Emmaus International June 19, 2001

We live in a world in which distances no longer exist.
We are told that the economic globalisation process will spread wealth to all the corners of the globe. But reality is different: the countries that are impoverished by the economic policies of the richest become poorer each day. Their debts are increasing, and the situation of their peoples is increasingly traumatising day after day. This situation of extreme poverty is what, in many cases, pushes people to abandon the land that saw them born, thus risking all that they have, even their lives, to reach ‘El Dorado' - the promise of a better life. The rich countries are reacting to this exodus as if it were a threat. They close their borders they ‘protect themselves' from the poor of this world and consider them as people who are going to take away their privileges. Only in a world that belongs to all fairly people will not find themselves forced to immigrate to foreign lands in order to be able to live.
How can we justify that the Earth's resources belong only to those born on the south side of the line that separates the world into two?
Let us break down the borders of non-communication between the world of the rich and that of the underprivileged. And let us also break down the borders of separation and of exploitation of some by others. We want a fairer world in which all men and women can be able to live in dignity and in peace.

This is why Emmaus groups are calling their respective governments to commit themselves on the following :

  • The enforcement of all existing international conventions on human rights.
  • The ratification of the International Convention on Migrants Rights adopted in 1990 by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The fight against the exploitation of man through work in countries of the northern and southern hemisphere.

    The setting up of a uniform European status for asylum seekers that will protect the following rights :
  • the right to work,
  • the right to accommodation,
  • the right to an immediate integration allowance,
  • the right to legal aid.

    The building up of international political co-operation with countries of migrants departure in order :
  • to find political solutions to armed conflicts and help to set up democratic regimes ;
  • to cancel the national debt of poor countries ;
  • to further economic development policies for setting up infrastructures, health and education systems.
    Emmaus International

    The Uro Indians say they got a bad rap. As legend has it, when the Incas swept across the shores of Lake Titicaca, spreading their empire before the conquistadors arrived, they were scandalized by the Uros' lack of sanitary practices and exacted a tribute to force them to delouse themselves. The chroniclers of the Spanish conquest were equally critical:
    When a Spanish priest compiled an Aymara-Spanish dictionary in the 17th century, he interpreted the word uro to mean slow-witted. And as for the Uro language, one early colonial writer described it as the most vulgar in the king's realm. Not surprisingly, modern Uros - 2,500 of whom live on 45 man-made floating reed islands in Puno Bay on Lake Titicaca - would like to correct the record. "I know what the books say and it's a bunch of lies," said Ruth Lujano, 28, an Uro who is a trained nurse but like other Uro women makes her living selling alpaca sweaters and trinkets to tourists who take tours of their floating habitat. "People are just jealous of us, since we are famous around the world, and people come to visit us from around the world." The ancient Uros had their own vision of themselves: They believed that they were something other than human. As their legends have it, the Uros existed before the sun did, have black blood and are invulnerable to drowning. Anthropologists say there are no pure Uros anymore. Over the centuries, they intermarried with neighboring Aymara and Quechua Indians, and the Uro language is just about dead. Still, the Indians who live on the islands call themselves Uros and retain some customs that go back at least to the days when the Uros uprooted their lakeside settlements and moved onto the water to get away from the Incas and then the conquistadors. And at the center of Uro life there is still the totora plant that sprouts out of Puno Bay. The Indians build their homes out of the plants, making their daily existence something akin to living on a water bed. They eat totora, burn it for heat and cooking, make roof thatch out of it and feed it to their pigs. The Uros make rope out of the plant, build their fishing boats out of it and weave toys from it to sell to tourists. "The totora was the customary staple of our ancestors, and we are proud of it," said Pablo Fernando Quispe, a 39-year-old fisherman. But there is also a practical reason why the Uros are tied to the plant, he said. "A house costs a lot of money in Puno, but here a house is free. You just have the cut the totora." Tea made of totora flowers is the perfect tonic for liver trouble, the Uros say, and a few bites of the totora root will take care of a stomach ache. The Uros say eating the heart of the totora plant - which resembles a stalk of asparagus - beats going to the dentist. They are proud of their healthy, white teeth - in a place where having a full mouth of teeth of any color is a rarity - which they say comes from chewing the reed. iving on the totora islands takes a lot of work. Because of rotting, the islands need to be replenished with fresh reeds all the time. People sometimes fall through. The huts are typically decorated with a couple of sticks of furniture and stuffed birds. The men set out in their totora boats early in the morning to fish, and the women spend the day burning totora to heat rocks on which the catch of the day is cooked. Things perk up when tourist boats come in, and the women run to their displays of trinkets for the daily bargaining ritual. Aware of what the tourist trade will bear, the Uros insist on tips before posing for pictures. Since there are no telephones, the islands communicate with each other by high watchtowers. The Uros send messages by signaling with fire, by blowing pan flutes or by using mirrors to reflect the light of the sun. But there are also signs of a modernity. Uro men rarely wear traditional Uro clothing. Many Uros have moved to Puno, in part because lake pollution ©International Herald Tribune

    Acting on legislation that has provoked a vehement protest from its neighbors, the Hungarian Parliament on Tuesday adopted a law granting ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries special medical, employment and education opportunities in Hungary. Deputies approved the so-called status law by an overwhelming vote of 306 to 17, with 8 abstentions. The law is scheduled to enter into force Jan. 1, 2002, about two years before Hungary hopes to join the European Union. Ethnic Hungarians in six neighboring countries will be entitled to a series of privileges inside Hungary, giving them a unique status somewhere between a tourist and a regular citizen. The legislation has already triggered international protest, especially in Slovakia and Romania, where government officials criticize what they see as a move to extend Hungarian jurisdiction to citizens in another country. The critics also see it as an apparent attempt to revive nationalist sentiment among those Hungarians who cherish memories of the country's imperial past. But Hungarian government officials say the law is intended to avert mass immigration by three million ethnic Hungarians once Hungary joins the European Union. "I understand some of our neighbors have problems with this law," Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said. But we have started consultations with respect to the need, enforcement and implementation of this law." A recent poll showed that 25 percent of Hungarians abroad were considering returning to the country. Government officials say this number would halve under the status law. "This law promotes regional stability and cooperation - both which will improve under this law," Mr. Martonyi said. Austria, a neighboring country, was dropped from the law because of objections from the European Union. Slovakian and Romanian leaders have said the law would cause tensions among various ethnic groups in their countries. The Slovak Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that implementation of the law "cannot take place without further intensive consultations," which are seen as necessary before the measures are applied to Slovak citizens. Romanian officials appeared more adamant in rejecting the measure. "If this law is applied we will take steps to stop it being applied in Romania," Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said, adding the law was "anachronistic and non-European." He said the Foreign Ministry had summoned the Hungarian ambassador to Romania to register the complaint and that the Romanian ambassador to Budapest had been directed to take the complaint to the Hungarian government. Mr. Martonyi said Hungary and Romania had held discussions in the past month in an attempt to resolve differences and that talks were continuing. From Hungary's standpoint, he said, such legislation is a contribution to strengthening the nation's culture. But the head of the European Commission's mission in Hungary has questioned the law, saying that the EU was against any regulation favoring one population over another. The law was hailed, however, by ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries as formal recognition by the "mother country" that the Hungarian nation reaches beyond Hungary's borders. The status law will allow those eligible a three-month work permit in Hungary and educational and cultural benefits. In its first year it will cost Hungary nine billion forints ($31.3 million). An estimated 800,000 Hungarians outside the country are expected to take advantage of the law by applying for identity cards. After World War I, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory by a Great Powers decision, and millions of ethnic Hungarians overnight became citizens of foreign countries.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Contrary to general opinion, the emancipation of women is nowhere near complete. On the labour market in particular, their position is still inferior, as a result of which more women end up on employee disability benefit (WAO). This conclusion was drawn by Utrecht researcher P. Verdonk, who carried out a study of the position of women on the labour market, on the instructions of trade union FNV Vrouwenbond and the Catholic University of Nijmegen. For this purpose, Verdonk spent two years studying all the available literature about women and the WAO system. The FNV Vrouwenbond presented the report to the Lower House yesterday. The union wants the emancipation study to play a role in the political discussion on the report of the Donner Committee, which has made recommendations about a new way of dealing with the WAO. Chairman Van der Kraan of the women's union claimed that company medical officers make fewer efforts to ensure that women who are partially unable to work can return to the labour market than they do for men in the same situation. Nearly a million people receive WAO benefit in the Netherlands. The number has increased rapidly since more women have been entering paid employment. Women are twice as women's union wanted to know what the cause of this was. Verdonk concluded that women are not more often unable to work due to disability, but they are more often declared unfit to work. They are easier to replace at work than men. Company doctors, employers and the social environment also make fewer efforts for women, the researcher stated.
    ©Netherlands Info Services

    This initiative is a non competitive football championship open to fan groups, migrant communities and all people who wants to have fun and live an experience of sharing experiences with people of all over the world. This year we will have 1.000 people from all over the world, mainly from Europe, who will stay together for 4 days in Montecchio (Reggio Emilia) from 28 June to 1st July. This year there will be also some concerts: Chumbawamba, Station 17 and Fermin Muguruza. The Antiracist Worldcup is organized by Progetto Ultrà-UISP, in collaboration with FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) and co-financed by European Commission.
    all information on the programme, the participant teams, photo's of the past editions and other information all in English.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today (Tuesday) hailed the World's First Refugee day and urged decision makers to do more to preserve the institution of asylum and give financial backing for refugee programmes world-wide. "This is very timely," High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said. "The system for supporting refugees is under unprecedented strain. I just hope that all the impressive grassroots efforts to highlight World Refugee Day will translate into more political and financial support." Plagued by funding shortages, the UN refugee agency has been forced to reduce staff and cut programmes around the world. The austerity measures have affected refugee programmes from Africa to Central Asia to the Caucasus and South America. "Refugees are resourceful people, survivors - but they still need considerable help from the international community," said Lubbers. "Helping them and protecting them is a moral and legal obligation, rather than an optional act of charity," he added. The World Refugee Day, which takes place on Wednesday, 20 June, will be marked across the world by numerous events organised by refugees themselves, non-governmental organisations, schools, universities, musicians, politicians and the UN refugee agency. The decision to nominate 20 June as World Refugee Day was made on 4 December last year in a resolution adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly. The theme of the first World Refugee Day is RESPECT – respect for refugees themselves and recognition of the positive contribution so many of them make to their host societies; and Respect for the 1951 Refugee Convention, the bedrock of the international system for protecting refugees, which has its 50th anniversary this year. So far, a total of 140 countries have ratified this convention and/or its 1967 Protocol. UNHCR currently cares for some 21 million refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people and others groups considered of concern to the agency.
    UNHCR in the News

    Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, said today that controversial calls for slavery reparations and a condemnation of Zionism could "derail" an upcoming UN conference on racism. "We don't want to derail this conference, but these issues could derail it and make it harder for us to participate unless they're dealt with," Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Powell said he had told Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a meeting on Monday that "serious work" needed to be done to remove the points which he said put the conference "in danger of becoming mired in past events." "I told her I was anxious to see strong US participation in the conference but that some serious work needed to be done to eliminate such issues as the 'Zionism is racism' proposition or getting into slavery and compensation and things of that nature which would detract from the purpose of the conference," he said. Powell said he was hopeful that negotiators, who are to meet next month ahead of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that begins in late August, could removed the language. "There may be some progress," he said. Powell spoke a day after his spokesperson, Richard Boucher, said the two points threatened the US presence at the conference set to start August 31 in Durban, South Africa. "Our desire (is) not to see issues of Israel and Zionism raised in such a conference," Boucher told reporters on Tuesday, adding that "demands for financial reparations (for slavery) and a formal apology would do nothing to address racism and discrimination today." The comments by Powell and Boucher come as some US lawmakers have demanded that the United States participate in the meeting and not repeat its decision to skip the two previous UN racism conferences, in 1978 and 1983. "I can foresee no acceptable reason this country can offer for non-participation in such an important global conference," Representative Cynthia McKinney, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote to President George W. Bush last month. "To boycott (the conference) would be denying the citizens of this country, many of whom suffer daily as a result of racism and intolerance, representation in the discussion and planning process to combat one of the most prevalent injustices to plague this nation," she said. But, the State Department maintains that calls from some Arab nations for a statement condemning Zionism as racism and African demands for European and other western countries to pay reparations and formally apologise for slavery do not fit the aims of the conference. "Our desire (is) to see a forward looking and positive conference," Boucher said yesterday. The United States is not alone in its objections as Britain, France and Germany are also opposed the slavery compensation language, saying it is too divisive and complex to be addressed in Durban. Israel has joined the United States in lobbying to get the Zionism resolution and other issues dealing with the Middle East conflict off the agenda, calling them political and not racial matters.

    David Irving, the author who was described by a High Court judge last year as an anti-Semite and a falsifier of history, sought permission yesterday to appeal against a ruling that he had not been libelled by an American academic. During the libel trial, Mr Justice Gray decided that Prof Deborah Lipstadt had justified her assertion that Mr Irving was discredited as a historian because of his denial of the Holocaust. She was at a crowded Court of Appeal for the hearing that began yesterday, along with her publisher, Penguin Books. They heard Mr Irving's counsel, Adrian Davies, argue that Mr Irving had not denied the Holocaust according to his definition of it. The author accepted that by 1943 the Nazis and their collaborators had decided to murder all the Jews in occupied Europe, although Mr Irving said this had not been so in 1941. Mr Davies said the distortion of evidence was at the heart of the case gainst Mr Irving. At the trial, the author was accused of basing his rejection of the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz on a 1988 report by an American, Fred Leuchter. Mr Leuchter had removed samples of brick and concrete and concluded by analysing them that there had not been homicidal gas chambers there. Prof Lipstadt and her publishers had said the Leuchter report was "bunk" but Mr Irving had ignored its "stupidities" because he wanted it to be true. Mr Irving, who dismissed witness accounts of gassings as lies, argued at the trial that the broad trend of the document was substantially borne out by later reports. He said there were some gassings on a limited scale at the camp, but claimed that the chamber was used only for fumigation or as an air-raid shelter. Mr Davies submitted that Mr Leuchter's report was "not such utter bunk" as had been suggested. "Even if, contrary to my primary submission, Leuchter is the most unutterable bunk with no merit whatsoever, even as a starting point for discussion, it is insufficient for the defendants to say that it's proof that David Irving distorts." The fact that Mr Irving was enthusiastic about Mr Leuchter and wrote a foreword for his report, giving it general publicity, might show poor historiography. "But just because someone attaches much too much weight to a document or goes off on a tangent about one particular piece of evidence, which on the face of it appeared to be impressive, that does not mean he is wilfully setting about falsifying history. It might just mean that he has rather poor judgment on that particular issue." Early in the hearing, Lords Justices Pill, Mantell and Buxton frequently asked Mr Davies where he was suggesting that Mr Justice Gray had been in error. Their attempts to understand Mr Davies's case were not helped by his failure to give them written notice of some of his arguments. Counsel said he had received certain instructions and papers from Mr Irving at the last moment. Richard Rampton, QC, for Penguin and Prof Lipstadt, said he had not seen documents which Mr Davies wanted to put in evidence. Mr Davies said he would argue that the judge's findings on specific issues were wrong as a matter of history or that Mr Irving had come to a reasonable alternative position on some issues. The hearing was adjourned to today.
    ©Daily Telegraph

    The Zionism and racism debate is back, this time in the preparations for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism to be held at the end of August in the South African seaside city of Durban. Asian and Middle East delegates preparing for the conference have revived language similar to that contained in a 1975 U.N. resolution, which said that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." The delegates, angered by recent violence between Israeli troops and Palestinians, inserted the language after the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights moderated harsh criticism of Israel that was contained in a declaration made by the regional preparatory meeting held in Tehran earlier this year. The 1975 resolution, which was adopted by the General Assembly, eroded U.S. support for the U.N. until 1991, when it was repealed. "This would be back to the 1960s and 1970s and the old fashioned anti-Israel ways of using every forum to isolate and delegitimize Israel," said Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League. The new dispute would put the Bush administration in a difficult position, once again endangering support in Congress for paying U.S. arrears to the U.N. and calling into question whether U.S. representatives would attend the conference in South Africa. The United States skipped two earlier conferences on racism because of disputes over Zionism. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met yesterday with Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner on human rights, but it wasn't immediately clear what they said about the resolution. Bush administration officials hope the controversial language can be eliminated in the next round of preparatory talks in Geneva next month. The Bush administration is also fighting other language that could make the U.N. meeting in Durban an explosive one. The United States is opposed to a resolution that would buttress claims by African Americans and African nations for reparations from countries that had been involved in the slave trade in the 1700s and early 1800s. An administration official complained that the African delegates who back the reparations clause said nothing about modern-day slavery in Sudan or about the involvement of Africans in slave trading in earlier times.
    ©The Washington Post

    Minorities Tell of Profiling, Other Bias

    More than half of all black men report that they have been the victims of racial profiling by police, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. Overall, nearly 4 in 10 blacks -- 37 percent -- said they had been unfairly stopped by police because they were black, including 52 percent of all black men and 25 percent of all black women. Blacks are not the only Americans who say they have been the targets of racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement. One in five Latino and Asian men reported they had been the victims of racially motivated police stops. But racial profiling is only one of many examples of intolerance that minorities say they continue to confront. More than a third of all blacks interviewed said they had been rejected for a job or failed to win a promotion because of their race. One in five Latinos and Asians also said they had been discriminated against in the workplace because of their race or ethnicity.

    Overwhelming majorities of blacks, Latinos and Asians also report they occasionally experience at least one of the following expressions of prejudice: poor service in stores or restaurants, disparaging comments, and encounters with people who clearly are frightened or suspicious of them because of their race or ethnicity.

    "These are precisely the kinds of incidents that contribute to what is coming to be called black middle-class rage -- the steady occurrence of slights and put-downs you know in your gut are tied to race but that rarely take the form of blatant racism," said Lawrence Bobo, a professor of Afro-American studies and sociology at Harvard University. "No one uses the N-word. There is not a flat denial of service. It is insidious, recurrent, lesser treatment." A much smaller proportion of whites also say they have been victims of discrimination: One out of every three reported that they sometimes face racial slurs, bad service or disrespectful behavior. Claims and counterclaims about the prevalence of racial profiling have been made for years. But there have been few reliable attempts to estimate the degree to which blacks, Latinos and Asians believe they have been victims of the practice. And no national data exist that firmly document the pervasiveness of the practice, making it impossible to compare perceptions with actual incidence.

    For this survey, the latest in a series of polls on public policy issues conducted by The Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University researchers, 1,709 randomly selected adults were interviewed by telephone from March 8 through April 22. The sample included 315 Hispanics, 323 blacks and 254 Asians. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points. It is plus or minus 6 points for blacks, 7 points for Latinos and 9 points for Asians.

    Widely publicized incidents around the country have drawn attention to the targeting of minorities by police, a practice some police officials have tried to justify by arguing that minorities are more likely to commit crimes. President Bush told Congress in February that "it is wrong, and we must end it." Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) recently introduced companion bills in the Senate and the House that would withhold funding from agencies that engage in racial profiling. And suddenly, from New Jersey to California, victims of unwarranted police stops and harassment are telling their stories and, for the first time, are being heard. Kinte Cutino, 24, a house painter in New Haven, Conn., said he was riding his bike when a police officer pulled him over. "He asked where I was headed, and I told him. He searched me, and didn't find anything and then he let me go." Cutino shrugged off the encounter. "They will stop you in certain areas, and if you're black, m black and male, at some point it's going to happen to you."

    Steve Jaime, a guest services manager at a suburban Chicago hotel, recalled the night that he and some friends were coming home from the Taste of Chicago food festival when the police stopped their car in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Without explanation, the officers ordered them out of their car. "That's when the police officer put a gun to my head while he was checking me out," said Jaime, who is Mexican American. Then the officers abruptly told Jaime and his friends to go. "They were pissed off about something and they took it out on us, because we were Hispanic."

    The survey found that other forms of racial intolerance are commonplace. More than 8 in 10 blacks and two-thirds of all Latinos and Asians say they occasionally experience at least one of these four intolerant acts: poor service, racial slurs, fearful or defensive behavior, and lack of respect. Two-thirds of all blacks and nearly half of all Latinos and Asians say they experience two or more of these forms of intolerance from time to time. Sometimes these ugly moments provoke anger, as when a waiter in an expensive steakhouse asked Earl Arredondo, a 30-year-old Latino from Harlingen, Tex., if he could afford the $32 rib-eye steak he had just ordered and later dismissively asked him if he knew "what calamari is." And sometimes they provoke fear, as when a carload of drunken whites pulled to a stop alongside Martha Matsuoka, an Asian American who lives in Los Angeles. Then they threw beer bottles at her and demanded that she "go home" and "buy American." "I understand these kinds of things rationally, but personally I was stunned," said Matsuoka, 39, a graduate student at the University of California at Los Angeles. "It was so real. On a personal level, my mother was upset. She said she had hoped that I would never have to experience anything like that." The prejudice reflected in these incidents is clear. In other instances, perceptions may not reflect reality: An honest error or an unintended slight may be misconstrued as an act of racial intolerance.

    But Harvard's Bobo cautions that it would be dangerous to dismiss the bulk of these claims as misperceptions or misunderstandings. "These feelings of victimization are not arrived at easily, or because they are pleasant feelings to hold," he said. "We have to regard them as indicators of a very real social phenomenon. For example, blacks complained for years that they were being targeted by police and were ignored. Only finally, when a cannon-load of data was shot across the bow, did people begin to say, 'Oh, yeah, I guess it's going on.' "Blacks confront far more discrimination than either Latinos or Asians, the survey found. And black men report facing prejudice more often than black women. Nearly half -- 46 percent -- of all blacks said they had experienced discrimination in the past 10 years, including 55 percent of black men and 40 percent of black women. Two years ago, Ali Barr, a television engineer in Atlanta, said he was in Baltimore on business and went to a jazz bar and restaurant with friends to get something to eat. "It was a white bar, but it featured a black jazz band," Barr said. "But from the moment we walked in, we could feel the hostility. All the patrons were white. The waitress comes over and tells us we couldn't sit in the section we were in. She said it was closed until later in the evening. "But there were only 10 people in the bar, so we moved to the other section and we asked for coffee. She came back and slammed the coffee down and came back with the manager. The manager said we were not welcome here and that our money wouldn't be accepted. "The manager pointed to a sign saying that management reserved the right to serve who they wanted. We were asked to leave. All we wanted was something to eat. We were totally discriminated against. That will always be my memory of downtown Baltimore."

    Four in 10 Latinos and Asians reported that they, too, had been discriminated against in the past 10 years. Laticia Villegas, 27, owns a children's clothing store in Fort Worth. She recently tried to write a check at a supermarket. The white clerk refused to let her borrow or even touch her pen. Villegas fished around in her purse and wrote the check. "It is culture shock," Villegas said. "I've never been discriminated against until I moved to Dallas [from San Antonio]. I was offended and surprised; I didn't expect it. I'm not used to being treated this way. I thought we got past this, but we haven't, and I know my [1-year-old] daughter will have to grow up experiencing these kinds of things because she does not have blond hair and blue eyes."

    About 1 in 5 whites -- 18 percent -- also report being the victims of discrimination in the past 10 years. Ten percent said they had been denied a promotion because of their race or ethnicity, 14 percent said they had received poor service because of their race, and an equal proportion reported having been called names or insulted. Rose Evans, 26, of Aurora, Colo., said she has frequently been the target of racially prejudiced comments from Latinos and blacks. Evans grew up West Denver, a predominantly Mexican American and Asian neighborhood where "I was picked on quite a bit. You know, 'stupid white girl' and worse things in Spanish. But my stepdad is Mexican American, and I learned to let it roll off of me." Earlier this year, her 9-year-old daughter confronted prejudice. "A group of little black girls at school were picking on her a lot, calling her 'honky' and stuff. She would come home from school crying. I told her to ignore them, they were just ignorant people." But the bullying continued, and Evans requested a meeting with school officials and the mother of the girl who had been particularly vicious to her daughter. "The mother became very hostile and started calling me 'white trash' and 'honky' and other stuff," Evans said. "I told her children aren't born ignorant, they are taught it, and I saw where her daughter got it from."
    ©The Washington Post

    On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the Humanitarian Law Center notes that the position of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Serbia continues difficult. In late 2000, Serbia had about 500,000 refugees from the states which emerged following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and 210,000 IDPs from Kosovo. The Humanitarian Law Center is implementing a program of legal aid for refugees and IDPs. The number of refugees and IDPs in the total population of some 10 municipalities in central Serbia and Vojvodina is very high, ranging from 14 percent to 37 percent. IDPs from Kosovo are staying in the poorest areas such as the Kragujevac, Kraljevo and southern Serbian municipalities, and most have not been able to integrated in the local communities. Employees of government agencies and local inhabitants openly demonstrate hostility toward these IDPs, considering them a burden and the reason for the deterioration of their own living conditions. The plight of the Roma displaced from Kosovo is the worst. They live in unsanitary settlements on the edges of larger cities, improvised refugee centers, workmen's huts or abandoned industrial facilities. Of the 300,000 refugees from Croatia, very few opt for repatriation. At least three Serb returnees were arrested last year and accused of war crimes although the Croatian Ministry of Justice had confirmed to them that there were no legal obstacles to their return. These arrests prompted an official protest by the UNHCR. Furthermore, the Croatian authorities refuse to reconsider the issue of occupancy rights over apartments which were cancelled from 1991 to 1995. Refugees from Croatia lost more than 18,000 apartments in this period. In some parts of Croatia, local authorities refuse to restore to returnees their farm machinery or recompense them for the loss. There are about 230,000 refugees from the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina currently in Yugoslavia. In most cases, those who wish to return cannot move back into their homes. The Commission for Real Property Claims of Displaced Persons and Refugees has received 240,000 claims for 300,000 pieces of real property. It has thus far issued 155,000 restitution decisions but local governments in Bosnia-Herzegovina have failed to take the measures necessary to implement these decisions. The position of refugees and IDPs is further compounded by the criminal activities of some refugee center administrators and staff at local Red Cross organizations. A number of criminal complaints against such abuses have been filed.
    ©Humanitarian Law Center

    Japanese women are falling further behind their sisters around the world in terms of opportunities to play a role in the crucial decisions that affect the economy and society, according to a new government report. And while Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may have named a record five women to his cabinet when he took office late in April, equality in general still remains a long way off, said the fiscal 2000 white paper on gender equality released on Friday. "Women are advancing into new fields, and the development of a variety of work styles is allowing new lifestyle choices for everyone, men included," it said. "But the fact is that true gender equality still remains distant virtually everywhere in society." According to a United Nations-developed yardstick of women's participation in society based on four criteria, Japan ranked 41st out of 70 countries in 2000, down from 38th position the year before. The criteria comprise the ratio of women lawmakers, female administrators and managers, female professionals and technical workers and the share income earned by women. The country in first place was Norway. "Things are getting worse in Japan," said Mariko Bando, director-general of the government's Gender Equality Bureau, which produced the white paper. Japan has long had a reputation for the low social position accorded to women. For example, in many Japanese offices, it is still standard for women to wear uniforms and to serve green tea to male colleagues several times a day.

    Lawmakers, better pay
    "For example, even though the number of women lawmakers is increasing in Japan, it is increasing much faster in many countries overseas, such as France," Bando told a news conference. "Also, the number of women in management has hardly risen at all." The white paper noted that some countries have addressed the issue of women lawmakers by passing laws stipulating the number of female candidates that must stand in any election. France, for example, requires an equal number of male and female candidates -- with a result that the percentage of female municipal assembly members in elections in March 2001 jumped to 48 percent from 22 percent. In Japan, employment for women is also difficult, the report said. Even though 15 years have passed since a law mandating equal employment was enacted, female university graduates have severe difficulties finding jobs and the number of women in temporary positions has increased. While 24.4 percent of men earned more than 7.0 million yen ($56,190) a year in 1999, fewer than three percent of women did so. And some 63.2 percent of women earned three million yen or less -- compared with 15.6 percent of men.

