogans such as Ireland for the Irish' and the use of emotive language that refers to invasions' and colonisation' by a small number of groups and individuals in Ireland, has a resonance with the language adopted by extreme organisations in other European countries. To date, there has been little evidence of such groups being widely supported, although some others may quietly share their views. It is to be welcomed that there is a broad consensus within political parties in Ireland to address racism. All the parties in the Oireachtas have signed and reaffirmed an anti-racism protocol governing the conduct of elections, which gives a commitment to sending a clear and positive message to their constituents that they reject racism. The potential for racism to be perpetuated through the systems or structures of institutions is an issue that is also beginning to receive attention in Ireland. A number of statutory bodies are aware of this potential and are actively developing awareness raising programmes and training for staff and bringing in anti-racism commitments as part of a broader approach to equality.

    Manifestations of Racism in Ireland
    There are at least two overall manifestations of racism in Ireland which can be summarised as follows:
  • Racism at an individual level - Examples of racism at an individual level include assault and abuse directed at people from minority ethnic groups. A number of high profile cases highlighted by the media in recent months, reports of harassment an the distribution of racist literature indicate that individuals are experiencing this form of racism.

  • Racism at an Institutional / Systematic Level


  • There is increasing recognition of the need to address racism at an institutional/systemic level. This form of racism, often unintentional, can be caused through ignorance and lack of thought or adequate p diversity in an increasingly multi-cultural Ireland.
    Minority Ethnic Groups, Including Travellers in Ireland:
    The Traveller community, an indigenous Irish group, has an estimated population of 22,000 people and remains the largest minority ethnic group in Ireland.
    There has been a long established Jewish community and growing Islamic, Asian and Chinese communities in Ireland. There are now refugees and asylum seekers from over 100 countries in Ireland including Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Nigeria, Romania, Algeria, Congo, Somalia and from ethnic groups that transcend geographical boundaries, such as the Roma and the Kurds.

    In Ireland there are now more visible populations of black Irish and other EU and non-EU citizens living in Ireland who experience racism on the basis of skin colour and ethnic origin. There is now a significant body of research on the level of exclusion and discrimination experienced by the Traveller community in Ireland and more recently there is a growing body of work on the refugee and asylum community. However there remains significant gaps in our knowledge in relation to Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers and even more so in respect of the experience of other black and minority ethnic groups in Ireland. There is some information on the extent and origins of people migrating into Ireland in recent years, although this information is not disaggregated on ethnic grounds.
    ©Western People

    VICTIM BLASTS APATHETIC WITNESSES(Czech Republic)
    Passive bystanders a regional problem, local sociologists say

    Thin and bookish, Jan Jarab might not seem the likeliest man to take on two violent skinheads in a brawl. But that was the situation that Jarab, who is the country's human rights commissioner, found himself in when he went to the aid of an African man being attacked in the Prague metro March 6. The punches he received in the fight were not as troubling to Jarab as the reaction of those who witnessed the crime, which occurred during the evening rush hour. "They did nothing," said Jarab, 38. "The attackers got on the metro and sat there for a few minutes while the doors were open. I yelled to the crowd, 'Stop them, do something! Don't let them get away!' but even though there were at least 12 strong men who could have helped, they ignored me," he said. "Nobody would even call the police." Tackling racism and improving the lives of minorities is part of Jarab's daily life. But everyone's life is affected by the passivity of people in the face of crime and human desperation, he said. "If we can't change that aspect of our society, then what hope is there?" Jarab said.

    The aspect of society Jarab deplores is the helplessness or indifference witnesses frequently display toward crime victims they do not know. Although the reluctance of bystanders to intervene in such situations is a global phenomenon, sociologists say that witness passivity -- the refusal to assist a stranger in distress -- is particularly acute in the former Eastern bloc. "We had a saying under communism, 'If it's not burning you, don't put it out,'" said Jirina Siklova, a sociologist at Charles University. "This saying illustrates a problem in all post-communist countries. We tend to stand by and let things happen because we were encouraged not to think for ourselves," she said. "It's not that we don't care. We are just waiting for someone in authority to tell us what to do." Jarab said he got involved after the skinheads attacked and used a racial slur against an African man who passed them on an escalator. "I ran toward the assailants and pulled them off the victim, who understandably ran away," said Jarab. "So then the thugs started hitting me, but I fought back in a Woody Allen style, blocking punches with my briefcase," he said, laughing at his defense technique. Jarab said his bruises were minor and did not require medical attention.

    The attack shocked many public officials, including Interior Minister Stanislav Gross. "Of course I am disappointed about the incident. It is not only that the human rights commissioner was attacked ... according to all the information so far, there were many witnesses, but not one of them intervened. This indifference is what disappoints me the most," Gross said. Jarab said a municipal police officer was also indifferent. The officer at the scene of the attacks told him, "There is nothing I can do. They got away," Jarab said. He asked the officer to call the state police, who have more authority, but the officer allegedly refused. "So I had to walk to the police station and file a report, even though I had just been beaten up," said Jarab. According to a municipal police spokeswoman, the actions of the officer are being investigated. "Jarab is a well-educated man, a doctor. Can you imagine how he would have fared if he was just a simple person, a seriously injured victim or someone who didn't speak Czech?" said Siklova. Jarab said that police and witness indifference play a crucial role in the country's continuing problem with racially motivated crimes.

    There were 452 such reported crimes in 2001, the last year for which such data is available, up from 364 in 2000, according to the Interior Ministry. Most of the attacks were against Roma, or Gypsies, a group that has suffered public and private discrimination for decades, according to numerous human rights organization Jacques said the officers helped the attackers to rip off their swastikas and dispose of their knives. "I heard the police say, 'Get rid of this stuff or it will be worse for you.'" Since 1995, under Czech law, violent crimes are more harshly punished if a racial motive is uncovered. Jacques said she was detained all night at a police station, as if she had committed a crime. "When they took my statement, the police pressured me for about a half an hour to omit that the attackers wore swastikas, but I wouldn't do it." After the attack, she said she was ostracized by friends and neighbors. "They said, 'You are a mother of two. Why are you getting involved in this case? You should stay out of it.'" For Jacques, this was the hardest part of her ordeal. "A large crowd watched this nice boy get torn apart and they didn't want to help him," she said. "But to know that because I dared to act I was seen as crazy, this was just too much." She testified in court, and the attackers, both minors, were sentenced to 250 hours of community service. Police records show they were not charged with a racially-motivated crime, Jacques said.

    Oldrich Martinu, deputy police commissioner for the state police, said he has heard many such stories but insists that the police are becoming more sensitive to minority issues. "We have implemented an educational program in keeping with European Union accession so that trainers from the UK and the Netherlands can help us move forward and serve the minority community," he said. Martinu said the police force's biggest problem is its reliance on ideology from the communist regime. "The police sees itself as a repressive body, not as a preventive body," he said.

    The stories of Jarab and Jacques elicit sighs from Slavomir Hubalek, a psychologist and an expert on criminal behavior. "We just had one of the biggest bus accidents ever in this country and most people drove right by it. They didn't give a damn about the accident victims," he said, referring to the March 8 bus crash that killed 19 people near Nazidla, south Bohemia. "I am afraid that in Western Europe the situation is better because people, and I include the police in this, have a feeling of civic responsibility." Hubalek said the only way to instill civic values was to teach them at school, but so far, he said, not enough has been done in the classroom. "Our kids here worship Harry Potter and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, characters that show courage and civic duty, but I don't get the feeling that they apply these values in ordinary life."
    ©The Prague Post

    VIEIRA'S FRUSTRATION AT RACIST ABUSE(uk)
    Patrick Vieira has criticised Uefa after being on the receiving end of racial abuse during Arsenal's Champions League defeat to Valencia in Spain. The Arsenal midfielder hit out at the footballing authorities for not doing enough to prevent racism as the Gunners missed out on the chance to progress to the quarter-finals after Valencia's 2-1 win. The game was marred by racial abuse from the terraces, with Valencia striker John Carew and Arsenal's Thierry Henry both pleading with fans to stop during the game. Vieira insists he has come to expect such behaviour and has no faith in European football's governing body to prevent it. The Frenchman said: "John Carew has apologised to me for the behaviour of the fans. But UEFA are hypocrites - they keep saying they will do something about it but all they are doing is fining clubs £2,000-3,000 and nothing really happens. "It is just words. I don't think anything will be done about it - it will never change. We have to deal with it and we've come to expect it," he said
    ©BBC News

    UEFA HITS BACK AT VIEIRA OVER 'HYPOCRITES' SLUR
    UEFA has hit back at Patrick Vieira's accusations of hypocrisy over its treatment of racist supporters, and has urged Arsenal to lodge an official complaint against Valencia. Vieira, along with all the Gunners' black players, was taunted constantly in the Mestalla as his side crashed out of Europe, and afterwards laid much of the blame on UEFA's reluctance to hand out severe punishment to clubs with racist fans. But a spokesman for European football's governing body has reiterated the organisation's desire to stamp out such behaviour, and says Vieira must tell UEFA what he told the press if he wants Valencia to be properly dealt with. "It is important if there has been abuse, and the players themselves have witnessed this, that it is reported officially to UEFA and not just to the media.

    "We will look at the official reports and also consider whether there is any other evidence that could be available. But obviously if a player has suffered abuse it is very important that UEFA is contacted and informed." Arsenal players were subjected to similar abuse in Eindhoven earlier in the competition, and Vieira was dismayed that the Dutch club were fined a derisory £13,000. "Patrick is entitled to his view. He has expressed that view and obviously we don't agree. The figures he gives are inaccurate, the fines have been more severe than that. "UEFA has appealed twice recently against the penalties levied by its own disciplinary body. We take it very seriously. "We deplore racism and UEFA has made clear its strong stance on racism. We have taken disciplinary action and we are engaged in a very major campaign across Europe with the European football family ... to kick it out of football."
    ©Sky Sports

    WAR SHOULD NOT SWEEP LEGAL AGENDA ASIDE(eu)
    When police killed 69 and wounded 180 anti-apartheid protestors on 21 March 1960 at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, few people would have thought that barely 34 years later the Constitution of that country would include a section on equality, stating: "No person shall be unfairly discriminated against [on grounds of] race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture or language." When the 21 March was first declared International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the UN in 1966, hardly anyone would have thought that 37 years later this day could possibly mark the outbreak of a major war, poised to cause immense suffering.

    While US-led coalition forces in the Gulf are taking up battle positions for invading Iraq, the European Network against Racism (ENAR) ­ a network of more than 600 NGOs working to combat racism in all the EU member states ­ is deeply worried that in the current international conjuncture its urgent concerns could be relegated to the background. Rarely have the EU Member states been so divided as in the last months over the issue of a war against Iraq. Some commentators even predict doomsday scenarios of a fatally weakened Europe. War preparati ons sweep long-established agendas aside. But no war should be an excuse for forgetting about legal obligations which shape the future of Europe.

    By July 19 2003, the Member States have to transpose into their national legislations the Directive on Racial Equality, and by December 2 2003, the Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation. Several EU countries have until now failed to live up to the spirit and letter of these Directives. It should be remembered, as the Directive on Racial Equality puts it, that "discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin may undermine (...) economic and social cohesion and solidarity" as well as undermine "developing the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice." ENAR therefore calls on all EU Member States to respect these deadlines and to do all steps necessary for incorporating these directi ves into their national legal system.
    ©ENAR

    MORE PEOPLE TO BENEFIT FROM RIGHT TO FAMILY REUNIFICATION(eu)
    Debates on the right to family reunification have been going on within the institutions of the European Union for over three years. On Wednesday this week Parliament's Citizens' Rights Committee called for more categories of people to be allowed to benefit from a new draft directive on the right of non-EU citizens to such reunification. In a report by Carmen CERDEIRA MORTERERO (PES, E), MEPs voted for a range of non-binding amendments making not only spouses but also registered and unmarried partners, irrespective of sex, eligible for family reunification, if the host Member State treats unmarried or registered partners in the same manner as married couples. Furthermore, MEPs not only want refugees, but also people who are entitled to stay in the Union on the basis of the less favourable "subsidiary protection" status to be entitled to family reunification.

    Member States should also authorise the entry of parents, spouses or partners of applicants if they are unable to look after themselves and have no other means of support, say MEPs. And unmarried adult children should be authorised to enter if they are dependent on the applicant because of their state of health. While the Commission's proposal leaves the question of the entry of these categories up to Member States, MEPs want harmonisation at Community level. The committee deleted a provision that Member States may refuse entry to a child aged over twelve if he or she does not meet existing national conditions for integration. It also deleted a provision that Member States may, for reasons of reception capacity, stipulate a waiting period of up to three years between submission of an application for reunification and the issuing of a residence permit to the family members concerned.

    Another amendment states that Member States may require applicants to have lived for just one year (as opposed to two years in the Commission proposal) in their territory before they can have their family members join them. On the other hand, in the event of widowhood, divorce, separation, or death of relatives, MEPs say an independent residence permit should only be issued to people who have entered the Union for reasons of family reunification if they have been resident within the EU for a minimum of one year. The committee feels this is necessary to prevent misuse of the directive.

    Applications should be submitted to the competent authorities in the Member State where the applicant is resident (i.e. not to consulates abroad). MEPs want to cut the period for taking a decision on an application from the nine months in the Commission proposal to six months. And they believe illness or disability should be ruled out as a ground for refusing to renew a residence permit. Finally, the committee voted for the transposition of the directive not to lead to a lower level of protection than is currently provided by individual Member States. Instead, they want Member States to be allowed to uphold existing national provisions that are more favourable to applicants than those laid down in the directive.
    ©the European Parliament

    STREET TALK - SWEEPING TO SURVIVE(Bulgaria)
    Nadya Svetkova, armed with just a straw broom and a tiny domestic dustpan, was gradually working her way down the central grass verge of Bulgaria Boulevard, just a step away from the constant stream of speeding traffic, when I caught up with her. It was 9.15am and she had started work at seven from Billa supermarket several hundred metres up the road. Her next three or four hours would be spent sweeping up the cigarette butts, plastic cups, and sweet wrappers all the way down to McDonald's, and then back up the other side of the road to where she started from. "It's a miserable job," were her first words, shouted over the din of vehicles racing by, "and it's very dangerous. That's why I'm cleaning the grass verge instead of the gutter -there's too much traffic at the moment, and it's going too fast."

    Armies of street sweepers, mostly female Roma employed by the Municipality and private cleaning companies, are assigned different roads every morning. Using their brooms and dustpans they are expected to clean the gutters and grass verges on both sides of Sofia's main roads. The timing of their work, generally between 7am and 2pm, coincides with the busiest morning flow of drivers often hazardously disregarding road rules to struggle into the city centre and be first to bag the limited free parking spaces. For their efforts the street sweepers receive around 100 leva a month, which, after tax, is reduced to somewhere between 80 and 90 leva. They have no support workers to collect the rubbish that they gather; instead they carry their full dustpans across the busy streets to empty them in the nearest dustbins. Despite the daily cleaning, each morning the roads are again littered with waste. "People just throw stuff out of their car windows," explained Nadya. "You find all sorts of things among the rubbish - once I found a gold ring, but it wasn't real gold," she grinned.

    She again emphasised how much she hated the job, and initially had nothing positive to say about it, but then admitted with a smile that she does find it satisfying to look back down the length of the road and see the clean verges and gutters. "I have to do the job because I've got two children that need to be fed," said Nadya. "If I could find something else I would take it, but it's very difficult with the current economic situation." I asked if she felt that racism stopped her from finding a better job, and she immediately replied that there is definitely a bad attitude towards Roma. "My husband is not Roma and he finds it much easier to get work," she said. Nadya had no idea that Friday is the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and said that it means very little to her. "Some of the better educated Roma are working to help themselves through Roma organisations, but they don't help the ordinary people," she observed. The only solution for the problem of racial discrimination here, in her opinion, is for Roma to be treated as equals by other Bulgarians. "Not all of them are racist," she said. "My husband has no problem with Roma, but right now it's not a question of having more rights - we're just managing to struggle for bread. With these salaries what else can we do?"
    ©Sofia Echo

    STEPS TOWARD RACIAL TOLERANCE(Bulgaria)
    Since 1966, March 21 has been recognised by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimi-nation. Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Draganov will head a delegation to the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva between March 17 and March 25, the Foreign Ministry's Information and Public Relations Directorate announced on Saturday. Draganov will take part in a special session covering a broad range of questions related to civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The discussions on the right to self-determination and the right to self-development are the direct results of initiatives implemented after the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

    A topical issue will be the protection of the rights of certain vulnerable groups like children, women, migrant workers, internally displaced persons and minorities. Religious tolerance, the functioning of national human rights institutions, the abolition of the death penalty, as well as the operation of human rights mechanisms will all be discussed at the conference. A number of resolutions on the situation of human rights in individual countries are also expected to be adopted at the session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. One of the initiatives taken earlier in the year in Bulgaria was the University of Tolerance, which opened its doors in the town of Shoumen with the help of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the UNHCR in Bulgaria, the aim of this project is to further develop the tradition existing at Shoumen University with regard to the toleration of different minorities (ethnic, and physically disabled).

    About 25 per cent of the university's students are Bulgarians of Turkish ethnic origin and Roma. There were 1335 ethnic Turkish students for the academic year from 2001 to 2002. The university has a special policy towards students from different minority group backgrounds, including the establishment of a Centre for Advanced Research of Multi-ethnic Relations. Other upcoming initiatives include co-operative work with unions and organisations protecting physically disabled people, advertising the university's spirit of equal acceptance in search of financial and moral support for the University of Tolerance project.
    ©Sofia Echo

    POLICE COULD FACE ACTION OVER STOP AND SEARCH(uk)
    Britain's race watchdog yesterday made its most explicit threat yet to take legal action against the police after figures showed that black and Asian people were up to eight times more likely to be stopped and searched. The Home Office yesterday published a series of statistics designed to show progress in meeting its pledge to stamp out racism in the criminal justice system. The pledge came after the 1999 report by Sir William Macpherson on the bungled investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, which found the police were institutionally racist. However, the new figures showed stop and searches of Asian and black people in 2001-02 up by 16% and 6% respectively compared with 2000-01, while those of white people fell by 2%. In London the Metropolitan police stopped 40% more Asians and 30% more black people, but 8% fewer white people.

