news archives

Special Report

NEWS - Archive for November and December 2002

November and December 2002 Headlines

Headlines December 20, 2002

By Karen R. Mock, Canadian Race Relations Foundation

Just over thirty years ago, on October 8, 1971, the policy of Canadian Multiculturalism was declared in the House of Commons. Much has changed in this country since then, and we have come from the euphoria of the commitment to celebrate our differences, to the tension of a backlash against multiculturalism, continually challenging the government and the Canadian population to redefine this unique concept that has attracted world-wide attention and admiration. It is beyond the scope of this address to trace the entire history of multiculturalism in Canada; nor can this be a review of the history of early racism and hate propaganda in this country, and the shameful period of the ‘30s and the ‘40s, including racist immigration policies post-war. I have written extensively on these issues elsewhere. This paper picks up where those historical records leave off. A brief glance at some of the research and thinking that shaped and reshaped our understanding of multiculturalism is intriguing indeed. Looking at the past will add insight into where we are now, and hopefully provide a foundation for determining future directions in coming to terms with and benefiting fully from our multicultural society.

Defining Multiculturalism - Where Have We Been?
In the years leading up to the declaration of the Multiculturalism policy in 1971, the government had become increasingly concerned about the integration of immigrants and the relations between cultural groups. In the '60's, the Citizenship Branch of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, that had been organized during the war, was moved to the Department of the Secretary of State, which, as you may recall, had its hands full with the culmination, or should I say the end of the so-called 'quiet revolution' and the emerging demands of Quebecois for recognition of language and cultural rights. And so the Bilingual and Bicultural Commission set out across the country to discover the view of all Canadians as we moved towards the recognition of two official languages. But, lo and behold, a "third voice" was heard throughout the land, as group after group and brief after brief spoke to the contributions and aspirations of the so-called "other" cultural communities. The B & B Report, as it was affectionately called, had to come up with an additional volume, recognizing ethnocultural minorities and advocating the protection of their cultural and linguistic rights. Multiculturalism was acknowledged as a reality within the bilingual framework.

In October 1971, Multiculturalism was declared an official policy of this country, and the government began to support heritage languages and activities of ethnocultural communities, as well as continuing its earlier programs designed to enhance long-term integration. The emphasis of the multiculturalism programming was on cultural retention and cultural sharing..."Celebrating Our Differences", with the initiative for the direction of the programs coming from groups themselves. At the same time, removal of some of the systemic barriers in our immigration policy began to allow fairer access to Canada, and the voices of racial minorities began to be heard. There was a greater push nationally and internationally for equality and justice for all minority groups. Along with the multiculturalism policy, there were tremendous related developments in the early '70's. Hate propaganda, the promotion of hatred against identifiable groups, became a criminal offence in Canada in 1970, when the hate laws were adopted as amendments to the Criminal Code (Sections 318-320). That same year, Canada ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which had been adopted by the UN in 1965, and signed by Canada in 1966. The Canadian government began to give more attention to equality issues. The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, and various provincial human rights codes, were also enacted to provide greater protection of minority rights.

But after several serious racial incidents in the Toronto subways and on the streets in the mid to late 70's, Walter Pitman alerted us that "Now Is Not Too Late" in his call to action to combat growing racial tension as a result of changing demographics. A report by the Toronto Board of Education reminded us that "We Are All Immigrants to This Place" as they acknowledged a growing backlash and the necessity to provide better services to the multicultural population of the city. They followed with the "Report on Multiculturalism" and later the "Report on Race Relations", and other Boards of Education began to follow suit across the country, to develop policies to promote equality in their systems and to implement procedures for handling racial incidents when they occurred. Usually it was a catalytic event that led to policy development. For example, in the city of North York in Ontario, an invitation to the KKK to come into a classroom to present "the other side" made the principal and school board realize they had no policy on the books to prevent their coming into the school to spout racist ideology. At the same time, having nowhere else to turn, parents launched a class action suit with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission against the local school board to improve education for Black students. Right across the country it was recognized that if people interpreted multiculturalism as cultural retention and cultural sharing, but not as breaking down the barriers to real equality, the policy's promise would never be fulfilled. A stronger, more direct thrust was needed. The education system led the way.

Still not able to use the "R" word and get funded, and still recognizing that francophones preferred "interculturelle" to "multiculturelle", the Canadian Council for Multicultural and Intercultural Education held its first meeting in Winnipeg in 1981, and provincial multicultural councils and educational associations were created to build coalitions and develop multicultural and multiracial curriculum, materials and programs that were inclusive and designed to put the multiculturalism policy into practice. Aboriginal groups became more vocal at this time, with the concern that multiculturalism, as it was being interpreted, did not include them. Heritage language programs did extend linguistic and cultural programs to First Nations, but the most successful continued to be those which were self determined. With increasing pressure, multiculturalism programming began both more overtly to include race relations, and to include and enhance Aboriginal participation, independence and self-determination.

In 1982 the Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched multiculturalism and equality rights in the constitution, and it called on the whole Charter to be interpreted in a way the "preserves and enhances the multicultural heritage of Canada". The Charter guaranteed equal protection and benefit of the law, free from discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, and religion. In the 80's, amendments to various Human Rights Codes provided the Commissions the power to monitor and enforce those rights, strengthened in Ontario, for example, by the Race Relations Division of the Human Rights Commission. In 1984 the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) published "Democracy Betrayed", making public the history of Japanese Canadians, and they launched the campaign for redress for the complete abrogation of human and civil rights of Japanese Canadians. And the "Equality Now!" Task Force (1984) and "Employment Equity" Commission (1984) pointed out systemic racism in education, the media, health services, the criminal justice system and employment across the country. Both reports called for the immediate implementation of measures to combat discrimination and increase equity for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. In 1985, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the Social Planning Council asked "Who Gets the Work?", and their research was unequivocal in finding blatant discrimination in hiring practices and in the workplace. And, all the while, there were ongoing rumours and reports of harassment of minorities by the police.

By the mid-1980's, evaluation of the implementation of earlier school board Multiculturalism and Race Relations policies was disappointing indeed. Any attempt at real organizational change was met with resistance, and resulted in further marginalization of the staff who were trying to combat racism and effect change. Many research studies in education, media, policing, health, (several of which were conducted by people on this very panel) revealed very little movement in this area. It was also clear that effective race relations training in each of these sectors was sorely lacking. Parents and community groups were becoming more vocal in their demands for equitable treatment in schools. Backlogs were becoming more jammed in the Human Rights Commissions. And all the while alleged police harassment, and even shootings of minorities, in particular Black youth, increased. Clearly celebrating our differences was not enough. Many of us knew what had to be done, and having the courage to name the problem and to use the language was a start.

Masemann and Mock's report on "Access to Government Services by Racial Minorities" (1987) revealed that differential treatment of minorities appeared to be the norm, resulting in lack of equal access to services, and the frustration, alienation, and continued feelings of marginalization and helplessness among racial minorities. My "Race Relations Training Manual" developed for the Ontario Race Relations Directorate in 1988 outlined training strategies for the various sectors. And our study on "Implementing Race and Ethnocultural Equity Policy in Ontario School Boards" (1989) documented the barriers to implementation and the key factors in success, and called on the Ministry to mandate such policies and to begin by cleaning up its own act in the area of equitable practices and multicultural anti-racist education... we could now use the words. The Multiculturalism Policy and its programs had enabled us to do the research, gather the data, and have the conferences...but then what? Many of the task forces, commissions and research studies of the '80's, and all their recommendations, represent the collective voices of many marginalized and victimized Canadians... voices summarized and then silenced in reports on shelves.

But in some circles, the concerns of the '80's were heard loudly and clearly, and it was eventually recognized that equality issues were the results of systemic inequalities and therefore beyond the capability of individuals or communities to resolve. That is, the co-operation and active involvement of government and institutions were required to achieve such goals as employment equity and the acceptance, not tolerance, of all communities as part of the so-called mainstream. These concepts are at the core of the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

It is clearly stated in the Act that it "recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards to race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society". And embedded in the Act is the notion that it is also a policy that is "designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada." As an act of parliament, the Multiculturalism Act is directed to all Canadians, not just to ethnocultural or racial minority communities. The 1988 Act gave government institutions responsibility to implement multicultural organizational change, and the Department of Multiculturalism provided programming not just for community groups, but for so-called "mainstream" institutions - police, healthcare facilities, education, social service, the arts, - to develop and implement multiculturalism policies and programs towards equality of access and service delivery. The Act explicitly recognized the special status of Aboriginal Peoples. In addition, the Act resulted in multiculturalism no longer embedded within a bilingual framework, but each now had its own legislative and constitutional basis. With the policy enacted into legislation in 1988, there was indeed cause for celebration.

In 1988 there was also celebration amongst Japanese Canadians and all those who were part of the coalition lobby when redress was achieved. The NAJC negotiated the creation of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation into the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement, and the Canadian Race Relations Act was passed in 1990. Through the Agreement and the creation of the CRRF, the government reaffirmed the principles of justice and equality for all citizens in Canada and pledged to ensure that such violations would not happen again.

But in 1989, yet another police shooting in Toronto's Black Community created such an outcry that the "Task Force on Race Relations and Policing" was convened in Ontario to receive public deputations and in a very short time frame come up with concrete recommendations to improve police/community relations. The work was intense, the stories gut wrenching, the recommendations very concrete -- some of which have been implemented, most of which have not -- at least not in a way that their impact will have been felt on the street where it counts. So is it any wonder that several years later, in May 1992, after the so-called riot on Yonge Street after the Rodney King decision demonstration, that the Stephen Lewis commission on anti-Black racism heard deputation after deputation on the very same issues? So much so, that the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith's deputation to the Metropolitan Toronto Police Services Board that I delivered on May 28, 1992 contained excerpts taken directly from the brief to the task Force on Race Relations and Policing, and to the Standing Committee on the Administration of Justice delivered two and three years before! How long does it take to turn words into action? Policy into practice? Rhetoric into reality? And how soon will it be before now IS too late?

Redefining Multiculturalism - Where Are We Now?
In the early 1990's, if people like me were feeling demoralized, frustrated, fearful, helpless and exhausted, then how much more so the visible minority youth and their parents? For many we also have to add the words angry and betrayed. The only really surprising aspect of the riot and looting in May 1992 in Toronto...or in later in Vancouver...or racial gang fights in Halifax at a local school... is that it came as a surprise to anyone. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act was finally proclaimed in 1996 with the mandate to document the history of racism in Canada, expose its current manifestations, and to work for and with all Canadians towards the creation of a society that ensures equality and justice for all, regardless of race, colour, or ethnic origin. But by the mid ‘90's there was the perfect combination of factors that escalated racial tension and violence. The proliferation of hate group activity across the country during this period from coast to coast was testimony to the results of these exacerbating factors.

First, fiscal restraint is a reason -- or should I say excuse?- given for not implementing equity initiatives, and many programs continue to be cut back in this area particularly at the provincial level, the jurisdiction responsible for employment legislation. Such programs are considered "soft", and not as important as the substantive matters in an organization or workplace. A recession causes people to retrench and compete, and to think of "me", not to be concerned about empathy and altruism and promoting the "other" in the interest of equality. Such a climate leads to attempts to preserve the status quo and systemic barriers to equality, rather that moving towards organizational change.

Secondly, though related to the first, is the severe backlash we are experiencing towards multiculturalism and all that it stands for -- a resistance that is unjustified, perpetrated by those who want to preserve the status quo. A recessionary climate leads people to blame others for their misfortune, and in particular to scapegoat minorities. During such times, identifiable minorities are at risk. Analysis of the data gathered by hate crimes units over the past 9 years shows a negative correlation between interest rates and incidents of racism and hate crime.

Thirdly, international events influence the present climate in Canada. There has been a rise in the right and in xenophobia worldwide. David Duke in the U.S., LaPen in France, the neo-Nazis throughout Eastern Europe, all create a climate in which overt racism begins to be commonplace and serves as a stimulus for people here to become more bold in their racist behaviour. Also comparisons with Europe and the atrocities of "ethnic cleansing" in some parts of the world lead some Canadians to think we don't have problems here; and so they can blame the victims for complaining, rather than acknowledging the racism that is inherent in our own society. And in the post September 11th climate, we saw a backlash against racial minorities, and a real rise in overt racist incidents and hate crimes against Muslim and Arab Canadians, Jews, immigrants and refugees, as documented in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation's Appeal for Vigilance Against Racial and Religious Intolerance (2001), recent proof yet again that racism is very close to the surface. In the anti-terrorism frenzy and under a heightened security agenda, racial profiling is not uncommon, and there have been many reports of the abrogation of human and civil rights, almost reminiscent of the 1940's – strengthening the resolve of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to fulfill its mandate and mission that can be summed up in two words: never again!

Fourth, I am very concerned about increasing divisiveness among and between minority communities and equity seeking groups. The essence of this work is to break down the barriers to equality so there can be equal access for all groups and shared power. But because of the politicization of these issues, and also because of the failure of government to introduce innovative models (e.g. of funding, management, organizational culture), people and groups are forced to play this all out within existing structures, and end up competing for power. In the '90's the notions of shared power and the empowerment of others were relegated to lip-service, while there were increasing attempts to grab power for oneself or ones group. This leads people into the dangerous and divisive practice of comparing pain and victimization, and may even result in racism towards or violations of the human rights of other groups in the promotion of ones own agenda, as we have experienced recently. There are also attempts to undermine significant strides that have been made when the times were different and therefore the modus operandi had to conform to the climate in the interest of furthering the equity and anti-racist agenda. One such divisive practice is the deliberate put-down of the concept of multiculturalism by anti-racist rhetoric, when in fact there are intimate connections, historically and particularly in the legislation. One cannot be achieved without the other. For various local and provincial governments to fall into the trap of separating these concepts is to increase the divisiveness in the equity seeking and social justice movement, to create competition where there should be co-operation by pitting some groups against others, and to inadvertently fall into the role of perpetuating old hierarchical power-based structures, under the guise of creating new, more egalitarian models.

Witness the failure of countless "multicultural" or "race relations" or "human rights" committees when people cannot leave their organizational or political agendas behind. Many such efforts deteriorate into who should be in charge, who should control the agenda and the finances, or make the opening remarks at a conference, while many remain marginalized and voiceless in the process.

Witness also the gap that still exists between theory and practice in education. Every teacher who knows child development and learning theory will emphasize the importance of individual self esteem, the connection between self worth and learning, and of every child's having role models so that he or she can reach full potential. But that same teacher will argue against employment equity in a school board where a person of colour is more likely to be the caretaker than a teacher or principal. Or that teacher will advocate continuing to call the winter festive celebration the "Christmas" Concert, while children of minority religious groups continue to feel like second-class citizens. In a study I conducted not long ago on the nature and extent of hate activity in Toronto, one young Black student poignantly told me that he went to a school where there was a greater punishment for smoking than for racism.

Another example of the failure to "walk the talk" I have experienced personally is an increase in antisemitism, even among some of my former colleagues in the anti-racism movement, and a blatant failure to name it. Using theoretical jargon, it is not uncommon for me to hear that "Jews have wealth and power. They cannot be victims of oppression. Antisemitism should not be on the anti-racist agenda". While I would be the first to acknowledge what is called "white privilege" in the Canadian context, it is ludicrous for someone to claim that they are working to eliminate racism and discrimination, and then continue to stereotype minority groups other than their own. And we must stop the racism among those who fight antisemitism, and the homophobia and sexism among many groups fighting for equality and human rights. Failure to understand intersectionality among and similarities between various forms of oppression makes single issued and self-centred struggles blatantly transparent. Self examination is essential in our work, lest the victim become the victimizer, and the quest for shared power becomes nothing more than a grab for power.

So where are we now? At a crossroads. There has been lots of talk, many recommendations over the years. There is a feeling of betrayal, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness among minority groups, at the same time as there is a retrenchment and backlash by the so-called majority groups, who are having an increasing influence on government policies and programs. Politicians have seized on this discontent in their own grab for power, and many of the strides we made in the development and implementation of the multiculturalism policy, as we moved from cultural retention to anti-racism in the quest for equity have been eroded. As an optimist I say that we would not be experiencing a backlash if we weren't making progress. Let us ensure that evidence of that progress is translated into concrete action that affects those who do not see any change or hope of change for their own lives.

The challenge for the future of multiculturalism, indeed of Canadian society as we know it, is to build on a model of shared resources in a climate of declining resources -- to develop coalitions in the interest of social cohesion and integration -- the true goals of multiculturalism. But goals which will not be achieved until racism is eliminated.

Taking Action - Where Are We Going?
The time is long overdue for putting the policies and the recommendations and the theories into practice, for putting the words into action. It is not the multiculturalism policy that is at fault; it is the lack of implementation of that policy in its fullest form. People feel they have not been listened to ... and regretfully have been shown that only when their frustration leads to violence and lawlessness will they and their needs be taken seriously. The situation also makes the disenfranchised vulnerable to being drawn in by propaganda perpetrated by leaders who, in their quest for power, scapegoat others, build on an anger out of proportion to their lived experience, and who ultimately turn to violence to enhance their power and control. We don't need new task forces - we need to implement the old ones. And implementation usually falls into three main categories: education, community liaison, and legal/legislative initiatives, sometimes described as Prevention, Partnerships and Protection. THAT is what putting multiculturalism into action entails.

Education and training are essential - multicultural anti-racist training in the police, the media, the education system, and the criminal justice system. Community based organizations and other NGOs can offer assistance in this regard. Anti-racist education workshops to school boards (students, teacher, administrators) and guidance on policy development and implementation should be compulsory and system wide; courses and materials for use in policing services and judicial education programs are also available. Unless police officers are trained effectively in the use of force under stress, and in multicultural and race relations issues, then the shootings will not stop, and neither will the evidence of biases that exist. The Solicitor General's unit on Race Relations and Policing had a training unit, but it was cut back. Clearly more time and resources have to be allocated to pre- and in-service education in all sectors.

Community Liaison is another avenue to solve the problems we are facing today. Intercultural dialogue, community partnerships, coalition building and co-operation, reduce stereotypes and promote harmonious race relations. But these partnerships must be real. The kinds of programs introduced by various police services to integrate minority and disenfranchised youth into their programs and to consult with community are exemplary and should be carefully examined. There are also several exciting programs in schools across the country that should be used as models. Many of these programs are outlined in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation's summary of best practices honoured by the Award of Excellence program over the last few years.

But those who pay lip service to community involvement and consultation soon find that the community feels betrayed when they see their concerns are not heard and their participation not genuine. Outreach is essential in time of conflict and tension, but should not just be restricted to it. For example, during a crisis, organizations should not rely on the media, but should consult first hand. There was evidence of outreach to the Black communities right after the so-called riots. And the Muslim/Jewish Dialogue began at the height of the Gulf War. So should policing services or schools reach out to the aggrieved community whenever there is an incident. Healing after September 11th occurred more quickly when communities met together for mutual support and to build social cohesion in a time of fear and anxiety. This is what we now mean as "Multiculturalism in Action" - coming together to resolve differences, build on similarities, and to share and celebrate our unique identities in a common Canadian context, and for the common good, regardless of racial and religious differences.

Legal/Legislative Initiatives are also applicable in our discussion of where should the government go in resolving the current situation created by the last several years of backsliding. The recent federal government employment equity targets as a result of the "Embracing Change" Task Force is a step in the right direction. But there must be effective policies in place in each of our institutions at every level of government, if we are ever going to change behaviour and achieve true equality and equity. The Ministries of Education must again mandate and monitor the effective implementation of race and ethnocultural equity policies. And the policing services must have mandatory anti-racism and intercultural awareness training, as well as strategies for identifying and dealing with hate/bias crime and the victim impact of such crime. But support is continually being withdrawn from such programs, even as the needs are escalating.

And there must be a truly independent method of investigating the police, that is independent even of the Solicitor General's Ministry, and of the military, independent of the Department of Defence. Our public institutions must not only BE FAIR, but they must BE SEEN TO BE fair. The public trust must be restored. There is no doubt that many individuals will not come forward to complain to an internal investigative body in a hierarchically organized institution. People would be more forthcoming to a totally independent auditing body. I also believe that we must have a similar situation in the education system. Students and teachers are victimized daily by racism and discrimination, but do not come forward because of the internal processes which are inconsistent from school to school, and which often result in the victim's being blamed or not deemed credible. A completely independent investigatory body with full power to do a thorough investigation (with or without an individual complainant, but on the basis of sufficient evidence, would do wonders to move the education system forward, particularly on the matter of systemic discrimination. But in the present system, whether it's police, or schools, the armed forces or a government department itself, people are fearful at every level to stand up against racism ... and of losing power (whether its a job, or elected office), and as a result we continue often to work in poisoned atmospheres, afraid to take the risk. These are all areas which a redefined and strengthened Multiculturalism Policy can address.

It seems with the creation of the Multiculturalism Department a few years ago, with its own Minister and Deputy Minister, and with its increasing emphasis on anti-racism and anti-hate initiatives, it appeared that the will to take the risk was there. But the political will is eroding. Multiculturalism was one of the departments significantly reduced when it was folded into the Department of Canadian Heritage and placed again under the auspices of a junior minister as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women. Can we withstand the onslaught of right-wing thinking and veiled racist ideology of some of the opposition to multiculturalism, anti-racism and human rights initiatives? Will the federal leadership in human rights and race relations be able to withstand the dismantling of many of provincial agencies and programs responsible for these areas? There are hard won rights and freedoms that we cannot allow to be undermined by those who only wish to maintain privilege and power. Neither should we be co-opted nor corrupted by the same quest. When we fail to remove the barriers to equality, we are easily co-opted by the same structures, and pitted against one another in the competition for power and scarce resources. This is clearly not in the spirit of the ideals of the multiculturalism policy, and we must remain vigilant to ensure that this is not the case.

We have come along way, and Now is NOT Too Late. But we were close. Racism has been acknowledged as a reality in Canada. We will never achieve the vision of our multicultural society until racism is eliminated. We still have a long way to go, but through effective Education, Community Liaison, and Legal/Legislative Action, we'll get there together.

The essence of the Canadian Multiculturalism policy is the commitment to removing the many barriers to equality, so that ultimately all groups within Canada have equal access, equal opportunity, and equal rights, thereby becoming fully Canadian.

This was the promise of the policy in 1971, and it was predicted that its implementation would lead to more loyal Canadians. It is ironic that the results of the Quebec referendum of 1995 proved this to be true, as we continued to struggle to define Canada and to achieve Canadian unity in diversity. But the BC Referendum of 2002 truly showed the tyranny of the majority, when it comes to Aboriginal and minority rights.

As we commemorate three decades of Multiculturalism, let us look back to see how far we have come. Because of our laws and our codes, individual rights are protected. Because of our commitment to a multicultural Canada, communities are working together to fight racism and to achieve group rights. I am still hopeful we will achieve the goals of the Multiculturalism Policy, because of our commitment to human rights, democracy, equality and social justice, the factors that will continue to inform our shared vision of what it means to be Canadian.

Note: On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Multiculturalism Policy, this presentation has been adapted and updated from a paper by Karen Mock published previously in Canadian Social Studies, 1997, Vol. 31, No. 3&4, entitiled: "25 Years of Multiculturalism – Past, Present and Future." Karen Mock is the Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Her biography and additional resources may be found at
©Canadian Race Relations Foundation

Florence November the 8th - 9th 2002

Final Document
An outstanding participation has characterised all the appointments of the European Social Forum concerned with the themes of international migrations and rights of migrants. The vast crowd of women and men - from different European countries and from other continents - attending these events has been a fact of great relevance: in Florence, the movement of movements has finally demonstrated the will to assume as pivotal the migration theme. This is a theme that crosses crucial issues such as the process of restructuring and de-structuring of the labour market, the policies for cutting down the welfare state, the processes of social exclusion.

It is going consolidating among the movement the consciousness that the radical fight against neoliberal globalisation is defective if its political agenda would not include the struggle for the recognition of full rights for migrants - that is, for those 19 millions citizens that the Nice's, Laeken's and Sevilla's Europe wants to maintain in conditions of invisibility, exploitation and apartheid.

The centrality of migrants in many speeches has expressed and witnessed how in Europe are growing forms of self-organisation and experiences that have to be supported: they are central for the flourishing of all the movement that fights for the migrants' rights and against racism but not only. The subjectivity of migrants enriches and is an essential part of the force of the movement that struggles against war and neoliberalism for labour, democratic, social and civil rights.

One has to consider also the consolidate tendency in western societies to make a political and ideological use of the theme of the control and limitation of immigration: the ordinary racist view of immigration as ‘invasion', of the immigrant as a source of danger and of clandestinity as synonymous of criminality, is often used as a convenient tool for electioneering. The notion of European citizenship, proposed for the European Chart of Right is indeed a very narrow conception of citizenship: it is only conferred to native citizens. The millions of migrants that reside in Europe permanently and that contribute to the European cultural and economic wealth are destined to be lacking rights: this is the opinion of Aznar, Blair and Berlusconi.

To the ‘security approach' of the European migration policies the movement replies with the ‘crumbling from below' of the fortress Europe. The European social forum has overturned the agenda of the European rulers posing the basis for the construction of a European movement of migrants and for the rights of migrants, able to oppose to the idea of ‘Europe as exclusion' an alternative ‘open Europe', the latter being a multicultural, ‘half-breed', built upon radically different principles, like as:

-the guarantee of the right to migrate and to enter Europe;
-the free circulation for everybody, including the citizens of ‘third countries';
- The regularisation of all the ‘sans-papier';
- the idea of an inclusive citizenship, capable of guaranteeing to all the people that reside in Europe full civil, political social rights according to the principle that any citizen that was born on the European territory or resides in it regularly is a European citizen;
- the full guarantee of the right to familiar cohesion;
- the guarantee of an equality of rights for all the work-force and the introduction of measures for the safeguard of the exploitation of foreign workers (included those precarious and/or without contract);
- the fight against any form of discrimination, xenophobia or racism;
- the guarantee of rights to gypsies;
- the guarantee of the right to ask for asylum.

The debate in Florence has been focused on three pivotal themes. First of all, the new regime of borders that has spread over Europe in the last decade, the repercussions of which on both the outside (the so-called ‘domino effect' through which it moves towards east and south, firstly involving those countries which are prospective EU members) and the inside (flourishing of detention centres and expulsion systems and tendency to introduce hierarchies in European societies).

Second thing, the movements of migrant people and for the rights of migrants which already exist in Europe; we have to focus upon their features, their spheres of action and forms of demonstration. Finally, we have to discuss the migrant labour in its increasing exemplarity and relevance for the composition of the European workforce and the experience of mobilisation that are growing bigger everywhere, from Spain to Italy.

We propose that those who are going to take part in the Florence Assembly discuss together the necessity of building a European movement for the rights of migrant people through which promoting initiatives, mobilisations and common campaigns next year. It has to be not yet another formally organised network but, rather, a real channel of political communication and exchange of knowledge, experiences and fights. As to us, we will indicate three crucial points concerning which the movement should express itself in Europe.

The migrants, gypsy, the associations against racism, the self-organised realities that have met each other in Florence in the Migrants Assembly, have decided for the next year initiatives, mobilisations and common campaigns approving and improving the proposals advanced in the preparatory draft elaborated by the Migrant table of the Italian Social Forum.

The right to migrate
No economic, political and social reasons can justify the deprivation of the freedom to emigrate, which is acknowledged to everybody by the articles 13 and 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Should a campaign having as its main priority the introduction of mechanisms for the permanent regularisation of those able to constitute a basis for social integration be put into effect, the order of priorities in the European agenda would be overturned. The rights of migrants cannot be subordinated to the interests of the work donor. The policies for entrance cannot be made contingent. And the militarization of the borders fosters the traffic of human beings, the irregular immigration and the concealed labour, instead of fighting them.

A European citizenship of residence
The assembly proposes a new idea of citizenship that assumes as a basic principle the very relationship between the recognition of human rights – civil, political and social rights – and the awareness of the multicultural dimension of contemporary societies. Such a renewal of the idea of citizenship envisages the necessity to sever the rights of citizen from nationality and to modify the Art. 17 of the Union Treaty. This means to substitute a principle based on ‘birthplace' with one founded on ‘residence in a specific territory' so that citizenship comes to be not only civil and political (and then comprehensive of the right to vote) but also social.

No detention
Detention centres are the symbol of the neoliberal policies of criminalisation of migrants: in Woomera (Australia) and Ponte Galeria (Rome), in Malaga (Spain) and Manchester (UK) and Zurich (Swiss), they are always places of suspension of the rights and one of the principal means by virtue of which the governments try to render repressive policies against the migrants effective.

Women and men are detained for months in jails, guarded by military forces and bounded by barded wire, just because they are guilty of having sought a better life.

We propose a European campaign for closing such centres of detention and blocking the construction of new structures. The campaign has already decided for a first meeting: in Turin in November the 30th it will take place a national demonstration against the centres of detention and the Bossi-Fini's law (are going to participate also European delegations).

The right of asylum
Since the Gulf war, the world governments have decided to re-legitimate the use of war as an instrument for the resolution of international controversies. The intervention in Kosovo determined the introduction of the allegedly ‘humanitarian war'. And after September the 11th, they have contrived a device for justifying, once again, the indiscriminate use of weapons against the civilians: the so-called ‘preventive war'.

But the refugees and the people asking for asylum -who, for the great majority, are the direct consequences of these wars- have their right of asylum denied every single day. The European Social Forum propose to start a European campaign for the effective guarantee of the right of asylum for all those who are persecuted for political reasons, regardless of the nature of the prosecutor. This campaign should ask the EU to adopt policies that bound the member states to uniform their systems of reception and policies of integration of people asking for asylum and refugees as soon as possible.

The migrants assembly has also planned a new meeting in February in Paris: during the two-days meeting the campaigns and the initiatives firstly shaped in Florence will be further discussed and concretised in a work co-ordinated on a European scale.


Motion proposed by the table of migrants of the Italian social forums.

The so-called amnesty fixes for today November the 11th the deadline for the regularisation request for the migrants lacking in the residence permit.

The meeting of the migrants table of the social forums within the European Social Forum has reaffirmed its criticism, against a process of regularisation that excludes a priori huge strata of migrants people - from the autonomous workers to the workers engaged in precarious and flexible activities. But also the table has fleshed out how, only few days before the deadline, the government has finally recognised the injustice of its amnesty that commits to the will of the employer whether regularise her employee. Yet, the ministerial memorandum of the 31st of October that tries to redress this unfairness - allowing the application for residence permit also to those migrants workers that settle a dispute against the employers that do not regularise them - has come too late. Indeed, few days cannot be sufficient to inform the thousands of migrants that in all Italy were sacked because of their hope to emerge from a clandestinity status; or for those forced in the alternative between dismissal and carrying on of the work in moonlighting conditions; nor these few days can be sufficient to organise thousands of labour disputes.

So, if the government has intended really to remedy to the evident injustice of the regularisation law, then it has to facilitate in removing the effects of this injustice, allowing to the migrants the necessary time for opening a controversy against the employers.

The migrant Table of the social forums considers then absolutely necessary an extension of the due date for the regularisation since otherwise, from tomorrow, the men and women - to whom it has been denied the right to existence by an unjust law - could come to be victims of the policies of expulsion and segregation in the centres of administrative detention (that are the very tenets of the repression system of immigration envisaged by the Bossi-Fini's law).

Motion proposed from the Lecce Social Forum
On November the 13th 2002, 13 countries of the Mediterranean area will meet in Lecce for discussing ‘the plan of alert and fast reaction against illegal immigration'. Why now? Why in Lecce?

In tackling the immigration question, it is always endorsed and stressed the repressive approach. The irregularity is, as a matter of fact, a constant of all the migration flows and it depends on the character more or less open of the provisions about the entrance and the stay in the destination countries.

Conversely, it should be necessary to guarantee and safeguard the fundamental rights of migrants. The prohibitionist logic according to which forbidding is equal to obstacle, is nothing but a naive illusion. Unfortunately, this is exactly the logic that inspires the segregationist and xenophobe character of the Bossi-Fini's law. The measures of sending away that the ministers wish to adopt involve a relevant narrowing of the fundamental rights of migrants. The approach in progress reveals, (and not only on a national scale) the tendency to criminilization; while behind this tendency is hide a reality that pictures a situation for which thousands of human being are forcedly escaping for intolerable scenarios of war and misery fostered by neoliberal policies.

And surely it will not be policies more repressive to stop migrants. What is happened - and is still going on - in the Otranto's Channel and in Sicily's Channel confirms once again the fact that the use of the military force is only destined to increase the number of victims.

But another approach is possible! Dismissing the philosophy of the public order and the racist refusal of immigration. Envisaging the expulsion or the forced constriction as sanctions for any kind of irregularity means to hand the migrants over the arbitrary running of the police.

The government measures are even different from the idea of gradualness in the regulation of expulsion put forward by the Green Book of the European Commission. Nonetheless for the ministers now the sole pressuring problem is how to deal with the waves of refugees escaping from the countries involved in the next announced war.

The Lecce Social Forum, the Lecce's coordination of the anti-racist associations, calls to action all the democratic Italian realities (social forums, association and anybody that wishes to demonstrate her dissent), in occasion of the above-mentioned summit, for a street demonstration.

Motion presented by humanitarian organizations of Calais
The European Social Forum strongly condemns the repression at Sangatte (France)
During the night of November 7th to November 8th, 2002, around 50 foreigners from Sangatte Camp had to find shelter in a gymnasium in Calais, in northern France. Two days earlier, the French Minister of Interior had closed the Camp, despite the fact that the UNHCR had established an antenna there. The camp opened in September 1999 at the request of local organisations : at this time, refugees were facing too harsh living conditions in Calais. Since newly arrived people are not accepted in the Camp anymore, the humanitarian situation has gone back to the one prevailing three years earlier.

Refugees, mostly Afghans, Kurds from Iraq and Sudanese, try every day to cross the Channel, risking their life in order to reach the United Kingdom. During 4 years, the French government has never addressed the problem, while making more difficult their requests for asylum ; more than 50,000 refugees succeeded in their attempt to reach the UK.

The current government, under the pressure of the British government and Eurotunnel company, has decided to close Sangatte without providing any solution to the political and human issues raised by the refugees.

For the last two days, an impressive number of police forces have been denying newly arrived people any access to the Camp. The whole Calais area is under police control in order to intimidate these refugees and spread them all along the Channel and North Sea coast.

For the last two days, an impressive number of police forces have been denying newly arrived people any access to the Camp. The whole Calais area is under police control in order to intimidate these refugees and spread them all along the Channel and North Sea coast.

Calais Human Rights NGOs as well as French and British organisations have strongly condemned this police operation. They have been joined by the organisations of the European Social Forum, gathered in Florence, Italy, expressing their strong support of pro-refugees organisations, and demanding the full respect of human rights obligations towards foreigners, and protection towards refugees, in France and in Europe.
Contact: Claire Rodier:

France: A Call for the Regularisation of all Illegal Residents in Europe
At the meeting of the European Council in Seville in June 2002 a large amount of time was devoted to the debate on the development of a future common policy on immigration and asylum. However, the rights of those affected by such a policy and the citizens of states outwith Europe were only mentioned as a sideline. As far as the rights of those who are de facto residents are concerned, variously referred to as illegal residents or clandestines, there was no mention.

Once again, the majority of the debate was on border surveillance, the possibility of repatriation to countries of origin and the cooperation of the police in the fight against illegal immigration. Europe, as it develops, constructs rules which, it claims, aim at itcontrolling migratory flux.

The method of controls proposed is to deny access to the European territory to all, except those whom the European economies requires, in particular to support the proposed systems of pensions.

While waiting for this proclaimed, grand harmonisation of European immigration policies, each of the Union states is adopting a harder line. The implementation of regulations, and administrative practices, are more often a cocktail of repression, suspicion of fraud and denial of rights. Occasionally, when the situation becomes controversial and the actions of illegal residents leads to demonstrations of solidarity, the public authorities implement a regularisation on a large scale. However, this is replaced once again by the abuse of the rights of those who appear to be slaves of the 3rd millennium.

The political institutions of the European Union prepare texts concerning, for instance, the right to family reunification or the minimal norms for the reception of asylum seekers. But even if they mention the fight against racism and xenophobia they do very little for the rights of foreign residents and nothing for the rights of illegal residents, who are the creation of discriminatory regulations.

Thus, it is time to address, on the European level, the issue of adequate rights for immigrants.
Their presence is a reality. A few tens of thousand, maybe even a few hundred thousand, are present within Europe. One might refer to them as a drop in the ocean compared to the disorder present in the rest of the world. However, this drop in the ocean is presented as a tidal wave or an insupportable movement which is used to feed xenophobia and racism.

These citizens of third world countries which are unstable or in a state of war have chosen or been forced to come to Europe, either permanently or for a few years. Most of the time they work here, sometimes raise children here, consume here and certain amongst them work within their community helping to develop their immediate environment. Many of them have a major role in the support and development of their village or region, or simply in the survival of their friends and family who have stayed in their country. They contribute thus to the economic and cultural richness of Europe and to the development of the rest of the world. It is inadmissible that these people, some of whom have lived among us for several years, should be excluded from all that constitutes citizenship, living in permanent fear of being expelled from the country, being denied elementary rights and being subject to the actions of all sorts of criminals: illegal employers, disreputable landlords, pimps, etc.

The argument of impracticality used against those who criticise this treatment has been deconstructed for several decades: illegal residents in Europe are here because they have found employment and if they had real rights they could subscribe to the systems of social protection and many could create activities and thus create employment. The risk of the provocation of an "influx" has never been proven and nothing indicates that the favouring of free circulation through European borders would not encourage movement in both directions with the spontaneous departure of some who came here to try back home to create a new life.

What is sure, on the other hand, is that the respect for the values of a state which operates within a framework of rights rests upon the fight against all forms of inequality and cannot accommodate the sub-status conferred upon certain of its members.

This is why we believe it to be just to ask that:

  • All de facto residents within the European Community obtain, within the country where they are, a durable residence status.

  • The European political institutions oblige the member states to protect these people against exploitation and to guarantee access to the rights which result from their presence and their employment.

  • The states of the European Union create measures targeted at the eradication of the situation of foreigners with neither status nor rights by creating the status of European resident which encompasses security of residence.

  • Europe integrates into its principles the right and liberty of circulation for all persons, whether nationals of European states or states outwith the European Community.

  • In the immediate future the status of current illegal residents be resolved through a directive which would oblige the member states to proceed to a regularisation of all such persons.

  • 13th September 2002

    Signatories (08-11-2002):
    Belgique - Collectif Solidarité contre l'Exclusion, CADTM (Comité pour l'Annulation de la dette du Tiers Monde), Décembre 18, HAND-in-HAND, Kairos Europe, MRAX (Mouvement contre le racisme, l'antisémitisme et la xénophobie), Universal Embassy
    Deutschland - Agisra-Köln (Arbeitsgemeinschaft gegen Internationale sexuelle und Rassistische Ausbeutung), Antiracism Office Bremen, Arbeitskreis zur Unterstützung von Asylsuchenden e.V., Asyl in der Kirche, AWO (Arbeiterwohlfahrt Bundesverband - Bonn), FIZ (Fraueninformationszentrum für Frauen aus Afrika, Asien, Lateinamerika und Osteuropa), Fluchtlingsinitiative Bremen, FRC (Flüchtlingsrat im Kreis Coesfeld), IBIS-Interkulturelle Arbeitsstelle für Forschung, Interkulturelles Frauenzentrum SUSI, JungdemokratInnen/Junge Linke Landesverband Berlin, Kanak attak, Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie, MediNetz Bremen, Medizinische Flüchtlingshilfe Bochum e.V., MigrantInnen, Promondial (Organisation für emanzipatorische Zusammenarbeit), Remedio e.V., Verein zur Foerderung und Integration auslaendischer Jugendlicher, Zentralamerikakomitee
    España - Asociación pro derechos humanos de andalucía, Fundación Etnopolis, Los Verdes de Andalucía, SOS Racisme Catalunya, SOS Racismo España
    France - Acort (assemblée citoyenne des originaires de Turquie), Act-Up Paris, AFJD (association française des juristes démocrates), Alternative couleur citoyenne, AMF (association des marocains de France), ASTTu (association de solidarité avec les travailleurs turcs), ATF (Association des Tunisiens en France), ATMF (association des travailleurs maghrébins de France), Ballon Rouge, Casss-papiers Brest (collectif d'action de soutien et de solidarité avec les personnes sans-papiers de Brest), Catred (Collectif des accidentés du travail, handicapés et retraités pour l'égalité des droits), Cedetim (centre d'études et d'initiatives de solidarité internationale), Cnafal (conseil national des associations familiales et laïques), Collectif arabe des sans-papiers de Marseille, Collectif Corrézien de Soutien aux Sans-papiers, Collectif de soutien à la démocratie et aux victimes de la violence politique en Algérie, Collectif de soutien aux demandeurs d'asile et sans-papiers, Confédération paysanne, Collectif Portugais Pour Une Pleine Citoyenneté, Comité des Femmes Arabes de France, Coordination nationale des sans-papiers, Cultures & Citoyenneté, Dal (Droit au logement), Droits Devant !!, École Émancipée, Emmaüs Aquitaine, Emmaüs Insertion, Emmaüs Développement, Fasti (fédération des associations de solidarité avec les travailleurs immigrés) , Fédération Artisans du Monde, Femmes de la terre, FGTE-CFDT (fédération générale des transports et de l'équipement - CFDT), FCE (Forum Civique Européen), FTCR (fédération des Tunisiens de France pour une citoyenneté des deux rives), Gisti (groupe d'information et de soutien des immigrés), La Marmite, LDH (Ligue des droits de l'homme), Longo maï, Migrant contre le Sida, Migrations Santé, Moi sans toit, Mrap (Mouvement pour la réconciliation et l'amitié entre les peuples), Odu (observatoire du droit des usagers), Pays d'Allier-Solidarité Afrique, Ras l'front, Sud Culture, Sud Éducation, Sud PTT, Sud Rail, Turbulences
    Hellas - Sudanese Community in Greece, Turkish minority movement for human and minorities rights
    Italia - ASGI (associazione studi giuridici sull'immigrazione), Associazione Cancelaria - Donne immigrate, Associazione delle Donne del Tigray, Avvocati contro la guerra, CDS (Casa Diritti Sociali ), CESTIM (Centro Studi Immigrazione), CIE (Centro d'Iniziativa per l'Europa), Coordinamento giuristi democratici, CRED (Centro di ricerca ed elaborazione per la democrazia), CRESM (Centro di Ricerche Economiche e Sociali per il Meridione), Filcams- Cgil (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Commercio Turismo e Servizi ΠConfederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro), Filef Lombardia (federazione Italiana Lavoratori migranti e famiglie), Liberimigranti, Lunaria, Naga, Todo Cambia
    Nederland - The Commission JPIC (Justice Peace Integrity of Creation) of the Missionaries of Africa
    Österreich - ANAR (Austrian Network Against Racism), _ BDFA (Bunte Demokratie für Alle), Die Bunten, SOS Mitmensch
    Portugal - African Cultural Centre from Setúbal , SOS Racismo Portugal
    Switzerland - Centre de contact suisses-immigrés/SOS Racisme, Mouvement suisse des sans-papiers, Syndicat Comedia
    United Kingdom - Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, Colombia Peace Association, Ilpa (Immigration Law Practitioners' Association), NNRF (Nottingham and Notts. Refugee Forum), TERF (Trans-European Roma Federation), National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns International structures - AEJDH (association européenne des juristes pour la démocratie et les droits de l'homme dans le monde), Coordination européenne pour le droit des étrangers à vivre en famille, ENAR (European network against racism), MRI (Migrants Rights International), PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants) , Réseau européen des Euromarches, UNITED for Intercultural Action (European network against, nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees) Political formations supporting the call - PRC (partito della rifondazione comunista - Italia), Comitato per i diritti dei migranti e popoli (Italia), Giovani Comunisti federazione del PRC (Italia), KPÖ (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs), LCR (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire - France), Les Piments Rouges (Belguim), The Greens European Free Alliance

    The new signatures of organizations (not of individual signatures) are to be sent (in French, English, Spanish or Italian)
    by fax to 00 (33) 1 43 14 60 69 or by mail to

    Motion proposed by the «Kurdistan Workshop» for a campaign on the war refugees and for a Kurdish candidature (city of Diyarbakir) to the world social forum 2004, after Porto Alegre 2003. (This motion has been subscribed by plenty of associations and assumed by the presidency of the assembly of migrants with the aim to re-propose it in the general assembly of the social forums together with the demand for the resignation of Valery Giscard d'Estaing from the European Convention for the racist justifications provided against the entrance of Turkey - and of other Islamic countries - in the EU).

    The Assembly of the European Social Forum, taking the great boost of democracy and the proposals of peace and cohabitation coming from the organisations and Kurdish people - victims of a terrible exodus and of the past and near at hand wars - and taking particularly the invite of the Platform for the democracy of Diyarbakir (representative of dozens of municipalities and of 324 organisations of the Kurdish civil society in Turkey) has decided:

    (1) to propose to all the association and Italian and European groups to join the campaign entitled to Malli Gullù (a young woman and Kurdish activist killed by the privations on the boat of the exodus toward Italy). This campaign defends the right to asylum, a civil and not segregationist welcome and conditions of security for Kurdish refugees and for all the war refugees.

    (2) To bind rigidly the Turkish candidature to the entrance in EU to the following conditions: a general amnesty that frees Abdullah Ocalan and all the Kurdish and Turkish political prisoners. The abrogation of the emergency legislation and the start of a true pluralism. To dismiss the devastating project dams on the Tiger and Eufrates. The free return of the internal and external refugees. Finally, the reconstruction of the thousands of villages ruined by the war.

    (3) To invite all the European organisations to a vast presence in Diyarbakir for Spring's new year day, the Newroz, on march the 28th; we have decided also to accept the invitation by the Municipality and of the Platform for democracy for organising a great meeting in 2003 for peace and democracy; and to candidate Diyarbakir as hosting city for the world social forum 2004.

    First adhesions: ICS, Azad, Uiki, Aassociazione per la pace, Attac CT, Ciss-Cepir PA, Coordianmento di enti locali CISCASE, Comitati di solidarietà con il Kurdistan di Firenze, Alessandria e Sardegna, Naga MI, Rete No-Global NA, Immigrazione Prc, Giuristi democratici, SinCobas, Ciac Parma

    ©Migrants European Assembly

    A SLIPPERY SLOPE (Netherlands)
    By Ronald Eissens, Dutch Complaints Bureau Discrimination on Internet

    After September 11 and especially after May 6, the day Pim Fortuijn, leader of the Populist party LPF got murdered, things have changed radically in the Netherlands. Since the murderer is a left wing animal rights activist, there is an outcry against everything and everybody ‘left-wing' or ‘antiracist' or ‘pro-multiculture'. Already present anti-muslim feelings were fuelled by the WTC tragedy and the xenophobe vote.

    Election day on last May 15 gave the LPF a landslide victory since lots of people voted for the dead LPF leader in a show of revenge and anti-establisment. 26 seats in parliament made the LPF a factor that could not be bypassed, which resulted in a new government coalition of CDA (Christian Democrats), VVD (Conservatives),) and the LPF. Now, after 5 months, that coalition has fallen. It was clear from the beginning that it could not last, the LPF fraction is populated with inexperienced and extreme personalities, leaderless and out for revenge. After a number of incidents the VVD decided to pull the plug. New elections will be held on January 22, and already the polls show that LPF will be reduced to 5 or 6 seats. If they're lucky. However, this does not mean that policies that have been set into motion will change overnight. What's worse, part of the anti-immigrant, anti-minority and anti-asylum-seekers policy that is set out by the previous government has already been taken over by most of the big parties in an attempt to get back the votes on the LPF. According to the polls this strategy seems to work. What does all of this mean for Human Rights and anti-discrimination? That's pretty clear. NL is on a slippery slope. Cases of discrimination brought before the Attorney's office meet with resistance and if they are taken up by the DA, often thrown out or filed. Cases which one year ago the Prosecuter would be willing to go for are now being turned down with vague mumblings about 'the times as they are...I would is a problem...I have so much other priorities'. A clear sign of the times. The new priority directive for the Attorney's office lists a lot of things, but discrimination is not on it.

    In short, if we don't start a political fight the whole anti-discrimination legislation will be a dead letter in a few years. Chances are that after January 22, the new government will be a coalition of Christian Democrats and the VVD (Conservatives), with maybe the Liberal Democrats needed for a majority in the house. The campaigns have started. Part of the LPF vote goes to the Socialist Party (not the Social Democrats, but a small maoist-populist party) which is logical, populists do not really care about political colour, they want power to push forward their own, often hidden agenda. No help from the Social Democrats, after their defeat in May they are still on an all-time low in the polls. They elected their new leader and what a surprise, he makes very conservative noises! If the social-democrats succeed in getting rid of their often unrealistic thoughts on integration and their denial of the real problems we face with the growth of right-wing, left-wing, Muslim, and other forms of extremism, they will get somewhere. In the meantime, don't hold your breath. Interesting times indeed!

    In a way the Netherlands are growing up. Of course there is a backlash which feeds directly into the post-9/11 anti-Muslim feelings, which in turn makes the Muslim community weary and turned into itself, digging trenches and shooting from the hip, especially at the 'white establishment', which in turn gives society again 'reason' to clamp down on the Muslim community etcetera. It is a vicious circle and the greatest and hardest challenge the Netherlands faces at the moment is: how do we keep the groups in society from tearing each others throats out? The ghost has left the machine and cannot be put back. Since the Netherlands has never accepted that it is an immigration-country there has never been a real attempt at integration, merely lip-service to the abstract ideal of the multicultural society. No real integration-requirements, only some for those who wanted to become a citizen. Most important information is catered in the language of the immigrants so no real need to learn the language if you don't want to become a citizen. Only now politicians realise there have to be more requirements for integration. The only way to let people become part of society is to let them speak the languages and get to know the local mores. When you ask migrants in the Netherlands, even the full citizens, if they feel Dutch or for example Marrocan, 9 out of 10 will tell you that they feel Moroccan first and Dutch second. Their is no identification with Dutch culture and society since migrants have never been treated as part of Dutch society. There is no nice festive ceremony like in the U.S. with the pledge and all that. You become a Dutch citizen, they send you your passport and that's it, good luck. Most people see migrants as what they were in the seventies: foreign workers that do not really belong here. Since most Dutch themselves have a hard time explaining what their culture is, what their values are (the Dutch basically have a lack-of-national-identity problem I'm afraid) they are unable to communicate anything about culture and values. The migrants have to figure it out and will, to some extent, but since the values are never really laid-on they often stick to their own cultural and religious values. Upholding Dutch law, sure, most of them do, but things go very wrong lots of times. Now all of a sudden the pressure is on and the Dutch (and other countries) want to change it overnight. We have a long and probably messy road ahead of us, and us-and-them era which will feed new extremism on both sides.
    ©I CARE News team

    by Niels-Erik Hansen , Boardmember at The Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination (DACoRD)

    To give you an idea of the current atmosphere in Denmark, I would contend that it is more legitimate to discriminate ethnic minorities in Danish society than for ethnic minorities to reproach the Danes for being racists. When the Danes are accused of discrimination, they react emotionally. The legal system, too, has a peculiar interpretation of what is acceptable behaviour. When politician's like the leader of the Danish Peoples Party Pia Kjaarsgaard states that: "Behind lurks the phenomenon, which gets clearer and clearer in all its horror: that the Multiculturalisation of Denmark brings unpleasantnesses like gang and group formations, mass rapes and complete indifference towards the principles on which the Danish judiciary system is build."

    The Danish authorities rejects to take any legal action against such hate speech, due to the principles of free speech. On the other hand, a labour union leader and many others have been fined for applying the term "racist" to the Danish Peoples Party. It seems strange that the principle of free speech, do not apply for those who in a political debate states that the statements and the nature of the Danish Peoples Party is racist.

    DACoRD is specifically concerned with racial discrimination, which can be bases on racial ideology. However, most of the complains that we has been working with since the end of 1993 have often been based on so called "innocent" phenomena, such as prejudice, stereotype perceptions, ignorance, culturally-related barriers, etc. Whatever the cause might be, in the end, the consequences of these acts, together with power in its broad meaning, are the same for the ethnic minorities, namely their exclusion from any active involvement in the society. For this reason, it is important to recognise that incidents of discrimination ought to be viewed within a broader context rather than treating them from an isolated perspective (as many episodes can be relatively "innocent"). This is because it is the design of many single incidents that create the totality of the problems.

    Although most incidents of discrimination in Denmark are not based on racism as an concious ideology, I still like to emphasise that racism plays a vital role (at least unconsciously) in the attitudes of the majority towards minorities. However, since the term "attitude" is broad and diffused, it is not an issue that I am concerned with. Most Danes, for instance, contest that they have the "right" attitudes. On the contrary, I will rather be concerned with actions, and try to control or guide them, with aim of minimising discrimination or, even much better (but maybe unrealistic), eliminating it.

    In Denmark, the problem does not arise because politicians and opinion-makers do not dissociate themselves from racism, discrimination, nazism or repression. Many of them do participate in First May International Workers' Day parades to demonstrate their aversion to such ideologies. Rather, the problem arises as a result of the inability of many of them to identify indirect discrimination, and due to lack of effective local protective arrangements that could provide victims a support and a fair legal system that deals with the question of compensation.

    In Denmark, there is still no official acknowledgement that racial discrimination is a major obstacle to the integration of ethnic minorities process and to the effort to create a just and equal society. The elimination of discrimination is not an integral aspect of the effort to bring ethnic equality. In the few instances where politicians discuss the issue of discrimination, they emphasise with no less intensity the need for making demands on "foreigners". Similar demand was expressed in connection with the promulgation of a decree on the Council for Ethnic Equality, which discusses questions of principle on discrimination and ethnic equality. In this connection, it was also emphasised that the Danes should not be discriminated by ethnic minorities. Furthermore, in Denmark, the comfortable concept of "negative preferential treatment" is constantly used instead of the term "discrimination."

    Charges on racial discrimination in Denmark have often been rejected on the basis of a typically Danish sense of humour: "that is not what we ever meant" (understood as saying "you cannot have experienced it either") or as an isolated incident. The Danish authorities and opinion-making institutions furthermore believe that eradication of racial discrimination and the promotion of and securing ethnic equality can best be achieved by cultural understanding and greater tolerance. There has been a considerable reluctance to make use of legislation, both in regards to protection rights and requirements to secure equal opportunities as a viable instrument in this connection. This reluctance is not limited to the extreme right parties alone but is expressed by all political parties. Paradoxically, the great hope of altering attitudes has not been met by success in areas like taxation and traffic, which are still thoroughly regulated by legislation.

    Racist expressions and statements
    In regards to the question of racist utterances and statements, groups of people are protected by the Danish penal code (§266 b). Individual persons are, however, referred to civil procedures, although article 4 of the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination oblige Denmark, among other things, to treat racist expressions a crime. This provision has been put into practice app. 15 times since 1971.

    Discrimination in public places
    On the question of discrimination within institutions such as banks, schools, discotheques, etc., the Danish legal system protects only against deliberate or racist motivated incidents, whereas non-motivated incidents, or indirect discriminations are excluded. The reason for this is that the Danish authorities preferred to criminalise discrimination within these areas alone(which also implies reporting to the police)thereby making it difficult to penalise persons if they have not been aware of their discriminative acts. In those cases where banks, for instance, at the outset refer to neutral criteria for refusing (to give service for minorities), they have been discarded by the police and/or authorities irrespective of the discriminatory effect they might nevertheless had. This, among other things, has forced DACoRD to bring the Danish authorities into the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination because the police/authorities have dismissed a charge, where a person was rejected to obtain credit simply because he did not have a Danish citizenship.