    Day care, please
    Another major problem is the lack of adequate facilities to take care of the children of women who want to work. "Balancing work and child raising is an indispensable condition for working parents in terms of leading their lives as human beings," the report said. "Unfortunately, the environment for this in Japan is inadequate when compared to that of other developed countries." Citing a survey last year that showed more than 70 percent of women hope to combine child rearing with a career, the white paper urged the government to establish more child-care facilities. This is a quest that has been embraced by Koizumi, who is calling for widespread political and economic structural reforms, as what he calls a "structural reform of lifestyles." In a move calculated to win the hearts -- and votes -- of working mothers, Koizumi has called for more day-care centers as an essential move to creating a society where men and women could enjoy equal opportunities. Some 33,000 children are currently on waiting lists for nurseries according to government data, but the real waiting list is estimated at around 100,000 children because many parents have given up applying ©Reuters

    Some 500 African refugees in Niger on Wednesday boycotted official ceremonies to mark the the first World Refugee Day, saying they were given measly handouts on the occasion and treated like "animals." "In Niger refugees celebrated with a small bit of sandwich and were hammered by the same sterile speeches," Aboulaziz Gerard, a representative of refugees, told a private radio station. According to him, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had given "only" 150,000 CFA francs (1,500 French francs) to 500 refugees to celebrate the world's first refugee day. Another refugee claimed that UNHCR had "given five to 10 sacks of rice" adding that the agency had claimed to have distributed 500. "We are not animals, they can keep their money, we will not celebrate," Gerard said. Last year, refugees in Niger complained that they were being ignored by UNHCR, which rejected the charges. According to the Niger Red Cross, some 700 refugees from 17 countries live in the west African country. "In Niger, refugees should feel happy because they are respected and safe," Habou Mahamane, an official from the interior ministry said in a television debate.

    Asylum seekers in South Africa face an uphill battle to get political asylum and find work despite the country's liberal constitution, a leading human rights activist said Wednesday. Jacob van Garderen, refugee project co-ordinator for Lawyers for Human Rights, said many asylum seekers were being left in limbo by restrictive legislation and intolerance by South Africans despite protection promised by the constitution. "In South Africa, a land with a generous constitution, many (asylum seekers and) refugees find it very tough to survive not only because of restrictive legislation but also because of intolerance toward them," he told AFP on the first World Refugee Day. The main problem for asylum seekers is regulations restricting them from finding jobs or studying pending the outcome of their applications, Van Garderen said. The regulations, promulgated last year, are seen as a step backward after the country's first Refugee Act, in 1998, which was regarded as a relatively progressive law recognising the rights of refugees. "South Africa, compared to most countries where refugees come from, is an expensive country where neither government, nor inter-governmental organisations such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), give assistance," Van Garderen said. He said resources of local non-government organisations supporting refugees and government institutions were being stretched to capacity. Currently there are about 16,600 refugees registered in South Africa, according to figures released by the UNHCR. Zambia, with wars being waged on its northern and western borders, hosts vastly more refugees than other southern Africa countries: of the 340,000 refugees in the region at the end of August, 224,704 were in Zambia. By April this year 64,341 asylum applications had been received in South Africa since the advent of majority rule in 1994. Nearly half of these applications, 29,609, had been rejected. Most applicants originate from other African countries torn by civil wars such as Somalia (5,152), the Democratic Republic of Congo (4,817) and Angola (4,330). Research by Bruno Geddo, the UNHCR's senior protection officer in Pretoria, has shown the only viable solution for many of these "urban refugees" is integration into local communities despite widespread xenophobia.

    Progress Party (Fr.p) councillors could do little but sit in silence on Thursday as their Oslo city colleagues rebuked them and called them xenophobic. The council was assembled to discuss ways to combat Nazism and racism in the wake of Benjamin Hermansen's murder in January. The Progress Party's assertion earlier this week that immigrant men sexually harass Norwegian blondes; that children of immigrant parents weren't allowed to got to Norwegian birthday parties and that immigrants didn't respect the keeping of family pets in Norway generated a cross-party storm of protest. The Fr.p.'s list of grudges was the party's contribution to a debate on "cultural conflicts". "I couldn't believe my own eyes when I read what the Fr.p. wrote about immigrants. "To call Nazism a cultural conflict is grotesque," fumed Labour councillor Karima Abd-Daif. Ivar Johansen from the Socialist Left compared the Progress Party's argument with the former apartheid regime in South Africa. "The examples they have come up with, could be used to argue in favour of racism and intolerance," he said. Conservative Gustav Heiberg Simonsen declared himself "disappointed, worried and confounded" by Fr.p.'s list. "Integration isn't easy. Fr.p.'s contribution makes it even harder," said Heiberg Simonsen, adding he was glad the rest of the council was united in supporting the action plan to stamp out racism.

    People's concerns about immigration and race relations have risen dramatically in the past five years, with almost a fifth of the population seeing it as one of the most serious problems facing the country, according to a poll published yesterday. When asked what they thought were the most important issues for the UK, more people cited race relations than the economy, education, poverty or the European Union. Nineteen per cent of those questioned raised the issue in the study of European concerns, compared with only 3% in a similar poll in 1996. Race relations came fourth on the list after law and order, health and unemployment, although concern about the latter had halved. But a spokesman for the commission for racial equality, Chris Myant, said the concern over race relations could be a positive development, stemming from greater awareness of the problems facing black and Asian people. "It would be wrong to assume that one in five people is terrified of illegal immigrants flooding Britain and people rowing across the Channel to get here," he said. "Given that racial discrimination and violence have been high profile matters in the media, it's no surprise that the public should feel this is something people should be concerned about. It doesn't mean that it's getting worse but that we cannot deal it unless we bring it into the open. "No other European society is giving as much positive attention to race relations as we are." He criticised parts of the media for being "provocative" and using emotive language when covering asylum and immigration issues, but added: "The core of the problem is not that people are trying to stir things up but that we have tried to sweep it under the carpet in the past. We need cool fact, sensible analysis and a passionate commitment to put things that deeply wrong, right."

    Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, called for constructive discussion of the issue. "We think it's an imbalanced debate. Concerns about immigration and race relations have increased because of the negative portrayal of immigrants by irresponsible media and unscrupulous politicians who have propagated myths." The survey, commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund from Mori, com pared attitudes across Europe with those held in 1996. More than 13,000 adults in 14 countries were asked to identify the biggest problems facing their countries. Across the continent 21% cited race relations and immigration, again taking it to fourth place. But unemployment was the main concern for mainland Europeans, as in 1996, and beef and BSE was the third largest concern, although it hardly registered in Britain. The study, launched yesterday in the Scottish parliament by the reproductive health agencies Population Concern and Marie Stopes International, assessed international as well as domestic concerns. For Britons and Europeans as a whole, the environment was the biggest problem facing the world, with poverty and famine also causing great concern. British people vastly overestimated the foreign aid budget, believing it accounted for 9% of government spending when the level in 1999 was only 0.7%. More than half thought the amount should be raised. Patricia Hindmarsh, director of external relations at Marie Stopes International, said: "The British public is clearly committed to overseas aid, and it is significant and encouraging that most would like to see the [foreign aid] percentage increased."
    ©The Guardian

    A weekend of racial violence in Burnley has climaxed with more than 200 youths attacking shops, homes and vehicles. Police in riot gear managed to head off direct confrontation between gangs of Asian and white youths in the Lancashire town _ but admitted they were taken by surprise at the scale of Sunday night's violence. It marked an escalation from minor disturbances on Saturday night, apparently sparked by white youths attacking an Asian taxi driver the previous evening. Sunday night's violence involved more than 200 youths, some armed with baseball bats, and four arrests were made, according to police. Inspector John Clucas said: "This has taken us a little by surprise although we had an increased number of officers in the area. "What we are doing now is working with members of the community and community leaders to find out what's caused this escalation and why these incidents took place and put things in place to prevent them happening again."

    Police blamed
    A spokeswoman for the force said they believed the disputes were "of a local nature and have not involved any outside influences". Burnley is around 30 miles from Oldham, the scene of serious race riots last month. Blame for the weekend's violence was initially put on police by Asian community leaders, who said it had taken 30 minutes for them to respond to Saturday's alleged attack on the taxi driver. The minor disturbances that followed later the same day saw police pelted with missiles and a pub's windows smashed. Sunday remained mostly quiet during the day, apart from another taxi driver suffering minor facial injuries when a brick was hurled through his windscreen. But tensions rose again in the evening, with an Asian newsagent's shop and cars set ablaze and other vehicles overturned. Earlier a large group of white men shouting racist abuse was reported to have walked towards a mosque. They were met by a group of Asian youths who hurled bricks and bottles, some of which hit a small number of riot police caught between the two groups.

    Sex shop attacked
    Meanwhile a sex shop was fire_bombed by Asian youths _ reportedly in retaliation for the attack on the newsagent, located in a white neighbourhood. Around 150 Asian youths gathered near a football pitch, claiming they were ready to defend their community against white attacks. Two pubs, the Baltic and Duke of York _ which was targeted on Saturday night _ were attacked after claims they were meeting places for white racists. Community leader Shahid Malik condemned the violence but said it was a reaction to serious provocation. "This has been a tragic weekend for Burnley and we must now work to rebuild things." Mr Malik added that many of the Asian youths were satisfied that two pubs seen as hotbeds of racism had been attacked. He said: "I do not condone such attacks but there is a feeling that these were places where racists met and were used as bases to carry out attacks, the most recent being an incident today when a taxi driver had a brick thrown through his windscreen as he passed the Baltic." The police had done "very well" and tried to handle the situation sensitively, he added.

    'Random' attacks
    Earlier one white man among the onlookers drawn onto the streets by the disturbances, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are not here to cause trouble but the police are stopping us walking around our own town." "I've got no problem with Asian people _ I work with them and have lived alongside them all my life. "But if we do get gangs of them charging through here and attacking people and cars and houses randomly then you would expect us to defend ourselves."
    ©BBC News

    Nearly a million people marched through the streets of Paris and Berlin over the weekend in the capitals' annual Gay Pride marches, accompanied in both cities by their gay mayors and using the occasion to denounce discrimination. In Paris, the usual display of colorful floats and techno music on Saturday was accompanied by a more political message, with demonstrators demanding adoption rights and the possibility for other people to bear children for gay couples. In Berlin, demonstrators marched behind the slogan "Homosexuals Against the Extreme Right," and denounced moves by regional states that challenge gay partnership rights. In Brussels, meanwhile, the government approved a bill to legalize same_sex weddings. If approved by Parliament, it will make Belgium the second country, after the Netherlands, to recognize gay marriages.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    An international human rights group says it has filed a lawsuit against the giant ExxonMobil oil company, accusing it of actively abetting human rights abuses in Indonesia. In a case filed in Washington, the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) says Exxon was implicated by virtue of the local army units it hired to protect its natural gas fields in Aceh province, northern Sumatra. The case, brought on behalf of 11 Acehnese villagers, accuses Exxon of complicity in the murder, torture and sexual abuse of the local population. It alleges that Exxon provided the Indonesian military with equipment to dig mass graves, as well as building interrogation and torture centres. Exxon denies all the allegations. The action is being taken under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows US jurisdiction over acts committed outside the US.

    Hard evidence
    Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer for the ILRF, said Exxon knew from the beginning about the security forces' reputation of brutality towards ethnic minorities. "This is the first time we actually have evidence that the oil company has supported the instrumentality for the human rights violations," he said. An Exxon statement said the company was "deeply troubled" by the violence in North Aceh and was concerned for the safety of its staff and subcontractors. "Our company rejects and categorically denies any suggestion or implication that it or its affiliate companies were in any way involved with alleged human rights abuses by security forces in Aceh," it added.

    Operations suspended
    Thousands of people have died in the long_running separatist campaign by Aceh militants against the Indonesian Government _ more than 700 have died this year alone. Exxon suspended its operations there in March for security reasons. Despite pressure from the Indonesian government, which is losing an estimated $100m a month in liquid natural gas (LNG) revenues, the company has so far refused to restart its operation, although it is considering resuming its operation. Exxon sites have been the scenes of fighting and staff have been threatened and even kidnapped. Vehicles have also been burned and shots have been fired at Exxon aircraft.

    Exxon abroad
    The Asia_Pacific region contributes about 13% of ExxonMobil's worldwide production of oil and gas. In Indonesia, the company produces gas from the country's largest natural gas field _ Arun _ which is then processed by the state owned oil and gas firm Pertamina. Last year, this gas yielded 118 cargoes of the valuable LNG which was shipped to customers in Japan and Korea. Other exploration, appraisal and development planning activities are currently under way in the region. Many of the world's potential hotspots for oil are also located in areas of political unrest such as Nigeria and Algeria. Oil companies are often forced to weigh the risks of entering a particular area against the value of the assets they believe to be awaiting discovery below the surface.
    ©BBC News

    Despite death threats, a Muslim gay and lesbian group called al-Fatiha has chosen San Francisco's Gay Pride weekend to go public and call on fellow Muslims to demonstrate greater tolerance. The group has been set up to help gay followers of Islam to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. Homosexuality is forbidden in Muslim cultures; in certain Islamic countries it is regarded as a criminal activity punishable by death. Group members held a candle-lit vigil in San Francisco's gay district and plan to join the Gay Pride march through the city. Some spoke of the problems they had experienced in 'coming out', of the opposition they had encountered amongst family and friends who homosexuality an affront to Islam.

    'Either Muslim or gay'
    Naveed Merchant told me he had attempted suicide before eventually making contact with al-Fatiha Foundation through the Internet. At first his family recommended electric shock treatment, before reluctantly coming to terms with his lifestyle. But he says most gay Muslims feel they either have to give up the family or they give up their sexuality. "I decided that I wasn't going to give up either. I really believe that Allah made me this way," he said. The group hopes to start a global gay Muslim movement to help silent brothers and sisters find their own voice in the Muslim world and ease the suffering of those tormented by their sexuality.

    Going to hell
    The opposition they will face from orthodox Muslims was in evidence at a city centre mosque where Muslim leader Ajaf Shaikh insisted such conduct was sinful. "Anybody acting in these kind of activity will go to the hell. And the Muslim culture and religion is totally against this kind of activity. And Muslim religion don't allow these kind of activities," he told me. Reconciling sexual orientation with religion is something that gay men and women of other faiths have already had to grapple with. Islam, traditionally a religion of tolerance, is now facing the same considerable challenge.
    ©BBC News

    American World War II museum tells tale of racial segration, too
    New Orleans - Americans have a special name for June 6, 1944 - they call it D-Day. On that day, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Hitler's Fortress Europe along the coast of Normandy in France, marking the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany's "Thousand Year Reich." But the United States has only one museum dedicated to preserving its memories of that day. That museum, named simply enough The National D-Day Museum, stands off the beaten tourist trails of New Orleans in the impressively restored, old Louisiana Brewery, built in the pre-Civil War days of 1856. On D-Day, 175,000 Allied soldiers backed up by 5,333 warships, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 warplanes captured the Normandy invasion beaches in a single day. But the museum's displays and information embrace more than just that one day. They tell the story of World War II from the American viewpoint, something no other museum in the United States does. America, according to the exhibitions on the first floor, avoided entering the war for years. In the '30s, the country was still in the grips of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt - president from 1933 to 1945 - fought unemployment with the government-run programs of his New Deal. The country's army in those days was small in comparison to today's. Only at sea, through the US Navy, could the United States stand toe-to-toe with the rest of the world. Beyond that, strong isolationist tendencies in the United States opposed military expansion and involvment in European and Asian wars. The country preferred to be pre-occupied with itself. Even immigrants were no longer particularly welcome in the country that prided itself on being a "land of immigrants." Among the immigrants and descendants of immigrants who had already arrived there was also a very large German minority that Roosevelt wanted to avoid alienating. But all that changed when Japan attacked the home port of the United States' Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, without warning in the early Sunday morning hours of December 7, 1941, dropping at the same time a great opportunity to enter the war in Roosevelt's lap. In fact, the Japanese sneak attack gave the American president such a perfect justification to go to war against the Axis powers that to this day rumours persist that Roosevelt knew about the attack in advance. After Pearl Harbor, the United States shifted immediately onto a war-production footing striking like that the German mobilisation efforts on the other side of the Atlantic. Children collected old glass, scrap metal and tin cans, grease, old oil and even kitchen drippings - all for the war effort. Victory slogans echoed across the land, patriotic Americans bought all the war bonds and victory bonds they could afford. Rosie the Riveter donned her coveralls and marched off to work on the assembly lines turning out tanks, fighters, bombers, weapons and ammunition - and almost everything else produced in the war years. Rosie posters popped up all across the country - but, of course, Rosie was expected to leave the lines and go back to the kitchen when Johnny came marching home. For African-Americans, the war brought them one step closer to emancipation - but it was a step they paid for in blood. In World War II, black and white Americans together fought the same enemy - but they fought him separately. Black GIs served apart from whites, in segregated units, units led by white officers, of course. They bled apart, too - even the blood banks for the wounded were segregated. That was just one of the countless effects of the "Jim Crow" laws that southern states passed during the Reconstruction Era in the years after they lost the Civil War and the United States abolished slavery. The American equivalent of apartheid, the Jim Crow laws stayed in effect into the 1960s. As early as 1941, African-American leaders used the shortage of workers to give them leverage to improve the situation for American blacks. They threatened to organised a march on Washington. Faced with the prospect of 100,000 protesting blacks in the nation's capital, Roosevelt met some of their demands and issued an executive order outlawing racial discrimination in federal war industries. Underscoring the contradiction, one placard in the museum points up the irony of a country "that went to war against the biggest racist of all time while tolerating racism in its own ranks." Although the museum tackles the touchy problem of black-white relations in the war years head-on - after all, half the population in the former slave-state of Louisiana is African-American - its display covering the treatment of Japanese-Americans has been consigned to a corner. In the months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were herded into relocation centres - a nice name for what amounted to a toned-down version of a concentration camp. Museum organisers have devoted the second floor to the story of the D-Day battle in Normandy. The displays delve into the most technical minutiae. March music drones in the background along with the soundtrack from original wartime newsreels. The whole effect is draining. The remaining displays - from D-Day to VE-Day (Victory in Europe Day) - cover the liberation. First comes an exhibition on the liberation of Rome, featuring a poster-size picture of an old Italian woman kissing a GI. Then comes a display on the liberation of Germany, including a picture of a bombed-out German city juxtaposed with a picture of corpses stacked seemingly mountain-high at a German death camp. Were the museum organisers thinking of German tourists when they set up that display? Probably not - most visitors to the museum are American veterans and their families, as are most of the museum guards. More likely, they were thinking about the large numbers of German-Americans in the Louisiana population. Andrew Higgins is one of the reasons why New Orleans became home to the National D-Day Museum. A New Orleans native, Higgins developed the flat-bottomed LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel) - also called the Higgins boat - that shuttled Allied fighting men from the transport ships to the beaches at Normandy and other invasion fronts in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Flanked by other tools of war, a Higgins boat stands on display in the museum's lobby. The nearly 20-metre tall lobby is one of the most impressive rooms in the old brewery, located in New Orlean's historic Warehouse District. At the end of the museum tour waits the museum store. Among its offerings are plastic sculptures of GIs, sailors, Marines and flyers, temporary Rosie the Riveter tattoos, D-Day coffee cups, key chains, stuffed animals and Kewpie dolls, even small American flags made of Austrian crystal. In an American museum that lives on donations, income from a store like that can be indispensible. Director Steven Spielberg, whose film, Saving Private Ryan, plays out against the background of D-Day, is one of the museum's most important private sponsors, but many private citizens support it too. For a hundred dollars, every visitor can buy a Victory Brick and have it fired with the name of his or her own personal hero carved into it. Stacks of the bricks stand, waiting, outside the museum.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    More than 300,000 children - some as young as 7 - are fighting as soldiers in 41 countries around the world, according to a report made public Tuesday. Besides being used as front-line fighters, children are used to detect land mines and also as spies, porters and sex slaves, according to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Governments continue to recruit children to fight because of "their very qualities as children - they can be cheap, expendable and easier to condition into fearless killing and unthinking obedience," the report said. The number of countries where children are used as soldiers has increased to 41 from about 30 three years ago, according to Judit Arenas, a coalition spokeswoman. The use of child soldiers has declined in the Middle East and Latin America as conflicts there have ended, while Africa's wars are estimated to engage more than 120,000 children, according to the report. Burma has the world's highest number of child soldiers - 50,000. Rebels in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea use child soldiers, and children are fighting in conflicts in Macedonia and Colombia. A 17-year-old Ethiopean was forcibly recruited to fight when he was 15. He told of a 1999 battle: "It was very bad. They put all the 15-and 16-year-olds in the front line while the army retreated. I was with 40 other kids. I was fighting for 24 hours. When I saw that only three of my friends were alive, I ran back." Most child soldiers are 15 to 18 years old, but cases of soldiers as young as 7 are listed in the report, the first global survey of its kind. Child soldiers are often given drugs to make them fearless. A 14-year-old rebel soldier in Sierra Leone said those who refused the drugs were killed. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a protocol in May 2000 calling on governments to prevent troops younger than 18 from taking part in combat. The United Nations says 79 countries have signed the treaty, but only six have ratified it.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    A Nigerian man who has lived in Hungary for several years said his attitude to the country was changed overnight after an incident involving a ticket collector and two policemen. Hakeem Babalola, who teaches English in an elementary school in District VI, said he had simply forgotten to validate his BKV ticket before getting on a bus, showed no resistance in giving his ID card to the ticket collector and asked for a check which would allow him to pay the fine later. "I asked him to write a check, yet he insisted I should pay on the spot. "His desperation for me to pay on the spot sickened me. He was acting more like a salesman who depends on commission than a ticket controller," said Babalola. The public relations office of the Budapest Transport Company (BKV) said the ticket collector had the right to fine Babalola. Péterné Kôvári, director of the BKV Public Relations Department, said data on the number of complaints from the public regarding BKV was not available for the press. "It is not just complaints that we receive, but much praise and suggestions," she said. Babalola claimed that after the discussion with the ticket collector, two policemen appeared suddenly and a short fight started. "I wanted to avoid the confrontation, but one of them grabbed the collar of my shirt. I struggled and we both fell down. The other two started kicking and jumping on me," he said. "During this struggle I was unaware that I had bitten the finger of one of them. Although I regret doing that, when your life is in danger there is no rational thinking." He said that at the District XIV police station he was treated like a criminal. "They started calling me provocative names, saying, ‘Nigger mit csinálsz itt…?' (Nigger what are you doing here?). They were mocking me, joking about my race. ‘Honnan jöttél?' (Where do you come from?) one asked scornfully... ‘Congo… Ebola… Uganda….?' " Babalola said he was handcuffed and locked in a room for about six hours. "I signed all papers before me simply because I was in acute pain," he said. Then he was taken to the Árpád Hospital where a spokesman for the hospital, who did not wish to be named, confirmed to The Budapest Sun that he was kept in for three nights after suffering mainly head, neck and leg injuries and psychological trauma. Babalola said, "Since then I have been asking myself, what am I doing in Hungary?" Police spokesman Attila Samu said police had no information about Babalola's hospital treatment, but only a scratch on the BKV controller's neck and a finger bitten by Babalola. He said police were investigating an "assault committed against a public servant". Samu noted Babalola had not filed a complaint to the police and said, "It is always easier to write letters to newspapers. Ninety per cent of these letters do not prove to be reality at all."
    ©The Budapest Sun

    All prospective immigrants will be screened for HIV/Aids The government in Canada says it will not automatically exclude prospective immigrants who test positive for HIV - the virus that is believed to cause Aids. The move reverses earlier suggestions that all applicants who tested positive would be turned away. That proposal - made last year as part of a significant overhaul of Canada's immigration system - came in for sharp criticism from Aids activists and immigrant support groups. Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan told parliament that the status of would-be immigrants who test positive in new mandatory HIV checks would be decided on a case by case basis. Opponents of the bill say it will cost Canada almost $30m a year in additional medical costs to care for immigrants with Aids. Canada currently admits 225,000 immigrants a year.

    Seeking to allay fears of discrimination against people applying for immigration to Canada, Ms Caplan insisted that refugees and relatives of people already in Canada would still be admitted regardless of the result of medical tests. And other instances would be decided by the provincial governments on a case by case basis, she said. She added that the new proposals would bring Canada in line with the regional approach to the issue of immigration. "Once someone is tested, then they have the opportunity for counselling and treatment, and that's extremely important. I think the testing policy is a thoughtful one, which is also consistent with the United States and Australia and other countries that are receiving immigrants," the minister said. At present, only those prospective immigrants whose doctors suspect they might be suffering from HIV are tested. Health officials say around 50 to 70 potential immigrants a year are rejected after testing positive.

    Inky Mark, opposition MP with the right-wing Canadian Alliance, said the new proposals would overburden the country's health care system. He said about 200 HIV-positive immigrants allowed into Canada last year had cost the taxpayers an extra $26m. But Ralf Juergens, head of the Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network, said he still feared the authorities would deny entry to HIV-infected immigrants, which he described as "unjust". "We are worried about the fact that the vast majority of people would still be excluded based on an assumption that they would create excessive demand on health and social services," he told a news conference. The BBC's Ian Gunn says the government argues that its new policy balances public health concerns, the rights of immigrants and still protects a domestic health system that is already under financial strain.
    ©BBC News

    General Toure will have to tread carefully The United Nations has begun its efforts to rebuild peace in the Central African Republic, two weeks after a foiled coup attempt led to heavy fighting in the capital Bangui. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy to CAR arrived in Bangui on Tuesday, and went straight from the airport to meet President Ange-Felix Patasse at his downtown residence, where he presented him with a letter from Mr Annan. "General Toure will meet with leading figures in an attempt to secure the fragile peace which has held in the capital since last week," said a UN source. But General Toure will have to contend with heightened ethnic tensions in the country. Following the attack on President Patasse's residence by renegade soldiers led by former military ruler General Andre Kolingba, southerners loyal to the general have been pitted against northerners loyal to the president. Mr Patasse is from the Kaba subdivision of the Sara ethnic group, located in the north.

    Ethnic promotion
    Mr Kolingba, who ruled the CAR from 1981 until 1993, is from the Yakoma group, which is part of the Ngbandi ethnic group found on the banks of the Obangui river in the south. Mr Patasse and Mr Kolingba have been long time foes. The demoted general was behind the series of army-led mutinies in 1996 and 1997. At a 40th anniversary rally of the CAR army in March, President Patasse accused General Kolingba of plotting a coup. In December, Mr Kolingba's supporters staged a rally in which they accused President Patasse of corruption and mismanagement of the country. "Is the Patasse-Kolingba duel definitively over?" asked "Le Citoyen", a private newspaper published in Bangui on Monday. Mr Patasse and Mr Kolingba head political parties. The president leads the Mouvement pour la libération du peuple centrafricain (MLPC), which is the largest party in the parliament, while the former army leader heads the prominent Rassemblement démocratique centrafricain (RDC) faction. "However, there is also a tribal dimension to the rivalry between Patasse and Kolingba," said one Bangui-based diplomat. Mr Kolingba's Yakoma people, traditionally traders, had the first contact with French colonisers. As a result they were the first to gain an education, use money and have positions in government. Their language, Sango, was adopted as the national language. "This gave them a superiority complex. Even to this day few Yakoma marry outside their tribe," said an academic at Bangui University. During General Kolingba's 12-year rule, the Yakoma who number 100,000, were given government positions. They were also appointed to posts requiring technical training, which made them difficult to replace when Patasse came to power. The 72,000-strong Sara-Kaba people are predominantly farmers. The army is one key area still dominated by the people from the southern tribes. As a result, President Patasse's position has never been fully secure. Amid widespread reports of reprisal killings of Yakoma people by government soldiers, many Yakoma civilians fled to the forests where they slept on makeshift beds woven from palm tree leaves and lived off bananas. "The soldiers were going from house to house searching for rebels. If they found a man they killed him, whether he was from the Yakoma [Mr Kolingba's tribe] or not," said Robert Garba, a guard. Many of Bangui's displaced residents, whom the government say number 80,000, are returning home. Across the city, men can be seen repairing bullet-riddled kiosks, bars and houses.