    Trevor Phillips, chairman of the commission for racial equality, deplored the fact that the disproportionate use of police stop powers was growing instead of being reversed. Mr Phillips said: "My message to police chiefs around the country is that the trend must change. "If we continue heading in the wrong direction the CRE will be compelled to consider using its enforcement powers under the Race Relations Act to make police forces deliver on the commitments they have already made to address these disparities." The Macpherson report backed police use of stop and search powers, but said their disproportionate use against ethnic minority communities had to be stamped out.

    Yesterday's figures come at a time when Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother, has accused the government of losing interest in beating racism. Next month is the 10th anniversary of the murder of Stephen, 18, at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London. No one has been convicted of the stabbing, which led to a crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system's ability to treat people fairly irrespective of their race. The Home Office minister Lord Falconer rejected Mrs Lawrence's charge that anti-racism had dropped off the government's agenda. "The government's commitment to race equality is as strong as ever and increasing confidence in the criminal justice system is central to that agenda," he said. He acknowledged that, with tensions in Britain high because of the war in the Gulf, the police and courts needed to be seen to treat all communities fairly.

    Year-on-year, recorded race hate crimes rose by 2%, to 54,351 in 2001-02. Police forces in Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands and North Wales have seen their figures double in two years, but the Home Office put this down to better recording and victims being more willing to report incidents to the police. Nearly 9,000 people were cautioned or prosecuted for racially aggravated offences, double the amount the year before. Within the criminal justice system ethnic minorities continue to be under-represented as employees. The number of ethnic minority police officers grew slightly year-on-year to 2.6% of the force, but this is still less than half the proportion of ethnic minorities in Britain's population. Government departments fare little better, with 4% of the staff of the lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, being from ethnic minorities. The department did not disclose data for the higher grades. At the Home Office just eight of the 410 staff in the highest grades are either Asian or Afro-Caribbean.
    ©The Guardian


    COURTS' RACIAL AWARENESS 'A SUCCESS' (uk)
    One in five black defendants in crown courts felt they were treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin, according to an independent study published yesterday by the Lord Chancellor's Department. But only one in 10 black people dealt with by magistrates said their treatment had been unfair, biased or lacking in respect because they were from an ethnic minority. More than 1,200 people were interviewed for the survey, including 778 defendants. Ministers and judges, who had expected much higher levels of dissatisfaction from ethnic minority defendants, said the £200,000 study demonstrated the success of racial awareness training for judges and magistrates. They pointed to overall findings that one third of all defendants in crown courts felt they had been treated unfairly, with few differences among white, black and Asian defendants.

    The study, by a team from Oxford and Birmingham universitiesled by Roger Hood and Stephen Shute, said the proportion of ethnic minority defendants who believed they were treated differently because of race was "considerably lower than had been estimated by informed observers". This was despite the fact that most defendants were interviewed after being convicted. "We stress, however, that it does not mean that one should minimise the fact that one in five of the black defendants who had appeared in the crown court had perceived their treatment to have been influenced by racial bias."

    Race awareness training was introduced after research by Professor Hood in the late 1980s which found that some judges in the West Midlands were sentencing black people more harshly than white people. The latest report found that Asians were less likely than black people to believe they were treated unfairly for racial reasons. "The complaints were mostly about what people thought were excessive sentences compared with what they thought a white defendant would receive," said Prof Hood. Very few - 3% in crown courts and 1% in magistrates' courts - said racism was explicit in the bench's conduct.

    However, black lawyers and court staff had much less confidence in the system than defendants. Of black lawyers questioned, only 43% believed there was always equal treatment of ethnic minorities. Just 28% of black court staff believed minorities were always treated the same as others. Most white court staff (98%) and Asian staff (71%) thought courts were fair regardless of race. Among white lawyers the figure was 69% and among Asian lawyers it was 63%. The senior presiding judge for England and Wales, Lord Justice Judge, said the data showed that those who did complain of unfairness had expected to be treated unfairly. He said: "In the crown court, no single ethnic minority witness complained of racial bias. As a community it is absolutely critical people from ethnic minorities know that when they come to court the court process will treat them fairly. "It is a matter of education, it is a matter of information. It is heartening that the proportion of black and Asian defendants who think they have been unfairly treated is the same as the proportion of white defendants who think [the same].
    ©The Guardian

    SLOVAKIA TO PROBE STERILIZATION OF GYPSY WOMEN
    Slovakia's Interior Ministry has announced that it will send a special team of investigators, headed by a woman, to look into claims that Gypsy women in eastern Slovakia have been sterilized against their will. In January, two nongovernmental organizations issued a report alleging that at least 110 Gypsy women had been sterilized without their consent since the fall of Communism in 1989. Local doctors and regional officials denied that the practice was going on, and newspaper columns and television newscasts attacked the authors of the report, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, based in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    An earlier investigation by the Health Ministry reported that the allegations appeared unfounded, but the new announcement suggests that the government is worried that the treatment of its large Gyspy minority - an estimate 10 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million people - could become contentious in final talks before Slovakia joins the European Union next year. Sterilizing Gypsies was government policy during Slovakia's World War II collaboration with Nazi Germany. In the 42 years of Communist rule, Gypsy women were paid far more than their annual salary prospects to be sterilized. The charges were brought by a government advocate for minority rights, Jana Kviecinska, and two Gypsy women. Many Gypsy women say that they were coerced into signing consent forms or even blank sheets of paper while in a maternity ward. Some say they did not know what they were signing. Others are illiterate and could not have read the papers bearing their signature.

    In general, Gypsies are among the poorest people in Slovakia, which is struggling economically after the collapse of Communism, and they are often the object of verbal abuse and other discrimination. Many Gypsies live in shantytowns on the outskirts of Slovak cities. Gypsy women often have half a dozen children by their late 20s. Tabloid speculation and populist politicians have stirred fears that the high birth rate of the mainly darker-skinned Gypsies could leave ethnic Slovaks outnumbered by 2060.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    ERRC CONCERNS: COERCIVE STERILISATION OF ROMANI WOMEN IN SLOVAKIA
    Throughout autumn 2002, the ERRC undertook field missions to Slovakia to investigate reports that coercive sterilisations -- contraceptive gynaecological procedures absent full and informed consent -- continue to be performed on Romani women. On the basis of this research, we believe such reports are well founded.

    Background
    From the 1970s until 1990, the Czechoslovak government sterilised Romani women programmatically, as part of policies aimed at reducing the "high, unhealthy" birth rate of Romani women. The policy was condemned by the Czechoslovak dissident initiative Charter 77, and documented in the late 1980s by dissidents Zbynek Andrs and Ruben Pellar. Human Rights Watch addressed the issue in a comprehensive 1993 report on the situation of Roma in Czechoslovakia, concluding that the practice had ended in mid-1990. Criminal complaints filed with Czech and Slovak prosecutors on behalf of groups of sterilised Romani women in each republic were dismissed in 1992 and 1993.

    Throughout the late 1990s, there have been periodic indications that the practice may be continuing. In Slovakia in particular, the purported high birth rate of Roma is a regular feature in public discourse on Roma, frequently in the context of right-wing rhetoric warning that "they will outnumber us by 2050". In the documentary film "Gypsies of Svinia", a Slovak medical practitioner openly advocates the sterilisation of Roma. Several Finnish nurses alerted Amnesty International in 1999 when all or most of the women in a group of Romani women applying for asylum in Finland appeared to have been subjected to invasive gynaecological procedures; the women were all expelled from Finland before the matter could be investigated further. In 2001, the government was compelled to comment on whether it would take measures to reduce the birth rate of Roma, with Deputy Prime Minister Pal Csaky stating that any measures undertaken would have to be in conformity with international law. The issue of the alleged targeting of Romani women for sterilisation is extremely sensitive in Slovakia; two reports published by OSI in 2001 met with widespread denial by nearly all actors, sympathetic or otherwise*.

    ERRC Research
    During autumn 2002, ERRC undertook field research to investigate the issue. Five ERRC staff members -- including the executive director -- undertook missions with the assistance of local partners. On the basis of those missions, we believe that there is a serious issue in Slovakia of racially-based contraceptive sterilisations of Romani women, taking place absent acceptable -- and in many cases even rudimentary -- standards of informed consent. In addition, there may be other abuses of the rights of Romani women in the context of obstetric and gynaecological medicine. For example, the ERRC documented one case in which a Romani woman had apparently been maliciously recommended for abortion by a local doctor on possibly as many as four occasions, due to a purported defect in the foetus; during a fifth pregnancy, she sought a second opinion in Bratislava (after again being told that the foetus was defective), and was told that in fact the foetus was healthy (after which she gave birth to a healthy child). In addition, on the basis of our preliminary research we believe that a disproportionate number of Romani women may be being recommended for caesarean sections, even after factors such as the youth of some prospective Romani mothers -- and therefore their small physical size -- are discounted.

    In the case of abusive sterilisations, we believe we are looking at a very wide variety of factual issues, broadly within the following parameters:
    1. Cases in which consent has been secured, and such consent meets medical, ethical and legal standards of full and informed consent; we believe such ca
    Finally, on the basis of preliminary research, we have reason to believe that there are similar concerns in the Czech Republic and Hungary**. Indeed, given the high levels of anti-Romani sentiment throughout Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the strength of doctrines of paternalism in medical practice in the region, we have no compelling reasons to believe that the issue is absent elsewhere. Slovakia is of particular concern due to the extent and frequency with which the idea of coercive contraceptive measures have emerged as part of public discourse on Roma in the country. However, we have reason to believe that if all facts could be known, differences between Slovakia and other countries of the region would be ones of degree rather than kind.

    *The issue was raised in the first series of OSI's EU Accession Monitoring reports, wherein it was unfortunately presented with no substantiating information and supported by a footnote stating "Zoon, 2001, (forthcoming)". The second OSI publication, Ina Zoon's On the Margins -- published several weeks later -- presents a balanced account of what could be presented at the time:

  • That there were pre-1989 sterilization campaigns;

  • That a disturbing discourse about sterilising Romani women has continued throughout the 1990s;

  • That there are post-1990 allegations of coercive sterilisations of Romani women.

  • However, at the press launch for the event, all or nearly all local players took issue with the report.

    **The ERRC partner organisation NEKI is currently involved in litigation on behalf of a Romani woman who "consented" to contraceptive sterilisation after she was offered a procedure by medical practitioners which she now contends she believed was related to cleaning. In early January 2003, ERRC undertook preliminary research in the Czech Republic, in the city of Ostrava. Of 35 sterilisation cases of Romani women documented, approximately 25 appear to have involved inadequate levels of information as to possible consequences, and a number of the issues of pressure, misinformation and outright trickery appear similar to the cases documented in the course of research in Slovakia.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    ANTI-RACISM CASH IN DOUBT(uk)
    The cashflow problems of the Football Association have cast a shadow over the future of funding for anti-racism campaigns, it was admitted yesterday. The FA's acting chief executive, David Davies, said he would fight to maintain the £75,000 paid annually to the anti-racism body Kick It Out, but that all its spending was under review. Davies, speaking at the United Against Racism conference, organised by Uefa at Stamford Bridge involving delegates from all 52 European associations, said: "We are assessing everything that we spend money on, and quite rightly so. It is no secret that we have real commitments that we didn't have a very short time ago. "Having said that, our commitment is quite clear. We recognise the responsibilities that we have and I have no evidence at all that any of my colleagues are less committed to use the power of football against racism than they were last week or last year."

    The FA has debts reported to be £109m and has unavoidable commitments such as the Wembley national stadium project. Addressing the conference, the Chelsea chairman Ken Bates said he was sent hate mail containing razor blades when he introduced the first black player to the club. "When I took over as Chelsea chairman 20 years ago this club had one of the worst reputations for racism in English football. I remember when we picked the first black player, Paul Canoville, in his first match at Crystal Palace he was warming up when he had a banana thrown at him. "In his first home game I escorted him off the pitch and for my pains got some hate mail, including razor blades sent through the post.
    "The National Front used to meet pre-match in the pub across the road and wait for the team-sheet, and if there were black players in the team would stay in the pub drinking all afternoon."
    Now, Bates has "enormous pride" in the changes he has helped bring about. "We have black players, but more importantly black, Asian and Chinese season ticket holders," he said. "I am delighted by that as it means they are comfortable here and feel safe and part of the family."
    © Independent Digital

    IS RACISM BLOCKING AIDS VACCINE?(opinion)
    By Stebbins Jefferson, Palm Beach Post Columnist

    HIV/AIDS is a monster, capable of devastating the human body, mind and senses long before mercifully releasing the patient to death. Though I understand that personal conduct can be a factor, I don't accept the argument that those who suffer from the disease deserve what they get. Men, women and children who develop AIDS suffer equally, whether they become infected through licentious sexual behavior, drug use, by an infected parent or because of some other capricious contact with the virus. Consider yourself fortunate if you have never seen the AIDS monster kill.

    I have been unfortunate enough to see the immunodeficiency beast at work on family members and other loved ones. Having borne personal witness, I pray daily for a cure or some medical solution that will protect against this modern plague. Hence, I was elated when I read a recent news release that VaxGen, a firm in Brisbane, California, has conducted a study that shows AIDSVAX, a vaccine developed by the company, "appears to work" against the AIDS virus. Though the vaccine is only 3.8 percent effective overall, among blacks and non-Hispanic minorities, the vaccine seems 67 percent effective. Jose Esparza, director of research for the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS), says the study constitutes the first time anyone has shown HIV protection in humans and "probably the most important accomplishment in vaccine research in 15 years." Here's how the multinational, randomized, double-blind study worked: 5,108 gay men and 309 high-risk women volunteered to get seven injections over three years. For every two volunteers who received AIDSVAX, one volunteer got a placebo. Although the vaccine proved 78.3 percent effective for blacks and 68 percent effective for Asians, it was not significantly effective for whites and Hispanics.

    Critics contend that analyses of the study by subgroups of race is meaningless, as the positive results can be attributed to the small number of black and Asian participants. The skeptics also argue that racially compartmentalized results could be misleading because most of the minority volunteers were women and all of the white volunteers were male, suggesting a gender bias to the vaccine's effectiveness. Still, given the hope of relief the world craves, UNAIDS conducted an independent review of the VaxGen's study statistics and "confirmed" that the results seem to indicate a significant protection rate for non-Hispanic minorities. The Food and Drug Administration is on record as saying it would consider approving an AIDS vaccine that proves to be even 30 percent effective. Consequently, VaxGen's product should be a likely candidate for approval. AIDS has claimed 20 million lives worldwide and kills an additional 8,000 daily. Forty-five million people are reported to be living with the disease.

    Yet neither VaxGen CEO Donald Francis nor research experts will predict the FDA's response to this breakthrough. Conceding that the study result has revealed an unprecedented situation, scientists agree only that the FDA is unlikely to approve the vaccine soon. Even more tragic to contemplate, this week U.S. News states that, given the disparate levels of the vaccine's effectiveness between whites and Hispanics and blacks and Asians, "investors fled VaxGen," which has spent 10 years and about $200 million developing the vaccine. To human dismay, the study just completed is being judged in some quarters as a flop rather than as cause for celebration. Nevertheless, the good news is that through this study, scientists have developed lab procedures that will help identify HIV/AIDS in its earliest forms, disclose the precise genetic makeup of the most invasive HIV strains, and inform doctors how they can adjust treatments to enhance effectiveness.

    The bad news, however, is that, as always, AIDS is caused by a variety ©Palm Beach Post

    APATHY AND ANGER THAT HELPED BNP WIN COUNCIL SEAT(uk)
    A community that elected the first British National party councillor in Yorkshire told the new head of the commission for racial equality yesterday about the rot in local politics

    A community tarred with racism after electing the first British National party councillor in Yorkshire told the new head of the commission for racial equality yesterday about the rot in local politics and regeneration funding which led it to turn to the extreme right. The people of Mixenden collared Trevor Phillips, six days into his job, to tell him how "invisible councillors" and the syphoning of cash into bureaucracy had seen the mainstream parties voted out. "They only came when they wanted votes, simple as that," said Ramanbhai Mistry, postmaster for 23 years at the sprawl of tower blocks and 1960s council houses three miles from the centre of Halifax. "We'd one councillor who came in at the election saying he was here to sort out people's problems. It was the first time I'd seen him in four years."

    The frank meeting was the start of a debut tour by Mr Phillips which also saw him meet students in Oldham to hear their views on the violence in the town. He told both groups that he was looking for reasons for the advance of the BNP - "people I wouldn't want to think about for more than 30 seconds" - in areas with a tradition of neighbourliness. Disillusion was dramatic, Mr Mistry told him. Only four of the post office's 89 customers on the morning of the Mixenden byelection, six weeks ago, were bothering to vote. It allowed the BNP's Adrian Marsden to scrape home with less than 10% of the register. "Is Mixenden racist?" said Mr Mistry, known locally as Ray. "I wouldn't be here if it was. They're just fed up that when you vote councillors in, they vanish. We want to know where the money's vanished to as well."

    Heather Terry from Upper Mixenden Tenants Association gave part of the answer to that question. "We'd £289,000 given us in single regeneration budget for the estate, and do you know what the first items of expenditure were on the list? £10,000 for office equipment for the project office and £79,000 for consultancy advice over three years. How's that going to help? But when you ask these questions, they treat you as though you were from outer space." Fiona Faulkner, a young mother with three children at the local Ash Green primary, said: "We're not listened to. In just one way, the BNP result is a good thing, because look at all these people here discussing it. We invited Adrian Marsden to our tenants' group. I don't think he'll get in a second time, but it's woken everyone up."