    The Labour Market
    Prior to July 1, 1996, legislation on racial discrimination in the labour market against ethnic minorities were non-existent. For many years, DACoRD had tried to call to the attention of the Labour Minister the fact that the Employment Office had met favourably the discriminatory demand by employers for the Employment Office not to send them ethnic minorities. The Labour Minister replied that in the first place, there is no legislative ground for her to interfere, and secondly, it is an unpleasant experience for ethnic minorities to be referred to a job where they do not stand a chance of being employed anyhow. The Labour Minister appeared to mean that the best way to tackle discrimination is by persuading the employers.

    Firstly, it has not been stated who would persuade the employers since the test sample taken by DACoRD showed that the Employment Office had, as a matter of course, met this discriminatory demand favourably. Secondly, that the authorities have let ethnic minorities down is unacceptable, both from the human rights point of view and from an integration perspective. As a result of DACoRD's approach to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it is now forbidden to discriminate ethnic minorities in the labour market. Meanwhile, what is interesting is that in a comment to the this law, it is mentioned that the law should be viewed in comply with the international obligation that the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination and the ILO Convention nr. 111 entail. On the other hand, discrimination of ethnic minorities in the labour market has been underestimated severely by stating that "the law is also a result of burgeoning tendencies for unequal treatment in the Danish labour market." It is more convenient to justify the introduction of a legislation on the basis of international obligations rather than admitting the serious social problem of discrimination at the national level.

    The obligation of the public authorities to interfere in discrimination
    DACoRD has also encountered similar problems of passivity in the consumer areas, where a municipal institution that allots apartments and flats, rejected ethnic minorities. The concerned Minister replied on this occasion that it would be unpleasant for the ethnic minorities to be referred to flats for which they have not the chance to rent them anyway. In the consumer areas, many people have been rejected as customers on a discriminatory basis in banks and credit institutions without the concerned Minister ever attempted to procure an effective legislation and on code of conduct. The reason for this is the belief that it is best to tackle discrimination by altering attitudes. Who would be in charge of this task was left unsaid.

    What are the reasons for this substantial resistance to interfere in racial discrimination?
    In Denmark, there tends to be substantial resistance towards carrying out concrete (juridical) provisions against racial discrimination and for ethnic equality. The reasons for this are to be found in:

    Lack of discrimination?
    Part of this resistance seems to be related to (the assumption that) that discrimination as a phenomenon and as a social problem has not been documented (sufficiently). The fact that scientific documentation on the issue is scare in Denmark is undeniable. On the other hand, all statistical data on the labour market show that unemployment rate among ethnic minorities is much higher than among the Danes. In this regards, it can be mentioned that an ILO research of 1996, shows a discrimination rate in the (Danish) labour market of 38,3 per cent.
    A result of a research from 1995 shows further that 18 per cent of the Danish population do not wish to have a person of "a different race" as their neighbour, and that 37 per cent do not like to have a "Muslim" as their neighbour. On this basis, it seems safe to assume that a person who would not like to have ethnic minorities as his/her neighbour is prone to reject them job opportunities or allow them entrance to clubs or discotheques, etc.

    Social unrest
    Another reason for the absence of an endeavour to combat racial discrimination lies in that the Danish society has been spared from social tensions between ethnic groups. In this connection, experience, for instance, from England shows that there is a relationship between social unrest and the establishment of legal rules and regulations. Unfortunately, most politicians (in Denmark) are unaware of the need for (legal) regulations before the problems become so concrete that they cannot be ignored.

    The Demographic Development
    The demographic development in Denmark shows that people with ethnic minority background make up a growing percentage of the population. As a result of the demographic development, employers are increasingly facing problems in regards to employing young ethnic Danish. The development is also visible consumer area, where a growing number of potential customers have a minority background. This development will undoubtedly lead to the emergence of ethnic equality and the elimination of discrimination as a prominent debate issues, which can be seen as a positive development. It will also result in companies adopting measurers against discrimination and the emergence of equal opportunities. However, it is an illusion to assume that this demographic development in itself will secure equal opportunity (in a pluralistic society). Following the experience in the area of gender equality in Denmark, for instance, and ethnic equality in other European countries as well as USA and Canada, we find that it is quite true that both women and ethnic minorities function at the lowest level of an organisation while, at the same time, they are expected to be part of the organisation, i.e., the politics of assimilation.

    As a concluding remark, DACoRD would like to point out that the Danish society is in a positive development. The unemployment rate is low, and the financial situation is good. The unemployment rate amongst ethnic minorities is still too high, however, the need for manpower will help us a lot. The establishing of an effective legal system on this area is still slow, but before July 1, 2003 the Danish Government is obliged to implement the EU Directive 2000/43 (the "race-directive") like other European states. It is in this context very important that the implementation of the directive will improve the protection against racial discrimination for those victims that suffers from discrimination in the labour market field and other areas.

    I am sure most of the world's peoples are well aware that the United States has been moving towards fascism since September 11, 2001. The USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act are prime examples of this downward trend. Needless to say, WCAR has had no impact in mitigating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance here. As everyone knows, the United States Government pulled out of Durban and has continued to vote against subsequent United Nations' measures to dismantle racism and related intolerance. The recent pro-segregationist and racist remarks of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott indicate the depths of hostility to eradicating racism, which still exists in this country.

    Since the WCAR (on the UN-DISCUSSION LIST, for example) I've reported on the racial problems in Springfield, Missouri, USA, where I currently reside. Since July, 2002:

  • An African-American youth was brutally beaten with baseball bats by three white youths and had his legs broken in early July, 2002. As a result of the beating, the African-American youth now walks with a limp and has lost his soccer scholarship to the university he intended to attend. Just recently, after a long struggle with the Springfield Police Department's record-keeping staff, I was able to get a part of the incident report for this crime. The African-American youth was designated "white", which means the crime will not be investigated as a hate crime.

  • On August 26, 2002, a 2-year-old African-descent biracial child died while in the custody of the local Division of Family Services. Although the biological parents of the child complained about seeing bruises on the child whenever they visited him, the DFS supervisor continued to place that child in the home of a foster family, whose father had a reputation as a "known racist." Complaints levied against the DFS supervisor by other African-American parents in the past have been systematically ignored.

  • On October 2, 2002, the body of a young man, who was originally from Kenya, was found hanging from a communications tower in the central city area of Springfield. The authorities immediately labeled the hanging death a "suicide" without doing a thorough investigation. Problems remain which indicate that the young man may not have committed suicide. To my knowledge, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken no interest in investigating this case. In the past 15 years, other hanging deaths and attempted hangings of African-descent men have frequently occurred in the Springfield area.

  • Unfortunately, such incidents will continue to occur as it seems that members of the "Trent Lott Club" may now staff the civil rights offices of the U.S. Government and do not seem to care about investigating racist incidents.

    I strongly suggest that special rapporteurs from the UN High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) investigate and report on racism in the U.S, especially in areas where people do not have access to civil rights attorneys and live in racially, hostile environments. Perhaps they can start with Pascagoula, Mississippi, the hometown of Trent Lott, and Springfield, Missouri. Having special rapporteurs meet with aggrieved people and document their unresolved grievances may be the proverbial "shot in the arm" the U.S. Government and its civil rights offices need to begin to actually and truly dismantle racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance in "the world's leading democracy."
    By Cheryl Fischer , The Kuumba Human Rights Focus Group

    By Dimitrina Petrova

    "October 11, 2002. We visited Gura Vãii, outside of Oneºti. All of the Roma in Gura Vãii live on Morii Street, away from the Romanians in the town. The roads were dirt, and due to morning rain, were very muddy. This settlement was not among the poorest that we saw … The school that the Romani children attend was in the middle of the settlement. We entered the school, which had to be opened by one of the teachers after repeated knocking because it was locked from the inside. There were only two rooms in the school. In one room, there was seating for twenty-two children, and in the other, there were twenty-four seats. It was a cold day, and there was no heat in the school, although there was a wood stove in the corner of one of the classrooms. There were no lights in either of the rooms or the entrance, and in fact, no electricity in the school. The Romani children were in class while we were in the school, and there were no books in either of the rooms. There were no textbooks for the children that I saw, no notebooks in front of any of the children, no pencils, no pens or any school supplies of any kind. There was no sign of a learning environment. One of the teachers, who would not give her name, told us that one hundred and sixty children were registered in the school. She also told us that there were four teachers. At around 2:00 PM when we went in the school, it was already dark inside and hard to see. From the outside, there was glass in all the windows, but I could see up under the roof the structure was not solid. This would likely allow much cold air in during the winter months.

    We also visited the school that the Romanian children in Gura Vãii attend. The school was much larger, with at least four classrooms. The school had electricity and heating and the children were not forced to sit in their jackets to stay warm as in the Romani school. In the class I saw, there were no Romani children, although the mayor had said that there were some. The classroom was large, the desks that the children sat at were in much better condition than those in the Romani school. The children in this school all had textbooks, notebooks, pens and pencils in front of them. There were plants all around and artwork that the students had produced, as opposed to the barren walls of the school in the Romani school. There was a playground in the schoolyard (there was no yard at the Romani school) with soccer and basketball nets. There was also a caretaker for the school."

    (From ERRC archives: report from a field mission to Romania filed in October 2002).

    The Roma are not the only ethnic minority in the world that lives separately from the surrounding society. But in the case of Roma, the separation is characterised by two major facts: (i) it is not the choice of the Roma themselves; all evidence suggests that most Roma want to live, study and work together with the rest of society but are vehemently rejected; (ii) the segregated settlements, schools and hospital rooms are not just separate, they are generally much poorer in quality. In the case of the Roma, these facts, seen in the context of entrenched, harsh racist attitudes against this pariah minority, define a case of racial segregation: a particularly egregious form of racial discrimination, an assault on human dignity condemned by international human rights law.

    Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) provides: "States parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction." In its General recommendation XIX (1995), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stipulated that "the obligation to eradicate all practices of this nature includes the obligation to eradicate the consequences of such practices undertaken or tolerated by previous Governments in the State or imposed by forces outside the State." The Committee further observed that "while conditions of complete or partial racial segregation may in some countries have been created by governmental policies, a condition of partial segregation may also arise as an unintended by-product of the actions of private persons." The case of residential segregation of Roma in Europe falls within the sphere of prohibited discrimination as interpreted by the Committee: "In many cities residential patterns are influenced by group differences in income, which are sometimes combined with differences of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin, so that inhabitants can be stigmatized and individuals suffer a form of discrimination in which racial grounds are mixed with other grounds."

    Racial segregation of Roma in education exists in a variety of forms. The ERRC is currently undertaking extensive research in five Central and Eastern European countries to describe these forms in detail and recommend desegregation strategies. In the last few years, we have been actively and consistently advocating school and housing desegregation at a variety of domestic and international venues. The various patterns of segregated schooling in Europe can be divided into two main types: (i) Roma studying in "special schools" or "special classes" for the mentally retarded, where the official curricula are based on inferior academic standards, and (ii) Roma studying in separate or predominantly Romani schools and classes where the quality of education is lower, even in those cases where the official curriculum is supposedly being applied in full. In the second case, residential segregation of Roma is one of the factors of school segregation, but is not sufficient to explain its existence – as demonstrated by Mihai Surdu in this issue. Both types of segregation are an expression of a great social distance and constitute racial segregation, in violation of international anti-discrimination law.

    This issue of Roma Rights comes after several years of work on segregation of Roma in Europe. We see segregation as an obstacle to accessing rights and we fight to remove it. With regard to the "special schools", we advocate legislative reform abolishing this type of schooling altogether. Even if special schools as they currently exist in Central and Eastern Europe were racially neutral, they are objectionable from the point of view of the rights of the mentally disabled. Mental disability rights advocates and educators have indicated methods of education for the mentally disabled that in most cases do not necessitate the segregation of the mentally disabled in separate facilities. Additionally, in practice, the "special schools" for the mentally disabled in Central and Eastern Europe in which Roma are overrepresented are schools for children with mild mental disability, for which normal school combined with proper support provides the best educational opportunities.

    Similarly, to desegregate the Romani ghetto schools and the various separate Romani classes, new anti-discrimination legislation is needed that would acknowledge the harm done by racial segregation and outlaw schooling that is segregated on racial or ethnic grounds as inherently unequal, and therefore violating the equal protection provisions of the constitutions and international law. As Branimir Pleše explains in this issue, ERRC lawyers are currently arguing, in litigation challenging segregated classes in Croatia, that in the field of public education, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. We want to see European courts agree with the reasoning of the US Supreme Court of forty-eight years ago when it decided the case of Brown v. the Board of Education: "Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible' factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does … To separate … [children] … from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."

    Desegregating the Romani schools can begin with direct civic action, from below, without relying at first on state sanction, as in the case of the first successful demonstration project in Vidin in 2000-2001, followed by projects in six other cities in Bulgaria. In these projects, the inspired designer of which is OSI Roma Participation Program director Rumyan Russinov, teachers, educators, Romani and non-Romani experts and activists have actively cooperated in the provision of appropriate educational support that is ensuring successful integration of the children. The success is evident in the academic grades of Romani children in their new schooling environment. But to eradicate segregated schooling, the governments of the countries where Roma live must develop and implement comprehensive national action plans for the transfer of Romani children from all types of segregated schools and classes to mainstream, regular schools and classes, with accompanying support programs to ease the transition and adaptation process. Governments must also ensure that adequate resources are allocated for school desegregation action. It is of critical importance also to introduce, in countries where this has not yet been done, free, mandatory and integrated pre-school programmes for all children, which would obviously have a positive impact on the desegregation process.

    The "special schools" with overrepresentation of Roma are typical and better described in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, but can be found in a number of other countries as well. In the Czech Republic, over 70 percent of all Romani children of school age go to the inferior special schools and are stigmatized for life as mentally handicapped. The figures for Slovakia and Hungary are also very high but less clearly established. In the Czech special schools system, the educational standards for a given school class correspond to those of two classes lower: a pupil who has graduated from e.g. 4th grade in the special school can demonstrate scholastic achievement expected of 2nd class of normal school. There is less emphasis on mathematics, science and language, and more on music and applied art. Similar is the situation in Slovakia: "My daughter was transferred to special school after the 1st grade – she is there already for 2 years and doesn't even recognise the letters of the alphabet – if she were in the primary school, I am sure she would already have learned that," said one Romani mother from Letanovce to the ERRC in October 2002. In Hungary, we have documented cases of abuse of parental consent in allocating Romani children to special schools. On September 13, 2002, a Romani mother told ERRC: "My daughter started primary school in a normal class, but she felt that she received no attention from teachers as opposed to her non-Romani classmates. Due to the negligence of the teacher she failed one time. She was taken to the remedial special class immediately. I was not even asked or informed about it in time, only after the transfer. They said that she could not keep up with the others, so they transferred her. I suffered because my child felt very bad. She was labeled stupid, although she might have just needed some more attention." The testing procedure for special schools is not racially neutral. A non-Romani teacher in a remedial special school in Budapest stated to ERRC on November 18, 2002: "Romani children are usually enrolled in remedial special school without seeing the normal school. The transfer, in fact, is often based on the single opinion from the 30 minutes long examination of the expert committee. Non-Romani children usually get two or three chances and have already failed the second or third year of the school several times when they are transferred to a remedial special school. Many Roma are placed there immediately."

    Unlike the special schools, the "normal" segregated schools, in which Roma are either over-represented or constitute the only ethnic group educated there, for the most part follow the same mandatory national curricula and in theory should apply the same standards of academic achievement. But even in cases where the standard curriculum is applied, the proven fact is that such schools provide worse education due to less qualified and less motivated teacher body, crowded classrooms, worse material basis and racist prejudice as regards the Roma attitudes to education. Interviews with principals and teachers confirm the low level of education provided by segregated classes and schools attended by Romani pupils even though the official standards may be the same as the national norm. Romani pupils are usually blamed for this situation, because of their alleged low interest in school.

    While the Czech government has acknowledged the dimensions and gravity of the problem of the special schools, it is dragging its feet on abolishing the system. The former Hungarian government, which exited the scene in April 2002, was in complete denial with regard to both special schools and other forms of racial segregation. In the current centre-left government of Hungary, desegregation is being promoted, and a former ERRC staff member, Viktória Mohácsi Bernáthné, is in charge of implementing it. The Hungarian Prime Minister Medgyessi declared that ending segregation would be a policy priority. In Bulgaria, the Ministry of Education and Science, in its Instruction for Integration of Minority Children and Pupils of September 9, 2002, demanded ending of the placement of children in segregated schools in Roma neighborhoods.

    According to many educational experts, donors, politicians and activists, it is all right to support children in a separated environment if it is their parents' choice, or if the surrounding community is too hostile and not ready to accept change. They claim that young children cannot carry the burden of the failure of the adult community to deal with racism. The ERRC takes the opposite view. Racially segregated schooling is inherently bad and a violation of a basic constitutional right, that of equal treatment. As in many human rights abuse cases, outsiders claim that it is the choice of victims themselves to preserve the situation of disadvantage. In our view, Roma are coerced into accepting racial segregation that undermines and harms them. Like in so many other Roma rights abuses – from sterilisations of Romani women to accepting substandard housing to parental signatures agreeing to assign a child to a school for the mentally handicapped, informed consent is absent. The latter implies knowledge about the consequences of a choice, as well as the knowledge and availability of alternative choices and the consequences thereof.

    Unfortunately, substantial funds are spent in Central and Eastern Europe, by inertia but also due to interests of lobby groups, on all kinds of educational programmes for Roma which, citing the complexity of issues surrounding the education of Roma children, advocate a "comprehensive approach" that involves everything but desegregation. Donors advised by educationalists whose only aim is to improve the quality of Romani education, fund projects to improve the Romani ghetto schools, to enlighten the Romani parents and the Romani community about the benefits of sending their children to school, and train teachers to be more tolerant to diversity. But they do not do one crucial simple thing: enrolling Romani children in mixed schools and keeping them there. The overwhelming part of the activities on Romani education over the past decade has failed to challenge the status quo of segregated education. Nor did such projects prevent further segregation. The opponents of desegregation have made every effort to present it as a mechanistic busing of children from one place to another, while the handful of advocates that are making a real difference by effectively desegregating Romani schools have been ridiculed as narrow-minded and impatient activists. Such struggles were quite intense for example in Bulgaria, as well as at the level of international philanthropy.

    It is a misguided policy to work towards assuring schools success for Romani children in the racially segregated schools and to define such success as a prerequisite for the integration of the Roma in the mainstream society. On the contrary, school desegregation in the view of the ERRC is the first step and the backbone of Romani integration. Without it, school success in a ghetto school is inadequate once the child is out in the larger world, competing with non-Roma for university placements or for jobs. Even if the receiving school proves to be a hostile environment for children, ERRC is opposed to any improvement of ghetto schools and insists that these have to be abolished in a short period of time not exceeding five to seven years. Eliminating the current educational disadvantage of the Roma created by segregated schooling must in our view be addressed as a matter of urgency. We do not believe in teaching tolerance first and applying the knowledge only after the lesson is learned. Societies as well as individuals will not learn to be more tolerant before they start to act as if they are. The best project of ethnic tolerance training is the lived experience of the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and policies.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    By William Pfaff

    Totalitarian thinking
    A part of the neoconservative intelligentsia in Washington is trying to turn the Bush administration's "war against terrorism" into a war against Muslim civilization and the Islamic religion. Such influential figures as Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Department advisory policy board, a former Reagan administration official, criticize President George W. Bush for his efforts to assure Muslims that his war is against terrorism, not against their religion. The Bush critics say Islam itself is America's enemy because Islamic religion and civilization are intolerant, hostile to Western values, proselytizing, expansionist and violent.

    Their implicit argument is that Islam was hostile to the West before Israel came into existence, hence that the Israel-Palestine conflict has nothing to do with Islam's crisis with the West. This is a novel argument likely to leave many unconvinced. A segment of the evangelical Protestant community in the United States adds to this an assertion that Islam is "evil." That is the view of the clergyman who was part of the Bush inauguration in 2001. Cohen, Adelman and their fellows in the U.S. policy community have yet to explain what they mean about war against Islamic civilization - against the second largest religious community on earth, with more than a billion adherents on six continents. One would have thought that President Bush already has his hands full with Iraq and Al Qaeda. These intellectuals have fallen into Samuel Huntington's pernicious fallacy that civilizations, which are cultural phenomena, can be treated as if they were responsible political entities. They identify the members of Islamic civilization not in terms of their actions but in terms of what they are.

    One can legitimately go to war against Iraq and Iraqis because of what the Baghdad government does, since Iraq's citizens have to accept responsibility for their government, even if it is a despotism. The same can be said about Iranians, Saudi Arabians, Egyptians, Indonesians, Pakistanis - and Americans. The American people bear an ultimate responsibility for what their government does even if citizens individually oppose those actions. However, neither Muslims nor Americans deserve to die because they are the product of their civilizations, whether those civilizations are admirable or not. To think otherwise is totalitarian thinking. It is the equivalent of racist thinking. The enemy is an enemy not because of what he or she does but because of what he or she is. The Muslim is the enemy - man, woman and child - because of his or her cultural and religious identification.

    Germans six decades ago were called on by their leaders to make war on Jews because Jews were Jews. They were the alleged racial inferiors and enemies of Germans. What these Jews actually did or who they were was a matter of indifference. Jews collectively were identified as Germany's enemies and were to be eliminated. Communists during the same period were being told to exterminate aristocrats, "kulaks" (wealthy peasants), shopkeepers and professionals, capitalists, "deviationist" party members and eventually Jews as well. The murder of all these was justified because they were "class enemies." To call this totalitarian thinking is a grave accusation, heavily charged with the weight of the genocidal experience of the 20th century. In this case it is justified.

    Adelman, Cohen and those who agree with them are putting a culture, which has no responsible political existence, in the place of identifiable and responsible political actors: governments, leaders, individuals. To do this disregards political responsibility and announces historical fatality. If wars are cultural and religious, they have no solutions. They are unnegotiable and unresolvable. If the Muslim is an enemy of America and Europe because he is a Muslim, and Westerners are his mortal enemies because of who they are, all have lost control over their futures.

    But all this is simply untrue. Today's clashes between America and elements of Islamic society reflect a power struggle inside Islamic society between fundamentalists and others; between obscurantists and progressives; between traditionalists and political fanatics. Identifiable Muslim groups and governments are in conflict with the government of the United States over the future of Israel and the Palestinians, the control of oil and American power and presence in Arabia, the Gulf and now Central Asia. These clashes between Muslims and Americans are important, dangerous and potentially even more violent than they have already become. They are not a war of religion, and it is deeply irresponsible to try to turn them into one.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    By Jan Repa, BBC Central and Eastern Europe analyst

    Consider a photograph of upper or upper-middle class Europeans, taken a century ago. They could be Germans, or Spaniards, or Poles, or Hungarians. Or Russians, for that matter. They dress alike, sport the same hairstyles, and carry themselves in a similar way. One imagines them travelling across Europe in comfortable Pullman trains, staying at more or less identical hotels, listening to the same kind of music, reading similar books. Most are deeply patriotic - even chauvinistic - but in a similar way. They discuss women's rights, socialism, international terrorism, the latest bout of sabre-rattling between Paris and Berlin, and human rights abuses in China. Mail trains bring the latest editions of French, German and Swiss newspapers to the towns of Transylvania and Eastern Galicia. There are electric trams and telephones. But beyond the city limits, the countryside has barely changed since the 17th century.

    Ideological divide
    Half a century later, Europe has been cut in two by the "Iron Curtain". Joseph Stalin runs an isolationist "national-socialist" regime in Moscow. His henchmen run similar outfits across Central and Eastern Europe. Everything Western is vilified. People with education have been killed, imprisoned, driven into exile, silenced - or are collaborating. Owning a shortwave radio is an offence. In London, BBC executives wonder whether it's worth broadcasting to the region in local languages. The French philosopher and Communist Party member Jean-Paul Sartre travels to Poland. "Strange country", he observes, "where the waiter speaks five languages, and the minister of culture can only communicate in Polish".

    Shared experiences
    From the Western perspective, "Europeans" share a set of historical experiences: Roman law and civic culture; medieval Catholicism, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the 18th century Enlightenment, and the emergence of liberal democracy. There have been some wobbles along the way - but even communism can be claimed as a Western invention. While Western Europe's post-war "social-market" system successfully reconciles social solidarity with free enterprise, Russia - it is claimed - oscillates between collectivist tyranny and gangster capitalism. On this reading of European history, the Calvinist aristocrats of 16th century Lithuania could be regarded as "Westerners" - and the gothic and baroque architecture of Vilnius as marking a Western cultural outpost.

    Identity is reinforced by exclusion. Traditionally, one "excluded" group has been the Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. They are held to have missed out on many of Europe's formative experiences - not least the Western habit of regarding the relationship between rulers and the ruled as a carefully-crafted contract, legally binding on both sides. This has traditionally allowed Hungarians and Poles to rationalise their political misfortunes as an heroic defence of "Western values" - and to despise their neighbours. Until the 19th century, Orthodox Romanians wrote their language in the Cyrillic alphabet. Their adoption of Latin script was part of a deliberate effort to rebrand themselves as a Western-oriented nation. The Czechs might assert their distinctive "Slav" identity against the traditionally dominant Germans - but, in dealings with their eastern Slovak neighbours, they saw themselves as purveyors of enlightened, Western, secular values.

    'No-man's land'
    Until the Second World War, most Central Europeans had little experience of Russia. Russian literature was an exotic minority interest. The same cannot be said for Germany. When not proclaiming a distinctive "Germanic" tradition, Germans have tended to portray themselves as a "bridge" between the sophisticated but decadent Latin world to the West and the backward "Slavs" to the east. Germany's bulk - both physical and cultural - has often led West Europeans to regard Central Europe as a "no-man's land" between Germans and Russians - despite the powerful influence of Italian and French culture in the region. Debates about European identity may appear academic. But as the European Union prepares to take on members from the former Soviet bloc, some leading politicians are beginning to ask aloud, where the EU's natural boundaries lie - and whether certain countries should be excluded in advance.
    ©BBC News

    By Roman Olearchyk, Kyiv Post Staff Writer

    Journalists throughout the country, fed up with state-imposed controls on press freedom, poor wages and the dangers of the job, are forming independent unions to demand change. About 50 journalists from Kyiv are spearheading the movement through their own Independent Media Union, founded on Nov. 30. The union includes journalists from a broad range of media outlets, including government-controlled TV stations like UT-1 and privately owned stations like ICTV and 1+1. The IMU has launched an initiative to encourage other journalists to join similar unions, and established a Web site that includes step-by-step instructions on how to create and register such unions. They say the ultimate goal is to unify all regional affiliates into one big alliance capable of forcing both government agencies and media magnates to the bargaining table, with the threat of a nationwide strike if they refuse to negotiate.

    Serhy Hluz, organizational secretary at the IMU, said reporters and editors throughout the country have welcomed the idea and have launched regional unions of their own. Hluz added that journalists have either established or initiated the creation of regional unions in at least nine cities, including Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast, Kremenchuk, Yalta, Simferopol, Odesa, Zaporizhya, Lutsk and Kharkiv. He said more unions were likely to form in the coming months. Hluz, who just moved to Kyiv in an effort to help coordinate the movement, was a deputy editor at Dniprodzerzhynsk's Sobytiya newspaper, Dnip-ropetrovsk oblast, where he helped establish a local union on Nov. 15. "All of this has happened in the past two weeks," he said. "The plan is for all of us to unite into one independent union." Hluz said that existing journalists' unions, most of which were created years ago, have proven ineffective in defending the interests of media professionals. "The new unions should be more effective, as they are being established by journalists themselves as part of a grassroots movement and are structured to be independent of management," he said. "Existing unions can join this wave, but they must prove they are independent." Hluz said the Kyiv union will charge a Hr 20 entrance fee and Hr 10 per month in dues. He said the union will also seek out other forms of financial support, possibly from international labor organizations. He said that combating censorship policies imposed by the government and media magnates closely affiliated with the regime of President Leonid Kuchma is one of the main goals of the union.

    At the top of disgruntled journalists' hit list are temnyky – unsigned memos detailing what the president's office wants to see reported in newspapers and on radio and television. Journalists claim that temnyky arrive almost daily. While the Post newsroom does not receive temnyky, the Post has heard numerous accounts of these memos from TV and print journalists. One memo obtained by the Post in October (a translation of which can be viewed at)told editors to give extensive coverage to President Leonid Kuchma's official meetings, while urging editors to blackout coverage of opposition leaders or present them in an unflattering light.

    Leonid Zaslavsky, director of the organizational committee of a newly formed union in Odesa, said regional authorities and business groups in his town control virtually all media, preventing objective coverage. "It's dangerous and difficult to produce objective news when the mass media is owned by political groups," he said. He said the Kyiv union is assisting in the creation of the new Odesa union. Hluz said his union will also defend journalists in disputes with employers over salaries and working conditions, which he said are as important as the censorship issue – and possibly even more important in the regions. "In Dniproderzhinsk, censorship is not the biggest problem; low salaries and poor working conditions are," Hluz said. "This was the main problem at Sobytiya, where I worked. After we created the union there Nov. 15 and threatened to strike, the owners of the paper met with us for discussions and the problems were pretty much solved."

    While welcoming the idea of creating independent media unions, Mykhailo Pohrebynsky, director of the Institute of Political Research and Conflict Studies, said he was concerned that the initiators of the Kyiv movement would turn the union into more of an opposition political force than a trade union. "To a certain degree, there is a political underpinning to the creation of these unions," Pohrebynsky said. "A bunch of the journalists behind the creation of these unions are, in my opinion, active in politics and favor oppositionist forces." He would not name the journalists, but said at least some of them were affiliated with weekly newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli, 1+1 and Public Radio (Hromadske Radio). "All of them are good journalists and I like them, but in my opinion they are often too involved in politics and tend to favor one side over the other," Pohrebynsky said.

    Political leanings aside, the journalists' unions are already proving to have some clout after just a few weeks in existence. In an early example of this, journalist Andry Shevchenko, the union's elected leader and a former news anchor at Novy Kanal, openly accused the Presidential Administration of championing censorship at a Dec. 4 parliamentary hearing dedicated to freedom of speech. Shevchenko accused the administration of disseminating temnyky and warned the officials that journalists are ready to go on a nationwide strike if the situation doesn't change. "We will no longer remain quiet," Shevchenko said. A recent poll conducted by the Razumkov Center for Political and Economic Studies revealed that 37.5 percent of journalists would be willing to go on a nationwide strike. The poll, which surveyed 727 journalists, found that 28.4 percent are not ready to strike, while 34.1 percent were undecided.
    © KP News

    By Dana Rawls

    American culture is more diverse now than ever. For years, media regulators and observers in this country have touted the virtue and necessity of increased minority presence in the development and ownership of media content and distribution, in order to ensure that the voices of all Americans are heard. But with the proliferation of media mergers and buyouts of minority-owned broadcast stations, the plight of minority media is more discouraging now than it was a generation ago. And almost as unsettling, the roles of minorities and women in Hollywood continue to be far less significant than those of their white male counterparts, regardless of attempts to bolster their numbers and their decision-making power in Hollywood.

    Minorities and the Broadcast Medium Today
    "Minority ownership" has generally been defined as any media facility in which minorities possess more than 50 percent of a firm's equity interests or stock, and/or exercise actual control of the facility. According to a 2001 report released by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on the state of media ownership in this country, minorities owned 449 of the 11,865 full-power commercial radio and television stations in the U.S., or 3.8 percent. Of these, 426 were commercial radio stations – comprising 4 percent of total commercial radio ownership – while the remaining 23 were commercial television stations, representing 1.9 percent of the country's 1,288 commercial television licenses. Such figures stand in sharp contrast to the population figures as a whole for 2001, in which minorities represented nearly a third of the total US population.

    As discouraging as these numbers appear, they are even more disturbing in that over half of the 426 minority-owned radio stations (248) are AM stations, which traditionally have less power and generate less advertising revenue than their FM counterparts. Many minority broadcasters blame their inability to gain sufficient capital, coupled with the skyrocketing costs required to purchase these outlets, for the low numbers of minority FM and television ownership. The numbers for minority ownership of cable networks seem even bleaker, with only one network, Univision (the nation's most popular Spanish-speaking network) which owns and operates 16 full-power stations in 11 of the top 15 markets in the country, classified as minority owned. (Twenty-five percent of Univision is owned by Venevision, a Venezuelan media company, while another twenty-five percent is owned by Televisa, a Mexican entertainment conglomerate.)

    Minority ownership in cable television has traditionally been all but nonexistent, in spite of the fact that minorities consume premium cable services at higher rates than whites, since cable provides minorities with more opportunities than does network programming to see themselves and their experiences on television. In fact, in 2000, the NAACP gave the entire cable industry a grade of "C," based on the areas of minority employment, hiring and promotions, service deployment, procurement/vendor relations, advertising/marketing, and charitable activity.

    And even Robert Johnson, former owner of BET – the only black-owned national cable channel – believes that the future of black cable ownership is bleak. In a recent Financial Times (London) article, Johnson stated that blacks must look to white money in order to scale the U.S. corporate heights. "You can't do it as a black-owned business; there isn't that much capital," Johnson said. "You have to do it as a white-owned business with black management."

    The lack of available resources has led several minority-owned media companies to sell to or merge with mainstream media companies (including the sale of Amistad Press to Harper-Collins; Essence Communications' decision to form a joint venture with Time Inc. in October 2000; Time Warner's purchase of, an Internet portal that provides information on the history, culture and contemporary condition of Africa and its Diaspora, in September 2000; and, most recently, the purchase of BET by Viacom/CBS and Telemundo by GE/NBC this year). Minority consumers have openly protested the sale of minority-owned media to mainstream companies, noting the poor manner in which minorities have historically been portrayed in the media, and expressing the need for minority media owned and operated by minorities themselves.

    For example, although NBC, since purchasing Telemundo, claims to "talk to the talk" of the Hispanic community, the network is in the process of developing a series that will focus on the lives of a family of Mexican drug dealers to air on NBC, and is embarking on an effort to take Telemundo in an increasingly lighter, musical direction, with the development of shows like "The Roof," which will highlight live hip-hop dance performance and music interviews. And since being acquired by Viacom, BET has announced the cancellation of several news programs targeting the African-American community, including "Teen Summit" and "BET Tonight," in an effort to focus more on syndicated programming.

    How Did We Get Here?
    In 1978, the FCC issued a "Statement of Policy on Minority Ownership of Broadcast Facilities" to address what it perceived to be the "dearth" of minority broadcast ownership in this country. Of the country's 8,500 commercial radio and television stations operating at that time, minorities controlled less than one percent, a number that contrasted sharply with minorities' 20 percent representation in the nation's population at that time.

    Recognizing that minority participation in the nation's broadcast industry would result in more diverse programming, the FCC pledged to issue tax credits to broadcasters that agreed to sell their stations to parties "where minority ownership is in excess of 50 percent or controlling." The commission issued 359 tax certificates to promote minority ownership before Congress repealed the program in 1995, citing instances of misuse.

    Repealing the tax credits was to many minority broadcasters only the beginning of a string of events that would significantly strain their ability to own broadcast stations. In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, which removed the limits on the number of radio or television stations under common ownership nationally. The Act also relaxed the One-To-A-Market Rule, which generally prohibited common ownership of radio and television stations in a single market.

    Many minority broadcasters believe that with the passage of more lenient ownership rules, the rash of media consolidation that followed actually decreased competition and diversity. For example, between 1995 and 2001, the number of individual radio station owners declined by 25 percent. In 1996, Westinghouse, the largest radio owner, owned 85 stations. In 2001, the largest owner, Clear Channel, owned 1,202 stations. Many minority broadcasters, many of whom are single-station owners, believe that it is practically impossible to compete with media conglomerates of this size for listeners, advertisers, or even on-air talent.

    Minority broadcasters also believe that media consolidation has all but eliminated opportunities they need to expand their media companies. In response to a 2000 Minority Telecommunications Development Program (MTDP) survey, minority respondents noted that "under present station pricing, expansion is impossible. The Telecommunications Act eliminated the participation and expansion of small entrepreneurs."

    The increase in station prices in many markets, spurred by media consolidation, has left only the largest and wealthiest stations in a position to purchase and expand their media empires. Restricted access to capital, moreover, necessary in order to develop or expand media companies, has long been a complaint of minority broadcasters, and was cited by the MTDP in 1995 as a "principal barrier to greater participation by minorities in telecommunications ownership." Consolidation can impede minority stations even when they may be the top-ranked station in the market. Black broadcasters have lost or are at risk of losing nationally syndicated programming because such programming is being offered to group owners who can reach a larger number of listeners. Losing this programming could result in a loss of ratings, advertisers, and market power.

    Riding the Next Wave
    According to representatives of the Black Broadcasters' Alliance, small markets, digital multicasting, and overlooked media companies currently offer the best route for minorities to step into the broadcasting arena. With media consolidation still a major issue, minorities are being asked to consider purchasing low-power TV stations or to settle for providing programming to traditional full-power stations, as a means of gaining entry into broadcast ownership. As conventional broadcast technologies converge with new media, minority broadcasters are also strategizing new ways to develop effective uses for the new technologies to serve existing audiences as well as to attract new audience members. Many of the MTDP survey respondents indicated future plans to begin Internet radio broadcasting if they have not done so already. But the struggle facing minority broadcasters may follow them to the Internet.

    According to Nielsen NetRatings, the top 20 most-frequently viewed web sites for the week ending Nov. 10, 2002, were as follows:

    Parent Site -- Unique Audience
    1. Microsoft 41,524,313
    2. AOL Time Warner 38,241,288
    3. Yahoo! 35,724,321
    4. Google 12,736,004
    5. eBay 10,768,651
    6. Terra Lycos 9,357,696
    7. Amazon 8,692,944
    8. About-Primedia 7,958,194
    9. U.S. Government 7,593,804
    10. AT&T 6,413,435
    11. Viacom 6,368,127
    12. Walt Disney Internet Group 5,713,947
    13. USA Interactive 5,181,707
    14. eUniverse 4,763,166
    15. Excite Network 4,520,254
    16. Classmates 4,392,133
    17. CNET Networks 4,133,012
    18. Sharman Networks (includes Kazaa) 3,943,996
    19. Landmark Communications 3,666,971
    20. Earthlink 3,538,568

    Using the previous definition of a minority-owned business, none of the current top 20 web sites could justifiably be classified as minority owned or operated, even though AOL Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons is an African-American. And analysis of an April 2002 report compiled by Media Metrix reveals that only one of the top 50 most-frequently visited web sites in the country, InfoSpace, a software and applications services company whose founder/CEO and several executives are Indian, could be classified as minority owned. As the numbers of minority computer users continue to increase, this burgeoning and relatively untapped new market could provide a boon for minority media owners with access to enough capital to transfer their "brick and mortar" media facilities to the Internet.

    Minorities in Hollywood
    The issues of racism, lack of capital, and lack of control over minority images seem to have traveled to Hollywood as well, where they plague minority writers, actors, and producers and the like. A 2000 study of the 50 top-grossing films released in 1996 revealed that 65 percent of the most prominent actors in the films were male, 80 percent were white, and 68 percent were age 40 and younger. These numbers become less surprising, however, in light of those laboring on the other side of the camera in 1996: 85 percent of the writers, 93 percent of the directors, and 84 percent of the producers in the Hollywood film industry were male.

    In 2002, The Screen Actor's Guild released figures showing that only 22.1 percent of all roles in 2001 went to performers of color, a drop from the 2000 figure of 22.9 percent. Not surprisingly, according to the New York Times Magazine, ethnic minorities are similarly underrepresented in the Actors Guild itself, where they make up only 19 percent of the union's membership, and in the Hollywood Director's Guild (with only 8 percent minority membership).

    The lack of minority and female representation has also spread to prime-time television. According to the Director's Guild of America, of the 826 episodes of the top 40 drama and comedy series on the air during the 2000-2001 television season, Caucasian males directed 663 (80 percent); women directed 89 (11 percent); African Americans, 27 (3 percent); Latinos, 15 (2 percent); and Asian Americans directed only 11 episodes (1 percent). Shows such as "The Drew Carey Show," "Law and Order," and "Friends" hired neither female nor minority directors for any episodes during the entire season.

    Many blame the lack of minority and female representation both in front and behind the camera on the foreign markets, which are increasingly involved in the financing of film productions in Hollywood, and which prefer casts with European-American males as leading characters. In an effort to combat both the lack of minority representation and the blatant racial (and often negative) stereotyping that minority actors endure, some minorities have decided to develop their own movie houses, talent agencies, and film festivals to improve their images in Hollywood. While these tactics have had some success in raising the profile of minority media owners and content producers, an impending wave of further media consolidation could make such efforts futile, reducing still further the role of minorities on both sides of the camera.
    Dana A. Rawls is a research analyst at the Center for Digital Democracy.
    ©The Black World Today

    It has been a cold welcome for many of the 1.8 million Afghan war refugees who streamed home after the fall of the Taliban last year. The luckier ones spend freezing nights in bullet-scarred ruins in Kabul. The unlucky sleep huddled together under frail plastic tents. Returning after years in squalid camps in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, the refugees hoped for a better life here. But with few jobs and fewer places to live, many are now hoping just to survive Afghanistan's harsh winter. "At night the cold is so bad, it's frightening," said Taza Gul, the elderly head of a family of 11 that lives under a tiny roadside tent. "It may get worse, we don't know. Our fate depends on Allah."

    The U.N. refugee agency estimates 560,000 people will be particularly vulnerable this winter because they lack adequate housing, food and the means to keep warm, the agency spokeswoman Maki Shinohara said. Many are in danger simply because they live in remote rural areas where roads will likely be cut off by snowfall blocking most emergency aid from getting through. The United Nations has been trying to head off any crisis by distributing tens of thousands of blankets, wood stoves, fuel and plastic sheeting, Shinohara said.

    The U.N. World Food Program has delivered 51,000 tons of food nationwide, 95 percent of its winter target. The rest is expected to be delivered before the end of December. Authorities hope those supplies will get desperate families through January and February - the harshest winter months. Shinohara said the United Nations was holding the bulk of its winter stockpile in reserve in case of emergencies, such as a severe drop in temperature or a new conflict that would displace more civilians. Shinohara said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was especially concerned about the snowy central highlands, where temperatures could drop to minus 22 degrees.

    Southern Afghanistan, though warmer, was also a concern because of some 400,000 internally displaced refugees there, Shinohara said. This weekend, 10 children died in the southern border town of Spinboldak during what the refugee agency called "unusually cold weather." The exact cause of the deaths, however, was still unknown, the agency said. Rural Development Minister Hanif Asmar told The Associated Press those most at risk this winter were families like Gul's - returnees living in destroyed houses, tents - or worse. He estimated their numbers at 240,000 across the country. "The situation in urban areas, particularly among those families living in open spaces or dilapidated buildings, is still precarious," Asmar said. "We're doing quite a lot to assist them, but not all of them have yet been covered."

    Gul said aid agencies had handed out trucks full of charcoal to people living in tents next to his. But he said many, including his own family, were overlooked. Asmar said Gul's family was not helped because until recently aid groups had been operating on their own without consulting the central government to coordinate efforts. At a conference in January in Tokyo, donor countries pledged $4.5 billion to get Afghanistan back on its feet over the next five years. Government officials have said that up to four times that amount is needed. President Hamid Karzai has said the bulk of the money has been delivered via the United Nations or humanitarian aid groups, not the central government. Officials estimate $1.8 billion has been committed so far this year.

    "We haven't received help from anybody," Gul said as several of his children and grandchildren, blankets draped across their backs, warmed their hands over a tiny clay pot filled with a few piece of coal. "We don't even have enough money to buy firewood," Gul said. "I have to send my children to beg for it."
    ©Associated Press

    An international human rights group says women and girls continue to suffer extreme repression in parts of Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch says it has evidence of mounting abuses, harassment and restrictions of women's rights. Much of the latest Human Rights Watch report focuses on life for the women of Herat in western Afghanistan, but warns that the situation there is symptomatic of developments across the country. It speaks of police abuse, forced chastity tests and restrictions reminiscent of the Taleban.

    The Human Rights Watch report concedes that women's and girls' rights have improved since the demise of the Taleban, with many now allowed to return to school and university. However it documents growing repression in social and political life. In Herat, it says, religious police, government officials and squads of schoolboys monitor women and girls' behaviour and appearance. The report cites the use of local television and newspapers by the governor to set standards. Freedom of movement is restricted and when they do leave their homes, women and older girls must wear the all-encompassing burqa, or chowdra. The group has documented testimony from citizens of Herat that women and girls who walk with men on the street, ride with them in cars, or even if alone with them in private homes, have been arrested. That arrest can be followed by a gynaecological examination to determine whether they have recently had sex, or to test for virginity.

    Return to school
    Human Rights Watch accuses the international community of double-standards by justifying the war against the Taleban in part by promising liberation to Afghan women and then supporting warlords and commanders who abuse women's rights. The Herat governor, Ismail Khan, has in the past defended the position of women in his province, saying that more girls have returned to school in Herat than anywhere else in Afghanistan. He said that women are working in senior roles within the government and for banks, as well as for international agencies. Ismail Khan insists women have a good chance in Herat and they have institutions to help them.
    ©BBC News

    By Natasha Walter

    It shows just how long our concern will probably last for those affected by our next military adventure

    When I was in Afghanistan six months ago, I met some women from Herat, in the west of the country, who had come to Kabul for the great political assembly, the loya jirga. We met in a stifling tent in the courtyard of the loya jirga offices. I will never forget, as long as I live, the atmosphere in that tent. For the first time in so many years, these women believed that they might break out of their terrible experiences of oppression, and although they were still tentative, bubbles of optimism constantly floated in the air.

    One of the most optimistic voices in the tent came from a woman whom I will call Sima Kur. She was a middle-aged woman, dressed all in green. She told me that Ismail Khan, the warlord who rules Herat, had originally decreed that no women were to go to the loya jirga from his province. When he had been overruled by the central administration, the women had been delighted. "This is the happiest day for women in Afghanistan," she said. "We are here and now we can defend women's rights. The doors are opening for us." Despite their long history of oppression, these women were eager to taste the fruits of freedom. Sima Kur told me that in Herat no woman had yet dared to take off her burqa. "But they all say to me, Sima, when you get to the loya jirga, please, for our sakes, speak without your burqa. Let them see your face."

    Although I never supported the war in Afghanistan, when I heard those women talk I began to believe that great good could come out of the terror. Whenever I have thought and read about what has been going on in Afghanistan since then, it is those women, especially Sima Kur with her indomitable spirit, who recur to me. She became a sort of touchstone to me of the possibilities that exist in that benighted country. That is why I read the new report from Human Rights Watch with a sense of growing horror. The report documents the current reality of women's lives in Herat, and it tells us that the hope that those women expressed to me is being betrayed. Undoubtedly, the lives of women in Herat have improved since the Taliban left; above all for one reason – they are allowed to go to school. But, as one woman interviewed for the report said, "Everything else is restricted."

    Ismail Khan, the ruler of Herat, can count on good relations with the military forces in the area. When Donald Rumsfeld met him earlier this year, he called him "an appealing person". Certainly, he was our useful ally in the struggle to rid that region of Afghanistan of the Taliban. But in supporting him we are supporting another regime that loathes women. This is a regime in which women are still forced, against their will, to cover themselves from head to foot when they go out. Even young girls taking off their headscarves at school have been beaten. It is a regime in which women are not allowed to go in cars with men who are not their close relatives – or to walk with them or even talk privately with them in their own homes. If they break these rules they can be arrested, taken to police stations and forced to undergo gynaecological examinations to check they have not had sex. Although women can go to school, they have been arrested or intimidated for all sorts of offences from driving cars to speaking to journalists or talking publicly about women's rights. They are discouraged from taking any jobs other than teaching, especially any work that might bring them into contact with foreigners or men. Last month, Ismail Khan announced on the radio that all men "are obliged to beat" women who walk with men who are not their husbands. There is a stony sadness in the words of some women in Herat today. One is quoted in the report, saying: "The leadership here is very bad for us. It is not much different than the Taliban."

    The West went to war with Afghanistan without a clear picture of what the country would look like after the removal of the Taliban, and now that these reports of gross violations of human rights are being published, we are washing our hands of responsibility for them. Downing Street has a website page on the war entitled "Facts", which lists 10 "media views that were wrong". It includes my statement of a year ago: "In the rush to do deals with the new de facto rulers of Afghanistan, it looks very likely that the interests of women will be ignored." I wish I had been wrong. There is no immediate answer to this situation, since there is no obvious alternative to Ismail Khan's leadership of the western part of Afghanistan. But there is a long, slow answer – that all aid should be conditional on women's rights being respected, that international organisations should put more pressure on local rulers to respect women's rights, and that far more support should be given not just to women's healthcare and education, but also to their fledgling political and advocacy organisations. A great deal more money and trust should be given immediately by the West to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, the only indigenous organisation that supports full equality and a secular state, and which is still ignored by Western governments.

    The fact that this report on Ismail Khan's abuses of women's rights has been ignored by the commentators and reporters who were so eager for war in Afghanistan has another lesson for us. It shows just how long our concern will probably last for those who will be affected by our next military adventure. The attention span of the media is so short that, despite the great promises of our leaders at the time, we are shrugging off our ongoing responsibility to the people of Afghanistan. Abuses of women's rights in Afghanistan were headline news as we were preparing for war; now they are hardly worth a mention.

    How long will we give the people of Iraq before we get bored by the reports that they have still not achieved democracy? Will it be just a year after a US invasion that some report by Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, documenting abuses against Kurds or dissidents, will be relegated to a couple of paragraphs on page 15 of our newspapers, rather than being the subject of government launches? There is much too much lazy hopefulness being expressed that the blood that will be spilt in Iraq will easily be compensated for by the flowering of democracy once Saddam Hussein has been removed. But the conference of Iraqi exiles that wound up yesterday left the post-war future of Iraq as obscure as ever. Although it is clear that the United States wants to install a government that will be more amenable to US interests than Saddam Hussein's, it is not at all clear how hard it will work to make sure that such a government will be more accountable to its own people.

    I am not in favour of war. But since it looks certain that there will be war, we should talk clearly about the ongoing responsibility that Britain will be taking on – not just to future wielders of power, but also to the powerless civilians. War may be the end of the story as far as we are concerned, but for the people most affected, war is only the beginning of the story
    ©Independent Digital

    An order barring the cross-Atlantic enforcement of a French court's order against Yahoo Inc. hit rough waters Monday at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel was clearly uncomfortable with several issues stemming from Yahoo's decision to challenge -- in the United States rather than France -- a French judge's order that the Internet company block French citizens' access to online auctions of Nazi memorabilia. "All the French court's saying is, 'Whatever you do, don't impact France,'" Senior Judge Warren Ferguson said. "See? That's called homeland security."

    Two French civil rights groups, La Ligue Contre le Racisme et l'Antisemitisme and L'Union des Etudiants Juifs de France, successfully sued Yahoo in French court, obtaining an order that potentially affected the operation of Yahoo's U.S. Internet servers. Yahoo sued the groups in federal court, winning a ruling from U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of the Northern District of California that the order is an unenforceable infringement on the company's First Amendment rights. If Yahoo had failed to comply with the order, it could have faced fines of $13,000 a day. Yahoo has removed Nazi materials from its servers based in France.

    The First Amendment was only a secondary player at arguments Monday. For the most part, they centered on whether a cease-and-desist letter and subsequent service of process through U.S. marshals in the Northern District created a forum for Yahoo to challenge the order in Silicon Valley, rather than France. Both the letter and the service of process came prior to the French court's decision. A lawyer for the two groups, Richard Jones of Coudert Brothers, said Yahoo engaged in international forum shopping and that no effort to enforce the French order was ever made. "Our position is that the exercise of legal right should not be penalized by making it the basis of a lawsuit in a foreign country," Jones said. O'Melveny & Myers partner Robert Vanderet said jurisdiction was proper here because the French order "requires Yahoo to re-engineer its servers in this forum," and "requires conduct to occur." Yahoo is located in Sunnyvale, Calif.

    But Senior Judge Melvin Brunetti seemed willing to at least entertain the idea that a service of process invokes U.S. jurisdiction. "They are now interfering with the constitutional rights of that U.S. company," he asked Jones. "Why doesn't that start the jurisdictional argument?" "It's … based on the theoretical claim of a future challenge to rights," Jones replied. The meatier legal argument -- whether a foreign government can restrict the speech of a U.S. subject whose speech is published simultaneously in the United States and abroad -- has captured international attention. The jurisdictional issue, important though it may be, may give the panel a way out of a case it seemed to struggle with. "I don't understand how we analyze this," Brunetti asked Jones at one point. "[Yahoo's servers] are not doing anything at all to you. They're just sitting in the United States." On this point, the panel seemed divided. Ferguson seemed to lean toward deference to the French court, Brunetti was skeptical, and Judge A. Wallace Tashima offered few clues to his position.

    Unusually quiet for an oral argument, Tashima did indicate he thought it didn't matter where the servers were located. "They could be in India!" he exclaimed at one point. But the location of the servers did seem important to Brunetti, as it is to the dozen public interest groups that joined to file an amicus curiae brief in the case. "If French law can be enforced here, Yahoo could likewise be required to block access to information that 'sabotages national unity' in China, undermines 'religious harmony and public morals' in Singapore, offends 'the social, cultural, political, media, economic and religious values' of Saudi Arabia, fosters 'pro-Israeli speech' in Syria, facilitates viewing unrated or inappropriately rated Web sites in Australia, or makes available information 'offensive to public morality' in Italy -- just to name a few examples," the groups wrote. "Under such a regime, U.S. courts would become vehicles for enforcing foreign speech restrictions on U.S. speakers."

    Brunetti picked up on that argument. "Can each government impose restrictions on every other country relative to their domestic servers?" Brunetti asked. But Jones said at one point that upholding Fogel's order would prevent the vindication of rights abroad, "and how can that not be offensive to the sovereignty of France?" In order to comply with the French order without removing the offensive auctions from its U.S. servers, Yahoo would have to block French users from accessing certain Web pages. That proposition is dubious, according to experts who have commented on the case. A check of the Yahoo auction site Monday showed several Nazi coins and stamps were available for bidding, along with a "rare" edition of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

    Yahoo's decision to defend itself by going on the offensive and invoking its constitutional rights in a U.S. court, rather than appeal the French order, also caused the judges no small amount of consternation. "For some reason you abandoned that appeal," Ferguson said. "And now you're coming to America and saying 'Help me.'" By the end of the argument, even Brunetti seemed to be searching for a way out. "Why isn't this an [international] treaty issue?" he asked.

    On 9 November a Blood & Honour gig just outside Bedford in England attracted150 nazis. Besides the Legion of St. George, Eye of Odin, Whitelaw andConquest, the Dutch band Brigade M also played, a surprise because another nazi concert was taking place the same weekend in Eindhoven, organised by Brigade M's friends. That Brigade M opted to play in England is a further indication of the international focus the band has developed lately .

    Brigade M was founded in 1996 by two late members of the hardcore band Opel Kadeath (OKD) and was at first named Brigade Mussert, after the bodyguards of Anton Mussert, the leader of the Dutch Nazi party, the NSB, before and during the Second World War. The main man behind the band is bass player Tim Mudde from Sassenheim. Mudde was member of the board of the nazi CP'86 and used to be "action leader" of the fascist movement Voorpost. He is also very active in the "anti-antifa"' collecting and publishing information about his enemies.

    At the outset, Brigade M was not very active but contributed to a racist sampler CD in 1997 with the song Eigen volk eerst (Own people first). At the start of 2001, however, Mudde refounded the group, recruiting a new singer, Dave Blom, until then known as one of the nazis convicted for desecrating a Jewish cemetery in The Hague in November 1999. Blom was, like Mudde, a member of CP'86 and also tried his luck in a nazi outfit called Nationaal Offensief before it collapsed. He also shows up regularly at meetings or demonstrations of such nazi organisations as the Nederlandse Volks Unie (NVU) and Stormfront Nederland. Other members of the band nclude a guitarist named Wickie and the drummer, Jasper Velzel, who owns the fascist distribution and music label, Berzerker Records. Velzel was convicted on 27 May 2002 for distributing racist, nazi and antisemitic music.