    Food shortage
    "The soldiers took everything There's no food on sale here at the moment. People are hungry. "They're too scared to go into the centre of town to buy food. The soldiers are still stopping Yakoma people," said Mathias Kwachi, a Yakoma kiosk owner. "Just because Kolingba wanted to be president again, the Yakoma people suffered," he added. The government rejects reports of revenge attacks on members of Mr Kolingba's southern Yakoma tribe. "I affirm that what has happened is not a conflict between the northerners, the southerners, the people of the savannah, the forest people or river people. "Those who sowed the seeds of the division would like it to be an ethnic or tribal affair," said the president in a television address. Nine ethnic groups - the Mbum, Sara, Banda, Gbaya, Bantu, Pygmies, Oubanguiens, Ngbandi, N ©BBC News

    By Allan Little in Johannesburg

    There is a new joke on the South African political scene. It goes like this. A white South African greets a black acquaintance. "Isn't it great?" the white man says. "We're one people now". The black man replies quietly. "Yes - so are we". This new thinking comes from the top. President Thabo Mbeki has characterised South Africa as a two-nation society, still racially divided. It is very different from the one nation rhetoric of the Mandela dream time. There is now much argument about whether Mr Mbeki has broken the spell of the Mandela achievement or simply woken South Africa up from its blissful wilful delusion. There is a suburb near where I live in Johannesburg called Melville. It has a relaxed, informal atmosphere, with bars and restaurants and alternative little cafes and live music. It is a youthful, liberal place and the people who hang out there think of themselves as progressive. But after I had spent some time there this question occurred to me: where are the black people? I have come to think of Melville as symptomatic of the nature of South Africa. It is a cool little neighbourhood where young left-liberal white people can go and keep feeling good about themselves and their non racist credentials without actually having to confront face-to-face the continuing sense of injustice that most black South Africans feel.

    Afraid to speak
    The other day I shared these misgivings about our little neighbourhood with a black South African friend of mine. "You know Allan," he said. "I agree with all of that, and coming out of your mouth, it sounds reasonable and fair. "But if I say it, if I express word for word the exact same view, it would sound to white people bitter and angry and resentful and negative and unhelpful in the great nation-building project." And this is the curious position South Africa has got itself into. There are certain things black South Africans feel they cannot say, and certain things white South Africans cannot say. There are two national dialogues taking place - one black, one white - and not much traffic between the two. A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a young and successful black lawyer - a friend and supporter of Thabo Mbeki - who had recently returned from a business trip to Uganda. "I realised that, even as an African person, I was more familiar with Britain and France and the USA than I was with my own continent," she said. "And when I got to Uganda, instantly I loved it. It feels so African. "It has a real African heart beat, an African soul. OK nothing works there but they OWN it". So I told her about a man I used to employ in eastern Zaire as a local guide and translator. I remember one assignment in particular. When I arrived I went to find Thomas. We agreed so many days at so many dollars, shook hands and agreed to meet the next morning. But I could tell something was paining him. Finally, he said: "But Allan, please, my kids are hungry today." I cursed myself for not thinking of this and of course paid him some money in advance so that he could buy food for his family. When we talked of this later, he told me that there is an Africa out there in which the price you pay for being an honest citizen is that you cannot afford to put bread into the mouths of your own children.

    Freedom without bread in this Africa is not freedom at all. It is slavery, not to a white or colonial overlord, but to a poverty so entrenched that it is inescapable. In what sense does my friend own anything? As a white man can I say that and be sure I am not going to be accused of racism? In South Africa, I do not think so. Apartheid constituted so profound an assault on the dignity of black people that criticism of almost any sort from white people is irredeemably tainted with all the baggage of white supremacy. And yet the question: "Why is Africa poor and getting po ©BBC News

    With a single sentence, the man destined to be Berlin's next mayor has spurred debate on whether the privacy of German politicians has been obliterated by the increasingly aggressive press. "I am gay, and that's a good thing," Klaus Wowereit said Sunday just before delegates of his Social Democratic party unanimously named him candidate for mayor. Wowereit's remark is resonating across the country as gay groups call for all other homosexual politicians to out themselves, while others wonder why he bothered to make it into an issue at all. Few outside Berlin political circles had heard of Wowereit until last week, when he was thrust to the fore as his party's candidate to replace Christian Democratic Mayor Eberhard Diepgen after the collapse of Berlin's governing coalition. Now, Wowereit has become the most prominent openly gay politician in Germany. He is expected to take office Saturday and stay mayor at least until new elections, likely in the fall. Already in March, Paris voters gave a sign that Europe is increasingly at ease with sexual frankness in politics by electing an openly gay mayor. Germany also has liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, and the Social Democrat-led government last year approved a law to grant greater rights to same-sex couples. Berlin is a center of gay life in Europe, with a thriving scene centered around the city's western Schoeneberg district. "If Berlin wasn't such a worldly city, then I wouldn't make the effort to become mayor there," Wowereit said Monday in a talk show on Germany's main public television station, where his coming out was the first topic of discussion. Not long ago, politicians' personal lives were generally taboo in the media. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on his fourth marriage, but that wasn't raised as an issue before his 1998 election win. Ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's private life was strictly off-limits to reporters back in the quiet former capital, Bonn. However, along with the capital's return to Berlin in 1999, the once-sleepy political media have been injected with big-city brashness. Tabloids now report on marriage breakups and affairs of top government ministers – and the mainstream press hasn't been far behind. At the same time, politicians seem to realize the value of presenting a human face. "A politician appears possi because of rumors that conservative tabloids were planning to make an issue of it, after news leaked that he told party leaders last week he was gay to warn that it could be used in the campaign. One conservative Berlin tabloid, BZ, questioned Tuesday whether Wowereit's move was merely a "PR gag." Editor George Gafron promised in a commentary that his newspaper wouldn't write any more about Wowereit's homosexuality. The expert on gay issues for Berlin's Christian Democrats, Marcus Mierendorff, said the party had no plans to use Wowereit's personal life in the campaign and that homosexuality was "something normal." Germany's Gay and Lesbian Federation this week heralded Wowereit's openness as a milestone for the community and called on all homosexual politicians to come out. Wowereit's single "sentence marks a stage on the way to normality that hopefully in the future will make such confessions unnecessary," the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper wrote Tuesday. "That would really be a good thing."
    ©The Washington Post

    Twenty-five years after the Soweto uprisings of 16 June 1976, South Africa's youth could not be more different from those who brought the country to a standstill when they rose up against the inferior education imposed by the apartheid government. "Youth are not interested in politics today," says 16-year-old Nobunye Levin. "They're only interested in themselves. Maybe they've lost hope in the country. Things have not really changed for the better and they don't have patience to wait." There was far more idealism at the time of the Soweto uprisings, which turned international opinion against the Afrikaner nationalist government. Many young people streamed out of the country to join the military wing of the then-banned African National Congress. Others devoted their lives to fighting apartheid at home. Teenage preoccupations with clothes, music and having fun were luxuries they could not afford.

    These days, exulting the youth with that age-old liberation mantra, "Roar, young lions roar", will provoke looks of disgust from teenagers who are simply not interested in politics. Less than half the country's 18-20-year-olds bothered to register for the last general election in 1999. Today's youth are "very materialistic", says 18-year-old Maphiri Malebe. "It's all about the clothes, about how I look. How much cash do I have? How far can I get? Not, what can I do for someone else?" But in their preoccupations with designer labels and music stars, South Africa's young are no different to other teenagers around the world. Whether this suggests that South Africa has at last become a normal, or at least more stable, society is another matter. The realities of mass unemployment, soaring levels of Aids and crime are not the realities of a stable society.

    There is deep disillusionment among youth, says Levin, that democracy has not brought with it the promised changes. "On a small scale black people are being empowered. But people were promised houses and jobs. Now poverty and unemployment are worse than ever." Adds Levin: "We've also lost hope in the leaders. Look at all the scandals that keep happening. There are no good role models anymore. The best was Nelson Mandela. Since then there has been so much corruption. Why should we aspire to be them?" Why then are the youth not mobilising to change things, to become activists against Aids and political corruption? The National Youth Commission and other youth organisations have largely failed to motivate or chart a coherant path forward for them.

    Mothobi Mokhethi, a 27-year-old human rights activist for Rights Africa, believes the political apathy of the youth is not surprising because "they have been marginalised". Political credentials from the days of the liberation struggle still count for everything, even though many young people were not even born then, he believes. "But after the time of Mandela and Mbeki who will be the leaders? The role of youth is not seen as meaningful. They have no voice." The battle against Aids poses particular challenges. Lungi Morrison, a media researcher at loveLife, which directs its Aids awareness campaigns at youth, says they are not going to "unite and mobilise against something they can't even see". Unlike apartheid, the new enemy is invisible. "The challenge is to build the self-esteem of our youth, raise their level of consciousness and give them a sense of hope for the future so that they make the right choices," says Morrison.
    ©BBC News

    The United Nations paid posthumous tribute Wednesday to the Holocaust survivor who coined the word ``genocide'' and led the campaign for a treaty declaring the mass killing of humans an international crime. In the month that Raphael Lemkin would have celebrated his 100th birthday, and the year marking the 50th anniversary of the Genocide Convention he fought for, more than 200 human rights experts, lawyers, Jewish leaders and U.N. officials gathered to recognize his efforts. ``His was a lifelong campaign for every human being's right to live in dignity,'' said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who called Lemkin ``one of the unsung heroes of the international human rights movement.'' There were calls to honor his legacy by getting every country to ratify the convention, ensuring that the United States becomes a pillar of the permanent international war crimes tribunal it envisioned, and arresting all those accused of crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. ``Lemkin's life work offers an inspiring example of moral engagement. It falls now to us — not just governments but also the non-governmental organizations that have been so active in this cause — to carry on in his spirit,'' Annan said in a speech read by his wife, Nane, the niece of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who rescued tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War II. Born in Poland, Lemkin became a lawyer and as a young man, he petitioned the League of Nations in 1933 to outlaw the mass extermination of people, which he called ``acts of barbarism.'' After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin joined other Jews as a guerrilla fighter against the Nazis. He fled to Sweden and then to the United States, but his parents and 47 other relatives perished in the Holocaust. In 1943, Lemkin invented the word ``genocide'' to describe the appalling extermination of millions of Jews and others, giving a new name to what Annan called ``an old crime.'' The following year the word ``genocide'' appeared in print for the first time in Lemkin's book ``Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.'' ``The term quickly became the coin of the realm in international discourse and it remains so today,'' said William Korey, author of a just-released monograh entitled ``An Epitaph for Raphael Lemkim.'' But far more important for Lemkin was his successful campaign in 1946 to get the fledgling United Nations to recognize genocide as an international crime, and then to get the world body to establish a legally binding treaty to ban it, which Annan said he did ``almost singlehandedly.'' By the time Lemkin died in 1959, almost 60 countries had ratified the Genocide Convention. ``In remembering this man, we believe it is incumbent that we continue his work,'' said Robert Rifkind, chair of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, the New York-based group which published the monograph. ``We have many war heroes. We are in desperate need of peace heroes.'' The institute published the 136-page document, Rifkind said, ``in the hope that we will not only rescue the memory of a largely forgotten hero but stimulate action towards the universal ratification of the Genocide Convention.''

    While 132 countries are parties to the convention, 60 have not ratified it including Japan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sudan, Angola and Sierra Leone. Former U.S. ambassador David Scheffer urged those attending the commemoration to lobby for changes that will allow the United States to ratify the treaty. ``Let's not create a paper tiger ... but an international court that includes the United States as one of its strongest pillars,'' he said. ``Raphael Lemkin could then truly rest in peace.''
    ©Associated Press

    Report on the racist attacks of February 2000 (El Ejido  Almería - Spain)
    By: Federación de Asociaciones de SOS Racismo del Estado Español/Federation of SOS Racism Associations in Spain

    The serious events that occurred in El Ejido were not a spontaneous outbreak of racist violence, but rather the consequence of an accumulation of circumstances that indicate the multiple aspects of racism in many parts of Spain.
    What happened in El Ejido constitutes one of the most serious outbreaks of racism in Europe in recent years. Awareness of its seriousness meant the posting of several members of this organisation in El Ejido during a period of time, given that there is no regional association in Almeria. Almost 700 statements were collected (described in more detail below) - a summary of the suffering and defencelessness felt by foreign workers in El Ejido. A small part of these complaints will reach trial, but the majority will not go beyond these pages. For the people who placed their trust in us and who had the courage to lodge a complaint, we have the moral obligation to publicise the facts and this is one of the principal underlying motives for this report.
    We also feel obliged to denounce similar conditions existing in other municipalities. We have been reporting racist acts in El Ejido in our Annual Report on Racism in Spain since it was first published five years ago.
    The key to an understanding of what happened in El Ejido on the 6th, 7th and 8th of February, 2000, includes the following: exploitation of the labour of foreign workers, a situation made possible by a Law of Foreigners that maintains 70% of these in a situation of illegality and the total absence of labour inspections in recent years; urbanistic segregation that means that foreigners live on the outskirts, in housing that does not meet minimum requirements of habitability; social segregation that prevents them from entering public areas; the Mayor's xenophobic declarations and policies, and police passivity faced with racists acts. It is not excessively pessimistic to predict that similar events will be repeated in other areas where the legal, employment and social conditions of foreign workers are as precarious as those of El Ejido.
    In order to prevent other Ejidos', knowledge of the situation is primordial. For this reason, our report considers as especially significant the first two chapters, based on direct observation, official data and recent monographic studies carried out in the area, and dealing with discrimination in employment and in housing. It is also considered absolutely necessary to provide an explanation to the reader of the events of February 2000, and for this reason a detailed description of the events - as well as of the immediate and subsequent reactions - is included.
    Going beyond the innate gravity of the El Ejido events, such racist outbreaks are the tip of the iceberg of a structural situation in Europe, namely the exploitation of foreign workers not as an occasional occurrence but as a element that underpins certain sectors of our economy, among them intensive greenhouse agriculture. This exploitation is only possible by maintaining part of the population in an illegal situation, a consequence of restrictive legislation that hinders the entry of immigrants via legal means and makes the process of obtaining stable residence and labour permits difficult.
    El Ejido also makes clear the relationship between the different dimensions of racism (both institutional and social), which, in the case of El Ejido, reached a crisis point that resulted in three days of attacks and which, after the violence on the streets had ceased, continued to manifest itself in many other kinds of discrimination.

    Exploitation of labour
    Intervening in the El Ejido context are issues of international economics, the basis of which is the exploi infertile area.
    In the attacks in El Ejido, we also saw also a reaction against a group of workers which was slowly beginning to organise itself and to claim its rights. This was the moment in which the racism outbreak occurred. As in many other cases throughout history, behind the racist reactions in El Ejido we can detect the economic necessity of having available a docile and cheap pool of labour.

    Approximately 70% of the foreign workers in El Ejido are illegal. Such a situation only encourages their exploitation for labour purposes and the multiple discrimination that they are subject to, as well as making it difficult for any kind of official complaints to be made.
    It is as yet unknown the final number of El Ejido foreigners who have been able to obtain permits in this period, but it is known that many of them have had difficulties in producing some kind of written proof of their presence in Spain before June 1999, since they have no acceptable proof that records this.
    The documents that are considered as acceptable proof (rent contracts, bank accounts, utility bills, medical visits, etc) are not available to people who live in shacks and who avoid being recorded in any kind of document for fear of being deported. For those who do obtain legalisation, their permit concedes residency during one year, after which they will again revert to illegality if they do not have a proper job offer.
    The new law, in fact, creates a legal framework that permits and encourages the exploitation of foreigners and leaves them defenceless against all kinds of discrimination and abuse. Only the existence of legal and realistic means of entry, greater stability in permits and the adoption of permanent legalisation mechanisms will overcome what is a legal basis for exploitation of immigrants - their situation of administrative illegality.

    Urbanistic and social segregation
    In the case of El Ejido, the situation of urbanistic segregation acquires dramatic dimensions. What it represents is exclusion from citizen life and a vision of foreigners as a labour force rather than multi-faceted individuals with their own particular needs.
    The refusal of the townspeople to rent flats in the town, the municipal eviction policies and the isolated lives forced on the majority of foreigners, are all the logical consequences of the treatment of the immigrant population as a labour pool and their non-recognition as citizens.
    In urbanistic terms in El Ejido today, the most urgent need is the provision of adequate housing for all the foreigners, an objective that is far from being converted into reality, since the modules provided so far are neither adequate nor sufficient in number. The majority of foreigners continue to live in below-standard housing. What is required is an overall municipal policy that reorganises and decentralises the municipal services, adapts them to the real population and finally, that reverses the ghettoisation' process that has occurred up to now.

    Police actions
    In the years prior to the incidents of February 2000, police passivity has allowed aggressions and discrimination to be carried out with impunity. This report describes the principal racists incidents that occurred before February 2000, demonstrating that even before then, those who came out onto the streets en masse to attack foreigners felt they could count on the passivity of the police force.
    During the events in February 2000, armed aggressors occupied public places with the police passively standing by, whilst both foreigners and members of human rights organisations had to take refuge in their houses or flee the area. The best protection that the police could offer to the persecuted was to permit them to take refuge in the jail, where they were refused food on the basis that they were there voluntarily. In El Ejido and with the consent of the police authorities, democratic rights were flagrantly flouted.
    There were no subsequent measures taken respecti against racism requires a firm and resolute stance from the political authorities. In El Ejido this desirable position on racism was not adopted. Despite a condemnation of the events, Government statements tended to minimise their significance, and blaming them on circumstance, claimed they were simply a spontaneous and isolated reaction by the townspeople that was subsequently exaggerated by the media. Moreover, the attacks in El Ejido occurred in a political context in which the PP was attempting to justify its plans for restricting the ruling Law of Foreigners by means of an alarmist dialogue on racism. El Ejido was represented as the dramatic but inevitable consequence of the presence of a large immigrant population in a municipality, and not as the consequence of a situation of labour exploitation and of impunity in the face of racism.
    El Ejido was not an isolated or anecdotal incident, but rather an indication of the consequences of certain kinds of immigration policies at municipal level. The recent substitution of the Law of Foreigners that signified a first step in the recognition of the rights of foreigners by a law (4/2000) that refuses basic rights and the reality of migration is not a promising augury for the future.
    ©Federation of SOS Racism Associations in Spain

    Jewish leader Sidon, others say government laws fall short on punishing racism

    Rabbi Karol Sidon was an infant, hidden away in Prague while Nazi Germany conducted its reign of terror. His father was less fortunate. "He was beaten and hung," says the rabbi, pressing his hands together and gazing at the cluttered table before him. "In the Little Fortress." The Little Fortress was the deadliest part of Terezin (Theresienstadt), a World War II concentration camp in north Bohemia. But Sidon, now the nation's chief rabbi, is more concerned with the present. When he plumbs the Internet, he finds lyrics by the local band Juden Mord (Jewish Murder) urging a second Holocaust. His community cites episodes of harassment. Synagogues have been defaced and Jewish cemeteries desecrated. The most recent incident occurred June 13 in Nyrsko, west Bohemia, where an Israeli tourist searching for her ancestors' graves found swastikas and SS signs spray painted on more than 15 tombstones. Sidon is convinced Central Europe faces a rising tide of neo-Nazi sentiment. And he wants Czech authorities to respond more forcefully. "I am convinced," he says, "that [neo-Nazism] flourishes here because there is an open opportunity for it." During a commemoration of Holocaust victims at Terezin last month, Sidon issued a tough statement on behalf of the Jewish community. "We have been drawing attention to the danger of tolerating neo-Nazi groups," he said. "We supposed that Parliament, the government and legal bodies of the Czech Republic would realize that tolerating such activities is unacceptable. Now, 10 years later, we unfortunately see the contrary." Romany, or Gypsy, rights groups and several Christian churches, including the Czech Bishops' Council, supported the Jewish community's plea. "Indifference on the part of the public and the authorities, coupled with an ever-present cult of violence, is alarming," said Tomas Halik, a Catholic priest and president of the Czech Christian Academy. Ivan Vesely, a lawyer and head of the rights group Romany Dzeno, said he, too, is exasperated by the state's failure to take action against what he describes as an international Nazi organization. "There have been so many negotiations about this issue up to now that they would form a thick file," he said. "We pointed out many years ago that fascist groups here were supported from abroad. But everybody kept silent at the time." Independent experts say that there are several thousand right-wing extremists active in the Czech Republic and that their ranks are growing. According to a June poll, more than half of all Czechs see extremism in general as a serious problem that must be controlled. While the law forbids the public display of Nazi symbols and the use of racist slogans, police have been criticized for lax enforcement at neo-Nazi gatherings. April concert near Prague including the Juden Mord band was attended by about 300 neo-Nazis and saw no arrests. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross cleared police of any wrongdoing in connection with the event, but promised to toughen the existing laws. "There has been a lot of discussion within the ministry lately about what to do with this problem," says Martin Korta, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. "We're looking for possibilities. That's all I can say." For Sidon, such statements ring hollow. "It's better than nothing," he said. "But this is still just words. So far, words are all we've heard." While the ministry has proposed stricter requirements for holding demonstrations, Sidon says the Jewish community wants to make it impossible for hate groups to function at all. "We want to concentrate directly on making the activity of neo-Nazi groups impossible," he said. Bedrich Jetelina, a representative of the Seventh Day Adventists church, sounded a more cautious note. "We are convinced that every person should have a right to ©The Prague Post

    A boat carrying illegal immigrants from Turkey to Greece sank in the central Aegean Sea, killing six people, officials said. Fifty-nine others were rescued. The bodies of five men and one woman were recovered, the Greek merchant marine ministry said. Those rescued included seven children, six women and 46 men – none were reported seriously injured. It wasn't immediately clear how many people had been on the boat, the ministry said, adding that the majority of the immigrants appeared to be of Kurdish origin. Greek captain Panagiotis Kouvas was arrested. Coast guard officials also arrested a suspected accomplice, identified as 54-year-old Giorgos Hazakis, a Greek who allegedly fled in a rubber speedboat. Thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe attempt to enter Greece illegally, many of them from nearby Turkey. Rescue crews were continuing their search on Thursday.
    ©Associated Press

    After disaster in state election, debate is about where to go now

    The end came on the very last day of May: cleared desks, emptied shelves, paintings removed from walls. The empty room symbolised the end of the Republican "ghosts" - as Guenther Oettinger called them. Oettinger, the conservative CDU parliamentary leader in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, was remarking on the end of the nine-year state parliamentary existence of the extreme right-wing party. The end was ushered in at the party's third state election at the end of March. But for both allies and enemies, the result was just as much of a surprise as their sudden appearance on the scene had been in 1992 when the party - then under the national leadership of founder Franz Schoenhuber - became at a stroke the third strongest party in the Stuttgart assembly. It had been generally assumed this time that the Republicans, a party reflecting nationalist resentments, would again be in the assembly - but their vote plunged from 9.1 per cent to 4.4 per cent . Among those most convinced they would be re-elected were the Republicans themselves. One of them was Wolf Krisch, a small-time businessman from the town of Kornwestheim who was once a Social Democrat but who then discovered that German interests as the be-all and end-all of politics lay in the ranks of the Republicans. The state premier Erwin Teufel publicly referred to their departure as a disappearance of the "blot" from the state assembly and said it was a highlight of the election. Krisch reacted by sending Teufel an indignant letter of protest. On the question of whether the party still has a future after the disaster in what was after all their south-west German stronghold, Krisch simply dismissed the issue with a despairing "if I only knew..." The defeat must however be rated as a possible long-term threat to the party's existence and certainly as its worst setback for years. Following a series of respectively raised and dashed hopes, the Republicans had in any case declined in public perception to the status of a mere regional party. It has for a long time been suffering under a multiplicity of handicaps: shaken by electoral defeats, branded as right-wing extremists by the media, under surveillance by the counter-espionage Verfassungsschutz and bedevilled by internal intrigue as well as weakened by the exodus of many who had vainly been wanting it to take a harder line. On top of that are the increasing financial difficulties. Krisch the businessman sees this as the party's biggest problem. He drew comparisons with rightist parties in other countries as well with Gerhard Frey, leader and main bankroller of the Republicans' most potent German competition, the German People's Union (DVU):
    "Berlusconi, Haider, Frey - all have plenty of money. By comparison, we have never had anything but our own resources from membership fees and donations." He forgot to mention the state's coffers: even the extremist Republicans have had election campaign costs over the past 10 years reimbursed to the tune of millions. The federal leader, Rolf Schlierer, seems more-or-less unfazed by the fiasco. He made sense of it by saying that there were two causes: first was the constant "media hounding"; second was the polarisation between the CDU's Teufel and Ute Vogt which caused many right-wing voters to vote for Teufel with the aim of shutting out Vogt. The third explanation was a veiled shot aimed at his Stuttgart opponent Christian Kaes. Decoded it means: what can be expected when an idler and a bonehead (Schlierer's name for anyone who even in his view is too far to the right) heads the most important state party and turns out to be a failure? But Schlierer, who is a doctor and lawyer, does not apply his own diagnosis to himself. In other parties, the federal leader would have departed after an electoral setback of this dimension - either voluntarily or not. Lower Saxony and elsewhere in September. Schlierer announced that in Baden-Wuerttemberg itself, the party will take a breather for five years and make a return in 2006. He can refer to opinion researchers who say the Republicans can rely on a core constituency of at least three per cent.
    It is interesting that the Republican regional strongholds are almost identical with those of the National Democratic Party (NPD) in 1968. The NPD then polled a record result of almost 10 per cent - with most of that vote coming from regions where the Nazis were strongest in the 1920s and 1930s. The person and the politics of the party boss are in the meantime more controversial than he is willing to admit. Klaus Rapp, who owns a printing works in Pforzheim, is one of the Republican deputies who, like Schlierer and 12 other deputies, is going to have to earn a living some other way after nine years in parliament. Rapp explained: "Too much cosying up over the past few years." Talks with Rapp or with Lothar Koenig, another ex deputy who hails from the northern Black Forest, make clear that at least a minority in the party seeks salvation in a coordinated shift even further to the right. Rapp describes that as "finding our way back to our roots." As a recipe for success, he urges a concentration on the issues of foreigners, internal security and pensions (naturally in connection with state handouts for migrants). Koenig, a high school teacher, said he now regrets that the election campaign was not based a limited number of issues "on our very own themes" as a way of getting the message across to voters more effectively. He demanded a return to the image of an "alternative party of protest". Neither used to be political allies of Kaes, who makes no secret of his racism and who wants the death penalty brought in. But neither is creating any distance between himself and the hardliner. Koenig can even envisage Kaes as new federal chairman. Both agree that Schlierer should go, especially if, as expected, he insists on persisting with the prerent course. Rapp and Koenig also tend to play down the differences between the Republicans and the NPD and the DVU. Schlierer insists their differences are very real. The Verfassungsschutz and others maintains they are merely a camouflage. Although Koenig says that the oft-discussed amalgamation would be unthinkable, he then talks about a future in which one of the three parties must emerge as the strongest in a right-wing spectrum. Koenig added: "Up until now, I believed that it was us." In the autumn, the federal party will discuss in Rhineland-Palatinate a new platform. If Schlierer's majority remains as big as it was last year in spite of all the rumblings, despite the open resistance above all from Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, then he will have little to fear. The rank and file simply needs to remember the sentiment put out by the Lower Saxony party's press centre - regardless of the fact that it is redolent of the historical determinism of the dogmatic left: "In our opinion, the future political success of the Republicans is marked out as a logical consequence of today's policies."
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Areas of Oldham hit by recent riots will not be fenced off to keep white and Asian people apart, according to Home Secretary David Blunkett. The promise of "no no-go areas" follows a meeting of civic leaders, police and politicians called to draw up an action plan to ease tensions in the town. Mr Blunkett said the strategy would engage with local people, rather than just concentrate on "bricks and mortar issues". And he launched a broadside against the British National Party and neo-Nazi group Combat 18 - accusing them of "causing havoc" in the area. The new home secretary, speaking to BBC News, played down the absence of any Asians in Thursday's talks.