    As Mr Phillips made notes, the issue of asylum seekers took over the agenda. "We're not against them," said another resident, who helped comfort a refugee family after half a paving slab was thrown through their window. "That sort of carry-on's unacceptable. But they're just dumped here and left to get on with it. We don't know them and they don't know us. The people who house them don't tell them what's going off on the estate, or introduce them." "It's true," said Tommy Bottomley, who runs Mixenden Crusaders jazz band and has taken it to local Asian community festivals. "We're trying to involve everyone. Just think what we could do with a bit more of a hand."
    ©The Guardian

    COALITION LEADER WANTS FEWER FOREIGN RESIDENTS(Portugal)
    Leader of the smaller of the two coalition parties that form the government, Paulo Portas, has called for a stop to immigration, saying foreigners are taking away jobs from Portuguese and that the country does not have the necessary social conditions to accommodate an additional influx of immigrants. Speaking on Radio Renascença, the coalition leader and also Defence Minister said, Portugal does not have the required conditions "to house anymore immigrants, especially at a time when unemployment is on the rise." "If we continue to accept immigrants, not only will it result in fewer jobs, but we do not have the necessary social means to ensure a smooth integration. And this will generate a dangerous cycle", explained Paulo Portas.
    ©The News

    ANGER AFTER FRENCH MINISTER SAYS VISA APPLICANTS TO BE FINGER-PRINTED
    French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy provoked the anger of human rights groups on Friday when he said applicants for tourist visas to France are to be finger-printed in a bid to clamp down on illegal immigration. "We know that many foreigners who are here illegally arrive on our territory with a three-month tourist visa. Then they get rid of their papers and become impossible to deport because we cannot determine their country of origin," Sarkozy told Le Parisien newspaper. "So we are going to propose that everyone receiving a tourist visa shall have their fingerprints taken. That way we will be able to determine their nationality once their presence in France is discovered to be irregular," he said.

    But Michel Tubiana, president of the Human Rights League (LDH), said the idea was "unworkable and inadmissible" and would severely tarnish France's international image. "The whole world will end up being put on file. France is the most popular tourist destination in the world. The measure is completely over the top. It is pure demagoguery," Tubiana said. Sarkozy gave his interview after visiting the holding zone for illegal immigrants at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, from where more than 50 nationals of Ivory Coast and Senegal were deported by charter plane on Monday in France's first collective expulsion for several years.

    Intended for at most 300 people, the area has recently contained 500 because of a big increase in the numbers of would-be immigrants. Sarkozy said he was distressed by the poor conditions there and had ordered the round-the-clock presence of a doctor and nurse. But answering critics who said Monday's group deportation represented a return to hardline polices of past right-wing governments, Sarkozy said such flights were "the most balanced and the most humane way of decongesting the holding zone". "France must remain a land of immigration but it cannot welcome all the miserable of the world. I am against zero immigration, which is an aberration, but I am also against the kind of lax attitudethat says that anyone who wants them can have their papers," he said. "In a country where 5.5 million voters chose the (ultra-nationalist) National Front, we must do nothing to encourage ... xenophobia," he said, promising that collective expulsions would be continued.

    The minister said he wanted members of humanitarian associations to be present in future on flights taking back groups of deportees but the National Association for Assisting Foreigners at Frontiers (ANAFE) said that was not enough and it wanted access to the holding zone itself. "We have spent years carrying out serious work day by day in the holding zone. Then he comes, spends an evening here and questions everything. It is humiliating and worrying," said ANAFE spokesman Patrick Delouvin. Sarkozy has said he is concerned that until now only around 17 percent of deportation orders are actually carried out and he wants a tougher attitude to illegal entrants, while promising clemency to those who can show they have lived and worked in France for several years. The minister contested an ANAFE report which said immigrants in the holding zone were regularly mistreated by police. "The job of border policeman is extremely difficult. I cannot believe that the French republic's police resorts systematically to violence on foreigners," he said.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    RACE EQUALITY CHAIR'S DAUGHTER REFUSED ADMISSION 'BECAUSE SHE WENT TO PRIVATE SCHOOL'(uk)
    The row over universities rejecting public school pupils took a new twist yesterday when the newly appointed chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality revealed to The Telegraph that his privately educated daughter had been turned down by Bristol University. Sushila Phillips, 18, whose father, Trevor, is a prominent member of the Labour Party and who chaired the London Assembly until his recent appointment, believes that she was rejected by Bristol because she attends Westminster School, one of Britain's most prestigious independent schools, which charges day pupils fees of £12,000. The university has been at the centre of a political storm following its decision to give preferential treatment to children from state schools. Its rejection of Sushila has incensed Trevor Phillips, who numbers many Cabinet ministers among his friends and whose job as head of the CRE involves speaking out against discrimination.

    Talking from his family's home in Highgate, north London, Mr Phillips said that Bristol's rejection of his daughter - who has an outstanding academic record - had shocked family and friends. "We are extremely surprised that she did not receive an offer. Though I have no disagreement with greater access, I would have hoped that universities and the Government would have a slightly more sophisticated policy than simply 'blacklisting' independent schools. "If you apply the policy that they appear to have adopted, then you are making the good the enemy of the better," he said. Mr Phillips said that Bristol's admissions policy would discriminate against many black and Asian families who send their children to private school to escape racism within the state system. "A large number of parents from ethnic minorities, especially Asian families, go into debt to send their children to independent schools because they believe that it will help their children escape the disadvantage that they might otherwise face in the state system. "The unintended consequence of a crude admissions policy will be simply to shut out large numbers of those families for their commitment to education," he said.

    Sushila went to Westminster at the age of 16 to study French, history, English and economics. She became one of 100 girls studying for their A levels. She previously studied at North London Collegiate school, another leading independent school. She was rejected by Bristol, despite achieving two A/S-level A grades, and gaining a mark of 296 out of 300 in her A/S-level English. She also recently won her school's English prize - achievements that have gained her offers from York and Nottingham universities. Mr Phillips, a New Labour supporter whose wife Asha Bhownagary is of Indian descent, said that he was speaking in a personal capacity but believed that universities should take much more into account than merely a child's schooling. "There are other factors that could be taken into account by universities. I am from a very ordinary background. My wife's family did not speak English as a first language. Shouldn't these circumstances count as well?" he said. Sushila said that she wished that universities would look at the whole of a candidate's background. "I understand the difficulties that universities face when accepting or rejecting students without an interview," she said. "But while they cannot judge a candidate purely on their grades, I think it's important that they should look at every part of the application."

    Prof Patricia Broadfoot, the pro-vice chancellor of Bristol University, defended the admissions policy that has seen the proportion of private school undergraduates fall from 42 per cent in 1998 to 39 per cent. She said: "Bristol has been dominated by private school students in the past, so in a way we had further to go than other universities. If you look at the figur regulator" - the watchdog that will police admissions policies - will put even more pressure on top universities to admit more working-class applicants. Last week it was announced that universities that accepted more low-achieving and deprived students would be rewarded with an extra £200 million in grants. The money will be given to those universities that admit pupils from socially deprived areas. More than 95 per cent of pupils at Westminster achieve an A or B grade at A-level. The average point score is 35, the equivalent of more than three A grades. Mr Phillips, 49, was born in Islington, north London, and went to school at White Hart Lane school in Tottenham, a grammar that turned comprehensive while he was a pupil. His parents, from Guyana, were so disappointed at the decline of the school that they sent him to school in the Caribbean. He returned to Britain for his higher education at Imperial College, London, where he enrolled as a chemistry undergraduate.
    ©Daily Telegraph

    SCHOOLS AFRAID TO TACKLE RISING HOMOPHOBIA(uk)
    Legacy of Section 28 and Executive's failure to issue new guidelines has left teachers confused

    Teachers are struggling to deal with homophobic bullying in classrooms because of the legacy of Section 28 and a lack of guidance and materials to help them tackle the issues. Education experts and youth workers are concerned that while victimisation due to sexual orientation is on the rise, no guidelines have been issued to help professionals cope with the repeal of section 2a, or section 28, nearly two years ago. In response to teachers' concerns the fpa, formerly the Family Planning Association, will next week launch a training pack to help public sector workers challenge homophobia. It aims to help them deal with the residual fear and confusion arising from the controversy over the repeal of the clause that banned 'promoting homosexuality' in schools. Susan Stewart, author of the training pack, said: 'Teachers said they didn't know how to deal with homosexuality in the classroom and they didn't have access to relevant materials. 'After the Section 28 campaigns there was quite a backlash. Homophobic attitudes had been shown to be just below the surface and teachers were worried that they would be critised for tackling them. 'The pack aims to give people an understanding of issues such as 'coming out'. It's a constant process, every time you start a new job, or meet new people. Sometimes people have to decide whether they can be bothered to explain or whether to lie. 'Having to live a lie impacts on esteem, confidence and self-worth. Living with mental stress affects physical health as well: people are less likely to engage in safer sex, less likely to want to discuss various aspects of their sexual health with their GP and less likely to look after their general health.'

    According to a report by Greater Glasgow Health Board, 80% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual (LGBT) young people reported discrimination last year. Around 40% of lesbian and gay pupils had experienced a violent attack at school and nearly a fifth had contemplated suicide as a result of attitudes to their sexuality. Yet research indicates that young people struggle to report bullying or seek support because they fear negative attitudes from teachers, doctors or social workers. Stonewall Youth, which offers support to young homosexuals, welcomes the new fpa training initiative but it believes a national strategy is needed to tackle the problem. The group drew up guidelines for teachers, submitting them to the Scottish Executive last month, but has not heard how or when its recommendations will be integrated into education policy. Director Jamie Rennie said: 'Section 2a was a very confusing piece of legislation. People tended to err on the more cautious side of it. The safest course of action was often to steer clear of the issues. 'There are still a lot of issues here for schools. A lack of suitable material contributes to the silence about homophobia. Guidelines would help break this silence and help understanding of LGBT issues. 'Teachers find it difficult to challenge the issue because they don't have the guidance. If someone used really racist language the teacher would stamp on it. If homophobic language is used they often don't know how to deal with it. Using the word gay negatively can be difficult to challenge.' Stonewall is also working with teacher training colleges to help students deal with the issues in their future careers, with the aim of reducing bullying and creating an atmosphere of support for young people.

    The Education Institute of Scotland (EIS) has also voiced concern about the lack of suitable materials to help teachers tackle homophobic attitudes and has called for better training to make sure they feel capable of dealing with sensitive issues. The union recently raised concerns when a Holocaust teaching pack produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland failed to give due mention of the persecution of homosexual men in Nazi Germany. An EIS to take risks and their education can be affected because they are frightened to go to school. Some get over it; some don't and carry that burden for the rest of their lives.'
    ©Sunday Herald

    UN ANTI-RACISM COMMITTEE SET TO BEGIN 2003 SESSION
    The United Nations panel monitoring progress on worldwide efforts to prevent racism and racial discrimination is set to open its first substantive session of 2003 next week in Geneva. The 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) - the first body created by the UN to review actions by States to fulfil obligations under a specific human rights agreement - will meet from 3 to 21 March to review national anti-discrimination efforts and discuss ways to prevent racial discrimination. The Governments of Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Morocco, Poland, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Tunisia and Uganda are expected to send representatives to present reports on national efforts to give effect to their treaty obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. These countries are among the 167 States parties Convention, which took effect in 1969. At this sixty-second session of the Committee, its members will also look into the state of affairs in Barbados, Bahamas, Guyana and Papua New Guinea under its review procedure. All of these States parties, except Guyana, have previously submitted reports to the Committee, but their periodic reports are overdue.

    Also at this session, the Committee will continue its consideration of the prevention of racial discrimination, including through early warning measures and urgent action procedures. The members - who serve in their individual capacities - may decide to take steps to prevent existing problems from escalating into conflicts or may decide to initiate urgent action aimed at responding to problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention. The Committee may also schedule a review of the situation in some countries at short notice. The Committee is also expected to continue its important practice of examining, in closed session, communications from individuals claiming to be victims of racial discrimination. Only complaints against the 41 States parties that have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 14 of the Convention are admissible.

    Other agenda items include a general debate on a number of issues, including the Committee's methods of work; discussion of the effective implementation of international instruments on human rights; review of the progress of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; and follow-up to the Durban World Conference against Racism.
    ©EuropaWorld

    ITALIAN COMPLACENCY
    Uefa is to reprimand the Italian football association after none of the country's major football club's attended this week's high profile anti-racism conference hosted by Chelsea. 'There is widespread anger among Uefa officials and anti-racism campaigners at the attitude shown by the clubs, given that Italian football is seen as having a chronic racism problem both on and off the field. Major names such as Milan, Lazio, Roma and Juventus skipped the Uefa-organised conference even though they had initially stated that they would attend. Uefa will now write to clubs seeking an explanation for their absence.

    There have been a number of racist incidents involving players and fans in Italy both this season and last, and both Uefa officials and anti-racism campaigners were hoping the conference would present an opportunity for clubs to learn how to put into place programmes to tackle the problem. A source said: "We are very disappointed that no major Italian clubs attended the conference. This just goes to show the attitude among some club officials towards racism. We are hoping that Uefa will take the matter very seriously and try to ensure that Italian clubs do something about the racism problems they have within their game."
    © Red Issue magazine

    MADRID CREATES FINISHING SCHOOL FOR NIGHTCLUB BOUNCERS(Spain)
    Spanish nightclub bouncers, often accused of being thugs or worse, are being offered courses in kindness. The curriculum includes customer service techniques, anger management and civil rights. Classes are to begin in a couple of months under a $1 million pilot program adopted by the Madrid regional government and an association of club owners. Famous for its vibrant night life, the greater Madrid area has about 2,000 bouncers guarding some 1,000 bars and clubs, many of which stretch nights to extraordinary lengths, remaining open until the next afternoon. And their doorways are sometimes violent places where scuffles over who gets in escalate dangerously: last year two youths were killed in fights involving bouncers. Police say they have no statistics, but newspapers are filled with accounts of such violence and it isn't limited to Madrid. Last year in Barcelona, a 26-year-old Ecuadorean, Wilson Pacheco, ended up dead in the harbor after a brawl at the entrance to a waterside nightclub. A bouncer, 31-year-old James Anglada, surrendered to police and is charged with manslaughter. Anglada, a New York City native, has told a judge he pushed Pacheco into the water but didn't mean to kill him. Three other bouncers accused of taking part in the fight face lesser charges.

    The human rights group SOS Racism says some doormen have reported receiving orders to turn away blacks, North Africans, Gypsies and Latin Americans. The newspaper El Mundo quoted the head of security at three large clubs as saying most candidates are young gym rats buffed up on steroids and itching for a fight. They know nothing about crowd control or other aspects of the job. "Of every 50 applicants, I may hire one," said the man, who was not identified. "They are big, strong and only think about running afoul of people so they can bust heads." The National Association of Nightclubs and Concert Halls, whose Madrid chapter signed the finishing-school accord in January, said cases of violence are isolated and most originate with rowdy club-goers high on alcohol, drugs or both. Some doormen are rough and "overstep the bounds of their job," said association director Jesus Garzas, but it's like law enforcement. "There can be a dirty cop, nevertheless the police force in general is good," Garzas said. The classes are voluntary, so no one stands to lose a job for flunking or not enrolling. Garzas says he trusts most bouncers will in fact sign up. Other subjects on the agenda include fire safety procedures and dealing with alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses.

    Bouncers themselves acknowledge there's a problem. Many of the jobs are held by gang members who use crowded doorways to sell Ecstasy and other drugs popular with young Spanish night owls, said Cesar de la Calle, vice president of the National Association of Professional Doormen. "There are thugs. There are mafias," he said. "And the violence comes from these same people." The Madrid regional government said it faces a daunting challenge in a country where nocturnal enjoyment is sacred. It calculates that at the peak hour on a Saturday night, 700,000 people are out carousing in nightclubs and bars: about a quarter of the metropolitan population. In downtown Madrid, a traffic jam at 3 a.m. is nothing unusual. Luis Peral, the regional labor minister who signed the education accord, insisted clubs are no more violent than other patches of Spanish society. "There's violence everywhere. In parks, on the streets," he said. But he acknowledged one of the things the doormen will be taught is "you can't exclude people for ethnic reasons." Hence there will be classes about the Spanish constitution and civil rights.
    ©The Canton Repository

    ETHNIC MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES TO BE REFORMED(uk)
    The government has launched a report calling for the fundamental reform of mental health services for people from black or ethnic minority communities. The "Inside Outside" report says UK mental health services are failing to meet the needs of people from these communities and need to be reformed in order to tackle discrimination. The study says ethnic minority groups face inequalities in each of the areas covered by the National Service Framework for Mental Health – mental health promotion, primary care, access to services, services for people with severe mental illness, carers and suicide. The report authors have therefore set out three key objectives to improve the overall mental health of black and ethnic minority people living in England. The recommendations aim to reduce inequalities in mental health service outcome and experience, to develop better cultural understanding and to "engage the community". The measures include providing mandatory cultural awareness training for staff, setting quality standards and carrying out audits, getting more people from ethnic backgrounds involved in service planning and introducing 500 community development workers. In order to implement these recommendations, the new National Institute for Mental Health is due to announce a blueprint for consultation in late spring.

    The report, which took two years to produce, was compiled by an expert group chaired by Professor Sashi Sashidharan, medical director of North Birmingham Mental Health Trust. Welcoming the paper, Health Minister Jacqui Smith said, "One of the core values underpinning the modernisation programme within mental health, is that mental health services should be non-discriminatory and appropriate to the needs of those who use them. "Tackling ethnic inequalities within mental health services in terms of prevention, early detection, access, diagnosis, care and quality of treatment and outcome is one of the greatest challenges facing us. This report provides the underpinning rationale to implement real reform." However, the charity Mind said it was not convinced that the proposed measures could wipe out the institutionalised racism that existed in mental health services. The charity highlighted a survey that found that African and Afro-Caribbean service users were more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, detained in locked wards and treated with higher doses of medication than other ethnic groups. Mind Chief Executive Richard Brook said, "We welcome the report, but the real proof of the government's commitment will be change in the system."
    ©HMG Worldwide 2003

    POLITICIAN THINKS IMMIGRANTS CHILDREN SHOULD START SCHOOL EARLIER(Norway)
    Children with a minority background in Norway should start school a year earlier than other Norwegian children, claims an Oslo politician who was an immigrant himself. Oslo could be a testing ground, he says.