    Brigade M has now recorded a host of new songs, made a video clip for the band's website and performd two gigs in Eindhoven, at the squatted nazi house "De Kazerne". It has also produced a mini-CD, contributed two songs to another racist CD-sampler and is touting T-shirts and other material. From every sold CD, Brigade M is contributing money for nazi activities against anti-fascists. The bands songs carry such titles as "Shame for our race", "Loyal to red, white and blue" and "50.000 heroes", the latter a tribute to the Dutch members of the Waffen SS who fought on the eastern front during the Second World War. In another song, the "lyric" states that "supporters of multiculturalism will be executed". Brigade M has also covered the song "Rock gegen ZOG" by the outlawed German nazi band Landser and ends messages to its mailing list with the notorious nazi motto "14 words!" Despite the clear evidence that Brigade M's activities are racist and incite hatred, however, no interest is being shown by police prosecutors .

    Brigade M is, in fact, part of a new strategy of a group of nazi activists who call themselves the Nationale Beweging (National Movement) and are organised in loose structures on the local and regional level. These groups produce a magazine called Vooraan and have a website but are reluctant to participate in party politics preferring to describe themselves as "national anarchists" with the aims of changing society and forming circles of activist friends around activities like football, parties and gigs. They claim to be an umbrella organisation for all nationalists and are trying to assume the legacy of the moribund Voorpost. It should be noted that the youth wing of Voorpost separated itself from the main organisation and squatted De Kazerne so that they had a venue for meetings, parties and gigs. Members of Brigade M and the circles around the band are active on a number of issues. For example, they have protested against a visit to Leiden by anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, thrown a cake in the face of the Socialist Party leader, Jan Marijnissen, and picketed Islamic butchers' shops against halal meat. The central figure in all these stunts has been Mudde.

    In April 2002, Brigade M played at a Blood & Honour gig in Flanders, together with Legion of St George, on 31 August performed at a German nazi festival organised by the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands in Ramstein where Mudde also made a speech. At other gigs in Germany and Flanders, the band has played with Whitelaw and Eye of Odin and, in October, urged solidarity with the convicted German nazi bard Frank Rennicke and called on its followers to raise money for his court appeal. Brigade M has also recently launched a new EP with songs by Störkraft and Landser.

    In October, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) started a campaign against Brigade M's council-sponsored practice studio in Leiden but the councillor responsible for allowing this argues that "nobody is bothered by Brigade M practising songs in a confined space" because "nobody hears them". He also says that he will not have a "politically correct approach" and has asserted that he first wants to talk with the racists and antisemites of Brigade M. Obviously, this individual thinks the fact that the city of Leiden is contributing to the production and and distribution of hate music is not important. Meanwhile, the majority of the parties on the city council want to terminate the contract with Brigade M but have yet to act.
    From Jeroen Bosch of Alert

    THE BEAST IS BACK(Ireland)
    The bombing of children in Israel sees the return of latent anti-Semitism
    By Henry McDonald

    Anti-semitism, as Conor Cruise O'Brien once pointed out, is a light sleeper. Judging by recent events in Ireland, O'Brien is right: the beast has only been dozing. It briefly raised its head and exposed itself in tooth and claw last month when the Pat Kenny Show discussed a suicide bomb that killed 11 schoolchildren in Israel. Despite harrowing reports of young girls and boys crying 'Mama! Mama!' from the bombed bus, no sympathy was expressed by those who took the time to call into Kenny's weekday radio show. Instead, he was met with gales of 'whataboutery' as callers ignored the slaughter on the bus, preferring to focus on the deaths of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

    Even an experienced broadcaster such as Kenny was shocked at the callers' lack of compassion for Israeli children. Part of this, to be fair, is due to the Irish association with the underdog; a by-product of our own colonial past. But throughout Irish history in the 20th century there has been a deep mistrust, at times hostility, towards the Jews and later Israel. During and after the Second World War official Irish policy was to keep Jewish refugees out of the Free State. The reasoning at the Department of Foreign Affairs was that anti-Semitism was widespread and deep throughout the State.

    When you raise the question of anti-Semitism with the left in Ireland you are immediately hit in the face with this counter-argument. The Palestinian struggle, they protest, is not directed at the Jewish people but rather the pro-Imperialist Zionist oppressors. Arafat's Palestinian Authority wants to create a paradise in which Arab, Jew and Christian can live as equals. The conflict in the Occupied Territories has become a totem for the conflicting factions in the North of Ireland. On the Shankill Road the Star of David flies. The flag was placed there by supporters of the besieged loyalist Johnny Adair. The association is obvious - Protestant settlers surrounded by indigenous enemies in solidarity with the Jewish settlers on the West Bank and Gaza. Conversely, in republican areas of the North the Palestinian colours fly alongside the Tricolour and the Starry Plough.

    At the heart of the apologias for Palestinian terror or Israeli oppression is a denial of the facts. A large section of the Palestinian populace back movements that are murderously anti-Semitic. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are dedicated to the total destruction of the Israeli State, and consequently its people, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Even Egypt - the only Arab country that signed a peace treaty with Israel - is currently broadcasting a soap opera which repeats historically discredited Tsarist lies about the Jewish plot to take over the world, the notorious 'Protocols of the elders of Zion'. Amos Elon, the Israeli writer and proponent of a Palestinian state, was deeply shocked during a tour of Arab capitals in the mid 1990s by the extent of anti-Semitic propaganda besmirching public discourse. Yet you will read none of this in the journals, websites and newspapers of the Irish far left. The Irish groupies who flock to the West Bank and Gaza in the hope of becoming the Florence Nightingales of Third World Liberation choose to ignore these indisputable facts.

    None of the above by the way should exonerate the Israelis of their role in destroying the Middle East peace process. There are dark chauvinistic forces in Israel dedicated to the so-called war of civilisation. They drove a fanatic to gun down Yitzhak Rabin and a zealot to machine-gun Muslim worshippers in a Hebron mosque. Moreover, the IDF's cruel, ham-fisted approach to civil disturbances in Palestinian towns and villages has only exacerbated the conflict and fuelled the flames of Islamic fanaticism in the region.

    None the less, the debate in Ireland about Israel and the Occupied Territories is coloured by an historic anti-Semitism embedded in the Irish psyche. Republicans, for instance, try to compare the IDF to SS Stormtroopers, the otherwise excellent The Blanket E-zine, using hyperbolic phrases such as 'Hitler speaks Hebrew'. Dr Bryan Fleming will probably not thank me for saying this, but his new book, Racism and social change in the Republic of Ireland, proves that Irish anti-Semitism is easily wakened from its slumber. Fleming points out that even as late as the 1950s hatred of the Jews was not uncommon in Irish society. He notes that republican icon Sean South, who died at the legendary Brookeborough raid in 1957, was an anti-Semite. South belonged to Maria Dulce, an organisation which spread anti-Semitic filth from pulpit and pamphlet across Ireland as the fires of Auchswitz and Belsen were burning.

    Irish people are entitled to express concern over what is happening in places like the West Bank and Gaza. Much of it is heartfelt and genuine. But those who do should try to assemble all the facts. One of the irritating things about foreigners spouting on about Northern Ireland is how one-dimensional their view of our conflict often seems.
    ©The Guardian

    Raduyev was infamous for hostage standoff during first war

    Salman Raduyev, a Chechen guerrilla who became infamous for seizing a hospital in southwest Russia and at least 2,000 hostages during the first war in Chechnya nearly seven years ago, has died in a prison near Perm in the Urals, the Russian government said Sunday. Officials said Raduyev, 35, died Saturday, apparently of an internal hemorrhage, but they did not say what caused the bleeding, except to insist that his death was due to natural causes. An autopsy was being conducted, they said. "I have already been asked today whether he was beaten, killed," Yuri Kalinin, the deputy justice minister, said in a television interview. "But this is not even an issue."

    Raduyev, long identified by his flowing red beard and fiery support of Islamic revolution, was one of the flashiest guerrilla commanders during Chechen separatists' first war for independence, from 1994 to 1996. When Russian troops captured him in March 2000, Moscow portrayed the arrest as a major blow to the leaders of the second Chechnya war, which had begun the previous autumn after Islamic militants moved from Chechnya into a neighboring republic, Dagestan. But Raduyev played virtually no role in the second war in Chechnya, and he frequently feuded with other guerrilla commanders. His capture and later imprisonment on charges of murder, hostage-taking and terrorism appear to have had little effect on the war, now in its fourth year.

    It was Raduyev's forces who cast the most decisive and humiliating blow against Russia's army during the first Chechen war, storming the Dagestani town of Kizlyar and seizing at least 2,000 - some reports said 3,400 - hostages. In what the hostages later called a brutal standoff, Raduyev threatened to execute the hostages one by one unless Russia ended its efforts to crush the Chechen independence movement. After a bloody firefight, the government of President Boris Yeltsin agreed to allow the rebels to return to Chechnya in buses with at least 100 hostages. When the hostages were not freed at the Chechnya border, Russian forces opened fire from the air - and destroyed the police escort for the guerrillas. The militants later fled to a tiny Dagestani village, Peryomayskoye. There, outnumbered 10 to one, they withstood a withering assault by Russian troops and then melted away, belying Russian claims that the guerrillas had been surrounded.

    While Raduyev lost at least half his force during the raid, his escape underscored the weakness of the Russian Army, many of whose troops were left without food or heat by the end of the 10-day siege. Pervomayskoye proved a final straw in the first war, which ended when Yeltsin agreed to a peace treaty that granted Chechnya de facto independence. Raduyev had been serving a life sentence. The Interfax news service quoted an anonymous official in Russia's Justice Ministry as saying Sunday night that Raduyev's body would not be returned to relatives for burial. Instead, the source said, he would be buried by the state "in accordance with current instructions."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    THE PRICE OF RACISM: £500,000(uk)
    Two former Ford employees have won more than £500,000 compensation after the car giant was found guilty of racial discrimination. The payout - Britain's largest ever award to workmates - marks the end of a six-year battle for the pair. Shinder Nagra, 45, has this week been awarded £150,000 by an employment tribunal for racist abuse he suffered at Ford's Dagenham plant. He will also receive a medical disability pension of £12,000 a year for the rest of his life. Two Ford employees accused of racially abusing Mr Nagra have been ordered to pay him £1,000. The decision comes three years after his colleague Sukhjit Parmar, 45, was paid a £300,000 settlement by Ford.

    In the wake of the earlier case, the car manufacturer vowed to stamp out racism at its Essex plant. But its promises proved hollow as the abusers went unpunished and the company failed to implement a "zero tolerance" programme. In a damning judgment, the employment tribunal in Stratford, East London, said: "The abuse Mr Nagra suffered took place over an extended period and was both humiliating and intimidatory. "Ford behaved in a high-handed and oppressive manner, failing to address the appropriate matters in the aftermath of their own enquiry. "The so-called 'zero policy' was, in effect an empty gesture compounded by failure to punish all those responsible and the inappropriate way in which some of those who had transgressed were even promoted."

    Dad-of-two Mr Nagra, originally from India, joined Ford in 1988. For the first seven years he worked in the Dagenham's assembly section where he described his treatment as "fair". But in January 1995 Mr Nagra joined Mr Parmar in the engine section where the abuse started. A small number of group leaders, foremen and supervisors made their lives hell. Mr Parmar, of Bexleyheath, Kent, was called "Paki" and graffiti linking him to "nigger Lawrence" - murder victim Stephen Lawrence - appeared. When he pursued the company for racial discrimination, Mr Nagra was abused for backing his friend's claims. A shop steward allegedly told Mr Nagra, "I know how to call a Paki 'a Paki' and get away with it".

    Yesterday Ford said it accepted the tribunal's findings, but claimed Mr Nagra's complaints had been "thoroughly investigated". It added: "Ford regards matters of racial equality and diversity seriously and will take action against all forms of discriminatory behaviour, including racial harassment. "We have conducted a wide-ranging examination of all aspects of policies and procedures regarding equality and diversity and have introduced many innovative initiatives over the past three years."

    Paul Hansen was only 4 when he was sent to an insane asylum. Abandoned by his parents, Mr. Hansen was mistakenly identified as retarded at the end of World War II and sent to the institution, along with about 20 other children. "It was a terrible place," Mr. Hansen, now 60, remembered. "The patients screamed throughout the night. I was really afraid." Mr. Hansen is a so-called German child, one of an estimated 12,000 born to Norwegian mothers and occupying German soldiers. Once pampered as the torchbearers of a new master race, they were ostracized and ridiculed after the war and into adulthood. Mr. Hansen and others were denied an education and forced to live in horrific conditions. A number of them have committed suicide. On Monday, Parliament is expected to vote to endorse compensating the children for the discrimination and abuse they endured at the hands of their countrymen. The amount would be determined later.

    "This is a black spot in the history of Norway," said Finn Kristian Marthinsen, a member of Parliament who led an investigation into the plight of people like Mr. Hansen. "Children have suffered because of their mother and father, and that is unfair." After invading Norway in 1940, the Nazis quickly realized that Norway's abundance of blond and fair-skinned women could further Hitler's dream of an Aryan race. At least 300,000 Wehrmacht soldiers were stationed in Norway, and many of them became involved with local women. The relationships were voluntary, but once a woman became pregnant, the Nazis made sure she received privileges, from first-class nutrition to free baby carriages. Mother and child fell under the auspices of the SS's Lebensborn program, which was used to increase the number of Aryans. The Nazis paid child support and provided refuge for expectant mothers disowned by their communities, sending them to one of 10 Lebensborn homes in Norway. When the Germans lost the war, the Norwegian government deported thousands of the mothers, some of whom left without the children, or it interned them in camps as collaborators. The fathers retreated to Germany or died on the front. The children were left behind.

    "They functioned as a reminder that not all Norwegians had stood up against the Germans," said Kare Olsen, a historian who wrote a book about the children. "A lot of women had relationships with German soldiers, and the children can be seen as a symbol of that cooperation." Gerd Fleischer, Lebensborn No. 2620, first came face to face with the wrath of her fellow Norwegians at school. "I was 7 years old," she recalled, "and the first bad word I learned in Norwegian was tyskerhore, German whore." She said: "I learned very soon that there was something very wrong with me, basically wrong with my blood. I was the child of the hated." Things got worse at home when her mother married a former member of the Norwegian resistance. "My stepfather," said Ms. Fleischer, now 60, "had good reasons to hate me, and he did. He was violent to my mother and me."

    Ms. Fleischer, whose tall, blond elegance gives away little of the pain she has endured, ran away from home at the age of 13 and left Norway altogether when she turned 18. "I knew that if I were to become a whole person, I had to leave the country," she said. Ms. Fleischer, Mr. Hansen and hundreds of other children have sued the Norwegian government in the last few years, contending that predecessor governments contributed to, or failed to discourage, an atmosphere of hatred against them. Not long after the war, one doctor said a German child had as much chance of growing into a normal citizen as cellar rats had of becoming house pets. A leading psychiatrist claimed that nearly half of the children were disturbed.

    Randi Spydevold, a lawyer for the children, said that many of her clients had turned to drugs and alcohol and that few of them had successful relationships. "The Norwegian government has to compensate my clients," she said, "and apologize for what was done to these people." Nearly three years ago, the Norwegian prime minister offered his apologies to the German children for the treatment they received at the hands of authorities. Ms. Spydevold has said she will withdraw the lawsuits if Parliament's plans for compensation go through. Because of lasting pains from the war, some Norwegians oppose any compensation. Mr. Marthinsen, the member of Parliament, said he had received many telephone calls and e-mail messages denouncing the idea. He quoted his constituents as saying, "The enemy killed my father or even my father and mother." Moreover, they asked, "why should we reward the enemy's children?"

    Mr. Hansen pointed to his own life as the answer. Deprived of an education — and confined to a mental institution for years — he now mops floors for a living at a university in Oslo. He married only briefly and never had children of his own, fearing they might suffer, too. "I never chose my parents," he said. "If I could have, I would have chosen differently." Ms. Fleischer, for her part, returned to Norway after years of soul-searching. She now works with refugees here. She eventually tracked down her father in Germany. He tried at first to deny that she was his daughter, she said, but he finally admitted it. For Ms. Fleischer, the recognition came too late. Rejected by her country and countrymen, she could not cope with more of the same from her own father, she said recently, tears in her eyes. So she fled to Paris, never to speak to him again. "And then I had a little nervous breakdown," she said.
    ©The New York Times

    State officials have grown weary of handling groundless applications for asylum from foreigners hoping to move to Norway. They're now vowing a crackdown that would send would-be refugees back home within 48 hours. The plan includes building a new receiving station near Norway's main gateway airport at Gardermoen, north of Oslo. People landing and seeking asylum on doubtful grounds would be temporarily housed at the station while their applications are processed. The goal, according to state officials, is to quickly send them back to where they came from. In so doing, they say, the state hopes to send a message to other prospective asylum applicants and restore the reputation of genuine refugees. "Today, the term 'asylum seeker' has a bad ring to it," Kristin Oermen Johnsen of the Ministry of Local Government and Labour told newspaper Aftenposten. She was referring to the number of asylum seekers who have arrived in Norway on false pretenses. "Even though the number of groundless applications has declined, it's clear that this group is still much too big," she said. "We want to rebuild legitimate asylum seekers' reputations among the Norwegian people." The state is eyeing former military barracks near Gardermoen that could be refurbished and turned into a possible site for a new receiving station. "We're working with an entirely new concept for handling the so-called 'groundless applicant,'" Oermen Johnsen said. These include people who are seeking better economic circumstances, but who aren't necessarily escaping political or religious persecution. The "new concept" also is aimed at saving the state money. Around 15 percent of the roughly 18,000 people who seek asylum in Norway every year have goundless claims, and Oermen Johnsen calls that "a burden" on the Norwegian taxpayer.

    Travellers will find it harder to take claims against publicans who refuse them service under new procedures to be put to government today.

    A report by the Liquor Licensing Commission recommends that equality investigators lose the power to determine disputes between publicans and travellers. The report suggests transferring the power to resolve these disputes to the District Court or else setting up a system modelled on the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The findings are likely to please publicans who have claimed that some travellers have been using flawed legislation simply to extort money. However, travellers' rights campaigners are likely to be enraged by the report, as they have already accused publicans of engaging in a campaign of vilification. Travellers made 641 complaints against publicans under the Equal Status Act in 2001, and 570 complaints to September this year. In all, 75% of equal status claims were made by Travellers. The average settlement in Equal Status cases was 997.

    The Liquor Licensing Commission report on the issue was ordered by Junior Justice Minister Willie O'Dea last August after a dispute over service to travellers in Westport threatened to escalate. The Vintners' Federation of Ireland, which represents 6,000 publicans, had threatened a nationwide ban on travellers. But the Commission, chaired by solicitor Gordon Holmes, immediately ran into a row within a row as both the Equality Authority and Travellers' representatives refused to co-operate with the investigation. This led to Justice Minister Michael McDowell also intervening. The report, due to published in full tomorrow, is understood to criticise varying procedures followed by staff at the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations (ODEI). This is the agency charged with enforcing equality legislation, including the Equal Status Act 2000. Staff frequently apply monetary awards if they find in favour of Travellers.

    The ODEI is also criticised for failing to guarantee a fair response for publicans and not having adequate procedures for cross-examining those bringing complaints. The legal qualifications of investigators handling claims are also called into question. The report also criticises publicans' reluctance to involve themselves in the mediation service offered by the equality agency. Staff at the ODEI declined to comment last night but informed sources saying that there is an even division between the numbers of complaints being accepted or rejected. The ODEI website states that it is endeavouring to establish a simple, accessible and fair method of resolving disputes.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Internet service providers have welcomed today's law commission report into the murky area of internet libel but warned that it should be extended to cover other problematic areas such as copyright and racism where they are also required to act as "judge and jury" under current law. The law commission report called on the government to conduct a review to protect ISPs such as Freeserve and AOL from defamation allegations. "The problem is that the law puts ISPs under pressure to remove sites as soon as they are told that the material on them may be defamatory.

    "There is a possible conflict between the pressure to remove material, even if true, and the emphasis placed on freedom of expression by the European Convention of Human Rights," said law commissioner Hugh Beale QC. At present, ISPs are required to shut down a website as soon as they are informed it contains potentially libellous material. But such actions also leave them open to legal action from the websites themselves if they are shut down without good reason. "ISPs don't want to act as judge and jury over content. If they are judged to have got it wrong, they also face action from their customers. "We want penalties for people giving wrongful notice, a lessening of the liabilities for ISPs and a standardisation of the procedure," said a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association. The report comes weeks after gossip website Popbitch was forced to remove a rumour about David Beckham from its site after being threatened with legal action from the footballer's legal team. Earlier this year, satirical site also found itself at the centre of a row after its host ISP was asked to shut the site down. Eventually, the ISP backed down and left the site up.

    The ISPA has been conducting a review into the issue for the past few months. Its initial findings show that each complaint costs between £50 and £1000 to deal with and that ISPs suffer because there is no standardisation. At present, anyone can issue an ISP with a "take down" notice. ISPs argue that they should be treated as conduits of information rather than publishers and point to other problematic areas, including copyright and racism, where they are also forced to act as judge and jury. Two years ago ISP Demon paid more than £200,000 to settle a libel action over material posted on one of its newsgroups. Demon refused to remove postings about physicist Dr Laurence Godfrey, described by Godfrey's lawyers as "squalid, obscene and defamatory". The case, settled just four days before a jury trial was due to begin, hinged on whether this ISP could be treated as publisher of material on a newsgroup Demon argued at the time it had neither the resources nor expertise to monitor the content of hundreds of thousands of messages posted each day.
    ©The Guardian

    Neo-Nazi's tattoos become evidence. Judge hears skinhead expert's testimony, hands out one-year conditional sentence

    After stabbing Evens Marseille because he was black, the two skinheads ran away. But not before smiling down at their victim on the ground and giving him a "Heil Hitler" salute. The skinheads - Daniel Laverdière and Remi Chabot - are the first to feel the brunt of a new initiative by Montreal police and an anti-racism group in denouncing hate crimes. Yesterday in court, a Montreal police investigator explained the significance of all the tattoos over the skinheads' bodies. It was the first time a judge in Quebec declared a police officer an expert in skinheads and their culture, similar to the status given cops who are experts in biker gangs.

    Skinhead expert Constable Thierry Peano testified at a sentencing hearing for the skinheads. Both had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the June stabbing. "When you tattoo yourself, you display your most profound convictions," Peano said. By studying their body art, he concluded Laverdière is a hard-core neo-Nazi extremist. Chabot, he added, is more of a sympathizer. His markings suggest more of an adoration for Germany. Fo Niemi, director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, was in court to watch Peano testify. Niemi is working with police to raise judicial awareness of hate crimes. He praised Peano and his partner, Det.-Sgt. Jean-François Pagé, for teaching themselves about the issue.

    Two weeks before Marseille was stabbed at the east-end Bar Champlain, Laverdière told the victim he didn't believe in intermixing of the races. The day of the stabbing, Laverdière and Chabot were sitting at a table close to Marseille and his friends. The skinheads kept making the Hitler salute his way. When Marseille went outside the noisy bar to make a call, the two short, thin men followed. Laverdière accosted Marseille and stabbed him in the abdomen while Chabot punched his face. Marseille, 26, was kept in a hospital for three days while doctors stitched up a five-inch gash. He lost six weeks of work as a welder, and has been having psychological problems since. He has a hard time sleeping and violent spasms wrack his body, prosecutor Isabelle Briand told the judge.

    Quebec Court Judge Louise Bourdeau quickly gave Chabot, 21, a conditional sentence of a year to be served at home. During that time and for two years of probation afterward, he cannot go near other skinheads. The judge put off Laverdière's sentence until January because the prosecution wanted five years behind bars while the defence sought only two. His sentence risks being much longer because Laverdière, 23, was more implicated in the white supremacy movement. At the age of 17, he set up at a pro-Hitler Web site.
    ©Montreal Gazette

    The hard-pressed chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, suffered another setback yesterday when the constitutional court threw out a law that is at the heart of his government's efforts to turn around the economy. The country's top judges upheld a complaint from the conservative opposition about the way in which Mr Schröder's followers steam-rollered a new immigration law through parliament last March. The affair has shown the fragility of his centre-left government which, despite its victory in last September's general election, has no clear majority in the Bundesrat, or upper house. The law would have opened Germany up to immigration for the first time since the 1970s, when it stopped taking in "guest workers" from Turkey and other Mediterranean states. The government maintains that foreigners are essential to plug skills gaps in the labour force and correct the effects of an ageing population - notably a rising imbalance between those contributing to, and benefiting from, its pension system.

    The interior minister, Otto Schily, vowed yesterday to table a new bill in January and said he was ready to negotiate with the conservatives. But he added: "I can't disguise [the fact] that this is a very difficult situation." The law thrown out yesterday had already been watered down in an attempt to agree a bipartisan approach. The amended bill made some aspects of Germany's stringent asylum laws even tighter. It also placed a new and controversial emphasis on integration. The new law would have required immigrants to take language courses and instruction in the law, culture and society of Germany. The danger for Mr Schröder's Social Democrats is that further watering down will open a rift with the Greens, the junior partners in the governing coalition and the chief proponents of immigration reform. The alliance is already under strain because of differences over Iraq.

    Employers' representatives had lobbied hard for reform. But the Christian Democrat opposition has long maintained that the answers to Germany's problems lie in retraining programmes, school reforms and tax breaks to promote bigger families. The act declared unconstitutional yesterday would have allowed foreigners in if they could show there was a job waiting for them. The right wanted a ceiling to be set. With one in 10 German workers out of a job, the issue is highly charged. When the bill reached the Bundesrat earlier this year it prompted a rare storm in a chamber renowned for its sedateness. Rightwing members roared in anger after the Social Democrat speaker accepted the crucial block vote of the state of Brandenburg, despite the fact that the members of its delegation had been unable to agree a common position, thus approving the legislation.

    The constitutional court said it had decided by a majority of six to two that the speaker had acted in violation of the constitution. Divided delegations normally abstain. The head of the employers federation, Dieter Hundt, urged the politicians to agree a compromise so that firms could bring in workers from abroad. At present the grey economy is growing rapidly: half the construction workers transforming Berlin are thought to be off the books and the vast majority of them are foreign.
    ©The Guardian

    By Michael Foxton
    The junior doctor sorts through his magazine collection and wrestles, briefly, with the thorny issue of foreign nurses

    Christmas is a time of guilt. So here I am, putting up the Christmas decorations, cleaning my stinky sock of a flat, and having yet another extended Residents' Association debate over the Jif about whether or not it's acceptable to employ a cleaner just because you are a junior doctor, when suddenly I realise the moment has arrived. Today, I must finally confront the 3ft pile of unopened copies of the British Medical Journal, which has been mocking me from the corner of the sitting room, since the day I moved in a year ago. Why did I even bring them with me? I know I'm never going to read them. Normally I try not to do myself out of a column by dealing with issues that only doctors will understand, but it comes free to every doctor in the country, and I think secretly, all of you, girls and boys, if you'd just open you hearts and confront your demons: you know you'll never even open them. It's not that we don't want to read about "prevalence of gastroschisis at birth: a retrospective cohort study". But I'm sure there is an impoverished library somewhere which could put them to much better use. Anyway, I'm not a bad person. Sometimes I read the useful bits online to calm down after I realise that my ex really isn't going to email me, and is probably having sex with some muscular international pop star. So my Christmas present to the world today is to take each and every one of them out of their plastic wrappers - it's going to take hours - and find a good way of recycling them.

    Our hospital, on the other hand, has received a wonderful Christmas gift from Sri Lanka this week: 35 new nurses for the surgical wards. I think, in a lot of ways, even from a non-Christian country, this exemplifies the spirit of Christmas. Those who can ill afford to give, coming together to give us something we don't really need. I've worked for years in hospitals full of nurses that we have plundered from the third world, and they are great. I mean, they are really great nurses - because most nurses are - and they work hard for really low wages, the kind of wages that British people rightly turn their noses up at, and so in that sense we kind of do need them. And a darker part of me even thinks that maybe it was good for the fair few racist little old ladies and gentlemen that I've dealt with on general medical wards to have to confront their latent fascist views, in their twilight minutes, as they edged their way towards their final judgment day, on the off chance that God turns out to be a Guardian reader.

    But nurses are a natural resource. They are dug like gems from the dry earth and nurtured rather expensively by state-funded training programmes. In the countries we plunder our nurses from they don't have a lot of money to squander. And so it really is very Christmas-spirited of these struggling nations to hand over their nurses willingly, after a little prompting from the two ward managers who nobly went out for two weeks in the summer recruiting them. I digress. You see, I never would have noticed if I hadn't gone out Christmas drinking with the surgeons last night after their exams, and heard them grumbling, as they all start to apply for registrar jobs, about how all their prized positions are being taken by doctors from Asia who will all go back to their own countries in five years' time after being fully trained up here, and about crap referrals from locum GPs who have only just arrived in the country and can't speak English very well, who are all working in inner-city practices where no doctor in their right mind would volunteer to work. Now I wouldn't want you to think that surgeons are all about racism and tit jokes, and to be fair most of the evening was spent talking about NHS trusts being sued by the partners of people who had metal staple repairs to their haemorrhoids and didn't think the issue through before they had anal sex. (Apparently it's like grinding your penis on to a cheese grater.)

    But as my gift to the world (holds hand nobly to chest) I'm going to find a way to send my embarrassing, unread journals to doctors in the developing world. Maybe. And in the meantime, maybe you could all sort out a government that treats doctors and nurses a bit more civilly, so that we wouldn't need to go around stealing them from people who need them far more than we do at Christmas.
    ©The Guardian

    Ministers should be more open about the way immigration officials target people from specific countries entering Britain at ports and airports, an independent watchdog said yesterday. Permission was granted last year for officials to focus on particular nationalities where intelligence suggested there was a high risk of people entering the country illegally. They also authorised language tests for people claiming to be from Afghanistan. The regulations generated controversy because of fears they would breach international conventions and lead to racism in the immigration system.

    Mary Coussey, the independent race monitor appointed to oversee the new law, said yesterday that immigration officials understood that they could not stop people merely because of their colour and used "objective reasons" to decide which passengers to question about their visit to Britain. Ms Coussey acknowledged that she saw only a "small proportion" of the work of frontline immigration officers during her visits to Heathrow airport and Dover, but said that immigration officers "all maintained that it would be impossible to do their jobs without being able to target certain nationalities".

    While information about the nationalities identified as being likely to break immigration laws was normally not published, she said: "Some of the concerns about the validity of targeting nationals from these countries may be alleviated if the basis for targeting was more transparent." She also highlighted evidence of racism towards immigration officers, including one case where a white passenger refused to show his passport because he said he was "more British" than the immigration officer.
    © Independent Digital

    Norway's Foreign Ministry (UD) has apologized for not inviting any immigrant organizations to a major Nordic seminar on integration held in Oslo. The Organization against Public Discrimination (OMOD) learned of the seminar by accident. "It is not entirely logical that representatives from Norway's soccer federation are invited to talk about integration, while we did not even know about it," said OMOD leader Akhenaton Oddvar de Leon. Immigrant representatives from Denmark and Sweden were invited to the conference, held in cooperation with the Nordic Council of Ministers. Norway and the UD were hosts for the meeting. "This is an insult, pure and simple, to the organizations working on immigration issues in Norway. It is incredible that the UD has managed to overlook all such organizations. This should not happen again," de Leon said. In a harsh letter, de Leon told the UD: "Stop believing that integration can be achieved by whites planning and afterwards informing blacks of how things will be done." Mehtab Afsar of the Muslim organization Minhaj Youth is also shocked. "By forgetting us it means that they do not take us or our work seriously," Afsar said. The inclusion of Swedish and Danish groups is not good enough. "What happens in Sweden and Denmark is not necessarily the same in Norway. They have other laws and rules there. It is just laziness of the UD to leave out important groups in Norway," said Afsar, who hopes for a thorough explanation from the Foreign Ministry. UD adviser Bjoern Andreassen fully accepts the criticism and promised to send an apology to OMOD. "We feel it was most unfortunate that they (OMOD) were not invited and will make sure it does not happen again," Andreassen said. Andreassen explained that invitations went out via the Nordic Council's secretariat in Copenhagen and that the list was not checked until too late.

    French officials and Muslim leaders met in conclave at a secluded chateau outside Paris Thursday to conclude a deal that will for the first time formalise relations between the government and the country's five million-strong Islamic community.

    In a process that was accelerated by the anti-US attacks in September 2001 -- when the absence became apparent of an official line of contact to the country's second largest religious group -- the aim is to set up a French Council for the Muslim Religion, equivalent to a similar body created for Jews 200 years ago. However optimism over the initiative has been marred by accusations from Muslim liberals that the new body will be dominated by traditionalists with ties of allegiance to foreign governments, with only a tiny voice given to modernisers, secularists or to women. The only woman to take part in the conclave, Betoul Fekkar-Lambiotte, said she feared power in the Council would be in the hands of bodies such as the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF), which has links to the Muslim Brotherhood and supports a "sectarian Islam." "We republicans, we who wanted an Islam that was really French -- we have been cheated," she told Le Figaro newspaper Thursday.

    Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced last week that after months of negotiation he had persuaded the three main Islamic groups in France -- the UOIF, the National Federation of Muslims in France (FNMF) and the Paris mosque -- to settle their differences and share out positions in the Council. The breakthrough was the conclusion of efforts dating back several years to set up a unified structure for French Muslims authorised to represent them before the government, with the clear but unspoken aim of encouraging a homegrown, liberal version of Islam. After September 11, 2001 it became clear that many young Muslims of North African origin had been radicalised in prayer halls escaping official supervision, and the government also saw the urgency of dispelling nascent hostility to Islam by bringing it more into the open. "What we should be afraid of is Islam gone astray, garage Islam, basement Islam, underground Islam. It is not the Islam of the mosques, open to the light of day," Sarkozy said last week. He was expected to preside over the conclusion of the talks Friday.

    The new body is expected to be headed by Dalil Boubaker, the rector of the Paris mosque, with a membership which will be part-elected and part-appointed. Its day-to-day tasks will be arranging chaplaincies in the army and prisons, acquiring burial sites, delivering "halal" meat certificates, organising the pilgrimage to Mecca and building new mosques and prayer-halls. Despite the size of its Muslim population, France has few large-scale mosques and most worshippers make do with small and sometimes insalubrious prayer-rooms, leading to widespread allegations of discrimination. In setting its relationship with the community on an even footing, part of the government's aim is also to wean it from the foreign governments and institutions who have till now subsidised many mosques and prayer-rooms, and who ministers believe exercise undue influence. Algeria for example funds about 200 religious centres, while Saudi Arabia provided 90 percent of the money for the main mosque in Lyon. In addition 90 percent of French imams are paid by foreign countries, including Boubaker himself who is an employee of the Algerian government.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Far from exempt: 'We do expect a higher standard ...from minorities'

    Last winter, the Southern Chiefs of Manitoba called a news conference to lay out the native side of a fishing dispute with white fishermen. In the midst of the conference, one of the chiefs said "nigger." Chief Barry McKay was actually making a complimentary point about the ascendency of black people in the United States. But after catching the shocked expressions on the assembled reporters, he stopped, apologized and explained he was simply looking for the right word. Nothing more was said and the comment went unreported.

    This week Chief McKay of the Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation in rural western Manitoba remembered his poor choice of word as he watched the disintegration of his former leader, David Ahenakew. "I didn't know what they called themselves at the time. I was trying to find the right wording without offending nobody," Chief McKay said yesterday. "At the time I couldn't remember what they like to be called. I know they don't like 'black' or 'coloured' or 'niggers' and to be honest I just couldn't remember. I think it's African-American, no? I didn't want to offend nobody." Chief McKay said he is appalled at Mr. Ahenakew's views on Jews and immigrants. "There's one in every bunch," he said. Chief McKay also knows very well that N-word is offensive: "It would be like you calling our native women 'squaws.' "

    As Mr. Ahenakew ranted on Friday during his speech about homosexuals, "goddamned immigrants" and most infamously, Jews, the assembled Saskatchewan native leaders listened quietly. The speech carried on. Moves are underway to remove Mr. Ahenakew from the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour, for his comments. Yesterday the Governor-General's office confirmed it has received a formal request from the Canadian Jewish Congress to remove Mr. Ahenakew from the order. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies sent a similar request yesterday. This week Canada's most prominent native leaders, including George Erasmus, Perry Bellegarde and Matthew Coon Come, said they have never heard of anti-Semitic sentiments in native communities.

    But natives are not exempt from hateful feelings toward other races and cultures, says Bob Hughes, the director of the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism. Natives, for all they have suffered themselves, are not exempt from inflicting racist acts. Take Mr. McKay's casual public use of such a racially charged word, Mr. Ahenakew's rant, or perhaps the most infamous incident of aboriginal racism, the killing of Shidane Arone, a Somali teenager. After taking part in the killing of Mr. Arone, Clayton Matchee, an aboriginal soldier from Saskatchewan, lit a cigarette and told a fellow soldier: "The white man feared the Indian. So, too, will the black man." According to Mr. Hughes, the fact that natives are equal-opportunity racists, along with blacks, Jews, Asians and other minorities, sometimes comes as a shock to the white majority that bears the brunt of most racist accusations. "I think we somehow feel they shouldn't have racist views and when they come out, we jump on them and say, 'Ah ha!' We do expect a higher standard on these issues from minorities than other people," said Mr. Hughes.

    Mr. Hughes is white and from small town Saskatchewan. He has spent his working-life advocating for native people who are victims of racism. Even he admits that he sometimes has "racist impulses" toward natives. The impulse comes from his upbringing in a community that never mixed with natives, he said. "Racism is natural. It's a natural phenomenon, an impulse. It's OK to acknowledge that. It's how you deal with that feeling that is really important. That tension and ignorance can only be confronted with education," he said. Genuine racist sentiment and action is not always easy to separate from the rough language of people who were raised in isolated rural communities with little or no presence of blacks, Jews, Hispanics or other minorities.

    Kenneth Noskiye, an aboriginal writer originally from northern Alberta, recalls sitting on an anti-racism committee in Prince Albert, Sask. a few years ago. The committee decided a native elder should say a prayer at the opening of a ceremony celebrating the Day to Eliminate Racism. "We're in city hall on March 21, the Day to Eliminate Racism, and this guy gets up there and gives a little prayer. Then he says, 'You know, when I was a kid, we had no racism. Nobody cared if you were white, an Indian or a nigger.' He didn't skip a beat and just kept right on going," Mr. Noskiye recalled. Sometimes racial animosity extends between different native tribes. In Quebec, Ojibway and Mohawk do not always get along. In Saskatchewan, the Cree and the northern Dene sometimes speak derisively of each other. Mr. Noskiye recalled how Slavey Indians from his part of northern Alberta sometimes still live in fear of the Cree who enslaved them centuries ago. "Tribal feudalism didn't end just because the Europeans arrived," Mr. Noskiye said.
    ©National Post

    An innovative new anti-racism advertising campaign is presenting a positive image of Roma using Santa Claus (Mikulás). The Roma Santa Claus can be seen on Metro billboards and in some magazines. However arguably the strongest element of a long-running campaign entitled ProgramR, aimed at fighting the exclusion of the Roma people in Hungary, is a new television spot. Here Santa Claus (Mikulás) goes to a kindergarten, plays with the fascinated children and hands them presents. But what makes this advert stand out from the rest this Christmas is that Mikulás turns out to be Roma.

    "ProgramR is centered on the Roma and, let's face it, this has been the first time in Hungary that such publicity has been guaranteed in such an organized fashion, under the supervision of media professionals," says the website of the ARC agency, which is organizing the campaign. Advertising expert László Orsós Jakab, one of the masterminds behind the campaign, said, "We must make the biggest possible group of people aware that 8% of the population of Hungary is suffering and politics is much too cautious and slow to react. "This problem needs an efficient and ubiquitous response. That is why we turned to advertising." The central slogan of the campaign, "Shed your prejudice. Not all humans are Roma, but all Roma are humans," might seem banal, but according to ARC, the acceptance of this fact is far from universal. "We believe that we have put to a test the tolerance of the average Hungarian," states the ARC website.

    The TV advert, launched two weeks ago, has already generated much interest and the tv2 channel carried out a survey related to the Roma Mikulás in its popular weekend news program Napló (Diary). To the question "How would you react if in the kindergarten the Mikulás turned out to be a Roma?," half of the respondents replied they wouldn't mind, 4% said they would but would not do anything about it, but another 46% said they would express out loud their shock. "You just have to get used to not hating somebody by instinct. Not least because you might be unpleasantly surprised when the hated person turns out to be pleasant and amiable," is the way the website defines the message of the film, adding that acceptance and understanding on the part of the majority is capable of generating cooperation with the Roma community. Jakab said, "We would like the campaign to last two years. We will soon publish our ad that calls for the application of Roma who would like to work in television." He added that commercial television tv2 and State-run channel m1 had already agreed to participate in putting Roma on the screen. "At the BBC and CNN, employing reporters from ethnic minorities has been common practice for a long while," Orsós said.

    After financing the campaign by their own means, organizers of ProgramR, including advertising expert and media personality Péter Geszti and the head of the Hungarian Autonomy Foundation and former Hungarian diplomat András Bíró, are expecting EU support to keep the program going. The ProgramR initiative seems particularly timely as, according to a November survey of the UN High Commissioner's Office for Refugees, xenophobia in Hungary is on the rise after falling for five years. The survey, conducted by Tárki, found that 40% of the Hungarian population would not allow Hungary to receive asylum seekers. Only 6% of respondents said all asylum seekers ought to be received. Another 54% said they would weigh options based on the specific situation. Those in this last category would least welcome Arabs and Roma.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    UNHCR regional director wonders why so few asylum applications are approved

    The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR sees much room for improvement in the draft for new foreigners' legislation in Finland. Gary G. Troeller, who heads the organisation's operations in the Nordic Countries and the Baltic States, spoke to Helsingin Sanomat in Stockholm, and mentioned a number of problems.

    Last week the draft was left on the table of the Finnish Government. Interior Minister Ville Itälä (Nat. Coalition) delayed moving it forward by a week in order to iron out differences between different Government ministers. Troeller is concerned about concepts such as "safe country of origin" "No country anywhere in the world is always safe for all people in all circumstances. An applicant who is entitled to asylum can come from an industrialised Western country. It is unlikely, but possible." He says that every asylum application should be studied - even if the applicant is a Swede.

    Troeller also criticises the part of the draft which states that an asylum application can be rejected if the applicant has stopped in another country considered safe for just a few days, or even a few hours at an airport. According to the proposal, fast-track processing can be carried out in a week. Troeller emphasises that such a time frame is very labour-intensive, if the asylum applicants are to get the legal aid they need and to submit an appeal for a negative decision before the expulsion is carried out. Of all of the negative decisions made by Finnish authorities on asylum applications in recent years, 60-80% have involved fast-track processing. "It should be meant for special cases, and not everyone", Troeller says. In his view, a special case is one in which an arrival is blatantly trying to take advantage of the asylum system. Such an obvious case would be an applicant who refuses to cooperate with officials, or one who says that the interesting work opportunities in the country are the reason for his or her arrival. The UNHCR opposes the idea that not having proper travel and identity documents would be a reason to question an applicant's need for asylum. Troeller asks, how likely it would be for a refugee to be able to flee with a valid passport, if the departure takes place at night, with soldiers knocking on the door. Troeller says that the Nordic Countries have very high threshold for credibility. "The burden of proof is great. How can you prove that you have been tortured?"

    Troeller is quite aware that the asylum system can be abused. One remedy he proposes is the implementation of decent immigration policy for Europe. If there is no other way to get into Europe, the only way for a would-be immigrant is to try to get in as a refugee. "And then people start to think that there are no genuine refugees", Troeller says. He emphasises that the numerous wars going on in the world are creating millions of real refugees. "We certainly understand that there has to be a balance between control and the right to apply for asylum", he says, and notes that at the Tampere EU summit, Finland made it clear that the right to apply for asylum is a primary right. In Finland, fewer than one in every 100 asylum-seekers are given the status of refugee. The figure is the lowest in the OECD. Troeller feels that this is too low. However, Troeller concedes that Finland comes out good in the comparison, if those who have been given a residence permit because of a need for protection are included among applications that are accepted. Nevertheless, he feels that the wrong political message is being sent. Troeller also praises Finland for the number of refugees it takes under its quota system.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Parliament not expected to have time to pass bill

    Finland's four-party Government reached agreement on Wednesday on the details of a bill for a new law on foreigners. The proposal was passed unanimously in the Government, and it will be submitted to Parliament on Friday. However, Parliament may not have enough time to debate the entire bill during the remainder of the Parliamentary term. The proposed legislation contains more than 200 paragraphs, and over 300 pages; if the present Parliament is not able to handle the issue, the bill dies, and the Government that takes power after the March elections will have to start over.

    The bill has to go through three Parliamentary committees - the Constitutional Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Administrative Affairs Committee. The Constitutional Committee is already overburdened with work. In addition to domestic political pressure, the bill involves a good deal of issues related to international law, both of which serve to slow down the process. The issue of family re-unification was the topic of the final dispute within the Government. Interior Minister Ville Itälä, who prepared the legislation, has focused on the issue of underage children arriving alone in Finland. "If the parents know that unification always happens in the country of exile, children will be packed in containers and lorries to be sent here", Itälä has said. In the newest version, family reunification is to take place primarily in the country where the parents are. However, the bill also allows for special circumstances in which the interest of the child requires that unification should happen in Finland.

    Itälä also found himself in trouble when defending the practice of fast-track processing of asylum applications. The practice came into Finnish law in the summer of 2000 in the wake of the arrival of large numbers of Roma, or Gipsy asylum-seekers from eastern Central Europe. The Minister of Social Services, Eva Biaudet (Swedish People's Party) managed to push through a change according to which the Minority Ombudsman would have the authority to investigate the practical implementation of fast-track rejection of applications. Biaudet has said that in some cases, the use of fast-track processing has violated the legal rights of those seeking asylum. The Government also had difficulties in agreeing on the definition of a refugee, and on the issue of the persecution of women. Finland's present aliens' law is ten years old, and has been amended many times. Now the Government would like to turn Finland's legislation on immigration into a unified whole. The issue of immigration legislation became a key topic in the last elections in Sweden and Denmark.

    A number of organisations involved in human rights issues are hoping that the law will not be rushed through by the present Parliament. In the view of these non-governmental organisations, Parliament needs the time to hear views of experts. Representatives of groups such as Amnesty International and the Refugee Advice Centre say that a number of aspects of the proposal that is going to Parliament would weaken the position of foreigners in Finland. Concerns of the NGOs include the treatment of children and the fast-track asylum application processing issue. They are also worried about the legal sanctions to be placed on airlines and other transportation companies who bring passengers without proper documentation into Finland. The groups say that denying asylum seekers without proper documents access to ordinary transport facilities could lead to a situation in which refugees in genuine need of protection might have to resort to the services of smugglers. On the positive side, the organisations welcomed what they saw as improvements in the residence permit practice for foreigners coming to work in Finland.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    The Washington Times Editorial

    The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments about cross-burning, a tactic of intimidation traditionally employed by the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize blacks. But chances are that, if you didn't carefully scan the Dec. 12th newspapers, you may not have heard about what happened at the Supreme Court the day before — in particular, the powerful, compelling statement by Justice Clarence Thomas about the history of cross-burning.

    On Dec. 11, the court heard arguments presented by the Bush administration and Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore that the Old Dominion's 1952 law prohibiting the use of cross-burning in an effort to intimidate is constitutional. On the opposite side were three cross-burners, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, who contended that it is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. The Virginia case before the Supreme Court involved three separate convictions under the Virginia cross-burning law. Two men, who were not members of the KKK, were convicted of burning a cross on the front lawn of a black neighbor after he complained about noise from a firing range in their backyard. The third person convicted was a Pennsylvania man who led a KKK rally in Carroll County, Va., where a cross was set afire in full view of residents and passing motorists.

    Michael Dreeben, an assistant U.S. solicitor general, argued in defense of the Virginia law. After he had finished speaking, Justice Thomas, a Georgia native, said Mr. Dreeben had actually "understated" the insidious nature of cross-burning. "There is no other purpose to the cross — no communication, no particular message. It was intended to cause fear and terrorize the population," Justice Thomas declared. "We had almost 100 years of lynching and activity in the South by the Knights of Camelia and the Ku Klux Klan, and this was a reign of terror, and the cross was a symbol of that terror." During the brief minute or so that Justice Thomas spoke, "the other justices gave him rapt attention. Afterward, the court's mood appeared to have changed. While the justices had earlier appeared somewhat doubtful of the Virginia statute's constitutionality, they appeared somewhat convinced that they could uphold it as consistent with the First Amendment," the New York Times reported.

    Afterward, University of Richmond professor Rodney Smolla, an attorney for the cross-burners, told the court that the Virginia law should be stricken down — just as the high court had done a decade ago in creating a right to burn the American flag. But the reality is that neither flag-burning nor cross-burning should be considered constitutionally protected free speech. There is no evidence that the Framers were First Amendment absolutists. And burning the American flag isn't speech in the way that writing an article or calling a radio show or giving a speech happens to be; flag burning is properly understood as nihilism, and an act of contempt and hatred for the symbol of this country. Cross-burning is just a different form of anti-social behavior, an effort to terrorize members of certain racial and ethnic groups. Neither merits protection under the First Amendment.
    ©The Washington Times

    Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals would be granted many of the same rights as married couples in Britain, though not the legal status of marriage itself, under government plans announced Friday for officially recognized civil partnerships. The partnerships would give homosexual couples property and inheritance rights and grant each person the status of next-of-kin to the other. Barbara Roche, minister for social exclusion and equalities, said the proposals would be aimed at ending situations where gay people were refused hospital visits to partners, excluded from funerals or forced to sell their homes to pay inheritance tax. Arguing that there was now an "extremely strong case" for giving legal recognition to gay unions, she said, "I do think society has moved on, and I think that we recognize that there are very many people in gay relationships who are in very loving relationships - indeed they may have been very long, enduring relationships - but their partnership has no recognition in law." She added that while the proposals would not amount to "gay marriages," couples would be free to arrange their own private ceremonies to mark the event.

    The government said it would not be codifying these ideas into detailed legislation until at least a year from now, but the introduction of the radical solution to what was long a polarizing subject in British politics received a broad welcome in its general form Friday. The opposition Conservatives, who have frequently seen their traditional and liberal wings fall out over gay rights and "family values" issues, came out in support. "Whilst we attach a huge importance to the institution of marriage, we do recognize that gay couples suffer from some serious particular grievances," said the party's shadow home secretary, Oliver Letwin. "If what the government is coming forward with is indeed a set of practical steps to address a set of practical problems that affect people, then we will welcome them." He added that they did not appear to undermine the "special status" of marriage. The third-ranking party, the Liberal Democrats, said the proposals were "welcome but long overdue." The party's spokesman on health policy, Evan Harris, said, "Couples of any sex must be made equal before the law."

    In recent decades, gay rights campaigners in Britain have won a series of victories, starting with the legalization of homosexuality in 1967. The age of consent for gay men was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994 and then to 16 in 2000 after the House of Lords' annual objections were overcome by resort to the coercive Parliament Act, which empowers the Commons to override objections by the Lords. Last year, London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, set up the first register for gay couples, and last month gay couples gained the same legal right as heterosexual couples to adopt. Elsewhere in Europe, the Netherlands in 2001 became the only country in the world allowing same-sex couples to marry with all the rights afforded to heterosexual couples, provided that one of the two is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland offer same-sex couples the opportunity to register as partners.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Color-blind love By Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT

    In a world brimming with bad news, here's one of the happiest trends: Instead of preying on people of different races, young Americans are falling in love with them. Whites and blacks can be found strolling together as couples even at the University of Mississippi, once the symbol of racial confrontation. "I will say that they are always given a second glance," acknowledges C.J. Rhodes, a black student at Ole Miss. He adds that there are still misgivings about interracial dating, particularly among black women and a formidable number of "white Southerners who view this race-mixing as abnormal, frozen by fear to see Sara Beth bring home a brotha."

    Mixed-race marriages in the United States now number 1.5 million and are roughly doubling each decade. About 40 percent of Asian-Americans and 6 percent of blacks have married whites in recent years. Still more striking, one survey found that 40 percent of Americans had dated someone of another race. In a country where racial divisions remain deep, all this love is an enormously hopeful sign of progress in bridging barriers. Scientists who study the human genome say that race is mostly a bogus distinction reflecting very little genetic difference, perhaps one-hundredth of 1 percent of our DNA. Skin color differences are recent, arising over only the last 100,000 years or so, a twinkling of an evolutionary eye. That is too short a period for substantial genetic differences to emerge, and so there is perhaps 10 times more genetic difference within a race than there is between races. Thus we should welcome any trend that makes a superficial issue like color less central to how we categorize each other.

    The rise in interracial marriage reflects a revolution in attitudes. As recently as 1958, a white mother in Monroe, North Carolina, called the police after her little girl kissed a black playmate on the cheek. The boy, Hanover Thompson, 9, was then sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted rape. (His appeals failed, but he was released later after an outcry.) In 1963, 59 percent of Americans believed that marriage between blacks and whites should be illegal. At one time or another, 42 states banned intermarriage. The Supreme Court finally invalidated these laws in 1967.

    Typically, the miscegenation laws voided any interracial marriages, making the children illegitimate, and some states included penalties like enslavement, life imprisonment and whippings. My wife is Chinese-American, and our relationship would once have been felonious. At every juncture from the 19th century on, the segregationists warned that granting rights to blacks would mean the start of a slippery slope, ending up with black men marrying white women. The racists were prophetic. "They were absolutely right," notes Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor and author of a dazzling new book, "Interracial Intimacies," to be published next month. "I do think [interracial marriage] is a good thing," Kennedy says. "It's a welcome sign of thoroughgoing desegregation. We talk about desegregation in the public sphere; here's desegregation in the most intimate sphere."

    These days, interracial romance can be seen on the cinema screen, on television shows and in the lives of some prominent Americans. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen has a black wife, as does Peter Norton, the software guru. The Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has a white wife. I find the surge in intermarriage to be one of the most positive fronts in American race relations today, building bridges and empathy. But it's still in its infancy. I was excited to track down interracial couples at Ole Miss, thinking they would be perfect to make my point about this hopeful trend. But none were willing to talk about the issue on the record.

    "Even if people wanted to marry [interracially], I think they'd keep it kind of quiet," explained a minister on campus. For centuries, racists warned that racial equality would lead to the "mongrelization" of America. Perhaps they were right in a sense, for we are increasingly going to see a blurring of racial distinctions. But these distinctions acquired enormous social resonance without ever having much basis in biology.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Hundreds of skinheads have disrupted an open-air Jewish celebration in Budapest, chanting "Hungary is ours." The demonstration was staged by members of nationalist skinhead organisation, the Hungarian Revisionist Movement. Members of the city's Jewish community were lighting candles there on the sixth day of the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. "There were several hundred skinheads in front of the stage," according to the director of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, said. Gusztav Zoltai said police did not intervene, saying both organizations had received permission from police to hold meetings on the square. He added that national police chief Laszlo Salgo had ordered an investigation into why the two organizations had been given permission to meet at the same time in the same place. Police declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Representatives of foreign Jewish organizations were also present at the celebration ahead of a weekend meeting of the European Jewish Congress in the city. Around 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, a country of 10 million. Open displays of anti-Semitism are fairly uncommon.