    Political balance
    Dismissing "vicious and unwarranted" attacks on him and colleagues over the issue, Mr Blunkett said Oldham's deputy mayor Riaz Ahmed - whose house was attacked in the riots - had been invited. But the council had decided not to send him to ensure the delegation was politically balanced. The deputy mayor was then invited, at Mr Blunkett's request, to attend as an observer. But Mr Ahmed had decided this would create problems at local level. It was more important to make real progress than engage in "gesture-ism", Mr Blunkett added. Mr Riaz has already said he was more concerned with the outcome of the meeting than who went.

    Rising tension
    The talks follow rising racial tensions in the Greater Manchester town that culminated in riots last month. The three-point plan will include a local action programme to be prepared in Oldham, within the next four months. Secondly, funding will be refocused borough-wide, to address perceived lack of fairness and ensure all communities benefit. And thirdly, local forums - involving local police authorities, business leaders, and leaders of the white and Asian communities - would be established to rebuild confidence. Mr Blunkett stressed that the aim was not Home Office intervention, but to support the town to find "solutions in their own community". He was asked about the possibility of building walls between predominately white and Asian areas in Oldham. The idea, promoted by far-right groups, comes amid media coverage of a metal fence erected in an alleyway, apparently aimed at blocking off an escape route for white vandals. But Mr Blunkett said: "I'm not in favour of physical barriers per se. "If there's a particular problem up an alley... they have from time to time been blocked off, but the idea of ringing a neighbourhood would be totally unacceptable. "There will be no no-go areas."

    'Dangerous situation'
    He turned on those calling for the so-called 'peace walls', saying: "The BNP have caused havoc together with Combat 18. "It is a very dangerous situation where there are genuine problems and people have grievances and others come in from outside to stir them up. "So keeping the balance, a perception of commitment and support to particular elements of the community, is very important,"
    ©BBC News

    Linka Shankova, a Gypsy mother in her twenties, is taking part in an unusual experiment designed to lift the lot of her people in Bulgaria, and indeed across Eastern Europe. For decades here, Gypsies, known as Roma in this part of the world, have been segregated in their schooling, confined to the poorly run and badly maintained schools like the one across a dusty lot from Ms. Shankova's ramshackle one-story brick home. It was an education that kept them on society's lowest rungs, subject to the poverty and discrimination that has been their lot for centuries. So this past year, in a curious throwback to American desegregation of past decades, Ms. Shankova has let her 10-year-old son, Bilian Mateev, join some 460 Gypsy children in the dusty Nov Put neighborhood who are bused each morning to schools in other parts of Vidin to be integrated with other Bulgarian children. "My boy is lively," Ms. Shankova said, praising the result of one year's integration. "But he is quieter now. He is very wise now." In September, her daughter Silvia, 8, will follow Bilian on the daily bus. The struggle to integrate Vidin's Gypsy children has not been easy. Similar efforts to integrate the children of Gypsies elsewhere in Bulgaria failed over protests of non-Gypsy parents. Moreover, integration here was the fruit of a local initiative - unusual in a region accustomed to awaiting governmental remedy - that raised the hackles of education bureaucrats in the capital, Sofia, a three-hour drive to the south. If the first fruits here translate into permanent success, the model could well spread elsewhere in Eastern Europe, where Gypsies form a large part of the population.Vidin's experiment is being imitated in cities in Hungary and Slovakia and will be repeated in September in four other Bulgarian cities. It has attracted the attention of Western benefactors, including the George Soros Foundation, which is helping to finance it by paying salaries and providing school books and other aids to Gypsy schoolchildren. The need for desegregation is the curious result of decades of discrimination of Gypsies that grew in part out of efforts by former Communist governments in Eastern Europe to better integrate them into society. After World War II, Communist leaders forced the historically nomadic Gypsies into a sedentary way of life, with fixed places of residence and jobs. To eliminate widespread illiteracy, special schools were established for Gypsy children. For all the good intentions, the program masked racist undertones. In Bulgaria, for instance, the Gypsy schools were officially dubbed "schools for children with inferior lifestyle and culture." Crowded and underfinanced, they served often as penal colonies for uncooperative teachers. The results were abysmal. According to Bulgaria's 1992 census, while 36 percent of Bulgarian children graduate high school, fewer than 5 percent of Gypsy children do; 9 percent of Bulgarian youths obtain university degrees, compared with one-tenth of 1 percent among Gypsies. Donka Panayotova, 45, a Gypsy teacher and the guiding light of the integration here, got to know this situation in 1983, after finishing college and joining the faculty of Vidin's Gypsy school. "Officially, about 600 kids were registered," she said. "In fact, no more than 280 to 300 were ever attending." The conviction that integration was the sole solution came after she convinced a Bulgarian colleague to enroll her grandson at the Gypsy school. The boy's presence forced Gypsy classmates to speak Bulgarian, sharply improving their academic performance, she said. In 1997, Mrs. Panayotova decided to quit teaching and found an organization called Drom - Bulgarian for " the road" - to fight for desegregation. Despite the Bulgarian government's acceptance in 1999 of a framework agreement, the government had dragged its feet on school desegregation. Seventy percent of Gypsy children remained in Gypsy sc after learning that Drom would buy them school books, materials like crayons for art lessons, and even shoes. "I had about decided to stop sending them to school altogether," she said of Goshko and his sister, who is in eighth grade. Mrs. Panayotova's experiment in desegregation was particularly risky as a test of tolerance in times of high stress. Bulgaria is weaning itself from a Communist, centrally planned economy. Vidin's two biggest factories, once employing tens of thousands to supply rubber tires and water pumps to markets in the old Soviet empire, are closed. Unemployment is so widespread that, by some estimates, as much as half the city's 1989 population of about 60,000 have left the country in search of work. The economic battering heightened the isolation of the Gypsies, who once came out of their isolated slum neighborhood to work with other Bulgarians in factories, but are now unemployed. Rumyan Russinov, the director of a center in Budapest that is run by the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute to help Gypsies, called the organizers in Vidin "the sappers that find the mines," to enable similar desegregation to succeed elsewhere. "Every Romani leader feels he's a Martin Luther King," said Mr. Russinov, 34. "We don't need that now, we need a movement, not just an individual. We need critical mass." Future initiatives, he said, will include university scholarships for Gypsy graduates of desegregated schools. In Vidin, he said, despite initial acceptance of desegregation, the struggle is not yet over. Few Gypsy children are in integrated schools, though more are expected as the idea catches on among Gypsy parents. Moreover, the long-term effect of desegregation has yet to be felt. "This is not a one-act play, it will be a long-term process," said Mariika Vasileva, vice principal of a primary school whose Gypsy pupils jumped last year to 110, from 80. "Only teachers who never had the chance to work with children of different ethnic backgrounds could believe that this would be an easy and quick process."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Bosnian Muslims are again planning to start rebuilding a famous medieval mosque in the Bosnian Serb town of Banja Luka despite violent protests against the work by Serb nationalists last month. Security measures are in place for a ceremony on Monday marking the start of the rebuilding. An attempt to lay the foundation stone for the 16th century Ferhadija mosque was abandoned in May amid anti-Muslim riots. One person was killed in the violence and about 30 injured. Senior Bosnian Serb officials on Sunday warned that a repeat of the violence would have unforeseeable consequences for the Serb Republic's democratic institutions.

    In May thousands of Bosnian Serb nationalists besieged hundreds of Muslims and Western officials near the site where the Ferhadija mosque stood before it was blown up in 1993, during the Bosnian war. The head of the Bosnian Islamic Community, Mustafa Efendi Ceric, recently invited members of both communities to attend Monday's ceremony, urging all to behave in "a dignified, tolerant and peaceful manner". "This is an occasion in which peace, tolerance and freedom for all citizens, regardless of their religious background, should win," Mr Ceric said.

    'Test of democracy'
    The Bosnian Serb authorities said on Sunday that a peaceful ceremony on Monday would be a "turning point for Republika Srpska and its stability". A statement went on to say that it would be "a test of capability of republic's democratic forces and institutions, its citizens and its youth, to provide for a peaceful and democratic development ". A spokesman for Bosnia's Serb Republic's interior ministry said preparations are under way to ensure a peaceful ceremony. Three top Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry officials lost their jobs as a result of the clashes in Banja Luka and in the southern town of Trebinje, where a similar ceremony at a mosque was blocked by violent protests two days earlier. Banja Luka was the second largest Bosnian town before the civil war but most of its substantial Muslim population either fled or were expelled early in the war. All 15 mosques in the town itself and 90 in the local area were destroyed.
    ©BBC News

    Norwegians are growing more resistant to granting asylum, with 36 percent saying that too many refugees are allowed to live in the country. The figure is up from 29 percent in 1999. Tolerance of immigration is nevertheless much higher after a larger influx of newcomers in the late '90s. In 1993 only 49 percent of Norwegians wanted to maintain the rate of residency permission granted. In 2001 fully nine of ten Norwegians believe that immigrants should have equal employment rates with native citizens.

    The government this week promised immediate and tough action to promote greater and quicker integration of South African schools
    Minister of Education Kader Asmal said the government would, in particular, enforce its "language in education" policy to accelerate integration and it would be examining the composition of teaching bodies. After seven years of democratic government, the existing situation could not be tolerated any longer, he stressed in a hard-hitting speech to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Asmal, who was speaking during the education budget debate in the NCOP, said it had to be recognised that the problems in the schooling system "do not only exist in township and rural areas because there are schools in urban areas. I have visited some of them - which remain all white, authoritarian and embrace values that are at odds with those of a democratic South Africa. "Seven years after freedom we cannot tolerate this in schools which enjoy extraordinary provision whilst less than two kilometres away there are children learning in crowded township schools. "Provinces over the next year are enjoined to bring about greater integration in these schools. This also means enforcing our language in education policy to assist with that integration and looking to the composition of the teaching body." Asmal said it was important that provincial and national policies were aligned and significant progress in ensuring this through the Council of Education Ministers was happening "but too often I get the feeling that in some structures it is done begrudgingly or an as an afterthought. This we must correct. "It is only through dynamic interaction between national policy and provincial implementation that we will succeed in providing an education system in South Africa that is free of bias and of which we can call be proud, and I refer not to those 30% or so of schools which function very well but to all of our schools. "We cannot and should never subject children to any discrimination on the basis of their social class, and even their social origin. This is more important in a country which is still largely characterised by vast inequalities."
    ©Daily Mail&Guardian

    Many Austrians think Joerg Haider of the far-right Freedom Party is racist and anti-Semitic but they still admire him for his outspokenness, according to a survey released Tuesday. The poll also found continued aversion to Jews among a relatively high percent of those polled, particularly among Freedom Party voters, but suggested those attitudes were diminishing and tolerance was growing. The survey, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, listed 49 percent of respondents agreeing that Haider is "racist and (an) anti-Semite," but 51 percent admiring him "for saying things that other Austrian politicians are afraid to say." The 31-page survey, the third of its kind by the Gallup Institute of Austria, was conducted between March 1 and April 17 among 2,000 people. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. Participation of the Freedom Party in Austria' government led to European Union sanctions last February, which have since been lifted. The sanctions were imposed over concern that the party ignored basic human rights and democratic norms. Although Haider denies anti-Semitic sentiments, his comments about Jews and the Hitler era have been criticized worldwide - he has been prohibited from repeating some of them by court order - while his party's stance on immigration and other issues involving foreigners is considered extreme by critics. David Singer, the committee's director of research, said that in the United States, it would be inconceivable that a politician could still function in mainstream society after 49 percent of the population had stated that they thought he was racist. The survey indicated that supporters of the Freedom Party- 16 percent of the survey respondents - were far more likely to express anti-Jewish sentiment than other Austrians. Of Freedom Party respondents, 32 percent said they believe that Jews have "too much influence" in Austrian society, compared to 19 percent of those who generally voted for other parties. The survey indicated that respondents backed Haider less for his perceived anti-Semitic and racist attitudes and more for his outspoken critique of political problems at home and in the rest of Europe. Among respondents who identified themselves as Freedom Party voters, 22 percent agreed that "Jews behave in a manner that provokes hostility in our country," compared to 14 percent of the rest of those polled. When asked to comment on the statement that Jews are exploiting the memory of the Holocaust, 45 percent of all Austrians questioned said they either "strongly agree" or "somewhat disagree." According to the survey, 45 percent of those questioned also "disapprove" of the agreement signed by the Austrian government in January providing compensation to Jewish victims of the Nazis in Austria. The survey also revealed some positive trends. Almost half of the Austrians - 45 percent - acknowledge their country's share of responsibility in events leading up to World War II. This compares to 29 percent in 1995. The percentage of Austrians who "prefer not" to have Jews as neighbors has declined from 26 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2001. Singer was nonetheless critical. "Even more than 50 years after the Holocaust, it was still not possible to produce a majority of the population who accepted Austria's involvement in the terrible events of World War II," Singer said. "Until this is clarified, you will still have residual hostility toward Jews."
    ©The Jerusalem Post

    A team of American law enforcement experts began a visit to Slovakia at the end of May with the aim of helping the Slovak police deal better with the country's minority groups. Having long been criticised by minority leaders and international observers for their apparent apathy to problems affecting non-ethnic Slovaks, the police hope that the training will allow them to better understand - and therefore better serve - those they are expected to protect. Over the next two years, the American team (consisting of three ex-police officers and a sociologist) will hold six week-long seminars with national police chiefs in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, Koaice and Preaov. Funded by the US State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the initiative stresses the philosophy of "community partnership", which aims at developing 'bridges' between the police and minority communities at the grassroots level. "We're trying to get Slovak police to re-think the arrogance US law enforcers have held in the past, which said 'we know what [a community's] problem's are, and this is how we're going to fix them'," said Cynthia Shain, who when she retired as Deputy Chief of the Louisville (Kentucky) Police Department in 1999 was the highest-ranking female officer in city history. "We had a housing development known as Clarksdale [in which] we felt the biggest problems were drugs and burglaries," Shain told a classroom of some 30 Slovak district police leaders in Bratislava May 28. "We knew this according to our statistics. But when we actually went in and asked them what the biggest problems were, a little lady got up and said 'gambling in the courtyards'." That woman went on to say that public urination, cars with loud stereos at night, broken street lights which had been shot out by youths, and abandoned cars were among the community's other main concerns. "I was listening and thinking, 'Whaaaaat?'," Shain said. "'What about the burglary rate? Do you know what it is here?' This was my thunderbolt. It told me that the concerns of the police are not necessarily those of the community." Which is why partnerships between police and local communities is key, said April Kranda, who retired in 1996 as a lieutenant in the Fairfax County [Virginia] police department. "It's important to forge a positive relationship with the community," she said. "You must have contact with the people you are policing in order to develop this relationship." Some suggestions offered by the US team in developing community ties were to allow citizens to participate in "ride-alongs" (during which civilians join officers on a given beat) and to establish Civilian Police Academies (where normal people go through a scaled-down version of police training and are thereby exposed to controlled situations police face).

    Identifying the problems
    Although project co-director Deborah G. Wilson, a sociologist and the chair of the University of Louisville's Department of Justice Administration, said that the response to her team had been "overwhelmingly positive", not all the officers present on the first day were sold on the new ideas. "We don't have difficulty identifying the problems," responded one officer when Kranda emphasised the importance of asking the community what they needed from the police. "We know what their problems are, but they don't trust us and we don't have the means to deal with this. "While we know what the problems of our citizens are, we also know that we are unable to resolve most of them," he continued. "We may know that there are many drug users and dealers in the gypsy community, for example, but we really can't do anything about it." That little trust exists between minorities and the Slovak police was confirmed by Sayon Camera, director and founder of Zebra, an association of African families in Slovakia. "I perceive them as the enemy," he said firmly May 30. "T to deal with minorities. "We are not here to lecture, but rather to share our experiences," she said. "It's taken us over 200 years to get where we are, and we're not perfect. We try to be honest about our successes and failures so other forces can avoid the failures we've experienced."

    The real issues
    When asked what problems he would identify with policing in Slovakia, if given the opportunity, Zebra's Camera responded: "They don't help. I would tell them to be honest with us, to treat our complaints seriously, and respect our human dignity. If I'm guilty of committing a crime, it's their duty to arrest me. But it's also their duty to not treat me like an animal, and not to think that all we do is cause trouble." Bratislava police headquarters spokesperson Marta Buòaková admitted that modern Slovak law enforcement needed improvement, but said that the police lacked the know-how. She added that the Slovaks would embrace any future cooperation with the US team. "They make our people think about police work from a different perspective," she said. "We sometimes think that we can solve broad social situations, but they are teaching us to approach problems on an individual basis, to go into the community and talk with the citizens. We are open to these new ideas. Our doors will always be open to them [the US team]." Although the seminars have only just begun, the US team says that the Slovaks don't appear to be much different from police forces in America. "I know you're all dying to get out of here," said Kranda at the end of the seminar, to which the officers collectively laughed in agreement. "See? You're not that different than American cops."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Between 1999 and 2000, coverage of the Roma in Slovakia's periodical press experienced a renaissance, while simultaneously showing signs of pluralism. Although coverage of the Romany issue continues to be problematic, more press are now focusing on the minority. The Culture Ministry extends financial subsidies to six Romany periodicals, in 1999 allocating a total of 4,449,000 Slovak crowns for this purpose. The most respected Romany periodical in Slovakia is Romano ¼il Nevo, which has been published in the eastern Slovak town of Preaov since 1991. It is officially a weekly, but is actually published only occasionally. It has a circulation of 8,500 and its editor-in-chief, Daniela `ilanová-Hiveaová, is a Slovak writer of Romany fairy tales. In total, only six issues of Romano ¼il Nevo were published between the summer of 1999 and October 2000, due mostly to lack of funds and the irregularity of subsidies from the Culture Ministry. The 1993 Radio and Television Broadcasting Law allows public media to "produce and commission the production of [...] broadcasts which preserve and develop the cultural identity [...] of ethnic minorities and ethnic groups living in the Slovak Republic". A specialized news review focused on the Roma called Romale is broadcast once a month by the public Slovak Television (STV). From 1999 to 2000, there were no problems with the regularity of broadcasting, nor did we see sloppy or anti-Romany editions of the Romale news review as had sometimes occurred in previous years. Radio broadcasting for the Roma is produced nationwide by the Ethnic Broadcasting Office of the Preaov studio of public Slovak Radio. Its weekly radio broadcast, called O Roma vakeren - Hovoria Rómovia, features 20 minutes of news and information on Roma culture. The Banská Bystrica studio of Slovak Radio provides religious broadcasting for the Roma through its program Balvajeskere Èhave. Between January and December 1999, the first annual Preparatory Course for Romany Journalists in Slovakia was jointly organized by the Centre of Independent Journalism and the InfoRoma foundation. The main objective of the project is to give young Roma access to print and electronic media. Eight graduates of the course's first year completed a study visit to Slovakia's most prestigious media, and upon graduation most went on to work for local television stations. In 2000, the course successfully completed its second year. While Slovakia intensified its efforts to join the EU, there was a dramatic growth in coverage of the Roma issue by Slovak media which, besides news reports, began producing analyses, expert articles and features on the issue. The sudden wave of migrations by Slovak Roma to EU states had a significant impact on the frequency of news about the Roma in Slovak media. An analysis by the Slovak Helsinki Committee in 2000 suggested a direct connection between reporting on the Romany migration and on the introduction of visa requirements for Slovaks by various EU member states. The independent civil society association MEMO 98 monitored the main evening news programmes of the three most influential Slovak TV stations - the private TV Markíza, the public Slovak Television (STV), and the private TV Luna - from November 27, 1999 until February 28, 2000. The results suggest that Romany asylum seekers ranked among the five most important themes covered by Luna and STV. The survey also monitored the time devoted to particular ethnic minorities by selected Slovak media between January 1 and March 31, 2000, and delivered an astonishing conclusion: while the time devoted to the Roma by Slovakia's five most influential electronic media totaled 3 hours, 19 minutes and 2 seconds, the time devoted to the Hungarian minority was only 7 minutes and 46 seconds; the Ruthenian minority received 1 minute and 33 seconds of coverage; the Czech, Polish, and Ukrainian minorities were not given any broadcasting time at all. In per ©The Slovak Spectator

    Two French civil rights groups Friday appealed a US judge's decision allowing Yahoo to attack a French judicial order in a US courtroom. The French order bars the Internet company from selling Nazi memorabilia online. "This situation is unprecedented," said Ronald Katz, an attorney representing the two French civil rights groups. "It cries out for appellate review." The case, dragged out for more than a year, has touched off a complicated international legal struggle with wide-ranging implications for auctions over the Internet and companies selling and doing business over the global Web. The two French civil rights groups, The International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) and the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), sued Yahoo in 2000 for allowing French citizens to access Nazi memorabilia on the auction site. Yahoo also has a French site, which bars Nazi memorabilia sales, as directed under French law. The French high court in Paris in May 2000 ordered Yahoo to reengineer its computers in the United States to prevent French users from accessing the items, which included Zyklon B canisters and SS daggers. Yahoo voluntarily removed the items from its site shortly after the order. However, the US-based portal then filed a complaint in a US District Court in San Jose, California, seeking to have the French order declared unenforceable against it, arguing that the order violates US laws protecting free speech. LICRA and UEJF then asked the US court to dismiss Yahoo's action, arguing that the US court lacked jurisdiction. However, on Thursday, US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that because the two French advocacy organizations had legally attacked Yahoo in the United States, it would be subject to Yahoo's counter legal maneuvers in a US courtroom. "This case presents novel legal issues arising from the global nature of the Internet," Fogel wrote in the ruling. "Many nations, including France, limit freedom of expression on the Internet based upon their respective legal, cultural or political standards. Yet because of the global nature of the Internet, virtually any public website can be accessed by end-users anywhere in the world." The judge said the French court order, aimed at removing content from Yahoo's US computers, could potentially harm Yahoo's right to free speech. "In theory, any provider of Internet content could be subject to legal action in countries which find certain content offensive," the judge noted. Katz responded Friday by filing a formal request to the judge, asking for a stay of the order pending an appeal court rehearing.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Berlusconi has a strongly right-wing cabinet Silvio Berlusconi has been sworn in as Italy's new prime minister, at the head of a right-wing government with leading positions held by some of the country's most controversial politicians. Mr Berlusconi's cabinet makes Gianfranco Fini, leader of the post-fascist National Alliance, deputy prime minister and gives the anti-immigration and separatist Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, the ministry for reform and decentralisation. The National Alliance will control a total of five ministries in the 25-seat cabinet, making it the strongest party after Mr Berlusconi's own Forza Italia. Despite suffering heavy losses in May's general elections, Mr Bossi's Northern League gains the justice and social affairs ministries on top of his own post. President Ciampi on Sunday approved the cabinet list for Italy's 59th government since World War Two.

    Far-right demands
    Although Forza Italia has a sufficient majority to manage in parliament without the Northern League, Mr Bossi holds leverage in the Senate out of proportion to his national share of the vote. He has been vociferous in demanding seats in the cabinet, particularly ministries that would allow it to implement its anti-immigration policies. After allies from Forza Italia were elected as speakers of both the upper and lower houses of parliament, it became clear that the National Alliance and Northern League would be rewarded for their loyalty during the election campaign with high-profile cabinet posts. Mr Berlusconi's first administration, in 1994, was toppled after only seven months when the Northern League pulled out of the coalition. European concerns at the far-right parties' inclusion may be tempered by Mr Berlusconi's choice of Renato Ruggiero, a pro-European former head of the World Trade Organisation, as his foreign minister. Some faces familiar from the previous Berlusconi administration also reappear in the cabinet, notably his close ally Giulio Tremonti who inherits the economics ministry.

    Down to work
    "I'm very happy to have succeeded in putting together an excellent government team that will keep the promises made to Italians and will guarantee innovation, freedom, and well-being for all," Mr Berlusconi said. During the election campaign, Mr Berlusconi promised the reorganisation of the state bureaucracy, constitutional reform and tax simplification and public works projects. He also pledged tax cuts and a minimum pension but remained vague on how he would finance them. But correspondents say the pledge which will be most closely watched both at home and abroad was the separation of his massive media empire from his political interests within the first 100 days. Already the owner of three of Italy's television stations, as prime minister Mr Berlusconi also has significant influence over public TV RAI.
    ©BBC News

    What began as a spat between two neighbourhood Roma children in western Slovakia's Plavecký `tvrtok has escalated into a crisis dividing the town's 700-strong Roma community. The conflict, lasting several weeks now, has left 31 residents injured, 22 people imprisoned and several Roma dwellings burnt to the ground. An attempt June 5 to bring the warring Roma factions together and end the violence dissolved in chaos with one clan leader defending threats by a Roma man to burn his children if a solution wasn't found. Town leaders and police expressed dismay with the conflict, which they said they were powerless to solve until peace returned to the community. The conflict has many roots, none of which are easily addressed, said Roma analysts. Among them are segregation, unemployment and the threat of land dispossession - facts of life for many of Slovakia's estimated 450,000 Roma. Plavecký `tvrtok's Roma community suffers from nearly 100% unemployment, with idle residents frequently committing crimes against each other with no police intervention to restore order. "These people are unemployed, they have nothing to do," said Michal Vaaeèka, a Roma analyst with the Institute for Public Affairs think-tank in Bratislava. "What often happens is that they organise clans which fight for power within the settlement." Adding to the mix is the fact that the Roma community in Plavecký `tvrtok is actually two groups: one which has lived there for over a century, and another which arrived in the last 20 years from other sites in western Slovakia. Vaaeèka explained that a lack of jobs had exacerbated natural differences between the two Roma groups. The old-timers, he explained, had learned to coexist with the white Slovak community, a relationship they felt was threatened by the newcomers. What is more, both Roma groups now face expulsion from the land they have built squatter buildings on, as a time limit on land 'restitution' - restoring land expropriated by the former communist regime in 1948 to its original owners - has recently expired. If the destitute Roma are unable to buy the land their houses sit on from its owners, they will be forced to move.

    No progress
    Given the complexity of the issues the Roma face, and the tensions joblessness and uncertain accommodation prospects cause, few expect that the cauldron of emotions that have erupted in Plavecký `tvrtok will be soon calmed. The June 5 meeting included a broad spectrum of parties who have an interest in restoring order - members of the Roma Initiative political party (RIS), the town mayor, the local police chief and leaders of the warring Roma factions. It began peacefully enough, with the Roma adversaries arriving late, and state-appointed Malacky District head Milan Vaakor saying in their absence that the district would help the Roma purchase the land they now live on if peace was restored. Then followed a long discussion between the white Slovak officials and the RIS representatives as to whether the use of the term 'Roma' was discriminatory. The RIS argued that the Roma should simply be called 'Slovaks'. Feelings were stirred an hour later, when the two Roma factions arrived. Jozef Polakoviè and Jozef Zeman, leading the Roma newcomers group, accused the majority Roma group of persecuting the 16 Roma families they represented to the point that they would likely seek asylum in a western country. "I think I could live a better life among whites than among these Gypsies," he said. Majority Roma group leaders Frantiaek Jankoviè and Marianka Biháriová responded that Polakoviè himself was the main agitator in the conflict, a claim that was backed by Plavecký `tvrtok Mayor Margita Fischerová. "Everyone is free. If you don't like living here, you can buy a flat somewhere else and move away," she told Polakoviè. "But don't stick a knife to my neck and demand that I do something!" The RIS's Ladislav Fizik then reacted angrily t doors had been locked, preventing them from entering). Upon learning that the meeting had been concluded (with another scheduled for June 19), tempers flared. Women whose husbands have been imprisoned demanded their release, while several others jockeyed for space around a Slovak Television camera crew to convey their opinions. One man, wearing a white bandage around his neck, yelled at Fizik, removing a dressing on his neck to reveal a large suture. He had been attacked in the recent altercations, he bellowed, and wanted his living conditions improved.