    Aamir Sheikh of the Conservatives (Hoyre) says all children with parents who are not ethnic Norwegians should be allowed to start school at age five. Children in Norway now start school at age six. The extra year, he says, could help the small children overcome language difficulties and better prepare them for integrating into Norwegian society. Newspaper Aftenposten reported earlier that the Conservative Party in Oslo is proposing mandatory language testing for immigrant children and obligatory Norwegian classes before they start school. Sheikh wants to go a step further. Age five isn't too young to start school, he claims. "Children are quicker to pick up languages at that age," he says. A recent report from Norway's state immigration agency (Utlendingsdirektoratet, UDI) indicated that immigrant children are subject to discrimination in Norwegian schools. Many are bullied because they don't understand the Norwegian language. Others claim language training should begin at home, and that it's important the parents become fluent in Norwegian as well.
    ©Aftenpost

    EUROPE'S FIRST MIGRANT PATROL FOUNDERS ON THE ROCKS OF INCOMPREHENSION
    A pioneering joint maritime surveillance scheme to guard Europe's southern seaboard against illegal immigration foundered on the lack of a common language and failed to stop a single person. When Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, launched Operation Ulysses in January, he said it would intercept boatloads of clandestine immigrants and send them home. Mr Acebes hailed the scheme as the prototype for a future European border police force. Boats from five EU member states patrolled the Mediterranean from Algeciras to Palermo in Sicily, between 28 January and 8 February without spotting one illegal boat. But, over that period, some 300 people completed the hazardous crossing from North Africa to Andalusia.

    Problems began when crews of the ships from Britain, France, Portugal, Italy and Spain realised that they had no common language. They were told to exchange personnel so they could talk to each other, only to find that the ships' communications systems were incompatible, a report on the operation says. The British and the Portuguese are said to have pulled out early, while the Italians complained that bad weather stopped them leaving port. The French said the patrol ships were too small for the open seas.

    The operation overspent its 1.2m (£830,000) budget, shared by Spain and the EU. Spain wants Brussels to increase its contribution from 60 per cent to 80 per cent for phase two, starting in April, which will extend surveillance to Atlantic waters between the Western Sahara and the Canary Islands.Spain's Civil Guardrecommends using aircraft to monitor large expanses of sea. A British official said yesterday: "It was a learning experience. The first time you mount something like this with five countries there is bound to be room for improvement. We'll learn from this for the next phase, to which we are committed."
    © Independent Digital

    EX-DANISH LAWMAKER GETS JAIL TERM FOR RACIST COMMENTS
    The founder of Denmark's populist Progress Party was sentenced to 20 days in jail for comments that violated the country's racism law. Mogens Glistrup, 76, and a former member of parliament, was sentenced to a 20-day suspended sentence in September 2000 for saying Muslims had immigrated to Denmark in a bid to take control of the country. About 2.4 percent of Denmark's 5.3 million residents are Muslim. Glistrup appealed the decision, but a higher court ruled Tuesday that he should serve actual jail time because he has repeated his comments several times on television and radio since then. Under Denmark's racism law, public statements deemed insulting or indignant about race, religion, nationality or sexual preference can result in jail terms as long as two years. Glistrup was sentenced to three years in prison in 1983 for tax fraud and his license to practice law was revoked. After he was released, he returned to politics, leading the Progress Party, which he founded in 1972. Glistrup stunned Danes in 1973 when his party, which campaigned on abolishing income tax, became the country's second-largest political group in parliament. Glistrup, who calls himself a racist, was expelled from the party in 1991 because his hardline stance against immigration led to an internal power struggle. That struggle resulted in the creation of the far-right Danish Peoples Party which has 22 members in parliament. The Progress Party has no lawmakers in parliament.
    ©Santa Fe New Mexican

    IRAQ CONFLICT COULD IGNITE RACISM IN SCHOOLS(uk)
    Schools should brace themselves for an increase of racism in the classroom because of the current crisis in Iraq and the Middle East, the National Union of Teachers warned today. Refugees, Muslim and Jewish pupils and staff are at particular risk of being targeted for abuse by children and adults, from inside and outside school, the union told its members. In an advice sheet, War in Iraq - the impact on schools, the union warns that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism could increase in the coming weeks. It also urges teachers to look for signs of children who might be worried by any military attack on Iraq because they have family living in the area, or in the military. Other children may be upset by reports in the media of a conflict.

    During the Gulf war in 1991 there was an increase in bullying of Muslim pupils in schools. Recently, far right groups have leafleted parents encouraging them to remove their children from religious education lessons providing information on Islam. "Addressing the issues with pupils may help to avoid racist attacks and abuse and ensure that pupils are given a more balanced view than may be provided by the media," the union advises. Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, said: "The turbulent times we are living in present challenges to teachers for which they must be prepared. Their early intervention and action to deal with any problems will help diffuse the situation before it escalates. "Schools are not isolated from the wider community and the problems and tensions which exist in society do not remain outside the school gates. But schools can do much to calm fears and use children's natural curiosity to dispel myths and fictions about different ethnic and religious groups and what is happening." And he issued a warning to teachers: "Teachers must not express any partisan views in their discussion with pupils and students."
    ©The Guardian

    ONE HUNDRED BULGARIAN ASYLUM-SEEKERS TO BE FLOWN HOME(Finland)
    The Helsinki police will escort some 100 Bulgarian asylum-seekers back home today. The police have chartered an airplane from Finnair, and the asylum-seekers whose applications have been denied will be flown to the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The Bulgarians in question arrived in Finland in late 2002 and early 2003. Thereafter, they have lived in reception centres in different parts of the country. Ethnically, the asylum-seekers are either Roma or of Turkish decent. This is the first such flight that has been arranged to escort Bulgarians back home. Previously, the Finnish police have organised several similar flights to Romania. During the first two months of this year, close to three hundred Bulgarian asylum-seekers have arrived in Finland. In all of last year, the arrivals numbered only 287. None of the Bulgarians have been granted asylum. In their applications, the Bulgarians have reported racial discrimination in their home country, as well as difficulties with the local authorities.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE ACTIVE IN POLITICS (Denmark)
    A new political think-tank study claims that ethnic minorities are healthily represented in the nation's political spectrum. But immigrant advocacy still has little say in legislation. Ethnic minorities are almost as well represented in the nation's city councils as ordinary Danes - and may even be over-represented in many larger city councils. So concludes a new book from political analytical group Magtudredningen, authored by Aarhus University Political Science Professor Lise Togeby. Togeby's book, ‘From Guest Worker to Ethnic Minority,' asserts that, while integration on the labour market is still problematic in Denmark, integration of ethnic minorities in the political system is progressing robustly.

    Many members of ethnic minorities vote in parliamentary and regional elections, become members of their city councils, and participate in grass-roots activities. Togeby's study also found that ethnic minorities participate more in local politics in Denmark than in other countries. But Togeby found other aspects where integration in political life has run dry. She found that immigrant advocacy groups have had little influence on national legislation: this because partnerships between nationwide immigrant organizations and regional authorities have never functioned well.

    Lise Togeby acknowledged that achieving full integration of ethnic minorities in Danish political life was hampered by challenges. ‘There are real difficulties emerging from inequity in resources, culture clashes, and the Danish population's anxiety over moving toward a multicultural society. It's hard, it's full of conflict, but it's necessary, if our long term goal is to live in a democratic society,' declared Togeby. Magtudredningen is a research program established by parliament to analyse local government at the start of the 21st century. The group's work began in 1998, and is expected to conclude sometime this fall. Lise Togeby's book will be released on 17 March.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    EUROPEAN-WIDE ACTION WEEK AGAINST RACISM 15-23 MARCH 2003
    Hundreds of activities in more than 30 countries!
    Full list of activities

    21 March
    March 21st was declared International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a reaction to the murder of 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South-Africa, in 1960. During the annual European-wide Action Week, which centers around 21 March, thousands of people actively engage themselves for tolerance and equal rights. This year once again hundreds of activities will take place all around Europe, organised by a wide variety of organisations. Activities range from special TV programs to cleaning the walls of racist slogans.

    Look deeper
    Colour of skin - cultural background - religion - ethnicity - enough information to judge human beings? Everyday we are confronted with and reproduce stereotypes about how blacks, Rroma, Muslims or asylum seekers are supposed to be. Attitudes towards minorities often refer to their marginalised positions in society, fears and xenophobia. We struggle against these attitudes because they enable discrimination and racism.

    Look deeper inside yourself
    Question your own prejudice! The mind of human beings can not work completely without ideas that are not proven right. Being aware of your prejudices is the first step to overcome them.

    Look deeper into the others
    Try to see how people really are! What are our neighbours' problems, what is their position in society, what are their rights? Dialogue and understanding are the first steps towards a better co-existence. Fundamentally we are all the same.

    Make others look deeper
    Challenge the views of society! How do people at your school, at your work, in the streets, in politics and in the media speak about foreigners, Jews or coloured people? Make your opinion known and the voices of discriminated people heard. Stereotypes - prejudice - discrimination - racism - break this chain! Make the people think about the importance of dialogue and the value of diversity in our society.

    Racism in the 21 Century: Expose hidden racism!
    At the UNITED conference in Bucuresti (RO) in 2002, the participants discussed the European-wide Action Week Against Racism, 15-23 March 2003 and expressed their concerns about recent developments in Europe regarding discrimination issues.

    Racism is not only based on the ideology of inferior and superior races. There are racist groups who still believe in ideas of racism similar to those of Hitler's "Third Reich", but it would be too easy to dismiss racism as a problem of fringe groups such as neo-fascists. Racism has become more subtle and is based on multiple prejudice. Rroma are brought into connection with criminality. Asylum seekers are supposed to abuse our welfare state. Muslims are often associated with fundamentalists. Fear and xenophobia are growing and support a 'hidden', but not less problematic, form of racism. Populist parties, anti-immigration parties and the new-right abuse and support fear and xenophobic attitudes by for example speaking about the 'threat of migration', the 'flood of illegals' and 'dangers of the multicultural society'. 'Easy solutions' are offered to the public: shutting Europe's borders, locking refugees up in camps, ensuring 'security' by reducing citizen rights and enlarging police controls or rediscovering the 'nation'. Over the last years, even many right and left wing established parties have allowed racism to set their agendas, resulting in measures that may not be outright racist, but that have contributed to the racist discourse. By allowing discrimination into different policy areas, established parties unwillingly support the new-right, ant unions frequently take up the occasion of this week to organise special lessons, campus meetings, petitions, etc. Media may be inclined to work with you to produce special issues, TV-programs and radio shows. Especially community media often get in contact with local organisations to produce special programs. Public debates, round tables and conferences provide places for reflection and brainstorming. By organising them during the Action Week you give both the week and the activity more weight and more publicity. You can take up the occasion of the 21 March International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to write petitions to politicians or publish media releases. Many organisations publish their annual report during the Action Week. We can take this week to show our anger. Removing graffiti and other visible actions can alert the public to the existence of the Action Week. Activists will organise activities as for example "Sport Against Racism" and street theatre.

    Join the campaign!
    Do you believe in the necessity to actively struggle against racism? Join the campaign and order more of this poster for free! Send/fax/e-mail UNITED your planned activities (title, date, theme, place) and the name, address and contact person of your organisation. Maximum 100 posters for free. If you need more for special purposes, contact us.

    Do you need more information?
    UNITED can provide you with a wealth of information. You can order a copy of the European Address Book Against Racism to find like-minded organisations in other countries, or in your own country. You can phone or e-mail the secretariat to find out who else is organising something. You can check the UNITED website to order the campaign poster, or other campaign material to use in your own way. A full list of anti-racism magazines can also be found in the European Address Book Against Racism and on the UNITED website.

    How you can help UNITED
    Help us make the media release exciting! Announce your activities to us! Send us your announcements, invitations, leaflets and posters before the activities take place. Help us make the report complete. Make sure your activity is included! Send us reports, newspaper articles, photographs, etc. after the event for the European report.

    The material does not have to be in English.
    fax +31-20-6834582 or E-mail or write to UNITED, Postbox 413, NL-1000 AK Amsterdam

    UNITED for Intercultural Action




    GENDER WAGE GAP WIDENS(Germany)
    Women in service and administrative positions in Germany not only earn substantially less than men but the gap actually widened slightly last year, although women working in industry made a marginal gain on their male co-workers, according to a new report by the Federal Statistics Office. It said that the average monthly salary for women in service and administrative positions last year was EUR2,517 ($2,760), exactly 30 percent less than the average man's pay; the difference in 2001 was 29.5 percent. Women employed in factories earn substantially less than those in service and administration - averaging EUR1,837 in monthly gross income - but had less of a gap, 26 percent, with their male colleagues last year. That was down from 26.2 percent in 2001. mig
    © Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    FEMALE, SEEKING PUBLIC OFFICE? BETTER TRY SWEDEN(Canada)
    Women seeking public office have a better chance of finding it in Sweden, South Africa, Pakistan and 32 other countries than they have in Canada. A new study by the InterParliamentary Union has found that Canada finishes 36th among 182 nations, with 20.6 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons filled by women. Of 301 Canadian seats, 62 are represented by women. The figures are well behind the 45.3 per cent posted by firstplace Sweden and just below that of Nicaragua, which ranks 35th at 20.7 per cent. Other nations that finished ahead of Canada included Denmark, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Iceland, Spain, Latvia, Bulgaria and Australia. "It surprises us," said Alessandro Motter, an official with the IPU at the United Nations. "It looks like you have some work to do."

    A Canadian expert on women's representation said she was shocked by the numbers. "That's just appalling. There's no other word for it," said Donna Dasko, senior vicepresident with Environics Research and a member of Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to increasing female representation in legislatures. "The profile of this issue has just fallen." Ms. Dasko noted that many Canadian parties provide some incentives to encourage women to run. She added, however, that party leaders may have to start appointing women to increase the numbers. The IPU, which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, is the international organization of parliaments of sovereign states, and it is charged with fostering exchanges among parliaments from around the world. The study found that Western democracies have generally lagged behind the developing world in terms of women holding public office. For example, the female membership of Britain's House of Commons is 17.9 per cent, giving it a ranking of 49th, while the United States has a ranking of 59th, with women holding 14.3 per cent of seats in the House of Representatives. "In Western democracies, the trend is uneven although generally disappointing," the report's authors wrote.

    At the same time, developing countries are starting to climb up the list. Pakistan's legislature has a female membership of 21.1 per cent, up 18 percentage points from earlier showings; this gives it a ranking of 32nd. Quota laws that reserve 60 seats in Pakistan's National Assembly were the main reason for the increase, the report's authors said. "In Pakistan, encouraging women to stand as candidates and to vote has been an important struggle in more conservative parts of the country, where female participants have had to defy local rulings that prohibited them from voting."

    The report added, however, that quotas do not always work. In France, a law that reduces election subsidies for those parties that do not put aside half their nominations for women has seen disappointing results. The last French election resulted in only a 1.3percentagepoint increase in female representatives. France's assembly ranked 65th among the list, with 12 per cent of its representatives women. Not all the nations that outplaced Canada on the list are Westernstyle democracies. China, for example, ranks ahead of Canada with 21.8 per cent, while Vietnam is well up on the list at 27.3 per cent. Generally, those countries that lead the pack tend to have systems of proportional representation, in which members are elected depending upon the overall votes their parties receive. For example, a party receiving 50 per cent of the votes receives 50 per cent of the MPs, chosen from a list drawn up by the individual parties. Those lists often include a minimum number of women. Under the Canadian firstpastthepost system, MPs are elected in headtohead battles, offering no guarantee that women will be elected. Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish, past chair of the party's women's caucus, said Canada should consider a hybrid system of firstpastthepost and proportional representation to increase the ©Globe and Mail

    AFRICAN WOMEN TO RALLY IN PARIS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
    Since the beginning of February, a group of ethnic African and North African women has staged demonstrations across France to highlight discrimination and violence they face in many parts of the country. The campaign arrives in Paris Saturday, with a march coinciding with International Women's Day.

    Twenty-nine-year-old Samira Bellil has been gang-raped twice. She was insulted and threatened when she filed charges against her attackers. But Ms. Bellil went on to write a book about her experiences. Now she helps lead a new movement to shed light on sexual harassment, discrimination and violence facing ethnic African and North African women, like herself, who live in France's gritty, immigrant-heavy suburbs. The group's slogan is "Neither Whores Nor Under Submission." The women reject charges by traditionalists in their neighborhoods that they are promiscuous, because they practice what they consider a normal, modern lifestyle, complete with lipstick, short skirts and boyfriends. They reject calls by many of their fathers, mothers and brothers that they submit to traditional restrictions on their activities. The women say their families want to make life in the French suburbs just like it was in Africa, with women kept at home in traditional roles and under the domination of men.

    The secretary-general of the Paris-based activist group, SOS Racism, Sarah Benichou, said women in these impoverished neighborhoods live in restricted societies, which offer few freedoms. "It means you're not allowed to go out at night, if you're a girl, even if a boy your own age can go out," she said. "You're not allowed to go and have a love story with someone you love. You're not allowed to have sexual intercourse, because there's a myth about virginity in the suburbs." Low-income suburbs ringing cities across France have long been a headache for the government. They are home to thousands of jobless and disaffected youth. They are considered breeding grounds for violence and, sometimes, Islamist extremism. But Ms. Benichou said the fate of women in the suburbs is largely ignored. "We have allowed these suburbs to become what they have become. We didn't help things get better in these suburbs," she said. "We just repainted some doors and windows."