    Akhmed Zakayev has been an actor and a rebel commander, a negotiator, a politician and then a commander again. Bearded, articulate and mild-mannered, he has over the last decade become perhaps the most prominent public face of Chechnya's struggle for independence from Russia. To the Russian government, he is a terrorist and a murderer, who once shot the fingers off a man and kept a prison in the basement of his house in Chechnya, a Kremlin aide said. To others, even some in Russia, he is none of those things, but rather the best hope for a peaceful resolution of Russia's long, bloody Chechen conflict. Mr. Zakayev, the chief envoy of Chechnya's ousted president, Aslan Maskhadov, is now the subject of a second extradition dispute in recent weeks, this time between Russia and Britain. He was arrested late Thursday on his arrival in London, two days after the authorities in Denmark, who had held him for more than a month, rebuffed Russian demands to extradite him. He is now free on bail pending a hearing on Wednesday as to whether he should be extradited to face criminal charges in Russia. His fate has become a test of President Vladimir V. Putin's efforts to portray the Chechen conflict as part of the larger struggle against terrorism. How it turns out may affect the course of the war, deciding whether it ends in a negotiated peace or grinds on with escalating severity.

    In an interview last week in Copenhagen, as he hurriedly prepared to leave for Britain, Mr. Zakayev insisted that Chechnya's rebels wanted peace, but warned that some were prepared to stage new attacks that would cause "big losses in the civilian population," like the 57-hour siege of a Moscow theater in October that left at least 129 hostages and 41 Chechen guerrillas dead. "We have ended up in a vicious circle," he said. "The Russian forces are carrying out punitive actions against the civilian population, and the resistance fighters are carrying out retaliatory actions against the Russian forces. "In Russia and in Chechnya, the situation is getting out of control. And such actions that took place in Moscow, they can be repeated." Russian officials have cited such warnings as proof that Mr. Zakayev and Mr. Maskhadov are organizing more terrorist attacks. Mr. Zakayev denied that, but his remarks suggested that the leaders of the rebellion might no longer exert control over its most prominent commanders. That raised the question of whether they could bring a halt to the violence even if, as Mr. Zakayev said he hoped, negotiations took place.

    "In Chechnya every day, after every mopping-up operation, autonomous groups that want to take revenge are formed that are not under the control of the general staff of the Chechen armed forces," he said, referring to the military wing of Mr. Maskhadov's leadership. "They are striking independently, as they wish, and they are choosing their own methods of retribution." Mr. Zakayev, 43, has long been viewed as a voice of moderation among Chechnya's rebel leaders. A professional actor before the wars began, he negotiated the settlement that ended the first war with Moscow in 1996 and, after losing a bid for the presidency of the Chechen republic in 1997, became a deputy prime minister in charge of education, culture and relations with Moscow. In Copenhagen for a conference of Chechen representatives when the guerrillas seized the theater on Oct. 23, he was the first and most prominent of the rebel leaders to denounce it. On Oct. 30, he was arrested by the Danish authorities at Russia's behest. In the interview after his release last week, he called the siege a tragedy that scuttled quiet efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict. "It brought to naught, for all practical purposes, all the work I had done for a year and a half," he said.

    After the siege, a rebel Web site announced that Shamil Basayev, one of the Chechen commanders, had claimed responsibility. Mr. Maskhadov had appointed him the head of the Chechen military committee in August, apparently in an effort to unify factions fighting the Russians. Mr. Zakayev said he was unable to confirm Mr. Basayev's role in the siege. He said he spoke briefly with Mr. Maskhadov after being released by the Danish police last week and had asked for an explanation, but had not yet received one. Asked if it was possible that the siege was organized in part to scuttle the talks he had been pursuing, Mr. Zakayev said he did not know. While he denied that Mr. Maskhadov had a role in the siege, he acknowledged that the leader of Chechnya's rebellion was himself becoming more radicalized. "For now he is controlling the situation, but how long can this continue?" he asked. "With each day, the war itself is becoming more and more radical."

    Mr. Zakayev has not been in Chechnya since early 2000, when he was badly injured in a car accident during the Russian siege of the capital, Grozny. At the time, he was a commander of a special military brigade organized by Mr. Maskhadov. After he recovered, in 2001, Mr. Maskhadov appointed him his chief envoy and spokesman in exile. In November 2001, two months after Russia issued an international warrant for his arrest, he met with a Kremlin envoy, Gen. Viktor Kazantsev, at an airport in Moscow. This year he has met unofficially in Liechtenstein and Switzerland with other Russian officials, including Chechnya's only deputy in Parliament, Aslambek Aslakhanov, and the former chairman of Russia's security council, Ivan P. Rybkin. Russia's legal pursuit appears to have closed the door to further negotiations. After the theater siege, Mr. Putin ruled out talks with Mr. Maskhadov and ordered Russia's security forces to step up efforts to crush Chechnya's rebels. It has also left Mr. Zakayev in a diplomatic limbo. After leaving Chechnya, he spent time in Georgia, Turkey and earlier this year in Britain, but his presence poses diplomatic risks for any country willing to let him stay.

    The Danish authorities arrested him and held him in prison for 34 days, but released him after the Justice Ministry concluded that Russian evidence of his crimes was insufficient and in some cases specious. He himself dismisses the criminal charges as "absolute lies." He travels with a Soviet passport, never having applied for a Russian one after Chechnya declared its independence as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. "I never considered myself a citizen of Russia," he said. He has, for the moment, lost even that passport. The British police confiscated it after he arrived in London, ordering him to appear in court on Wednesday for the hearing on the Russian charges, which include the killings of an Orthodox priest and "no fewer than 300 militia officers" in 1996.

    Despite Moscow's demonization of him, perhaps because of it, Mr. Zakayev has prominent supporters. The actress Vanessa Redgrave has allowed him to stay at her home in Britain, and she paid his bail after flying with him from Copenhagen. Boris A. Berezovsky, the self-exiled Russian businessman at odds with Mr. Putin, has paid his legal bills. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, has championed his role as a negotiator, as has Yelena Bonner, the widow of the Soviet dissident Andrei D. Sakharov. While Russia's foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, compared Mr. Zakayev to Osama bin Laden, that view is far from universal, even in Russia. "He is working persistently to achieve peace in Chechnya, not to continue the war," Mr. Rybkin, the former security council chairman, said after meeting Mr. Zakayev in prison in Denmark. "If such negotiators are not good enough for us, then I don't know what comes next."
    ©The New York Times

    Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Sunday urged Germans to fight anti-Semitism, warning that the influence of racist fringe groups cannot be underestimated. Katsav became the first Israeli president to lead the dedication of a synagogue in Germany, when he participated in the opening ceremony for the new Bergsiche Synagogue in this western city. ``Here and there voices of anti-Semitism can be heard, also in Germany,'' Katsav said earlier Sunday at a news conference with his German counterpart Johannes Rau. He said racist groups may be small but their influence was hard to measure.

    Katsav launched his three-day visit amid heightened security after the rightist National Democratic Party called on supporters to take to the streets in several demonstrations against the Israeli president. Authorities in Wuppertal banned a protest march planned by the party but kept 2,000 police on hand to ensure security. The NDP, which the government is trying to ban for allegedly fomenting violence against Jews and other minorities, says it is protesting Israel's policy toward the Palestinians and German weapons exports to Israel.

    Katsav also expressed concern over the escalation of violence in Middle East but said he was sure the two sides could achieve peace. ``The cruel acts of Palestinian terrorists are no acts of terrorism, they are much worse,'' Katsav said. ``We will never target innocent civilians.'' ``Terrorists are the target of Israeli soldiers and I would like to apologize for the accidents,'' involving civilians, he added. Speaking before the Jewish community later in Berlin, Katsav reiterated his hope for peace but warned that no state is ``immune'' from terrorism.

    Officials in Berlin decided last week to allow the National Democratic Party to hold a march with about 200 supporters in the capital during Katsav's visit there Monday. Israeli supporters were planning a counter-demonstration at the same time. The Israeli president was to meet political leaders including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and visit the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin before departing for Italy on Tuesday. German officials said they hoped Katsav's visit would stand as a sign of solidarity and understanding between the two countries.
    ©The New York Times

    The World of the Future-Dialogue or Conflict? was the name of a conference held in Cracow Nov. 15. The conference closed the project Bridges of Tolerance, in effect since Oct. 2001. Bridges of Tolerance was conducted jointly by the Znak Christian Culture Foundation, the General Consulate of the United States in Cracow, the Willa Decjusza Association and the Internet portal The goal of the project was to promote and teach attitudes of tolerance, an openness to dialogue with other cultures and mutual cooperation. It was addressed to junior high school, high school and university students, teachers, and non-governmental organizations and institutions. The project has its own website, which gathers materials dealing with the subject of cultural tolerance. The portal organizes Internet chat sessions with politicians and experts. Chat guests have included: U.S. Ambassador to Poland Christopher Hill; Prof. Jerzy Zubrzycki, a theoretician of Australian multi-cultural policy; Selim Chazbijewicz, leader of the Tatar community in Poland; Prof. Andrzej Zoll, commissioner for civil rights protection; Prof. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former minister of foreign affairs; Jacek Kuron, chairman of the parliamentary committee for minorities; Jan Kulakowski, former minister for European integration; and Stefan Wilkanowicz, president of the Znak Christian Culture Foundation. Another session took place during the conference with guest Tadeusz Mazowiecki, former Polish prime minister. Part of the project was a junior high and high school teacher's handbook, entitled The Applied Social Sciences Department of the University of Mining and Metallurgy in Cracow has prepared a publication, Tolerance and Intolerance-Selected Issues, and conducted sociological research on tolerance in Poland. In cooperation with the Malopolska Teacher Training Center, the Znak Christian Culture Foundation has organized a youth competition called Our Special Friendship, which concerns the friendship that is capable of overcoming ethnic, religious and social biases. The next project will be called Bridges to the East. Its completion will be marked by the second international conference and the publication of the second volume of the handbook.
    ©The Warsaw Voice

    Workers who come to Norway for seasonal employment soon will be able to get visas for six months instead of just three. Cabinet minister Erna Solberg aims to liberalize the immigrant labor law. Every year, thousands of workers from Poland, Lithuania, Russia and a host of other countries come to Norway to work for higher wages than they can get back home. They pick strawberries and work on farms in the summer, pick apples in the autumn and greenhouse tulips in the winter. Others find work as everything from ski instructors to hotel and restaurant workers. All workers from EU countries can automatically gain permission to work in Norway, while those from non-EU countries need visas. More than 15,000 temporary work permits have been issued so far this year. The visas allow work and residence for up to three months. Now Solberg plans to extend that to six months, much to the delight of workers like Raimonds Koluzs from Latvia. "My future is in Latvia, but three months working here finances my studies back home for the rest of the year," Koluzs told newspaper Aftenposten. This is the fifth season the 27-year-old Koluzs has worked in Norway. He's paid NOK 85 an hour and given a studio apartment in return for picking tulips at Schoutens Gartneri in Lier, west of Oslo. Not everyone is pleased with the proposed work rules change. Norway's Federation of Trade Unions opposes the measure, arguing that Norway's own unemployment rate keeps rising. It contends jobs need to be preserved for Norwegians.

    Massoumah al-Mubarak knows the power of democracy in Kuwait. She has felt its sting all too sharply. When Kuwait's emir decreed women should have the vote, the freewheeling Parliament - a rare symbol of democratic ideals in the Persian Gulf - used its constitutional powers to overrule him. A week later legislators rejected women's suffrage again in a separate bill. "This is what they are so proud of here," said al-Mubarak, a professor of international relations and prominent women's activist. "They use the tools of democracy to undermine democracy." Nearly 12 years ago, U.S.-led forces drove Iraqi occupiers from Kuwait amid promises of political equality in Kuwait, promises that made it easier to sell Americans on a distant war to protect a tiny, wealthy autocracy. As U.S. troops mass here for a possible second war against Iraq, Kuwaiti democracy remains an ideal that is usually discussed using comparisons. "Compared to the other countries around us, Kuwait is very democratic," said Waleed al-Tabtabai, a conservative Muslim lawmaker. "Saudi Arabia or Qatar, their councils are just veneer. "In Kuwait, anybody can run and elections are free," he said. That, however, depends on the definition of "anybody."

    Of the 2.3 million people who live in Kuwait, only about 115,000 are registered voters. Nearly two-thirds of the population are foreigners, many of whom perform low-status jobs in the oil-rich nation. Of Kuwait's 860,000 citizens, the excluded include people under 21 and naturalized citizens of less than 20 years' standing. Members of the military and the police also are barred, to keep the forces from being politicized. Most conspicuously absent, from polling booths and candidate lists, are women. "It's only a democracy of the few," al-Mubarak said. Comparisons again: Just across the border in Saudi Arabia, women face employment and social restrictions and aren't even allowed to drive. Kuwaiti women are legally protected in the workplace and in education. They hold key business jobs and a few occupy top diplomatic and government posts. They can drive too. Kuwaiti women serve as undersecretaries in the oil and education ministries, though they cannot rise to the top positions in any ministry because Cabinet ministers, like lawmakers, must be men.

    In many ways, Kuwait has a vibrant democratic culture. Parliament is allowed to exercise significant authority, though when it gets too contentious, the ruling family can dissolve it. And unlike many countries in the region, Kuwait has a vigorous press and political dissent is common. But this is also an Islamic nation where tradition runs deep - even many women believe only men should vote - and where politicians with tribal ties are powerful. It is a country largely led by conservative Bedouins whose fathers and grandfathers left the desert when vast oil reserves were discovered and glass-walled skyscrapers and Porsche dealerships started erupting from the sands. When it comes to governing, many Kuwaitis still believe a woman's place is far from Parliament.

    "We don't think its time yet," lawmaker al-Tabtabai said of women's suffrage. "As for running for elections, we are against this." Al-Tabtabai believes Islamic law prohibits women from running a state, and thinks women should be excluded from political campaigns to avoid mixing the sexes. The role of women in Kuwaiti society shifted significantly after Iraq's 1991 invasion. Women risked arrest and torture to protest the occupation, and with the streets too dangerous for many men to leave home, women were in charge. After the Iraqis were ousted, Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, returned from exile with praise for his country's women and promises of equality. But in 1999, when he decreed women could vote and run for Parliament, the legislature overruled him. Attempts to bring about change through the courts have failed.

    "It just doesn't make sense," said Abdullah al-Naibari, a liberal lawmaker. "Kuwaiti society is conservative, but we've seen that people accept to work under ladies ... so why can't they be allowed to vote?" But for women's activists, perhaps the most galling issue is how few women care about the vote. "There is a thick wall of customs and traditions and stereotypes that makes it very hard to get through to them," she said. Fatima al-Jasser would agree. The 28-year-old kindergarten teacher believes women here are already not "giving enough attention to their homes and children." She also thinks women in Kuwait's quarrelsome Parliament would only make things worse. "Women are emotional," she said, "but men resort to reason."
    ©Nando Media

    Moroccan Youth Running Rampant in Antwerp Sets Off Alarm Bells in The Hague

    The two days of troubles in Antwerp between Moroccan youth and the police following the death on Tuesday the 26th of November of Mohammed Achrak from gunshot wounds caused by an Antwerp neighbour, has created anxiety among members of Parliament in the Netherlands. In particular, the arrest on Thursday the 28th of November of Dyab Abou Jahjah, 31, the leader of the Arab European League (AEL) on charges of incitement to riot and hatred, has created fears that should the Arab Europe League set up shop in Rotterdam and Amsterdam in February 2003, as announced by the AEL, there may be trouble ahead for the Netherlands.

    Mr. Camiel Eurlings of the Christian Democrat group in the Tweede Kamer (Lower House) has urged during a debate over the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 3 December that the AEL should be banned in the Netherlands. Eurlings says the AEL is, "an enemy of integration, a militant, and a trouble-making organization which is opposed to the society in which we live". In order to achieve his objective, Mr. Eurlings urged the House to adopt the European Union's black list of terrorist organizations. This would include, then, the Kurdish Labour Party (PKK). Eurlings argued that the Netherlands cannot deviate on this from Europe, as many other European countries have adopted the black list. These countries are Germany, France, Great Britain and Spain.

    The Netherlands, moreover, should compile its own list of forbidden terrorist organizations one of which would be the UAL, but also the Al-Aqsa in Rotterdam and Benevolence International in Maastricht. "We have to stop organizations in the bud. Some say the AEL is somewhat rebellious, while others claim it's objectives cannot see the light of day". Minister Piet Hein Donner at Justice, Christian Democrat, is opposed to banning the AEL. Donner believes it would force the organization to go underground and this would give it a kind of clandestine prestige. "You would lose track of them. We have to do something about the breeding grounds for extreme organizations such as improve our integration policy of ethnic minorities". The Lijst Pim Fortuyn would favour the proposal of Eurlings, says Mr. Frits Palm, but he would oppose the adoption of the European Union's list of terrorist organizations. The Liberals, says ex-Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen, now a member of the Liberal group in the House, believes the Intelligence and Securities Service is already doing enough without having to ban the organization.

    In Antwerp, meanwhile, Abou Jahjah has been released from detention. The court could not find sufficient evidence Jahjah called upon Moroccan youth to turn against the authorities. Upon his release, Jahjah said, "Our position hasn't changed. We are what we have always been; a militant organization with an ideal. The AEL rejects integration and wants an end to the policy of making Moroccans second-rate citizens. We are also demanding that Arabic be recognized as an official state language in Belgium". He was arrested on the basis of testimony from ethnic police officers. They said they overheard Jahjah saying, "We are going to be the boss. We are the strongest. If they do not obey, we will resist". The witnesses also said these statements were made by Jahjah in Arabic. This version of the story is denied by the lawyer of Jahjah, Mr. Alexandre Sachem. "He only believed that was what he heard. He (the witness) is not one-hundred per cent certain. His detention (Jahjah) is based on this sole piece of testimony".

    In a related development in the Netherlands, Mr. Maxime Verhagen, the leader of the Christian Democrats has advised the House his party would not object if inspectors from the Ministry of Education looked into religious classes in order to determine if "core values" of Holland were being respected and if students were being taught "hatred and segregation". Mr. Verhagen objected at first to a further investigation by the Education Inspection Service because it would, he said, violate Article 23 of the Constitution which grants schools in this country the right to teach religion according to their own believes. The schools remain funded by the government, but are free of government control with respect to the teaching of religion as part of the curriculum. The hard-fought Article was included in the Constitution on demands from orthodox Christians in the Netherlands. In a recent report by the Inspectorate of 37 Islamic schools in the Netherlands, they discovered three that were not teaching the "core values" held by native Dutchmen. The opposition parties in the House wanted a full investigation including the right to look into religious education at these schools, but originally Verhagen was opposed. He now favours a more comprehensive investigation if the Inspectorate refrains from passing judgement on the content of religious teachings.
    ©Dutch News Digest

    EU justice ministers remained deadlocked Thursday on new rules for processing asylum seekers' applications. Member states were so entrenched in their positions that the council was abandoned for several hours while Denmark, the current holder of the EU presidency, held bilateral talks with each of the ministers on the so-called Dublin Convention. Hailing from 1997, the Dublin Convention is supposed to make asylum seekers apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter. If asylum seekers are found in other member states they are allowed to send them back to the original country of entry. Countries therefore which are natural points of entry - such as Italy - have a vested interest in putting a time limit on this.

    A question of months
    The discussion yesterday came down to how many months should an asylum seeker be in a country before that country has to take responsibility for processing applications. Italy was pushing for six months whereas France and the Benelux countries wanted two years, say diplomats. The Danish presidency, backed by Ireland, suggested 12 months. This was rejected. However, Bertel Haarder, the Danish Europe minister said this was the only offer that was on the table and sent member states back to the drawing board for a week to try to see if agreement can be reached. This is the "only" offer, said Mr Haarder, "why not take it now."

    Agreement on return of Afghans
    Ministers did manage to reach agreement on the return of Afghans. Starting April 1 next year, 1500 Afghans per month will be helped to "voluntary return" to Afghanistan although Mr Haarder said "forced return" could never be ruled out. The return of Afghan refugees was a priority set by heads of state at the Seville Summit earlier this year. The 17 million euro unblocked by the Commission will be used for transportation back to Afghanistan, re-integration and information for returnees. Mr Haarder denied that the refugees would face hardship once there. "It will be very gradual and connected to a lot of help," said the Danish Europe minister. The Commission also received the go ahead from member states to begin negotiations with Turkey, Algeria, China and Albania on return of illegal immigrants, said justice and home affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino. This follows the signing of the EU's first readmission agreement with Hong Kong on Wednesday.

    The European Union should tighten demands to China for respecting human rights, according to two of the Danish minority government's supporting parties on the occasion of Mr Zhu Rongis' s coming to Copenhagen for the ASEM Summit. The critical dialogue between the EU and China on human rights has not led to the desired result, and a change of style ought to take place, according to Danish politicians, quoted by Danish paper Berlingske Tidende. "It seems to me as if the dialogue is at present suppressing the criticizm of (the condition of. ed.) human rights in China. The foreign minister ought to take the initiative to a critical overview of the so-called critical dialogue," says Jann Sjursen, political leader of Kristeligt Folkeparti (KF, Christian People's Party). He is seconded by Peter Skaarup, spokesman for Dansk Folkeparti (DF, Danish People's Party) who says: "We are hampered by our EU membership. But we ought to protest and introduce sanctions against China's cruel treatment of its citizens," he says, according to Berlingske Tidende.

    Falun Gong refused the right to demonstrate in Copenhagen
    The former Danish government accepted that Tibet was a part of Chine, while present foreign minister Per Stig Møller used to have a more critical attitude when he was in opposition, but now things seem to have changed, according to Peter Skaarup who says: "It is provoking that Per Stig Møller is not continuing his critical attitude from his opposition period but allows China to do as it likes - even in this country." Mr. Skaarup refers to the fact that Danish Falun Gong has been refused the right to demonstrate outside the Chinese Copenhagen embassy and to make a theatrical performance during the ASEM meeting in Copenhagen. Liberal foreign policy spokesman Troels Lund Poulsen says, according to Berlingske Tidende, that conditions will improve in China as a result of a long term process of democratization. He adds that the former government was too soft on Tibet, and that his own government must rectify that policy.

    The leader of Turkey's governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has attacked the European Union for applying double-standards in its judgements about which countries might join the EU and when. Turkey has been criticised for its human rights record and a recent report from the European Commission that suggested that the country had not implemented reforms necessary to bring the country into line with European standards. Mr Erdogan said EU should leave aside double standards With three days to go before EU leaders meet to decide whether or not to give Turkey a date for membership negotiations to start, Tayyip Erdogan responded to hints that Turkey would not get what it wanted with stinging criticism of the EU's judgement. He was responding to the Danish prime minister's comment that what was needed from Turkey was real changes in human rights.

    Turkey passed major reforms a few months ago to its legal system but many EU members want to wait and see how they are implemented before putting Turkey formally on the road to membership. That is not good enough for Mr Erdogan, who has been conducting an exhaustive round of diplomacy and lobbying. He singled out Latvia's human rights' record. Latvia is expected to be invited to join in 2004. Mr Erdogan said that that was not possible to understand and the EU should leave aside double standards. There is a strong feeling amongst many in Turkey that the problem is not the country's human rights record but the fact that it is an overwhelmingly Muslim society. Some feel that the member states will find any excuse to delay or deny membership to the country.
    ©BBC News

    France's five million Muslims are for the first time to be organised within a single representative body authorised to press their interests before the government, under an agreement signed Monday by the country's three main Muslim groups. The deal was revealed in a television interview Monday evening by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who said it would give "our compatriots of the Muslim confession the right to live out their faith just like Catholics, like Jews and like Protestants." According to the minister, the structure of the new body will be finalised by the end of the year. It will include women, but all influence from foreign countries or governments will be strictly prohibited, he said.

    The announcement is the culmination of several years of efforts to establish a proper line of contact between successive governments and the country's second largest religious community, with the clear if unspoken aim of encouraging a homegrown, liberal version of Islam. The urgency of formalising relations was underlined after the September 11 attacks when it became obvious that many young Muslims of north African origin had been radicalised in prayer halls and meetings that escaped any official supervision. But the task has been hampered by the diversity of the Muslim community, the haphazard way in which it has grown up through successive waves of immigration, and the close grip that many foreign governments and donors retain through financial subsidies.

    France is a rigidly secular state, and it regulates its relations with the other main religions through official bodies of the type it now wants to create for Islam. Monday's agreement was signed by what Sarkozy described as the "three major groupings of Muslims in France": the Paris mosque, the National Federation of Muslims in France and the Union of Islamic Organisations in France. However the representatives of five mosques, including the main mosques in France's second and third cities Lyon and Marseille, said they had been cut out of the arrangement in secret talks conducted "in order to allow Sarkozy a quick success." The minister said the new body's statutes would "conform to the rules of the republic," and its leadership would be part elected and part appointed. This is to ensure that minorities, and especially Muslim women, are fully represented. "What we should be afraid of is Islam gone astray, garage Islam, basement Islam, underground Islam. Not the Islam of the mosques, open to the light of day," the minister said.

    Despite the size of its Muslim population, France has only eight large-scale mosques, and most worshippers make do with small and sometimes insalubrious prayer rooms, leading to widespread complaints by Muslims about discrimination. In setting its relationship with the community on an even footing, part of the government's aim is to wean it from the foreign governments and institutions which have until now subsidised many mosques and prayer rooms, and which ministers believe exercise undue influence. Algeria for example funds about 200 religious centres, while Saudi Arabia provided 90 percent of the money for the main mosque in Lyon. If the issue of mosque building can be easily resolved by a more positive response by local authorities, the government is concerned that the vast majority of imams who preach in French mosques and prayer halls -- more than 90 percent -- are foreigners.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    EU monitor cites Sept. 11 and turmoil in Mideast

    Racism against Muslims and Jews in Europe has increased since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and with the subsequent escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the European Union's racism monitor has warned. "Now it seems legitimate to have anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views on some issues," said the official, Bob Purkiss, chairman of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, in delivering a report Tuesday on racism in Europe to leaders of the 15-nation bloc gathered in Brussels. Citing a danger that such racism had "embedded itself" in Europe, he called on the union to deal with the social and economic factors fueling racial prejudice. The report noted increased harassment of people who "looked Muslim," particularly women wearing headscarves, and a wave of attacks on Jews and synagogues. That assessment was echoed in Paris, where Pierre Bedier, a junior justice minister, told the National Assembly that "recent events indicate a worrisome increase in the number of crimes inspired by anti-Semitism."

    France, which has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations of any European country, has experienced the biggest wave of anti-Semitic violence over the past year. Incidents included the burning down of one synagogue in Marseille in March and the ransacking of another just days ago in southwestern France. On Tuesday, the National Assembly adopted a bill that toughens penalties against racist and anti-Semitic acts. The bill, part of a widespread anticrime initiative by the center-right government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, will also put greater pressure on local officials to prosecute racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

    Purkiss blamed the media and politicians for fomenting racism with inconsistent treatment of issues related to globalization, unemployment and Islam. He said mainstream European politicians had allowed far-right populist parties to push them into a negative debate on immigration. "People are playing politics with the immigration issue rather than dealing with the real questions that need to be addressed," he said, arguing for continued immigration as a spur to economic growth, to combat labor shortages as Europe's population ages. European leaders in Brussels were quick to condemn racist aggression against Muslims and Jews and called for dialogue. But Beate Winkler, director of the racism monitoring agency based in Vienna, said, "Immediately after Sept. 11, we had a lot of positive initiatives by politicians, but it did not continue."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Most South Africans, both black and white, believe the country was better run under apartheid and say unemployment and crime are the government's top challenges, according to two new polls released this week. The polls, part of the ''Afrobarometer'' series of public opinion surveys, found South Africans had generally positive assessments of how their country was governed, and were growing increasingly optimistic about the future. But they also revealed a growing sense of ''apartheid nostalgia'' as South Africa grapples with high crime rates, increasing corruption and rising joblessness following the end of white rule in 1994. ''It's not that they want to return to apartheid, but in retrospect it was a time when trains ran on time,'' poll director Robert Mattes said on Wednesday. ''It was a harsh, repressive, but seemingly efficient government.''

    Overall, the polls showed that about 60 percent of South Africans felt the country was better run under apartheid, with both blacks and whites rating the current government less trustworthy, more corrupt, less able to enforce the law and less able to deliver government services than its white predecessor. The surveys also found respondents giving more positive assessment of apartheid-era policies. Whites had the highest levels of nostalgia, with 65 percent now identifying positive elements to whites-only rule compared with 59 percent in 2000 and 39 percent in 1995. But black respondents were also beginning to wax nostalgic, with 20 percent now giving a positive rating to certain aspects of life under the apartheid regime, compared with 17 percent in 2000 and eight percent in 1995. ''This suggests that as time has passed and memories of what life was really like then become dim, people tend to positively emphasise the things that they do not see under the present system and de-emphasise the more harsh aspect,'' one poll said.

    Moving forward or falling back?
    Mattes said the rise in pro-apartheid sentiments among blacks could reflect both the growing income inequalities within South Africa's black community -- where many have actually grown poorer since the end of apartheid -- as well as difficulties in dealing with government bureaucracy. Despite growing nostalgia for the past, the poll found South Africans becoming more positive about their government and its direction for the future -- although they rate unemployment, poverty, crime and AIDS as serious challenges. A total of 54 percent now gave positive marks to the country's current system of government, up 18 points from 1995. Among whites, 46 percent gave the current government positive ratings, compared with just 12 percent in 1995. Seventy four percent of respondents expressed optimism about how the country's political system would develop over the next 10 years, with long-term optimism among whites rising to 44 percent from 24 percent in 1995. ''As people, especially racial minorities, become more accustomed to the new order, they seem to be coming to terms with it, even as they moan and grumble about all its faults,'' the poll said. The Afrobarometer polls are conducted as a collaboration between the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Center for Democracy and Development in Ghana and Michigan State University. The latest South African polls, which interviewed a racially representative sample of 2,400 South Africans in September and October, had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

    France and Germany plan to jointly expel illegal immigrants from their territories and are negotiating a new bilateral immigration accord, their interior ministers announced Thursday after meeting in Paris. Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Otto Schily of Germany "decided to organise together the expulsion of groups of clandestine immigrants," a statement said, adding that both sides were discussing a new bilateral arrangement on how to deal with illegal immigrants already on their territory. The ministers pledged to improve the identification of people who enter and exit their territories, to cooperate in the use of biometric data in passports, IDs, visas and residency permits, and move towards international norms in implementing the use of such data. Sarkozy -- who took office earlier this year in a rightwing French government which has made fighting crime and illegal immigration a major part of its program -- and Schily also agreed to step up how their police forces cooperate in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. Finally, both agreed that Germany and France would soon set up joint patrols along the Franco-German border and implement joint investigation and observation teams.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Australia's longest-running Aboriginal land rights claim collapsed yesterday when the high court delivered a judgment regarded as the death-knell of the native title system. The claim of the Yorta Yorta people covered about 2,000sq km of tribal land along the Murray river, on the border between New South Wales and Victoria. It was one of the first cases lodged after the federal parliament recognised Aboriginal land rights in 1994. Since then more than 200 witnesses have been heard in Melbourne and on the banks of the Murray.

    The court ruled that the Yorta Yorta had no claim to the land from which most of their people were expelled in the mid-19th century. Comparing early descriptions of Aboriginal practices with oral history and recent testimony, the judges voted five to two against the claim. A Yorta Yorta spokeswoman, Monica Morgan, said it was a "dismal day for Aboriginal justice", adding: "It's not about native title, it's about racism. It's about recognition, it's about seeing our sovereignty." The president of the national native title tribunal, Graeme Neate, said claimants would have to rely increasingly on informal agreements with state governments, farmers and mining companies. "Most groups would see this as the law of white Australia raising yet another obstacle for Aboriginal people and putting them through more hoops to prove what they have always known: that this is their land," he said.

    An essential element of title claims since the breakthrough Mabo case in 1992 has been proof that the claimants have maintained connections with their land and carried out traditional practices on it since the European invasion. Courts have had the almost impossible task of judging the level of a people's spiritual involvement with their land, and the results have often been resented, because forcible removal has been enough to extinguish their claim. The system has been attacked for many years. Pauline Hanson, leader of the defunct racist party One Nation, cited it in her 1996 maiden speech to parliament as an example of "the privileges Aboriginals enjoy over other Australians". The prime minister, John Howard, refused to condemn the speech at the time, and his resistance to reconciliation has been the background to the breakdown of the native title system, although the burden of red tape seems to have been the main cause.

    The biggest award, an area of western desert four times the size of Belgium, was formally handed back to the Martu people in September. But a string of rulings has circumscribed the system's scope. In August the Miriuwung-Gajerrong case found that indigenous people had no mineral rights in their land and confirmed that certain rights could be eliminated by white occupation. Last month the De Rose Hill case found that connection with land could be eliminated in the lifetime of people driven from their homes. Peter Seidel, the pro bono lawyer who represented the Yorta Yorta, said the standard of proof had now been set so high that it could be impossible for future cases to meet it. Geoff Clark, chairman of the government Aboriginal affairs body Atsic, said the restrictions placed on land rights had hamstrung the movement, and called on Aboriginal people to reoccupy their land, regardless of court rulings.
    ©The Guardian

    Expansion is expected to be given the green light Leaders from the European Union are on the brink of signing an historic agreement that will expand the bloc by 10 members in 2004. A day of last minute horse-trading is expected as the 15 EU members and the 10 candidate states hammer the final details of the deal in Copenhagen. Late on Thursday, the EU's Danish presidency announced a funding package for the candidates, worth a total of 40.5bn ($40.5bn) over a period of three years. But there was disappointment for Turkey after the leaders decided it would have to wait at least two more years before it is invited to hold membership talks. The new funding deal offers the 10 candidates about 1.5bn euros more than a previous package approved in October. It now awaits approval by the candidates countries themselves.

    Looking to the EU: Views from candidate countries
    Likely new members: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.
    Poland, the largest of the states seeking membership, has been holding out for an even more generous offer. But earlier the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned them that there was no more money and if they refused the offer they could risk delaying membership until at least 2007. Denmark will hold individual meetings on Friday with the candidates which have not yet accepted terms of accession. But most of the candidate countries signalled their willingness to accept the EU's entry conditions ahead of the summit and three of them - Cyprus, Estonia and Slovakia - have already wrapped up formal talks. Poland is also expected to follow suit in the end. "I believe there are fairly good chances to conclude with fairly positive results even tomorrow, with a bit of flexibility, a bit of goodwill," the country's chief negotiator Jan Truszczynski said as he arrived in Copenhagen late on Thursday. Mr Rasmussen was set to meet Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller at 0800 (0700 GMT).

    Dashed hopes
    Also topping the agenda of the two-day summit in Copenhagen is the thorny issue of Turkey's membership ambitions. Turkey had been pressing for an immediate start to its negotiations on joining the EU. The BBC's correspondent in Copenhagen, Chris Morris, said that Turkey would be very disappointed with the offer of talks only after 2004. It has been kept waiting for decades because of its poor human rights record, but the newly-elected government believes a recent rush of new legislation means it deserves to begin talks soon. France and Germany have both backed 2005 as a starting date, provided Turkey meets its obligations on human rights. But former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is chairing a forum on Europe's future, has made clear his view that Turkey - as an eastern, mainly Muslim country - has no place in the EU.
    ©BBC News

    It is hard to think of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a monument to Jewish self-assertion. It was from here, in April 1945, that the first horrific images of the Holocaust were broadcast to the outside world. And it was here that the young Anne Frank — for generations of children the haunting symbol of that tragedy — died. But for five years after World War II, Bergen-Belsen functioned as Europe's largest self-governing community of Holocaust survivors. At a displaced persons camp established here, former concentration camp prisoners resisted efforts to return them to their homelands and stayed on to rebuild their lives. They established a self-governing community, complete with schools, medical care and a newspaper.

    Survivors, scholars and German officials are now bringing this second legacy of Bergen-Belsen to light. An Israeli historian has just published a book about the postwar camp, and an exhibition documenting the experience of camp members is now at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York City. In November, the German state of Lower Saxony held a conference to discuss new research about the site. "Life in the camp was a greenhouse for a new Jewish national identity," said Hagit Lavsky, the author of "New Beginnings: Holocaust Survivors in Bergen-Belsen and the British Zone in Germany, 1945-1950." Ms. Lavsky, a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, suggests that the camp played a special role in the Zionist movement by creating a functioning Jewish minirepublic three years before the founding of the state of Israel. "It was unique in all of Europe," said Wilfried Wiedemann, director of the Lower Saxony Office for Political Education, which runs the Bergen-Belsen Memorial.

    After liberating Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, British forces created the displaced persons camp as a short-term settlement for former prisoners. The British government was opposed to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine then and had set out to return survivors to their countries of origin. But the survivors blocked the British plan. They elected their own leaders and asserted their right to self-determination. At its height, the camp housed an estimated 12,000 people and — with the support of British and American Jewish relief agencies — achieved de facto autonomy from the British occupation forces. Most of the survivors eventually immigrated to Israel or North America. For Menachem Rosensaft, a New York lawyer who was born in 1948 in the camp, where his parents held leadership positions, the postwar history of Bergen-Belsen provides a message of strength with which to confront the the Holocaust. "Yes, it is a mass grave, the place where tens of thousands died," he said during a walk around the site. "But it's also the place where my parents met and I was born. It represents a great reclaiming of one's own destiny after the tragedy."

    The surge of interest in the camp represents a general shift in Holocaust research from the study of the perpetrators to the study of survivors themselves, Ms. Lavsky said. "The Bergen-Belsen story demonstrates that survivors were not only victims, but were also active human beings," she said. "Their rehabilitation was a result of their own actions."
    ©The New York Times

    By Salman Rushdie

    It's been quite a week in the wonderful world of Islam.
    Nigerian Islam's encounter with that powerhouse of subversion, the Miss World contest, has been unedifying, to put it mildly. First, some of the contestants had the nerve to object to a Sharia court's sentence that a Nigerian woman convicted of adultery be stoned to death and threatened to boycott the contest — which forced the Nigerian authorities to promise that the woman in question would not be subjected to the lethal hail of rocks. And then Isioma Daniel, a Christian Nigerian journalist, had the effrontery to suggest that if the prophet Muhammad were around today, he might have wanted to marry one of these swimsuit hussies himself. Well, obviously, that was going too far. True-believing Nigerian Muslims then set about the holy task of killing, looting and burning while calling for Daniel to be beheaded, and who could blame them? Not the president of Nigeria, who put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the hapless journalist.
    Meanwhile, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hashem Aghajari, a person with impeccable Islamist credentials, languishes under a sentence of death imposed because he criticized the mullahs who run the country. Thousands of young people across the country were immature enough to protest against Aghajari's sentence, for which the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, duly rebuked them. (More than 10,000 true believers marched through Tehran in support of hard-line Islam.)
    Meanwhile, in Egypt, a hit television series, Horseman Without A Horse, has been offering up anti-Semitic programming to a huge, eager audience. That old forgery, The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion — a document purporting to prove that there really is a secret Jewish plot to take over the world, and which was proved long ago to have been faked — is treated in this drama series as historical fact.
    Finally, let's not forget the horrifying story of the Dutch Muslim woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has had to flee the Netherlands because she said that Muslim men oppressed Muslim women, a vile idea that so outraged Muslim men that they issued death threats against her.
    Is it unfair to bunch all these different uglinesses together? Perhaps. But they do have something in common. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was accused of being "the Dutch Salman Rushdie," Aghajari of being the Iranian version, Isioma Daniel of being the Nigerian incarnation of the same demon.
    A couple of months ago I said that I detested the sloganization of my name by Islamists around the world. I'm beginning to rethink that position. Maybe it's not so bad to be a Rushdie among other "Rushdies." For the most part I'm comfortable with, and often even proud of, the company I'm in.
    Where, after all, is the Muslim outrage at these events? As their ancient, deeply civilized culture of love, art and philosophical reflection is hijacked by paranoiacs, racists, liars, male supremacists, tyrants, fanatics and violence junkies, why are they not screaming?
    The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win.
    ©The Toronto Star

    South Africans thought they knew the face of their own homegrown terror group, the unlikely white supremacists who want to return to the Victorian past. These radical Afrikaners were supposed to be bellicose and working-class blokes who spent their weekends watching rugby, cruising hardware stores and slugging brandy and Coke over sizzling barbeques while bemoaning the rise of the black majority. But over the past few weeks, with a series of bombs going off across the country, a different picture of South Africa's white racists has emerged -- of well-educated, locally respected men who are prepared to kill in pursuit of a fanatically nationalistic dream. In recent weeks, they have also struck a Cape Town police station, a minor airport near Johannesburg and, on Oct. 30, the teeming township of Soweto, where 10 bombs went off, killing one person and damaging a mosque and rail lines.

    A group known as Warriors of the Boer Nation claimed responsibility for the Soweto attack, demanding police release 17 Afrikaners, including the radical leader Tom Vorster, due to stand trial next May for treason, terrorism and sabotage. The new disgruntled right-wingers claim to have been betrayed by Afrikaner politicians and the postapartheid government. They also want to resurrect the Boer Republic of the 1800s, and rid it of blacks. Among the group's more bizarre plans, according to the police, are to use a yet-to-be-acquired submarine off the coast to bomb black suburbs, to poison water supplies in black townships and to assassinate prominent Afrikaners they see as traitors to the Boer cause. "Our feeling is that they are a small group of mavericks, fanatical in their beliefs and fully committed to what they are doing," said Sally de Beer, spokeswoman for South Africa's Commissioner of Police. "But we don't think that anyone else in South Africa wants a climate of terror and violence, so we doubt that they have very much sympathy."

    In the past, the white supremacist threat proved overstated, largely due to an inept bombing campaign that failed to hit any of its intended targets in the early 1990s. Analysts at Pretoria's Institute for Security Studies believe the new-look Afrikaner radicals are motivated by fear, racism and religion, and have links with the American Ku Klux Klan. Radio Pretoria, an Afrikaner station that flies the apartheid flag and broadcasts the old national anthem, regularly runs call-in shows that feature talk of whites being persecuted and AIDS as a possible "solution" to black population growth. In a paper to be published today, Henri Boshoff and Martin Schnteich argue that the main radical Afrikaner group -- Boeremag, or Boer Force -- sees the country descending from its current state of high crime to an all-out race war.

    Boeremag was formed in the mid-1990s and has grown slowly, the study says. Its aim is to restore the Boer Republic -- a chunk of South Africa ruled by Dutch and French settlers in the late 1800s -- as a 10th province for whites. The institute also describes the extremists as being very different from the old-style Afrikaner radicals and their leader Eugene Terreblanche, who was jailed last year for beating a black security guard almost to death. "Unlike the old right-wingers under apartheid, the 'brandy-and-Coke' brigade, these people are doctors, engineers, military officers and leading members of their communities," Mr. Boshoff said. "On the ground level they will be able to plant bombs, disrupt society and cause emotional outbursts between black and white people -- that's what they want," he added. "They are looking for the sympathy of Afrikaners, and they are getting it."
    ©Globe and Mail

    French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy will hold talks with his British counterpart David Blunkett here Monday to try to resolve the problem of the asylum seekers at Sangatte centre in northern France, the source of disagreement between the two countries for three years. Sarkozy, who arrived here late Sunday, will also meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the day, a spokesman for the British Home Office told AFP. With the Red Cross refugee centre closed to new arrivals since early November and due to shut definitively by April, the two governments need to reach a deal on where the asylum applications of an estimated 5,000 asylum -sekers registered by the Red Cross should be processed. The controversial centre currently holds around 1,600 migrants, mainly Iraqi Kurds and Afghans, but the rest registered their names there before the lists were closed on November 5 and have gone elsewhere in France, or sneaked though to Britain via the Channel tunnel.

    The French government is offering a financial bonus of 2,000 euros (dollars) to encourage Afghans to return to their country in a programme supported by the UNHCR, but so far only 15 have taken up the offer, the interior ministry said. The talks here are expected to focus on a distributing the thousands of registered asylum-seekers, with London agreeing to accept many of them in exchange for the final closure of the Sangatte camp which has been seen here as a major staging post for clandestine arrivals in Britain. The right-wing Daily Mail on Monday denounced what it called "French blackmail" saying that Paris was pressurising London to accept throusands more asylum seekers.

    Sangatte was set up in 1999 to cope with the growing numbers of asylum-seekers congregating at the coast in the hope of crossing to Britain, mainly through the Channel tunnel, and France agreed to close it after the London government said it had become a staging-post for people-smuggling gangs. For its part Britain has tightened up its immigration laws to reduce the country's allure, but new quarterly figures released Friday showed the number of asylum applications was up by 11 percent on the previous three months to reach 22,000. Home Affairs spokeman for Britain's opposition Conservative Party Humfrey Malins, denounced the "disgraceful behaviour" of the French and the "pathetic weakness by the British government". "The French have no right to send asylum seekers over here -although they have been doing just that for years," he said. "It shows how weak David Blunkett is if he's prepared to accept these 5.000 extra asylum seekers as a negotiating point".
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    The Sangatte refugee centre in France will close at the end of the year, four months earlier than planned, it was announced today. The camp, which is seen as having served as a staging post for illegal immigration to the UK, will close on December 30, said David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and his French counterpart, Nicholas Sarkozy, said after a meeting this morning. In return for early closure of the Red Cross-run centre, Mr Blunkett said that the UK would grant working visas for up to 1,000 Iraqi Kurds at the camp. He said that some Afghan refugees at the camp who had family connections in Britain would be allowed to enter the country. There are currently about 2,200 people in the camp, which has been a major source of disagreement between Britain and France.

    London has been pressing French officials to shut the camp to discourage illegal immigration. M Sarkozy said France would assume responsibility for the remainder of the refugees at the camp. About 40 per cent of the refugees at Sangatte are Afghans, many others are Iraqi Kurds. The Red Cross centre at Sangatte was due to close in April 2003, according to an earlier French-British agreement. Asylum and immigration regulations were tightened under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, passed last month. M Sarkozy said that the camp would be dismantled in a "humanitarian way." "This is not just goods we are dealing with," he said. "We are dealing with human beings."
    ©The Times

    An amendment of the Status Law is in sight after an agreement was reached at the Hungarian Standing Conference (Máért) of Government ministers, Hungarian parliamentary parties from other countries and other ethnic Hungarian organizations abroad. The closing document of the conference included a proposal for the elimination of the preferential treatment of ethnic Hungarians in the granting of work permits in Hungary and would extend the circle of beneficiaries of educational support. Last year the Hungarian Parliament adopted the Status Law by a 93% majority, thereby entitling ethnic Hungarians living in Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Slovenia to a number of special benefits, most of them available within Hungary. The 70,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Austria were originally also included, but that group was finally excluded to comply with rules against ethnic discrimination among EU citizens.

    The benefits include automatic three-month work permits, railway discounts, medical and educational assistance and pension schemes. But criticism from the Romanian and Slovakian governments, as well as the recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, made some modifications necessary. After a draft text submitted by the former Government providing for the modifications was withdrawn, the Hungarian Socialist Party-led Government of Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy introduced its own motion, which was welcomed by Máért. Political State Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office Vilmos Szabó speculated that the Status Law would be amended in Parliament in December, reported Kossuth Rádió.

    The decision to end the work permit provision was made after criticism by Romanian officials. The preferential treatment of ethnic Hungarians in Romania with regard to work permits has already been abolished as a result of a bilateral agreement between the former Fidesz-led Government and its Romanian counterpart. According to the modifications, citizens of foreign countries will only be able to work in Hungary on the basis of general international or bilateral agreements. The scheme of educational assistance has been modified to include families with a single child, rather than just families with two or more children.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    Approximately 70 percent of Portuguese do not want any more immigrants to enter the country. While Portuguese accept those who have already integrated themselves into the society, they say immigrants of African origin are the foreigners they least desire to see in Portugal. In addition to saying that the country needs no more foreigners, Portuguese further feel that immigrants are not as vital to the country's economy as previous political leaders may have suggested. However, Portuguese admit that immigrants do the worst work and that they are exploited. These were some of the conclusions made in a survey done on recent immigration in Portugal, commissioned by the High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities. While the majority of the Portuguese population is against the coming of more immigrants, they do recognise and support the fact that their rights should be respected. Concerning illegal immigration, Portuguese are more decisive, saying that all illegals, "without any exceptions, should be sent home". The study was done by the Catholic University over the past fortnight, using a sample of the population aged 18 and over.
    ©The News

    The anti-immigration Freedom Party sought on Sunday to quell party turmoil sparked by demands that leader Joerg Haider resign from politics after a disastrous election performance. Haider, whose praise of Hitler and anti-foreigner rhetoric helped lift the once-marginal party into the government two years ago, is facing calls from within his own party to step down after the party won only 10 percent of the Nov. 24 vote. Critics accuse the governor of Carinthia province of dominating the party and helping force other members from senior party and government posts, provoking infighting that led to a nearly two-thirds drop in support. The party turmoil also has dampened the Freedom Party's chances to remain in government as the centrist People's Party -- led by Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel -- searches for a coalition partner.

    The People's Party, which led the elections with more than 42 percent of the vote, and the Freedom Party are partners in the current government. But the Freedom Party's problems mean the Social Democrats or the environmentalist Greens more likely will be partners for the next term. Haider and other party officials met Sunday in Klagenfurt, the capital of the southern province governed by the outspoken rightist. Haider, 52, initially took blame for the party's poor showing at the polls and said he would quit most political posts, but then reversed himself. Asked before Sunday's meeting if he would step down as Carinthia's governor, Haider said, ``I don't know why I should.'' Opponents have likened his stance to past attention-grabbing antics, including controversial praise of the Nazi era, harsh criticism of rivals and three trips to Iraq in little more than a year.

    A manifesto being circulated by the party's Haider critics condemns his trips to Iraq and expresses opposition to the ``personality cult'' surrounding him. Ewald Stadler, representing the party's far-right wing, criticized Haider opponents as those ``who never would have made it into politics had Haider not helped them get the mandates.'' Haider, trying to blunt foreign aversion to his far-right stance, resigned as party leader when the Freedom Party came to power in 2000 after winning nearly 27 percent of the vote in elections the year before. The European Union still imposed seven months of diplomatic sanctions on Austria, while Israel withdrew its ambassador. It still has not replaced him. Many Austrian voters embraced Haider because of wariness with the status quo and support for his establishment-bashing line that Austria's problems were caused by corruption and favoritism of ``those in power.''
    ©The New York Times

    During the frenetic 10-week campaign leading up to last Sunday's national elections, the Austrian People's Party promoted their candidate, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, with the bland slogan, "Who, if not him?" Under more normal circumstances, the People's Party, which won a decisive plurality in a four-way race, might have invited its current coalition partner, Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party, back into a governing alliance. But with that party's unpopular leadership increasingly in disarray, many political analysts are predicting that the Freedom Party may well be left out of a new government. Which brings up the question, "Who, if not them?"

    Will Mr. Schüssel turn to the center-left Social Democrats, forming a "grand coalition" of the kind that has ruled Austria for most of its postwar history? Or could the conservative chancellor from the pro-business and pro-Europe party look to the Greens party, which is antidevelopment and anti-Europe? Or might the Freedom Party manage to reorganize itself into a competent political force in time to allow Mr. Schüssel to risk inviting it back into a coalition? "Right now, anything can happen," Peter A. Ulram, an analyst at Fessel-GfK, a market research company in Vienna, said this week. With the People Party's strong showing last Sunday, the political posturing will only intensify, Mr. Ulram said, until the public and special-interest groups from each side finally demand a new government.

    Since Sunday, the Social Democrats have refused to talk openly about joining the People's Party as the minority wing of a grand coalition. The Greens, on the other hand, have said they would not join. The Freedom Party has not said where it stands. "This will carry on one month, two months, until the serious discussions start," Mr. Ulram said. "What you are hearing now, you can completely forget." A coalition with the Social Democrats would represent the greatest number of Austrian voters, 80 percent, and would be the most European-minded of any Austrian coalition government, said Wolfgang Bachmeyer, a political analyst with the OGM Institute here. But such a coalition, he added, would return Austria to the same entrenched political hierarchy that made Mr. Haider's nationalist views so attractive to those Austrians who feel disenfranchised and frustrated by the nation's politics.

    Continuing a coalition with the Freedom Party may lead to greater reforms, political experts said, but might limit the economic and military cooperation Austria would be willing to offer its European Union partners. The great disadvantage to a new coalition with the Freedom Party, the experts said, is Mr. Haider himself, whose emotional outbursts, snap decisions and penchant for public attention have made Mr. Schüssel and other Austrians lose faith in his party's stability.
    ©The New York Times

    As Parliament discusses the new law on freedom of religion, representatives must decide where to draw the line between practicing and teaching religion. Religion is taught as a subject in Finnish schools, and semester-ending Christmas and spring parties most often include the singing of hymns. Also, school classes go to church together at least twice a year. Children of other faiths are not required to go to church or participate in other religious activities, but in some cases it can be difficult to draw the line. For example, words to hymns or common prayers are currently practiced during religion classes. It has not yet been decided whether children can excuse themselves from such situations as well, as opinions are mixed on whether or not teaching religion is in fact a form of practicing religion. Representatives of the Orthodox and Islamic faiths feel that in practice, teaching religion and practicing it go hand in hand.

    The bill on freedom of religion would keep the structure of religion teaching more or less the same, which will also mean that the traditional spring hymn will continue to be sung at spring parties, and Christmas plays will be performed before the holidays. In future, religion would be taught based on which religious group the majority of students belong to. A student who is not a member of the largest group could participate in religion classes after receiving permission from a parent or guardian. Other children would participate in religion classes of their own faith, or in an alternative non-religious class, which has already been offered for years in Finland. The constitutional law committee of Parliament is due to begin processing the bill on December 4th. It should reach a plenary session by next February.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Officials want to encourage voluntary departure
    By Hannele Tulonen

    Finnish police have escorted a total of 633 people out of Finland this year. Many of those involved were rejected asylum-seekers; the largest single group to leave at one time were the Romanians who were sent back home in the early summer. The group also includes foreigners who have been refused entry into Finland, as well as deported criminals. The number of asylum-seekers has been growing, and Finnish officials have been thinking of ways to encourage those waiting for a decision that is likely to be negative, and those whose applications have been rejected, to leave voluntarily by their own means.

    A working group was set up early this year to consider the issue. However, the group is not expected to come up with any concrete proposals before its mandate runs out at the end of the year. The group's chairwoman, Annikki Vanamo-Alho, will have to ask for an extension of at least six months. The working group has been collecting material and visiting refugee reception centres, but the proposal for a new law on foreigners has demanded much of the time of the members of the group. As the draft legislation now stands, there is no mention yet about the voluntary return of asylum-seekers. Vanamo-Alho says that a separate paragraph on voluntary return will be added later to the proposal. The main purpose of the working group is not to draft new legislative proposals, but to draw up practical instructions on arranging return travel. A proposal for a new law on foreigners is to go before Parliament in mid-December, says Interior Ministry official Lauri Kantola.

    Escort travel has become an increasing burden on Finnish police, notes Kari Koivuniemi of the police section of the Ministry of the Interior. In 2001 police made 210 trips to escort 283 people to destinations in a total of 81 countries. Koivuniemi says that in 2000 the budget for police escort travel was just over a million euros. In 2001 it had gone up to about a million and a half, and this year more than two million euros will be needed for these kinds of travel expenses. In 1998 the costs were just over half a million euros. Of those who were escorted out of the country, 23 were taken to Germany, 13 to Lithuania, and 12 to Estonia. Those sent to Russia are not included in the figures: the few dozen who are deported there are generally just brought to the border, or are placed on a train to St. Petersburg or Moscow.

    There are usually two officers escorting each individual person. Airline safety regulations require at least two escorts, although compromises are sometimes made when a family is involved: not every child needs two security guards. Of those escorted out of the country last year about half were asylum-seekers whose applications were rejected, while the other half were deported or refused entry because of criminal activity or other reasons. The working group has considered the possibility that those escorting undesirable aliens out of the country need not be police. Hannu Siljamäki of the Finnish Frontier Guard opposes such an idea. He notes that airlines insist on a police escort for safety reasons. Siljamäki points out that it is possible for social workers or doctors to go along in addition to the police.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Two self-professed neo-Nazis were once again found guilty Thursday of stabbing an African-Norwegian teenager to death last year. Both had appealed earlier convictions.