    Picking up the pieces
    In the aftermath of the failed summit, observers struggled to predict the future. Columbus Igboanusi, the head of the League of Human Rights Advocates who has been working with the Plavecký Štvrtok Roma since 1995, the past month as an intermediary between the two sides, said that Polakoviè would likely reject any proffered resolutions, as the violence had brought media attention which in turn had justified his position. "He wants the media coverage to continue for personal benefits [such as justifying possible claims for asylum in a western country, or for Slovak government assistance in relocating - ed. note]" Ignoanusi said. "He's not thinking about the community as a whole." Igboanusi had little faith Polakoviè would sign the petition. "He'll tell his people not to sign it," he said. "I'll have to tell the minority group to get a new leader to speak on their behalf. We have good intentions to solve this problem, but he's imposing his own will on the situation." Regardless of individual motives, however, Igboanusi said the intractable conflict above all was evidence of the depth of despair among the Slovak Roma. "These people are isolated, they have no job opportunities, they live in terrible conditions, they face discrimination by white society," he said. "It's not that they are lazy, it's not that they don't want to be a part of civilisation. But when you treat people like animals for so long, they behave as such."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    A parliamentary majority has voted no to a proposal for obligatory HIV tests of all who apply for a Norwegian residence permit. The proposal was presented by former Progress Party MPs, now independent, Vidar Kleppe and Joern L.Stang. It only received the support of the Progress Party (FrP), and the independent MPs who broke away from FrP earlier this year. The proposal is part of the general debate around Norwegian immigration policy, in an attempt to frighten people and brand a whole group of people as carriers of HIV/AIDS, Regional Minister Sylvia Brustad said.
    It is dicriminating and a breach of human rights, Brustad said.
    ©The Norwaypost

    Two 19-year-olds have been found not guilty of racism in a trial examining the tragic drowning of Indian-born Norwegian Arve Beheim Karlsen. However the teenagers have been convicted of violent and threatening behaviour. Arve Beheim Karlsen was adopted as a baby by Norwegian parents. He drowned in the freezing Sogndal River in April 1999 after being chased through the town by chanting white youths. The defendants from Naustdal in Sunnfjord were acquitted of charges brought under Norway's racism paragraph. They were sentenced instead to three years and one year respectively for bullying and threatening Beheim Karlsen. In an epilogue to sentencing the court declared that society's liberal policy on alcohol was partly responsible for cases such as this.

    The U.N. Security Council has tentatively scheduled a vote sometime in late June on Kofi Annan's nomination for a second term as secretary-general, and the General Assembly is expected to confirm him, officials said Friday. Annan, 63, announced his candidacy for another five-year term in March and quickly won support from countries around the globe. President Bush was one of the first to back his bid for a new term. Support from the United States — as well as Russia, France, China and Britain — is key since any of the five Security Council members can veto a candidate before sending nominations on to the General Assembly for a final vote. By tradition, the secretary-general's job rotates every 10 years by region, and by the end of this year, Africa will have had 10 years in the seat. But Africa's term was divided because the United States blocked Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, from getting a second term. Annan has won high marks for his performance, and African nations launched a campaign to give him a second term — even though that would mean the region would have 15 years in the top U.N. job. Asia, which is next in the rotation to choose a secretary-general, was badly divided on a candidate. So it decided to back Annan, which gives the Asians five more years to try to agree on a candidate.
    ©Associated Press

    Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said on Monday Western criticism of his drive to seize white-owned farms for landless blacks was motivated by racism. Mugabe said the land issue had been distorted by the foreign media and other critics who have accused his government of ignoring the rule of law and violating constitutional freedoms in the pursuit of land reform. "A disturbing pattern which we see emerging is the prevalence of these allegations against us persistently among Western European and other white-ruled countries," Mugabe told a meeting of southern African defense and foreign ministers. "This trend implies some racial motivation since the world is being deceived into believing that a villainous black government is victimizing the white people in Zimbabwe," he added. Mugabe was addressing ministers from the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) who are meeting in Harare to discuss regional political and security issues. The 77-year-old Zimbabwean leader said his controversial land-seizure programme was meant to correct unjust land ownership in the former British colony and to ensure long-term social stability. Mugabe, who led the country to independence in 1980 after a seven-year guerrilla war against white minority rule, has targeted more than 3,000 white-owned farms as part of a plan to redistribute land he says was stolen by British settlers more than a century ago. Mugabe says 4,500 white farmers own 70 percent of the country's best farmland while a majority of blacks are squeezed in barren districts. Land seizures have been accompanied by violence and a subsequent fall in output at commercial farms since the land programme began last year. Foreign investment has also fled the country as it struggles through its worst economic crisis in two decades. Mugabe, who faces his toughest opposition challenge in presidential elections next year, said the SADC ministers should judge the land issue for themselves, and not rely on the Western media's interpretation of events. "The land issue has now been extensively distorted by the deliberate introduction of extraneous political issues such as political governance, democracy, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the judiciary," Mugabe said. "Concepts which were alien to the Rhodesian regimes until we introduced them in independent Zimbabwe," he added. White farmers and many of Mugabe's critics say they support the redistribution of land. But they are opposed to Harare's land grab without paying compensation, except for improvements to the farm. Some of Mugabe's toughest critics are black Zimbabweans who say the former guerrilla leader is deliberately pursuing a controversial land reform scheme to mask his political and economic mismanagement over the last 21 years.
    ©Cable News Network

    Ms Robinson urged delegates to find common ground A dispute pitting the United States and European nations against African countries has slowed preparations for a major United Nations conference on racism. South Africa is leading an African bloc that wants the conference to label slavery "a crime against humanity" - a description which the UK, Spain and Portugal reject. The European countries and the US are also resisting African calls for some kind of reparations for the slave trade. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson - who will host the anti-racism conference in the South African city of Durban later this year - urged delegates to "look for common ground" at the final meeting to prepare for the conference. "We can take the narrow view and argue every detail right up to Durban," she said on Monday. "The alternative is to follow the path that has been the hallmark of every successful world conference - to look for common ground."

    Compromise possible
    The BBC's Fergus Nicoll said that the Europeans and Africans will probably be able to work out a compromise on wording, perhaps calling present-day human trafficking a crime. It may be more difficult to reach consensus over compensation. The US has threatened to withdraw funding for the conference if it includes a call for reparations. The event - officially called the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - will be held from 31 August to 7 September.
    ©BBC News

    By Gustavo Capdevila
    GENEVA, May 29 (IPS) - The question of reparations for slavery and colonialism has divided the delegations involved in drafting the final document for the United Nations-sponsored World Conference against Racism, to be held in Durban, South Africa, Aug 31 to Sep 7. A bloc of African nations intends to approve measures in Durban about reparation, restoration and indemnity for countries, groups and individuals harmed by slavery and the slave trade, colonialism, and economic and political exclusion. However, a totally different standard predominates among many industrialised countries, which are hard-pressed to discuss even moral reparations. The final document for Durban will be debated until the last moment in the South African city, because in the two periods of the preparatory commission's sessions, the regional groups have been unable to reach complete agreement on the text. Knosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, admitted Tuesday that during this last session of the preparatory committee, May 21 to Jun 1, an accord has not yet been finalised on the ''difficult issue'' of compensation. But despite the obstacles, the matter ''is very important for confronting the past,'' said the South African minister who is in Geneva to attend the preparatory sessions for the World Conference against Racism. In South Africa, society is engaged in this ''painful and uncomfortable'' exercise, through a process that involves victims as well as perpetrators, she said. Throughout centuries of colonial domination, first by the Dutch, then the British, and later the ''apartheid'' regime under the white minority, South Africa's native African population was brutally subjugated by total racial segregation until 1994. Dlamini-Zuma said that in South Africa it is easier today to confront the past ''because both (victims and perpetrators) know that our destiny is very linked.'' Despite the discrepancies in Geneva about compensation for racial injustices, the South African official is confident that the delegates will ''close that chapter in a way that is acceptable to all of us... and will be a product of negotiations between all of us.'' Consensus will be reached ''only when we all agree that the past was a serious injustice and that it needs to be dealt with'' in order to definitively end this chapter, she said. The South African experience demonstrates that the compensation aspired by the victims include symbolic measures, such as providing wheelchairs for the disabled, school scholarships for the children of poor families, or a monument in a village to remember those who died in the battle against apartheid, pointed out Dlamini-Zuma. It is impossible to put a price on reparations, but efforts should include elements that improve the victims' lives today, their self-esteem and dignity, the minister said. The essential aspects are to recognise the injustices of the past and that compensation must be the result of negotiations, she added. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also acknowledged the difficulties the preparatory process for the Durban conference faces in reaching consensus on matters related to slavery and colonialism. ''Colonialism is particularly difficult because, for a number of colonial countries, there is a great sense of pride in their history,'' Robinson said. The negotiations will therefore require a considerable capacity for true compromise in order to engage in this painful process, added the UN official. Robinson provided an analysis of the most recent racist violence in Europe, which occurred over the weekend in the English city of Oldham, where white ''skinheads'' attacked descendants of Asian immigrants. The High Commissioner pointed out that ''second and third generation British citizens are characterised even by the media as being 'Asian' in a way that doesn't necessarily reinforce the fact that they are indeed citizens of the country.'' Robinson stated that it must be ''recognised that in many European countries there are rising problems of xenophobia, rising problems of tensions - and political exploitation of these issues.''
    ©Inter Press Service

    German Jewish Council wants opening to coincide with that of Holocaust memorial

    On Tuesday, Holocaust survivors handed in a petition to the Bundestag (parliament) and Berlin city hall containing 4,156 signatures in support of a Holocaust memorial erected next to the federal parliament building, the Reichstag, to commemorate the murdered Roma and Sinti. Signatories include the head of the DGB trade-union federation, Dieter Schulte, authors Guenter Grass and Siegfried Lenz, the chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, and politicians from all nationally represented parties. There is no longer any dispute that the monument should be built. What is now at issue are the "timeframes", as the Social Democratic chair of the Interior Ministry committee Ute Vogt has made it clear. She received the petition on behalf of the Bundestag. The head of the Central Council of Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, hopes that the memorials for his murdered people and the Jews can be presented to the public at the same time. The monument for the murdered Jews is due to be opened on January 27, 2004. At the end of this month, the choice of the Central council of Sinti and Roman, the artist Dani Karavan, will present Berlin city's Social Democratic Construction Senator Peter Strieder with his blueprint for the monument. Romani Rose stressed that nothing monumental would be built on the "highly sensitive site" between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. If the proposed edifice meets with approval, the Bundestag will carry a cross-party motion to build it. On the question of funding, Rose referred to a meeting with the Social Democrats' Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at which he reportedly pledged the necessary money. Meanwhile, a foundation called Memorial To The Murdered Jews of Europe is considering how best to keep alive the memory of all Nazi-era victim-groups. The foundation's board of trustees, under the leadership of the historian Wolfgang Benz, hopes to present a concept by the end of the year. In early May, a pressure group began calling for the erection of a monument to persecuted homosexuals, with one possible siting near the Reichstag. Here too, the backers of this plan include Spiegel, Rose, Schulte and Grass. Another initiative aims to honour euthanasia victims in a "Haus des Eigensinns" (House of Maddening Beauty) in Berlin's Tiergarten park. The Berlin city government, however, appears unwilling to admit any other centrally-sited monuments in the heart of Berlin for groups other than Jews and Sinti and Roma. The genocide perpetrated on these two groups justifies the special commemoration, says Ekkehard Klausa, who is in charge of monuments at the Culture Senator. He refers to local monuments and to the Neue Wache as centres of commemoration for all victims of violent rule.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Several thousand people have marched through central Algiers to call greater rights for the country's minority Berbers. The Front for Socialist Forces organised the protest to show its opposition to the way the government has handled riots in the eastern Kabyle region, where the Berbers live. The violence in the region has come on top of a nine-year Islamic insurgency, which has been marked by daily attacks and killings. More than 100,000 people have been killed since violence erupted in 1992. Security forces were visibly present at the start of the demonstration, with a helicopter hovering overhead. Protesters also staged a sit-in in front of government offices. The demonstrations ended without incident. Marchers demanded an international inquiry into unrest that erupted in mid-April after a teenager died in police custody. Since then, many peaceful demonstrations have ended in violence, and riots have broken out almost daily across the Berber region. At least 51 deaths have been reported. Nine people - three civilians and six Islamic militants - were killed on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Algerian media reports. Three people were killed by militants who set up a road block near the city of Ain Delfa, about 93 miles west of Algiers, the daily Liberte has reported. El Watan newspaper has reported that six militants were killed by security forces in the Setif region, 186 miles from the capital.

    The one thing that everyone in this shell-shocked community seems to agree on is that itall began quietly, with a run-of-the-mill argument between two teenage boys - one white, one a Briton of Pakistani origin - outside a fish-and-chip shop. But the underlying reasons for what are being called the worst race riots in Britain in 15 years are another matter entirely. Some blame pervasive racism among whites, who make up 89 percent of the population in this depressed former mill town. Others blame lawlessness among youths of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, who have reportedly declared parts of Oldham off limits to whites. And many point to the inflammatory presence of British nationalist and white supremacist groups, which have been distributing pro-white leaflets and spreading anti-immigrant messages here since April, when an elderly war veteran was beaten by several nonwhite youths. "The worst part is the National Front," said Arshad Parvaez, a taxi driver who was getting his hair trimmed on Wednesday afternoon at Ali's barber shop, behind a broken and boarded-up window near the scene of some of the worst rioting. "On this street, we've always coexisted with whites, with no problems. But since they've come in, people stare at you as you walk out of your house, as you get in your car." Whatever is going on here, it is clear that the events of last Saturday night provided the spark. One minute, two youths were arguing outside the Good Taste fish-and-chips shop on Roundthorne Road; the next minute, the mother of the white youth - some residents said she was drunk and volatile - was seen pulling out a cell phone and making calls. Soon afterward, a group of perhaps two dozen whites arrived in taxis, clearly itching for a fight. They jumped on cars, threw rocks through store windows, and smashed the windows of houses owned by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. The police began arriving, but soon nonwhite youths were gathering too, and retaliating. At the bottom of the street, dozens swarmed onto the parking lot of the Live and Let Live Pub, attacking customers, throwing a firebomb through a window and smashing half a dozen cars. Later, they firebombed the offices of The Oldham Evening Chronicle, a newspaper that people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent say exaggerates anti-white violence while ignoring violence against nonwhites. By the end of the night, as many as 500 nonwhite youths were battling in the streets with police officers in riot gear, and 15 police officers and 10 civilians had been injured. Sporadic violence continued on Sunday and Monday nights, with more damage to stores and cars. "It was a minor thing that started this, but it was the Asians that were responsible," Paul Barrow, owner of the Live and Let Live Pub, said, using the general British term for people whose families come from the Indian subcontinent. "I don't think the Asian community is doing enough for itself. Ten or 15 years ago, young people used to listen to their elders, but now they don't." It is not as simple as that. Until the late 1960s, Oldham - northeast of Manchester - was almost totally white. Then Bangladeshis and Pakistanis began to arrive by the thousands, lured by jobs that no one else wanted, as night-shift workers at the cotton mills. But then the mills closed. Now as many as half the young men of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent have no work, officials say. Some parts of Oldham, especially nonwhite housing complexes, have become known for violence and petty crime. So when Walter Chamberlain, 76, was attacked by three young nonwhites, the incident was seized on by the British National Party as an example of the failure of the multiracial society. White supremacists are not the only ones who feel that way. "They want their own little communities, with mosques and things," said Keith Greenhouse, as he boarded a bus in a white area of Oldham. "I wouldn't go to America and force the ©International Herald Tribune

    The Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs has banned the import of Jehovah's Witnesses religious literature on the grounds that it would have a negative impact on children and youth. This was the first time that the Jehovah's Witnesses sect in Yugoslavia has encountered problems in importing publications. The Federal Ministry's decision of 9 April, signed by Minister Zoran Zivkovic, cites "doubts with regard to the content and number of copies of 120 titles for whose import and distribution in FR Yugoslavia the permit is sought. The contents of many of these publications indicate that they are intended primarily for proselytizing and not meeting the religious needs of the Jehovah's Witnesses Christian religious community, while the number of copies of some of the publications exceeds many times the real number of members of this religious community." The Humanitarian Law Center points out that the rationale of the Federal Ministry is in violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and dissemination of information. Only the contents and not the number of copies of a publication may result in an import ban. The Federal Ministry did not say, however, in what way the Jehovah's Witnesses literature would have a negative impact on children and youth though it was bound to cite excerpts from these publications that would have a harmful effect on their upbringing.
    ©Humanitarian Law Center


    Asylum seekers unite in London
    Ladislav Balaz, chair of Eruope-Roma and a founder member of the Czech Republic's Roma Civic initiative, said at a public meeting in London on 21 May that the current UK general elections were stirring up more racism against Roma refugees. The number being deported had risen sharply in recent weeks. Himself an asylum seeker, Balaz was speaking at the AGM of Europe-Roma. Convened to broaden the organization, it was attended by more than a hundred Roma from Czec Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia, and their supporters. Elected to the Europe-Roma steering committee, Florina Zoltan, a survivor of Hadareni, the village in Romania burned down in a racial attack in 1993, said her closest family, including her husband, were murdered by the mob. Founding Romani Promise and projects for inter-ethnic relations, Mrs Zoltan took the case of Hadareni to the Romanian courts. But the perpetrators were released on the orders of President Ion Iliescu. Since pursued by the Romanian security police, Florina Zoltan has now applied for asylum in the UK. Meanwhile, the Hadareni pogrom is the subject of an application to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Co-ordinator of Europe-Roma Amanda Sebestyen said the new, larger Steering Committee would enable the group to expand its work and develop fresh strategies. So far, it had assisted in nearly 300 cases but many more Roma refugees needed help.

    Slavery issue for conference
    The issue of Roma slavery could be raised by representatives attanding the UN sponsored conference on racism, taking place in Durban, South Africa, at the end of August. Already, African nations are backing a resolution demanding that 19th century slavery be declared "a crime against humanity" requiring substantial reparations from the former slave states. Legal experts say once passed, the terms used could have strong implications in international law for any country which had permitted slavery. Mary Robinson, former Irish president and now UN Commissioner for Human Rights, says she is supporting the resolution. American diplomats have also stated that they are ready to recognize all slavery as a crime against humanity. In the case of Romania, the state itself as well as the church, at one time owned many thousands of Roma slaves. Their status was similar in every respect to that of African slaves on the plantations in the southern United States, according to historical studies. Roma slaves wore chains on their hands and feet, and even iron rings around their necks. Flogging, starvation and exposure was common, separation of children from parents a regular procedure at slave markets. In the mountains of Transylvania, Roma organized an "ustiben" and carried on an armed struggle, fighting against attempts to capture and enslave them. This insurrection led to the final abolition of slavery in 1856 when 200,000 Roma were released from bondage.
    Roma in Israel

    It has been more than a century since General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered that the coastlands confiscated in the Civil War be divided into 40-acre plots and distributed to thousands of former slaves. After Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Andrew Johnson rescinded the order and took back the land that had been distributed. Since then, the idea of compensating African-Americans for the sins of two and a half centuries of slavery has hovered in the background, far from reality. But now the movement for reparations is gaining steam. As a political matter, reparations has been a nonstarter: Every year since 1989, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, has introduced legislation calling for a comprehensive study of reparations, and every year the legislation has stalled. But as a social and legal movement, the call for reparations has taken on substantial force this year. Black professionals and scholars are taking up a cause that used to engage mostly working-class blacks. And beyond the longstanding efforts to seek government restitution, there is a new focus on winning reparations from corporations that once profited from slavery.

    The new momentum is apparent on many fronts:

  • A California law that took effect this year requires every insurance company licensed in the state to research its past business, and that of its predecessor companies, and report to the state whether it ever sold policies insuring slave owners against the loss of their slave property, and if so to whom.
  • A team of prominent African-American lawyers has announced plans to file lawsuits early next year seeking damages from the federal government and companies that profited from slavery. The team is part of the Reparations Coordinating Committee, led by Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, and Randall Robinson, the founder of TransAfrica, a lobbying group.
  • In March, the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Race Riots of 1921 recommended that survivors and their descendants be paid reparations for the uprising in which thousands of whites stormed a prosperous black neighborhood in Tulsa destroying homes and businesses and killing at least 40 people.
  • Aetna formally apologized in March 2000 for having written policies for slave owners on the lives of their slaves. Three months later The Hartford Courant, which had run a front-page article about Aetna's apology, made a front-page apology of its own, for having run advertisements for the sale and capture of slaves.
  • Advocates of reparations are fighting to make compensation for slavery an official theme of the UN World Conference Against Racism in August, and hoping to win a declaration that slavery is a crime against humanity for which reparations should be paid.
  • Last month, The Philadelphia Inquirer published two full-page editorials urging the creation of a national reparations commission. The idea of reparations raises tangled questions about who should pay the money and who should receive it - and, more profoundly, about the relative merits of affirmative action and restitution.

    THE REPARATIONS Coordinating Committee's litigation is unlikely to get into such particulars. The first task, lawyers say, is to establish a legal wrong that must be remedied. "The history of slavery in America has never been fully addressed in a public forum," Mr. Ogletree said. "Litigation will show what slavery meant, how it was profitable and how the issue of white privilege is still with us. Litigation is a place to start, because it focuses attention on the issue."
    Some blacks dismiss the reparations movement as a digression from the issues that matter. "If the government got the money from the tooth fairy or Santa Claus, that'd be great," said Walter Williams, chairman of the economics department at George Mason University. "But the government has to take the money from citizens, and there are no citizens alive today who were responsible for slavery. The problems that black people face are not going to be solved by white people, and they're not going to be solved by money. The resources that are going into the fight for reparations would be far more valuably spent making sure that black kids have a credible education."
    Reparations remain a divisive idea, opposed by the vast majority of whites but widely supported by African-Americans. "There is now no major black organization that does not support reparations," said Mr. Robinson, whose book "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks" is a steady seller in black bookstores.
    The legal argument, he said, is compelling: "When government participates in a crime against humanity, and benefits from it, then that government is under the law obliged to make the victims whole. That's recognized as a principle of law."
    Certainly, reparations payments have become an increasingly familiar concept. The U.S. government has paid reparations to Japanese-Americans interned in World War II, and to several Indian tribes. Holocaust survivors who were used as forced laborers have won reparations from European countries. Mexican braceros who worked in the United States during World War II have filed a class-action lawsuit for reparations. Stuart Eizenstat, who as a senior official in the Clinton administration negotiated settlements under which Holocaust victims would receive $8 billion in reparations from the governments of Germany, France and Austria and from Swiss banks, said that he viewed those cases as different from the African-American claims, because Holocaust reparations are going largely to surviving victims, while slavery reparations would go to descendants generations removed. "For slavery qua slavery, I think the appropriate remedy is affirmative government action in general, rather than reparations," said Mr. Eizenstat, who is now in private life. "And if 100 years from now the great-great-grandson of a Holocaust laborer asked for reparations, I don't think that would be appropriate, unless there was some specific property that had been confiscated that they wanted to recover."
    Those campaigning for reparations say that they are prepared to prove that African-Americans today continue to suffer from the legacy of slavery - and, after slavery, another century of legal discrimination. "We are not raising claims that you should pay us because you did something to us 150 years ago," said Adjoa Aiyetoro, a legal consultant to the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, which is preparing its own lawsuit against the federal government and working with the coordinating committee. "We are saying that we are injured today by the vestiges of slavery, which took away income and property that was rightfully ours."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The final committee of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been dissolved. The committee has been considering amnesty applications. The commission was set up in 1995 in the aftermath of South Africa's first non-race elections. It was a remarkable experiment in trying to come to terms with, and to heal, the deep scars of apartheid. Under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it invited people on both sides to confess the excesses of the past in return for leniency, even amnesty. It was meant to help bury the legacy of division and forge a more united future.

    Heated debate
    Its proceedings unveiled horrific acts of cruelty and were themselves traumatic. But the legacy of the commission itself still provokes heated debate. Many whites complain that it has deepened, not healed, the divisions of history. Many blacks feel their previous oppressors have in some cases literally got away with murder. The enduring memory of the commission is of blacks retelling their experiences but few whites, particularly those in positions of responsibility, accounting for their actions. And most of those now seeking reparations for apartheid still have not received any.

    'Two nations'
    The government believes the commission has helped in the healing process, although President Thabo Mbeki himself still speaks of the country as two nations. The commission has been suspended since it issued an initial report in 1998, which was a broad indictment of the institutions which supported apartheid. Its amnesty committee has continued its work in hearing some 6,000 amnesty applications. It will now consider its findings. But as it wraps up its proceedings, the commission as a whole is being reconstituted, in order to produce a final report by the end of the year.
    ©BBC News

    Italian newspapers have lavished praise on second division team Treviso who showed solidarity with a racially-abused Nigerian team-mate by smearing their faces with black shoe polish. The players' support for forward Oluwashegun Omolade came during Sunday's home game against Genoa. Last week at Ternana, travelling Treviso fans displayed a banner declaring: "We don't want a black player on our team," and left the stadium shortly after Omolade was fielded. Both the country's largest sports dailies, Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport, called the players' gesture "a goal against racism". Omolade, 18, scored with five minutes to go after coming on 25 minutes from the end, and dedicated the goal to his team-mates. Treviso, fourth from bottom in the league standings, conceded a last-minute goal to draw 2-2 but had already been relegated to Serie C.