    Members of the African and North African women's movement will be meeting Saturday with French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, before marching through the streets of Paris. They hope their campaign will draw thousands of fellow protesters. More importantly, they hope it will launch a sustained effort to tackle inequity and poverty among African
    ©VOA News

    TURKEY MARKS WORLD WOMEN'S DAY
    Labor Minister Basesgioglu says the government would soon present Parliament the Labor Law draft, which will provide an opportunity for women to further participate in working life

    Turkey will mark World Women's Day with various activities today. Nongovernmental organizations and local administrators delivered statements on the occasion of March 8 World Women's Day, emphasizing that the gender equality was a necessity of the civilization and democracy. Antalya governor Alaaddin Yuksel said in a written statement that granting women the right to elect and be elected was a significant indicator in Turkey becoming a contemporary state, celebrating the Women's Day of Turkish women. Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic, granted women the right to elect and be elected in the 1935 elections. Mersin Mayor Macit Ozcan was another person who underlined the fact that Turkey has granted rights to women earlier than many countries, while labor unions delivered statements which marked World Women's Day and demanded further efforts to solve the problems of working women.

    As more women joined the workforce as time went by, women also face problems regarding working life. Labor Minister Murat Basesgioglu said that the number of unemployed women surpassed one million, stressing that only 25.1 percent of women at the working age were employed. Addressing a conference organized by the Labor Union for civil servants (Memur-Sen) about the problems of working women, Basesgioglu said that Turkish women's position in the economy was poor. Basesgioglu emphasized that everybody should make efforts to enable women to further participate in working life. Recalling that they prepared a Labor Law draft, Basesgioglu stated that they would soon present Parliament the draft, which will provide an opportunity for women to further participate in working life. Basesgioglu informed that the draft prevents gender inequality and makes new arrangements regarding maternity leave for women.

    Grameen bank officials in Turkey to provide business loans to women
    Bangladeshi Grameen Bank officials are visiting Turkey in order to make contacts with Turkish officials in order to provide loans to poor women, who want to set up their own business. Promotion of Women's Labor Foundation adviser Necla Zarakol yesterday said in a written statement that the officials of Grameen Bank, operating in 81 countries, came to Turkey upon invitation from Ak Party deputy Aziz Akgul and added that the officials visited AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, State Minister Besir Atalay and Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) head Engin Akcakoca. Stressing that the officials would hold a press meeting on March 10, Zarakol said that they would give information about their contacts and the loan program.
    ©Turkish Daily News

    BATTLE FOR EQUALITY STILL DOMINATES WOMEN'S MOVEMENT
    More than 90 years after International Women's Day was first initiated by a German socialist, gender equality and reconciling a career and home remain enduring problems for Europe's women. As 45,000 women gathered in Berlin on March 19, 1911 for the first International Women's Day and waved red flags emblazoned with the words "equal rights", prudent German citizens could hardly believe their eyes. Undaunted by the criticism from the conservative press of the time, initiator of the protest and German socialist, Clara Zetkin -- inspired by an American commemoration of working women in 1908 -- went ahead with her clarion call for women to get equal pay and have more of a say in the political process. It was picked up by thousands of women in Denmark, Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland as a wave of protests and strikes followed. In 1917, a protest in Russia changed the face of the women's movement. Thousands of Russian women left their homes and factories to protest against food shortages, high prices, the world war and the increased suffering they had to endure. After 1917, International Women's Day secured its place on March 8 on socialist calendars and soon came to be uniformly celebrated around the world. With the resurgence of feminism in the late 1960s came a renewed interest in International Women's Day and it soon spread to countries far beyond European borders.

    Demands of women's movement remain unchanged
    Zetkin's efforts bore fruit in Germany when in 1918, women's right to vote was formally recognized and since 1949, the German constitution says that "men and women are equal". But more than 50 years after the latter event, the women's struggle seems to be grappling with the same issues that it began with. The basic demands of the movement have remained the same --equal pay for equal work, equal education and training opportunities, social security for women, equal political rights and peace. German Minister for Women and Family Affairs, Renate Schmidt said in a recent interview with the press agency, Dpa that women in Germany had still not achieved equal rights despite fighting for them for more than 90 years. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us: women earn significantly less than men, and only 11 percent of women are in leading positions. Much still needs to be done about that," she said.

    Legislation missing the main point?
    Politicians from all parties have realized the importance of addressing women's issues such as maternity leave, child welfare, legal abortion rights, childcare, women's ministries and prosecuting marital rape. Women's quotas have been implemented: almost 31 percent of German parliament members are women and at some universities in the country, women exceed men in terms of numbers. But despite the progress, women say that all the legislation governing equality and measures to protect women lack one crucial thing: the full social and financial recognition of their actual services. Women without formal training are still paid less than their untrained male counterparts, highly-qualified women are still excluded from top posts, women still find it difficult to harmonize a career and home and they still make for two thirds of unpaid work in the country -- whether it's in child care, at home or voluntary work.

    Germany makes it tough for mothers to work
    The new minister for Women's Affairs in the German state of Lower Saxony, Ursula von der Leyen, mother of seven, said that Germany lagged far behind on an international scale when it comes to enabling women to manage both a home and a career. She also said that Germany "needs to catch up when it comes to child-care." The minister said that Germany needed full-day schools and more flexible opening times for kindergartens and primary schools. Today spots in crèches and day nurseries in Germany are available for just ab same time Diamantopoulou stresses that much has been achieved in Europe as far as women taking on more jobs goes. "Millions of new jobs have been created on the European level in the last 12 years, 80 percent of them have gone to women. It's the first time that so many women in Europe have found a job in so short a time. But that doesn't mean we're satisfied. Statistics and facts show that there are still huge problems in all EU member states," she said. Indeed the latest report about the European labor market leaves no illusions about the status of women. On an average, women earn less than their male colleagues. The differences are relatively small in public services -- 16 percent, while in the private sector the gap rises to 24 percent. In highly skilled jobs the difference is a sharp 28 percent, while the widest rift is most evident when it comes to leading positions -- here men earn 34 percent more than women in the same posts, if women can get these jobs at all. Diamantopoulou summarized the situation clearly when she said, "as long as gender stereotypes and traditional expectations dictate which profession a woman takes up or what subject she studies, as long as the social infrastructure in most member states is unsatisfactory, we cannot speak of equal chances."
    © Deutsche Welle

    WOMEN'S DAY IN NEW RUSSIA
    For activists, it's a long climb back to old equality

    As women walked with bouquets of flowers, gifts from the men in their lives on this Women's Day, a small group of friends here in Russia's northern industrial and cultural center were celebrating in a different way. Two were sitting in a smoke-filled art-scene café watching the film "I Shot Andy Warhol," about the radical American feminist Valerie Solanis. Another was home with her children. Still another was painting banners for a demonstration to remind residents what the Russian observance Saturday of International Women's Day - a national holiday here since Soviet times - is really about. "It's a fake holiday," said Olga Lipovskaya, 49, chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Center for Gender Issues. "All these flowers, they are false offerings of affection. I don't want a tulip. I would rather have rights, power and money." Only one of the four friends would call herself a feminist. But they find a sisterhood with one another and live in ways that even the most emancipated Western women might find intimidatingly liberated. For St. Petersburg, Women's Day has a meaningful past. Many historians argue that it was the women of St. Petersburg who celebrated the day in 1917 with a demonstration "for bread and peace" who touched off the overthrow of the czar. Soon thereafter, Russian women were among the first in the world to receive the right to vote.

    Women's Day "is a holiday to celebrate the absolutely wonderful radicalism of the 1920s," said Alla Mitrofanova, one of the four friends, who helped Russian women learn about the Internet in the early 1990s. The Soviets imposed egalitarianism from above. A quota system ensured that women occupied a certain number of government posts. Women studied at universities alongside men. Cafeterias, laundries and day care centers opened in cities to ease women's burden at home. In today's Russia, however, the quota system has been eliminated, and women have all but disappeared from top government posts. The privatization of state assets after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 overwhelmingly benefited men. Women, who had worked in factories and on construction, were glad to abandon such toil for lives as homemakers. Mitrofanova, 43, made such a choice. Despite her untraditional approach to motherhood - she chose a father for her children by asking various male friends - she decided to become a stay-at-home mother for her two sons. She deplores the fact that women's work in the home is not valued and talks wistfully of the social services, like free day care, secured by feminists during the early Soviet era, but now in decline."Women will never win in the fight within the establishment for power," she said. "Why should I try when I can achieve so much more at home?" In Russia today, feminism, and activism more generally, is regarded with suspicion. Russians, cynical from the economic chaos of the last decade and the force-fed politics of Soviet times, scorn activism as naive. Besides, the problems of other social groups, like migrants from the Caucasus, who face tremendous prejudice in Russia, are much more serious, the women in this circle said.Even so, Lipovskaya and her helpers were painting signs on Friday for the demonstration Saturday. A self-described former hippie, who worked in low-paying cleaning and doorman jobs in Soviet times, she is one of the very few advocates of political protest. In 1992, a year after the demise of the Soviet Union, she founded the Gender Center.

    Lipovskaya asserts that women have lost out in the last decade during Russia's transition to capitalism. Even so, when men and women found themselves adrift in the free-for-all that followed communism's collapse, suddenly facing the loss of jobs and identities, it was women who proved more adaptable, landing jobs in service and in small businesses. Despite the sharp decline in political representation, which many argu That could be changing, as younger women come of age. Irina Aktuganova, director of the Cyber-Femin-Club, a group that helps women use the Internet, and of the small cafe where the film was showing, said universities are creating gender studies departments. In addition, women are beginning to enter local governments, although in the lowest positions. The St. Petersburg League of Women Voters says 43 percent of local administrators are women, up from 32 percent in 1998.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    IRAN WOMEN RALLY TO DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS
    Hundreds of Iranian women marked International Women's Day on Saturday with a demonstration demanding equal social and political rights to men, a first in this conservative male-dominated country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The women, wearing the headscarves and long coats required by law, and a small group of men held a rally in a central Tehran park. Watching them was a large contingent of police - including about 400 women who in January became the first females to undergo training to be officers since 1979. "Half of the votes cast in favour of lawmakers were by women," activist Zohreh Arzani told the gathering. "How can you fail to recognize and support the rights of your wives, mothers and sisters? Why aren't women given top managerial or ministerial posts?"

    In the crowd, some women held up signs against violence by men - and against a war on Iraq. Women have been strong supporters of Iran's reform movement that seeks to change the Islamic government's tight social and political restrictions. While the reformist-dominated parliament lifted a ban on unmarried women studying abroad, other bills supporting women's rights have been rejected by the hard-line Guardian Council, which must approve all legislation before it becomes law. Under the strict form of Islamic law used in Iran, a woman needs her husband's permission to work or travel abroad. A man's court testimony is considered twice as important as a woman's. Men can keep four spouses at once, a right not granted women. And while Iranian men can divorce almost at will, a woman seeking a divorce must go through a long legal battle and often relinquish rights in return for divorce. "How can we celebrate this day when our women are not entitled to choose their husbands, are not allowed to demand divorce and get just half the blood money a man gets?" protest organizer Noushin Ahmadi asked, referring to the practice of giving the family of a female murder victim about half the average compensation paid to a male victim's relatives.

    Speakers said the rally, organized by the non-governmental Women's Cultural Centre, aimed to "protest discrimination against women." In her speech, Arzani deplored Iran's failure to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. "Why has even the reformist-dominated parliament failed to debate and approve the convention?" Arzani asked amid the shrill whistles of girls at the rally. Iran's senior clerics in Qom, the country's main centre of Islamic learning, have rejected the convention as un-Islamic. Despite being restricted from the country's highest political posts, Iranian women - 31.1 million of Iran's 66-million population - enjoy greater freedoms and political rights than women in most neighbouring Arab states, including the right to vote and hold public office. Those freedoms came into practice with the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, who appointed a woman as vice-president. Other women have been appointed to top government posts, but not cabinet positions. Prominent female writer Shirin Ebadi said Iranian women want the "full rights of life" before top government posts. Speakers at Saturday's rally warned that self-immolation by women is on the rise due to discrimination against women, particularly in rural areas. No official figures are available on self-immolation.
    ©The Canadian Press

    NO CONSENSUS ON RESERVATION BILL ON THE EVE OF WOMEN'S DAY (India)
    New Delhi, Mar 7 (UNI) Women parliamentarians today unitedly demanded early enactment of the Bill on reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies on the eve of Women's Day though their own parties failed yet again to arrive at a consensus on the subject. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to give more time till the next part of the Budget Session to the political parties to arrive at a consensus. Briefing newspersons after an all-party meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the majority of the parties, including the BJP, Congress, CPM and CPI, were in favour of the Bill to be passed in its present form. But some parties, including the BJP allies Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal, favoured the Election Commission's proposal that the reservation for women should be given by the parties themselves. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who opposed the Bill in its present form, said they also wanted that there should be a consensus on the issue and sought more time.

    Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, who also supported the EC's view, said they wanted that it should be less than the proposed 33 per cent. While in the meeting Mr Yadav pressed for a 15 per cent reservation, he later told reporters that they were ready for 20 per cent, provided it were for dalits, backward and minorities. In both the houses the women members regretted that the demand for reservation for women has not been fulfilled for a decade. Raising the issue in the Upper House, Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptulla sought the intervention of Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the early passage of the Bill.
    ©Deepika Global

    CALLS FOR MORE SUPPORT ON UN WOMEN'S DAY(Malta)
    Today is International Women's Day, or to put it more correctly, United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. The United Nations started to observe International Women's Day in 1975. Since the 1976-1985 decade, which was also dedicated to women, the UN has intensified its initiatives towards gender equality, as well as towards the empowerment of women in all areas of life. This, especially in the light of the eradication of poverty and disease, in the achievement of sustainable development, and in the management of conflict and the building of peace. The National Statistics Office marked the day by issuing statistics relating to women. In the past three decades, the gap between the male and female segments of the population has narrowed slightly. In 1982, females accounted for 51.5 per cent of the population while in 2002, this proportion stood at 50.4 per cent.

    No drastic changes are envisaged for the next 50 years: demographic projections for 2050 put the percentage of females in the population at 50.2 per cent, it said. As a rule, women live longer than men. In 2001, male expectation of life stood at 76 years while that for women stood at nearly 81 years. That said, both sexes experienced a considerable improvement in this respect during the past three decades. For men, this went up by nine per cent (from 1982) as against an 11 per cent increase for women. The Labour spokesman for women's rights, Helena Dalli, criticised the government for failing to give legal protection to victims of domestic violence, in spite of promises made three years ago.

    The Nationalist Party women's movement said in its statement that laws were not needed as much as were the structures of support that would allow a women to choose, and to increase the participation of women in the workforce. The National Youth Council also lamented the low proportion of women working, and their under-representation in government, in political parties, and as leaders in civic society. It said that both men and women had the right to develop their talents and make choices without limitations imposed by stereotypes or prejudice. The Social Action Movement focused on the importance of supporting women whether they chose to work, stay at home to look after their family, or to do voluntary work. The National Commission Persons with Disability highlighted the plight of disabled women, who, it said, were less likely to marry than disabled men, had twice their divorce or separation rate, and were more vulnerable to violence and abuse. In Malta, it noted that 44 per cent of disabled men were working, compared to 67 per cent of men overall, while only 16 per cent of disabled women were working compared to 28 per cent of women overall.
    ©Times of Malta

    PROTESTING WOMEN UNITE TO MAKE A POINT IN AN UNEQUAL WORLD

  • Paris - Hundreds of thousands of women all over the globe have taken to the streets to remind the world that they are still far from equal citizens. But there was also some positive news on developments for women's rights during events to mark International Women's Day on Saturday.

  • On Friday, the Speaker of Chile's lower Chamber of Deputies, Adriana Munoz, announced that a bill would be introduced requiring that 40% of congressional seats be held by women. Currently there are two women out of 47 senators and 13 female deputies out of 120.

  • Also on Friday, Argentinian President Eduardo Duhalde signed into law a 30% quota for women in union organisations.

  • In Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva asked the country to reflect on the condition of Brazilian women - they are still far under-represented in politics and business, and underpaid compared to men in the workplace.

  • In Guatemala, local UN representatives urged the government to step up spending on women's education and to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth.

  • In Ecuador, as well, women's political and workplace equality remains a distant target. But representation is up - from 12% of the legislature in 2000 to 17% last year. And left-leaning President Lucio Gutierrez has named four women to cabinet positions.


  • Many of the weekend marches played up the problem of violence against women.
  • Colombia's capital tried to reduce violence on Friday by having men stay off the streets, but many did not heed the innovative and discriminatory city order, Bogota's mayor Antanas Mockus said.

  • There was trouble in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, where firecrackers caused a stampede at a women's march on Saturday, leaving one person dead and several injured.

  • A particularly poignant protest in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka focused on the problems of acid attacks against women, often carried out by unrequited lovers. A number of victims took part.

  • In Russia, protesters pointed to the prevalence of conjugal violence. A non-governmental organisation said about 14 000 women were killed by their partners each year in the country - as many people as died in all of the 10-year Russian war in Afghanistan.

  • Violence was also high on the agenda in France, where rapes and other attacks on young women in tough suburbs have recently been in the news.

  • Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durao Barroso marked Women's Day with a pledge to introduce measures to fight "unacceptably high" levels of domestic violence.

  • In Poland, women protested against restrictions placed on abortion since the fall of communism, burning a copy of the country's law at a Warsaw rally.

  • In Afghanistan, 3 000 women attended a conference in the capital Kabul, though President Hamid Karzai failed to show up as planned. Afghan women also got their first radio station, broadcasting mostly educational programmes.

  • In neighbouring Iran, about 300 women took part in the first Women's Day march since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

  • In Washington, thousands of pink-clad people marched around the White House to mark International Women's Day, despite verbal barbs hurled by conservative counter-protesters who urged them to find husbands and stop nagging. They protested against plans for war on Iraq. Holding pink flags and balloons, they railed against President George W Bush and chanted "Give peace a chance". "We are here because the world needs to know there are American voices that oppose the rush to war," said Shira Keyes, a grey-haired woman clad in pink, like most of the protesters.

  • The protests in Argentina focused on the widespread hunger and misery since the country's economy fell apart, while in neighbouring Brazil, which is ©The Star


  • NEW COALITION IN AUSTRIA ESCAPES EUROPEAN PROTEST
    The Austrians have now got a new government, three months after the general election. Conservative chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel on Friday announced the formation of a new government together with the Freedom Party, FPÖ. The general election in Austria in November gave the centre-right People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel the victory with 42.27% of the votes - the best result for the party ever.