    An appeals court jury deliberated only a few hours before returning a guilty verdict against Ole Nicolai Kvisler, now 21, and Joe Erling Jahr, 23. Both were charged with culpable homicide, or murder in the second degree (forsettlig drap). Kvisler is serving a 15-year jail term while Jahr was sentenced to 16 years by a city court for the murder of 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen in Oslo's Holmlia district in January 2001. The murder stunned Oslo, and set off torch-lit parades and other demonstrations that condemned racial intolerance. Hermansen apparently was a random victim, stabbed after Kvisler and Jahr spotted him on a street while out cruising late at night, in search of someone to attack. They were accompanied by a third defendant in the case, Veronica Andreassen, Kvisler's girlfriend at the time. She was sentenced to three years in prison for her more passive role in the murder. She did not appeal her conviction. Kvisler and Jahr had sought shorter prison terms, while prosecutors sought longer terms. Jahr's defense attorneys had tried to argue that he was a misfit teenager with a deeply troubled childhood who found solace in neo-Nazi circles. They argued that he since has matured and regrets his violent past. The jury, however, was instructed to determine only who actually held the knife and stabbed Hermansen. They once again found Jahr guilty. ©Aftenpost

    The appeals trial for Joe Erling Jahr and Ole Nicolai Kvisler ended with tougher sentencing Wednesday after both had been found guilty, for the second time, in the racially motivated murder of 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen. Jahr received an 18-year sentence and Kvisler a 17-year term. After the first trial the neo-Nazi pair, accused of the first clearly racist murder in Norway, were sentenced to 16 and 15 years respectively. The prosecution had pressed for a maximum sentence of 21 years for Jahr, who is reckoned to have dealt the lethal blow in the murder by stabbing, and 19 years for Kvisler. "The murder was a shared action, a cooperation. It would not have been carried out if they had not agreed on it," the prosecution argued. Trygve Staff, defense counsel for Jahr, argued that the state had been swayed by the emotional aftermath sparked by the killing. Kvisler's counsel, Geir Lippestad, contended that it remained unproven that his client had had a knife on the fateful night in Holmlia, and so he could only be charged with complicity. Jahr and Kvisler appealed their sentences on the spot.

    Dramatic rise for 2001 followed the Sept. 11 terror attacks

    Hate crimes in the United States surged last year against people of Islamic faith and those of Middle Eastern ethnicity in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the FBI reported Monday. Incidents targeting Muslims, previously the least common involving religious bias, increased from just 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001 - a jump of 1,600 percent. Hate crimes directed against people because of their ethnicity or national origin - those not Hispanic and not black - more than quadrupled from 354 in 2000 to 1,501 in 2001. This category includes people of Middle Eastern origin or descent, the FBI says. The increases, according to the report, happened "presumably as a result of the heinous incidents that occurred on Sept. 11." Overall crime motivated by hate rose just over 17 percent from 2000 to 2001, from 8,063 to 9,730 incidents. Part of the increase, however, is a result in an increase in the number of law enforcement agencies voluntarily supplying hate crime data to the FBI from year to year. There were just over 12,000 victims of hate crimes in 2001, with 46 percent of those targeted because of their race. There were 2,899 bias crimes against 3,700 black victims, by far the largest single category. The majority of incidents were against individuals, including 10 murders, four rapes, 2,736 assaults and 3,563 cases of intimidation. There were more than 3,600 property crimes as well, all but a few incidents of vandalism or destruction. Most incidents against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern ethnicity also involved assaults and intimidation, but there were three cases of murder or manslaughter and 35 arsons.
    ©Associated Press

    Refugee advocates say tough new rules hurt those in need

    In 1994, Attia, a 49-year-old chemist, fled with her family from Chechnya after Russian warplanes bombed her home. For the next few years, she says, she endured political persecution in Russia before she again fled, making her way to the Czech Republic, where she hoped to begin a new life. She's still waiting. Almost three years after arriving here, Attia, who declined to give her last name, says she has almost given up on her application for political asylum. In the meantime, the mother of three lives in limbo. Unable to return home for fear of being killed and restricted from moving to another country, Attia says she relies on money from a daughter in Holland to survive in Prague. "I'm really tired of waiting," she says. "I don't even think about it anymore." Attia says she thinks that the Czech government expects the situation in Chechnya to stabilize and that refugees will return home, as many did to Kosovo. She says that's impossible. "I don't think the Czechs are interested in proceeding quickly," she says. Attia's tale is all too common, say refugee workers, and in many ways her story is emblematic of the government approach to asylum: a slow, arduous process that only in the rarest of cases results in a refugee being approved to remain permanently in the country.

    The number of people seeking asylum in the Czech Republic grew from 8,787 applicants in 2000 to more than 18,000 in 2001. In the first 10 months of this year, after a tougher law went into effect in February, the number of asylum seekers fell to just 7,163, with 59 refugees being approved for asylum. Lawmakers say the stricter standards were needed to curb abuses in what were some of the softest asylum laws in Europe. The move was also a response to the country's newfound status as a destination of choice for immigrants who previously passed through on their way to such places as Germany and France. In the early 1990s, close to 70 percent of asylum seekers left before the asylum process could be completed. Today that number stands at closer to 30 percent as more people opt to stay. Lawmakers approved stricter rules to weed out the immigrants -- mostly from such countries as Ukraine and Moldova -- who were taking advantage of the asylum process as a means of working in the country without work permits. At the same time the Czech Republic, which is a European Union candidate, was feeling pressure from Western countries to bring its laws into harmony with EU standards by making it more difficult for refugees not facing severe political or religious oppression to stay. According to the Interior Ministry, the law was drafted in consultation with EU representatives. "The amendment was necessary so that the Czech Republic could stop foreign citizens from abusing the asylum law procedures," the ministry responded in an e-mail.

    "The Czech Republic is very much following the pattern of the EU," says Kristine Cartland of the London-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles, an organization that has criticized the Czech asylum law. "The consequence of the law can make it impossible for asylum seekers to reach just and full asylum procedure in the Czech Republic," the organization stated in a 2002 report. "At the same time the law does not solve the most serious problem, insufficient protection for real refugees suffering from persecution." Cartland, who spent 10 years helping refugees here, also says that in the past the Czech Republic wasn't a destination country for refugees. That has changed as the Czech economy has improved. The results of the amendment have so far been drastic, perhaps too drastic for some members of Parliament who are looking to rein in some of the harsher measures. On Nov. 19 the Senate approved a bill aimed at ridding the law of what some see as its more draconian elements, one of which forces asylum seekers who have been rejected to wait two years before reapplying. The Senate also wants refugees to be able to review and comment on the Interior Ministry's decision on their cases. The bill now goes to the Chamber of Deputies, which swiftly approved the tougher laws a year ago.

    The legislative effort gives hope to local organizations working with asylum seekers. But the Interior Ministry remains opposed to any change that may allow refugees escaping poverty again find loopholes in the process. "Economic conditions are not a reason for granting people asylum in the Czech Republic," says Marie Masarikova, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. Refugee workers agree but counter that the laws are hurting people like Attia, who are escaping danger. "It's quite a big problem," says Marketa Hronkova about the impact of the amendments on refugees. Hronkova, a lawyer with the Czech Helsinki Committee, an organization that provides advice to asylum seekers, says that because the law doesn't allow people to work and cuts off financial assistance after just three months, it forces refugees to live in camps or go somewhere else. Hronkova says that the amendments were a normal reaction to a growing problem but that the government went too far by approving only 1 percent of asylum applications. As for Attia, she wants a chance to settle in Prague. If not, she will escape to the West. In the meantime she waits, frustrated. "I don't see any interest on the part of the Czechs," she says.

    Refugee stats

  • Asylum requests since 1990: 59.150 Approved: 2173 = 4%
  • Asylum requests in 2001: more than 18.000 Approved: 75 = 1%

    ©The Prague Post

    Prosperity helping move from 'one-culture' streets

    Claims that British Asian communities are forming ghettos, especially in troubled areas of the north of England, are challenged today by one of the biggest surveys held into ethnic minority housing trends. Researchers in Leeds and Bradford dismissed as "myth-making" the charge that Muslim communities did not want to mix with other groups. Data from 435 Asian households and interviews with scores of other respondents, including local estate agents, showed a much more traditional pattern of gradual prosperity encouraging moves into suburbs and away from "one-culture" streets. "Following the riots last summer, both the press and politicians talked about 'divided worlds' and 'communities living in parallel'," said Deborah Phillips of Leeds University, who led the joint project with Warwick and London South Bank universities. "Some segregation does exist, in terms of where people live and are schooled, but this was painted as completely negative, with the Asian communities accused of not wanting to integrate. Our study has shown this is not the case." The project, funded by the economic and social research council and available at found a strong wish by second generation immigrants to "join in" British society. The ambition was matched by a sometimes conflicting attempt to keep within reach of their roots and the streets - often Asian dominated - where they grew up.

    One young Bangladeshi woman in Bradford spoke for many, said Dr Phillips, when she said: "I don't want to be bang in the middle of the heart of the Bangladeshi community, but yet I don't want to be too far away." The survey found a bolder approach by families in Leeds, where professionals were increasingly moving to bigger houses with more garden, close to better schools. "It is common for those who have moved to outer areas to view their position as arising from increasing class differentiation within the Asian communities," said the report. "They tend to see the inner areas as overcrowded, and suffering from rowdiness from both white and Asian youth." The survey acknowledged that a small number of areas, particularly in Bradford, conformed to the "ghetto" picture painted by reports after riots, but dismissed their conclusion that Asians behaved in a "colonial" fashion, establishing bridgeheads but not mixing with the mainstream. It said: "There are small areas of inner Leeds and Bradford where, over time, strong and settled communities have developed, sometimes originating in one village in Pakistan or Bangladesh. "But at the same time, and to a greater degree, there are far more areas where families from diverse backgrounds have moved and established friends and social activities which cross over specific cultural and religious backgrounds."

    The report also warned that fear of racism in "all-white" areas and encouragement of "white flight" by a minority of estate agents, were working against British Asians tempted by more mixed surroundings. Dr Phillips said: "Segregated patterns of living are not necessarily a matter of choice. Our findings show the effect of estate agents treating Asians unfairly, and worries on the part of the Asian population about isolation if they move, reinforced by fears of trouble." One in six of survey respondents said they had experienced harassment in their neighbourhood, even though they had opted to live in areas they saw as safe. Interviewees recalled being victimised on moving to the suburbs: "Our house was targeted as we were the only Asians in the area. It's reassuring to see another Asian face, whatever their religion or background." The report will go to councils and community groups in Leeds and Bradford, as well as estate agents.
    ©The Guardian

    A teacher was given a professional reprimand yesterday for referring to a group containing two black pupils and an Asian classmate as being "in the nig-nog corner". Michael Aldersley, a science teacher at Calderstones school in Liverpool, was sacked in May 2001. In November 2000 he had told a computer class of 14-year-olds:
    "Everyone in the nig-nog corner, come here, you might learn something." Three pupils and their parents complained to the school.

    Yesterday, a General Teaching Council hearing in Birmingham concluded he had demonstrated unacceptable conduct, and that a formal reprimand should lie on his registration for two years. Dr Aldersley, in his 50s, did not attend the hearing. In a statement, he said he had meant "foolish and silly children". The hearing was told the Oxford dictionary had several definitions of the phrase: a foolish person; an unskilled recruit; or a coarsely abusive term for black people. After the hearing, Brian Davies, headteacher of Calderstones, said: "I never considered that it would mean silly or foolish children. I only took it to have one meaning ... and that is a derogatory phrase toward black pupils."

    Mr Davies said Dr Aldersley had apologised to the pupils concerned, but from his initial meetings with the teacher, he suspected he did not realise the offence he had caused; 22% of pupils are from minority ethnic groups. He was sacked for gross misconduct by a 5-3 vote of governors. In his statement, Dr Aldersley referred to his "incautious" use of language but said that, when questioned by the school, he had felt a lack of support, a bullying tone, and cynicism concerning racism in South Africa, where he taught in the 1970s. Yesterday Mr Davies acknowledged that Dr Aldersley "nailed his colours very firmly to the mast" in South Africa as an opponent of apartheid. Calderstones colleagues and pupils had also written in support of Dr Aldersley, who had an unblemished teaching record.
    ©The Guardian

    It is almost 10 years since Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager, was murdered by a gang of white youths. Much has happened since. Racially aggravated offences now receive heavier sentences. Some 43,000 public bodies, spending £400bn of taxpayers' cash, have been required to introduce new schemes to tackle direct and indirect discrimination. Now, in the London borough of Greenwich, where the Lawrence murder occurred, another experiment is taking place: a probation scheme to change the attitudes of convicted racist offenders.

    Stand by for opposition from all sides. Some on the left still believe racists are beyond the pale, people with whom it is pointless to engage in rehabilitation programmes. Others on the right dismiss all behavioural change projects as ineffective, despite the research to the contrary. At the top, the main theme remains punishment not rehabilitation. Yet earlier behaviour programmes have succeeded in changing offenders' attitudes and teaching them new anger management skills. If it is acceptable to place even sex offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence on such schemes, why is it wrong for racists? Imposing prison sentences and nothing else is likely to harden their racist attitudes.

    Criminal justice researchers divide racist offenders into three groups. The first group are the easiest to deter: thrill-seekers. They are usually young males, typically lads under a lamp-post, on a deprived estate with no leisure facilities. They are not driven by race hate but boredom. The second group are more difficult: reactive defenders. They are older, frequently include women, and feel disenfranchised, believing ethnic minorities are getting an unfair share. This can lead to persistent abuse of black neighbours or refugees. The third group are the most difficult: mission offenders. They join the BNP, deny their racism, but believe in white rights.

    It is too early to say whether the Greenwich pilot will succeed, but it has been carefully structured and well planned. It includes offenders who have been sent to prison and required to join as a condition of their release, and a larger group who were given community sentences with a condition to attend. The scheme, involving up to 22 sessions, is based on group work. The pilot is about to be extended to Feltham young offender institute and Dagenham. There are one-to-one schemes in Leeds and Liverpool too. And there is a new network of 3,000 professionals, who deal with racial harassment, and exchange ideas through RaceActionNet. Set up by researchers Lemos and Crane, the website is proving a key resource. But there was no better place to start than Greenwich.
    ©The Guardian

    Hate Crime Fact Sheet

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program today released the final hate crime data for 2001 in its annual publication, Hate Crime Statistics. During 2001, state and local law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI 9,730 incidents which involved 11,451 separate offenses. Of the 9,730 incidents reported, 9,721 were single-bias incidents (incidents involving only one bias motivation). A breakdown of the 9,721 single-bias incidents shows that 44.9 percent were motivated by racial bias, 21.6 percent were driven by prejudice against an ethnicity or national origin, 18.8 percent resulted from a bias against a particular religion, 14.3 percent involved a bias against sexual-orientation, and 0.4 percent were motivated by a disability bias.

    Of the 11,451 hate crime offenses reported in 2001, 67.8 percent were crimes against persons, and 31.5 percent of the offenses were crimes against property. Intimidation continued to be the most frequently reported hate crime offense committed against individuals, accounting for 55.9 percent of all crimes against persons. At 83.7 percent, the offense of destruction/damage/vandalism of property was the most frequently reported crime against property. Less than 1 percent (0.6 percent) of hate crimes were crimes against society.

    During 2001, there were 12,020 total victims of hate crime. Of that total, 11,998 were victims of single-bias incidents. Of the 11,998 victims of single-bias incidents, 46.2 percent were victims of racial prejudice, 22.0 percent were victims of ethnicity or national origin bias, 17.7 percent were targets of religious intolerance, 13.9 percent were attacked because of sexual orientation, and 0.3 percent were victims of a disability bias. Of the 12,020 total victims of hate crime, 22 were victims of multiple-biases. Ten of the hate crime victims were murdered in 2001. Five of these homicides were attributed to a bias against an ethnicity or national origin, 4 involved racial bias, and 1 was driven by bias against a sexual orientation.

    Law enforcement agencies reported 9,239 known offenders in connection with the 9,730 incidents reported in 2001. (A known offender does not imply that the identity of the suspect is known, but only that the suspect's race is known.) The majority of known hate crime offenders (65.5 percent) were white, 20.4 percent were black, 8.2 percent were of unknown race, and the remainder were of other races or were members of a group that consisted of offenders of varying races. The majority of hate crime incidents (30.9 percent) occurred in or on residential properties. Highways, roads, alleys, or streets were the settings for 18.3 percent of the reported incidents, and 10.1 percent took place at schools and colleges. The remaining incidents were distributed among various locations. In 2001, 11,987 law enforcement agencies contributed hate crime data to the UCR Program, and approximately 17.6 percent of those agencies submitted reports to the FBI that at least one hate crime occurred in their jurisdictions. These figures indicate a slight increase over the number of agencies submitting data in 2000.
    Hate Crime Statistics, 2001 can be found on the FBI's Internet site

    The latest in our series on countries which rarely figure prominently in the international media looks at how native New Zealanders were asking whether they could pass the country's new citizenship tests

    The New Zealand government introduced an English test last week that will have to be taken by all migrants applying for residency in the country. The immigration minister, Lianne Dalziel, was criticised because the new 'pick and choose' policy could be used to racially discriminate against Asian migrants. But it was the test itself that drew the most attention, mainly for being so hard that it was doubtful how well even native New Zealanders would fare if they had to sit the test. Among other questions, applicants will have to write an essay on whether they agree with the statement: 'It is inevitable that as technology develops so traditional cultures must be lost', and another debating whether a public smoking ban was a good idea in theory, despite restricting freedom. Richard Prebble, an MP and leader of the ACT party, said he thought that more than half of the adult population would fail if they were forced to sit the test. Perhaps a few more questions about rugby and Lord of the Rings are needed.

    Applicants seeking entry under a general application or those coming to look for work, will have to pass a test showing their English is as good as someone studying for a doctorate in New Zealand. Since only about 6% of New Zealanders go to university, it was widely thought that a large percentage of native New Zealanders would be unable to pass. In the past, New Zealand has been dependent on immigration to counterbalance the amount of people who leave the country each year to live in Australia, America and Europe. New Zealand still has an aging population, a falling birth rate and has to contend with certain skills shortages. However over the past decade immigration from South-East Asia has surged. Last year more than 53,000 migrants were granted residency, a figure equivalent to almost 1.5% of the country's population. Public concern has also rocketed, and the government has found itself under increasing pressure to stem the tide of economic migrants.

    Heading up that pressure has been the Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First, the country's second largest opposition party. Since a strong showing at the July general election, Peters has waged a personal battle with the Labour-led coalition government to make migration to New Zealand more difficult, asking for there to be a cap at 10,000 new residencies a year. Last weekend he warned that New Zealand would face race riots unless the issue of immigration was faced. Peters, himself part Maori, has also accused the government of putting refugee and immigrant needs ahead of those of the Maori minority. His rhetoric drew fierce criticism from Peter Dunne, the leader of United Future, a small Labour-leaning party, who compared Peters' views to those of European fascists in the 1930s. Peters threatened legal action over the comments, but greeted the new immigration test as a victory for his personal campaign. His party's anti-immigration policies also seem to have appealed to the voters. In two polls conducted last weekend Peters emerged as New Zealanders' second favourite choice for the next prime minister, runner-up only to the current prime minister, Helen Clark. Clark has claimed that the new measures would encourage migrants to master the English language and this would aid their successful settlement, while immigration minister Dalziel said the changes would have the greatest impact on Chinese, Indian and non-English-speaking South Africans immigrants.
    ©The Guardian

    The Moulin Rouge cabaret, home of the frilly-knickered can-can girl and a Paris landmark for more than a century, achieved notoriety of a different kind yesterday when a court found its management guilty of racial discrimination. The court fined the Association du Bal du Moulin Rouge, which manages the nightclub's non-performing staff 10,000 euros for persistently refusing to employ coloured people in positions where they might be seen by the public. A secretary for the company, Micheline Beuzit, was also fined 3,000 euros after telling a Senegalese man who had applied for a job as a waiter that the Moulin Rouge "doesn't take blacks in the theatre, only in the kitchens". Labour inspectors found that the Moulin Rouge, whose distinctive windmill arms have risen above the rooftops of seedy Pigalle since 1889, had not hired a single coloured person as a performer or waiter for 40 years - but that 100% of its kitchen staff were of African origin. Abdoulaye Marega, 23, who was turned away when he applied for a waiter's job in January 2001, was awarded 4,500 euros in damages. The French anti-racism group SOS Racisme, which backed his case and carried out an undercover testing operation with other coloured candidates to prove systematic discrimination, won 2,300 euros in costs. "I am absolutely delighted," Mr Marega, who now works as a sous-chef in a Paris restaurant, said. "Those who say France is racist are wrong. France is a country of liberties and equalities." The staff manager of the Moulin Rouge, André Poussimour, told the court that since the case had started, two coloured people had been hired to work in the auditorium.
    ©The Guardian

    Switzerland yesterday rejected by the narrowest margin the toughest refugee and asylum rules in the industrialised world in a cliff-hanger referendum that risked setting the country on a collision course with the rest of Europe. The nationalist proposal, tabled by the rightwing Swiss People's party (SVP), would in practice have meant that all refugees arriving overland would automatically be turned back to the EU country they arrived from. It was defeated by just 2,754 votes out of more than 2 million . The SVP, a minor populist party in the four-party coalition riding high on the kind of xenophobic law-and-order platform that propelled Jean-Marie Le Pen and Pim Fortuyn to prominence in France and the Netherlands, aimed to cut down on the £428m the country spends every year on refugees and halt a rising tide of economic immigration.

    It said that since only some 10% of asylum applications in Switzerland are successful, the majority of the 20,000-odd refugees arriving in the country each year must be there for economic reasons. The debate was fuelled by media allegations that African immigrants are responsible for much of Switzerland's drug-dealing. The proposal would have entailed any refugee arriving via a persecution-free country - in practice, all of Switzerland's neighbours - being automatically denied refugee status and sent back across the border. In proportion to its population, Switzerland had by far the most asylum applications of any European country between 1994 and June 2001: 267 per 10,000 inhabitants, far ahead of the Netherlands (179), Germany (96), Britain (77) and France (34). Opponents feared the rules would have made Switzerland a political shelter only for the wealthy, because they would have had to be able to pay for a flight to get there direct and fund their own upkeep while their application was being assessed. Refugee workers say the proposal would have forced asylum-seekers into crime by denying them work and slashing their benefits.

    The number of people applying for refugee status last year was 17% more than in 2000, but well below the peaks of the late 1990s, when there was a big rise of refugees fleeing the war in Kosovo. The country has a long tradition of hospitality, having in the past welcomed the likes of the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the future Czech president Thomas Masaryk, the German writer Thomas Mann and the Italian royal family. During the second world war, it was also a haven for allied airmen escaping from occupied territory; but an unattainable objective for Jews fleeing persecution, who were turned back at the border. Recent claims that Swiss companies and banks profited from Hitler's Germany and Holocaust victims have cast further shadows on the neutral country's humanitarian reputation.
    ©The Guardian

    Haider's far-right party takes a beating

    Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and his center-right People's Party were the clear victors in Austria's national elections Sunday, winning the party's largest plurality in 36 years and ensuring the continuation of a government focused on tax cuts, privatization and European Union integration. At the same time, the result Sunday was a great disappointment for the Social Democratic Party and, above all, for the extreme-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider, the polarizing nationalist whose recent antics - three meetings with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, for example - were considered the main reason the Freedom Party won just 10 percent of the popular vote. That is a relative disaster compared to the 27 percent the party captured in 1999, and a weak third place that may spell the end of the Freedom Party's current coalition with Schuessel's People's Party, if not the end of Haider's influence in national politics here. With 97 percent of the vote counted Sunday night, the People's Party led all four major parties with 42 percent, followed by 37 percent for the Social Democrats and their candidate for chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, whose campaign focused on more social spending and certain tax cuts. The Social Democrats, Austria's dominant party for the past half century but out of government since 1999, had made clear in recent days that their preference would be to either form a coalition government with the Greens party or remain in the opposition. But the Greens won 9 percent, making a so-called "red-green" coalition impossible.

    Austrian governments typically are coalitions between two parties that together represent more than 50 percent of the popular vote. With the strong showing by the People's Party Sunday night, Schuessel could invite any of the other three parties into a coalition government. After his victory became clear, Schuessel said he would continue to set a course of financial and social reforms aimed at strengthening Austria's sputtering economy and pension system. "This result is unexpected, but it is a clear message from voters," he said Sunday night. "There can be no doubt who should govern Austria, and who will govern Austria." But Schuessel declined to say which party he would prefer to bring on as a coalition partner. "We will proceed carefully, keeping in mind especially those who didn't voted for us," he said. "We'll have conversations with all three parties, and we'll see with which of the three we can best continue making reforms." Gusenbauer seemed resigned to the possibility that his Social Democrats may again be relegated to the political sidelines. "The Austrian People's Party has very clearly won," he said during a television interview Sunday night. "It's a disappointment, but we've become a stronger opposition party."

    After 1999's elections, it took party leaders three months to form a coalition. Sunday night, most experts, noting that the People's Party could conceivably accept any of the three other parties, even the Greens, as a partner, said coalition talks would probably take weeks, if not months. Fritz Plasser, a political science professor at the University of Innsbruck, said the most practical result of the election would be a "grand coalition" of the People's Party and the Social Democrats, the coalition that has dominated Austrian politics for most of the post-war period. Together, the two parties now represent nearly 80 percent of the electorate. "Looking at the demanding challenges in coming years, including the EU enlargement, the most stable government would be a grand coalition, because there is overwhelming agreement in both parties to work for economic enlargement," Plasser said. "But this will also cause problems, because a grand coalition with have four-fifths of parliamentary seats," which produced the aura of a government of insiders that allowed Haider to rise to prominence as the voice of the "little people." Haider was conspicuously absent after the polls closed at 5 p.m. Sunday, appearing neither in public nor on television news, although he had been quoted as calling his party's 10 percent showing as no huge loss. "He is a weaker figure, but it is too early to forget about him," Plasser said. "We have to wait until Monday to hear what he will say."

    Haider a colorful extremist
    Arguably the most colorful politician in a country that puts stolid sobriety ahead of personalities and spin, Haider had transformed his Freedom Party from a fringe group with scant support into Europe's biggest far-right bloc after his election to party leadership in 1986, Reuters reported from Klagenfurt. His blunt anti-immigrant, tough-on-crime rhetoric propelled him inexorably forward, with the exception of a short-lived period in the wilderness for seeming to flirt with Nazi sympathies. Haider was forced to resign as governor of Carinthia in 1991 after saying that Adolf Hitler's Third Reich had an enviable record in job creation and for praising veterans of the Waffen SS as "decent men of character." He denies Nazi tendencies and rejects allegations that his anti-immigration policies espouse or legitimize xenophobia or acts of extremism against foreigners in Austria. Haider led the party from victory to victory that climaxed with a second place, or 26.9 percent of the vote, in the last parliamentary elections in 1999.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, whose freedom party saw a humiliating defeat in yesterday's general election, launched, on Saturday, an extraordinary attack on the European Union, blaming it for the collapse of his Freedom Party, reports the Irish Independent. Mr Haider claimed that the government in which it had been a partner was dissolved two months ago on "orders from Brussels." He said EU chiefs had orchestrated "the same situation in Holland" where the coalition was "torpedoed from Brussels to get the movement of Pim Fortuyn out of the government," reports the Irish Independent. He added that he believed an attempt was being made by the Brussels power brokers to finish off the political movements of the centre-right once and for all. Mr Haider and many Austrians are still bitter about the EU's angry response to the entry of the far-right into government in February 2000. It imposed sanctions and sent an expert group to assess the Austrian situation. Finally, Mr Haider also blames the EU for forcing him to resign as Freedom Party head after 15 years in May 2000 and retreat to his mountain stronghold, Carinthia, where he is governor.

    Austrian far-rightist's move could help party in new coalition

    A day after the extreme-right Freedom Party took a historic beating in national elections, its leader, Joerg Haider, tendered his resignation Monday as governor of the southern state of Carinthia. If it is genuine, Haider's political withdrawal could help his wounded party gain back the confidence of the People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, which won a commanding plurality Sunday. Haider is best known outside Austria for once having praised Hitler's employment policies and Waffen SS soldiers. But polarizing as he is, few in Austrian politics are bemoaning, or rejoicing over, his retirement just yet. This is the fifth time that Haider, capable of being genuinely charismatic or absurd, has either resigned or threatened to resign a leadership post in his party. "He has never been weaker, had less influence, less importance," said Emmerich Talos, a political science professor at Vienna University.

    Many political analysts and even some Freedom Party leaders said Monday that they doubted that Haider, 52, who seems to crave publicity regardless of circumstances, truly wanted to lower his profile; in fact, he may be trying to do the opposite. On the other hand, with the Freedom Party reeling from its 10.2 percent showing nationally Sunday- a loss of two-thirds of the popular support it earned in 1999, when it finished with 27 percent - political experts said there was a real chance that this time Haider was serious about quitting. "I was deeply hurt by the election results and recognize a great deal of distrust toward me," Haider said during an interview with Austria's state-run radio. "I've had my fill of politics. The cards need to be reshuffled." When pressed to say whether he really wanted to step down, Haider alluded to the elections. "If you work so hard and strenuously to build something up, and then are presented with this kind of bill, you should know what kind of decision to make for yourself," he said. His resignation offer was left unanswered Monday evening by Freedom Party leaders, who met with Haider in the afternoon. Haider's penchant for dramatically quitting politics has become so well known over the years that after his announcement Monday, Austria's state-run television broadcaster, ORF, branded him "The Professional Resigner" on its Internet site. The site offers a summary of the dates and reasons for quitting that Haider has used since he first took the Freedom Party helm in 1986.

    Peter Westenthaler, the Freedom Party parliamentary leader and one of three party officials who have run afoul of Haider since September, said Monday that he did not believe Haider would step down as governor or leave Austrian politics. "If he were really serious about it, he wouldn't have offered to resign," Westenthaler said, "he just would have done it." Haider's former protégé, Susanne Riess-Passer, who was vice chancellor in the national government until Haider orchestrated her removal, also in September, blamed him for the electoral loss, the largest percentage loss by a political party in Austrian history. "It took 13 years to build it all up and only 13 weeks to destroy it," Riess-Passer was quote as saying in Die Presse on Monday. Peter Filzmaier, professor of political science at the University of Innsbruck, said it was too early to tell if Austrian politics had seen the last of Haider. "I would caution against predicting that this is the political end of Joerg Haider," he said. In the last several months, Haider has managed to alienate most of his party's supporters. He flew to Baghdad three times, for instance, twice visiting with President Saddam Hussein.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Joerg Haider, a leader of Austria's far right, announced he would remain in politics early Tuesday, just hours after declaring that he was calling it quits because of his party's disastrous showing in general elections. Haider, whose praise of Hitler and anti-foreigner rhetoric helped fuel the meteoric rise of his party into government two years ago, said he was persuaded to remain in the Freedom Party and governor of Carinthia province following a six-hour meeting with political colleagues. ``I accept personally much of the responsibility for the bad results,'' the Austria Press Agency quoted Haider as saying. ``Thus a resignation would have been the logical consequence. But my party friends did not accept this because they believe my 'Carinthian way' is good and I should continue.'' Haider's decision early Tuesday was the latest in a line of threats to step down, threats that critics cite as examples of how he cannot be taken seriously. And the move was likely to further alienate swing voters who abandoned his party at Sunday's general elections. Earlier threats were apparently made to pressure opponents in his party to accept his points of view. But his decision Monday was taken more seriously because of widespread rejection of his attacks on rivals, three much-criticized trips to Iraq in little over a year and other antics that provoked public opinion.

    As late as Monday night as he headed into the meeting with senior party leaders, Haider had repeated his intention to quit as governor -- the main political post he now holds. But even then, party leader Herbert Haupt predicted that Haider would remain in the post and the party. Haider's flashes of pro-Nazi sentiment and flamboyant exposes of corruption in other parties brought his Freedom Party from obscurity in the mid 1980s to unprecedented strength -- it joined the present government coalition after coming in second in 1999 elections. But the same confrontational streak that attracted voters to Haider proved his party's undoing in Sunday's general election. Weakened by months of infighting provoked by Haider, the party lost nearly two-thirds of its previous voter support to capture only 10 percent of the vote. Only hardcore Haider fans remained loyal. Disaffected swing voters powered the conservative People's Party -- the Freedom Party's government coalition partners -- to more than 42 percent, its best showing since the mid-1960s. The Social Democrats also gained, receiving just under 37 percent of the vote. For the past year, Haider has not responded to interview requests from The Associated Press. But former supporters attributed some of his problems -- including electorate-alienating attacks on Freedom Party moderates -- to Haider's growing suspicions of all around him. ``He would start crying in the middle of a meeting,'' said Peter Sichrovsky, a former Freedom Party general-secretary and the party's only prominent Jew, who broke with Haider in September when his supporters purged moderates. ``He would yell, 'You have betrayed me, you are destroying me.''

    The demise of Haider's party's was not unique in Europe. The center-right coalition that took power in the Netherlands in May has collapsed amid bickering among members of the party founded by anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn, the political upstart murdered just a few days before the elections. Still, the new right continues to be a strong force in Switzerland, Denmark and elsewhere. In Switzerland, voters defeated a right-wing referendum that would have drastically curbed immigration -- but only by the narrowest of margins. Weariness with the status quo pushed many Austrian voters to embrace Haider in 1999, along with his establishment-bashing line that Austria's problems were caused by corruption and favoritism of ``those in power.'' His party captured nearly 27 percent of the vote to finish second-strongest -- the peak in a steady growth in popularity that began when Haider ousted his predecessor at a no-holds-barred 1986 party convention that opponents likened to a putsch.

    A change in message helped Haider gain wider acceptance. While remaining confrontational, the 52-year-old lawyer blunted his sharp rhetoric. There was no more praise of Hitler's ``proper employment policies,'' like in 1991, or of Hitler's SS veterans as men of ``character,'' as in 1995. Instead, he focused on bashing other parties and their leaders. And he took moderates on board to mask his party's image as a refuge for Nazi sympathizers. Still, when Haider's party came to power, the European Union imposed seven months of diplomatic sanctions on Austria. Israel withdrew its ambassador and still has not replaced him. To broaden the party's appeal and ease Austria's isolation in Europe, Haider relinquished party leadership to Susanne Riess-Passer, a moderate. Under her, the party claimed credit for its role in increasing social benefits to families, balancing the budget and trimming union powers. But being a provincial governor was not enough for Haider. His desire to regain a national role led him to come out swinging earlier this year against Riess-Passer and others whose middle-of-the-road politics attracted traditional Haider foes. Picking a fight over the government's failure to cut taxes, he forced his party out of the coalition and left it again dominated by the anti-foreigner rightist faction that only true-blue Haider fans appeared to have supported Sunday. As the party infighting escalated, flashes of the old Haider reappeared: He mocked the head of Vienna's Jewish community earlier this year and accused a rival of playing to the American ``East Coast'' -- a code-phrase for U.S. Jews. Sichrovsky, who as a Jew often had to defend Haider against charges of anti-Semitism, says Haider can no longer make points with such in-your-face antics. ``He's like an old comedian who's constantly telling the same jokes,'' he said. ``But the audience is no longer laughing.''
    ©The New York Times

    Turkish officials are preparing to send troops up to 100 kilometers into northern Iraq on what they say is a mission to prevent an influx of refugees in the event that a war there sets off a mass movement toward Turkey's borders. The plan, which is being circulated among top government officials, is giving rise to fears that it could be used as a cover for the Turkish military to snuff out any attempt by Iraqi Kurds to set up their own state if President Saddam Hussein falls from power. Turkey has been battling its own Kurdish insurgency for years, and Turkish leaders are concerned that a war in Iraq could lead to an independent Kurdish state on their own borders. Turkish officials say they are fearful that an Iraqi attack on the Kurds, possibly with biological or chemical weapons, could cause a panic similar to the one that followed the Gulf War in 1991, when more than a million Kurds poured into Turkey and Iran in flight from the Iraqi Army. "In case of a massive influx, it would be necessary to take measures to keep them away from our border," said Gokhan Aydiner, regional governor in southeastern Turkey. "We have our own experience from 1991 in mind. We naturally do not want it to be repeated." The Turkish plan is a measure of the anxiety that is sweeping the region as the threat of an American-led war with Iraq looms. While many leaders in the area say they would be happy to see Saddam deposed, they fear a war's unintended effects.

    In Turkey, for instance, officials have indicated that they would support a U.S.-led attack, but they are determined to avoid a repeat of 1991. That crisis began weeks after the Gulf War had ended, when Iraq's Kurds, emboldened by Saddam's defeat, rose up against him. Iraqi forces loyal to Saddam responded with ferocity, and thousands of Kurds headed for the borders. American troops and international aid agencies rushed in to help deal with the crisis, but at one point more than 1,000 people a day were dying on the borders from exposure and disease. Turkish officials insist that the influx of refugees helped fuel the long-running Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey. This is a delicate time for Turkey, which is seeking membership in the European Union. One factor inhibiting Turkey's admission has been its often brutal treatment, and sometimes torture, of suspected members of Kurdish guerrilla groups. The plan for sealing the borders, dated Oct. 22 and signed by Bulent Ecevit, who was then prime minister, envisions the establishment of 18 camps - 12 of them in Iraq - designed to hold about 275,000 refugees. The camps in Iraq would be filled first, and foreigners trying to enter Turkey before the first 12 camps were filled would be turned back. The camps in Turkey would be opened only after the ones in Iraq were filled. The plan calls on the army to ensure "the maintenance of security in the region," and it makes it clear that the government does not want any refugees to stay for long. "The main principle will be to send foreigners settled in the camps either back to their region of origin or to third countries," the document says.

    Human rights workers in Turkey have sharply criticized the Turkish preparations to go into Iraq, with some saying that the real goal would be to forestall any attempt by Iraq's Kurds to set up their own government there. The rights groups fear the Turkish Army would make it impossible for them to work in northern Iraq, and thus would effectively deny the Kurdish people the very benefits the Turkish government says it wants to deliver. "The Turkish Army would do its best to eliminate the possibility of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq, through military means," said Selahattin Demitas, of the Turkish Human Rights Association. "The only law that will be applied in that area would be the law of war." Others say the Turkish plan, if carried out, would violate long-standing norms of international law governing the treatment of refugees. Generally speaking, countries are obliged to grant entrance to people fleeing persecution from other countries. Officials at the United Nations, which would ordinarily play a large role in any relief effort, say the Turkish government has refused so far to divulge the plan's details. "We couldn't get as much cooperation as we expected," said Metin Corabatir, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara. "We have not seen the report."

    Turkish leaders already regard their country as an embattled front line against illegal immigrants from Asia. In the first 10 months of this year, more than 13,000 people were detained trying to cross into Turkey from Iraq. Most were Iraqi, but the police arrested Bangladeshis and Indians as well. Several parts of Turkey near the Iraqi border are under emergency rule. Although the government offers political support for Kurdish groups battling Saddam in Iraq, hundreds of Turkish troops are operating in northern Iraq to root out remnants of Kurdish guerrillas there.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    A Draconian new law has 'clamped down on everything'

    In the last four months, Tatyana and Sergei Akadanovy have been arrested twice, sent to jail for 10 days and fined more than $1,000, an unimaginable sum in impoverished Belarus. An apartment they help rent has been broken into and vandalized. She has been severely beaten on the steps of their apartment, a fate that separately befell six friends, and the police have issued warnings that the Akadanovys and their friends are all criminals who should be avoided. In fact, the police may be right: The Akadanovys and their friends are Hindus. And in Belarus, Hindus who gather together in their gods' names are, by definition, almost always in violation of the law. Belarus, which underwent more than its share of religious repression under Soviet rule, now has a new religion law, "On the Freedom of Confessions and Religious Organizations." And even before it fully takes effect, persecution of Hindus and people of other faiths not approved by the government - and some that are - has been ratcheted sharply up. The effect is to hamstring any rivals to the Belarussian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, which helped draft the new law and is a pillar of support for the autocratic government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

    A Belarussian chapel of the Russian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which has split from the main Russian Orthodox faith, was bulldozed in August. Several Minsk branches of the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church, an evangelical Protestant faith that is among the largest minority religions here, were notified in September that their prayer services were illegal. The city's Hare Krishna temple received the same notice. In October, the head of the New Life Protestant Church was summoned to a Minsk district administration office and told that unspecified complaints had been filed against his church. All that and more preceded the new law, which Lukashenko signed on Oct. 31 and which took effect Nov. 16. Religious and human rights officials say that the law fits a pattern of repression they trace back at least three years, and that even mainstream faiths have been targets. "There's been a web of restrictions and control of religious communities in the last few years," Felix Corley, the editor of the London-based Keston Institute's news service and an expert on religion in Belarus, said in a telephone interview. "You can't have outdoor events. You can't build a church without permission from the authorities, and you can't get permission. This new law has really codified and clamped down on everything."

    The law has 40 articles of bewildering complexity, but at its root, it outlaws regular meetings of worshipers of any faith not registered with the state, and strictly limits the places where even registered faiths can hold services. Registering is a daunting task: No individual church may have fewer than 20 members. Any organized faith must have at least 10 churches and be able to prove that it had a church in Belarus before 1982 - a time of religious repression under the Soviet Union. That merely begins to describe the law's restrictions, which govern church publications, visits by foreign priests, religious schools, charities and a welter of other activities. The State Department and the European Union, which last week denied Lukashenko a visa because of Belarus's rights record, have said the law violates international principles of religious freedom. The bill's authors, on the other hand, say the Russian Orthodox faith is so intimately woven into Belarussian culture that the state is obligated to protect its leading role from dangerous sects, which, they say, are the law's targets.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    A vegan animal rights activist charged with May's shock murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has confessed, saying he saw the anti-immigration populist as a danger to society, prosecutors revealed on Saturday. The flamboyant Fortuyn was gunned down just days before his novice political party LPF swept to second place in a May general election. Suspect Volkert van der Graaf was arrested moments after the murder and has been in custody since then. '(Van der Graaf) has admitted that he purposefully shot dead Fortuyn. He had conceived this plan some time earlier,' the public prosecutor said in a statement. The prosecutor's statement said Van der Graaf had said 'he saw in Fortuyn an increasing danger to, in particular, vulnerable sections of society'. It is first indication of any motive for the killing. The openly gay Fortuyn sent shock waves through the Netherlands' cosy consensual political system by calling for a halt to immigration and branding Islam as 'backward'. The May election catapulted his party into a three-way centre-right coalition, but fighting between LPF ministers felled the cabinet last month. Van der Graaf said he had acted alone and that no one else knew of his plans. Van der Graaf's lawyers said earlier this month that their client would soon break his silence and make a statement. At a preliminary court hearing in August, prosecutors said Van der Graaf was arrested carrying a loaded gun speckled with the victim's blood and that his clothes had absorbed blood matching Fortuyn's DNA.
    ©Het Financieele Dagblad

    President Leonid Kuchma's decision to send the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages to parliament for ratification has re-ignited public debate over use of Russian and other languages. Ukraine signed the charter during May 1996 and parliament ratified the document in 1999, however the nation's Constitutional Court overturned parliament's action on largely procedural grounds, leading some at the time to suspect that the court had been influenced by political considerations. The charter provides for the wider use of minority languages in education, the courts, culture, the media and government. It requires the country to provide public school instruction in languages other than Ukrainian when the minority language is widely spoken in an area. The charter also requires that persons who speak minority languages be provided with interpreters in court, that the government encourage regional media to use minority languages, and that local officials use the language of the region's minority groups. The latter provision is exactly what officials in several Ukrainian regions have been striving for. Crimea's parliament and city councils in Kharkiv and Luhansk have repeatedly tried to make Russian an official language in their regions.

    Refat Chubarov, a lawmaker and one of two Crimean Tartars in parliament, said the bickering about the status of the Russian language has overshadowed the charter's importance to other ethnic minorities. "Unfortunately when people talk about the charter, they have only the Ukrainian and Russian languages in mind," he said. "The languages of the national minorities are forgotten." Chubarov said only 11 out of Crimea's more than 2,000 schools use Crimean Tartar as the language of instruction, even though Crimean Tartars constitute one in 10 of the peninsula's population. He said only six schools teach in Ukrainian, and the remainder in Russian. He said he believes that ratifying the charter would help preserve minority languages in Ukraine, many of which are currently on the verge of extinction. Josef Zissels, chairman of Vaad, a Jewish organization, said that the language issue isn't a pressing matter for Ukraine's Jews, since Hebrew isn't widely spoken by the country's Jewish community. Zissels said he believes that it would be easier for the charter to win ratification if Russian had been excluded and dealt with separately. "Those who are against the charter are not against the Hungarian or the Crimean Tartar language," he said. "They are against Russian. It is not a secret that once this discussion starts, Western Ukraine will see it as a threat to its independence."

    Lyubov Glot, the editor of Slovo Prosvity, a Ukrainian-language newspaper, said that it was Ukrainian, rather than Russian, that is threatened. "Nothing threatens the Russian language here," Glot said. "It is the Ukrainian language that needs protection." She said it was "immoral" to talk about other languages while Ukrainian is in poor condition after decades of suppression. Valery Ivanov, the president of the Academy of Press, said he doubts that parliament will ratify the charter this time around. "It is not the first time that the charter has been considered," Ivanov said. "When the constitutional court threw out [the 1999 ratification action], it did so merely due to political considerations." Ivanov said that even if the charter were to be approved, the government wouldn't likely enforce it. He called the charter's ratification necessary, because it would prevent the government from taking extreme positions on the language issue. "I remember a period when the government ordered television broadcasters to broadcast only in Ukrainian," he said. "It is wrong, but how can you explain to an official that you cannot force people to speak a language?"

    A survey by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and TNS Ukraine found that 50.5 percent of the population speaks Ukrainian at home, while 46.3 percent prefers Russian. Minority languages dominate in just 3.2 percent of homes. The Razumkov Center for Political and Economic Studies' Serhy Shengin said that Ukraine needed to ratify the charter if it wanted to bring its legislation closer to European standards. "Ukraine needs unity now," he said, "But this language issue splits the society in two." Shengin said that Ukrainian should remain the state language, and Russian should be considered the language of international communication. "We have other problems here," he said. "The government should ensure that the adult population, and not only children, can study Ukrainian. It is too bad when good professionals who do not know Ukrainian cannot get state jobs." Shengin said that the government should support special Ukrainian-language study courses that would be open to everyone. "Before, we had total Russification," he said. "Now, we face total Ukrainization."
    © KP News

    The atheist and the Islamist sat side by side, in matching polo shirts no less. "From a theological point of view," the Islamist, Abdurrahman Dilipak, said with some mischief, "it is inevitable that I would have concerns about his life in eternity. But after all, there are seven rungs of hell, and I know he won't be on the lowest one." The atheist, Sanar Yurdatapan, smiled: he has no plans to spend forever in any place that does not exist. "Hell?" he asked. "What hell?" It is entertaining shtick, which the two men play with good humor despite the fact that they disagree with each other on the question of hell, and most everything else. That disagreement is exactly the point — and the latest turn in a continuing campaign organized by the atheist, Mr. Yurdatapan, who is also a musician, writer, human rights activist and general gadfly, to encourage tolerance and free speech in Turkey, a place where both commodities can be scarce.

    It is a campaign that has taken Mr. Yurdatapan, 62, to jail, to exile from Turkey and back, and, on a recent weekend, to a big book fair here signing copies of the book he wrote recently with Mr. Dilipak, a well-known Islamist author. It is called "Red and Green," but also "Green and Red," for it has a different cover on either side of the book (thus the publicity stunt of matching shirts: Mr. Yurdatapan's is red for the political left; Mr. Dilipak's green for Islam). Each man wrote half the book on his own, tackling some of the touchiest matters in Turkey and around the Muslim world: Is there a god? What is the role of women? Should parents indoctrinate their children? "We wrote the book to give a concrete example, something stable, that opposites can put their ideas together without trying to kill each other or silence each other," Mr. Yurdatapan said. "People who want to read me, especially young people, will have to read him, too, and have a chance to compare directly," he added. "Let them decide. But they also take the lesson that people who think in a totally different way must respect each other. We must always have a dialogue."

    This intersection of the intellectual left and Islamic activism is not common. But it is acutely relevant in a Turkey that has just elected a party with Islamic roots and is set to test how its secular democracy accommodates such a government. The dialogue started half a dozen years ago, largely on Mr. Yurdatapan's initiative. For decades Turkey has cracked down on many expressions of Islam, which is perceived as a threat to its secular state. It has also tolerated little dissent on political matters that anger activists like Mr. Yurdatapan, like the long war (now subsided) with Kurdish militants. So both men have had their problems with the Turkish state, cause enough for an alliance cemented more recently by shared opposition to an American attack on Iraq. They adhere to the Voltairian maxim: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

    Mr. Yurdatapan is the son of a three-star general. He learned his American-accented English from G.I.'s who frequently visited the family. He also understood, in his blood, the paternalism of the Turkish military, which has paradoxically kept Turkey stable and, many critics say, also stifled its full development to democracy. "Even as a child, I thought we were the best, but civilians — eh!" he said in mock disgust. "They were not serious." As a young man, and despite the fact that he was not formally trained, he became a successful composer and orchestra leader. He wrote the song "Arkadas," recorded in 1975 and still heard today. He also became politically active with the socialist Turkish Labor Party in the mid-1960's. With his wife, the singer Milike Demirag, he left Turkey in 1980 when the military staged a coup. He and his wife were later stripped of their citizenship, while they lived, with their two children, in Germany, near Cologne, and continued to be politically active against the war in the Kurdish southeast of Turkey. An amnesty in 1991 allowed them to return. (They are now divorced.) Then in 1995, Mr. Yurdatapan's activism took the turn that came to define it: It began when Yasar Kemal, one of Turkey's most famous writers, was charged under anti- terrorism laws for writing an article against the war in Kurdish areas. In protest, 1,080 well-known people signed their names in a book that republished Mr. Kemal's article and nine other banned articles. They then demanded that they all be prosecuted because it was also a crime to reprint banned articles.

    Mr. Yurdatapan's orchestration of the book put the Turkish state in an awkward position, having to suspend sentences or change the laws to avoid arresting everyone. In 1999, however, he received a two-month sentence, which he served alone in a cell meant for six people. "Very luxurious," he said offhandedly. "I knew they would make special treatment for me." With little money and a tenuous legal status — his group, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, exists only on the law's margins — Mr. Yurdatapan keeps up his work: 4 books and over 40 pamphlets have been published. In 2000, he took up the case of Islamic activists, including the nation's only Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, who has been banned from political life since the army's ouster of his government in 1997 and whose party was victorious in the recent elections. This summer, as part of its bid to join the European Union, Turkey passed several laws easing freedom of expression. Mr. Yurdatapan says the atmosphere is improving, though not enough for him to end his work. As might be expected, he and Mr. Dilipak also differ on why the work is worthy. "I believe I am doing something good as a Muslim, and he believes he is being a good person," Mr. Dilipak deadpanned. "We will meet each other in the next world."
    ©The New York Times

    Senior United Nations officials in Bosnia are warning of a dramatic increase in trafficked women passing through the Balkans and into western Europe. The UN mission which has responsibility for dealing with the issue is due to hand over the role to the European Union at the end of the year. But the head of the UN's anti-trafficking unit in Bosnia says the EU is not taking the issue seriously enough and lacks the political will to do so. Celhia de Laverene says the EU plans to close down the only designated unit which deals directly with the problem. She says this will lead to substantially more women becoming the prey of highly-organised criminal gangs.

    Growing problem
    Many of these women and young girls, some as young as 14-years-old, are taken from their homes in eastern Europe and brought to Bosnia before being forced into prostitution. Many are then moved on by the gangs into western Europe. The EU plans to have just 500 police officers in the country; 1,000 fewer than the current UN mission. The UN believes this will not be enough to tackle such a growing problem. However the EU police mission insists sufficient resources will be put aside.

    High stakes
    But at a meeting in London earlier this week, European ministers admitted that criminal gangs in the Balkans were currently better organised than the authorities trying to tackle them. This will be the first time the EU has sent its own police force abroad. The stakes are high, and they will be keen to show they can deal with a problem which not only affects Bosnia, but Europe as a whole.
    ©BBC News

    A racist who police believe was planning to launch a terror campaign has been jailed for 11 years. Pipe bombs, a sub-machine gun, two shotguns, a pistol and bullets were discovered in the home of 37-year-old David Tovey. Police say the loner was planning a one-man race war after uncovering the arsenal at his home in Canterton, Oxfordshire. Sentencing Tovey at Oxford Crown Court on Friday, Judge Mary Jane Mowat said: "The weapons, the body-building equipment, the military car, the military clothing all suggest the fantasy life of a lone commando. "I think that the right catalyst could well have provoked him into acting out real violence against persons or property." She said that, while he had never actually carried out any act of violence, her sentencing had to reflect the very real anxiety felt by the public about guns, bombs and racial hatred. Tovey was arrested in February after scrawling abuse in a petrol station toilet in Stratford-upon-Avon. The haul of weapons was only uncovered when police investigating a campaign of racist graffiti raided Tovey's house. Neighbouring homes were evacuated and the bomb squad called in following the police raid in February 2002. Tovey admitted three explosives charges and six firearms charges and was found guilty at a trial in October of two charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. He was sentenced to a total of eight years for the firearms and explosives charges and a further three years for the two counts of racially aggravated graffiti, to run consecutively. Judge Mowat made a recommendation that he serve at least half of the prison sentence. After the court hearing, Detective Superintendent Steve Morrison, from Thames Valley Police, said: "This shows that racism will not be tolerated by the police in our communities."
    ©BBC News

    Jewish students at Leeds University have been the target of a spate of racist attacks, it has been claimed. Ben Winston, president of the university's Jewish Society, said students who wear skull caps have suffered verbal and physical abuse. Mr Winston said the problems started after a Jewish fundraising dinner, held off campus three weeks ago, which was attended by Palestinian protestors and anti-war groups. He continued: "It is really unacceptable when you think the university is supposed to be the educated people of tomorrow."

    Clear message
    The racial tension in Leeds follows the escalation of problems in the Middle East and the threat of war with Iraq. Student activities officer Diane Compton said the university plans to start an anti-racism campaign in January. She added: "We need to give the clear message that racial discrimination isn't on." Mr Winston also said: "At Leeds University we have one of the safest campuses in the country." " This is because of the great relationship between the Jewish Society and Islamic Society."
    ©BBC News

    Lungisile Ntsebeza remembers well the day the police came for him. It was a cold June night in 1976, and he was just 21. He had recently graduated from South Africa's most prestigious black university. Ntsebeza was hauled off and spent 5 1/2 years in prison, followed by six years in exile in a tiny town in the desolate Eastern Cape. His crime: Participating in a study group examining alternatives to South Africa's racially segregated society, apartheid. A quarter of a century later, Ntsebeza now wants someone to pay for his lost youth. Promised reparations from South Africa's current government that have never materialized, Ntsebeza and others are turning to sources with deeper pockets: the international banks and corporations that did business with the white apartheid government.

    Lawyers for apartheid victims have filed two multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuits in United States courts, one last June and one earlier this month. "It's simple. This is a lawsuit against institutions that collaborated with a system that had been declared a crime against humanity," says Ntsebeza, who is party to one of the lawsuits. "One could say I'm vindictive, but I don't think so. If you profit out of an immoral system, them you must be prepared to pay." Among the 20 targeted banks and corporations are IBM, Ford, General Motors, ExxonMobil, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase in the United States, and British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and DaimlerChrysler in Europe. These companies say they violated no international law and should not be held accountable for the actions of others. Some have pledged to vigorously fight the suits. If successful, activists say, the lawsuits could change the rules for international lending, forcing private banks to be more accountable for the uses of the money they lend. Some academics also warn it could make banks more wary of lending to governments that truly need it. "These lawsuits could be very destabilizing," says Seema Jayachandran, an economics researcher at Harvard University who has written extensively about the lawsuits. "If banks make a loan and worry that after the fact they may get hit with a lawsuit ... they may be wary of loaning. That might hurt governments that want to make legitimate loans that are beneficial to the people."