    Important message
    "We sent out a message that has nothing to do with the game of football but perhaps is much more important," said the team's goalkeeper, Marco Fortin. But the message seemed lost on Treviso mayor, Giancarlo Gentilini, a member of the sometimes xenophobic Northern League party. "The faces painted black? Maybe it's the colour of shame for being relegated," he was quoted as saying by Monday's Gazzetta. Italian football has been plagued by endemic racism with such extreme situations as first division Verona saying their fans would not allow them to sign black players. Earlier this month, Lazio fans were banned from their home ground for one match after fans booed black Roma players Cafu, Aldair and Jonathan Zebina, as well as displaying banners attacking Rome's Jewish community. Lazio president Sergio Cragnotti responded by putting Ghanaian defender Daniel Ola, a youth team player, on the bench for the next game at home to Bari.
    ©BBC News

    Black voters in the crucial state of Florida were discriminated against in last year's presidential election because of "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency", an independent investigation has concluded. Black voters were 10 times more likely than whites to have their ballots rejected, a final draft of an inquiry by the American Commission on Civil Rights said. The report criticises Florida's Republican Governor, Jeb Bush ­ brother of the President ­ though there is no "conclusive evidence" that he or other officials conspired to disenfranchise minority voters. The report reveals that there was a failure to educate voters about the now-notorious voting systems, and poorer counties had less efficient voting machines. It also confirms something that was widely suspected at the time of November's election, namely that poor and minority voters ­ barriers kept some disabled voters from reaching the polling sites ­ had much less chance of having their vote counted than their better-off white counterparts. The report added that some Hispanic and Haitian voters were not provided with ballots in their native language, and there were no clear guidelines to protect the votes of eligible voters from being wrongly removed. The commission will now ask the US Department of Justice and the Florida attorney general's office to investigate whether federal or state civil rights laws were broken. The Democrats have always claimed that the black votes they lost as a result of such disenfranchisement helped cost them the election. Yesterday, a spokesman for the party in Florida said: "This is the worst possible scandal that you can have because it adds to the illegitimacy of the President of the United States. "Two things strike us: the sheer horror that voting in the most advanced country in the world does not work, and the [behaviour of the] Governor. When these people were crying out for leadership, he was hiding." The inquiry, which took six months to complete, says the problems were not isolated. It says: "The disenfranchisement was not isolated or episodic. State officials failed to fulfil their duties in a manner that would prevent this disenfranchisement. Despite the closeness of the election, it was the widespread voter disenfranchisement ... that was the extraordinary feature in the Florida election." Florida proved to be the crucial state in the election. An effort by the Democrats to have a series of recounts was ultimately unsuccessful and the presidency was, in effect, handed to George Bush by the US Supreme Court, which ruled to halt those recounts that were under way. While the election process in Florida has been a matter of scrutiny since November, the commission's inquiry is the most wide-ranging to date. Its 167-page report was compiled by an investigation that included a three-day hearing, interviews with more than 100 witnesses and a review of 118,000 documents.
    © Independent Digital

    Greece began a vast drive Tuesday to register hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, giving them a final chance to live and work without fear of deportation. Long lines formed in the capital, with crowds of people spilling into the streets and causing traffic jams. Among them were 2,000 who had been released by the police so that they could start the legalization process. Tens of thousands of others lined up outside municipal offices around the country to submit the documentation required to receive green cards that would allow them to become legal residents. "This is a giant attempt," Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou said after visiting a registration center in central Athens. Her ministry hoped that about 20,000 people would be registered by the end of the day. The program estimates that about 500,000 immigrants will be registered by Aug. 2. Nearly all the immigrants are thought to be from neighboring Albania, but there are also people from Eastern Europe and Asia. The program applies only to immigrants who can prove that they have been in Greece for at least one year. The proof can include any type of bill, payment voucher or public document. It is the second time in three years that the Socialist government has attempted to legalize most of the nearly one million immigrants thought to have flooded into Greece since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe a decade ago. The results of a national census earlier this year showed Greece's population had risen 6.6 percent in the last decade, to 10.9 million people, an increase directly attributed to immigrants. The government hopes the registration drive will stabilize the labor market and strengthen the country's nearly bankrupt social security system. Illegal immigrants have also strained Greece's free public school and health systems. The interior minister said she hoped the process would alleviate incidents of xenophobia and racism. "Greece was initially unprepared for the wave of immigrants that came to this country," she said. "We must find ways to integrate them calmly." Tough new laws on immigration also spell immediate deportation for immigrants who do not register. "This is a second chance for people to make their stay legal," Vasso Papandreou said recently. "Those who do not fulfill the requirements will have to leave."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    A Flemish minister has resigned after attending a meeting of World War II SS veterans and extreme right-wing sympathisers. The Flemish Interior Minister, Johan Sauwens, was asked to step down by his party, the Volksunie (People's Union), after more than six hours' deliberations. "I have told the party's members that I will resign my post", Mr Sauwens said after the meeting. He wanted to "offer the Flemish government room to get itself out of the (crisis) situation," he added. Mr Sauwens' attendance at the meeting last weekend sparked a political crisis in Flanders, Belgium's Dutch-speaking northern region.

    Political fall-out
    The other three parties in Flemish Premier Patrick Dewael's government had called for his resignation, as did opposition Christian Democrats and the extreme right-wing Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc). Mr Sauwens initially apologised and said he had renounced his membership of the Sint-Maartensfonds in Antwerp - a support group for Belgian volunteers who fought for Hitler - which he joined 25 years ago, but refused to resign. A no-confidence vote which was to be held on Thursday is now likely to be dropped. But the political wrangling has damaged the unity of the coalition government in Flanders. The Volksunie's defence of Mr Sauwens has alienated it from its coalition partners. Photos and video footage of Saturday's meeting showed Mr Sauwens participating in festivities of far-right sympathisers. Johan Sauwens is seen to stand up as the uniformed participants sing the anthem of the Flemish SS brigade during World War II, including a call to arms. At a news conference, he admitted he had applauded during the meeting. But he said he was unaware of the meaning of the German songs and the nature of the gathering, he left after one participant called for the creation of a greater Germany.
    Flanders is the most populous of the three self-governing regions that make up Belgium, and is home to most of the Dutch-speakers who make up 60% of the country's population. After the end of World War II, thousands of Nazi sympathisers in Belgium were jailed and deprived of civil rights. Many politicians now consider that to have been unnecessarily harsh and have campaigned for an amnesty for collaborators. The Sint-Maartensfonds was founded in 1953 to help Dutch-speaking Belgians who volunteered to join Waffen SS units on the Russian front during the war.
    ©BBC News

    The French parliament has unanimously approved a law recognising the slave trade as a crime against humanity. The overseas minister Christian Paul said France wanted to inscribe in law its moral condemnation of slavery. He also called the law a measure against forgetting -- it seeks to promote studies on the subject and give them a more prominence. The government is also planning to name a special day to commemorate the abolition of slavery. Correspondents say the issue of slavery is still highly sensitive in many French overseas territories in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
    ©BBC News

    The Northern League has been holding anti-immigration rallies throughout northern Italy during the election campaign. Speakers at these rallies often read aloud lists of crimes committed by immigrants to cheers from the crowd. The town of Novi Ligure knows only too well how easily the Northern League can create hysteria. When a mother and son were violently hacked to death in his town, the surviving daughter blamed an Albanian immigrant. The Northern League immediately organised a huge anti-immigrant rally. But it had to be suddenly cancelled with the shocking news that the murderer was not an immigrant but the daughter herself. "For the League this fear of immigration is a crucial issue which they say is real. They are obviously trying to exploit it to the full in this election campaign," says the mayor of Novi Ligure, Mario Lovelli. The League's campaign pledges include setting immigration quotas for each of Italy's 20 regions and measures to ensure that only immigrants with work permits would be allowed into the country. This is despite the fact that the north of Italy now desperately needs immigrants to fill growing labour shortages

    Changing faces
    In the 1990s, the Northern League's leader Umberto Bossi campaigned to create an independent North Italian state called 'Padania'. However since Italy joined the Euro this has lost much of its appeal. Now it has turned to a populist and even xenophobic rhetoric which sets Europe's teeth on edge and invites comparisons with Austria's Joerg Haider. Peter Semler, a freelance journalist investigating the Northern League is amazed at the makeover the party has undergone in recent years. "The Northern League began as a ethno-regionalist party to protect the cultural identity of Northern Italy. It was also an anti-corruption party against centralism and Rome," he says. "In the last two years it has transformed itself as a party of fear... a party fighting against the fear of immigration, globalisation, crime and the fear of change." Giancarlo Pagliarini, president of the Northern League group in the Italian Parliament rejects this view. "Many people say we are racist, others even say we eat babies. The point is that we are strongly against illegal immigration which is a dramatic situation in Italy".
    Berlusconi's bargain
    Aside from its core supporters, the Northern League is also expected to scoop up a significant protest vote. There is a feeling of exasperation with the current centre-left government that not enough has been done against crime, prostitution, justice and illegal immigration. The influence Mr Bossi and his party will have in the new Italian government depends entirely on the size of Berlusconi's victory. If he wins by a large majority then the League will be less important and may even fade away altogether, but if his lead is narrower, then he will have to rely on the support of the League to survive in government . However Berlusconi will be keen to avoid a repeat performance of 1994 when the League caused the collapse of Berlusconi's government by pulling out. This time he has promised Bossi tougher action on immigration. Bob Lasagna, a former Forza Italia member of parliament, predicts a rough ride for Berlusconi if he does not keep his word. "Berlusconi will definitely be pushed by Bossi to push the whole problem of immigration. Even if part of northern Italy is screaming for workers, the selection process required by the Northern League will be a new element. "No more open frontiers, no more open house and a different kind of immigrant, not these difficult bands of Albanians," he predicts.
    ©BBC News

    The US House of Representatives has voted to withhold part of a payment of nearly $250m owed to the United Nations until America is reinstated on a key human rights body. The vote was passed 252-165 and allows the payment of $582m in back dues but witholds an additional $244m owed. The move, Republican-led, comes despite opposition from President George W Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The US lost its seat on the Human Rights Commission last Thursday, a defeat compounded days later by its being voted off a second body, the international narcotics board.

    Legislators said the move to exclude the US was an "injustice" when countries such as Sudan, China and Libya were still represented on the Human Rights Commission. It "was a deliberate attempt to punish the United States for its insistence that we tell the truth about human rights abuses wherever they occur - including in those countries represented on the commission", Republican Henry Hyde said. The rejection of American candidates from the two bodies came as a shock. The popular explanations were, firstly, anger at the US over what is seen as an increasing bias against the Palestinians in the Mid-East crisis, and a selfish head-in-the-sand stance on climate change and the environment. It was also believed that those with a traditional grudge against the US had used the secret ballots as a chance to get back at Washington.

    Expulsion from the committee means the US will not be able to sponsor or vote on resolutions concerning human rights. The official UN line is that it, too, is dismayed at America's rejection, especially from the Human Rights Commission. Ahead of the Thursday's vote, a spokesman for the secretary-general appealed to US lawmakers not to "shoot the messenger". Holding money back as punishment, Fred Eckhard said, "would be counterproductive and unfair" to all 189 UN member nations.

    Speedy return?
    The BBC's UN correspondent Mike Donkin says unofficially there is some exasperation that the US seems to expect a place on key bodies as a right because it is so powerful. "Every nation here fails to win elections sometimes," one senior UN source told him. And when it comes to the $244m, the source pointed out, those are back dues only now being paid on Washington's condition that its overall contributions to the UN were cut. "There are as many reasons to vote against the Americans on these issues as there are nations at the UN," one veteran of many such standoffs wearily told our correspondent. "But there'll be a fix and they'll be back on the Human Rights Commission next year."
    ©BBC News

    Most black and white children are living in increasingly segregated neighborhoods, especially in the major metropolitan areas of the Midwest and Northeast, a new analysis of the latest U.S. census data shows. Although blacks and whites overall live in slightly more integrated areas than they did in 1990, the segregation of their children increased during the decade, according to an analysis by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany. The conflicting trends between children and the overall population reflect an exodus of white families with children from racially mixed cities to largely white suburbs, leaving behind more childless whites. The analysis noted that settings with forced integration, such as a college dormitory, usually do not include children. The findings carry unsettling implications for race relations in a nation that, while more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, has several major urban areas where white and black children are interacting less frequently. "It's a very big problem for white children who may think they're experiencing diversity in the country, but are only getting a taste of it," said John Logan, a sociologist at the university. "The problem for minority children is that, on average, they're growing up in neighborhoods where they are the majority and that's not the world they will live in," he said. Levels of black and white segregation of children younger than 18 are uneven across the United States. In a swath of northern cities from Milwaukee to New York, segregation levels of black and white children grew sharply in the past decade, largely as a result of what has been called white flight. But a counter-trend is mounting in the metropolitan areas of the Pacific Northwest such as Seattle and Portland, Oregon, where white and black youngsters live in increasingly integrated neighborhoods, researchers found. Many of the largest public schools in the United States have been struggling for years to cope with growing black-white segregation among youths. In Milwaukee, for instance, blacks now constitute 61 percent of the city's 60,000 public school pupils, an increase from 46 percent of the city's 41,000 schoolchildren in 1980. "It's white flight and it's increasingly difficult to have any kind of meaningful desegregation or integration," said Aquine Jackson, student services director for the Milwaukee public schools. Of the top 50 metropolitan areas, the five most segregated, by neighborhood, for black and white children were, in order: Detroit; Milwaukee; New York; Newark, New Jersey and Chicago.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The novelist Umberto Eco has joined the list of Italian intellectuals who have come out against a rightist coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi before legislative elections this weekend, press reports said Tuesday. In an article published in the on-line review Golem, Mr. Eco lashed out at Mr. Berlusconi's control of a host of media organizations, saying that should he be elected, Mr. Berlusconi would have excessive influence on public opinion. Nobody would like to wake up, Mr. Eco wrote, to discover that all the newspapers "belong to the same owner and fatally reflect his opinions. We would feel less free." He added: "One has never seen, in the history of any country, a newspaper or a television chain spontaneously launching a campaign against its owner."

    Silvio Berlusconi, the conservative media magnate, won a strong victory in Italy's national elections and was poised to become the nation's next prime minister backed by a solid center-right majority in Parliament, according to official results released Monday.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Danish court rejects extremists' claim to inheritance
    Every evening, they gathered outside the barricades surrounding the villa and sang selections from their repertoire of pro-democracy songs and the occasional self-penned ditty. All in all, for a total of 804 evenings in a row. Sometimes there were only half a dozen in the choir, sometimes ten times that number, the important thing was - they kept singing. The people living near the property in Norresundby in Denmark where the Neo-Nazis met were finally able to lift up their voices in full-throated jubilation on Tuesday when the High Court in Viborg announced its decision. The court ruled that the small group of right-wing extremists who moved into the property two years ago had no right to live there and would have to leave. The news spread around the small town and very quickly the activists had good reason to celebrate. "Every time I looked out of my window, I saw those neo-Nazis. That will all be over soon," said Julle Larsen, a member of the evening choir who raised their voices in song against their unwanted neighbours. The fact that, in the end, it was the High Court which succeeded in driving the neo-Nazis out of town and not the musical barrage is of absolutely no consequence to the singers: "Finally, we are getting our neighbourhood back!" They thought they had lost it when Gunnar Gram, a loner with neo-Nazi sympathies, bequeathed his house to the National Socialist Movement of Denmark (DNSB). Nobody has ever argued that this was not what he wanted. However, a legal slip-up eventually gave his half-sister grounds on which to contest the will. Gram chose Esben Kristensen - one of the neo-Nazis who then moved in to the property - to witness his signing of the will. This meant that he disqualified himself due to a conflict of interests. "I don't care about the house, but I'll do everything I can to annoy the neo-Nazis," explained Edith Craig, Gram's 82-year-old sister. The judges decided in her favour finding that Kristensen, as a "beneficiary" of the will, should not have acted as a witness at the signing of the will. This rendered the will invalid. The leader of the DNSB, Jonni Hansen, called the court's decision "theft" and a "political ruling". According to Danish lawyers, his reaction simply shows how ignorant the neo-Nazis are of the rules of the game: "Wills signed in front of witnesses are easy to contest." Hanson and his fellow neo-Nazis intend to accept the court's decision, however, the singing will continue for the time being. As Julle Larsen explained, "We won't stop until the last neo-Nazi has left town."
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Vienna, April 28 - April 29, 2001


    1. Africans and African descendants share common root, a common history (slave trade and slavery, and colonization), a common experience (anti-black racism). It is this common root, history and experience that bind us as a community; and as a community we are committed to eliminating anti-black racism every where it occurs, in any part of the World.

    2. Our motherland, Africa, is unique in the history of slavery. It is the only continent whose population was enslaved to contribute to the development of other nations. This exploitation took place particularly in the New World which became the World hub for growth. Africa, prosperous up to that time, fell victim to slavery, underdevelopment and marginalization in a definitive way. After the Slave Trade, Africa was plunged into a new form of enslavement, colonialism. Dismembered and divided among European powers, Western monopolies and the exploitation of raw material vital for Western industries which were flourishing at the time have cost African nations millions of lives .

    3. To ensure total control over Africans and African descendants, the West resorted to violence, brain-washing, enhancing Western history and values and falsifying and negating African history and values. The African culture must be revalued and respected; cultural imperialism must be eliminated in Africa.

    4. The Black slave trade (trans-Atlantic, trans-Saharan and trans-Indian Ocean), and the colonization of Africa are Black Holocausts. Out of Memory of our Ancestors, these two Black Holocausts must be respected and never forgotten.

    5. The two Black Holocausts, unprecedented genocides and systematic violations of human rights and the rights of Africans and African descendant People, constitute crimes against humanity.

    6. The Western countries and all other ancient slave holders have an obligation to provide Africans and African descendant people with reparation for all the wrongs done to them culturally, demographically, economically, politically, socially and morally. Reparations should be effected in the form and manner to be determined by African and African descendants civil society institutions.

    7. Africans and African descendants are commonly victims of anti-Black racism and of multiple forms of discrimination. The most pernicious are institutional, systemic and structural policies and practices. The impact of institutional and structural racism is felt in every aspect of life: housing, employment, education, civil and criminal justice, economic development. Many of these policies and practices are perpetrated by the states themselves. During the Nazi period, many Africans and African descendants were submitted to bad treatment and genocide. Their Memory should be preserved and compensations paid to their descendants.
    #. Many African and African descendants suffer from multi-oppressions structured around class, gender, disability, immigrant status, sexuality. These forms of oppression must be eliminated.

    8. Anti-Black racism (both past and present) is fundamentally rooted in white supremacy ideology and the economic profits of the colonial and neo-colonial oppressors. Acknowledging the specific nature of anti-Black racism is essential to effectively combating it.

    9. The development of Africa, greatly impeded by the global imbalances in power that has been created by slavery, colonialism, and other forms of exploitation, is maintained and extended today by neo-colonial policies and practices. In addition to the pillage of the human and material resources of Africa, its financial resources are being drained by foreign debt services. Slavery has just taken other forms. The right to life and liberty of the person of Black people is being regularly violated with complet care and poorer quality health care as compared to white Europeans and European descendants.

    13. Media and new technologies play a significant role in the maintenance of structural and cultural anti-black racism.

    14. Anti-black racism cannot be eradicated without the elimination of social ghettoization and demonization of Africans and African descendants.

    15. Environmental racism refers to any government, military, industry or other institution's action, or failure to act, which has a disproportionate negative environmental impact on Africans and African descendants, on Indigenous, Latino, Asian, migrant or other ethnic groups or the places where they live. Environmental racism, although not new, is a recent example of the historical double standard as to what is acceptable in certain communities, villages or cities and not in others. The mobility of corporations has made it possible for them to seek the greatest profit, the least government and environmental regulations and the best tax incentives, anywhere in the world. Natural resource extraction techniques, chemical uses and disposal of wastes unacceptable in white communities are routinely employed in African descendants communities.

    16. African and African descendants are victims of grave discriminatory treatment in the legal and judicial processes (as well as police procedures). This includes the framing up of accusations against Africans and African descendants, the duration of prison sentences , the inhuman state of prisons and the death penalty (where it exists) which particularly affects Africans and African descendants.

    17. The struggle against anti-black racism is inevitably linked with the struggle against poverty, racism against others, imperialism, globalization and war. Africans and African descendants express solidarity with other peoples who are similarly oppressed and exploited.

    18. In a world where people are valued and devalued according to a given level of economic development, it is essential that the economic development of Africa be promoted as a means of fighting racism.

    19. Africans and African descendants have significantly contributed to world history in all corners of and for the benefit of the world. Their achievements need to be re-assessed within the context of world's history, so that due respect may be given to the high performances by Africans and African descendants.

    20. Africans, African descendants and others must be educated and reeducated about the accurate history of Africa, Africans and African descendants. Such education must include accurate descriptions of the impact of the double Holocaust (colonialism and slavery).

    21. Educational steps to combat racism must also include challenging racist language and eradication of words and terms with a racist content especially when used by authorities.

    Plans of Action (or Recommendations?)
    22. European and American States, as well as Arab nations, must unconditionally and separately adopt a Declaration of recognition of the two Black Holocausts (Slave trade/Slavery and colonization) as crimes against Humanity.
    #. Arab nations who benefitted from trans-Saharan and trans-Indian Ocean slave trade, are invited as well to adopt an equivalent Declaration.

    23. European and American States must unconditionally and separately adopt a Declaration which asks for forgiveness for the exactions committed during the Black Holocausts and for their lasting effects on the Africans and African Descendants, on psychological spheres as well as on economical, social, political and cultural ones.

    24. Arab nations who benefitted from trans-Saharan and trans-Indian Ocean slave trade, are invited as well to adopt an equivalent Declaration.

    25. The German Government must also ask by a Declaration for forgiveness for the exactions and genocide committed during the World war by the Nazis against Africans and African descendants.

    26. States, surviving corporate interests, churches and non-governm

    30. The Office of the High Commissioner must authorize a representative of the African and African descendants to address the World Conference against Racism, Racial discrimination Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance in South Africa.

    31. Governments of the World must recognize anti-Black racism as a form of racism witch has its own specificity in the same way as anti-Semitism and to be differentiated from all other forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance.

    32. Governments of the World should support to and participate in the actions undertaken in favor of the struggle against anti-Black racism in the social, cultural, educational, legal, economical spheres, especially by organizations formed by Black immigrants and which promote anti-racism, an inter-cultural dialogue, a multi-cultural and tolerant society.

    33. The trafficking of African children for slavery and forced labour must stop. In particular, sexual trafficking and the sexual exploitation and profiling of African and African descendant women must be challenged, protested and terminate in all forms of media with all vigour.

    34. All organizations (multilateral, financial, development and human rights) must formulate diagnostic indicators of the impact and effectiveness of their policies and programs on African and African descendant communities.

    35. The criminalization of blackness has had, and continues to have, a negative impact, and must be stopped.

    36. Many artefacts and antiquities of African civilization have been stolen or taken out of the country without permission. Museums must return or compensate the countries from which these antiquities were taken.

    37. Governments (and others) must condemn any political, economic or social structure that has the effect of promoting, encouraging, or facilitating anti-Black racism.

    38. African governments and the international community must support the equitable redistribution of land on the continent and the right of all Africans and African descendants to return home without limitations or discrimination.

    39. European, American and other governments must repatriate funds stolen from African countries/people and stored in European and American banks to the African countries of their origin.

    40. States must eliminate racial disparities in education, housing, economic development and health care affecting Africans and African descendants.

    41. States, and United Nations organizations (such as World Health Organization), must routinely and systematically collect race, gender and socio-economic class data related to education, housing, health care, employment and environmental racism.

    42. States must adopt effective mechanisms for monitoring and eliminating all forms of racial discrimination, placing particular emphasis on institutional and structural anti-Black racism in education, environment, housing, employment, police, and the legal system.

    43. States, and the international community, must develop effective anti-discrimination laws which provide an adequate institutional framework for redress that is specific to eliminating institutional and structural anti-Black racism.

    44. States, and the international community, must introduce in schools courses of Geography and History which bring to light more about the African countries and populations, with emphasis on the double Black Holocaust, and the contributions of Africans and African descendants contributions to the economic and technologic progress of the World.

    45. States must adopt a prohibition against racist documents including books for children which convey a depreciative image of Blacks.
    #. Civil society groups should help develop advocacy strategies that link environmental issues (including environmental racism) to human rights. Governments should adopt and enforce legislation and policies that protect society from environmental racism.

    46. Medias of the World must implement initiatives for increasing public awareness Please send comments to

    The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has filed a criminal complaint with the Municipal Prosecutor's Office in Backa Topola, Vojvodina, against three local police officers who beat up two Roma men to force them to confess to stealing.
    On 7 May this year, a police patrol came to Ravno Selo and ordered two Roma villagers, Stevan Brancic (38) and Sasa Gojkov (28), to report to the police station in Vrbas at 1 p.m. When Brancic and Gojkov arrived, officers at the station asked them what they had stolen in Bajsa village where they had been the day before to buy piglets. Brancic and Gojkov denied any wrongdoing and, at about 3 p.m., were taken to the police station in Backa Topola.
    Brancic was led into an office where he was interrogated by Inspector Josip Fontanji. Another two policemen whose names he was not told were also in the room. As he was questioning Brancic, Inspector Fontanji suddenly punched him in the stomach and side and then, with one of the other officers, left the room. The remaining policeman started to hit Brancic on the palms with a long leather- or rubber- lined club and threatened to beat him about the head if he moved his hands. When, because of the pain, Brancic pulled back his hands, the officer struck him several blows to the head, after which he ordered him to stand facing the wall and place his hands against it. Brancic did so and the officer began hitting him brutally with the club on the kidney area, shoulders, thighs and buttocks. Brancic fell to his knees and the officer kicked him repeatedly in the stomach, shouting "You won't get out of here until your noses bleed; you'll have to carry each other!" Inspector Fontanji slapped Sasa Gojkov about a dozen times before taking him into an office where Gojkov clearly heard the sounds of Brancic being beaten in the room next door. The policeman in the room with Gojkov ordered him to stand facing the wall and beat him on the back, legs and buttocks with a club, and shouted, "Have you changed your mind? Confess! You'll start singing!" and cursed his "Gypsy mother." The policeman then left the room briefly and when he returned ordered Gojkov to yell loudly each time he struck an arm chair with the club. At one point, when it seemed to the officer that Gojkov had not yelled loudly enough, he struck him on the left cheek with the club.
    Despite the physical abuse, Brancic and Gojkov refused to admit to theft and were allowed to leave the police station at 7 p.m. As they were leaving the building, police threatened to beat them up if they were seen again in Backa Topola or Bajsa. Brancic and Gojkov were examined at the Backi Petrovac medical center where doctors established that both had suffered slight physical injuries.
    ©Humanitarian Law Center

    Refugee saved security guard's life, German prosecutor says

    A district court in the eastern German town of Neuruppin was expected to rule on Friday in the case of four young men accused of attacking a security guard at a housing facility for asylum seekers. A resident of the home intervened and saved the guard's life, according to the public prosecutor in Neuruppin, Kai Clement. Alfred F. is still alive. The heavy combat boots worn by the three young men who kicked his head and upper body left his jaw broken and robbed his consciousness. Half a year later, however, the 54-year-old security guard is back on the job. That Alfred F. came away with his life from the refugees' home in the small town Neustadt/Dosse in the eastern state of Brandenburg is due to one of the people he was charged with protecting, the public prosecutor believes. Umut Demir, a Kurdish asylum-seeker, did not hesitate long after he looked out his window and saw three skinheads kicking the watchman. "First I yelled 'stop' from the window," says Demir, "but the right-wingers kept on kicking." Umut Demir is 23 years old, just under 1.80 metres tall and not particularly broad-shouldered. Police in Turkey had tortured him before he fled two years ago to Germany, where he had lived previously until he was 18. Demir does not think his next actions that day were extraordinary. He ran into the kitchen where, for lack of a better weapon, he grabbed a broomstick and then proceeded to lay into the three attackers alone. Alfred F. is not very well-liked among the refugees at the home, says Demir, "but I can't just stand by and watch when a person is getting killed." The rightist attackers were not impressed at first by the asylum-seeker's attempts to pull them off of the guard, who was lying unconscious on the ground. Only after Umut Demir had whacked one of the men on the head with the broomstick, rendering him momentarily unable to fight, did the three forget about their victim and turn against the Kurd. Demir managed to get away. He ran back inside the home and called the police, who were able to arrest the attackers and the driver of their waiting car the same night because Umut Demir had noted the licence-plate number. The public prosecutor's office in Neuruppin asked the court to sentence the two main accused to seven and a half years in prison for joint attempted murder. The two men, 19 and 20, both have prior criminal convictions. For Public Prosecutor Kai Clement, it was a clear-cut crime of hate with a right-wing background. The four right-wing youths got together on the evening in October, 2000, originally intending to attack a local youth club. After not finding anyone at the club, they decided to head to the asylum-seekers' hostel in Neustadt/Dosse. There, they were planning on smashing the windows by hurling rocks and beer cans at them. When they happened upon Alfred F., the men insulted him, calling him a "dumb Pole" and demanding to know on which side of the political fence he stood: "Are you right or left?" The security guard's response - "in the middle" - was all the excuse the extremists needed to start in on him. Alfred F. has had several breakdowns since the attack and is now afraid of young people in cars. Authorities have transferred Umut Demir to another housing unit for refugees: sympathisers of the accused had threatened him that they would seek revenge. The Kurdish man does not consider himself a hero. He mentions, almost in passing, that the lights went off in the bar across the street from the home during the attack and that no passing car stopped. The refugee merely shrugs as he recounts that Alfred F. only gave him a fish by way of thanks. But Umut Demir becomes very angry when he talks about about the humiliating conditions in his new home, which he and his fellow asylum-seekers share with homeless people. The refugee says he does n ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Newborn mortality among refugees here is much higher than for the general population, according to a study. The study looked at 271 refugee women who were cared for at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin and found that mortality rate for newborn babies was 14.8pc compared with 5.6pc for infants born to Irish women. Seven of the women tested positive for HIV and two had active TB while the majority were living in emergency accommodation, the study in the Irish Medical Journal revealed. The average stage in the pregnancy at which they booked in was 33 weeks and many of them showed symptoms of obstetric, medical and social problems. The majority of the refugee mothers were from Africa with the rest coming from Romania, Kosovo, Russia and other countries. Most were married but the majority had left their partners and other children behind in their home country. The report stated: "Several of our refugee patients arrived at the delivery ward directly from the port of entry. "Those who arrived late and had HIV could not avail of the drug therapy to minimise the risk of their child also being infected." The average birth weight of the children was similar to that of the rest of the hospital population. Three of the babies who died were lost in the early neonatal period during the first week or two of life.