    Europe has learned to live with the right-wingers
    The forming of a similar government in February 2000 upset European governments and the 14 EU partners introduced a freeze on bilateral diplomatic relations with Austria. The European political establishment was frightened by the inclusion of a far-right party into a European government. This time, however, not a single voice has been heard in protest. After the so-called "three wise men" concluded that Austria was not oppressing human rights, the EU-members lifted the sanctions in September 2000. Denmark pushed hard for sanctions to be lifted quickly to avoid a negative impact on the euro-vote in Denmark.

    Three FPÖ ministers
    The Freedom Party, FPÖ, has three ministers in the new government. Dieter Böhmdorfer is the new minister of Justice, Hubert Gorbach, minister for Infrastructure and Ursula Haubner, the sister of Jörg Haider, holds the ministry of woman, families and consumers.
    ©EUobserver

    EU 15 UNABLE TO AGREE LAW AGAINST RACISM
    The EU on Friday failed to agree on a general approach to fight racism and xenophobia in the EU states, mainly due to Italy's opposition. Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino expressed dissatisfaction with the line member states are taking over this issue, saying it will mean less protection against racism and discrimination. "The trend the Council is following does not deserve our agreement," Commissioner Vitorino said. "We consider that this framework decision is below the percentage of harmonisation that was possible to achieve already on the basis of the common joint action of 1996... and will not be considered by the Commission as the appropriate legal tool."

    The EU hopes wants to have common criminal law approach in the EU against racism and xenophobia in order to ensure that the same behaviour will be considered an offence in all EU States. It also wants effective penalties and sanctions for persons who commit such offences. Yet member state Justice Ministers failed once to agree on a deal. Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli asked the Council to wait for the outcome of the Convention's discussion before taking a decision. The Convention on the future of Europe is currently drafting a constitutional treaty for the EU. Mr Castelli also said that the Council decision on this issue could be used as a tool to attack political enemies. Italy fears that measures against racism and discrimination could be used against the right wing populist Northern League party led by Umberto Bossi, which also forms part of the coalition government, sources told the EUobserver.
    ©EUobserver

    BRITAIN URGING STRONGER CO-OPERATION ON ASYLUM PROBLEMS
    Ahead of a justice and home affairs ministers meeting in Brussels, British minister Lord Filkin has warned that the European Union has to deal with asylum issues, especially in a situation where asylum seekers are taking advantages of differences in application procedures of the member states. "Strong borders must be a priority for all EU member states - it is in everyone's interests," said Lord Filkin, according to Epolitix.com. Britain is expected to lobby during a two-day meeting in Brussels for stronger co-operation on the asylum issue. "The UK is a key driver in the push for progress on the EU asylum package. The discussion on the common definition of a refugee is a vital step towards achieving a level playing field across the EU to stamp-out asylum shopping, reduce pull-factors and share the burden together," Lord Filkin added. Member states face different challenges because of their geographical position or the nature of their borders, but the task we face is common to all of us, the minister said. "Today's illegal sea-borne migrants in the Mediterranean are next week's illegal entrants trying to get to the UK or another EU country," he concluded.
    ©EUobserver

    BELGIUM'S FAR RIGHT RESURGENT
    The Vlaams Blok party has emerged stronger than ever from a determined attempt to shut it down, writes Andrew Osborn

    It could have been curtains for the Vlaams Blok this week - the far-right party whose slogan "Our People First" is chillingly reminiscent of something that Joseph Goebbels might have come up with. But instead the Blok is stronger than ever, forecast to do well in a forthcoming general election (scheduled for May 18) and able to adopt the moral high ground. It could have been very different; the Belgian establishment and particularly the socialist party must be kicking itself. Unable to crush the Blok at the ballot box, its detractors took the misguided step in 2000 of trying to get it banned by the country's law courts. The move has backfired spectacularly. This week the entire court case collapsed leaving the establishment with egg on its face and the Blok resurgent and cocky. The fallout is regrettable: the entire affair has served only to provide the Blok with oodles of free publicity and allowed it to portray itself as unfairly persecuted. The case, which the Blok characterised as "the attempted murder of the Vlaams Blok" centred around allegations of racism. Belgium's Human Rights League and the Leman Centre on Anti-racism took the Blok to court in 2000 on the grounds that some of its manifesto commitments were openly racist.

    At issue was a pamphlet published by the Blok in 1999 calling for separate education for Muslims, a special punitive tax for companies employing foreigners from non-EU countries and cuts in child support for those same employees. The Blok says it has since abandoned these manifesto pledges, but that did not stop the court case. The stakes were high. If the courts had found against the Blok it would have seen itself stripped of its state funding - the only legal source of party funding in Belgium. In the Blok's case that amounts to some £2.7m a year. In the event, however, a Brussels appeal court this week refused to rule on the case, effectively kicking it into the long grass. The case was too political, the judge complained, and way out of his jurisdiction. His decision can be appealed but only in a criminal court and before a full jury, something than even the Blok's detractors are unlikely to want. The Blok could scarcely conceal its glee. "This ruling is an enormous political victory for the Vlaams Blok and a setback for our detractors," crowed Frank Vanhecke, the Blok's president. "It's now time to stop treating the Blok and its electors as pariahs. We're not. "It's only in banana republics that judges decide the manifestos of political parties." The crestfallen anti-racism campaigners said they would consider an appeal but they should think carefully before they do so. "This is hard to swallow for us," said the lawyer Jos Vandervelpen. "In other European countries their laws work to prevent the rise of far right political parties. Ours should too." Of course it goes without saying that many of the Blok's policies are deeply repugnant and do appear in some cases to be motivated by naked intolerance and racism. However, banning the party and excluding it from the mainstream altogether would be ineffective and dangerous. The recent past is testimony to that fact. In theory the party's leader, Filip Dewinter, should be the mayor of Antwerp since the Blok holds 20 of the city council's 55 seats - far more than any other. However, the mainstream parties have erected a cordon sanitaire, an exclusion zone, around the Blok since 1994, joining forces to keep what some call "a disease" safely away from the corridors of power.

    That strategy was supposed to see the Blok wither on the vine but it has not - it shows no signs of disappearing and is forecast to win as much as 20% of the national vote in the next election. Like it or not (and many do not) the Blok is a force to be reckon must be challenged in the strongest possible terms. But pretending that such views do not exist would be foolish. In a democratic society the Blok's detractors would do better to spend their energy and time demolishing the party's policies in the debating chamber and on TV instead of trying to suppress such views. Or as one Flemish journalist wrote recently: "The battle against the Blok is not going to be won or lost in the courts but rather in everyday politics."
    Perhaps it is time the Belgian establishment took note - before it is too late.
    ©The Guardian

    FRANCE TAKES ON NEW WAVE OF ANTI-SEMITISM IN SCHOOLS
    Minister fears a war in Iraq could exacerbate tension between Muslim and Jewish communities

    France began an effort to stamp out anti-semitism and racism in its schools yesterday, fearing that a war in Iraq could seriously heighten the tension between its Muslim and Jewish communities. The education minister, Luc Ferry, said regional cells would be set up to monitor and respond to anti-semitic and racist acts by schoolchildren and help schools address the problem, adding that teachers would no longer be allowed to turn a blind eye to the harassment of Jewish pupils. "There is a trivialisation of anti-semitism that worries us, a new wave of anti-semitism that is being tolerated by certain adults," he said. "We cannot let things go on like this and the imminence of a possible war in Iraq is not going to help matters." Mr Ferry said terms like "dirty Jew" and "Alien Sharon" were now popular playground insults, and that the adjective "Jewish" was used in "all sorts of unacceptable contexts: a 'Jewish pen' is a pen that does not work, and playing 'Jewish catch' is playing catch-as-catch-can."

    France's 5 million Muslims and 650,000 Jews, both the biggest communities of their kind in Europe, have been put under severe strain in the past two years by the surge in Middle East violence since the second Palestinian uprising began. Scores of anti-Jewish attacks were recorded last year, including several firebombings of synagogues and insults and assaults on Jews. In schools, most of the 455 racist and anti-semitic incidents reported in the first term this year involved insults, offensive graffiti and vandalism. Physical violence is rare.

    The French media have highlighted such recent incidents as an 11-year-old Jewish boy in Paris forced to change schools after relentless bullying by Arab pupils and a history teacher showered with paper pellets when he tried to teach a class about the Holocaust. One Jewish teacher at a Paris secondary school, who asked not to be named, said that last year "for the first time in 19 years of teaching, a 14-year-old Muslim girl refused to let me correct her work. I had to give her higher marks than she deserved to keep her quiet". Sociologists say that youths whose parents emigrated from France's former north African colonies and who often live in grim high-rise suburbs on the outskirts of French cities feel they have become the victims of institutionalised racism and see the Jewish community as both more affluent and better integrated. "Anti-semitism is being viewed as commonplace because it is coming from a source that is supposedly more acceptable than the classic far right, namely the Arab-Muslim world," Mr Ferry said. "But we must not accept it, and heads of schools know that very well."

    In the light of reports that an increasing number of students are wearing scarfs or skull caps to display their faith, he said it was time to reassert the secular nature of France's state education system. "We should be able to say to all students: 'Drop the crosses, the veils, the caps, we are going to play by the rules of the republic.'" Members of the government and most Jewish leaders have consistently said that the rising inter-community tension and sporadic violence are mainly the consequence of political rather than religious differences. But some foreign Jewish groups, particularly in America and Israel, have seen in the incidents evidence of an acceptance of anti-semitism and an echo of dark days of the Vichy collaborationist war time government, which oversaw the deportation of 750,000 French Jews to Nazi death camps. The Israeli government seemed to provide more ammunition to France's critics last month when it said that 2,556 French Jews had emigrated to Israel last year: double the 2001 figure, and the highest number since the Six Day war. But the Jewish Agency in Paris said the figures were "more about pr ©The Guardian

    DON'T DECOMMISSION US(uk)
    Plans to merge Britain's equality bodies would deny disadvantaged groups their beacons of justice
    By Simon Woolley, national coordinator of Operation Black Vote

    Trevor Phillips today undertakes the greatest challenge of his professional life. As the new chairman of the commission for racial equality (CRE) he must tackle a number of key problems at a critical time in British race relations. The daily asylum-seeker bashing, coupled with the looming war on Iraq, has left many Asians, particularly Muslims, feeling they are under direct attack. And the media frenzy that followed the killings of Birmingham teenagers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare seemed more concerned with demonising black people and black culture than with catching the murderers. All this at a time when figures show that 70% of black and Asian people live in the UK's most deprived areas. Britain's ethnic minority communities will look to Phillips for strong leadership. They know he must work with the government but they demand that, when necessary, he stand up to his boss, home secretary David Blunkett.

    The CRE is itself under attack from this government, which seeks to consign it to the scrapheap in favour of a single equalities body (SEB). The rationale is Britain's implementation of EU equality legislation, which will cover discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation, age, religion, race, gender and disabilities. Prior to this, only the last three were covered. The government wishes to avoid setting up new separate watchdogs for age, sexual orientation and religion, so it plans to create a single commission. Julie Mellor, head of the equal opportunities commission, has come out in support of a single body. "The law currently offers different levels of protection for different groups and none at all for others," she says. This is especially true for someone who has been discriminated against on a number of levels. As the proposals stand, individuals might have the luxury of going into an equalities "one-stop shop" only to find they have entered a Kafkaesque world that will leave them confused and beleaguered. For example, a disabled Muslim man refused rental of an apartment might feel discriminated against on the grounds of his religion, but he will be told that the law doesn't cover him because there is only protection against religious discrimination in the workplace . He is informed that he may be covered by the Disability Act if there is a question about access to the premises, yet on the grounds of race discrimination he is only covered if he can prove the landlord was referring to his country of origin or skin colour.

    As the CRE has argued, the most effective way to deal with the problem of different levels of protection is not to put all the bodies under one roof, but to harmonise equality legislation. Common sense would dictate that this go further than covering discrimination within employment, and include education, goods and services, and public sector duties, as it does at the moment with race and (for Northern Ireland only) religion. This cart-before-horse approach has led many to believe that the proposed SEB is about delivering equalities on the cheap rather than making a difference. It also pays scant regard to the historical context. The Race Relations Act of 1976 and the creation of the CRE did not come from a top-down directive, but from a grassroots black movement for justice in the 1960s and 1970s that took on appalling levels of racism. The same can be said for the continuing women's struggle, with many women still earning much less than men, which led to the Sex Discrimination Act and the creation of the equal opportunities commission. Disability activists, too, campaigned for more than 25 years before a legal watchdog - the disabilities rights commission - was set up.

    The proponents of the SEB ignore would engender a climate of competitiveness between each sector. If the government is serious about equalities, it should allow for new and reformed commissions, with harmonised legislation, along with a mechanism for greater collaboration.
    ©The Guardian

    SLOTA: STATE SHOULD PAY ROMA TO BE STERILISED(Slovakia)
    Human-rights activists call PSNS proposal 'unprofessional, ignorant, and racist'

    Roma men may get paid to be sterilised if the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) gets its way. On February 21, PSNS boss Ján Slota announced his party would present parliament with a draft law mid-March laying out how Roma men would be offered Sk20,000 (480 euro) in return for their fertility. The PSNS proposal comes only weeks after allegations that Roma women from eastern Slovakia were forced into sterilisation, raising serious questions at home and abroad about the situation of the Roma minority in Slovakia. Most of Slovakia's 400,000 Roma live in poverty on the margins of society. "I think we would increase the income [of Roma] if they got Sk20,000 for just one little cut. I think a lot of Roma would volunteer for this," Slota said. The proposal provoked immediate sharp criticism from human-rights activists. "The statements made are characteristic of [Slota] - they are unprofessional, ignorant, and racist. Europe had terrifying experiences with holocaust, genocide, and sterilisation at the time of Hitler. Notions such as these put us in a similar position and are very dangerous," said Ladislav Durkovic, head of the People Against Racism NGO.

    Representatives of the Roma community agree. "In this region I see Slota's statements as a form of modern fascism, whose representatives support a sophisticated type of racism toward the Roma community," said Roma activist Edmund Muller from the Centre for Roma Rights NGO. However, PSNS representatives say that it will be up to the Roma to decide whether or not they want to be sterilised, and that the measure therefore does not represent a threat to the minority. "There is nothing wrong with it. Families will be free to choose and improve their social situation," said PSNS spokesman Rafael Rafaj. Moreover, the PSNS claims its idea grew out of a desire to improve the status of the Roma. "We are motivated by a report that says that in 2050 [ethnic] Slovaks will become a minority in Slovakia. We are worried about the development of the Roma community and the ability to ensure [for them] the standards common in the civilised world, especially in childcare, which is often neglected in large families," said Rafaj. "If we do not manage to motivate them to participate in responsible parenthood, any projects aimed at improving their social situation, the status of their children, and success in the labour market will be useless," Rafaj added.

    But Roma activists believe the proposal puts the emphasis in the wrong place. "The main things Roma need are education, work, and an improvement in their social situation and hygiene. I would recommend that the proponents of such statements undergo a restriction of fertility, to decrease the number of racists in Slovakia," said Durkovic. Muller suggested the motivation for the PSNS proposal was less about demographics and more about politics. "I see the activities of Slota as part of a drive to increase his party's support. [The PSNS] wants to attract many voters who are prejudiced against the Roma," said Muller. Political analysts agree that Slota's statements may have more to do with gaining popularity than solving the problems of the Roma. "This is another of Slota's exotic and xenophobic proposals regarding the Roma issue, which is unacceptable in Europe. Perhaps it is motivated by efforts to increase his popularity and improve his negotiating position before the unification of the Slovak National Party [SNS] and PSNS," said political scientist Luboa Kubín from the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

    Durkovic said the PSNS should not be allowed to take advantage of racist sentiment, particularly as its leader is not a parliamentary politician. "Slota is a person like anyone else, so he can have any opinion he likes, but he is not a member of a parliamentary or governmental to make [a difference], they must first overcome their division," said Kubín.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    HEALTH MINISTRY: STERILISATIONS WERE OK(Slovakia)
    The health Ministry's chief gynaecology expert Karol Holoman said he found that no laws had been breached in a number of eastern Slovak hospitals suspected of carrying out coerced sterilisations on Roma women. The allegations were presented in a report entitled "Body and Soul" published a month ago by the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights. Police investigators are looking into the allegations, but have so far presented no findings. Holoman said that he would push for an update on the law governing sterilisation so that medical professionals would be required to give all women considering the operation a complete explanation of its consequences and a minimum of 72 hours to think about it before going through with it.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    HELPING YOUTH OUT OF THE RIGHT-WING SCENE(Germany)
    In Germany, right-wing extremism still lures young, often alienated people into a grip of hate and violence that's difficult to escape. But one program started by a former neo-Nazi shows people a possible way out. Ingo Hasselbach knows what it feels like to be caught in a vicious cycle of hate against everything and everyone who's different. He also knows what it feels like to have that hate turn against you. He's been there. Hasselbach was a member of Germany's neo-Nazi scene for 25 years. But ten years ago he turned his back on the skinheads and rejected their gospel of racism and xenophobia. When he did that, he lost friendships he had had for a quarter of a century. When he stopped defining himself by right-wing ideology, his entire social world collapsed. But, he says, it was a sacrifice he had to make. That is the hardest message to get across to the young, mostly male neo-Nazis who contact Exit, a program he founded to help people successfully get out of the right-wing scene. "It's important to make clear to the boys who come to Exit that they have to get out of their social environment," Hasselbach says. "In some cases they have to even move to another city. They have to be prepared to do this." Hasselbach founded Exit two years ago because he knew how difficult, and dangerous, it could be to leave the right-wing scene once one has been a part of it. Making the decision to step away from extremism often means stepping into social isolation and enduring the wrath and even violence of former friends who consider it treachery to leave the scene.