    At the root of the two lawsuits is both a frustration with how the current South African government (which took over from the apartheid regime in 1994) has handled reconciliation and an acknowledgment of the economic challenges it faces. South Africa is saddled with billions of dollars in debt and is struggling to educate, feed, and house its people. The much-lauded truth and reconciliation process gave amnesty to most of the killers and torturers of the apartheid era, but little has been done for the survivors. Some 16,000 people have been given small 1,000 to 2,000 Rand payments, worth today between $100 and $200. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended that larger reparation payments of $10,000 to $14,000, but the government has yet to take action on that recommendation. The government says it is waiting for the final report of the Truth Commission, but privately, many officials say the money would be better used on general social projects than giving it directly to individuals. But activists say they have already waited too long. Eight years after the end of apartheid, many are struggling to survive. Some, like Charles Hlatshwayo, who was tortured until he was unable to walk or speak, were permanently disabled and are unable to work. Others, like the family of attorney Bheki Mlangeni - who was killed by a bomb planted into the earphones of a tape player - were stripped of their main breadwinner. Both Hlatshwayo and the family of Mlangeni are among the 85 plaintiffs in the most recent suit, which was filed by the Khulumani Support Group, an apartheid victim's organization representing nearly 33,000 survivors.

    While many survivors are frustrated with how the government has handled reparations, they have chosen to put most of the blame at the doorstep of the international financial community. Ultimately, they say, reparations should not be paid by South Africa's new government but by those who helped keep the old one alive. Long after the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and individual countries stopped lending to pariah South Africa, Swiss, German, and American banks kept the money coming. In the mid-1980s, these banks even bailed the country out from financial crisis. These loans have left South Africa today with a heavy debt burden that siphons money from much needed social programs. In 2000, South Africa paid $5 billion in debt payments and only $3 billion on health care, $2.2 billion on welfare, and $450,000 on housing. South Africa currently owes some $37 billion in debt, mostly to private banks. South Africa's new government says it is paying these apartheid-era debts, despite the economic burden they impose, because not paying them could hinder its ability to acquire new loans. Officially, the South African government has also opposed the lawsuits, saying they could harm investor confidence in the country.

    Lawyers have not targeted specific amounts in either lawsuit but say that damages could be well into the billions. Some of that money would go directly to apartheid victims and their families, but the bulk would be put into community development projects. Observers say that even if the lawsuits are successful, it could be years before victims receive the money. Some experts say that even if the lawsuits are unsuccessful, they will have served a purpose. "Companies need to be held accountable," says Piers Pigou, a researcher at the South African Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg. "Even at the end of the day, if no money changes hands, if it makes companies think twice, that's progress."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    Police deny murder was racist, but immigrant groups claim many officers sympathise with far-right Vlaams Blok party.

    Tension ran high in the port city of Antwerp yesterday after a Belgian shot dead a young Arab. The incident triggered riots in the immigrant area of Belgium's second largest city which is a stronghold of the extreme right. Riot police were deployed near a mosque where some 200 young immigrants gathered for a second day of protests at the shooting of Mohammed Achrak, a 27-year-old Arab, as the authorities sought to play down the political implications. A handful of protesters threw stones at police, who blocked off several streets around the mosque. A police helicopter also patrolled the area.

    A 66-year-old suspect, whose identity was not released, was charged with Tuesday's murder. "There are no indications that this was a racist act," a spokeswoman for the Antwerp public prosecutor told Reuters, adding that the suspect apparently suffered mental problems. Hundreds of angry young men took to the streets of Antwerp on Tuesday night, smashing windows, wrecking cars and stoning police, who arrested two young Arabs after they drove a car at police officers. "We hope the tension will subside now. It's Wednesday afternoon, the kids are out of school and that's why it's busy," one local policeman said. Community elders used megaphones to calm the crowd. Local authorities accused an activist group, the Arab European League - which last week started video monitoring of police for alleged racist behaviour - of helping incite the riots.

    About 30,000 residents of Arab origin live in Antwerp, where the Belgian far-right opposition Vlaams Blok party won 33% of the vote in the last municipal elections. The Arab European League, best known for organising pro-Palestinian marches, last week started patrolling the streets of Antwerp with video cameras. It alleges that police are organising a "manhunt" of the city's Moroccan youth and that many police officers are sympathisers of the Vlaams Blok. The Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, denounced the initiative and said the government would not tolerate such actions. The Antwerp public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the group. Private militia are banned under Belgian law and civilians are not allowed to perform police functions.

    The group's leader, Dyab Abou Jahjah, told Belgian television at the weekend that he aims to stand in parliamentary elections next June. A centre set up by the government to fight racism filed a complaint against the league in June for inciting racial hatred, after it said on its website that power in Antwerp was "in the hands of the Zionist lobby and far-right racists".
    ©The Guardian

    The Swiss Government has announced it is beginning an official recount of the votes in last Sunday's referendum on refugees. The move comes after admissions that some cantons, or provinces, were using scales to measure ballot-slips rather than counting them by hand. It was the closest vote in Swiss history:
    50.1% voted against a controversial right-wing proposal to refuse entry to any asylum-seeker who had already passed through a neighbouring safe country whilst 49.9% of voters wanted the law enforced. This may not be quite as nail-bitingly exciting as the recount of ballot-papers in the US presidential election in Florida, two years ago. But Switzerland is, nonetheless, determined to uphold its democratic principles.

    'Precision count'
    When word slipped out that around a third of cantons had used electronic counting methods for voting papers, it was quickly pointed out that only Geneva had official permission to do so. The right-wing People's Party's initiative to tighten the asylum laws was rejected by a majority of just less than 3,500 votes so the federal authorities said they could take no chances. Each of the 26 cantons has now been ordered to recount the votes by hand. It is unlikely the recount will change the end result, however - officials say the votes were weighed with "extremely precise, Swiss-made scales".
    ©BBC News

    Norwegian police carried out on Tuesday night a series of concerted actions in "Operation Advent" - a major campaign to combat illegal immigration and cross-border crime. Every police district in the country was involved at some level.

    Division leader Runar Kvernen of the Directorate for Police could not divulge how many police officers took part in the raids, but various media sources indicate the total was well over 1,000. The number of illegal immigrants nabbed by the operation will not be known until results are compared on Wednesday. Frank Sandsund, head of the foreign division of Kripos, Norway's National Bureau of Crime Investigation, said that Operation Advent would intensify towards the weekend. All types of transport were stopped and checked, including a blanket control of the normally porous border with Sweden at Svinesund. Three other campaigns took place parallel to Operation Advent: Operation Jakob, carried out along the Russian border, in cooperation with Russian authorities; Operation Orca, sweeping the harbors in Norway's four northernmost counties; and Operation Visa, which scoured the international airports at Gardermoen in Oslo and Torp in Vestfold. Church officials have complained about the choice of name for Operation Advent, saying that both clergy and public associate Advent with inclusion, and regretted its association with the police action.

    Caretaker Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven is sticking to her position that the Education Inspectorate should not be admitted to religious lessons in Christian and Islamic schools. The Lower House does wish to allow the Inspectorate to monitor whether there is any question of incitement to hatred. The purpose of the Education Inspectorate is not to trace criminal offences, Van der Hoeven declared in the Lower House yesterday. This is more the task of the Public Prosecutors' Office (OM) or the General Information and Security Service (AIVD), in her view. On Wednesday, a Lower House majority showed itself in favour of increasing the powers of the Education Inspectorate. At present, the Inspectorate may sit in on lessons given by regular primary school teachers. But if teaching is given by a person in religious office or a special subject teacher, the inspectors stay away.

    The MPs wish to allow inspectors to attend the lessons in person to monitor the quality. In addition, the Inspectorate should be able to obtain more insight into the origin of the money used to finance Islamic schools in particular. The discussion was prompted by a recent report from the Education Inspectorate on Islamic education, which raised doubts about three of the 35 Islamic primary schools. However, the Inspectorate based its conclusions almost completely on interviews with the school boards. The religious lessons were not covered by the study, as there was no mandate for this from the Lower House, it declared. Van der Hoeven reported yesterday that she had asked the OM to track down any criminal offences in religious education. The complaints in the Inspectorate's report were mainly concerned with the fact that religious lessons were not given in Dutch, she pointed out. "This is because there is no teaching material in Dutch. This is a problem we will tackle." Van der Hoeven also plans to sign a covenant with the Islamic school boards organisation ISBO, including agreements on the financing of the schools.
    ©Netherlands Info Services

    The silent majority...are just sitting there looking

    Former Ontario lieutenant-governor Lincoln Alexander, a companion of the Order of Canada and former federal cabinet minister, says he knows the hurt of racial profiling, up close and personal. Hamilton police started tailing his late wife, Yvonne, in 1967, soon after the family bought a luxury Chrysler car, Alexander told the Toronto Star in a candid interview at his Hamilton home yesterday. He was then a lawyer, still a year away from being first elected to Parliament. "I called the chief of police and said, `Chief, we got a problem and I'm mad as hell. There's somebody following my wife. "Now you know my wife. She's not a whore, she's not a pimp, she's not a crack addict, she's not a crook, she's just a hard-working housewife and your people are following her. Why the hell are they following her? Why are they surveilling her?' "So he told the people to leave my wife alone and it never happened after that. But that's how far this profiling stuff goes. So I have first-hand experience of what it means and it disturbed me a lot. "It can hit people who are everyday taxpayers: big shot, little shot, people of influence, money and power; it can hit them as well."

    So when the Star first published last month an investigative account that analyzed police data showing police treat blacks more harshly than whites in cases where they use discretion, the front-page headline touched a nerve. And as honorary chief of the Toronto police, chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and black community icon, the 80-year-old widower knew he had to act. He called Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino, then called the Star's newsroom to denounce the police actions and demand a high-level summit on the issue with top officials. That summit will be held Nov. 25 at the Fairmont Royal York. Ontario Premier Ernie Eves, Solicitor-General Bob Runciman, Mayor Mel Lastman, police board chair Norm Gardner, former Ontario chief justice Charles Dubin, MP Jean Augustine, former Ontario human rights commissioner Bromley Armstrong, police association head Craig Bromell and representatives from the OPP and black police officers' association are among the 13 invited. Eves is the only one still to confirm attendance. "My motive is to see that these poor people don't have to continue crying in a state of hopelessness to make the police understand they should serve and protect everyone equally, they should be full of justice and they should have respect. "I'm trying to bring about a level playing field for the average Canadian. There's nothing in it for me. I'm proud of my police (but) there are rascals in every profession." In a no-holds barred interview, Alexander had a tongue-lashing for just about everyone — from violence-promoting media to disrespectful youths to adults who don't care enough to get involved and end racism.

    He said: Police union head Bromell will "have to answer to me" at the summit and explain what he means by suggesting police officers might react to the charges of police racism by not responding to calls involving blacks. "That's not acceptable. Who the hell does he think he is?" Police have his love and respect, but "police are the same all over the world. They all deny (there are problems). That's a very powerful group. They'll fix you up. Every now and then they have to be checked; they have to be held accountable."

    Black-on-black crime doesn't get the attention of politicians and most of the public because it involves the poor and powerless among us. White people often don't understand the hurt of minorities because the unequal, unfair treatment is not part of their daily existence. The cycle of racism and denials and public protest followed by glacial change is "like a living disease" that has left him "tired" and almost in despair. The press "usually runs for cover or adopts a `here we go again' attitude" when the issue of race relations is raised, so he was "delighted the Star had the guts to print something that should be on the front page of everyone's mind." But he asked why the issue isn't a burning one for all the media and all areas of society. "Where's the other papers? There needs to be a groundswell of interest, of resentment. It needs more than the Star and black people. Where's the Ontario Human Rights Commission? I haven't heard from them. "Where's the B'Nai Brith or whoever the Jewish organization that's up in arms whenever something happens? Where are the governments? See, there's nobody else involved in this other than the umbrella group and me. The silent majority, most of whom are white, are just sitting there looking." He didn't spare members of his own community. He slammed the coalition of black community groups for boycotting a meeting called by Fantino to discuss the issue. And he says he was hot at them for suggesting that Dubin didn't know enough about racism and policing to head the review of the Toronto force's practices, a review requested by Fantino. Dubin at first accepted, then declined the offer.

    "Whether you like the chief or not, he extended a hand. This group says, `No. We don't want to meet.' That's a stupid thing to do. They missed a golden opportunity. That's what you call a complete abdication of leadership. If you don't participate, you can't negotiate. Now, who are you going to talk to?" The group was going to have two representatives at the summit, but Linc says they are now "persona non grata, as far as I am concerned." He said the reason more people don't come forward and give murder tips to the police is fear. And the causes of the violence are many. "Is it because of the hopelessness, the unemployment, the utter down-in-the-dumps, I couldn't care less, nobody cares, why should I work for $150 when I can sell crack and make $1,000? Where are the schools in all this? Where are the churches in all this? I sit back at 80-odd years old and say, what the hell is going on? I really do. "Those who serve and protect, they have a tough job. I wouldn't be a police (officer) if you paid me $100,000 a week." He said he's also concerned about the "community silence." "I don't hear any great reaction to it. I see poor mothers crying, sons crying, fathers crying, sisters crying. They are all asking why? Black on black is only the most visible manifestation ... It's not a black thing, it's a people thing. Everybody's got to speak out. Say `Stop.' Do something. (Government) authority, what are you doing? Look into it. "Once again, where's the groundswell? Because it's all blacks mostly. Y'know what I'm implying? Who cares? Let `em. "I care, but hell, I'm only one."

    Alexander said the race problem won't be fixed overnight. "I'm optimistic to say, in due course, we'll all treat one another like human beings. But, you know, that's what you call a dream. ``Unfortunately, you live with man and man is not that friendly to mankind." Ultimately, elected officials are the paid leaders with a mandate to address these issues. "My government is supposed to look after me. My police is supposed to look after me, and I'm not talking about welfare. This calls for tough (political) leadership. They have the influence, power and money. Who else can you turn to? Government has to take an interest in this damn thing. By the end of the interview, Alexander had to struggle to remain upbeat. "I see things happening and I can't do anything. I'm not resigned to not doing anything, but I'm thinking, `How do we get out of all this?' I don't have any answers. There's respect, there's equality and there's justice. Some people are not getting any of that. Why not? This is Year 2002. Why not? Who respects me as a black man? "There's little respect between blacks and the police. As soon as some is built up, every five years or so something else comes up to make it worse. "It's a living disease. All I can say is I'm glad I'm in the twilight (years). I'm not here to fix the world." He said it's okay if people think his efforts are just a stall tactic to smooth over matters. "I don't think it's a stall. I'm going to make sure it's not a stall. I'm not doing this for me. I'm looking out for the youth. As long as I have breath I'll follow it up."
    ©The Toronto Star

    Britain's football clubs and officials have become complacent about the continued presence of racism in football, according to the chairman of the Kick It Out campaign. A survey carried out by BBC Radio 5 Live found that only 122 supporters were banned from attending matches in the last five years on the grounds of racist chanting, and Sir Herman Ouseley believes changes need to be made from top to bottom. "The game has taken steps to try and deal with the excesses of racist behaviour but you can't deny the fact that at the highest level of the game there is complacency," Ouseley said. "There is a certain amount of apathy and a sense that we have moved on. We're now on to building new national stadiums and racism has fallen right down the agenda.

    "This complacency exists in the boardroom, among the FA. The FA Council hasn't transformed itself in a way which reflects the ethnic diversity of the game and black and Asian matchday officials are still far and few between," he added on BBC Radio 5 Live. Ouseley, a former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, feels the recommendations of the Football Task Force, which was headed by former Conservative MP David Mellor, have not been followed through and believes it is the duty of local authorities to demand that clubs within their jurisdiction produce plans outlining how they will deal with racial harassment. The most effective weapon of all though, according to Ouseley, could be some kind of action from the players on the receiving end of the abuse. He added: "Clubs should know that they will be punished if action isn't taken. "It is often those people taking direct action, whether it's women seeking equality, gay and lesbian groups or whoever. "There is now a critical mass of black players playing professionally and it may come to players walking off the pitch if we don't see improvements."

    Millwall chairman Theo Paphitis has defended his club against the claim that their fans are still the worst when it comes to dishing out racist abuse, insisting that racism is a wider social problem not just an issue in football. "I don't think it should be happening in society full stop but unfortunately it exists. "But saying it's a problem with football doesn't get to the core or heart of the matter. "I travel to games throughout the country to grounds and I would be foolish to say racist chants don't exist - it's not an epidemic but it's still a problem." Paphitis insists his club are doing more than any other to try and stamp out racist chanting, saying: "We have a policy of zero tolerance. When we do find someone doing this we prosecute them. "I'm a first generation immigrant - I'm not white middle class talking about this problem. I deal with racism, I know about it and I encounter it. "At Saturday's match [at home to Leicester] we had 206 stewards. One hundred and twenty five of them came from black and other ethnic minority groupings. We try and ensure our stewards represent our society. "One hundred and twenty five people are not going to just stand there and take it. Four of our 11 players on Saturday were black so it really is a nonsense this whole thing about racism in football."
    ©The Guardian

    A Paris court is to rule Wednesday whether an Italian journalist who wrote a controversial book criticising Islam and the Muslim culture violated French anti-racist laws. Human rights and anti-racist groups brought the suit against New York-based author Oriana Fallaci and her French publisher, Plon, for inciting racial hatred in the book, written in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and titled "The Rage and The Pride". In its pages, Fallaci notably writes that "Muslims breed like rats", claims that there is an unbridgeable gap between the Muslim and Christian worlds, and warns of a "Pearl Harbor" against the West. The book has become a best-seller in Italy, where more than one million copies were sold. Fallaci, 72, will not be in court for the verdict. Ill-health has left her confined to her New York apartment.

    During the arguments phase of the court case in early October, her lawyers defended the work by saying Fallaci was lashing out against the religious interpretation of Islam touted by Muslim clerics, and not against Muslims themselves. "It's a denunciation of the rise of (Islamic) extremism," one of the lawyers, Christophe Bigot, said then. But the plaintiffs rejected that. Patrick Baudoin, a lawyer for the League of Human Rights, said Fallaci had given herself over to "a discourse of rage" that tried to present Western civilisation as "the only good civilisation". On October 22, a similar case against another author, best-selling French writer Michel Houellebecq, was thrown out after a Paris court determined that comments he made to a literary magazine were not punishable under the anti-racism laws. Houellebecq had told February's issue of Lire magazine that he felt Islam was "a dangerous religion right from the start" and that it was "the dumbest religion". While the remarks were less-than-noble and unsubtle, they did not intentionally seek to insult Muslims, the court found. Writers in France and elsewhere had supported Houllebecq by saying that any infringement of his right to freedom of speech in the case would have been tantamount to censure. His most high-profile defender was British author Salman Rushdie, who was targeted for death by an Iranian religious ruling for alleged blasphemy in his 1988 satirical novel "The Satanic Verses."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    A Paris court on Wednesday threw out a case brought against Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci by rights groups who claimed that her controversial book criticizing Islam had violated anti-racist laws. The court dismissed the complaint brought by several anti-racist and human rights groups against the 72-year-old New York-based author on a technicality, saying there was an error in the legal paperwork filed. Fallaci and her French publisher Plon were accused of inciting racial hatred in her book "The Rage and the Pride", written immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The book has become a best-seller in Italy, where more than one million copies were sold. Some 100,000 copies of the work have been sold in France. Fallaci writes that Muslims "multiply like rats" and claims there are insurmountable differences between the Muslim and Christian worlds. She also warns that Muslim extremists could launch a "Pearl Harbor" against the West, a reference to the devastating surprise attack carried out by Japanese forces against a key US base in Hawaii during World War II. The Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples (MRAP) had sought to have the book banned, while two other groups had asked that a public warning be placed in the book and that the court verdict be widely published. "The court has handed down a ruling that clouds the issue. Whether we want it or not and even if it's based on a legal problem, this decision absolves Oriana Fallaci's abominable statements," said MRAP president Mouloud Aounit. Fallaci was not in court to hear the verdict, as ill health has kept her confined to her apartment in New York One of her attorneys, Christophe Bigot, called the court ruling a "logical" one in the face of a "shaky" complaint. "Did this work go beyond the limits of freedom of expression? The court did not make a decision on that. Oriana Fallaci doesn't care whether she wins on form or content, as she thinks that bringing this debate to court is to take it into the wrong forum," Bigot said. During the arguments phase of the hearing, Fallaci's lawyers claimed she was lashing out against the religious interpretation of Islam touted by Muslim clerics, and not against Muslims themselves. But the plaintiffs rejected that notion, with Patrick Baudoin, a lawyer for the League of Human Rights, saying Fallaci had given herself over to "a discourse of rage". In June, a French judge refused to temporarily ban the book, saying it had already been widely distributed in France and abroad. Last month, a similar case against best-selling French writer Michel Houellebecq was thrown out after a Paris court determined that comments he made to a literary magazine were not punishable under the anti-racism laws. Houellebecq had told Lire magazine that he felt Islam was "a dangerous religion right from the start" and that it was "the dumbest religion". While the remarks were less than noble and unsubtle, they did not intentionally seek to insult Muslims, the court found.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    France's 500,000 Jews are generally happy with their European lives, although many have an exaggerated concern of anti-Semitism, according to a national study released Monday. The report by the Unified Jewish Social Funds (FSJU), an umbrella group of 120 Jewish associations, provided the most complete sociological outline of the community in the past 14 years. The study showed the Jews living in France -- the biggest Jewish community in Western Europe -- were well integrated into French life. There was a growing tolerance among younger Jews for mixed marriages with non-Jews, with the number of such unions rising from 20 percent in 1988 to 30 percent today. An increasing number of French Jews have become high-level company executives, making the most of educational opportunities given them by their parents or grandparents, many of whom were small shopkeepers or clothing importers. A strong cultural identity continued, however, with a strong feeling of connection to Israel -- where nearly three-quarters have family -- and the number of practising traditional or orthodox Jews remaining roughly constant But, said FSJU director David Saada, the poll of 1,132 Jews across France also found there was "an abnormal excessive concern in the Jewish community, compared to the real situation" when it came to fear of anti-Semitism That worry was a "paradox," he said, given the respondents' overall feeling of well-being and happiness in France. "People are not so much revolted by anti-Semitic acts as by the silence that surrounds them," he said. In the 14 years since the last survey, the number of Jews thinking about emigrating from France to live in Israel has doubled, from three percent to six percent. The number of Jews in France, up to now given at around 600,000, has been revised downwards by the survey. The report counts them at 500,000, based on those who declare themselves Jewish, or 575,000 if the children of mixed couples (a Jew married to a non-Jew) are also counted. Paris and its surrounding suburbs count for around half that number, with the rest scattered around the country.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    It took Czech police just over a year to gather enough evidence to be able to charge nine Czech skinheads for allegedly racist activities, including the spread of Nazi propaganda in the Czech Republic. The suspects, the oldest of whom is twenty-five, the youngest nineteen, are believed to have organized four key skinhead concerts featuring racist music, concerts aimed at spreading hate and drawing both local supporters and followers from abroad. Jan Velinger reports. In the past Czech police have often been criticized by the media and non-government organizations for not taking significant steps to prevent organized racism in the Czech Republic: the situation came to a head last year when police did nothing to stop a skinhead concert from taking place at the village of Senohraby near Prague, where groups with names like Juden Mord, or Death to Jews, were slated to perform. At the time police claimed they had no evidence of any wrong-doing - although that soon changed. Within weeks police obtained incriminating photographs of the organizers, as well as others at the concert giving the illegal Nazi salute. But a series of police raids on the suspects' homes uncovered more, important and potentially damning evidence: hundreds of Cds, cassettes, books, Nazi symbols and other paraphernalia promoting racial hatred.

    Police official Patrik Frk:
    "In my experience I've never come across a similar case in terms of scope and quantity. The content of the publications and CDs can provoke religious or racial hatred." Not surprisingly, many view the latest steps by Czech police as a move in the right direction. Ondrej Cakl, a member of the public initiative Tolerance, says that the arrests are significant, building upon earlier police raids against the racist organization Blood and Hammer. "The development is significant because police were able to unmask a new organizational group, by moving in, confiscating material. Cases like this it can mean a set-back of three or four years before individuals in the group reorganize, assuming they are found guilty and sent to prison. Meanwhile others are left to pick up the pieces and try and find replacements." Which is precisely the problem. Organized racism and hatred, like all organized crime, is a many headed-dragon, and it seems that when police move in against one group, others inevitably take their place. Tolerance's Ondrej Cakl points out that in the past Czech police haven't had it easy against hardcore racist groups, which are well-organized and spread throughout Europe; and he even suggests that Czech police may have gotten a bit of a bad rap. While some say police investigations take too long before yielding results, others, like Ondrej Cakl suggest it is better that an investigation take longer to build a proper case: enough evidence will put organizers of hate crimes behind bars, and not let them slip through the cracks.
    ©Radio Prague

    South African police said Wednesday they had discovered a cache of bombs while hunting for white right-wingers accused of plotting to overthrow the black-led government. The same group are believed to be responsible for targeting the black township of Soweto last month in the worst bombings since free elections ended racist apartheid rule in 1994. Twenty white men accused of trying to overthrow the government are due to stand trial for treason in May. Police hunting another six, including four believed to be behind the Soweto bombings, said they had found 26 devices similar to pipe bombs in the farming area of Keimoes in Northern Cape province. The discovery of the cache was part of an investigation into ``a group which has been planning to overthrow the government by means of a terror campaign,'' police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said in a statement, adding that more arrests were expected.
    An e-mailed letter purporting to be from the shadowy ``Boeremag'' group claimed responsibility for the Soweto bombings and threatened a Christmas campaign of violence if dozens of detainees, including its leader, were not released. ``The investigation team is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all South Africans by bringing those responsible for the recent bomb attacks and plans to overthrow the government to book,'' de Beer said. De Beer told Reuters she could not confirm a report in the Sowetan, South Africa's widest-read daily newspaper, that police had found a safe house used until a few days ago by the bombers. Neither could she confirm the paper's report that police were investigating whether the ``Boeremag'' had received funding from the racist Ku Klux Klan in the United States.

    The audit commission has blamed management weaknesses at Oldham council for failing to promote race relations and stable communities in the town which witnessed Britain's worst race riots for a decade. The council was criticised for having no sense of community leadership or vision and for failing to generate a purposeful debate on race and community cohesion. In May last year, Oldham was the scene of rioting which resulted in 107 people, including 86 police, being injured. Despite the council's use of the slogan Oldham Together, there was little clarity about what it meant and how it was to be achieved, according to a report published by the commission today. Women and people from ethnic minorities were found to be seriously under-represented in senior council posts. Just 2.6% of all council employees are from ethnic minorities.

    The commission recommended the council's two main political parties continue to work together to promote community cohesion and race equality. It said the council also needed to recruit chief officers to address weaknesses in corporate governance, including one who would be responsible for regeneration. Key services, such as education and housing, should be designed to ensure people have similar life opportunities whatever their background. Andrew Kilburn, Oldham council's chief executive, said while criticism was never comfortable, the council believed it had already progressed from the commission inspection in July. "Action has been or is in the process of being taken to tackle the bulk of the 27 improvements required in the report," he said. "This demonstrates the council's willingness to take on board constructive criticism and to make changes." The council was less gracious after the publication of the Ritchie report, the independent report into the race riots, last December. Its author, civil servant David Ritchie, said the local authority had failed to address deep-seated issues and had done little in 30 years to challenge racial segregation in education and housing. He considered the lack of ethnic minority staff as a form of institutional racism.

    Oldham council responded in June, criticising Mr Ritchie for being "dependent on the views of the self-selected few who sought the opportunity to express their views in compiling the report". Mr Kilburn said yesterday that excessive emphasis on "real or imagined past failures will not move us forward and may only undermine individuals and organisations eager for change and progress". He said the council felt progress was achieved through developing stronger partnerships with key organisations. Richard Knowles, the leader of the council, said: "There is a need for greater emphasis on community cohesion and for the council to be clear about its priorities. That is why we have been working to change the ethos and culture of the coun cil. However, the fundamental changes required take time. It is impossible to reverse a legacy of social and economic problems going back 25 years in a short period, particularly against the backdrop of the civil disturbances which affected the borough last year."

    A recruitment agency has been contracted to find key professionals to support elected members in improving corporate governance and helping Oldham to move forward. The commission said many public services in Oldham were satisfactory but improvement was hampered by management flaws and poor services, such as personnel, ICT and communications. Sir Andrew Foster, the commission's controller, said: "The council is starting to move in the right direction to provide better community leadership to the people of Oldham. However, this is not to deny the importance of the task that lies ahead." Fifteen people have been sentenced for their part in the Oldham riots and another 37 will appear before the courts.
    ©The Guardian

    The further education sector is "institutionally racist", according to a major three-year study published today. Research found that despite being better educated than their white colleagues, many black staff failed to progress to senior positions - just 1% of college principals, and less than 7% of FE staff overall, are black. Black staff, the report said, are more likely to work part-time, be paid by the hour and work to short-term contracts. The report, produced by the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education, sets out a list of recommendations for the Department for Education and Skills, the learning and skills council, the inspectorates and colleges. Mike Peters, commission chairman, said: "There is racism in the sector. I believe it amounts to institutional racism. The report has found that the evidence of numbers of black staff as compared with the number of students and population are not representative, therefore you can draw conclusions that there are institutional factors at work."

    The report says all agencies and colleges must take steps to address the under-representation of black staff and to establish race equality training. The inspectorates in particular must address "as a matter of urgency" the under-representation of black staff on their books. Mr Peters summarised the recommendations, saying: "This is about setting up an equalities infrastructure within the sector so that we don't have to organise one-off studies to find this out. So we know it all the time and can act on it." He added: "I think the aims are achievable. The report has said that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to take our time, set targets and constantly review what we're doing and then go back and set targets again." He said the commission could not be sure how the figures compare with the schools and higher sectors. "The issue in HE is probably even more stark, yet they haven't taken this forward for themselves. I would recommend that they do. I would argue that other sectors need similar sorts of studies." He added the recommendations would be a practical way of making a reality the new Race Relations Amendment Act, which came into force in September. The act makes all public bodies responsible for monitoring ethnic representation in their workforce, and, for the education sector, among students as well.

    Commenting on the findings, Paul Mackney, general secretary of lecturers' union Natfhe said colleges were proud of their record for inclusivity and respect for diversity, although he conceded much of that related to students rather than staff. He said Natfhe and all the agencies involved in FE were committed to meeting the challenges set out in the report. "Race equality must come in from the margins into the mainstream of FE colleges' culture and practice. The impact of this report will be measured in years to come by what affect it has on the lives and prospects of black staff and students, and whether there are broader opportunities for all staff, whatever their level," he said.
    ©The Guardian

    The Internet has long been home to the weird and the wacky, but increasingly it seems as though it's also becoming a refuge for those wishing to promote hate and intolerance around the world. One downside of having an uncensored common space is that organizations that would have previously only had access to a small audience, can now preach their disturbing philosophies to a global one, and there's evidence to suggest that such organizations are increasingly doing so. There's been a steady rise in the number of websites promoting racism and xenophobia online in recent years. A study from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in early 1999 for example, found that there were 1,426 hate sites in existence then, up from just one website in 1995 and 600 at the end of 1997. Since that original study was carried out, hate websites have continued to bloom. In fact, by the end of June 2002, the Simon Wisenthal Center estimated that there were as many as 3,300 hate websites on the Internet. Moreover, the organization found that hate groups were no longer just attempting to recruit followers via their websites, they were also focusing on spreading their messages via games and music, and were busy creating alliances with other extremists groups against perceived common enemies such as Jews.

    While such study findings are deeply disturbing, very little has been done to stem the rise in hate online, until now. Late last week, the Council of Europe announced that it has decided to adopt a new measure that would outlaw hate speech online. The provision, which is an amendment to the European Convention on Cybercrime, criminalizes 'acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, as well as racist and xenophobic-motivated threat and insult including the denial, gross minimization, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity'. The reasons for the Council's adoption of the new measure are to harmonize substantive criminal law against racism and xenophobia on the Net and to improve international co-operation in the fight against hate. However, in adopting the new protocol, the Council of Europe finds itself in the position where it is likely to encourage more extremist groups to set up shop in the US, where they can operate openly. The majority of hate websites are already located in America simply because the First Amendment allows them to operate freely without government interference. In fact, not only do the US authorities leave them alone, there's also the chance that if push comes to shove, they'll back websites' right freedom of expression, even though this may be being used to promote hate.

    Anyone that doubts that such a scenario could occur should consider the verdict of a US judge last year who ruled that Yahoo did not have to block access to the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its site, despite the fact that they contravened French anti-Nazi laws. Now if US judges' priority is to protect the first amendment rather than European mores, then there comes a point when Europeans and Americans are bound to clash over the existence of hate websites. Take for example a scenario whereby a European state wishes to outlaw a controversial website that has its base in the US. Can that nation restrict its citizens from accessing the site in question, or must it ask the US authorities to intervene (with the likelihood that the US government will do nothing)? This is just one issue that the proposed measure introduces. Perhaps, even more importantly is the fact that while the reasons for introducing the amendment may be sound, the Council of Europe's measure is yet another attempt to censor free speech online. Following on from September 11, there have been a number of challenges to the Internet which puts its future in jeopardy. While it's likely that governments' have had our best interests at heart when deciding to introduce draconian measures that restrict our freedom online, such a precedent is worrying.

    Had the Internet's original architects foreseen the many different ways in which the Net would come to be used, it's possible that rather than designing a system that makes it incredibly easy to voice your opinions, while being anonymous, they would have considered including some safety mechanisms. However, little did they know that the Internet would stop being the preserve of scientists and academics and would instead become a place for us all. As John Naughton notes in A Brief History of the Future, his wonderful book on the origins of the Internet, 'cyberspace is the most gloriously open, uncensored and unregulated public space in human history'. Rather than creating a medium that restricts communication, the Net's original architects created something that by its very nature is free. Nonetheless, such freedom comes at an expense and the rise in the number of websites that promote racism and violence is just one of the many costs. There's no doubt that the rise in hate online raises questions about whether the Internet should be such an open forum, but we should still be wary of allowing others to enact laws as to what is and isn't permissible: Not least when such laws may do little to solve the problem.
    © NUA

    An estimated 100 asylum seekers holed up in a disused church in Calais today threatened to go on a hunger strike if they continue to be refused entry to the nearby Sangatte refugee camp. The group, of mainly Iraqi Kurds, has spent three nights in the church of St Pierre-St Paul in Calais and vowed to stay until the French Red Cross-run camp is reopened to new arrivals, or, they are granted asylum in the UK. The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was due to meet officials in the northern port city to discuss the matter this morning, today reiterated, in an interview with Le Figaro, that Sangatte would remain closed to all but those already housed there.

    The camp was shut to new arrivals last week and is set to shut completely in April. The minister said it is too small and only 1% of refugees had applied for refugee status in France. Mr Sarkozy and the home secretary, David Blunkett, agreed to close Sangatte earlier this year following mounting fears of illegal immigration. "They only have one aim: to get to England, risking their lives," he told the newspaper. French riot police - who have ringed the building since a deadline for the refugees to end their action passed yesterday evening - are allowing people out of the building but not letting anyone back in. Some 98 were said to be still inside the church, although about a dozen left after hearing that Sangatte would not re-open. Media reports said some had decided to seek asylum in France. Electricity has also been cut off, there are no washing or toilet facilities and those left inside are sleeping on benches. Mr Sarkozy told French radio this morning that the police would not intervene unless church leaders authorised the refugees' forcible eviction. The church was offered as a temporary place of refuge by the Communist mayor of Calais, Jacky Henin, to stop the migrants sleeping on the streets. An estimated 400 others are thought to be sleeping rough in Calais, following the camp's closure to new arrivals last Tuesday - 10 days earlier than scheduled - prompting anger among local officials and concern among aid workers.
    ©The Guardian

    Dozens of asylum seekers who are refusing to leave a church in the French port of Calais unless they are allowed into a nearby refugee camp have been offered a new deal. Anxious to end the three day stand-off, government and local officials have told the illegal immigrants - mainly Iraqi Kurds and Afghans - that they will receive a "safe conduct pass" if they leave the church. This will give them the right to stay in France for five days, during which time they will be encouraged to apply for political asylum but not forced to do so. If they do not, however, they would risk deportation. The French Government has ruled out acceding to the migrants' main demand, which is to be admitted to the nearby Sangatte Red Cross camp. The camp, which is seen as the penultimate stop for asylum seekers wanting to get to Britain through the Channel Tunnel, was recently forced to shut its doors to new arrivals after immense pressure from the British Government.

    No thanks
    French authorities have set and re-set deadlines for the immigrants to leave the church, which had been offered for temporary use by the town's Communist mayor Jacky Henin. But officials have seemed very reluctant to order a forced evacuation. The last right-wing government experienced a public relations disaster when it sent police to break up the lengthy occupation of a church by illegal immigrants in Paris six years ago. But after a meeting with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday, Mr Henin said they had agreed that the situation must be resolved within 24 hours. "The state has made a commitment that after 24 hours it will assume its responsibilities," Mr Henin said, in what is being interpreted as a sign that a forced eviction will be carried out. Prior to the new deal, French officials had been offering to transport the immigrants to centres in other areas of France where their asylum claims would be processed. About 30 of the asylum seekers accepted this first offer and left on Monday, but the 70 remaining appear to have little desire to stay in France. Officials say they have greeted the fresh offer with scepticism.

    Living on streets
    Many have paid large sums of money to flee such trouble spots as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, and made long, dangerous journeys hiding on trucks and in containers. Until Sangatte opened, they had been sleeping rough on beaches and in parks. Opponents of the camp's closure argued that people would go back to the streets if the centre was shut down, which has proved to be the case. After three years, the Sangatte centre is set to close for good in April, following an agreement between France and Britain aimed at clamping down on illegal immigration.
    ©BBC News

    French security forces before dawn Thursday peacefully evicted nearly 100 asylum seekers from a church in this port on the English Channel, an AFP journalist witnessed. The group of 95 refugees had occupied the church on Saturday in a desperate bid to make the short trip across the Channel to Britain, where they want to seek asylum. Dozens of riot police moved in to evacuate Saint Pierre-Saint Paul church and the Iraqi Kurd and Afghan migrants were taken away in four coaches to different destinations nearby. There were no incidents. They are demanding to be allowed into the nearby Sangatte refugee holding center, but the Red Cross-run camp was closed to new arrivals last week under an agreement between the French and British governments. French authorities had said early Tuesday that the migrants had 24 hours to leave the church -- where sanitary conditions were rapidly deteriorating -- or face removal by force. Riot police cordoned off the building, but the deadline passed Wednesday to oust the asylum seekers from the church, which has been closed for renovations and was reopened Saturday to accommodate them. In front of the church parish priest Jean-Pierre Boutoille who had led the negotiations with the refugees over the past few days declared: "The evacuation was handled correctly. They were frightened but things went pretty well. They've been taken to different centres to be questioned and will have a chance to request asylum for those who want it as they've always been told." The evacuation took less than 30 minutes and a local official in charge of security said there had been no trouble, "the refugees put up no resistance." Boutoille said on Wednesday some 80 Iraqi Kurds "are ready to leave because they've understood that they would not be expelled from France and sent home, but they are standing by the 10 Afghans who have not decided." Boutoille said while the Iraqi Kurds were amenable to a deal, the Afghans were worried they would be sent home under an agreement reached by the French and Afghan governments in concert with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). The asylum seekers have refused French government offers of shelter in other parts of France, as they do not want to give up their chance to reach Britain. The refugees have demanded that they be given a pass allowing them to stay in the region for a month, and a promise they would not be followed when they leave the church. But regional officials balked at their request, only offering passes good for five days, an offer the migrants rejected. Situated about 1.5 kilometres (one mile) outside Calais, Sangatte has for three years served as a base for tens of thousands of asylum seekers heading to Britain. Only those migrants holding identity badges will be able to frequent the center until its planned closure by next April. Paris and London are hoping that tough measures on both sides of the English Channel will discourage asylum seekers from congregating in and around Calais. While France is to close down the Sangatte center, Britain on Friday beefed up its immigration laws in a bid to dispel the notion that the country is an easy option for asylum seekers.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    The city's police association, smarting from a newspaper series alleging racial profiling, has served notice it plans to sue the Toronto Star for about $2 billion. "We have served notice to the Star that we want an apology and retraction," Tim Danson, a lawyer representing the Toronto Police Association, said Monday. The association is suing over articles that ran in the Toronto Star between Oct. 19 and 29, Danson said. "The aforesaid articles contain numerous falsehoods, malicious innuendoes and untruthful allegations, all of which amount to a very serious libel," Danson said in a letter delivered to the Star on Monday. The newspaper plans the defend itself, said managing editor Mary Deanne Shears. "We stand by our series," she said Monday evening. "The stories are accurate and we have no intention of issuing an apology."

    The police association claims the Star reports have done severe damage to the force's reputation. "The extreme nature of the defamation in the herein matter demands each of the 7,200 members of the police service are entitled to general damages in the amount of $300,000," the letter states. "I haven't seen morale as low as it is as a result of this series," Danson said. There is no limit to the amount that can be claimed in a civil suit. The allegations have not been proven in court and the Toronto Star has not had the opportunity to defend itself.

    The newspaper obtained the police force's arrest database, listing arrests from 1996 to early this year, through freedom of information legislation. The Star series analysed police data and concluded that blacks charged with simple drug possession received harsher treatment than whites facing the same charge and that a disproportionate number of blacks were ticketed for offences that would come to light only after a traffic stop. The series suggested the pattern could be consistent with racial profiling, in which law enforcement targets individuals of a certain race or ethnic background on the presumption that they are more likely to commit a crime. Police Chief Julian Fantino has called the reports inaccurate but has since announced that retired Ontario Supreme Court Justice Charles Dubin will review the practices of the force. But community leaders call such gestures mere "crumbs," and note that numerous reports have already concluded that racism exists within the criminal justice system. However, the police service says the series has been damaging. "The Toronto Star series has injured and disgraced every member of the police service. With one brush, they have all been individually tarnished," the letter said. "The uniform and their badge are now synonymous with racism and intolerance."

    A previously unknown South African group has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in the black township of Soweto two weeks ago. The "Warriors of the Boer Nation" sent an e-mail to the Afrikaans language "Beeld" newspaper saying it had planted the bombs which killed a woman and injured her husband on 30 October. The government has previously blamed the attacks on white extremists and, over the weekend, South African police released the names of six men they want to question. The six men named by the police are believed to be part of another group, Boeremag, or Boer Force, whose leader, Thomas Vogel Vorster, was arrested last month. The men, Jan Gouws, Gerhardus Visagie, Herman van Rooyen and brothers Kobus, Johan and Wilhelm Pretorius, all face charges of high treason, terrorism and sabotage, said South African police chief Jackie Selebie.

    Coat of arms
    "We declare that these attacks are the beginning of the end for the African National Congress (ANC) government and accept full responsibility for it," said the message from "Warriors of the Boer Nation". The letter was also accompanied by the organisation's coat of arms: an upside-down green shield with a sword, flanked by the flags of the old Boer republic and its Afrikaans slogan: "Moenie vrees nie, wees sterk en vol moed" (Don't fear, be strong and have courage), AFP reports. The group also demanded the release of 35 right-wingers, including Mr Vorster, arrested in connection with a plot to overthrow the government. Police spokeswoman Sally de Beer told the French news agency, AFP, that they were looking into the claim. "We are busy investigating the veracity of this letter. We are looking at its origins and are taking it very seriously," she said. A mosque was also severely damaged and several railway lines between Soweto and Johannesburg destroyed - an act which caused commuter chaos. South African Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said last week that he suspected the men were former members of the army and police attempting to start a "race war". "It certainly does not represent the majority of Afrikaners... but a residue within the South African National Defence Force [SANDF] and the South African Police Service," he said.
    ©BBC News

    Two young men with neo-Nazi ties who were convicted of stabbing an African-Norwegian teenager to death last year were back in court on Monday. They want their prison terms reduced, while state prosecutors want them held in jail much longer. Joe Erling Jahr, now 21, and Ole Nicolai Kvisler, 23, were sentenced to 16- and 15-year prison terms for the murder of 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen of Holmlia in January 2001. Hermansen was a random victim, picked out because of his skin color, with prosecutors calling the murder racially motivated. Prosecutors had sought tougher prison terms and now want Norway's maximum term of 21 years for Jahr and 19 years and four months for Kvisler. Jahr has recently tried to portray himself as a victim of a miserable childhood who was an easy target of Oslo's neo-Nazi groups. They offered him support and sympathy, he claimed in a recent controversial TV interview, when no one else did. His defense attorney argues that Jahr already has "matured" during the time he's spent in prison and should be given a new chance. The appeals trial is expected to last around five weeks.

    On November 12, 2002, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), along with Croatian lawyer Lovorka Kusan, filed an application against Croatia with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a father and son who were victims of violent skinhead attacks. Although it has been two years since the initial attack, Croatian police have failed to take into account relevant information submitted by the victims, by their lawyer, and by other Romani victims of similar violence and have failed to conduct an adequate investigation into the crimes.

    The application alleges that on April 29, 1999, Mr Semso Secic was savagely beaten by a group of Neo-nazi skinheads, sustaining multiple rib fractures and requiring hospitalization for a week. The attack also caused serious psychological harm, resulting in a diagnosis ofPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder chracterized by insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, and a general emotional breakdown. Mr Secic filed a criminal complaint with the Zagreb Municipal Public Prosecutor's Office. Despite repeated requests from Mr Secic and his lawyer, and despite evidence that these same individuals were involved in other attacks against Roma and had been apprehended by police, the prosecutor's office did not take any steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.

    On January 24, 2001, applicant Sevko Secic, Mr Secic's son, was pursued by five skinheads in front of a café close to Kvaternikov Square in Zagreb but managed to escape. Although he clearly recognized his attackers and provided detailed information about them to the police, no further action was taken and no arrests made. "Croatia has a clear obligation under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to protect people from these kinds of attacks," said ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova. "This means not just having laws against racist violence on the books, but meaningful investigations and prosecutions. If the police turn a blind eye, skinheads will continue to act with impunity and carry out their campaigns of hate and violence." The complaint seeks a finding that Croatia has violated Article 1 (the state's obligation to secure the protections of the Convention), Article 3 (prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), along with compensatory damages for the victims.

    Detailed information on the situation of Roma in Croatia can be found here
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    Japanese authorities were reprimanded for ingrained racism yesterday when three foreign-born men won a rare legal challenge against a "Japanese only" public bathhouse. The Sapporo district court ordered the Yunohana bathhouse to pay 3m yen (about £15,000) in damages for a discriminatory policy that local police and municipal officials claimed they were powerless to prevent. "The company's behaviour amounts to racism. Refusing entry to the baths goes beyond socially acceptable limits," the judge said in a ruling that could set an important precedent in a country that has shown little enthusiasm for reforming its lax laws against racial prejudice.

    Although discrimination is prohibited by the constitution and by United Nations conventions to which Japan is a signatory, there is no penalty for offenders. Some estate agents, pubs and video arcades openly display signs saying "No foreigners". The Yunohana bathhouse has become a focus for racial equality groups since 1994 when it erected a "Japanese only" sign aimed at the many Russian sailors who land at the nearby port of Otaru, on the northern island of Hokkaido. The establishment justified its policy by saying drunken and rowdy sailors had often stolen belongings and ignored instructions to wash their bodies before entering the tub, as required by Japanese bathing etiquette.

    Despite toothless protests from the local government and the German and Russian embassies, the owner continued to refuse entry to foreigners, saying they drove away regular customers. One of the plaintiffs, Debito Arudou - an American-born civil rights activist - was denied entry even though he has taken Japanese citizenship, prompting him and two others to sue the bathhouse and the local government. "This has made clear that discrimination against foreigners is illegal," Olaf Kurthaus, a German plaintiff, told reporters. "It will discourage other businesses from doing the same, so discrimination should decrease." Though the court turned down a claim for damages against the Otaru municipal authorities, racial equality campaigners urged the central government to enact tougher laws to penalise discrimination. With foreigners accounting for less than 1% of its 127m population, however, the government has shown little urgency to act on a problem that has its greatest effect on the Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians living in Japan - the vast majority of whom do not have a vote.
    ©The Guardian

    The NUS has political backing for its nationwide campaign to stem the flow of campus racism, reports Alex Benady

    The House of Commons is an unlikely venue for seditious tampering with the national flag. Yet it was there that Lord Filkin, minister for race and community relations at the Home Office, last night unveiled the striking image of a ripped-up Union Jack reconfigured as a swastika. He was launching an advertising campaign by the National Union of Students to confront what it claims is the growing problem of racism on university campuses. "There's been a marked increase in racism towards students from minorities in higher education recently, especially after the recent conflicts in Kashmir, the Middle East and the aftermath of September 11, as well as the troubles in northern towns last year. We need to address the problem urgently," said Daniel Rose, co-convenor of the NUS anti-racism campaign.

    The powerful image is the spearhead of an ambitious anti-racist drive that aims to create an atmosphere on campus that is intolerant of intolerance by addressing both institutional racism and the growing tide of student-on-student racism. Lord Filkin said that although the responsibility for tackling racism is shared amongst the whole of society, the government is keen to give its support to students so that they can take their share of the responsibility. "The bottom line is that if we value difference, promote tolerance and concern for others and uphold the rule of law, we are well on the way to building successful communities," he said. He identified the increase in racist attitudes on campuses post 9/11 as a particular problem. "It remains one of our fundamental commitments - to create a Britain where people from different backgrounds can live and work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, a society that celebrates and values its cultural richness and ethnic diversity. The government is committed to tackling racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism in Britain, wherever they exist - on campus or elsewhere."

    Although tiny by commercial standards the campaign, valued at around £15,000 - funded mostly by donations - is the biggest anti-racist push in NUS history and its biggest campaign this year. The cash will go on 20,000 "Swastika Jack" posters, a tonne of beer mats for union bars and, for the first time, advertisement hoardings around major campuses. Rose defends the use of a large part of the NUS publicity budget on the campaign. "This is a serious moral and practical issue affecting the lives of many of our members and the broader public. If we don't spend on this what should we be spending our money on?" If the poster is surprisingly powerful iconography for a student campaign, it's because the NUS persuaded BBH, a leading advertising agency and the firm behind commercials for Levi's and Microsoft Xbox, to create it.

    But how can a simple image have any impact on deeply held beliefs such as racism? To suppose that racists will see the poster and see the error of their ways is over-simplistic, according to the agency. "Political advertising works not so much by directly changing beliefs but by setting agendas, creating debate and raising awareness. This is no exception," said Nicola Mendelsohn, a BBH executive. "It's a deliberately provocative image designed to get people to think about the issue." The NUS admits there is little hard statistical evidence to back up its claim that racism on campus is increasing. The Union of Jewish Students is the only student organisation to keep figures: it reported 310 incidents in 2001, up from 245 in 1995. Apart from that, the evidence is largely subjective. "There are no facts and figures - they would probably understate the situation anyway because a lot of racism is reported as bullying," says Michelle Codington, NUS black student officer. "But there is more and more anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is on the increase." She says racist abuse has become a major problem, partly from extreme rightwing groups, but also from ordinary students. "It's the ones you wouldn't expect, who live in your halls." The abuse is mostly name-calling and black student groups having their notices defaced, although there has been some physical intimidation. Certainly racism appears to be on the increase in society at large and there is no reason to suppose campuses are immune from broader social trends.

    The British crime survey did not report crimes with a racial element separately until 1999. But in the two years since, the number of race-related crimes has increased by nearly 40%. There is a school of thought that the spread of campus racism is an inevitable consequence of the broadening of higher education - more students mean more racists and more targets. However, the issue is such a political minefield, that some even regard this viewpoint as racist in itself. Modern campus racism appears to be a far more complex affair than traditional white-on-black enmity. What's more, the idea that universities are places of reason isolated from the irrational arguments that prevail in the rest of the world also seems to have disappeared. "The nature of racism has changed. The idea of ivory-tower campuses insulated from wider issues just doesn't hold water. All sorts of divisions and conflicts are increasingly played out on campuses," says Ian Law, director of Leeds University's centre for ethnicity and racism studies.

    Individual universities are understandably anxious to play down any suggestion of racism. The University of the South Bank in London, which has students from 71 different countries, says it has no record of any problems. Cambridge, Manchester and Leeds gave a similar response. However, newspaper cuttings tell a different story. Earlier this year, there was tension at the University of Manchester when 1,000 Muslim and Jewish students clashed over a controversial debating society motion to brand Israel an apartheid regime. Last year, after September 11, Asian students were assaulted and subjected to racist abuse in Cambridge; and in London bricks were thrown through the windows of a Jewish hall of residence. Sikh students in London have been abused by Hindus and tension was reported between Muslim and Hindu students during the India-Pakistan nuclear stand-off. When it comes to institutional racism, though, the NUS is on firmer ground. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency in January this year revealed what appears to be consistent bias against black and Asian academics. Statistics showed that even though 6.5% of academics are classified as "non-white", only 2% (208) of the 11,000 professors in this country are black or Asian. About one in five ethnic minority respondents reported discrimination in job applications or promotion and said they had experienced racial harassment from staff or students. A third of universities did not have a racial equality policy.

    Figures compiled for the Nuffield Foundation this year found that the student population is also increasingly segregated on racial lines. Students from ethnic minority backgrounds make up less than 4% of intakes at many traditional universities, with a distinct pecking order of entrenched discrimination against individual ethnic groups. Discrimination against Chinese and black Caribbean applicants appeared to be relatively weak, but Indians, Pakistanis, black Africans and even the Irish seem to face greater obstacles. On the other hand, the reverse was the case at Britain's newer universities (those created after 1992), with some actively favouring ethnic minorities. This could change following the introduction of the Race Relations Amendment Act, which came into force in May this year. It requires increased transparency in the admissions of black and ethnic minority students and says that public-sector bodies must make publicly available information on the monitoring of admissions policies and ethnic achievement.

    And it's not all doom and gloom. Lewis says that while universities are probably no more institutionally racist than any other public institutions, they have come to the problem later than some. Paradoxically, he believes that the increase in perceived racism may be a good thing. "I am not sure that there is a real increase in racism on or off campus, just an increase in the perception and reporting of it. But that has to be the first step in seriously doing something about it."
    ©The Guardian

    The High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities (ACIME) announced on Wednesday that it will be creating two national centres in Lisbon and Oporto to attend to the needs of Portuguese immigrants. According to ACIME, the first centre will open in March next year. The centres will be equipped with a bar, a space for exhibitions and a children's play area. In addition, translators, speaking English, Russian and Creole will also be employed full-time at the centres. Following this announcement, the ACIME revealed that a free "SOS Immigrant" help line will be up and running by the end of the year. The line is aimed at assisting immigrants faced with "difficult situations or emergencies". Telephone attendants will speak four languages (Portuguese, English, Russian and Creole), while the line will be open seven days a week, from 08h00 to midnight.
    ©The News

    Latvia's broadcast regulators will for the first time review a controversial language restriction on commercial radio and television now in force that ensures Latvian dominates the country's airwaves. Members of the National Radio and Television Council, the politically appointed body that issues broadcast licenses, passed a draft three-year plan last week that includes a thorough review of the law, which contains a restriction on foreign language programming to 25 percent of all programming on commercial stations. Human rights activists have long held that the law, passed in the mid 1990s to protect the Latvian language and promote integration, discriminates against Latvia's large ethnic Russian minority. Now some members of the council are beginning to agree with them. "I don't think the majority of Latvian society thinks our language is in danger any more," said council member Ilmars Slapins. Slapins said the law is difficult to enforce and has failed as a tool to teach Latvian to Russian speakers. "It does not integrate our society," he said.