    The Czech foreign ministry has announced it will set up a special department by the end of next month, aimed at dealing with issues connected with the Roma minority. The deputy foreign minister, Martin Palous, said that the ministry would also employ an advisor for Romany affairs, who would himself or herself be a member of the Czech Republic's Romany minority. The move is a further step in the ministry's stated policy of respecting the Czech Roma as part of a European Romany nation. Last month the foreign minister signed a memorandum, promising official cooperation with the International Romany Union, which has represented Romanies worldwide since 1971.
    ©Radio Prague

    A few days after the French government's first public recognition of the persecution of homosexuals during World War II, GLBT organizations in Paris participated for the first time in official ceremonies in remembrance of the Jews and other victims of the Nazis deported from France during the war. France's national Day of Remembrance has traditionally focused on the Jewish and political victims of Nazi persecution, and on the collaborationist French government's culpability in deporting Jews and political prisoners into German hands (most of whom were then placed in concentration camps) during the Nazi occupation of the northern half of the country. For years GLBT groups have lobbied to include remembrance of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, only to be rebuffed -- sometimes with police barricades -- by the organizers of the various memorial ceremonies held in cities throughout France.

    Memorial to the Deportation
    This year, GLBT organizations were officially invited to participate in the ceremony held in Paris on Sunday at the Memorial to the Deportation, a monument behind Notre Dame Cathedral usually regarded as a memorial to the Jewish deportees and to the Holocaust. The main ceremony remembered all those deported into German hands during the war and made no mention of specific groups, but after this main section, members of the GLBT groups -- wearing pink triangles on their lapels -- placed a wreath of flowers in memory of the deportation and persecution of homosexuals. A delegate from the national veterans association was present at the wreath laying, along with city officials, several gay politicians and Pierre Seel, the last known surviving Frenchman imprisoned by the Germans for homosexuality. "Many people stopped to look at our wreath," one of the participants told France. "They were intrigued, and some of them asked questions."

    "No one should be left out"
    Jospin's comment last week, in which he said, "No one should be left out of this act of memory. It is important that our country directly recognizes the persecution perpetrated during the Occupation against certain minorities -- Spanish refugees, gypsies, or homosexuals," was followed by an official order to include gays in future remembrance ceremonies, and by a promise to form a commission of historians to study the persecution of homosexuals in France during the war, the newspaper Liberation reported. Gay groups also participated in memorial ceremonies held in Lille, Lyon and Le Mans. In Montpellier, gay activists were blocked by the police from laying a wreath until Mayor Georges Freche intervened. Freche calmed the organizers of the official ceremony and convinced them to let the gay group through. Freche offered to discuss creating an official day of remembrance for homosexual deportees. The Montpellier activists laid their wreath, held a moment of silence in memory of the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution and then, together, sang the "Marseillaise."

    From 1933 to 1945, between 100,000 and 150,000 homosexuals were arrested by the Nazis under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code. As many as 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, of which only about a third survived. Because Paragraph 175 remained on the books until the 1960s, many of those gay men who survived their wartime internment remained in prison for years afterward. In November 2000, the German government officially apologized for the persecution of homosexuals during and after the war.
    ©European Internet Network

    Debate continued on the floor of Parliament this week over proposed special benefits to be given to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries as a way both of preventing a wave of migration and preserving Magyar culture. Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Zsolt Nemeth claimed the law was needed to clarify once and for all how State support should be allocated to ethnic Hungarians living across the border. The Government claims every fourth ethnic Hungarian living outside of Hungary would like to leave their current country. "We firmly believe that if we do not create such a bill, even more ethnic Hungarians would leave their homes and come here," Nemeth said. The Status bill draft is currently supported by all Parliamentarian parties except the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and will probably be made into law this spring, taking effect in January 2002. According to the draft bill, those living in neighboring countries who consider themselves to be Hungarian will have to go before a "recommending committee" which, along with Hungary's Interior Ministry, will grant the participants a special identity card. This documentation will provide holders with (among other items) a 90 percent travel discount in Hungary four times a year, a Ft20,000 stipend for each child that attends a Hungarian-language school (at least two are needed to qualify), a temporary work permit for Hungary and further benefits for students and teachers. Socialists and Free Democrats criticize how exactly the Government will determine who is and who is not a Hungarian. The Free Democrats are advocating that there is no need for a "recommending committee". Socialist deputy Tabajdi, even though he supports the general idea of the bill, also has a few reservations about preserving the privacy of participants. "There should be reliable data protection to guarantee the security of ethnic Hungarians," he said. "There should also be an ombudsman overseeing the whole process of how and to whom benefits are handed out by the State." The budget for 2001-2002, includes the establishment of 25 offices within the Interior Ministry to prepare the identification process, which will cost Hungarian taxpayers about Ft8.5 billion ($28 million). The Government argues these costs will be offset by taxes generated from the income of visiting workers, which it calculates will total Ft5 billion. But some claim the figures may not add up. "The Government is underestimating the costs," said Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, the SZDSZ head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. "We shouldn't close our eyes to the fact that Hungarian employers employ ethnic Hungarians and other foreigners because they don't want to pay taxes and social security benefits. "This will not change by granting a work permit to those living next to Hungary." Meanwhile, Romania's and Yugoslavia's Foreign Ministers on recent visits to Hungary expressed concerns that they had not been notified of the idea. Szent-Ivanyi warned that there is a potential the whole affair could provoke tensions in the neighboring countries if there is not better communication. "We don't need to ask for permission, but we should inform and involve them in order to avoid misunderstandings." Those fears became tangible this week when Slovakia's Prime Minister declared, "The execution of certain paragraphs of the Status bill can damage the atmosphere in neighboring countries, as well as between Hungary and its neighbors."
    ©The Budapest Sun

    Poland's Roman Catholic bishops said on Wednesday they would apologize this month for the World War Two mass murder of a small town Jewish community by their non-Jewish neighbors. But they said they would also ask God to forgive wrongs done by Jews during the war as well as those done by Polish Catholics to Jews. In their first statement on the July 10, 1941, Jedwabne massacre that has stirred heated debate in Poland the bishops said they would hold a service on May 27 at a Warsaw church beside the former wartime ghetto created by the Nazis. They did not mention a 60th anniversary ceremony at Jedwabne on July 10 at which a monument to the town's Jews will be unveiled and ex-communist President Aleksander Kwasniewski plans to ask forgiveness for the massacre. Instead, the bishops said their prayers would include not only the Jews of Jedwabne but all Jewish and Catholic victims of "painful events" during World War Two. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the Polish Catholic primate, said in a separate statement that the May 27 prayers would include "all the evils done to Polish Catholics by Polish Jews." Glemp has already said he will not attend the ceremony requesting forgiveness at Jedwabne, 140 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Warsaw. A book by Polish-born academic Jan Gross has blamed Polish residents and not Nazi German occupiers for murdering all but seven of the 1,600 Jews in the north-eastern town of Jedwabne on June 10, 1941. The book has caused heated debate over Polish attitudes towards the Jews during the war. "The bishops want to apologize for the sins or for the evil that was committed during the painful event...against the Jews of Jedwabne," Catholic episcopate spokesman Adam Schulz told local news agency PAP. "The bishops want to ask God's forgiveness for the evil which was done and also apologize to the people who were affected by the evil," he was quoted saying. "Our prayers will include not only the victims in Jedwabne but also all painful events which took place during World War Two both on the Jewish and on the Catholic side," the episcopate spokesman said. The church has so far stayed on the sidelines of the Jedwabne debate, which has raised questions over Poles' deeply rooted image of themselves as heroes of World War Two. Poles often complain at what they see as a Jewish effort to minimize their suffering under Soviet and Nazi occupation in 1939-45, during which a fifth of the population died. The book which launched the debate over Jewabne says Poles herded local Jews into a barn and set it alight and then buried the charred bodies in a ditch. ome Jedwabne residents and historians say the massacre was committed by Germans or a few villagers coerced into it. Gross, who works in the United States, has defended his research which is based on the testimony of surviving Jedwabne residents and evidence given at a post-war trial of some of the alleged culprits. Polish authorities hope the debate over Jedwabne will be put to rest later this year after an investigation by the state Institute for National Remembrance, set up in 2000 to review crimes committed against Poland in the war and under communism.

    A former Ku Klux Klansman who went untried for 38 years for one of the worst crimes of the civil rights era - the bombing of a black church in which four choir girls died - has been sentenced to life in prison after an Alabama jury took just two hours to find him guilty. Thomas Blanton Jr was given four life sentences for first degree murder after being convicted of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham on 15 September, 1963. His conviction, after a two-week trial, was greeted emotionally by the US attorney prosecuting the case, Doug Jones, who hugged the parents of one of the murdered girls, Denise McNair, after Tuesday evening's verdict. "They say justice delayed is justice denied - well folks, I don't believe that at all," Mr Jones said afterwards. "Justice delayed is still justice ... It's never too late for a man to be held accountable for his crimes. It is never too late for justice." Blanton, 62, looking elderly and frail in a dark sports jacket and brown shirt, was asked by the judge, James Garrett, if he had anything to say after being sentenced. Blanton, who had pleaded innocent, replied: "No. I guess the good Lord will settle on Judgment Day." His attorney, John Robbins, announced that he would appeal against the conviction. Blanton is the second man to have been convicted of a crime which, arguably, did more than any other single event to bring the deepy south's racially segregated power structure crashing down in the 1960s. The reputed ringleader, Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, was sentenced to life in 1977. He died in prison in 1985, aged 81. Another suspect, Herman Cash, died in 1994 without ever being tried. Attention now turns to a fourth man, Bobby Frank Cherry, 71, who was charged along with Blanton a year ago. Cherry did not stand trial after Mr Garrett ruled that he was incapable of helping his defence counsel following a psychological evaluation that stated he was suffering from dementia. Further evaluations are now expected to determine whether the case against Cherry can be brought. Black civil rights leaders signalled yesterday that they would fight to ensure Cherry stands trial. "Now it's time to go after Cherry," said the Reverend Abraham Woods, a black minister who was instrumental in persuading the FBI to reopen the case. "I am tired of hearing about his mental competency. They have tried mentally retarded black men." Such attempts may be contentious. Birmingham, now a vastly different place from the harshly segregated steel town of the civil rights era, was less than enamoured of the negative attention generated by Blanton's trial. Local talk radio shows received numerous calls from residents, black and white, suggesting the time had come for Birmingham to walk away from the ghosts of yesteryear. The heinous nature of Blanton's crime was never in doubt. A bomb placed under an outside stairway blew a huge hole in the side of the church during a Sunday school service. The four girls, Denise McNair, aged 11, and three 14-year-olds, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, were later found lying neatly on top of each other under a mountain of rubble. In what seemed a symbolic expression of the evil deed, the explosion blew a hole in the face of the Jesus Christ in a stained glass window. The 16th Street Baptist Church was a rallying point for civil rights protests against segregation, which had already led to highly publicised clashes between demonstrators and police in 1963. While the moral outrage over the bombing gave impetus to the civil rights movement, the FBI director, J Edgar Hoover, blocked attempts at the time to have the suspects prosecuted. Prosecutors on Alabama have said the FBI withheld evidence even after Mr Hoover died. Bill Baxley, a former Alabama attorney general, who prosecuted Chambliss, told the Washington Post: "If they had given us what they had, we could have had fanatical and hardcore racists - no mean distinction in the city at the time. He became a member of a Klan splinter group, believing the main body of the organisation to be too moderate. In a recently published book on the Birmingham civil rights struggles, Carry Me Home, the author Diane McWhorter describes how Blanton's virulent bigotry extended to hatred of Catholics. He expressed it by pouring acid on Catholics' cars or painting Catholic statues black. His anti-Catholicism was remarkable because, McWhorter reveals, he was raised and confirmed as one.
    ©The Scotsman

    Human rights organisations from 13 European countries Thursday protested against the prospect of a visit by the leader of France's far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, to the Polish parliament, a statement from Poland's Never Again anti- racist association said. "No self-respecting democratic political groups can cooperate with Le Pen's racist and xenophobic party," the statement said. Le Pen has been invited to Poland by a small coalition of right- wing Polish MPs. A spokeperson Thursday declined to reveal exactly when the visit might take place, saying only that the National Front leader was expected to arrive before summer. Le Pen lost his seat in the European Parliament after he was convicted of physically attacking a female rival candidate during a 1997 election campaign. His party has also been linked to racist attacks on members of ethnic minority communities in France. Anti-racism and human rights organisations from Sweden, France, Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Austria, Spain and Romania among others joined Poland's Never Again in protesting Le Pen's impending arrival.

    Tony Blair says pressing for reform of the international asylum laws will be a priority if Labour wins the forthcoming general election. Writing in the Times newspaper, Mr Blair said the 50-year-old United Nations Convention on Refugees needed to be modernised The laws should ensure that those not entitled to asylum are dealt with swiftly, while genuine refugees get more help, he said. But shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe the prime minister's pledge was an attempt to divert attention away from the government's "miserable failure in dealing with the problem." Mr Blair's intervention in the asylum issue is said to be aimed at countering Conservative claims that the government is "soft" on asylum. It comes as speculation mounts that a 7 June general election is to be announced next week, after it emerged that Mr Blair had cancelled a planned trip abroad next Monday. In Friday's article, Mr Blair says that economic migrants who seek to abuse the system will be processed and removed more quickly.

    Race row
    He also proposes a European Union-wide resettlement programme to ensure the responsibility for taking refugees is shared more equally. He promises improvements to the help given to genuine refugees. But he warns "It also means ensuring that those who are not entitled to benefit from the provisions of the 1951 Convention are dealt with swiftly, through quick decisions and an effective system for returns. "This must be a priority should we win the next election." Mr Blair argues that the government's asylum policy could be summed up as "asylum for those who qualify under the rules, fast action to deal with those who don't". He said the Conservative row on race had made it hard to have a sensible debate on asylum. "Our criticism of the Conservative Opposition has not been about racism, but about opportunism," he says.

    'Tragic error'
    Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council , said: "The Geneva Convention on Refugees has saved millions of lives worldwide. "It would be a tragic error if it was weakened in any way because of an ill-informed British debate leading up to a general election." The BBC's political correspondent John Andrew said the timing of Mr Blair's decision to write about this single subject so close to a general election being called was significant. "It means that this issue has really struck home with Labour," he said. He added that this marked an opportunity for Labour to fight back against accusations of being a "soft touch" on asylum seekers. "So here is Labour coming back saying 'Look, we are not a soft touch. We are getting on top of a huge asylum backlog and reforming the law to make it more modern'." But he said the Conservatives would see this as electioneering, and view it as a sign that their accusations that Labour had attempted to stifle debate on asylum had hit home.
    ©BBC News

    The United States has lost its seat on the UN body which investigates human rights abuses throughout the world. It is the first time the US will not be a member of the 53-nation Human Rights Commission since it was set up in 1947. In a surprise result, France, Austria and Sweden were elected to the three seats allocated to Western countries on the Geneva-based body. The United States polled last among the four candidates up for the seats. All but one of the 54 members of the UN's Economic and Social Council - which elects the commission - took part in the ballot. France received 52 votes, Austria 41, Sweden 32 and the US 29.

    Joanna Weschler, the UN representative of Human Rights Watch, told Reuters news agency that many countries resented the US voting record on issues like land mines and the availability of Aids drugs. Washington has also regularly criticised the human rights record of other nations - like China and Cuba, which may have helped erode support for its cause. One diplomat at the UN, however, said the result was a surprise given America's arm-twisting power. The US, meanwhile, expressed disappointment at the outcome of the vote. But its acting ambassador at the UN in Geneva, James Cunningham, refused to comment on why members might have opposed US re-election. "It won't of course affect our commitment to human rights issues, in and outside of the United Nations," Mr Cunningham said.
    ©BBC News

    Homosexual activists are urging Germany's government to recognise thousands of gay victims of the Nazi regime with a monument in Berlin. The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany want the memorial sited near the Reichstag parliament building, close to a planned Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. "Such a monument would be a lasting symbol against intolerance, hostility and exclusion aimed at gays and lesbians," the federation said in a statement. As well as gays, groups representing Gypsies, or Roma, murdered by the Nazis are also pressing for a monument in central Berlin -- seeking equal prominence with the planned memorial for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. A site the size of two soccer pitches near the Brandenburg Gate has been dedicated to the Jewish memorial. Gay spokesman Albert Eckert said homosexual victims of the Nazis during the war have been overlooked, and added: "We want a national monument similar to the Jewish one." The Nazi regime criminalised homosexuality among men -- although lesbians were not generally targeted by the Nazis -- and few of the 15,000 gay men forced into concentration camps survived, the federation said. The plan has been backed by prominent Jewish leaders, including the head of the Jewish Community in Germany, Paul Spiegel. A city spokeswoman said officials agreed in principle that such a monument was needed. But Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen has opposed creating a "Memorial Mile" in the new capital commemorating various groups persecuted by the Nazis, the Associated Press news agency reported.
    ©Cable News Network

    The introduction of a quota setting the minimum representation of women in parliament at 30% was the main topic of discussion at the April 24 Equal Opportunities Conference in Bratislava, organised by the Professional Women non-governmental organisation. "Slovak women are underrepresented in politics," said Dagmar `imúnková, head of Professional Women. "[Therefore], we will work hard to achieve the introduction of this quota in order to secure the placement of more female members of parliament (Mps)." Arguing in favour of the quota, conference participants used Slovak and European statistics to illustrate their point. While Slovak women (who account for 51.4% of the country's population) are nearly as well educated as men, they are represented on a far lower scale in parliament and government. According to 1996 statistics from the Slovak Statistics Office, 11.5% of Slovak men have university diplomas, compared to 11% of women. Yet only 19 of 150 Slovak MPs (12.7%) are currently women, while just two of 20 cabinet members (Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová and Privatisation Minister Mária Machová) are female. In the Czech Republic, 15% of the lower chamber of parliament are female, compared to 20.5% in Croatia and 33.6% in Germany (for both chambers of parliament). On the other hand, Slovakia was ahead of Hungary (8.3%) and Slovenia (7.8%). Conference participant Magdaléna Piscová, a sociologist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, argued that sexism in Slovak society was so deeply rooted that a quota would still leave women facing "deeply rooted sexism for at least a few more years", adding that male Slovak politicians commonly made discriminatory statements. In 1996, for example, Ján Cuper, an MP for the then-ruling Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) proposed a law "banning women from driving in the fast lane [on highways]" because, he said, women drivers slowed down highway traffic. More recently, Ví azoslav Moric, an MP for the far right Slovak National Party (SNS) said in October that he would hire a female MP assistant because "she'll have to do some secretarial work, and that's more suitable for women". Moric said he was opposed to a quota, telling The Slovak Spectator April 24 that the idea was based on "stupidity". "It [women entering politics] should be a natural process," he said. "For me, politics is a hobby. Women are more needed to raise children, meaning that\ in raising a child, they're only losing five to nine years from a hobby. So what?" The women at the conference were not amused by the MP's comments. "The best thing we can do is to ignore such comments and the people who make them," said Klára Sárkozy, an MP with the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

    Making a difference
    Ingunn Yssen, head of the Norwegian Equal Opportunities Centre, said introducing a quota in her country had made a big difference. When the measure was introduced in 1963, only 8% of the Norwegian parliament were women; in 1994 the number had grown to 32%, rising to 42% in 1999. "Women face a lot of barriers in political life," Yssen said. "Although the same strategy won't necessarily yield the same results in every country, the political representation of women is a proof of true democracy in every country." Privatisation Minister Mária Machová said that without a quota, women who wanted to enter Slovak politics were left with two paths: the painfully long process of climbing the career ladder, or pure luck. "I was one of the lucky ones," she said, explaining that she had been given a chance by the Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP), which was founded shortly before the 1998 general elections and had been in need of business experts like herself. "I was in the right place at the right time. The standard way of slowly climbing the party ladder takes a long time. If you're not lucky, you have to go this way and hope that one day, maybe, maybe, m ©The Slovak Spectator

    Police in Oldham have claimed success in their efforts to prevent clashes between National Front marchers, opponents and local people. Officers made 16 arrests in dealing with 500 activists who descended on the town despite a total ban on political marches. More than 500 officers from Greater Manchester Police were on duty on Saturday to prevent the far-right NF marching through the town, afflicted by heightening racial tensions. The arrests were mostly for public order offences but one person was detained in connection with an assault on an officer, while another officer was injured in a fall. Of those arrested 11 were white and five Asian. Chief Superintendent Eric Hewitt said the successful police operation had "cost a lot of money". He insisted: "The people of Oldham were united in opposition to the National Front coming to Oldham to march and to exploit the tense and difficult situation.

    Oldham 'safe'
    "As it turned out, more than 500 people came into Oldham to cause trouble from all parts of the country. "These people were determined to wreak havoc on the town, to wreck and destroy all parts of the community. "But the town of Oldham has remained relatively safe. It is still in one piece and we can safely say it's business as usual." Earlier in the week Home Secretary Jack Straw approved a ban on all political marches through Oldham, after the NF announced plans to hold a rally in the town. The NF said it wanted to give local residents the chance to express their feelings about "no-go zones" which Asian youths say they have set up to protect themselves from racist attacks.

    Riot officers
    At around 1400BST on Saturday the police swung into action, clearing a pub where NF sympathisers were thought to be gathering. Riot squad officers and police on horseback surrounded The Centurion on the outskirts of the town centre. As customers, some complaining of police heavy-handedness, were cleared from the bar, one officer suffered minor injuries. About 30 chanting demonstrators, several wearing National Front t-shirts, were held in a garage forecourt near the town's Ashton Road roundabout. One held a National Front poster bearing the image of D-Day veteran Walter Chamberlain, the 76-year-old Oldham pensioner beaten up in an allegedly racist attack. Police removed banners and flags as several in the group vowed to return for further demonstrations. Nearby, a man suffered minor stab-wounds but made no complaint to police. But despite officers being given special stop and search powers, no weapons were recovered during the tense day. In a narrow lane near Oldham Parish Church, another 40-strong group was held for some time to prevent clashes.

    Asians detained
    A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said the NF members, who vowed to return, were later escorted out of the county by officers. About 100 people, mainly Asians, were detained in the Goldwick area by riot squad officers before they were allowed to disperse. One couple complained to police that the rear windscreen of their car had been smashed by Asian youths after they stopped to help a white man they believed was in distress. Andrew Kilburn, Chief Executive of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, said: "It was a day none of us wanted to see and clearly the town centre and the commercial life has suffered. "Groups of people were imported into Oldham to cause trouble and have failed to do so."
    ©BBC News

    Serb nationalists in Bosnia-Hercegovina have blocked an attempt to start rebuilding a mosque destroyed during the civil war. Hundreds of Serbs carrying black flags and shouting nationalist slogans attacked delegates gathering to lay a foundation stone in the town of Trebinje, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Sarajevo. Several people were injured, including a representative of the international administration, although no one was seriously hurt. Representatives of the international community in Bosnia have condemned the violence. An investigation into the apparent failure of the local police to intervene is now under way. The Bosnian Serb authorities have expressed regret over the incident, saying they supported religious tolerance.

    The Osman Pasa mosque was one of hundreds destroyed in the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995. Only a handful have so far been rebuilt. Reconstruction work was to begin on Saturday, with the symbolic laying of the cornerstone which had been personally brought from the Spanish city of Zaragoza by the city's mayor Jose Altarez. But what had been intended as a reaffirmation of Bosnia's multi-ethnic tradition descended into violence, as hundreds of Serb nationalist demonstrators hurled stones and chanted abuse. The protests are a reminder of the strength of nationalist feelings.

    Ceremony postponed
    Eventually, the visitors were forced to abandon the ceremony, taking refuge in the offices of the local Islamic community. The head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, has promised to reschedule the ceremony at the earliest opportunity. "This is a clear case of violation of basic human rights, but despite everything the mosque will be rebuilt," Mr Ceric said in Trebinje. On Monday, a similar ceremony is due to take place in the northern city of Banja Luka, where one of Bosnia's most famous and architecturally distinguished mosques is to be rebuilt.
    ©BBC News

    Some 200 skinheads, neo-Nazis, and supporters of the journal "Russkii khozyain" assembled at the Soviet Army theater in Moscow on 2 May to demand that the Russian authorities "cleanse" the city of what they called "the mafia from the Caucasus and Asia," Interfax-Moscow reported. There were no incidents, the news service said.
    ©RFE/RL Newsline

    At least four illegal immigrants perished on a frigid mountain range straddling the Greek-Bulgarian border in the latest deaths along the treacherous route, the Associated Press quoted police as saying on April 27. The victims - a man from Ghana and two women and a man carrying Georgian passports - were apparently caught in a strong wintry storm that hit northern Greece earlier in the week. On the frontier with Bulgaria, the border patrol found the bodies while searching for a group of illegal immigrants who had reportedly crossed the border at Mount Belles. Two Pakistanis and a Sierra Leonean were treated for frostbite, police said. The mountain, known as Belasicas in Bulgarian, is a popular route with migrants making their way into European Union member Greece. In another incident, the coastguard picked up 21 Iraqi Kurdish illegal immigrants aboard a sinking Turkish fishing boat. The boat had been trying to disembark the Iraqis, all men, on the small island of Farmakonissi located in the eastern Aegean Sea near the Turkish coast.
    ©Athens News

    Even as it acknowledged reaching out to violent skinheads, a far-right party on Monday denounced government efforts to have it banned for its alleged affinity to the Nazis as an attempt to impose ``Orwellian'' thought control on Germans. The National Democratic Party, also known by its German initials NPD, has presented its formal written arguments to Germany's highest court, which will review requests from the government and both houses of parliament to outlaw it. Ministers and conservative opposition leaders compare the party to Adolf Hitler's Nazis and accuse it of feeding the racist ideology seen behind a wave of anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic attacks. Postwar Germany has banned only two parties: a successor to the Nazis in 1952 and the Communist Party in 1956. The party must be proven not only to reject the German constitution but also to have violent tendencies. Officials have pledged a crackdown on extremists of all persuasions, and Berlin authorities on Monday followed up a decision to stop the NPD from holding a May Day rally by prohibiting a long-standing far-left march the same day. But the NPD told reporters the threat to outlaw the party was just a veiled bid to kill off an awkward political foe. Arguing for dismissal of the case, the NDP appealed to the court to apply European civil rights norms to defend its right to debate issues such as racial differences and the ``real-historical reasons for Jew-hating.'' The party's lawyer, Horst Mahler, a former leftist activist turned far-right leader, said the NPD was also being unfairly stigmatized for its connections with the country's burgeoning neo-Nazi scene. ``We want to win these young people over, not see them as untouchables, but contact them and help them see that it's not right to express their frustration in violence,'' he told a news conference. Although it gained hundreds of mostly young members last year and claims to lead a burgeoning ``national resistance,'' the NPD remains electorally insignificant. But the government and parliament insist that a ban is needed to bar it from facilities such as television advertising and state campaign funding. In its application filed with the court last month, parliament's lower house said there are ``an abundance of historical sources that show the NPD has a clear affinity with Nazism,'' racist ideology and aggressive rhetoric. The documents said the party belittles Nazi crimes and has a ``merely tactical relationship to legality.'' The court is to decide by the summer whether to accept the motions seeking a ban. It is not expected to issue a ruling before next year.
    ©Associated Press

    A far-right party accused of bearing similarities to Hitler's Nazis can march through Berlin on May Day, a court ruled Wednesday, rejecting city officials' efforts to ban the event. Berlin authorities had sought to prevent violence by banning both the far-right event and a May Day demonstration held annually by leftist protesters, a rally that traditionally ends in clashes with police. May Day should be a day for family-friendly events honoring labor, not ``a day of rioting,'' said Berlin Interior Minister Eckart Werthebach. But on Wednesday, the city's administrative court, ruling on an appeal filed by the National Democratic Party, overturned the ban. The court dismissed the idea that Germans would associate May Day — a holiday that honors labor — with the Nazis. The holiday wasn't as sensitive, the court noted, as Germany's Holocaust memorial day, Jan. 27. However, the court said the march must take place in the morning and along a shorter route that avoids areas in eastern Berlin where left-wing activists are known to live.