    Taking the first steps
    Most of the young people who call the Exit hotline are between 17 and 27 years old. Before they can get help from the program, however, they have to fulfil a few requirements. They must be calling on their own free will; they must be willing to talk about their experiences in the scene; and they have to take responsibility for their actions and behavior during their time with the far-right. Once they've agreed, Exit helps them take their first steps in a new world. Those steps include introducing the person to a possible new group of friends, putting him in contact with the employment office and if necessary, the police or a lawyer. Exit's goal is to create a completely new foundation for the former neo-Nazi. "It's like the person falls into a black hole and doesn't really have anyone anymore," Hasselbach said. "The scene has a cult-like character to it." During its two-year existence, Exit has helped some 200 people leave the far-right behind. Hasselbach is proud of that figure, especially given the fact that the organization is privately run and receives its funding from private sources.

    Moving on
    But after ten years of helping right-wing youth turn their lives around, and even consulting on the German film "Führer-Ex," which tells the story of two neo-Nazis around the time the Berlin Wall fell, Hasselbach has decided to pass the baton along to someone else and leave behind his neo-Nazi past completely. "At some point it become clear to me, that I don't want to be a professional ex-Nazi," he said. Security concerns played a role in his decision as well. Helping pull people away from violence-prone groups has its dangers, and Hasselbach is none too popular in the far-right community. Now that he has two kids, he is ready for a line of work that is a little further removed from the line of fire. "And it's also time to catch up on all those things, like my professional development, that I've let sit for the past ten years," he said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    DEATH THREATS TO LAWYER WHO ACCUSED TAKI OF RACISM(uk)
    A black lawyer has received death threats after complaining to the police that The Spectator magazine had published a column that incited racial hatred. Scotland Yard is investigating the columnist Taki and the magazine, which is edited by the Tory MP Boris Johnson, to establish whether they have broken the law. Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, confirmed yesterday that the force was also looking into death threats against Peter Herbert, a leading anti-racism campaigner and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. After news of the inquiry, reported in The Independent this month, Mr Herbert received more than 40 abusive e-mails from far right-wing extremists, several of which made death threats. Three e-mails were sent from Britain; the remainder came from the United States after a right-wing website suggested messages be sent to him.

    The Met's diversity directorate is investigating the e-mails and the "High Life" column by the Greek society figure Taki Theodoracopoulos, in The Spectator of 11 January. Under the headline "Thoughts on Thuggery" he wrote: "Oh boy, was Enoch [Powell] – God rest his soul – ever right!" Referring to the New Year shootings of two black girls in Birmingham, he continued: "Only a moron would not surmise that what politically correct newspapers refer to as 'disaffected young people' are black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs." The Crown Prosecution Service will assess whether the piece incites racial hatred and breaks the Public Order Act, which carries a two-year term. Mr Herbert, 45, said yesterday: "The article is still on The Spectator website, and that can't be there without being condoned by the editor, Boris Johnson. I therefore think a criminal investigation should include whether he is aiding and abetting incitement to racial hatred."
    © Independent Digital

    GAYS AS PARENTS(Denmark)
    Minister of Social Affairs Henriette Kjær has given the go-ahead for homosexuals to become foster parents, but rejected a proposal that would allow gays to legally adopt children abroad, leading to calls of hypocrisy from the national organisation for homosexuals and gays, LBL. 'It seems rather odd that the minister feels homosexuals can be trusted with other people's children but not good enough to look after their own,' says LBL's Peter Andersen. 'Denmark has always had the reputation of being a pioneering country for homosexual' rights, but we're lagging far behind other EU countries such as Holland and Belgium.' There is still widespread political disagreement in this country as to whether lesbians should have the right to artificial insemination.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    2003 A ‘KEY-YEAR FOR ITALIAN MINORITIES' SAYS PRESIDENT OF COMFEMILI
    ‘I think 2003 is a key-year for linguistic minorities in our country', says Domenico Morelli, newly re-elected president of COMFEMILI, the Italian Federative Committee of Linguistic Minorities. Referring to the implementation of Minority Law 482, Morelli, an Albanian speaker said: ‘With the signature of the new contract of service between the Italian state and the public broadcasting society RAI, Law 482 can be properly implemented in the media.' ‘This year Italy should also ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages', adds Morelli. Last December the government presented a draft bill to Parliament to seek its approval for the ECRML. Overall, Morelli is optimistic: ‘In the fields of public administration and education the situation is in general better than in the past and the implementation of regional and national legislation on minority languages is bearing fruit'. He adds that ‘Italy is the country in Western Europe where there is the greatest number of minorities. There are very different situations between minority groups and communities, not only regarding the numerical strength or the level of legal protection, but also concerning their self-consciousness and vitality'.

    Commenting on some of the 12 officially recognized minorities in Italy, Morelli says: ‘The Friulans and Slovenes are working hard on initiatives and legal claims. Occitans too are very committed and it is the same for the Griko (Greek) community of the area of Salento, in Puglia. Other minorities, like the Arbresh (Albanian) communities in Southern Italy, are finding some difficulty in organising themselves to initiate projects. But even there there is still progress.' Founded in 1984, CONFEMILI supports the protection of minority languages at the local, regional and national levels. It gathers associations and experts from every minority of Italy. It works with the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and is officially recognised by the government as the representative of the twelve linguistic minorities of Italy. ‘Our organisation is sending out a positive signal and our activities are increasing in a federal way. We work at the central level as a member of the Technical Consultative Committee of the Government on the implementation of Law 482. But at the local level every minority group expresses itself with associations and committees both working directly in the territory and also being linked with us. For example, there are the small German-speaking groups in the Alps [Walser, Mocheni, Carinthians] who last year created a coordinating forum'.

    ‘The aim of CONFEMILI in 2003 is to continue to support the correct implementation of the laws that exist and the approval of new bills and to encourage its decentralised implementation'. The President also highlighted the problems of the Roma group, ‘whose recognition and protection continues to be very difficult ‘, and concludes remembering that ‘in general we have to work hard and be watchful, because legislation provides only for protection on request'.
    ©Eurolang

    GYPSIES VOTE FOR CHANGE(Hungary)
    A left-wing coaliton took all but two seats on the national self-government body for Hungary's 500,000-strong gypsy community in a vote Saturday overnight, election officials said Sunday. The Democratic Roma Coalition (DRC) won 51 of the 53 seats in the National Roma Self-Government in the ballot, routing the right-wing Lungo Drom federation after eight years in power. The vote was a replay of controversial mid-January elections whose results were contested by Lungo Drom and subsequently thrown out by the country's Supreme Court. The new vote "proved that Hungary's gypsy community is capable of electing its leaders democratically, observing legal standards", said head of the National Election Committee Lajos Ficzere on Sunday. The winning DRC would endeavour to strengthen the gypsy local governments and fight against poverty, said its leader Aladar Horvath. "It is important that the new local government body is not divided by doubt and inconfidence," said Horvath, who is centre-left Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's advisor on gypsy affairs. "We count on Lungo Drom members and want to give everybody a chance to work," said another DRC leader Vilmos Koevesi. Hungary's half a million gypsies are the country's largest and most deprived ethic community according to human rights groups.

    Self-government
    Lungo Drom leader Florian Farkas, one of the two Lungo Drom members on the 53-strong body, pledged to work with the new leadership. Farkas controversially called on Lungo Drom supporters walk out of the mid-January elections before successfully contesting the result produced by remaining electors. His move, and the subsequent Supreme Court decision, triggered widespread calls for changes in legislation under which the ballot was held. That legislation, passed in 1995, allowed the country's 13 national minority groups to elect their own local, regional and national self-governments to tackle their specific affairs alongside the regular local governments. Horvath pledged that the new self-government body would work on that, too. The gypsy community in Hungary is the third largest in central Europe, behind Romania with 2.5 million and Bulgaria with 800 000. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy, who came to power after elections in April, has launched programmes to improve their educational and job opportunities after criticism from human rights watchdogs and the European Commission. Both have criticised Hungary in recent years for turning a blind eye to racial incitement and violence against the Roma, including physical abuse, segregation and discrimination.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    RECORD NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS ALARMS THE BRITISH
    A record 110,700 people sought asylum in Britain last year, a number that is expected to inflame concerns over the country's immigration policy and to increase pressure on the government to stem the flow. Twenty percent more asylum seekers entered Britain last year than in 2001, the Home Office announced Friday, with most of the increase attributed to a surge in applications from people fleeing Iraq and Zimbabwe. Most of the asylum seekers stayed in Britain, even those whose claims were rejected. More than 54,000 claims were turned down last year, and 13,335 people were deported. Of the 110,700 asylum seekers, 10 percent were given asylum, and 24 percent were granted "exception leave to remain." "The provisional figures for 2002 are deeply unsatisfactory, but no surprise," said David Blunkett, the home secretary and Britain's chief law enforcement officer. The issue of asylum has created a political firestorm in Britain and dogged Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been accused of not doing enough to curtail levels.

    Public opinion polls show that most Britons favor clamping down on grants of asylum, a point the opposition Conservative Party has sought to use to its advantage. In January a candidate for the far-right British National Party won election to a council seat in Halifax by campaigning against asylum seekers. Communities around England have vehemently protested plans to house asylum seekers in their areas, scuttling government attempts to find solutions. Concern increased when it was found that some Algerians arrested in Britain after the police found traces of ricin, a deadly toxin, in their apartment had applied for asylum. Blair said recently that he would like to see the number of asylum seekers cut in half by September, a goal some say will be difficult to meet, especially if war breaks out.

    Just Friday, Blair, in an agreement with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Aznar, announced from Spain an initiative to stem the flow of immigrants. They agreed to send a team of forgery experts to Asian countries to train the authorities to spot false documents. At a news conference, Blunkett said that a large portion of last year's asylum applicants had capitalized on lax security between Britain and France and entered the country through the Channel Tunnel. Some of the applicants had been housed at the Sangatte camp, a holding center in Calais, France, which was closed by a British-French agreement. Anticipating a spike in applicants, the government has worked to speed up adjudication of asylum claims and to deny benefits to asylum seekers who do not state their claims at the border upon entering Britain. But the denial of benefits was struck down by the English high court last week. Bev Hughes, a Home Office minister, said that security had also been heightened at freight depots near Calais, and immigration checks have started in France. "As a result, clandestine entry through the Channel Tunnel has virtually stopped," Hughes said.

    Once asylum seekers are in Britain, they no longer have the right to work, they must hold identity cards, and they have lost the right to claim "exceptional leave to remain," a category that carries a lower threshold of proof than asylum. "There is no doubt these figures are too high and we understand people are concerned," Hughes said. "We are concerned." Oliver Letwin, the opposition's shadow home secretary, said the jump in asylum applicants proved that the system does not work and should be scrapped altogether. Members of the Conservative Party have proposed housing refugees in a ship off Britain. "These are pretty dreadful figures to put it mildly," Letwin told Sky News. "They represent the bankruptcy, I'm afraid, of the tactics which the government has used over the past five years."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    SCOTLAND YARD SETS UP GAY AND ETHNIC MINORITY UNIT(uk)
    Scotland Yard is setting up a specialist pool of gay, lesbian and ethnic minority officers who will be deployed on investigations to win the confidence of all communities. For the first time, Metropolitan Police officers will be asked voluntarily to submit details of their sexual orientation and ethnic origin to a force database. Gay and lesbian officers will be called in to deal with homophobic crimes such as the 1999 Soho nail-bombing and murders of gays. Black and Asian officers will be drafted in to work on inquiries where white officers are having difficulties in winning the trust of witnesses. The database will also include details of officers with language skills, "life skills" and unusual hobbies. They will be used in incidents such as hostage taking, and could help gather intelligence on terrorists and conduct house-to-house inquiries in murder investigations. They could also help with community reassurance and stopping antisocial behaviour.

    The scheme follows the successful deployment of officers such as Detective Constable Deborah Akinlowan, who was born in Nigeria, to break down community barriers in Peckham, south London, after the murder of Damilola Taylor in November 2000. Damilola's father, Richard Taylor, said: "She was able to speak in the dialect that people understood which is one of the encouragements that they required." The police database will be confidential but will be seen by co-ordinators of inspector rank or above who will handle requests for help from senior investigating officers. Sergeant Jaiye Warwick, who is gay, said he had already assisted in about six murder inquiries where the suspect or victims were gay. He said he did not believe the process would lead to communities being broken up into "ghettos" open only to certain officers, and said the database was intended to make the most of all the resources available to the force.
    © Independent Digital

    BRITISH SHIPS MAY REFLAG TO DODGE EU RACE EQUALITY RULES
    British ships flying the red ensign may be reflagged under foreign colours to dodge new rules preventing shipping companies from using cheap foreign labour. The plans have sparked a row between the Home Office minister Lord Filkin and the junior transport minister David Jamieson over repealing an exemption in the Race Relations Act which allows discrimination against seafarers on the basis of colour, ethnic origin, race and nationality. Lord Filkin argues that a new EU equality directive means that Britain must repeal this provision. The Chamber of Shipping warns this could lead to a mass exit of companies flying the British flag, including household names such as Cunard, P&O, BP and the Bibby line. According to a brief for MPs prepared by the RMT union, current wages for Spanish and Portuguese ratings work out at £800 a month while those of a British citizen vary between £1,200 and £1,400. Ratings from eastern Europe and the Philippines are some of the lowest paid in the world.

    The Chamber of Shipping argues that keeping lower pay for foreigners is not incompatible with the new equality directives. It has warned the government: "Repeal will force many UK-based companies to register their ships away from the UK and will not lead to the creation of employment opportunities for British seafarers." They are also playing the "Iraq war card", warning the government that if the overwhelming number of British ships were no longer registered here, they could not be requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence in times of crisis. Lord Filkin's stand has been welcomed by Labour MPs.

    John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said yesterday: "The Home Office should be congratulated for recognising that it is morally indefensible in the 21st century for a particular group of workers to be excluded from the Race Relations Act and for having the courage to tackle what has been described as institutionalised racism in the shipping industry." The chancellor, Gordon Brown, yesterday won prestigious all-party backing in his battle to introduce a more flexible interpretation of the EU's growth and stability pact, the rules governing national public spending limits, writes Patrick Wintour . EU finance ministers will hold a vital meeting on Friday in Brussels to decide whether to change the rules. France Germany and Italy are all pressing for a more flexible interpretation of the pact.
    ©The Guardian

    FRANCE SENDS 54 ILLEGAL IMIGRANTS BACK TO DAKAR AND ABIDJAN
    An aircraft carrying 54 Africans and 94 police guards left Paris on Monday for Dakar, Senegal; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in what human rights groups saw as a resumption of charter-flight expulsions for masses of undocumented or illegal immigrants. According to officials at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the expulsions were necessary because more than 400 people were crowded into a temporary holding area for illegal immigrants, which was designed to hold less than 300. The Interior Ministry said the unwilling passengers had been grouped together for the flight, rather than using the emotive word "charter," which recalls the mass expulsions that began with the sending of 101 Africans to Mali in 1986. The charter flights were suspended in 1996 following pressure from human rights groups in France and Europe, such as the Movement against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples (MRAP) here, which called the special charter flights "secret operations without any method of control." It said such collective expulsions contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. The return of the Africans was the second grouped flight this month. Last week 15 Chinese citizens were sent to Beijing on a regular flight.

    The flight Monday included 24 Senegalese citizens and 30 people from the Ivory Coast, which is in the midst of a conflict verging on civil war, and where many immigrants from other African countries have been forced to flee for their lives. A few of those being expelled had been arrested in Germany for lack of residence papers and sent to France under an agreement among European countries reached last year in Copenhagen. Human rights groups like MRAP say the collective expulsions do not allow enough time to consider whether the immigrants were genuine asylum seekers fleeing harm or danger. ANAFE, a charity that assists passengers in trouble at the frontier, said that shipping the asylum seekers home without any civil witnesses, violated their rights and carried with it a risk of tension and violence. Within little more than three months, two asylum seekers - an Argentine and a Somalian - have died of heart attacks while being escorted out of the country. Officials said more group expulsions could be expected in coming weeks because of the increasing number of immigrants, many from China, crowding into the airport holding center. The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has said he will be firm in expelling illegal immigrants while showing clemency to those who can show they have lived in France for a long period without residence papers, provided that they have committed no crime.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    FRENCH MINISTER DEFENDS RESUMPTION OF MASS DEPORTATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS
    French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday defended the decision to resume mass deportations of illegal immigrants after human rights groups criticised a charter flight taking 54 people back to Africa. Reminding the National Assembly that the deportees had never entered French territory but had remained in the international zone of Paris's Charles-De-Gaulle airport, Sarkozy said: "Eighteen made an asylum request that was turned down and the others made no request at all. "We reject the idea of zero immigration, which makes no sense, but we are determined to apply the law. People without papers have no right to remain on our national territory," he said. He said both Britain and Germany wanted to mount joint operations with France to return illegal immigrants to their home countries, while Italy, the Netherlands and Spain all regularly carried out group deportations. The French government on Monday chartered an airliner to transport 30 nationals from Ivory Coast and 24 Senegalese back to Africa, incurring the wrath of campaigners who said it marked a return to the hardline immigration policies of previous rightwing governments. Sarkozy said the holding-centre at Charles-De-Gaulle airport where asylum-seekers are processed now holds 500 people, instead of the 275 for which it was intended.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    KURD'S EXTRADITION BLOCKED(Spain)
    Spain's Constitutional Court has annulled an extradition order against a Kurd wanted by Turkey to serve 35 years for drug trafficking, a leading daily said Saturday, The Associated Press reported from Madrid. The court rejected an 1998 ruling by the National Court approving the extradition of Nejat Das, saying the court had not investigated Das's claims that he had been tortured in Turkey and that he had been convicted as a drug trafficker because he was a Kurd, the daily El Pais said. Das, a fugitive from Turkish justice, has been jailed in Alcala-Meco prison outside Madrid for more than five years while his extradition has been studied, the paper said. He has sought political asylum in Spain. Das claims he witnessed the shooting to death of his father, also a Kurd, by Turkish police and soldiers in 1992, El Pais said. He also claims to have been tortured in prison.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    SENEGAL THROWS OUT SWISS ASYLUM DEAL
    Senegal has rejected an asylum repatriation deal with Switzerland, which would have allowed Bern to deport asylum seekers to holding centres in that country. Parliament threw out the agreement on Monday, citing widespread public opposition. The government then followed suit, despite having signed the deal last January. The deal was the first of its kind with an African state, and had been hailed by Switzerland's Federal Refugee Office, as a great success. The Swiss government did not want to comment on Monday on Senegal's rejection of the agreement. It was signed in Dakar on January 8 by the Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, and Senegalese officials. Under the deal, West African asylum seekers who had refused to declare their identities would have been deported directly to Senegal, if their applications were rejected. Once there officials would have established their identity and returned them to their countries of origin.