    The council has suspended broadcasting of some Russian radio stations which it says broke the law and has warned Latvian television channels that show too many Russian-language movies. TV 5 programming director Gunta Lidaka says the law helps maintain ethnic divisions in the country by limiting the news and current affairs programs Russian speakers can watch in Latvia in their own language. She said integration in Latvia would be better served by airing more programs in Russian about Latvia. Lidaka also says it's not TV 5's role to teach Russians the Latvian language. "That's the state's job, not ours," she said. "We are a business." Cable television, which is not subject to the law, has helped undermine the regulation's original intent. Russian speakers now have access to every major channel broadcast from Moscow.

    "As it exists now it's really an obstacle for some private broadcasters who really want to do some programs about local problems or issues in Russian," said Signe Martisune, a public policy research fellow with the Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies. Martisune said research shows that restrictions on Russian-language programming is not prompting more people to learn Latvian. "Surveys show that Latvian language speakers are increasing each year," she said. "On the other hand, the number of people watching or listening to Latvian programs among Russian speakers is decreasing each year." Council member Andris Mellakauls, who supervises regional and Riga-based commercial radio, says the Russification process undertaken during the Soviet period made the law necessary, but agrees that it should be reviewed to determine whether it's serving its original intention. He doubts whether it should be scrapped entirely. "My fear is that I suspect that many commercial stations would just go to the lowest common denominator," he said. "Just about everyone here over the age of 20 speaks Russian, and I'm afraid we would just hear Russian on the radio." He also shares a concern put forward by human rights officials - that the law does not comply with European Union laws on minorities. It also violates the Council of Europe's Framework Convention on National Minorities, which guarantees minorities unhindered access to media in their own language. Latvia and a handful of other countries, including France, have yet to sign the law. Amendments to the law would require parliamentary approval. Legislators, broadcasters, regulators and human rights activists will discuss the law during a meeting in Riga on Nov. 22.
    ©The Baltic Times

    German women lag behind rest of Europe, and creative pay deals serve to maintain status quo

    German women are at the bottom of the EU barrel when it comes to gender equality on the wages and salary front. A recent study by the European statistics office, Eurostat, shows that German women earn considerably less than men compared to women in other EU countries. Admittedly, wage parity has not been reached anywhere in the EU. The average EU woman earns 82 percent of what her male counterpart earns in the private sector, and 87 percent in the public sector. But in Germany, where women pride themselves on their achievements in equal rights, women working for the public sector earn just 77 percent of what men make. Things are worse in the private sector, where the average is just 73 percent. And the gap is widening for the first time in 20 years. While figures are easy to find, locating the root of the problem is not. Proponents of the status quo point out that Germany already has a law requiring employers to pay equal wages for equal work. Many also say the figures do not present a fair picture. IW economic institute, for example, points out that a large number of women work part-time. Jobs with very low salaries, for which neither taxes nor social duties have to be paid, are also predominantly held by women. The average working life is another factor. Since many women stop working for a few years after each child is born, they spend fewer years on the job than men. This is unlikely to change because daycare is scarce and schooldays end at noon. These arguments, which are not new, are also dutifully listed in a recent report put out by the German government on the job and income situation of men and women in Germany, the first comprehensive study of this kind.

    But the report also detailed other lesser-known findings. In a country that is still dominated by collective bargaining, your job description often dictates what you earn. Such job descriptions have turned out to be a creative way of keeping typical women's work chronically underpaid, as women's groups such as Deutscher Frauenrat have not tired of pointing out. The report finds that a number of jobs, or groups of jobs, predominantly held by women are described differently in wage agreements than those held predominantly by men. Marketed as objective, these job descriptions often include fuzzy terms that justify paying men more who are obviously less qualified than women doing a different kind of work. The term "physically strenuous" is a good example. While construction workers get more money because they carry a "physical burden," the authors of union job descriptions forgot about the physical strain borne by highly trained nurses who care for the elderly. A wage agreement from the printing industry from the year 2000 provides another typical example. Skilled typists who have completed vocational training earn around 10 percent less than unskilled warehousemen. Apparently, the typist must bring but one qualification: a certificate proving that she has successfully completed three years of vocational training. A warehouseman, on the other hand, can be trained on the job. But his job description is peppered with lofty qualifications such as "heightened standards of accuracy and conscientiousness, the ability to endure heightened, sometimes great stress of various kinds and heightened responsibility for materials and/or products." The additional requirements listed for the warehouseman add up to a beginning salary of EUR1,724 ($1,737), the typist receives a salary of EUR1,568.

    Other interesting regulations often mean that people who hold typical women's jobs are eligible for raises less frequently than those who hold jobs predominantly filled by men. And the report ironically points out that job descriptions for men's work often include synonyms. It seems it's not the real qualification that counts but how many adjectives feature in your job description. The government's study on women's wages was commissioned back in 1999 by the Social Democratic-Green government as part of plans to enact sweeping legislation on workplace equality. But the legislation never made it past a statement of intent in the parties' coalition agreement. Industry lobbyists soon convinced Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to drop this legal initiative in favor of a "voluntary agreement" with the main employers' associations. EU law already prohibits indirect discrimination. But the chances of a woman bringing her case before the European Court of Justice are slim, the head of women's policy at the German Trade Union, Anne Jenter, told F.A.Z. Weekly. "Proving such indirect discrimination is difficult, and many women are not even aware of their rights." And even a woman with a strong case would have to find a German court willing to pass on jurisdiction to the EU court. It makes little sense for women's rights groups to pay for such court battles, since a victory in a single case would not extend to all similar cases. "Even if a woman does win her case, the results only affect her personally, and not all women that are positioned in the same wage category," Jenter said.

    Other European countries have installed government bodies to oversee compliance by the private sector. Now the freshly reelected Social Democratic-Green government has suggested implementing a similar strategy in Germany. To motivate employers to live up to their voluntary agreement, the government has proposed a new agency to oversee pay deals. The new bureaucrats in this agency, however, would not have any power to force companies to follow their suggestions. The freedom of collective bargaining is constitutionally protected in Germany. And no legislation limiting this freedom is in the pipeline. Hans Bernhard Beus, department head at the ministry of the interior, said at an equal pay conference in June that patience was necessary, since previous improvements in women's wages have been "very painful" for employers.
    © Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    The urgent need to focus on creating equal job opportunities for Roma and other minorities in Hungary was discussed by top Government and business leaders at a major conference in Budapest. The conference, entitled Esélyegyenlôség a Munkaerôpiacon (Equal Opportunities on the Job Market), was held in Budaörs last week, initiated by Foreign Minister László Kovács who felt action was necessary to help integrate and educate the local Roma community. The Foreign Ministry turned to the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum (MBLF), who organized the event in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (AmCham), the British chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH), the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (CCCH), the Joint Venture Association and the Hungarian-Japanese Economic Club. Ágnes Kövesdy, Managing Director of the MBLF, opened the conference saying, "Special attention must be paid to the education and training of the Roma people in Hungary. "This must however also be followed by ensuring workplaces and equal opportunities for employment to them." Kövesdy said minorities issues were key reasons which prompted the MBLF to establish a working group under the leadership of Péter Hegedûs, President and CEO of ABB Hungary Kft, to assist the Government in minorities topics. (Hegedûs is also the recently-elected President of AmCham.)

    "This is a very serious topic," said Hegedûs, who chaired the conference. "Currently, with Hungary at the doorstep of the European Union, no topic is as timely as this one." He continued, "Contrary to the praise Hungary has received for its achievements in the EU Country Reports on Hungary during the past 10 years, there remains two areas that the Country Reports place a special emphasis on, where Hungary has much to improve before becoming a full member of the EU. One is corruption and the other is the minorities issue." Hegedûs said the Government was pushing hard to help in the education of the Roma population and grant scholarships. "However even when Roma youngsters complete their college or university studies they still face strong discrimination when applying for positions or further opportunities to enhance their performances," he said. Hegedûs said that this had prompted Roma activists and Government ombudsman for minorities Jenô Kaltenbach to turn to the Government and request it adapt a Hungarian version of what is known as the "equal employment opportunities program" in the US. He said the goal of the conference was to help establish, in the shortest possible time, a well-educated Roma middle class. Gábor Bródi, deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Government had taken anti-discriminatory steps following several international examples. "Koffi Anan, in June 2000, with the goal of having a ‘Global Content' called for more consideration of initiatives involving corporate citizenship and corporate responsibilities," he said, adding that for Hungary this implied opening up the job market to more Roma. Jürgen Köppen, EU Ambassador to Hungary, said that if it was true that Roma were often treated as a parallel section of society then he thought that Hungary should work harder at avoiding this and make them an integral part of society. "Roma issues should be genuinely taken up as issues for the country and for Europe," he said.

    Péter Kiss, Minister of Employment and Labor Policies and the key speaker at the conference, said equal opportunities were a key issue to be tackled for Hungary to be integrated into the EU. He added all less privileged social groups, living standards, health conditions, minorities and disabilities should be considered. "Those who are currently living with disadvantages have a right to live in respectable living standards and in the freedom guaranteed by the change in regime [in 1989]. We are not talking about the interests of certain individuals," he said, explaining that only 55% of the age group eligible to work were the ones providing contributions. Kiss continued that the few people working and paying high contributions (social security and taxes) were the families who had less to live on, not to mention the under-privileged, the Roma, disabled and women, when it came to unemployment. "There are currently more than 400,000 people living in Hungary with some sort of disability and barely 16% of these are employed," said Kiss. "The rest who are capable of working in a given job are unable to find employment on the job market." He said that a recent survey showed that while foreign investors in Hungary were employing more people with disabilities, even though their wages were about 8% less than the average employee, local companies were employing far less disabled people and paid them 35% less wages than the average employee. Kiss explained that it was the culture and standards of employers that determined whether people with disabilities would be employed. "I would like to see these good ‘European' values be adopted and not only when we have to talk about it, but also when the time comes to pay wages." Kiss also called for improvements in the employment of women. "In Hungary about 6% of women are employed, while in Western Europe this number is nearly 40%," he said. Kiss said that hopefully, with changes in the nation's employment policies, not just 55% of the people eligible to work would be able to work, but rather as many as 75% could be employed through the use of alternative employment methods, for example distance working. He said that all aspects of becoming a European country should be considered, not just the geography.

    Michael Ward, deputy Ambassador of the British Embassy in Budapest, urged both Government and the private sector to work hand in hand. He said, "Equal employment opportunities in the United Kingdom are something that successive Governments have sought to develop and lead by example. "It involves huge amounts of effort, patience and very careful planning. It is something we believe we have made considerable progress towards," said Ward, adding that age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race and color and ethnic or national origin were no longer such problem issues. Ward said he particularly welcomed steps taken this year by the new Hungarian Government to develop a more structured approach to tackling minority issues. He added the efforts of the Prime Minister's Office in Hungary and other ministries involved, along with the number of ethnic commissioners that have been appointed, were all very positive steps in the right direction. "None of the problems faced by the Roma community are going to change overnight," he warned. Ward said it was not just about Government, but also the private sector and individual employers. "We spend something like 35% of our week at the workplace, it is inevitable that our attitudes are going to be shaped by what goes on in the workplace," he said, adding that there was a unique opportunity in the workplace to set the right framework for the changing of attitudes. "Business leaders and employers generally have a unique opportunity and social responsibility to take these issues forward," he said.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    The Spanish authorities' treatment of migrants raises serious concerns about Spain's compliance with the United Nations Convention against Torture, Human Rights Watch said today. The U.N. Committee against Torture, which monitors governments' compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, will review Spain's fourth periodic report on November 12 and 13, 2002. "Coping with an immigration influx does not give Spain license to disregard migrants' basic human rights," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "The Spanish government needs to hear from the Committee against Torture that it's time to take meaningful steps to address these persistent, worsening abuses."

    In a letter to the Committee against Torture, Human Rights Watch urged the international experts to question the Spanish government about its treatment of migrants. Human Rights Watch expressed particular concern about conditions in immigration detention and in residential centers for migrant children that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and about the manner in which repatriation and expulsion proceedings are carried out. The Human Rights Watch letter details severely substandard conditions of detention for migrants and asylum seekers in Fuerteventura on the Canary Islands as well as serious procedural rights violations in the course of government efforts to return migrants to the countries from which they have come. As a result, Human Rights Watch has found, migrants are often prevented from accessing asylum procedures as well as complaints mechanisms in cases of ill-treatment or discrimination. Human Rights Watch also raised the issue of the widespread abuse of unaccompanied migrant children in the two Spanish cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla.

    Human Rights Watch has conducted research on the treatment of migrants in Spain in July, October and November 2001, and March, May and October 2002. Human Rights Watch has published its findings in three recent reports on the treatment of migrants in Spain: The Other Face of the Canary Islands: Rights Violations Against Migrants and Asylum Seekers (February 2002); Nowhere to Turn: State Abuses of Unaccompanied Migrant Children by Spain and Morocco (May 2002); and Discretion Without Bounds: The Arbitrary Implementation of Spanish Immigration Law (July 2002).

    The Human Rights Watch letter states that the conditions detailed in its recent reports persist in Spain today. "Unfortunately, we have to report to the Committee that the government has largely neglected the concerns we identified," Andersen said. "We hope that the Committee's review will raise the profile of these serious abuses and spur the government into action."

    Further information about the treatment of migrants in Europe and about EU immigration policy.

    Read Human Rights Watch's letter to the United Nations Committee against Torture

    More than 120 Bulgarians living in the Netherlands and France were repatriated on Wednesday, 115 from the Netherlands and seven from France, the foreign ministry said. Most of them had been working illegally in the two countries after entering them as tourists, said foreign ministry spokesman Lubomir Todorov. Bulgarians make up the largest number of eastern European prostitutes and pick-pockets in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch migration and naturalisation service, Todorov said. In total, 4,078 Bulgarians have been expelled from European countries this year, including 1,050 from Germany and 856 from the Netherlands, said customs police chief Valeri Grigorov. The repatriation came after Bulgaria announced new measures to keep its citizens from emigrating illegally, including harsher penalties for those expelled from other countries, and for unlicensed hauliers and tour operators. According to a recent Gallup poll, 49 percent of Bulgarian gypsies, 42 percent of the Turkish minority and 36 percent of ethnic Bulgarians want to work abroad to escape unemployment and low pay in the country.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Britain will face a generation of people determined "to get mad or even" unless racism is defeated, a black Labour backbencher who has been subject to death threats warned yesterday. In an impassioned speech at the start of the debate on the Queen's speech, Oona King recalled an encounter with racism to warn how it has "stalked" her. During a student trip around the US, she was thrown out of a youth hostel by the landlord on the basis that she was a "nigger". MPs sat in silence as Ms King added: "If you subject people to racial abuse they will either go mad or they will try to get even." Ms King, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, used the example of the landlord, who was Asian, to show that racism cuts across all ethnic groups. "Race is no longer black or white," she said. "The worst racial abuse I saw growing up was inflicted on Asian children in this country by white and Afro-Caribbean children together." She added: "Not a single Asian woman has ever been elected in this chamber. "White women aren't doing too very well either. Add up all the MPs called John, David and Michael ... there are more than there are Labour women. So all those waiting outside this chamber for the revolution: I say, don't hold your breath."
    ©The Guardian

    By Johann Hari

    In the 30s, the Daily Mail added a dollop of relish to any given scandal by finding a Jew who was linked to the affair. A Jew made any scandal that little bit more exotic, exciting, subversive. Today, gay men have taken the place of these Jews. This week, Paul Burrell joined Brian Paddick, Peter Mandelson and Michael Portillo as a man who has had the pink triangle slapped on him - and the rightwing press cannot contain its glee at the fact that the scandal just got that little bit more depraved. Some of the homophobia has been blatant. The plump Enoch Powell-loving Mail hack Simon Heffer (such a fitting name) has put down in print the whispers which are sweeping through Tory clubs. "A suspicion is taking root that the homosexual mafia that infiltrates the court [of Prince Charles] has had a criminal case stopped to protect the prince from sordid revelations concerning one of its own," he explains. Note how Heffer implies that any group of gay men gathered together are inherently sinister, and obviously more loyal to "their own" than to, say, the law. He believes that palace insiders gather together to issue protocols of the elders of Dorothy which cunningly hijack trials by forcing the queen to, erm, tell the truth to the police. Note how any revelation of gay sex is, in Heffer-land, inherently "sordid". But Heffer's risible article only makes blatant a worrying subtext which has run through almost all the coverage of this scandal. Where gay sex is not presented as obviously sinister, it is presented as comic. The Sun chortled on its front page, "Disgraced royal butler Paul Burrell begged a gay lover to marry him - and vowed to wear white at the ceremony." The supposedly more up-market Times allowed one of its columnists to liken St James' Palace to the set of Are You Being Served?, where the senior staff resemble that camp pansy Mr Humphries. That character, played by John Inman, is, of course, as offensive and dishonest a caricature as the whoopin' and a-hollerin' slaves in Gone With the Wind - but still he is vomited up by the Murdoch press as the public face of all gay men.

    Even male-on-male rape is seen as alternately faintly amusing or simply what should be expected of gay men. When Jeffrey Archer was jailed, even a respectable commentator joked about him "having trouble in the showers", as though gay rape were part of his punishment. The rape which is alleged to have happened in St James' Palace has been presented as the logical corollary of gathering a "pack" of gay men together, just as the death of Stuart Lubbock in Michael Barrymore's swimming pool was presented as the inevitable consequence of drug-taking and group sex. Martin Bashir harangued Barrymore in his ITV interview, saying (bizarrely) again and again, "Once you set down on the road of drugs and casual sex, this tragedy was inevitable, wasn't it? Wasn't it?" Even in his sedated state, Barrymore had the good sense to resist this argument until Bashir's bullying became too much. The message the coverage of the Burrell and Barrymore cases sends out to young gay kids sitting at home is veiled but obvious: admit you're gay and you, too, will be at best a joke, at worst a tragedy.
    ©The Guardian

    The white mining magnates huddle around the head table, sipping sauvignon blanc and talking commodities at a gala luncheon for Anglo American's platinum mine here. Patrice Motsepe, the lone black businessman at the table, jokes about fitting in. He nods toward Barry Davison, chairman of Anglo American Platinum, the world's largest platinum mining company. "He's from the good-looking side of my family," Motsepe quips, and the table roars its agreement. In many ways, Motsepe is indeed part of the family. He owns three gold mines and employs about 5,500 workers; five months ago his company, African Rainbow Minerals, became the first new gold company to be listed on the Johannesburg stock market in more than a decade. But these days, Motsepe often seems a lonely pinstriped figure in a sea of white faces. Eight years after the end of apartheid brought black politicians to power and black-controlled companies to the stock exchange, South Africa is faltering in its struggle to build a successful class of corporate titans from its fledgling black elite. For many of southern Africa's young democracies, changing the complexion of the corporate world is the next challenge. Repressive white governments no longer control this region, but their legacy lingers in the low skills and the lack of capital of many blacks. White minorities in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe continue to dominate local economies, and aspiring black business executives continue to struggle.

    In 1998, nearly 35 black-controlled companies were listed on South Africa's stock exchange, accounting for about 7 percent of the market capitalization. This year, 23 black companies account for about 2.2 percent of the market capitalization, a decline attributed to a stock market slump, spiraling debt and poor management. Whites, about 12 percent of the population, still control the economy, the mines, banks, factories and farms. Distressed by the slow pace of change, Pretoria is enacting new legislation and stepping up pressure on industry to help increase the number of black-owned businesses and black executives. "We've got to open up and broaden the ownership of the economy," said Motsepe, 40, who is considering listing his company on the New York Stock Exchange next year. "In the boardrooms, I'm often the only one." Members of South Africa's new black elite have enough cash to buy sprawling suburban homes and luxury cars, or join previously exclusive clubs to play golf, but they lack the money to acquire meaningful stakes in the biggest companies, which include some of the world's largest mining houses. Officials say that must change. By 2014, President Thabo Mbeki's cabinet recently announced, South Africa's black majority should hold major (as yet largely unspecified) stakes in the economy, which is Africa's largest.

    The news has left white business executives and foreign investors jittery; whites own more than 70 percent of the land and dominate the banking, manufacturing and tourism industries. White-run companies control 95 percent of the country's diamond production, 63 percent of platinum reserves and 51 percent of gold reserves, officials say. Everyone agrees that such lingering inequities are untenable. White executives often point to Zimbabwe, where long-simmering frustrations over glaring racial disparities in land ownership have exploded into violence. South Africa hopes to avert a similar crisis by setting up an orderly system to give blacks a more substantial slice of the economic pie. But no one - least of all government officials, who must juggle competing priorities - knows exactly how to achieve that goal without causing the kind of economic collapse now seen in Zimbabwe.

    While trying to redress the effects of apartheid, which barred blacks from owning businesses and from quality education, officials must heed the concerns of anxious whites, who fill a large share of the tax coffers. This year, panicky investors sold off millions of dollars in mining stocks after they learned that the government was suggesting, in a confidential memo leaked to news organizations, that 51 percent of the mining industry should be in black hands by 2010. Business analysts say the target is impossible to meet unless the government plans to force mining companies to sell their assets below market rates. The government denies any such plans. Officials said that the 51 percent figure was merely a position for the months of negotiations that yielded an agreement with white business executives in October to increase black ownership of the mining industry to 26 percent over the next 10 years. The companies have promised to form joint ventures with black companies, to hire blacks to provide goods and services and to train blacks for management. The government has forged a similar agreement with the gas industry. Accords are also in the works for other sectors, including financial services, electricity and tourism. Also in October, Mbeki signed into law a bill that will provide mining licenses to companies based on criteria that include whether they are working or planning to work with black companies. Next year, Parliament is expected to vote on a bill that will call on industries to set specific targets for black ownership, define empowerment and set codes of conduct.

    The notion of legislated black empowerment still jars many white industrialists, but the months of meetings with black officials, particularly in the mining sector, have alleviated most substantive concerns. In recent months, share prices have recovered as investors have regained confidence in mining's future. There was much applause in May when Motsepe's company was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. But Motsepe, who runs the chamber for black businesses, was keenly aware of the failures that preceded him. He was also aware of his strengths. Motsepe maintains that South Africa will change. But he said black executives must keep their eyes on the bottom line if they are to succeed. "We have to prove that we are competent and that we are realizing value," he said. "You are only as good as your last quarterly results."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Six years after his first book on the Holocaust stirred intense debate and introspection in Germany, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is again provoking outrage with a new book that accuses the Roman Catholic Church of being morally delinquent during the Nazi killing of Jews. The archdiocese of Munich has sued the German publisher of Mr. Goldhagen's book, "A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair," for a photo caption that misidentifies a figure as a German cardinal marching in a Nazi rally in Munich.The man, clad in a cloak and carrying a hat with flowers, is not Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, as the caption claims, but a papal nuncio, or diplomatic representative of the pope, to Germany, according to the church and independent scholars. And the rally was in Berlin, not Munich. The church obtained an injunction last month from a district court in Munich, requiring Mr. Goldhagen's Berlin-based publisher, Siedler Verlag, to withdraw or correct copies of the book with the offending caption. If the publisher, a sister company of Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann, fails to comply, it could face a fine of close to $250,000.

    "The implication is that Cardinal Faulhaber was an associate of the Nazis," said a spokesman for the archdiocese, Winfried Röhmel. "When one writes about these things, one should be more precise about the truth." Mr. Goldhagen acknowledged that the photo, which was supplied to him by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, was wrongly labeled. The papal nuncio in the photograph is Cesare Orsenigo. Mr. Goldhagen said the error would be corrected in future editions, here and in the United States, where Alfred A. Knopf is the publisher. But Mr. Goldhagen, an American who has been engaged in academic warfare with his critics since his first book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust," asserts that the lawsuit is a crude attempt to discredit a book that puts the church under an unsparing microscope. "The church desperately doesn't want the truth to be known, and especially for the moral issues to be put on the table," said Mr. Goldhagen, a former professor of political science at Harvard.

    In Mr. Goldhagen's view, Cardinal Faulhaber was an associate of the Nazi regime, whether or not he is the man striding past a Nazi honor guard in the grainy picture. Mr. Goldhagen said all church leaders, starting with Pope Pius XII, bore responsibility for not protesting the mass killing of Jews. Moreover, he said, the church as an institution helped nurture the seeds of anti-Semitism across Europe that bore poisonous fruit in Hitler's "final solution." For that, it must make moral restitution, he said. "I would much prefer to have a serious discussion with the cardinal in Munich about the church's past and present than to have these diversionary discussions about a photo caption," Mr. Goldhagen said. Mr. Röhmel denied that the archdiocese was seeking to deflect the debate, saying it had even opened its archives to scholars this year. "Our involvement is not designed to block research," he said. Historians generally agree that a single mislabeled photo in a 346-page book is a minor error. But some critics say the book, which grew out of a long essay in the New Republic in January, breaks little new historical ground on the Catholic Church's often compliant relationship with the Nazi regime and is less a scholarly work than a polemic.

    "He is so extreme in his criticism of Pius that the extreme critics have no place to go anymore," said Jose M. Sanchez, a historian at St. Louis University and an expert on the history of the church during World War II. Professor Sanchez argued that the pope and other church officials were intimidated by the Nazis, and terrified that they might turn against Catholics. They were therefore tragic, he suggested, rather than reprehensible. Mr. Goldhagen, who rarely plants his stake in the middle ground, dismisses that interpretation as a rationalization. He traveled to several German cities last month to promote his view, appearing on panels where he debated church leaders like Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke of Hamburg. Since his first book, in which he placed the blame for the Holocaust at the feet of ordinary Germans, Mr. Goldhagen has been a literary celebrity here. That book was a runaway best seller and is widely credited for stimulating a national debate on the roots of the Holocaust. But his new work, which argues that the Catholic Church needs to make political, moral and financial restitution to the families of Jews persecuted by the Nazis, has not touched the same nerve. Only a third of Germans are Catholic, and many of those hold secular views. At Hugendubel, a bustling Frankfurt bookstore, the book was doing good business but was not a best seller. The store returned about 15 copies of the first edition, with the incorrect caption, at the publisher's request. A British edition, also with the erroneous caption, lurked on a shelf in the back. Aware that its legal tactics may have given the book an extra dollop of publicity, Mr. Röhmel of the Munich archdiocese played down the affair as a simple effort to correct the historical record. "People have told us that we are a very good advertisement for Mr. Goldhagen," he said.
    ©The New York Times

    A series of bombs shook this sprawling black community early Wednesday, killing one person and wounding another in what the police suspect was a coordinated strike by white extremists. The string of nine explosions, which began just after midnight, would be the first attack by radical whites since apartheid ended in 1994. The blasts came amid heightened concern about the activities of such groups. At least 15 white men have been arrested this year in a crackdown on rightist extremists plotting to overthrow the government. This month, the police uncovered thousands of rounds of ammunition, dozens of grenades and 16 homemade bombs, all of which the police believe were part of one such plot. No one argues that these conspiracies are the work of anything more than a fringe of the country's white population, but the explosions Wednesday may be the first evidence that extremists are willing to carry out their violent plots.

    And while no one believes that the extremists can unseat the country's black-led government, their violence could do damage nonetheless, reviving old fears and tensions and resurrecting images of a country at war with itself. President Thabo Mbeki said the country's people, black and white, were united against such violence and would not succumb to the efforts of "extreme right-wing racist groups" to sow dissension. "They will not succeed," he said in Cape Town on Wednesday. "The problem is that they claim lives of innocent people." Another explosion, late Wednesday morning at a Buddhist temple near the capital, Pretoria, might also be connected to the bombings here in Soweto, but it was too early for investigators to say. The wave of bomb blasts began at about midnight, when a succession of bombs exploded at a commuter rail station and along the tracks nearby. About 20 minutes later, an explosion rocked the Soweto mosque. The blast blew out the mosque's windows and ripped a huge hole in the side of the attached school, leaving rubble and shattered glass all around. Over the next few hours, at least two more bombs exploded at train stations around Soweto, which is just south of Johannesburg and is the country's largest black township. Flying debris from one of the station blasts killed a woman living nearby.

    While senior officials tried to avoid hasty comments, they made it clear that they did not believe the bombings were a mystery. "This is a big organization," the commissioner of the national police, Jackie Selebi, told Parliament on Wednesday. "We have attempted in the past to control this. We will do everything in our power to make sure, to ensure that the bombs don't explode. We calculate that there are many more bombs than those that have exploded." Martin Schonteich, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies here, said that even with their anxieties about the current government, few Afrikaners supported the sort of action undertaken Wednesday. "Amongst Afrikaners, there's a lot of apprehension about what the future might hold for them in terms of affirmative action and land reform," he said. "But support for any kind of violent action is limited to a group of fringe individuals."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    South Africa's defense minister said Thursday that the government had begun searching for white extremists within the military and the police force who may be trying to ignite "a race war" within the country, state radio reported. Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said he believed that a small number of disaffected white soldiers and police officers remained opposed to democracy. He said there was no evidence yet to link security officers directly to the bombings Wednesday in Soweto, which killed one person and wounded another. "It is quite clear that there is a group of disaffected whites, however maverick in character," Lekota said. "They are a racially oriented group. They want to achieve a race war."

    In recent months, the authorities have arrested 17 Afrikaners, including three senior army officers, and charged them with plotting to overthrow the government. The authorities have not linked the Afrikaners to the Soweto bombings, but officials say they have little doubt that a small group of white extremists has begun to arm itself. Earlier in October, the police uncovered a buried cache of weapons on a farm, including thousands of rounds of ammunition, dozens of grenades and 16 homemade bombs. In September, the police discovered a truck loaded with ammunition, gasoline bombs and an AK-47 assault rifle. The authorities linked both discoveries to white rightist groups.

    "It's people who are enemies of this country, who don't like the level of tranquillity, the peace that we have achieved together, black and white after a difficult history," Penuell Maduna, the justice minister, said Thursday in Cape Town. "There is indeed an organization, with cars and transport and money." Minutes before the bombs started exploding in Soweto, witnesses noticed two white men leaving a package underneath a minibus at an old gas station, the police said. The witnesses called the police, who discovered a homemade bomb and detonated it. Shortly afterward, at about midnight Wednesday, the rest of the bombs began to detonate. Officials say nine explosions wrecked railroad lines and devastated a mosque. Flying debris killed a woman sleeping in a shack and wounded her husband. Later that day, another bomb exploded in a Buddhist temple near Pretoria. On Thursday, investigators were still trying to determine whether the Soweto and Pretoria bombings were linked.

    "Were going on with our investigations and we have intensified them," said Phuti Setati, a police spokesman. Sam Mkhwanazi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said he was not familiar with Lekota's comments and had no further details about the governments efforts to identify white extremists within the military and police force. The South African Broadcasting Corp. reported that Lekota described the white extremists as a small minority in the white population here. But he emphasized that they could be very dangerous. White politicians have roundly condemned the attacks and South Africa's last white president, F.W. de Klerk, described the bombers as "fanatics." "What is clear is that all South Africans should firmly condemn anyone who resorts to violence and murder to promote his cause," de Klerk said in a statement.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The newly confirmed Special Rapporteur on measures to Combat Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, this morning outlined for the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) his vision for carrying his mandate forward –- a comprehensive and holistic strategy to combat prejudice and discrimination in the spirit of the Durban World Conference against Racism and its outcome. "I want to dig deeper", Doudou Diene said, as he opened the Committee's joint consideration of the elimination of racism and the right of peoples to self determination. Though his mandate was generally recognized as a difficult one, he would actively promote cooperation among all members of the global community towards the implementation of the Durban Declaration, which would serve as the overall touchstone for his work. Most of all, he hoped to emphasize the link between combating racism and the promotion of dialogue among civilizations, nations, cultures and religions. He said he also intended to add another dimension to his work -– in order to combat discrimination and racism comprehensively, it would be necessary to develop an intellectual strategy to get at the deep-rooted causes and motives behind racism and prejudice. Everyone knew that the international instruments, while thorough, were not enough to change values and attitudes that bred racism and discrimination. Stereotypes and cultural assumptions –- often-diabolical caricatures of cultures and religions -- had unfortunately become entrenched in many societies and must be discussed openly and combated with vigor. He would not shy away from subtle forms of racism or other complex issues, he said, and part of his mandate required him to prepare a preliminary study on instances of prejudice and discrimination against Arabs and Muslims throughout the world following the tragic events of 11 September. He also planned to tackle the sensitive issue of discrimination in the sports community –- a serious issue, as sports should be used to bring people together and promote national and international harmony.

    Also this morning Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports before the Committee and spoke briefly on behalf of Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. He updated delegations on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, saying three more States had ratified or acceded to it -- Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, and Turkey. He also briefed delegations concerning the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Maarit Kohonen, also from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, read out a statement by Enrique Bernales-Ballesteros, the Special Rapporteur on the question of the use of mercenaries. There had been three major events affecting his work -- the ceasefire in Angola, his visits to Panama and El Salvador on the use of mercenaries and the Second Meeting of Experts on the Use of Mercenaries. He was convinced that in the coming year he would be able to produce generalcriteria useful for the development of policies and strategies to eliminate the use of mercenaries. The representative of Uganda said her delegation would have wished to respond to the report on the use of mercenaries, however, in the absence of the Special Rapporteur, dialogue had been impossible. Uganda categorically disagreed with Mr. Bernales-Ballesteros' findings, since they were misplaced and lacked both facts and credible references. She stressed that if Special Rapporteurs conveniently absented themselves from dialogue, there could be no exchange and they failed to undertake their mandate in an effective manner.

    During the consideration on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, delegations stressed that the international community must be tireless in its efforts to implement the outcome of the Durban Conference against Racism. Several speakers said efforts to combat racism were particularly urgent in light of the racist and discriminatory backlash against Muslims and Arabs following the tragic events of 11 September. It appeared that security forces and law enforcement officials, among others, in certain regions now practiced racism and xenophobia openly. This needed to be comprehensively addressed as well as the increased spread of hate speech and prejudice through modern communications technologies. Also today, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children.

    The 'Never Again' Association and 'Polish Humanitarian Action' collected 27,552 signatures under a petition demanding action against racism in Polish stadiums. The signatures were presented to Michal Listkiewicz, the president of the Polish Football Association, today. Mr Listkiewicz has pledged to co-operate with ''Never Again' in order to remove racist symbols from football stadiums. The signatures were collected in stadiums and schools all over the country as well as during Przystanek Woodstock, the biggest European music festival organised annually in Zary, Poland. Football fans continue to send in more signatures from all over Poland. The presentation of the petition was part of the Action Week of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), an international network co-founded by the Polish 'Never Again' Association. The FARE Action Week will continue until 28 October. -We are happy to express our complete support for the FARE Action Week and we call upon everybody across Europe to join the campaign - said Gerhard Aigner, UEFA chief executive. - UEFA has reinforced its stand against racism in terms of its rulebook. On the occasion of the FARE Action Week UEFA announced a 10-point plan of action against racism, distributed to clubs and football associations throughout Europe. The petition initiated by the 'Never Again' Association lists antisemitic abuse, neofascist symbols and frequent hostility to Black players as reasons for concern in Polish stadiums. In addition, as part of the FARE Action Week, meetings, concerts, and football games have been organised in several cities in Poland.

    'NEVER AGAIN' is an independent anti-racist association that has monitored racist incidents since 1996. It publishes the magazine 'NEVER AGAIN' as well as runs the 'Let's Kick Racism Out of the Stadiums' campaign in co-operation with football fans, journalists, and players.
    ©Never Again

    These news items are collected and translated into English by Ludia Proti Rasizmu(People Against Racism) in Bratislava, Slovakia.

    The police: Swastikas and anti-Jewish inscriptions sprayed in Košice
    10/01/2001 9.23 a.m.
    Bratislava/Košice, October 1st (SITA) – The police in Košice is investigating a suspicion of crime of defamation of nation, race and conviction which should have been committed by a yet unknown culprit. The press agency SITA was informed by Jarmila Petrová, the spokeswoman of police in Košice, that on Saturday morning a businessman and the head of the shop Perfumery on Main Street no. 71 in Košice, has informed police that an unknown offender has sprayed two swastikas with size of 50 cm by a black spray and two inscriptions JUDE RAUS with the size of 30 cm on the building on the Main Street no. 71 in Košice. The damaged building is also a residence for an advocate office, insurance company AIG and the shop Jewellery. Police has pictures taken by a camera of Municipal police of Košice. However, the person who has sprayed the inscriptions is not on the shots, added Petrová.

    Infoline against racism
    The organisation People against racism has today officially opened an infoline intended for the use of all public. Everyone can dial a special shortened number 16 356. It is the first infoline of this kind in Slovakia aimed on soft and hard racism.
    Its goal is:

  • - basic law conselling
  • - announcements about racially motivated attacks
  • - collecting of information about the activities of skinheads and neo-Nazis
  • - contact with involved public
  • - reference on competent authorities and organizations
  • - giving answers to the questions connected with racism and minorities

    "The public has many times not known where to direct their inquiries and it does not always trust the police, possibly it does not work out after contacting. We know that the police are announced only a fraction of racially motivated attacks and almost none activities of neo-Nazis. We believe that the public trusts our organization and therefore we want to receive information and suggestions directly. We guarantee them the anonymity alike and we ourselves will continue investigating the matter," said Mgr. Daniel Milo, the lawyer of the organization. The organization is closely co-operating with the police and the information from infoline is processed automatically to the authorities active in disciplinary actions (genral attorney, police etc.). The information is evaluated during the regular meetings of group at the Presidium of Police Force and is offered to the Monitoring center oriented on racially motivated offenses at the Presidium of Police Force.

    The infoline will be " live" between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., apart from this time there will be prepared a fax and an answer machine. It is possible to send the suggestions also by e-mail on the address The organization on the infoline is receiving the responses of people who want to help, take part in the actions, spread the materials and information in their surroundings. The information packet containing materials against racism will be sent to anyone who have asked for it for free.

    Crack-down on neo-Nazis should have been only the beginning
    One of the biggest neo-Nazi meetings which this weekend took place in Slovakia was the meeting of the hardest core of the global neo-Nazis from the whole Europe and U.S.A. The organisation People Against Racism has monitored the activities of neo-Nazis for a long time and is intensely co-operating with police. "After several neo-Nazi actions which were organised this year and remained ignored by police, we have done everything to change the attitude of police towards the neo-Nazi meetings. And we have been successful." says Ladislav Durkovic from the organisation.

    The People Against Racism express acknowledgement and praise the local units of police force who, except little details, have done a great deal of work. Now, it awaits a systematic evaluation and analysis of the piles of materials because they contain further evidence and information revealing neo-Nazi movement in Slovakia. Neo-Nazis are here and live on – their manifestations have caused offences and vandalism as well. Thus, everything needs to be done for elimination of theirs activities.

    The People Against Racism expect criminal charges against everyone involved in this concert will be raised. "Already the attendance on an action like this should be considered a crime of supporting a movement suppressing human rights and liberties, in an organised group (§ 260 Criminal Code). But it is amazing that although there were more than 500 neo-Nazis present, police states only 235 documented people." added Durkovic. Similarly, there was a lot of people taking photographs in the auditorium but there was only one DVD camera to be found among the confiscated objects. People Against Racism hope that the police will be successful in identifying the owner of the most important pack of materials which has contained copies of tens of records. Probably, he is the main producer and distributor of the neo-Nazi materials. The People Against Racism have addressed a letter to the Minister of the Interior of Slovakia including the praise of the work of police force but also asking the Interior department to become involved in the preparation of an integrated long-term conception of fight against the organised neo-Nazism and racially motivated crimes. People Against Racism require the Minister to reinforce the anti-extremist departments in personnel and technical area as well.
    ©People Against Racism

    The seizure of hostages in the theatre by a group of Chechen terrorists has aggravated the situation Moscow Chechens are in by leading to the reinforcement of police control and to the growing nationalistic moods. The seizure was followed by the initiation of the operation "Groza" ("Thunderstorm"), which provided for a reinforced regime of work of the military forces in Moscow. Despite the fact, that different high-rank officials declare persecution of Chechens not permissible, ordinary policemen have not restricted themselves to a simple questioning of the Chechens living in the district, which is, in fact, a rather dubious procedure form the legal point of view. These kinds of checks are discriminating against Chechens, whose nationality seems to be the only grounds for questioning. Moreover, various human rights violations and actions not in the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies are taking place such as compulsory arrest and stay at the police department, interrogation, having the fingerprints taken, threats of eviction due to the absence of registration, etc. Besides, just like after the explosions in Moscow in 1999, there are examples of criminal cases falsification, when police plants drugs or arms. The lawyer of the "Civic Assistance" Committee is now working on two similar cases, and the information from unofficial sources testifies to the fact that the number of these cases exceeds one hundred. Furthermore, children complain of being insulted at schools or even not let into schools until they get registered in Moscow.

    For instance, on October, 25 the girl named Isita came home from school crying and said she would never go there again. Her teacher addressed the whole class and said: "Boys and girls, Isita is a Chechen, you must know it". An employee of the "Civic Assistance" Committee called the school and asked the headmaster to sort out the conflict and do their best, co that Isita could study. The headmaster denied the fact, that such an incident could happen, but promised, that everything would be alright.

    On October, 26 a Chechen family addressed the "Civic Assistance" Committee. At 6 p.m. the day before an officer from the police department "Maryino" called on them and demanded to follow him. The wife refused to go and leave her children, and so her husband went with their passports, but an hour later there was a phone call ordering her to come as well. The spouses returned home at 10 p.m. At the police department their fingerprints and pictures were taken, the information about their height weight and details was put down. They were asked about where they were and what they did during the capture of the theatre, whether they had witnesses. Having asked the detective, what the grounds for the interrogation were, they got the following answer: "Don't you watch TV? What other grounds do you need?" The detective said they had killed 90 people. She kept repeating the same questions several times, and the spouses had the impression that she was drunk. At first the policemen wanted to take their passports, but then gave them back. All the other policemen, the officer on duty and the head spoke to them politely. The same evening a Chechen woman called the Committee. Her 23-year-old son was taken to the same police department "Maryino". The woman went with him and though she was not allowed into the detective's office, she heard everything behind the door. The detective scolded at the son, using rude informal language, insulted him. Other officers also insulted and shouted, that they would plant drugs and send him to prison

    On October,30 at 1 a.m. an officer from the police department "Golovinsky" burst into a flat, where a Chechen family lived without asking for permission or presenting the necessary papers. He behaved inadequately, spoke in an extremely rude way and kept on saying: "You are terrorists and bandits". Having made sure, that all the members of the family had the registration either in Moscow or in the Moscow region, he announced that it didn't matter, because they don't live according to the address of the registration and gave them the time till Monday (November,4) to get out, otherwise they would be kicked out with the help of a police unit. The officer ignored all the objections arguing that his opinion meant more due to his position. He also shouted that he had been to Afghanistan and to Chechnya (four times), where he "killed men and women for money" (quotation), that he would send to prison the elder boy of the Chechen family, because he knew how to do it and had already done the same to two Chechens, but they were released, etc. Then the officer took the father of the family to the police department, where he repeated his insults and threats.

    Another Chechen family consisting of nine people (three of whom are small children and one is a disabled woman) had nowhere to live and the only housing they managed to find was a flat ruined by fire in an abandoned house. They have redecorated the flat and are leaving in it now. The house is no longer considered residential and is to be reconstructed, but the reconstruction keeps being postponed. Almost all the flats are occupied by people in similar situation, among them there are two more Chechen families. On October,30 officers form the police department "Krasnoselsky" and municipal housing authorities came to the house with a welder (obviously intending to weld all the doors) and demanded to vacate the house. However, these officials didn't have the Prosecutor's sanctions to evict the people. They answered the question about the grounds for eviction by another question: "Don't you watch TV?" The Chechen family refused to leave the flat and the eviction was postponed until November,1. As the eviction concerned only the three Chechen families, the action can not but be regarded as anti-Chechen.

    The "Civic Assistance" Committee continues to receive similar complaints. A more detailed version of such law violations can be found on the site
    ©Civic Assistance Committee

    Ten years ago, an international conference was held in Prague with the aim of examining the role of antisemitism in the history, politics and society of Central and East Europe. Last week, a follow-up conference was held at the Radio Free Europe headquarters in the Czech capital on the topic "Antisemitism in Post-Totalitarian Europe - 10 Years Later." While the level of antisemitism varies among the countries of Central and East Europe, experts at last week's conference agreed that antisemitism in today's Czech Republic is not widespread. However, it is still demonstrated by extremist groups and individuals on both sides of the political spectrum. An interesting perspective on the situation in the Czech Republic was provided by Dr. Michael Riff, the director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Ramapo College in the United States.

    "My general feeling is that antisemitism as such has become an almost inert issue in the Czech Republic nowadays. There are of course some fanatics who continue to espouse antisemitic views. But if you believe public opinion surveys, if I am to believe what I encounter when I am here once a year, I don't feel that there is any appreciable amount of antisemitism in the Czech Republic." Dr. Riff is the son of Czech Jews from Ostrava who managed to flee Nazi persecution in 1939. He candidly recalled the time when his father came home one day and told his mother that German tanks had arrived in Ostrava: "He told my mother that Adolf was in town. And my mother's first reaction - God bless her - was "Oh, how nice!" And she believed, actually, that it was my uncle Adolf who perhaps was visiting from Slovakia. As it turned out, my father said "Not that Adolf, but Adolf Hitler!" Dr. Riff's parents settled in the United States, where he grew up. However, in 1968 and 1969, he came to Czechoslovakia as a student, and his direct experience of antisemitism at that time inspired him to study the issue further: "It came from fellow students. One of the first things I heard when I came here was that Hitler gave the Czech people a great gift in getting rid of the Jews and also making it possible in the last analysis for Czechoslovakia to be rid of its German minority. That remark, plus some other things that I heard from students at the time, made me realize that antisemitism was still somewhere in the fabric of this society. And then it also came out in newspaper articles against the Prague Spring, from some neo-Stalinist elements. Later on after the invasion it came out in articles of a similar nature, actually by some of the same people. It also was - as almost everywhere in Eastern Europe - especially under the cloak of anti-Zionism."
    ©Radio Prague

    The European Parliament has supported a report by British Green MEP Jean Lambert on the refugee status of third country nationals and stateless persons. With 278 votes in favour, 242 against and 7 abstention, the report argues that all EU member states must give protection to those genuinely in need. The Parliament approved a number of non-binding amendments providing for better guarantees and integration opportunities for asylum seekers and putting applicants for subsidiary protection on a more equal footing with refugee status applicants. The Tampere European Council meeting of October 1999 agreed that, with a Common European Asylum System there should be harmonisation of the definition and recognition of refugees across member states. "The directive is the lynchpin of the Common Asylum Policy outlining an agreement across Europe on the correct interpretation of the Geneva Convention and harmonising minimum standards for refugees in all member states," Ms Lambert said.

    Opened a door to Fortress Europe
    The European Parliament argued that subsidiary protection should not only be granted if there is a risk of being tortured, but also if there is a risk of capital punishment or genital mutilation. A residence permit under subsidiary protection should be granted for a period of at least five years, the same as for refugees. The Green MEP added that the "vote is a victory for a humanitarian approach to European refugee and asylum policies. The European Parliament has opened a door to Fortress Europe. Euro-MPs today also gave a strong response to right wing populism - you don't have to compromise principles in the face of prejudice."

    Broad definition of refugee
    The Parliament wanted to define more clearly when refugee status might be refused on the grounds that applicants can find protection in another part of their country of origin, as Member States often assess the situation differently. In addition, Parliament said that asylum seekers should not only qualify for refugee or temporary protection status where there exists a valid fear of persecution in their country of origin but also in their country of residence. "Our definition of refugees is a broad one, contrary to the preferences of some governments. For instance, women facing oppression on account of their sex or people persecuted because of their sexual orientation should benefit from EU protection. The same goes for conscientious objectors," Ms Lambert said.

    EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers agreed Tuesday in Luxembourg that asylum seekers from the candidate countries will no longer be accepted by EU. The proposal, which was put forward by Austria recently, was agreed by ministers in a declaration and was one of the only concrete issues to be supported at this meeting. According to the statement, "from the date of signature" of the accession treaty, which all candidates countries will sign most likely in Spring 2003, all twelve candidate countries are assumed to have "the level of protection of fundamental rights and freedoms" as in the member states. Practically this means any application by nationals from the candidate countries for asylum will be rejected.

    Hefty discussion on access of students to the EU
    The most heated discussion of the day concerned the right of access of students from third countries to study in the EU. A paper put forward by the justice affairs Commissioner, Antonio Vitorino, as part of a general process on developing a common policy on migration and asylum begun at the Tampere Council in 1999, raised the strongest views by Germany and France. Otto Schilly, the German interior minister, mindful of the fact that terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks last year were students in Hamburg, said he did not want an "infiltration of terrorist persons," adding that "this education entrance must not be abused." France on the other hand argued from a different point of view, for them the ties that they have with their former colonies took precedence.

    Germany's "special problem"
    There was also no agreement on access to the EU labour markets. "14 countries more or less agreed," said Bertel Haarder, the Danish Europe minister and council chair, "but Germany has a special problem." Mr Schilly said he could not agree to guarantee access to Germany's markets after a year, as other member states claimed to be prepared to do as it was a "länder competence." The different regions or länder in Germany have the power to decide on this and not the federal government. Mr Haarder said he hoped that the member state experts would come up with "something that comforts the German problem" in November.

    Return of Afghans
    The EU 15, however, did "give the green light" for the Danish presidency return-programme for Afghans. Mr Haarder said they would be "primarily voluntary returns" but that he could not rule out that there would be involuntary returns. The report is set to be adopted in November. The definition of a refugee was not settled. Again this was pushed to November, where the issue the presidency hopes, "will be finished." The Commission for its part, in the shape of Antonio Vitorino, in charge of justice and home affairs was frustrated with the progress of discussions. "Everybody knows progress has been very slow," said the Commissioner.

    Policies would make it harder for refugees to flee candidate countries

    Human rights activists are worried that the European Union and the United Kingdom may adopt policies that would make it more difficult for refugees to claim asylum in Western Europe. British and EU ministers want to declare that EU candidate countries are "presumed safe," a label that assumes such countries do not persecute people because of their political views, religion, race or ethnicity. Under plans by UK and EU ministers of Justice and Home Affairs, the 10 EU candidate countries should be on a "white list" of nations where asylum claims ought to be presumed unfounded. British Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposal to put the candidate countries on the list suffered a setback Oct. 24 when a joint committee on human rights from both houses of the British Parliament issued a report expressing concern that the proposal violated human rights obligations. The British Parliament has to approve the plan in order to make it a policy.

    The committee singled out the Czech and Slovak republics as EU candidates with widespread discrimination against Roma, or Gypsies. "The United Nations High Commission for Refugees does not accept that any country can be declared 100 percent safe," the report states. "In view of the well-authenticated threats to human rights which remain in the states seeking accession to the European Union ... the presumption of safety is unacceptable on human rights grounds." Human rights groups are warning that the policy could hurt legitimate refugees. "I'd say that these are migrant-hostile times," says Claude Cahn, programs director for the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest. "It's going to mean that a significant number of people in the Czech Republic will be cut off from the opportunity for asylum."

    Britain has tightened controls in recent years to stem the tide of asylum-seekers from the Czech Republic, most of them Roma. Blunkett has said that he wants to prevent migrants from using asylum as an excuse to come to find work or to collect social benefits. "We are a haven for the persecuted, but not a home to liars and cheats," Blunkett wrote Oct. 7 in The Times of London. According to British immigration statistics, 880 Czech citizens applied for asylum in Britain in 2001. From May to July of this year, there were 1,800 applicants. Blunkett says that proper legal and democratic standards already are in place in the 10 countries slated to join the EU in 2004. The candidates include the Czech and Slovak republics, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. At a meeting in Luxembourg Oct. 14-15, the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed with Blunkett. "Given the level of fundamental rights and freedoms, ... candidate states with which an accession treaty is being negotiated are safe countries," the council declared. "Any application for asylum of a national of any such candidate states shall be dealt with on the basis that it is manifestly unfounded," beginning from the date they sign an entry treaty, the council said.

    Cahn said that attempts by other countries to screen out refugees by declaring similar presumptions of safety have been struck down. "No country is completely safe," he says. "Asylum cases are highly individual. "In trying to force through the idea that the [European] Union is a body whose members automatically guarantee human rights, the member states of the Union and the British government may be putting the cart before the horse." Pavel Bilek, deputy director of the Czech Helsinki Committee Counseling Center for Refugees, says his agency is disturbed by the EU and UK proposals. "It is a dangerous interpretation of their international obligations," Bilek says. Although Cahn thinks that Blunkett's plan could bring Britain before the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, Bilek said he is afraid that the EU ministers' declaration eventually could become legally binding. The plan must be approved by the Council of Europe, the EU's legislative body.

    Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who met recently with Blunkett in London, said he has nothing against Britain's current tough approach to asylum-seekers. He added that it is important that the asylum system is not abused. Kumar Vishwanathan, director of the Life Together organization for Roma in Ostrava, says the situation for Romany citizens has improved since the fall of communism and since the Czech Republic began pushing to get into the EU. There are more nonprofit agencies that have been pushing for Roma rights in the country, he says. But Roma remain marginalized and there is a long way to go before they have equal access to jobs, housing and protection under the law. "To say all of a sudden that the Roma are in a safe region and they are fine -- this is very misleading," Vishwanathan says. "I just hope that one day the British government and the rest of Europe do not have pangs of conscience for what they are trying to do to the Roma."
    ©The Prague Post

    Jordanian women will have better citizenship rights and retirement benefits under amendments designed to improve equality of the sexes, officials said Sunday. The changes were approved by the Cabinet recently and announced to applause by Queen Rania at the opening session of an Amman summit held for Arab women. The measures mean Jordanian women will be able to get a passport without their husbands' approval. Mothers will also be granted equal rights in family affairs such as choosing schools and seeking medical treatment for their children. Jordanian women married to foreigners will be treated like Jordanian men married to foreigners in family matters, officials said. The amended law will enable a widow ­ or in case the deceased husband had more than one wife, each widow ­ to retain the family status as head of household. Social security changes also grant women the right to retire early, at 45, with a pension. Women may work until 60 if that is required to get a full pension. An estimated 1,500 participants representing governmental and nongovernmental organizations from 18 countries took part in the summit, including the first ladies of Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan and Morocco. Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Qatar did not send delegations.

    The two-day session will discuss strategies aimed at enhancing women's political participation and contribution to the economic development of their countries. In her opening speech, Queen Rania encouraged Arab women to assume a bigger role in policymaking that goes on in their countries. She also called for action to end the suffering of Palestinian women, and to lift economic sanctions imposed on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. "We renew our commitment to end these unbearable situations and intensify our efforts to achieve justice for the mothers who had been subjected for long to injustice, violence and losing loved ones," Rania said. The summit also aims to empower women through a revamped modern education plan, training and micro finance plans. Rania also called for women to be more active in the technology revolution. She said that only 4 percent of Arab women are acquainted with the internet. "We cannot present ourselves to the world in an honorable image as long as half the society is absent in this important scientific world, the lowest rate in the whole world," Rania said. For her part, Lebanon's first lady, Andree Lahoud, stressed the need to implement new legislation in order to protect the rights of women. Lahoud said that such a move could spark change in the Arab mentality regarding the needs, responsibility and role of women. According to Lahoud, the implementation of new laws should be first addressed by Arab governments, through an administration that is not dominated by men and backed by a judiciary which treats both sexes equally. Lahoud said the absence of international justice is not only a political issue, but affects women "fighting" for their rights and freedom. Speaking on behalf of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, the first lady told participants at the forum that challenges faced in the region could not be solved unless Arabs join forces, set their priorities and brushed personal interests aside. ­ With agencies
    ©Daily Star

    French intelligence agents detained eight people on Tuesday in connection with an April attack on a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba that killed 19 people, the interior ministry announced. The suspects taken into custody in the suburbs of the central-eastern city of Lyon include the parents and brother of Nizar Nawar, the alleged suicide bomber that carried out the attack, according to sources close to the inquiry. Nineteen people were killed, 14 of them German tourists, when a natural gas tanker exploded at the Ghriba synagogue on the resort island on April 11, in an attack later claimed by the al-Qaeda network. One French national, a Franco-Tunisian dual national and three Tunisians including the suspected attacker were also killed in the bombing. Another 20 Germans were injured in the explosion. The al-Qaeda network claimed in June that Nawar, 24, was one of its operatives and carried out the attack because he "could not tolerate seeing his brothers in Palestine being killed." The claim was broadcast in a statement by al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith on Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television.