    Werthebach, noting that the Nazis declared May 1 a national holiday — the ``Day of National Labor'' — when they took power in 1933 and used the occasion to disband free-trade unions, had suggested that the NDP hold its rally May 5. The city also sought to prevent an annual May Day march by far-left demonstrators, an event that regularly degenerates into running battles between anarchist activists from across the country and thousands of riot police armed with tear gas and water cannons. On Wednesday, Werthebach rejected an application for a 10,000-person rally in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, where leftist ``revolutionary'' demonstrations have been staged for more than a decade. ``We want to start a process of normalization on May 1 and finally break the ritual of violence,'' city police president Hagen Saberschinsky told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

    The National Democratic Party also is fighting a government-sponsored bid before the nation's highest court to completely outlaw the group. The NDP says it tries to turn skinheads attracted by its nationalist rhetoric into nonviolent ``political soldiers.'' But in a blow to its defense, three men detained last weekend for scrawling swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in eastern Germany said they were inspired by one of the party's rallies, prosecutors said Wednesday.
    ©Associated Press

    Doctors testified Monday that an 89-year-old former Nazi SS officer is fit to stand trial for murders while he was a guard at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, one of the last trials to be held in Germany for Nazi crimes. Anton Malloth, 89, is charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for the deaths of inmates, which occurred during World War II when he was a guard at Theresienstadt in what is now the Czech Republic. Still, judge Juergen Hanreich said he wouldn't push through a trial against Malloth if he's truly ill. The judge ordered a psychological evaluation to determine if he can follow the proceedings. ``There won't be a trial at any price,'' Hanreich said. He appealed to Malloth to confess if guilty to spare himself and witnesses who must travel from abroad the effort of a trial. Malloth made no comment at the trial. Malloth appeared at the hearing Monday in a wheelchair. He is nearly blind and suffers from cancer of the esophagus, and was living in a nursing home near Munich until he was taken into custody last year. Prosecutors closed cases against Malloth in 1979 and 1999 due to lack of evidence. But the investigation was reopened after a new witness later came forward in the Czech Republic. The witness claims he saw Malloth shoot to death a Jewish laborer at Theresienstadt in September 1943 after catching him hiding cauliflower under his jacket. Prosecutors subsequently widened the investigation to include two more incidents for a total three murder charges. In January 1945 he allegedly ordered two prisoners to stand naked while a third inmate sprayed them with water until they collapsed and died. Malloth faces a lesser charge of attempted murder for allegedly beating and kicking a Jewish inmate to death in 1944 because authorities can't determine conclusively if the person died. Doctors also said he understands what was going on around him. ``He knows what he's accused with,'' prison doctor Thomas Fischl testified. Hans Doerfler, a medical professor, visited Malloth twice in prison and said he suffers from a tumor in the esophagus in addition to massive bone atrophy and heart rhythm irregularities. Still, he said Malloth ``was fully oriented and answered clearly.'' Born in 1912 in Austria, Malloth took Italian citizenship after World War I and became a German in 1939 — after Germany had annexed Austria — so he could join the SS. Described as one of the most brutal guards at Theresienstadt, he was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia by a Czechoslovak court in 1948 for hundreds of killings. But Malloth had fled to Italy and reclaimed his Italian citizenship. Rome revoked it, however, in 1956 after finding he lied about his SS past. He was deported in 1988 to Germany because he still had German papers. The SS, short for Schutzstaffel, was the dreaded quasi-military unit of the Nazi party. It was used as a special police and committed some of the worst crimes in territory under Nazi control during World War II.
    ©Associated Press

    German government considers its position on Armenian killings
    Crises and protests, hungerstrikes, the leadership's decline of authority, the Kurdish problems, Cyprus and the tussles over European security policy - German diplomats are not short of areas where even a cursory glance at EU-candidate Turkey raises a raft of concerns.

    It is understandable, therefore, that they would prefer to steer clear of the thorny issue of the Armenian genocide. Unfortunately for them, the topic is now well and truly in the arms of the government in the form of a petition from the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag. Joschka Fischer's Foreign Office will be in receipt of the petition in the coming days. The appeal by 16,000 signatories is aimed at encouraging the government to condemn as genocide the deportation and extermination of Armenians during the first world war. In this, the petitioners are seeking to follow the example of France's National Assembly, the European Parliament and Pope John Paul II in so describing the attacks by Young Turks against the Armenians in 1915 - and are appealing to the government in Ankara to do the same. But Ankara - in common with large swathes of the Turkish public - sees the fate of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire as a "tragic" and "war-occasioned event". Into the bargain, they refute claims by the Armenian side of 1.5 million deaths, insisting that a maximum of 600,000 lost their lives. Paris's genocide declaration was greeted in Turkey by angry reactions and a boycott of French goods. The Bundestag committee charged with dealing with such appeals unanimously decided to pass the petition on to the Foreign Office after examination, although with several clear riders. In the accompanying letter from parliament there is no talk of genocide as such - the Bundestag prefers to use the formula "tragic events". The reason it gives is that "wounds ought not to be reoponed, but healed." And yet: "The viewpoint shared by a large part of the German population must be clarified within the framework of Turkish-German diplomatic relations." Fischer's ministry is due to make a statement on the petition within six months. Uwe Hiksch, a deputy for the Party of Democratic Socialism (formerly East Germany's Communists), seeks to go several steps further. The draft of a cross-party resolution he has penned contains the word "genocide" and a demand that recognition of the mass killings be made a "condition" of Turkish entry into the European Union. But Hiksch's proposal goes further, recommending that the Bundestag make an official apology for the "support and knowing acceptance" of the atrocities committed by Germany under the Kaiser. Hiksch is hoping to rally 40 to 50 supporters from all parties to enable him to raise the motion in parliament. However, the right of victims to recognition of their pain and suffering should not be the prelude to a campaign of anti-Turkish sentiment, he says, adding that a "cautious process within a parliamentary framework" will require "three to four years".
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Campaign to Free 11 Iranian Asylum Seekers Imprisoned in Greece Continues
    The International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) launched a successful international campaign to prevent the deportations from Greece of 11 Iranian asylum seekers who were arrested and tortured for protesting against the policies of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Widespread international support from progressive individuals and organisations and IFIR organised protest demonstrations outside Greek embassies in four countries forced the Greek government to back down. In a separate development and because of international pressure, the Greek Minister of Justice met with the IFIR representative in Greece and agreed to intervene on behalf of the imprisoned asylum seekers. The initial investigation revealed that the names and details of the detainees were not even registered on the prison database and that the government planned to clandestinely deport the asylum seekers. The Justice Minister has initiated an investigation into this matter. The IFIR will continue its campaign until the detained asylum seekers have been released.

    IFIR urges groups and individuals to continue sending letters of protest to the Greek authorities and the UNHCR.
    Greek Prime Minister's Office
    the Greek Mission to the UN
    the UNHCR Office in Greece
    UNHCR Headquarters

    ©International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR)

    Searching for anything related to the words "Nazi," "Ku Klux Klan" or even "hate" on Yahoo! will now bring up banners promoting peace and tolerance, part of an innovative human rights awareness effort launched Wednesday by the Internet portal and Web site The tolerance campaign, targeted at hate-mongers who gather in Yahoo! chat rooms and online clubs, treats them to ads flashing, "A hate crime occurs every hour ...fight hate and promote tolerance." When the banner is clicked, the visitor is whisked to an area hosting tools designed to be used in the fight against discrimination and intolerance. Ten million of the 40 million surfers hopes to reach this year through Yahoo! are parents, according to Jim Currier, the Web site's director. The banner space summoned by any of 100 keywords is being donated by Yahoo! at an estimated value of US$3 million over three years, Currier told NewsFactor Network. The site launched on April 2nd, and is a project of Alabama-based human rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is renowned for its legal campaigns against the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.

    Awareness Through Solutions
    "People don't just wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, I'm going to be tolerant,'" Currier said. "They come [to the site] because there's a problem, or they're experiencing discrimination. Our mission is to provide solutions. We don't just talk about hate groups; we say you need to look at your own biases." Part of the site's tools and advice include a battery of online tests visitors can take that point out hidden biases. Marketing director for the site, Shari Rossmann, told NewsFactor that she was surprised to learn that 8,000 people had taken the tests in their first week online.Rossmann added that even before the launch of the Yahoo! banners, they had received 850,000 hits.

    Fighting Fire with Fire
    "As we see young people being actively recruited by organizations that are preaching hate and prejudice, the Internet gives us the ideal opportunity to give those individuals a thoughtful counterpoint," Rossmann told NewsFactor. With more than 600 hate groups in the United States and at least 366 hate- oriented Web sites, felt that the time had come to fight fire with fire -- or, at least, with technology, the site's officials said. "The whole idea is to use leading technology to sell, if you will, a program that the country needs and which [aligns with] our mission," explained Currier, whose idea it was to employ banners. "We need to use marketing tools, just like anyone peddling CD-ROMs," he said. also plans to approach the other major portals, Currier said. "You need to use all the ways to get your message out, as anyone with a Web site knows. It doesn't do anyone any good if no one comes to it."

    Technology to Help
    In a way, was itself conceived because of a hate crime -- the Columbine High School tragedy. When that occurred, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers sought a way to actively use technology, or at least its gains, to help prevent such occurrences from happening again, according to Currier and Rossmann. Chambers' foundation sought an existing program to support, and found one in the SPLC's 10 year-old Teaching Tolerance program, a magazine and informational resource for teachers. The foundation put up $1.5 million as seed money for the Web site, which was designed by Razorfish.

    The campaign is the first of its kind to harness the power of a huge portal. The arrangement allows to spread its message widely, and will prove a public relations bonanza for Yahoo!, which has come under fire for unwittingly hosting as many as 200 white supremacist sites, according to industry press. "Apparently, Yahoo! had a lot of issues about the [controversial] sites From The Internet Anti-Fascist

    Control Commission advocates penalty for violation of rights
    A committee of the Council of Europe has spoken in favour of expelling Ukraine from the alliance. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is due to vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday on sanctions against Ukraine. The former Soviet republic is being accused mainly of violation of press freedom and non-observance of standards expected of a state under the rule of law. The country is facing the threat of international isolation as a dramatic power struggle is being waged between the pro-Western premier Viktor Yushchenko, President Leonid Kuchma and a parliamentary alliance of Communists and economic oligarchs. The Control Commission of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly has already made a decision and advocated Ukraine's expulsion mainly because of its attacks against freedom of the press, but also because of other democratic shortcomings. When one of the committees that are more inclined to operate behind the scenes calls unanimously for sanctions against Kiev, then a thunderbolt can be expected on Tuesday as the chamber of deputies in Strasbourg decides on the application to suspend Ukraine's membership. Wolfgang Behrendt, the Social Democrat who heads the German parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg said: "President Kuchma should hear the signals." In the final analysis, the decision will rest with the ministerial committee as the supreme organ of the Parliamentary Assembly. However, such a demand alone would pillory Kiev. The report from the Control Commission that will serve as a basis for Tuesday's vote accuses Ukraine of not having observed the commitments which it made on entering the alliance in 1995. It says that although Kiev abolished capital punishment, penal law, human rights protection and the law governing political parties still do not conform to the standards of countries under the rule of law. Freedom of assembly and opinion are restricted also, the report notes. But Strasbourg is especially critical of the attacks against freedom of the press and against individual journalists. The murder of the critical journalist Heorhiy Gongadze which Kuchma is suspected of having incited is only the most spectacular sign of the violence directed against independent media, the report said. The draft resolution lashes out at "murders of journalists as well as continued aggression and intimidation attempts" against the press and opposition politicians.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Australia may significantly reduce the number of legal asylum seekers it accepts, in order to compensate for the large number of people who enter the country illegally, the country's immigration minister said on Wednesday. Australia currently takes in about 12,000 asylum seekers a year through the legal system, the minister, Philip Ruddock, said. But with nearly 3,000 people having been caught trying to enter the country illegally last year, Australia is having to reduce its intake of legal refugees and cut its special humanitarian programmes by about half, Mr Ruddock said. About 1,450 people have already been caught trying to enter Australia illegally this year, many arriving by boat to thinly populated areas of the coast. An unnamed Australian Government spokesman told the Associated Press news agency that people who obeyed the law might suffer because of those who did not. "People who are doing the right thing are being penalised by those who are bringing their family and friends out illegally," the spokesman said. The United Nations and human-rights groups have criticised Australia for what they consider to be overly harsh treatment of asylum seekers. Would-be immigrants are detained in camps, which have been the scene of riots this year.
    ©BBC News

    When Maureen Mazibuko told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission how she was tortured and her husband was murdered in front of her, she hoped for redress and help rebuilding her tattered life. Instead she got a letter from the commission, which investigated South Africa's apartheid-era abuses, saying there was insufficient evidence to support her account. Her application for reparations had been rejected. ``I was fighting for the liberation of this country, but the TRC has abused me spiritually by telling me I am not a victim,'' Mazibuko said Wednesday at a conference organized by a victims' support group. Seven years after the fall of the brutal, apartheid regime, Mazibuko is just one of many of its victims who feel disillusioned and angry by their efforts to get reparations. The commission was established by the government in an effort to help South Africa come to terms with the savage abuses of apartheid and prepare it for its future as an all-race democracy. Victims who testified before the commission relinquished their right to sue those who had wronged them and were promised reparations to ease their suffering and restore their dignity. Perpetrators who testified could qualify for amnesty. The commission declared 21,440 people victims and in October 1998 recommended they collectively be paid $370 million over six years. But the government says it can only make final reparations once the commission completes its work in September. To date some $99 million has been committed to reparations, of which $4.9 million has been paid out. Medart Rwelamira, an official with the justice department, said Tuesday that proposals for final reparations had been finalized and submitted to the Cabinet for a decision on whether additional funding would be made available. President Thabo Mbeki has previously said people who participated in South Africa's liberation struggle didn't do so for the money. Kabelo Lengane, of the Khulumani support group, said the victims were not being mercenary. ``Reparations are about restoring dignity,'' he said. Victims who face a daily battle against poverty and disability were being ignored and left with the impression they no longer mattered, he said. ``I have been treated like a dog,'' said Johannes Titus, whose life was shattered after he was shot by the apartheid army in 1976. Titus wept as he showed his deeply scarred stomach and explained how his intestines had been removed and replaced by plastic tubes, leaving him unable to work or even eat solid foods. Officials from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was led by Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have said the reparations were a crucial part of the commission's work. The failure to pay them meant the commission may have uncovered the truth, but it was unsuccessful in its attempts at reconciliation, they said.
    ©Associated Press

    Liberation Day in Italy has been marked by official ceremonies around the country.In Rome president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi joined former partisan fighters to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the liberation of the country from fascist rule. 3 far-left activists were arrested as they tried to stop a gathering of neo-fascists at the capital's Verano cemetery. The members of the Forza Nuova party were led by the nephew of the fascist leader Benito Mussolin, executed shotly after American troops landed in Italy. They later tried to march through the streets but were stopped by police fearful of clashes with around 200 left wing demonstrators. There were scuffles between the anti-fascists and the police who used teargas. Clashes were also reported in Milan between left wing protestors and neo-fascists trying to visit the site where the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress were hung up in public in 1945.
    ©European Internet Network

    Representatives of the far right have given lectures to students of the Charles University Faculty of Arts in Prague recently, the daily Lidove noviny writes today. Filip Vavra, former head of the radical association National Resistance and current secretary of the National Social Block, and Jan Skacel, one of the main representatives of the far-right Patriotic Front, gave the lectures as part of a seminar for future political scientists called "Types of Political Extremism", the daily writes. "The aim of the seminar is to gather knowledge on extremist organizations. Besides a report on extremism by the Interior Ministry, no comprehensive study exists," seminar head Zdenek Zboril from Charles University Institute of Political Sciences tells the daily. "We are not legalizing the appearance of extremists. We are not giving them an opportunity to appear in public, but on academic turf," he adds. The institute has invited left-wing radicals to the seminar as well. The speakers have discussed such things as their contacts with foreign organizations and their internal policy. Students then ask the speaker questions. According to political scientist Rudolf Kucera, the university department's interest in the extremist scene does not justify it holding discussions with people who do not conceal their admiration of Nazism. "We should not hold discussions with neo-Nazis, but to fight them with all legal means," Kucera says.
    ©European Internet Network

    Supporters of a proposed cyber crime treaty are pressing for it to include passages making it illegal to spread racist propaganda and hate messages over the Internet. The Council of Europe also called for trafficking in human beings to be declared illegal in the pioneering treaty, which is due to be passed in June in an effort to harmonise laws on cyberspace. The 43-member council has met unexpected criticism from industry and Internet groups for its efforts to define a common position on hacking, fraud, computer viruses and other Internet abuses. Internet providers have argued for minimal restrictions while governments have pressed for the treaty to lay down clear rules on how they can fight online crime. Deputies debating the treaty on Wednesday spoke of their "disappointment that the draft convention contains no specific provision for combating the dissemination of racist and xenophobic propaganda via the Internet." Speaking for the Parliamentary Assembly deputies, Socialist Ivar Tallo from Estonia urged the council to add a protocol that would outlaw "racist propaganda, abusive storage of hateful messages and use of the Internet for trafficking in human beings." Growing pressure in Europe to fight racism on the Internet led to a recent French court decision ordering the U.S.-based site Yahoo to remove Nazi memorabilia from its auction pages. The council has been adjusting the draft in light of criticism from industry and pressure groups since it first published the provisional text on its Web site last year. At an open hearing with government and industry representatives in Paris last month, a Swiss expert estimated there were about 4,000 openly racist Web sites around the world, 2,500 of them in the United States. Delegates said the American doctrine of free speech made it difficult to apply European-style restrictions on them and that Internet service providers would oppose any bid to add hate crime restrictions to the treaty. The U.S., Japan and several other non-European countries are observers to the treaty drafting and are expected to sign it once it is approved by the council. Drafted over four years by representatives of the 43-nation council, the convention covers the destruction of data or hardware -- such as the damage caused by the devastating Love Bug virus -- as well as online child pornography, copyright theft and other Internet crimes. The treaty, now in its 25th draft, with previous versions attacked by those who worry the treaty could give governments too much power to crack down on Internet users' freedom while hunting for cyber criminals.
    ©Cable News Network

    The assault is the latest of nearly 70 such incidents in the Sighthill area of Glasgow in the last year. Some 2,000 asylum seekers have been housed in council homes on the estate, including Kurds and Iraqis who have fled brutal regimes. News of the beating of the Saada brothers followed Monday's exclusive survey in The Scotsman which revealed that a majority of Scots favour foreign immigration but want stricter rules on conditions of entry. In Glasgow, most attacks are carried out by youths aged under 16, so they are dealt with by the Children's Panel rather than feeling the full force of the law in the courts. Previous assaults have included an African man who was left lying in the street for hours after a severe beating because neighbours were too afraid of the gang responsible to call the police or ambulance. Asylum seekers' homes are also being targeted by housebreakers. Police said the situation had become so severe that some families had been rehoused to other areas of the city. Chief Inspector William McKinlay, the asylum seeker liasion officer for Strathclyde Police, said: "There is a significant issue in terms of harassment against racial asylum seekers. "We are looking at stone throwing, spitting, verbal abuse, fairly serious physical assaults and even people with injuries that require hospital treatment. In some cases, people are frightened to leave their houses." Chief Inspector McKinlay also admitted that unlike Castlemilk, an estate on the south-side of the city where there had been success in this area, Sighthill remained an area of concern. Most asylum seekers arriving in the city are being housed in high-rise flats rejected by other tenants. They may have to wait up to two years for a government decision on their applications for refugee status
    ©The Scotsman

    Five Kurds from northern Iraq begin their 80th day without solid food on Thursday to protest the order for their expulsion, and the government said it will not intervene to save their lives. The protest has already gone longer than any previous hunger strike in the Netherlands, and the government's refusal to give in to the refugees' demands breaks the pattern of previous protests. The Iraqis have become so weak that social workers have begun discussing their funerals with them. "We're responsible for them. If they die without arrangements for their funeral it would be negligence and we would be the ones to blame," said Desiree Wilhelm, spokeswoman for the Central Body for the Housing of Asylum Seekers. Asked if the government would let the hunger strikers die, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Maud Bredero said, "it was their choice to stop eating." Four of the protesters were at a hostel for asylum seekers in the town of Waddinxveen near Rotterdam. The fifth was in a nearby town. Thousands of Kurds fled to Europe in the early 1990s before the United Nations set up a safe zone to protect them from Iraqi troops. Last year, the Dutch government determined that northern Iraq was safe and stable, and ordered about 9,000 Iraqi asylum seekers to leave. Germany, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom also sent home refugees from northern Iraq. The five hunger strikers say they fear repercussions by Saddam Hussein's regime and refuse to return. For the past 79 days the hunger strikers, aged between 25 and 36, have drunk only orange juice. Doctors say they fear the protesters may suffer permanent damage if they survive. "It depends on how their condition was before the hunger strike whether they will survive another week. But on the 70th day the lack of food will start damaging brain functions. As soon as they go into a coma it can be over in a few hours," said Paul Mertens, a doctor who is looking after them. Hunger strikes have proved successful in previous immigrant disputes in the Netherlands. In 1998 the government gave 132 illegal citizens from Morocco and Turkey permission to stay after a strike of 19 days. The following year, 47 Kosovars stopped eating for one week to get the housing they wanted. The Iraqis "think there's still hope," said Ahmed Pouri of the group Participating Refugees in Multicultural Europe. They have threatened to step up their action by also refusing to drink. But the Justice Ministry said it will make no exception to the rules. "If they apply for permission again we will reject it as we did the first time," said Bredero. "They had a fair chance. Now they need to take their responsibility and go back," she told The Associated Press. "This is a very difficult situation. The hunger strikers are not able to think clearly any more. I'm trying hard to convince them not to stop drinking, and for now it works," Pouri said.
    ©Associated Press

    Conservative leader William Hague's attempts to woo ethnic minority voters have again been undermined by outspoken comments from one of his Mps. Backbencher John Townend told the Commission for Racial Equality it should be abolished and that a multi-cultural Britain was a "mistake". Similar remarks by Mr Townend earlier this month sparked a bitter row between Labour and the Conservatives over the issue. Mr Hague rejected Mr Townend's latest comments saying: "The Conservative Party is totally opposed to any racism of any form." However, he said he would not be withdrawing the party whip from Mr Townend, who is standing down at the election.

    Latest outburst
    The MP's latest outburst came in a letter to the CRE, explaining why he has refused to sign a pledge not to exploit the race issue during the election. The East Yorkshire MP later told the BBC: "All this emphasis on race and colour from the race relations industry is counter-productive. "And whatever parents might think, it is in the long-term interests of their children and grandchildren that they do not consider themselves part of a minority in this country, they consider themselves to be English or Scottish." He said it would be hypocritical of him to sign a pledge from the CRE - an organisation he wanted abolished. The pledge was an attempt to stop debate on illegal immigration, which was a matter of concern to his constituents, claimed Mr Townend. He added: "Houses required for our young people are now being occupied by asylum seekers." "This is an important issue at the election but anyone who puts their head above the parapet is accused of being a racist."

    'Colour blind' society
    Mr Townend said the implications of a speech last week by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that the British were not a race meant they were a "mongrel" race. His previous speech on race, which began the debate, had been much misreported, he claimed. Calling for a "colour blind society", he said he accepted legal immigrants but they should not receive special treatment as this would antagonise the "indigenous" population. Second generation immigrants should consider themselves "natives of this island rather than looking back to a motherland abroad."

    Hague jostled
    During a visit to Pudsey, near Leeds, on Friday, Mr Hague was jostled by protestors, some of whom called out "sack him" in a reference to Mr Townend. Mr Hague said of the MP: "He does not agree with a multi-cultural position. I do. "People in Britain of all origins and communities want this country to be a safe haven but not a soft touch." In a speech in Bradford on Thursday Mr Hague predicted the Tories would be the first party to be led by an Asian. He said: "We were the first party to have a Jewish leader, we were the first to have a woman leader and we will be the first party to have an Asian leader. "We are a party that will continue to bring together people from many different backgrounds." The Liberal Democrats said Mr Townend's views had no place in "any mainstream British political party". Its home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes added: "The challenge for the Conservative Party is to make sure that no other Conservative candidates already chosen to fight the election have similar views."
    ©BBC News

    Following the brutal racial attack on pensioner Walter Chamberlain, Oldham Chronicle editor Jim Williams takes a closer look at a problem he says has been developing locally for years.

    The racial tensions which led to the attack on 76-year-old World War II veteran Walter Chamberlain in Oldham this week have been simmering for three or four years. With significant Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations, living in similar but separate run down and depressing inner-city enclaves, the mixed Oldham community has been chafing at its edges for some time. Last year more than 600 racist incidents were logged by Oldham police and in 60% of them the victims were white. More than 180 of the racial incidents were violent and the vast majority of those were attacks by Asian youths - usually in gangs of anything from six to 20 - on lone white males. This year has seen the stabbing of a 20-year-old man in a subway, a 16-year-old boy whose face was stamped on after he was knocked over and the attack by three Asian youths on Mr Chamberlain as he walked to his home after watching a local amateur rugby league match. In a belated response to the problem, a multi-agency team has been set up to look at ways of improving the lot of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. Education, employment, social services, leisure facilities and improved living conditions are on the team's agenda. But it will all take a long time. Too long for local white residents, who feel under attack. Areas of Oldham occupied by the Asian communities are considered to be no-go areas by many Oldham residents although, contrary to recent publicity, there are not - and never have been - "whites keep out" signs in any parts of the town. Significantly, though, a recent anti-racist march, organised in response to a report that the National Front was planning a rally in Oldham, was advised to keep out of the Bangladeshi community by local leaders. The reasons extended for the racial violence have been many and varied. They range from poverty and unemployment, which leaves so many young Asian men with no prospects and narrow horizons, to a claim that the attacks are belated revenge for "Paki-bashing" inflicted on their families several generations ago. More likely, however, is the view that these conflicts are territorial, that the youngsters in the Asian communities do not have their white peers' possessions and have only the territory where they live to defend. And defend it from any white intrusion they certainly do. At its core, however, it is criminally thuggish behaviour and looking for excuses or reasons to justify the level of violent attacks experienced in Oldham recently would be a very dangerous road to tread. The violence is inspired and perpetrated by a tiny minority of Oldham's largely peace-loving Asian communities and is, in the short term, a matter of policing rather than social policy. Remedies to social problems are essential, of course, but before those remedies can be put in place the violence has to be brought to an end.
    ©BBC News

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