    Criticism
    The agreement sparked widespread criticism, with some African NGOs accusing Switzerland of treating Senegal as a "dumping ground" for asylum seekers. Senegal denied having received any financial or other assistance from Switzerland as part of the agreement. Switzerland maintained that the agreement would bring fair rules to a process which is largely unregulated. The Federal Refugee Office also rejected charges that it was trying to offload asylum seekers on Senegal, saying that those who were not deported successfully to their country of origin would have been brought back to Switzerland after 72 hours. The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, welcomed the deal in January. It said asylum seekers whose applications were rejected should be sent home to preserve the credibility of the system.

    SWISS DISAPPOINTED AT ASYLUM DEAL REJECTION
    The Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has expressed regret over Senegal's rejection of an asylum repatriation deal. Senegal's parliament threw out the agreement on Monday, citing widespread public opposition. The government then followed suit, despite having signed the deal in January. "We are, of course, disappointed but Senegal is a democracy and they have the right to decide what they want," Jean Daniel Gerber, head of the Federal Office for Refugees, told swissinfo. "They have decided not to ratify the agreement not because they are in opposition to its content, but they are in opposition to the way it's been presented to the Senegal public where there has been a lot of disinformation on the agreement," he added. The foreign ministry said the agreement would have been an effective way of combating human trafficking and organised crime, as well as ensuring that human rights were protected. "Switzerland is convinced that the problem of illegal migration can only be resolved through international cooperation and new measures," it said in a statement. Under the agreement, West African asylum seekers who had refused to declare their identities would have been deported directly to Senegal, if their applications were rejected. Once there officials would have established their identity and returned them to their countries of origin. The deal was the first of its kind with an African state, and had been hailed by Switzerland's Federal Refugee Office as a great success. It was signed in Dakar on January 8 by Metzler and Senegalese officials. Gerber said the Swiss government would not be discouraged by the Senegal decision and would be pushing ahead with negotiations for similar accords in West Africa, the rest of Africa and the Balkans.
    ©Swissinfo

    ZUNDEL DENIES USING WEB TO SPREAD HATE(Canada)
    In newly released documents that reveal the inner workings of his fight to stay in Canada, Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel denies responsibility for the white supremacist Web site that carries his name, arguing that he does not even know how to turn on a computer. "All the claims that they are making about me owning the site and running it and being responsible for it is a crock," Mr. Zundel told a closed-door meeting before the Immigration and Refugee Board. "I don't know how to run a computer. I don't know the password. I have never owned a computer. I am computer-phobic." The hearing, which will determine whether Mr. Zundel can apply for refugee status in Canada, is the latest chapter in his long battle with authorities over his controversial views. Mr. Zundel arrived at the Canadian border last month after being deported by the United States. Mr. Zundel, 64, lived in Canada from 1958 until 2001, when he left to live in Tennessee. His deportation to Canada has essentially left him a man without a country, since Canadian authorities are building a case to kick him out. Mr. Zundel is wanted in Germany, where he was convicted in 1991 on hate-crime charges.

    A newly released transcript of his latest hearing before the board detailed an often-bizarre exchange between Mr. Zundel and lawyers for the federal government, who have told the panel that Mr. Zundel should be deported as a threat to national security. A report prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concludes that if Mr. Zundel were allowed to return to Canada, he would act as a lightning rod for the forces of sedition: "There are reasonable grounds to believe that he has supported groups and individuals who advocate and use violence to achieve their objectives," the report says. ". . . although Zundel is unlikely to resort to violence himself, he financially and ideologically supports militant White Supremacist neo-Nazi groups." Mr. Zundel, who appeared without a lawyer, portrayed himself as a victim of an international conspiracy dedicated to silencing him for his unpopular views. "Every speech that I've given is one of non-violence," Mr. Zundel told the hearing. "I am an advocate of [Mahatma Mohandas] Gandhi's way of self-liberation . . . not some wild-eyed revolutionary throwing cocktails around."

    Mr. Zundel spent considerable time disputing the government's assertion that the controversial Web site named after him could be used to conclude that he is a white supremacist or anti-Semite. He argued that the Web site is operated by his wife, and that he had no knowledge of its contents. He said there was no evidence that the Web site was publishing materials that violate hate laws. When he was reminded that the site had been condemned by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Mr. Zundel replied: "She is not going to stop the Web site because some Canadian hick tribunal is going to rule against it." Mr. Zundel acknowledged that he had raised money for Nazi-related causes, including a march in support of Rudolph Hess, Hitler's top deputy, who fled Germany in 1941 in a Messerschmitt fighter. Mr. Zundel rejected the government's claim that supporting Mr. Hess marked him as proponent of hate, and described the Nazi official as "a peace emissary." "What did this minister without portfolio of the German government of the '30s do?" Mr. Zundel asked the hearing. "He flew an unarmed plane to England, risking his life, parachuted as a man in his 50s into England to try to make peace."
    ©Globe and Mail

    CHELSEA HOSTS FOOTBALL RACISM CONFERENCE
    London is hosting Europe's first-ever football anti-racism conference months after England internationals sustained a torrent of abuse from the terraces. Ten years after the English Football Association and the Commission for Racial Equality began a campaign against terrace racism, the sport's European body, UEFA, is bringing together clubs to discuss what they can learn from the UK's example. Last year, two of England's top players, Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey, endured a tirade of racist chanting while playing against Slovakia in the European Championship qualifiers. It was an incident which shocked the sport's administrators. The conference, partly a response to that game, is being held at Chelsea Football Club, one of the England teams which has worked hardest to keep racism out of its stadium. "The conference is going to challenge racism in football and re-examine the ways clubs and associations can deal with this difficult problem which has re-emerged in recent months," said a UEFA spokesman. "After the conference we will be launching a good practice guide for all the football clubs," he added.

    DEALING WITH RACISM:
    When there are only a few hundred people there, you can hear what they say - I remember getting the ball and then hearing monkey chants
    Former player Earl Barrett

    That plan comes after UEFA was accused of not doing enough to combat racism at international and club level. Following England's match in Slovakia last October, both the players targeted and their team mates were visibly shaken by the abuse. UEFA find Slovakia's football association £60,000 Swiss Francs (£27,000) for the racist chanting - but later cut this and told the team to keep the fans out for one game. The federation also launched a 10-point plan amid last season's rise in racism, though the English Football Association said it needed to be tougher. Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole were among a string of players to face an increase in racist chanting in European games. French international and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, due to speak at the conference, was targeted by PSV Eindhoven supporters in the Netherlands last year. Campaigners condemned the club's £13,000 fine. During 2002 other players for Liverpool, Fulham, Blackburn and Ipswich complained of racist abuse at matches in Spain, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bulgaria. Trevor Phillips, the new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), said that the landscape of football has changed in the 10 years since the first football racism campaign was launched. Speaking as he took office this week, Mr Phillips said that there had been a time when he had stopped watching Chelsea because of racist chanting. "There was a time that I could not go to my own football club because you did not know if you would be assaulted or what would be said in front of your children," said Mr Phillips. "I stopped going to Stamford Bridge for a long time. But after the campaign to kick racism out of football, behaviour [on the terraces] changed. "It's now possible for me to go to Chelsea, as it is for minority Britons up and down the country." Even so, that campaign's own survey two years ago found every black player and official interviewed had suffered abuse. A recent FA survey also suggested a large number of black and Asian fans stay away because of fear of what will happen on the terraces.

    Kick it Out
    One of the first known anti-racist statements in European football came in 1992 at the German club of FC Shalke 04 when some of its fans raised a banner denouncing fellow supporters for targeting Ghanaian international Tony Yeboah. A month later all the top sides in Germany put slogans anti-racism slogans on their shirts. The English FA and CRE launched the Kick it Out anti-racism campaign 10 years ago and it has been long regarded as one of the most successful anti-racism campaigns in public life. Its work at grassroots and national level is now being replicated around Europe through an international network, Football Against Racism in Europe. "The aims and objectives are very practical, we are hoping to set out clear guidelines for football practice," said Piara Powar, of Kick it Out. "We will also provide examples from different countries about how they have attacked the problem so other nations can use them." "Many of these countries have not challenged the problem and have not had the same history of migration, they are in the same place we were 30 years ago."
    ©BBC News

    KOSOVO SERBS DEMAND ETHNIC DIVISION
    Serb call for federalisation of the region regarded as an attempt to outmanoeuvre Albanians
    By Zoran Culafic, B92 correspondent from Kosovo in northern Mitrovica

    The Kosovo Serbs' decision last week to set up a municipal association calling for what amounts to the federalisation of the region is seen by some as a bargaining ploy for the forthcoming debate on its final status. Their move was followed two days later with a call from Zoran Djindjic's for ethnic division, fueling suspicions that the Serbian premier is pressing local Serbs to be prepared to assert themselves politically to ensure that they get the best deal possible out of talks on Kosovo's future. Calling itself the Association of Serbian Municipalities and Communities of Kosovo and Metohija, the new body comprises 220 Serb representatives who won places in October's local government elections. Formed in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica on February 25, it wields authority over the Serb dominated northern region of Kosovo. The association called for the "reorganisation" of Kosovo into two separate ethnic entities. But they say that if the Albanians win the independence they are seeking then local Serbs should be able to join Serbia. The move was followed by a statement in which Djindjic told reporters, "Kosovo should be federalised and the Serbs should be treated as a constituent ethnic group, equal to the Albanians."

    Since the Serbian forces were driven out of Kosovo in 1999, Kosovo's status has remained unresolved. Formally it is a province of Yugoslavia under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, but in reality it's run as an international protectorate by the UN Mission for Kosovo, UNMIK. Observers believe the Albanian-dominated Kosovo parliament's decision a month ago to issue a demand for independence prompted, in part, Djindjic to launch a high-profile campaign for Serb rights in the region, which, in turn, led to the founding of the new association. Djindjic's campaign is also believed to have been motivated by a desire to gain Serbian nationalist support in advance of expected elections later this year. The new Kosovo Serb body elected as its president Marko Jaksic, deputy leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, the least discredited official in the community's leadership, analysts say. In a formal declaration, the association said that if anyone tried to establish another Albanian state in any part of the new union of Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo, then Belgrade should "establish effective sovereignty in areas which have always been inhabited by Serbs". The declaration said the Serb entity would be firmly linked to Serbia proper, especially in the areas of education, justice, culture and security and would function as an integral part of Serbia. The Albanian entity would enjoy also a high degree of autonomy, according to the proposal. The document endorsed the idea of blue routes - corridors that would ensure freedom of movement for the local Serbian population, especially between Orahovac and northern Mitrovica, Strpci and Gracanica; Gracanica and Merdrare; and Gracanica and Kosovska Mitrovica.

    Serbian deputy prime minister Nebojsa Covic immediately sought to play down the new association. After meeting with NATO ambassadors in Brussels on February 26, he said it was an expression of Kosovo Serb fears about the territory's future. Covic is keen not to upset the international community over Kosovo, but he is being increasingly marginalised by Djindjic, a process highlighted the following day by the premier's insistence that federalisation of the region was preferable. The Kosovo Serbs's move was strongly criticised by the international community, the region's authorities and Albanian activists. "UNMIK will not attach legal validity to any institution established on the principle of mono-ethnicity. No one, including Belgrade and Pristina, will be able to pr not safeguard the rights of the community. Significantly, the Povratak coalition, the only representatives of Serbs in the Kosovo parliament, has not yet taken an official stand, perhaps because its members appear to be divided.

    Oliver Ivanovic, a member of Povratak and of the Kosovo parliament presidency, has said the creation of the association was an "own goal" which would heighten tensions between Belgrade and the international community. But Povratak coalition deputy Rada Trajkovic said rather approvingly that the Serbs were proposing "an internal reorganisation of Kosovo so that they can set up their own government and arrange life in their own community". She also argued that the federalisation plan would be good for the Albanians as they would be able to establish broader links with Albania itself. Interestingly, Dusan Janjic, co-coordinator of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, said the association's declaration was less a call for ethnic division than a negotiating ploy. "I don't believe one could describe this as the proclamation of a mini-state," he said. " This is a tactical move because the Serbs do not really have the power to create one in Kosovo, nor can Belgrade help them do it." Janjic said the ploy was dangerous as it could to a deterioration of relations between the Albanians and the international community.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    VOTING RIGHTS CAMPAIGN GAINS MOMENTUM(Switzerland)
    Moves to grant long term foreign residents limited voting rights are growing in Switzerland. Cantons Jura and Neuchatel already allow foreign residents to vote on local issues, and now canton Geneva is being asked to do the same. The "J'y vis J'y vote" campaign (I live here, I vote here) argues that long term, tax-paying foreign residents should have the right to vote on local issues in their own communities.

    Part of community
    "Foreign residents in Geneva share living here with us, they share the taxes, they share the community," Philippe Cottet, spokesman for "J'y vis J'y vote", told swissinfo. "So we really think that since our community is based not on our passports but on our living together, they should have the same rights as we do, since they have the same duties as we do." Overall, Switzerland has a foreign population of around 20 per cent, three quarters of whom were either born in the country, or live here permanently. Canton Geneva, because of its high number of international organisations, has a foreign population of 40 per cent.

    Denied a voice
    Discussions on how best to give the foreign population a voice are taking place in many Swiss communities, but there is reluctance, particularly in German speaking regions. Canton Bern, for example, rejected voting rights for foreigners several years ago. Gianni d'Amato, of the University of Neuchatel's Forum for Migration and Population Studies, knows better than most what it feels like to be denied a voice in the community. Although he has lived in Switzerland all his life, he is originally an Italian citizen, and only got the right to vote when he gained Swiss citizenship a few years ago. "I was integrated into the society, I was part of my community," he told swissinfo. "But in the public sphere I did not exist, I was invisible, and this made me feel uncomfortable sometimes." "It's frustrating because you feel that although you are part of a society, your voice doesn't count," he continued. "It doesn't matter what you think and what you would like to do." D'Amato's feelings of frustration are exacerbated by the fact that so many ordinary aspects of life in Switzerland, from the make up of the school board to the local planning commission, are all decided on by popular vote.

    Better integration
    Because of this, the Federal Commission for Foreigners welcomes moves to grant local voting rights to long-term foreign residents. "We are really very thankful for such initiatives," said Elsbeth Steiner, spokeswoman for the Commission. "We think granting the right to vote on a cantonal level could be a very good way towards better integration of foreigners in Switzerland." Steiner is particularly keen that foreign residents should feel they have a role to play in their own communities. "I know so many foreigners who have been in Switzerland for a very long time," Steiner told swissinfo. "Especially mothers with children in school for example. And they feel set apart from the community they live in because they don't have the right to an opinion."

    Swiss citizenship
    But not everyone agrees that granting limited voting rights to foreigners is a good way to achieve integration. The right-wing Swiss People's Party believes that those who want to vote should, like Gianni d'Amato, apply for a Swiss passport. "The integration argument doesn't carry a lot of weight with me," said Luzi Stamm of the Swiss People's Party. "The main part of integration is not whether you can vote or not, but learning to speak the language." "I actually think most foreigners who complain about not being able to vote have been here a long time, and could become Swiss, but for some reason they don't want to," Stamm told swissinfo. "So I think in these cases we can justify not granting them the vote." Supporters of voting rights for foreigners argue however of nationhood in Switzerland," D'Amato continued, "which means that citizenship confers certain privileges. The problem is that these privileges have become so highly respected that some Swiss feel they will lose out if they offer them to foreign residents." Nevertheless, Philippe Cottet of the "J'y vis J'y vote" campaign hopes that the Geneva initiative will encourage similar moves across the country. "We want to show that true democracy is based on participating in the community, not on what kind of passport you have," he said. "So although we know things will go slowly, we hope that our message will be heard across the country."
    ©Swissinfo

    REFUGEES FIGHT TO HALT DEPORTATION(Ireland)
    Lawyers acting on behalf of the two families at the centre of the recent baby loophole Supreme Court ruling were last night urgently seeking a High Court injunction to prevent the families being deported this morning. The Lobe family from the Czech Republic, who are living in Balineen, Co Cork, and Galway-based Nigerian Andrew Osayande were due to be deported this morning. The Lobes were last night at home awaiting deportation from Cork Airport while Mr Osayande was arrested in Galway yesterday and detained in Dublin's Clover Hill prison pending deportation from Dublin Airport. Both parties were preparing an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a bid to overturn January's landmark ruling that non-national parents of Irish-born children do not automatically have a right to remain here. Deportation, however, would effectively mean their application to the ECHR could no longer proceed.

    The lawyer representing both parties last night said the Department of Justice had left the family no chance to lodge their case in Europe. Solicitor Noeleen Blackwell said she had formally informed the Department of Justice on Monday that an application was being made for a European hearing and sought a stay on the family's deportation. According to Ms Blackwell it had been common practice until now to grant such stays if a European hearing was deemed to be imminent. However, officials from the Department of Justice denied the request and informed the family's legal team after 5.30pm last night that no stay would be permitted. "We've been given no possible opportunity to deal with this because they responded so late in the evening," said Ms Blackwell. A Department of Justice spokesman denied stays were routinely granted if a European case was expected. "That is not part of the procedure. It is not part of our asylum process whatsoever," he said.

    David and Jana Lobe, 31, who have four children, arrived in Ireland two years ago. Their 15-month-old son Kevin was born in Ireland. "They are trying to deport me. I'm in my house here and they told me there are special police coming from Dublin to arrest me. They said they would deport me to England in the morning," 27-year-old David said last night.
    ©Irish Examiner







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