    In April, German investigators revealed possible links between a network of Islamic extremists in the western German city of Duisburg with ties to the Djerba attack, and an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that allegedly helped plan the September 11 attacks in the United States. The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung then reported in May that Nawar had spent 18 months in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Tunisian officials insisted for several days that the explosion was accidental, but investigators there have since named Nawar as the bomber. His charred body was found near the remains of the truck used in the attack. French prosecutors opened an inquiry in April for "murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist attack", after relatives of a French national killed in the blast launched legal action. French investigators had turned their attention to members of Nawar's family living in the Lyon area, which led to Tuesday's arrests, the interior ministry said. The eight suspects, two of them women, were placed in preventive detention, which can last up to four days in cases related to alleged terrorist acts, the ministry said. Authorities also seized documents "that appear to have a direct link to this attack," it added. Nawar's brother, 22-year-old Tunisian national Walid Nawar, was detained by French border police in April and later placed in a holding center when officials discovered he did not have the proper residency permits. He was later released on a legal technicality. Nawar's uncle, identified as Belgacem Nawar, was arrested in Tunis just days after the attack, on charges of "concealing information concerning the preparation of a crime and complicity in preparing terrorist acts."

    The Ghriba synagogue is the oldest in Africa and considered to be one of Judaism's holiest sites and is visited by pilgrims from around the world. Every May, thousands of Jews, mostly from Europe and Israel, flock to Djerba for the so-called Ghriba pilgrimage. A third of Tunisia's 3,000-odd Jews live on Djerba, which lies off the southeastern coast and is one of the world's oldest Jewish communities.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Black people are eight times more likely to be stopped by police than white people, a significant rise on two years ago, figures showed today. Of the 714,000 stop and searches recorded in England and Wales during 2001/2002, 12% were of black people, 6% Asians and 1% other ethnic minorities. The figures show the over representation of blacks has increased since the aftermath of the 1999 Stephen Lawrence inquiry, when they were five times more likely to be stopped than whites. Compared with 2000/2001, the number of stops and searches conducted by the Metropolitan police rose 8% for whites, 30% for blacks and 40% for Asians. The rest of England and Wales showed 2% fewer whites were stopped and searched, while there was a 6% rise for blacks and a 16% rise for Asians. Asians are now three times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, the Home Office figures showed. Black people were also four times more likely to be arrested than whites or other ethnic minority groups.

    Ravi Chand, the president of the National Black Police Association, said: "It's been alarming levels for the last number of years, and very little seems to have been done to address the real concerns the black community has. "The figures indicate to us at this stage that the biggest drop in stop and search is for white [people]," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Home Office minister John Denham said a new government unit being set up to examine why the figures are disproportionate would "flush out" racism and discrimination in the criminal justice system. He also announced that officers in Merseyside, Nottingham, Sussex, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, North Wales and the Metropolitan police will begin issuing certificates to every person they stop in the street from April next year even if they do not search them.

    The procedure was recommended in the Lawrence inquiry to help avoid disproportionate stopping of blacks and Asians. But he warned against people jumping to the conclusion that the figures showed there was racism within the police or indicated levels of criminality in particular communities. "We have got to move the debate beyond the sterile argument there usually is whenever you have figures about race and the criminal justice system, with one set of people saying 'Well it's all about criminality isn't it?' and the other set of people saying 'It's all about racism'. "We know for example that ethnic minority people are less likely to be satisfied with the police response if they are victims of crime. "We want to get to grips with a whole series of issues about the different experiences of black and ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system." All the race statistics contrast with the official breakdown of race in the population of England and Wales, which puts the proportion of blacks at 2%, Asians at 3% and other ethnic minority groups at 1%.
    ©The Guardian

    Australia has rejected comments by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who suggested that Australia was not safe for Muslims. Dr Mahathir was criticising last week's raids by Australian security agents on the homes of Muslims suspected of links with a banned militant group that Australia suspects of involvement in last month's Bali bomb. But Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said the operations had targeted just a dozen or so members of the country's Muslim population. "A sense of proportion makes it abundantly clear that Muslims are perfectly safe in Australia," he told Australian television's Channel Seven. Dr Mahathir has accused Australia of being heavy-handed in the raids, which came days after Australia banned the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah. No arrests were made, but the security forces seized boxes of computers, mobile phones and documents in the raids. "At the moment Australia is particularly unsafe for Muslims, because they are likely to have their houses raided," he said. "I've seen pictures of doors being broken, which I don't think is essential."

    Asian reaction
    Indonesia's acting ambassador to Australia, Imron Cotan, has also criticised the raids, warning they could harm the joint investigation into the 12 October Bali bomb in which about 90 Australians died. "I will not be surprised if the people of Indonesia ask us to stop co-operating with your police forces," he told ABC news. But Prime Minister John Howard played down the criticism, saying Australia's relationship with its Asian neighbours was "still very good." "This is obviously a challenging time but I think we have to look beneath the surface," he said. He also defended the government's warnings to Australians to avoid travelling to many Asian countries because of fears of more terror attacks. Asian leaders fear the warnings will badly damage tourism in their countries. "We are doing what we must and should and will do in defending the Australian national interest," he said. "The leaders of other countries understand that."
    ©BBC News

    Egyptian broadcasters have aired the first episode in a controversial television series - in spite of US and Israeli requests that it be banned as anti-Semitic. Two Egyptian television stations began showing the 41-part Horseman Without A Horse across the Arab world on Wednesday night. The series is billed as a chronicle of the Arab struggle against colonial rule and against the establishment of the state of Israel. But it includes a sub-plot involving a forged document - the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - describing an alleged Jewish plot for world domination, which was used by the Nazis as a pretext for the Holocaust. "At a time when the Egyptian government is working to promote peace in the region, a program that promotes hatred would be extremely unfortunate and counterproductive," State Department spokeswoman Anne Marks said. Forty-six members of the US Congress sent a letter on Monday to Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak expressing concern about the program.

    Journalist's tale
    The show stars Mohammed Sobhi in the role of journalist Hafez Neguib. The first episode finds him wandering through the desert, dishevelled and exhausted, in the aftermath of Israel's creation in 1948 on what was once Palestine. "The armies of the free have been defeated by treachery," he said in a sombre voice over. "Beloved Palestine is lost, grabbed by Zion's sons through organised plundering." Sobhi's character then shows what had happened to his father in Egypt in 1855 when he was abducted by a Turkish nobleman desperate for a son.

    'Not offensive'
    Egyptian officials denied that the series contained anything against Jewish people in general. The State Department became involved after the US-based Jewish pressure group, the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to it, describing the series as the "latest manifestation of an ongoing pattern of anti-Semitic incitement in the Egyptian media". A BBC correspondent in Cairo, Heba Saleh, said the Egyptian press had predictably hit back, portraying the US complaint as an insulting attempt to dictate to a sovereign nation what it can run on television. The row is also being presented as yet another example of American submission to Israel and the Jewish lobby.
    ©BBC News

    Australian laws covering race hate on the internet need to be more coherent, according to our human rights watchdog. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission said there were inconsistencies between the content classification regime, which governs the internet in Australia, and the racial discrimination act. The commission yesterday hosted a symposium on cyber racism with representatives from government regulatory bodies, the IT industry, legal experts, and community groups. Committees will now look at ways of tightening regulations and providing education on racial vilification on the internet. "The issue of online race hate raises questions about retaining the internet's enormous capacity to share information freely and provide a public space to discuss controversial issues, and about the responsible use of that public space in a manner which does not undermine basic human rights," the commission said in a statement.
    ©Australian IT

    An Adelaide man will return to court tomorrow to appeal against an order to remove material denying the Holocaust from the internet. Dr Frederick Toben, who runs the Adelaide Institute, was prosecuted under Australia's Racial Hatred Act. The Adelaide Institute website claims the Auschwitz concentration camp had no gas chambers and states that the number of Jews killed during World War II was exaggerated. Judge Catherine Branson found Toben in breach of race hate laws because the material was reasonably likely "to offend, insult, humiliate and intimidate Jewish Australians". The Act offers a number of exemptions protecting the right to free speech - including fair comment if it is "an expression of genuine belief". Toben, who has spent seven months in a German jail for inciting racial hatred and defaming the memory of the dead, is expected to argue one of the exemptions in his appeal.
    ©Australian IT

    Rights groups, police and local officials in northern France on Thursday condemned the early closure to new asylum seekers of a controversial refugee holding center near the Channel tunnel entrance. "Dozens of surprised foreigners today find themselves without answers, out in the rain, and some of them have been quickly stopped by police and are already threatened with explusion," Amnesty International said in a statement. French officials announced Tuesday that the Red Cross-run Sangatte camp, located near the Channel port of Calais, would be closed to new entrants, 10 days ahead of a schedule worked out between the French and British governments. Only those refugees registered at the camp in the past month and given an identification badge will be allowed to enter the facility, which is expected to close definitively in April under the Anglo-French compromise deal. The Sangatte center has embittered cross-Channel relations since its opening in September 1999, with London saying it fed a wave of illegal immigration into Britain. Amnesty accused police of heavy-handed patrolling, saying: "Some foreigners, despite the fact that they have badges identifying them as residents, have been detained for several hours by overzealous police." The human rights watchdog group demanded that the newcomers be guaranteed the right to apply for asylum in France, despite the imminent closure of the Sangatte facility. Meanwhile, the national police trade union (SNOP) raised its own alarm, deploring a lack of clear legal guidelines to be followed at the camp and saying the repatriation of Sangatte immigrants would fail in some cases. "Police officers are there to apply the law and they will," union representative Dominique Achipson told AFP, "but there is no clear legal framework." Achipson lamented a lack of personnel on site and said "problems will persist" with respect to the influx of illegal migrants in northern France. Officials said that around 5,000 people -- mainly Iraqi Kurds and Afghans -- have received identification badges in the last month, without which they will not be allowed access to the center. But of these, only around 1,800 asylum seekers are currently housed in the center, which is based in a disused hangar. Calais Mayor Jacky Henin and his counterpart in the nearby port town of Dunkirk, Michel Delebarre, also condemned the early closure of the Sangatte facility, deploring a lack of intergovernmental communication about the move. "These spectactular gesticulations have hidden the fact that on the A26 and A16 motorways leading to Calais, refugees continue to flow in," the two mayors said in a joint statement. Since 1999, an estimated 63,000 migrants have passed through the center in a bid to reach Britain, where they believe working and living conditions are the most favorable in Europe.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Slavery by north African Arabs and Berbers and others persists in the West African nation of Mauritania, two decades after its official abolition, Amnesty International and other rights groups charged Thursday. London-based Amnesty International urged Mauritania's government - dominated by Arabs and Berbers living in West Africa since early times, and known as white Moors - to allow an independent inquiry and to take action against slavery. "The term 'slavery' is banned. Nobody talks about slavery in front of the authorities," said Boubacar Messaoud, the son of Mauritanian slaves and chairman of the rights group SOS Esclaves, or SOS Slaves. Today in Mauritania, "the masters teach their slaves that slavery is their destiny," Messaoud told a news conference in neighboring Senegal.

    Officials in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday on the Amnesty International charges, made simultaneously with release of a critical report on slavery in the country. Mauritanian officials in general insist that while slavery existed up to recent years, it no longer does. Outsiders are mistaking centuries-old social divisions of different laboring classes as slavery, authorities in the Islamic republic say. A nation of 2.8 million between Senegal and Western Sahara, Mauritania is dominated by a white Moorish minority - Moroccan Berbers and then Arabs who conquered the desert land from the 3rd century onward. Mauritania officially abolished slavery in the 1960s and again in 1981, embarrassed by a wave of demonstrations following the public sale of a woman in a market.

    A U.S. State Department report in 1994 cited accounts that between a few thousand and 90,000 Mauritanians remained in "involuntary servitude." Subsequent State Department reports changed the description to "voluntary servitude ... for non-monetary benefits." Today, while mention of slavery is illegal, and Messaoud and other anti-slavery activists have at times been jailed, no one has been prosecuted for slavery in Mauritania, Amnesty charged. Witness accounts indicate slavery and discrimination against former slaves endures for all ethnic groups in the country, black and white, the rights group said. Forms of bondage include whole families forced to perform daily unpaid labor. Freed slaves may be called upon to perform unpaid labor for their former masters, according to the rights groups and accounts from Mauritanians identifying themselves as escaped or freed slaves. "Despite the legal abolition ... there is no evidence to suggest that practical steps have been taken to ensure its abolition in practice," Amnesty International said. Amnesty rejected government claims that slavery is in the past. It cited accounts from slaves who allegedly escaped as recently as last year, and of their worry for relatives still enslaved.

    One example is M'Bareck ould Bilal ould Braikatt, 17, who reported escaping in April 2001, fearing punishment over the disappearance of a goat. The boy, his three brothers, mother and sister had been ordered by their master to hide whenever strangers appeared, Amnesty said. The family was told they would be killed or bewitched if they tried to escape, the rights group said. Mauritania's government was told of the case, Amnesty International said. It said there was no indication of an investigation, and that some of the boy's relatives apparently remain in slavery. In Dakar, a Mauritanian, his powerful shoulders hunched over a conference table, told rights workers in suits and African robes of his experience as an enslaved shepherd. El Jouma Ould Meissara said he escaped and had lived independently since 1970. He spoke of a sister and six nieces and nephews, "still slaves somewhere in Mauritania." "I can't believe the authorities are saying slavery doesn't exist," Meissara said. "It hurts me, because I myself was a slave."
    ©Nando Media

    Political deal delays action on same-sex partnership legislation, activists say

    Michaela Penickova says she is as normal as any other Czech. "I go to work. I pay taxes. I take the same train. I go to the same shops. I take the same bus," said Penickova, 29. "I don't eat small children or hit people on the street." But she and her partner, Olga Mavridisova, 44, say that until they have the same rights as heterosexuals, they will be second-class citizens. "Officially, we are nothing," Mavridisova says. The Veltrusy couple wants the government to recognize the validity of their relationship by passing a same-sex domestic partnership law. But there is virtually no chance that lawmakers will adopt such a measure in the next four years.

    Although the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) officially supports a domestic partnership law, its junior partner in the coalition government -- the conservative Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) -- strongly opposes it. The CSSD-led coalition, formed after June's parliamentary elections, needs all the votes of the KDU-CSL deputies to maintain a one-vote majority in Parliament. The KDU-CSL says the law threatens the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Party leaders say they will not negotiate on the issue. "We just don't want this to reach the family status because we consider family the basis of society and the environment for upbringing children," said Josef Janecek, a KDU-CSL deputy. "It might discredit the family if the law is passed. We are not against same-sex partners living together, but on the other hand, we have to support family standards."

    The law would create procedures for registering and dissolving same-sex partnerships. It would allow a partner to become a beneficiary if his or her partner dies, making the surviving partner eligible to collect inheritances and social benefits that went to the deceased partner. Couples could be taxed together and gain the right to share housing. They would be granted other rights of family members under health and citizenship laws. This law would mean that there are equal rights for everybody, Mavridisova said. Partnership bills have failed three times in Parliament. The law was proposed and rejected in 1998 and 1999. When the Chamber of Deputies voted on it in 1999, it lost 91-69, with 13 abstentions. A block of 20 deputies from the KDU-CSL voted against it, joined by 26 Civic Democrats (ODS) and about one-third of the CSSD's 74 members. Last year, the Cabinet approved a draft of a new law that was sponsored by the CSSD. A final version was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies in October 2001. The chamber voted 85-60 to return the bill to the government for a revision. "The Social Democrats threw us out to make a government," Mavridisova said. "It is quite a disappointment." "I think we have the right to live as all the other people in this country," she added. "I want to take Michaela as my wife, and it is not fair that over the next four years we will be discriminated against."

    Homosexual rights groups did not quietly accept what they call a broken promise. In August, two such groups, The Gay Initiative and STUD Brno, teamed up with two outdoor advertising agencies to create a billboard campaign intended to remind the CSSD and the public that the party's platform supported the law. About 150 billboards that depicted two men kissing, next to a caption that read "It may help someone and hurts no one" were placed along the country's highways from August until mid-September. The billboard space was provided by advertising agencies Engine Room and BigBoard. The campaign drew a negative response from CSSD Deputy Milada Emmerova, chairwoman of the chamber's Social and Health Committee. "I really didn't like [the billboards]," she said. "I am afraid all of these activities -- commercials of all kinds -- are going to end up in the toilet. I am not saying [homosexuality] should be taboo, but it should not be paraded." Public displays of affection between homosexuals are not normal, she said. "And we have to consider children. They might not have experience or knowledge of homosexuality and could give it a try." She acknowledged that her party's alliance with the KDU-CSL is the primary reason the bill has not been approved. "This issue doesn't meet their convictions, and they will never vote for the law," she said. "I voted for it because one of the people who introduced the law was one of my good friends." She said the CSSD has not dropped the law. Rather, it has postponed action on the issue. "It is not our main interest. However, discussion will continue," she said. "There are no major reasons to talk about it now. It doesn't mean it is the end of the discussion, but since the June elections this has not been part of our agenda."

    Vaclav Jamek, a gay writer, said that the bill was a bargaining chip for the Social Democrats when they approached the KDU-CSL to form a coalition. "It's a very easy sacrifice for CSSD," he said. "If they had to renounce something, the law was easy for them. Even though this was in their program, they were not very enthusiastic about it. "Nobody was hurt by this because it wasn't a serious item. Christian Democrats had to pretend they wanted something and CSSD had to give up something." Mavridisova and Penickova are optimistic the law will eventually be approved. "It will finally mean that we are a real democratic country with no differences among people. It will not be that I'm just a lesbian, and I can't do this or that," Mavridisova said. "I will be a human being."
    ©The Prague Post

    France's far-right breakaway party the National Republican Movement (MNR) of Bruno Megret appeared headed for oblivion Monday after it lost control of its last electoral stronghold. In a municipal by-election Sunday in the town of Vitrolles outside Marseille in southern France, Megret's wife Catherine -- mayor since 1997 -- was easily beaten by the Socialist candidate Guy Obino by a margin of 54 percent to 46. After disastrous performances in presidential and parliamentary elections this year -- in which Megret and the MNR won respectively 2.3 percent and one percent of the vote -- the party is in dire financial straits, and has suffered a wave of resignations. The party's only other mayor -- Daniel Simonpieri in Marignane just beside Vitrolles -- has refused to renew his membership of the MNR and this year supported National Front (FN) leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for the French presidency. Le Pen's former deputy, Megret, 53, split away from the FN in a bitter dispute in 1998 and formed his rival far-right party. The Vitrolles by-election was called after a judge annulled Catherine Megret's victory in March 2001 on the grounds that her supporters had distributed defamatory tracts against one of her rivals. "I am extremely disappointed. It's a victory for corruption and disinformation," Catherine Megret said after her defeat. Obino told supporters that "Vitrolles is free." Obino's victory was aided by the decision of the main centre-right candidate -- from President Jacques Chirac's UMP party -- not to stand in Sunday's vote.
    The Tocqueville Connection

    Keeping Afrikaner hope alive `Black Africa is wiping out everything we have brought'

    Every morning, thousands of South Africans switch their radios to 104.2 on the FM dial. They tune in to hear "Die Stem," the national anthem during the apartheid years, and to hear the weatherman describe the sizzling heat in South West Africa, the former South African territory that has been called Namibia by the rest of the world since 1990. They listen to commentators discuss whether AIDS is the solution to "the problem of black population growth." They call in to defend white separatists accused of plotting to topple the black government. Perhaps many hearts soar when political analysts contemplate reclaiming South Africa, or at least a portion of it, for white Afrikaners.

    This is Radio Pretoria, where apartheid is still revered and the white man reigns supreme. While this country often promotes its multicultural identity, this radio station steadfastly opposes it, with white station managers groaning openly at the surge in racial intermingling since white rule ended in 1994. The radio station provides a unique voice for conservative Afrikaners, the white minority that oppressed blacks for decades and then resisted, sometimes violently, the transition to multiracial democracy. Today, many rightist Afrikaners, who feel uneasy in this new South Africa, look at the past with nostalgia. So they turn to Radio Pretoria, which broadcasts in the Afrikaans language and nurtures the memories and aspirations of a small but vocal audience of more than 100,000 people.

    The studio is a treasure trove of apartheid memorabilia: portraits of former presidents, old Afrikaner flags and a framed copy of "Die Stem" adorn the walls. The station managers proudly acknowledge that they refuse to hire blacks, even though racial discrimination is unconstitutional these days. This policy has inevitably raised eyebrows. Last year, the Independent Communications Authority refused to renew Radio Pretoria's operating license because of its hiring practices. It said that it had no vendetta against the station but that it had to obey the law. The station can continue broadcasting until the hiring issue, among others, is resolved next year in court. The reprieve gives station managers time to promote their dream of establishing a whites-only homeland, an independent territory within the borders of South Africa that would be occupied and controlled by whites. Afrikaners, who are the descendants of Dutch, German and French settlers, have little chance of regaining power through an election. In a country of 44 million people, they make up only about 8 percent of the population, and even among Afrikaners, the station does not have an enormous pool of dedicated listeners. But station managers here still insist that a white government would be better for everyone, including black people, even though many Western governments praise the black government's performance.

    "What do we have to offer Africa?" asked the Reverend Mossie van den Berg, 70, the chairman of Radio Pretoria, seemingly indignant that anyone might ask such a question. "This European heritage of civilization, development, ambition. "We, the Afrikaner people, opened up this country, developed this country, put this country in the front ranks of the developed countries of the world. And it is now on the rim of becoming a typical banana republic. Black Africa is wiping out everything we have brought. We would like to bring it up to a civilized level." "We voted against this new South Africa," van den Berg added, his gray eyes glinting. "But we lost," Jaap Diedericks, the station manager, said. Diedericks was sitting with van den Berg under an oil painting of Hendrik Verwoerd, a former prime minister and the principal architect of apartheid, whose fiery rhetoric still inspires employees at Radio Pretoria. But Diedericks, 64, abandoned the tough talk for a moment to acknowledge that many Afrikaners feel lost, alienated and frustrated as they struggle to find their place in this new world. "We feel a bit useless, a little hopeless, a little washed up," he admitted. "We are maybe 3 million people up against 40 million of all sorts of people. We've got to stand fast or we'll just be absorbed and vanish as an identity." To the folks at Radio Pretoria, the challenges facing the Afrikaner community are enormous.

    There is the marginalization of Afrikaans, which once dominated the airwaves, but has now been widely replaced by English. There is crime, which has exploded since the black government eased apartheid-era restrictions on movement. In recent years, hundreds of white farmers have been killed in what the police describe as random attacks. Many Afrikaners describe the attacks as a conspiracy to wipe out their community. The end of apartheid has also meant that whites, for the first time, must compete with blacks for jobs. Affirmative action is now official government policy, and a small but growing percentage of whites is unemployed, something that was unimaginable under the white government. Then there is integration. Wealthy blacks are moving steadily into white neighborhoods, which is sometimes hard to accept, particularly for people who still embrace the idea of racial separation. Diedericks, however, says he is flexible on the issue of community integration. "Blacks are fine as long as they behave and are up to standard," Diedericks said. "Of course, mixed marriages are completely out."

    Unable to cope with the changes, many Afrikaners have decided to start over elsewhere. No one knows precisely how many people have emigrated, but the trend is already raising alarm bells. On Radio Pretoria, young people are urged to reproduce so that the community can increase its numbers and its political clout. "Our natural growth will have to improve, you know that?" a commentator told a group of young people recently. "There can only be growth in the numbers of the people if we have four children per household." Not everything is politics and race. Radio Pretoria also runs a farming show every morning that tracks the prices of wool, corn and cattle. Music makes up 70 percent of the programming: Afrikaner accordion music, German march music, Swiss yodeling nd some old American favorites. "There is one thing we don't play: this rap, this underground township music," van den Berg said. "Good Western music is known by its melody, not by its rhythm. For rhythm, you need nothing more than a drum and a stick. For melody, you need 30 or 40 instruments."

    Delene Visser, 58, a housewife who lives in the tree-lined suburb of Doringkloof, listens to Radio Pretoria in her kitchen and in her car. She loves the music and the women's program, which focuses on children and health. Listening to Radio Pretoria helps her forget about crime and affirmative action, she said. "You feel more at ease when you have that on," Visser said. "It's my language, my kind of music, my kind of people. We just hope the radio station survives." The managers of Radio Pretoria are convinced that it will survive. To close it, they say, might touch off an uprising among whites, and no one wants that. Besides, the black government supports freedom of speech. Despite all the naysayers, the station managers remain hopeful that if they fight hard enough and broadcast long enough Afrikaners may someday end up with their own homeland. "We all believe we're going to get some form of self-determination so we can keep our identity," Diedericks said. "If we're not forced to marry blacks and we're not forced overseas, it will happen."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    US Secretary of State Colin Powell has dismissed as "unfortunate" comments by singer Harry Belafonte likening him to a domestic slave on a cotton plantation. Mr Belafonte attacked Mr Powell during a radio interview, comparing the retired general to a slave who had abandoned his principles "to come into the house of the master". Mr Powell said the analogy was a "throwback" that the singer should have thought about more carefully before using. "I think it's unfortunate that Harry used that characterisation," Mr Powell said in an interview with the CNN's Larry King Live. "If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine. "If he wanted to attack a particular position I hold, that was fine. "But to use a slave reference, I think, is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using." Mr Powell is the highest-ranking African-American official in US government history.

    'Selling out'
    Mr Belafonte, who shares Mr Powell's Jamaican roots, accused the Secretary of State of betraying his race by joining President George W Bush's conservative government. But Mr Powell said he was proud to be serving his nation under President Bush. Mr Belafonte made the controversial remarks on Tuesday, during a radio interview with station KFMB in San Diego, California. "There's an old saying," the singer said. "In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and were those slaves that lived in the house. "You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master... exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. "Colin Powell's committed to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture."

    Others attacked
    Mr Powell was not Mr Belafonte's only target within the Bush administration. The singer likened Justice Department tactics to those used employed in the 1950's during the infamous McCarthy communist "witch-hunts". Belafonte was a major star in the 1950s and 1960s. His most famous song, Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), popularised calypso music. He is now a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund.
    ©BBC News

    The European governing body Uefa is to launch an investigation into the racist abuse and violence that marred England's 2-1 victory over Slovakia in Bratislava on Saturday night. Officials from the Football Association lodged a complaint with the governing body after Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were subjected to racist chants from a large section of the home crowd throughout the match. Uefa will also examine security arrangements in Slovakia which failed to prevent running battles before and during the match between supporters and riot police. Violence broke out in the stadium during the first half after missiles were thrown into the English section and some of the visiting fans tried to rip down a thin fence dividing them from Slovak supporters.

    On Friday evening two England fans were shot as security guards in a city centre bar fired warning shots to clear England supporters. Gareth Jones, 30, from Coventry, had a bullet removed from his neck in hospital yesterday, and Phil Holland, from Worcester, was shot in the knee but discharged himself from hospital. Two security men were arrested and detained in connection with the incident. The FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "The racism is very disappointing. Throughout the game Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole, in particular, suffered a torrent of racist abuse whenever they got the ball and they deserve credit for the way they conducted themselves throughout that." Heskey described the abuse as the worst he had encountered. "It wasn't just a few people it was the whole stadium," he said. "It was very hard but we just tried to block it out." The referee Domenico Messina referred to the abuse and the violence in his match report and Uefa will be under pressure to take firm action. Last week PSV Eindhoven were fined just 15,000 (£9,500) after their supporters abused Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord during a Champions League match, a decision understood to be under review. "Uefa utterly deplores any form of racism," said Mike Lee, Uefa communications director. "We are appalled at what appears to have occurred against England last night."

    One sanction thought to be under consideration is banning Slovakian supporters from attending the return match next year. Referring to the violence, Lee said: "There were some ugly scenes but we need to look at exactly what went on and we cannot prejudge." The disorder came as England played their first competitive match since the summer World Cup in Japan and South Korea, during which supporters were praised for their good behaviour. Paul Newman, the FA's head of communications, said some of the tactics employed by the police were "inappropriate", but events in Bratislava appeared to confirm fears that the violence associated with English supporters will return when the side play in Europe. Saturday night's events will raise fears that the next two major tournaments, Euro 2004 in Portugal and the 2006 World Cup in Germany, will be marred by English hooligans. Some 6,000 England fans, 4,300 of whom had tickets, made the trip to Bratislava for the game and many seemed intent on trouble. They found locals happy to respond to their attempts at intimidation.

    The tone was set on Friday night as rival groups of supporters fought running battles in the streets. The England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson witnessed some of the violence from his hotel room window and heard the shooting. "I heard shots and I thought it was fireworks," he said yesterday. "I looked out of the window and it was like the wild west. "I understand fans from both England and Slovakia were involved in fighting but I did not know exactly what was happening. "I saw 50 or 60 police running into McDonald's and then 'boom'." There was also trouble elsewhere in Europe as fans made their way to and from the game. Ten England fans were arrested in Prague after a dispute over a bill in a lap-dancing club. In Vienna yesterday five English people were arrested after they smashed cars and shop windows. Some 1,200 known troublemakers were issued with banning orders prior to the match and 12 England fans were turned back from various British ports and airports at the weekend while four were refused entry to Prague. Mark Steels, a spokesman for the National Criminal Intelligence Service said yesterday: "That does show that there are still a small minority travelling with England who are happy to get involved in trouble."
    ©The Guardian

    The Bangladeshi feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, has been given a one-year prison sentence on a charge of writing derogatory comments about Islam in several of her books. This is the first sentence against the writer who was forced to flee the country in 1994 after receiving death threats from Muslim extremists. Taslima Nasreen's criticism of traditional Islamic values and customs angered many hard line Islamic groups in Bangladesh. In 1994, one of the groups put a price on her head after she reportedly called for revising Koran to give more freedom to Muslim women. Ms Nasreen has denied she made any such comment.

    Hard line
    Taslima Nasreen was tried in her absence by a magistrate court in Gopalganj, nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Dhaka. The case was filed by a hard line Islamic leader, Mohammad Dabiruddin, who heads a local religious school. Mr Dabiruddin accused Taslima Nasreen of writing offensive comments about Islam - and magistrate Shah Alam found her guilty of hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. In 1994 Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government charged Taslima Nasreen of blasphemy for some of her controversial comments about Islam.

    She fled after being granted bail in the case and has been living in exile - mostly in France and Sweden - ever since. In 1998 Ms Nasreen returned to Bangladesh to visit her ailing mother, but left the country after her mother's death. The Bangladeshi Government has already banned three of her books - "Shame", "My Childhood", and "Wild Wind". The government said the books might hurt the people's religious sentiments. Senior lawyers say that in order to appeal against the verdict, Taslima Nasreen must first surrender before the trial court.
    ©BBC News

    Very much in tune with the on-going Convention on the Future of Europe and mindful of the recent deaths of refugees off the Italian coast, MEPs Monday argued for comprehensive EU legislation on common asylum. They spoke out against the Commission's proposal for "open coordination" on asylum procedures fearing a downwards trend towards the "lowest common denominator" of member state legislation. The plenary debated two reports by socialist MEP Robert Evans on common asylum procedure and internal security. Mr Evans took a practical approach to the issue seeing "open-coordination" as a step towards an EU policy in the area. His fellow MEPs took a different view. The conservative MEP Eva Klamt said the EPP rejected the idea because it would "circumvent" community decision-making procedures and that the parliament would be "ignored." Socialist MEP Maj Britt Theorin spoke of it being "no substitute for harmonisation of legislation."

    Security is a "questionable ally"
    Some MEPs took offence to the fact that asylum and security issues had been lumped together in the same debate. Arguing that it was just down to "organisational" issues in the parliament, justice and home affairs commissioner, Antonio Vitorino, did agree that "refugees should not be victims of last year's events." Green MEP, Jean Lambert, said security was "a questionable ally" which could be used as a "deterrent" for real progress on asylum issues. Another expressed the concern that "in the current climate of fear" the most oppressive asylum policies would be pushed through by the Council. And indeed, a few MEPs did make the indelible link between setting up an asylum policy and the threat to national security, although the Commission proposal itself suggests the likelihood of a terrorist entering a country by seeking asylum are small. Swedish liberal MEP Olle Schmidt warned that "the protection of the law should never be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism will triumph if we sacrifice the protection of the law, personal integrity and protection of the human rights". Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, António Vitorino emphasized that the Commission proposal was only looking towards "first generation" legislation which would be minimum common rules. Agreeing that, ultimately, this is not enough, the Commissioner nevertheless defended open-coordination as being a method that would offer "transparency" and leave subsidiarity intact. Although MEPs would like to see a common EU asylum policy, this area remains very much member state domain. To this end, parliament has only the right to be heard and the EU 15 decide by unanimity.

    Earlier this week, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a conference on the integration of migrants attended by some 200 representatives of civil society organisations, many of which deal directly with the integration of immigrants and refugees into European society. A wide range of speakers spoke in support of a "civic integration, based on bringing immigrants' rights and duties as well as access to goods, services and means of civic participation progressively into line with those of the rest of the population..." "The discussions that we have had at the conference show that the debate has moved on: it is political rights that are at the top of the agenda," remarked EESC rapporteur Miguel Pariza. The main conclusions were that there is a need for a set of fundamental rights for all residents of the Union, and that the Convention should propose an overall package of rights and obligations as part of a European civic citizenship for all residents of the Union.

    Promotion program
    As far as the EU's economy was concerned, the conference concluded with a call for migrants to be seen as part of the solution, particularly against the background of falling or stagnant birthrates. Also, to properly manage flows of migrants, more funds are needed to assist in the development of countries from which migrants move in greatest numbers. Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, António Vitorino announced details of a programme of preparatory actions to promote the integration of immigrants for the period 2003-2005. He added: "It is my hope that this programme will run over a three-year period with an amount of 4 million euros a year. It is also my hope that civil society will take this opportunity to come forward with concrete, new ideas to improve integration. On political rights, he commented that "I tend to share the view of those who consider that - with regard to integration - it would be important to grant the right to vote and to stand as a candidate at least in local elections to all residents." More generally, he took the view that the success of an immigration policy "can only be judged by the way in which it is able to integrate immigrants into the society of the host country."

    Controversial £340,000 award confirmed - but campaigners will have to clean up website to claim cash

    The strategic grants committee of the lottery community fund is next week set to stick to its guns and confirm its £340,000 grant for an asylum seekers' support group. It is expected to attach conditions, including compelling thebody to remove what it deems inflammatory material from its website. The board, whose chairwoman, Lady Brittan, has received hatemail over the grant to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, will on Tuesday consider five options after being asked by ministers to review the award. Legal advice to the community fund has confirmed that it cannot rescind the grant without evidence of lawbreaking. As well as requiring the NCADC to clean up its website, which accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of "colluding with fascism", the board may opt to stage the award, which will finance the group's work helping asylum seekers fighting deportation orders.

    Fund staff yesterday met officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to outline options to be considered by the board. The meeting was described by fund sources as "chilly but amicable", while the department insisted ministers were not attempting to interfere with the fund's independence. Meanwhile charities fearful that the controversy could influence the current lottery review are launching a mass email campaign to express concern to the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who is drawing up plans to give lottery players a greater say in where money goes. Voluntary sector leaders yesterday urged the government to maintain the independence of the lottery grant distribution bodies or risk subsuming lottery funds within general public expenditure. Their intervention is an indication of how a Daily Mail-led outcry over a single lottery grant - one of thousands issued annually - has dramatically spiralled within two months into a full-scale row raising questions over how far the government should dictate the activities of the charitable sector, under pressure from a tabloid agenda.

    It has also raised issues of media responsibility, with the Daily Mail forced to distance itself from a hate campaign launched against Lady Brittan and community fund staff since the paper attacked the NCADC award. Lady Brittan is understood to see the mail as a venting of anger by individuals frustrated at a perceived lack of national debate over immigration. Sources at the community fund, who said there was no pressure from the culture department officials yesterday to withdraw their grant, pointed out there was little they could do but go ahead with the award. "Legally we are obliged to give this money," said a source. "We will be accused of wasting public money in years to come if we fight a court case we are going to lose." Voluntary sector leaders view the row as more than a vitriolic tabloid campaign. Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: "People in the sector have probably been too slow in waking up to the fact that what is going on is actually about the independence of the sector. "We have made some real progress with the government in two recent reviews where they have recognised the needs of the sector. Then what happens when a voluntary organisation does something they don't like? "The boot goes in."

    The real concern would be if the row influenced the lottery review, by tempting the government to "emasculate" the community fund, so taking away a vital funding stream for hundreds of "small beer but extremely worthwhile causes". Charities were yesterday asked by the ACEVO to lobby the review to protect the fund. Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, also called for protection of the independence of lottery allocations: "If the government is determining the priorities of the boards there would be no real point in having boards - why not just subsume Camelot's take into general taxation?" He also called on Camelot to substantiate its claims that it has experience a £500,000 weekly fall in lottery sales, directly related to publicity over the NCADC grant.
    ©The Guardian

    "They say, France is one and indivisible," said Dogad Dogoui, with characteristic deadpan humor, as he poked at a lunch of fish recently. "I say, yes, and with lots of people who are invisible." After 17 years in France, Dogoui said, he is still uncomfortable with the French treatment of blacks. He is one of hundreds of thousands of nonwhite immigrants, mainly blacks and Arabs, whom France has absorbed over the years from its former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. But French sensitivity to the Arabs in their midst, largely because of the potential for a spillover of violence from the Middle East, far outstrips that toward blacks here, he said. So last year, Dogoui, a stocky, cheerful man who earns a living advising foreign companies how to do business in France, founded a club for black business leaders. Now, he is spearheading a drive to involve more blacks in politics. French attitudes toward blacks, he conceded, are ambiguous. The cradle of human rights, Paris raised a statue early in the last century to Toussaint- Louverture, the black Haitian liberator.

    For years, the French have denounced American racism, and the road from Harlem to Paris was wide, inviting African-Americans like the singer Josephine Baker, musicians like Sidney Bechet and writers like Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Yet, today, blacks are not much on the French agenda, said Dogoui, 38, who moved here from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He said he thinks they should be. "For 30 years France has been changing," he said. "But they don't open their eyes and see it." Officially, blacks number about 1.5 million of a total population of 59 million. But the unofficial number is higher, Dogoui said, and more come daily. In national elections this year, Christiane Taubira, an economist from French Guiana, became the first black candidate for president, drawing 660,000 votes, or 2.3 percent of the total. But in French politics, Dogoui said, "blacks arrange the chairs at conferences and clean up afterward." No black person sits in the National Assembly or in regional Parliaments. In all of France, he said, there are only about 100 black city council members. "That's ridiculous," he said, "What does that mean, among 36,000 towns and cities?"

    As a student, Dogoui supplemented an allowance from his father by working with other black and Arab immigrants in a packaging plant in a Paris suburb. While there, he saw how long hours on the factory floor prevented the blacks from overseeing their children's education. But what particularly troubled him, he said, was how the workers clung to an immigrant mentality, happy to have escaped poverty and content with the simplest of jobs. "They forget that their kids are not immigrants," he said. They nevertheless showed enough concern to complain that the schools offered their children none of the extra help they needed or a place to study after hours. "It's not a financial question but a question of interest," Dogoui said. While white pupils are encouraged to continue studying, black children are steered toward vocational training, he said. He said he had heard of black students telling their teachers they wanted to study medicine, only to be laughed at. "Black kids say, 'Why should I study journalism?'" Dogoui said. "There are no blacks on TV." Dogoui likes to tell a story about his 10-year-old son, who returned recently from a trip to London, where he visited stores owned by nonwhites. "They're bosses there," the boy told his father, with an unmistakable note of wonder.

    During a layover recently at the Amsterdam airport, Dogoui sat in a lounge with other business people. One-third of them were black, he said, yet he was the only French person. The others were from North America, Britain and the Netherlands. France's largest corporations, claiming that competent blacks are unavailable, have no black directors or senior executives, he said. Yet, as a corporate consultant advising North American and Scandinavian companies how to do business with French companies, Dogoui said he had observed how savvy businesses use blacks to increase their effectiveness in dealing with nonwhite countries or customers. Finding competent black executives should be "a challenge for French companies," he said. But it isn't one that they seem particularly eager to confront. "Sometimes it's racism," he said of French companies. "But sometimes they just don't get it." When asked whether the French are racist, however, Dogoui reflected a moment before saying no.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Amid all the fanfare that accompanied the publication of the proposed new government programme, one question has been left with no clear answer: Who's going to deal with the Roma issue? The incoming government said it was assigning policy decisions on Slovakia's Roma minority to the Culture Ministry, but when he heard that, Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel was as surprised by the news as anyone else. "I have been abroad for a number of days. I don't know why the parties made this decision," Chmel told the daily Sme.

    This is the third government to leave the Roma issue without a solid home. Under the previous government, Roma rights were the responsibility of Deputy PM Pál Csáky, who was charged with finding solutions to the problems of high unemployment, low education levels and massive discrimination that afflict Slovakia's Roma minority. Csáky now says the Roma issue needs more attention than he can give it. "The deputy PM's office is constructed in such a way that [dealing with the Roma issue] simply does not fit in," Csáky said, adding that he thinks a separate office should be created to deal with the issue. Chmel agreed, suggesting that his office was not the right place for the Roma either: "The Roma question is not related only to culture. It is far more complex and demands an autonomous solution." Before 1998, responsibility for the Roma fell to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was also one of the candidates for the job in the new government. In 1999 the government established the office of the high representative for the Roma. Klára Orgovánová, the last person to hold this position, expressed her surprise at the new coalition's stance on the Roma issue. "No one has contacted me, not even to discuss the proposals included in the government programme," she said.

    The Roma were not excluded entirely from the government proposals. In fact, the programme states that the Roma question is a priority for the government. However, apart from the Education Ministry, which will ensure the Roma get access to elementary education in their own language, according to the programme, no other ministry has made public any plans to take action on behalf of the minority. Observers say the government's apparent unwillingness to take the problems of the Roma seriously could draw harsh criticism from the European Commission, which on October 9 released a report urging Slovakia to improve its record on relations between the Roma and majority Slovaks.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Gay rights activists picketed last night's Music of Black Origin awards in London in protest at the nomination of three singers whose songs advocate the incineration of homosexuals. Capelton, Elephant Man and TOK - all nominated for best reggae act - have become notorious for lyrics that urge the burning, shooting and battering to death of gays. In the event, none of the three made it to the winner's rostrum at the London Arena. Instead, after taking the £20,000 Mercury Prize last month, it was again Ms Dynamite's night. The 21-year-old songwriter, known to her Scottish mother in Archway, north London, as Niomi McLean-Daley, took best single, best new UK act and best newcomer, a relatively modest showing given her stellar talent. Tellingly, her music does much to subvert misogynist rap stereotypes - her lyrics even have a pop at R&B's obsession with fashion and conspicuous consumption.

    For once female artists dominated the awards, reflecting the way new black British music has emerged from the underground scene to become a worldbeater in the past two years. Mis-Teeq won the Daily Telegraph best garage act, a musical form until now inseparably linked with guns and gangsta violence, while Norah Jones, the daughter of the Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar, took the jazz award. Two of the prizes were posthumous. Aaliyah, the American killed when her plane crashed into the Caribbean, won best video. There was a lifetime achievement award for Lisa Lopes, killed in a car crash in Honduras in April, where she was doing voluntary work for a children's charity. The cult popularity of controversial reggae stars such as Capelton has put broadcasters and record companies in Britain in something of a fix, with the BBC - which was forced last month to withdraw his songs from its websites - arguing that such dancehall hits had almost become "unofficial anthems for some people in Jamaica".

    Capelton is regarded by many critics as a major musical figure, the heir to the legacy of Bob Marley. He is also one of the leaders of a new wave of fundamentalist burn-again Rastafarianism, Bobo Dread - known as "the Jamaican Taliban" to their detractors - that is sweeping the island. While Marley's militancy was softened by a mellow ganja vibe, Capelton's concerts are more like religious revivalist meetings with fans holding hundreds of burning aerosol cans in the air. Capelton insists the fires he sings about throwing gay men into are metaphorical allusions to cleansing and purity. "Is not really a physical fire. Is really a spiritual fire, and a wordical fire, and a musical fire," he said. "But people get it on the wrong term. People get confused ... We come to burn for injustice and inequality and kill indignity and exploitation." But his explanations did not wash with Peter Tatchell, of the pressure group, OutRage!, who organised the protest outside the London Arena. "I hope other Mobo award nominees will publicly dissociate themselves from the homophobia of TOK, Capelton and Elephant Man. It would be great if some Mobo winners used their acceptance speeches to make it clear that racism and homophobia have no place in popular music," he said.
    ©The Guardian

    Islamic groups in the Netherlands have reacted angrily to a suggestion that only Dutch should be spoken in mosques. The proposal - by a political colleague of the murdered anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn - came at the opening of a controversial new citizenship course for immigrant clerics. The BBC's religious affairs reporter, Mark Duff, says the issue raises questions about how different faiths and values can coexist in today's culturally and racially mixed Europe. The idea that only Dutch should be spoken in the Netherlands' approximately 450 mosques came in an off-the-cuff remark from the country's immigration minister, Hilbrand Nawijn. Mr Nawijn told journalists that Muslim clerics had a duty to convince their fellow believers that they should be loyal to the values and norms of Dutch society. He said the new citizenship course was needed to improve the integration of immigrants - and that he would be looking at how best to promote the speaking of Dutch in places of worship.

    New law
    Mr Nawijn also said he planned to propose a new law that any religious leader who failed the course would be denied a visa. A spokeswoman for Mr Nawijn said his comments reflected his deepest wishes - but stressed that he had not spelt out whether ritual prayers as well as sermons should be in Dutch. The new course - which is mandatory for all newly-arrived foreign clerics - includes lessons in Dutch society and language. Among the issues it will address are freedom of speech and religion, euthanasia and non-discrimination.

    European debate
    Most sensitive of all is likely to be the question of sexuality - especially the place of women and homosexuals in society. Mr Nawijn's mentor, the murdered - and gay - Pim Fortuyn, incensed many of the country's 800,000 Muslims by dismissing Islam's view on gays and women. A spokesman for one immigrants' group said young Muslims in the Netherlands today felt victims of a new anti-Islamic political culture. "We are born here, we speak Dutch: why do people not trust us?" he asked. The debate has resonance across Europe, not least in Britain, where the minister responsible for immigration, Home Secretary David Blunkett, is on record as saying that immigrants need to learn how best to accommodate their own culture to life in Britain today.
    ©BBC News

    The Malaysian prime minister said Tuesday that new procedures being used to screen some foreign passengers at U.S. airports were "anti-Muslim hysteria." Also Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Action Party said the United States should apologize to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, who was searched at Los Angeles International Airport and asked to remove his belt and shoes, before being allowed to continue on to New York. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters that the new U.S. immigration policy requiring tens of thousands of visitors to be photographed and fingerprinted was upsetting because it "labeled" the "whole Muslim world" as suspect for the actions of a few of that faith on Sept. 11. "It's unfortunate that this is the stance taken, but it's their country," Mahathir said.

    Robert Johnson, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, which administers airport screening, declined to comment. The new rules, which target visitors from mostly Muslim and Middle Eastern countries, took effect Tuesday. All citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan will be checked. Visitors from Malaysia and other countries including Egypt who are believed a security risk will be fingerprinted and photographed. The pictures and fingerprints are to be matched against criminal and terrorist databases. But even before the new regulations took effect, Mahathir's deputy got a taste of America's strict post-Sept. 11 security environment when he traveled through Los Angeles to a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly two weeks ago.

    "All of us had to undergo the same security checks, even the pilot," Abdullah was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Tuesday. "I was not exempted ... and I agreed to take off my shoes." Although Abdullah tried to downplay the incident, the Democratic Action Party called the demands made of him "disrespectful." "It is unimaginable to think that the Malaysian authority would ask Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States, or any other top government leaders ... to take off their shoes" at an airport, party spokesman Ronnie Liu said. In the past year, Malaysia has arrested 63 people accused of plotting attacks aimed at establishing an-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. One of the suspects allegedly allowed two of the Sept. 11 hijackers to use his apartment for a meeting in January 2000.
    ©Nando Media

    The Benes Decrees will not hinder Czech EU membership. This was the conclusion of a report from J. A. Frowein, researcher on international law of the Max Planck Institute of Heidelberg, who was tasked by the European Parliament to analyse the problem ahead of enlargement. The report, seen by the EUobserver, concludes: " The Czech accession to the European Union does not require the repeal of the Benes Decrees or other legislation mentioned in that context." Mr Frowein points to the German-Czech Declaration of 1997, which did not insist on a repeal of the Benes Decrees even though Germany was the country most affected by the Decrees. He recommends the Czech Republic to confirm in relation to enlargement that it regrets the law as it did in the German-Czech declaration of 1997.

    Ahead of the Austrian general election, which is to take place on 24 November, the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, did not draw any direct conclusions on the basis of the report. Officially Austria still links ratification of Czech enlargement to the repeal of the Benes Decrees. Speaking to the press in Brussels the Austrian minister emphasised that the report was only "one report, made upon request from the European Parliament". Ms Ferrero-Waldner said the report only narrowly analysed the legal aspects of the Benes Decrees, whereas political and moral aspects have to be taken into consideration also. She said the Austrian government now needed to analyse the report in detail and then to engage in bilateral negotiations with the Czech Republic.

    The EU-Parliament is going to debate the Frowein-report on November 18-22 in order to present a recommendation to the EU Summit in Copenhagen December 12-13. The European Parliament debated the issue of the controversial Benes Decrees with enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen during the March plenary session earlier this year. The Decrees, adopted after the second world war to expell the German and Hungarian minorities from the Czech Republic, are an important issue for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Although the Decrees are not applied anymore in the Czech Republic, Austria points out they are not compatible with EU standards on human rights.

    Delegates at an anti-racism conference voted Wednesday to expel non-blacks from the meeting, saying it was too traumatic to discuss slavery in front of them. The dozen or so whites and a couple of Asians, mainly interpreters and members of non-governmental groups, left without protest. The more than 200 delegates from several countries voted overwhelmingly for the restriction, with about 50 abstaining, officials said. The event was organized by various non-governmental organizations. "This is an African family occasion and therefore they should not be allowed to sit down and talk with us," said Garadina Gamba, a spokeswoman for the British delegation. Conference chairwoman Jewel Crawford of the United States said "There are a number of black people who have been traumatized by white people and they suffered psychologically and emotionally and, as a result of that trauma, some of them did not care to discuss their issues in front of them." But Jean Violet Baptiste, spokeswoman for the Guyana-based African Cultural and Development Association, said organizers should have made clear that only blacks were welcome: "You can't have people come all this way and then ask them to leave." A major issue at the meeting is a plan by black activists from the Caribbean and North America to sue France for making Haiti pay millions of dollars for recognition of its independence nearly two centuries ago. Attorney General Mia Mottley of Barbados urged delegates to build upon last year's U.N. conference against racism in South Africa, which recognized slavery and the slave trade as a crime against humanity. The meeting, titled African and African Descendants' World Conference Against Racism, was hosted by the government of Barbados. Organizers included the Congress Against Racism Barbados and the U.S.-based Congress of People of African Descent.
    ©Associated Press

    Bridgetown, Barbados - Saying they'll have no part in discrimination, delegations from Russia, Cuba, South Africa, Colombia and France's overseas territories on Friday abandoned an anti-racism conference that voted to exclude whites. The walkout, on the fourth day of the six-day African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism, came after a day of negotiations failed. "Cuba will never support any action aimed at segregating a group of people. Furthermore, Cuba believes that such a decision is intolerant and contrary to the purposes of this conference," Maria Morales, the spokeswoman for Cuba's delegation, told the conference, reading from a prepared statement. The South Africans said that the conference had gone adrift and that they could not endorse the decision to exclude non-blacks.

    It was unclear how many delegates left the conference late on Friday, and whether all were black. But most of the 250 delegates at the meeting hosted by the Barbados government whistled and cheered their approval as chairperson, Jewel Crawford of the United States, stood by the vote. "The motion will stand and the democratic process will be respected," Crawford said. "The motion of exclusion was the will of the majority because there are sometimes when we feel that we just want to have a meeting of our own." Ghanaian delegate Maya wa Taifa agreed, arguing that Africans are normally too generous for their own good and that "our over-hospitality" backfired on the conference. The move to exclude whites was proposed by the 60-strong British delegation, which said it was under the impression that the conference was entirely for blacks to discuss issues from racial profiling to reparations for slavery.

    Whites and Asians left the meeting
    Some 200 delegates voted on Wednesday for whites and Asians to leave the deliberations, saying slavery was too painful a subject to discuss in front of non-Africans. Fifty delegates abstained and more than a dozen white and Asian journalists, interpreters and delegates left the meeting. In an ironic twist on Friday, delegates were shocked by an impassioned plea from Mauritanian Bakary Tandia for the conference to denounce slavery in the African countries of Mauritania and Sudan. He said such conferences lay too much emphasis on demands for reparations from former white colonisers and "hardly focus on what is happening on the continent, where slavery is alive in some places". Tandia, co-chairman of the New Jersey-based Africa Peace Tour lobbying group, said Arabs in Mauritania and Sudan hold blacks against their will. He charged that up to 900 000 black Mauritanians, mostly women and children, work without pay as domestic servants and herders. "These people are owned as property by Arabs and are so enslaved that they cannot even give testimony in a court of law ... They have no rights," Tandia said. Conference organisers said they planned a resolution of condemnation before Sunday's end to the meeting, billed as a follow-up to last year's UN anti-racism conference in South Africa.
    ©News 24

    White and Asian people were ordered out of a conference on racism being held this week in Bridgetown, Barbados, after black organizers said it was "too painful" to discuss slavery in front of them. Ten whites — including at least two white journalists — and two Asians left after cheering delegates approved a proposal to ban them. The ban was brought to the table by a British delegation of about 60 people. Nearly 95 percent of the 250 people in attendance voted in favor of the ban. The conference — dubbed the African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism — is seen by organizers as a follow-up to the U.N.'s anti-racism conference held last September in Durban, South Africa.

    Just as at that conference, a delegation from the United States is in attendance. It is led by Jewel Crawford, a medical officer with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry — part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in Atlanta. She defended the racial expulsion vote as necessary. "I think not to have dealt with it would have harmed the conference because our people have been traumatized by racism," she said in an interview with the Barbados Daily Nation newspaper. "We have been traumatized by white people and when we come to a meeting to talk about how we've been traumatized, sometimes their presence is upsetting." Added Kuba Assegai, an activist from Connecticut: "How can they heal when the perpetrators are there?" A leader of the British delegation, Kwaku Bonsu, told reporters, "We told [organizers] emphatically that we don't want to be sitting down with no Europeans or Asians and they assured us that this is an African and African-only event and that is why we came here."

    The conference, which began Wednesday and ends tomorrow, is a follow-up to the Durban conference, which was plagued by anti-Semitism from several nations' delegations. It prompted the U.S. refusal to participate. Whites were allowed to attend the Durban event. Sponsors of this week's conference include the Commission for Pan African Affairs, the government of Barbados, the Congress Against Racism, the Barbados Tourist Authority and the U.S.-based Congress of People of African Descent Inc. Also endorsing the event were hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and the civil rights group 100 Black Men of Atlanta. The Atlanta group disassociated itself immediately from the exclusion vote. "Whatever is going on there, they did not ask us," said William J. Stanley III, president and chairman of the board of 100 Black Men of Atlanta. He said the group offered its support in name, but did not send any members. "It would hardly be fair to have agreed to allow people to come to Barbados, and for these people to have paid to come and provide coverage and then to tell them to leave," Mr. Stanley said in a telephone interview. "We lent our name to the conference, but whatever is going on — they didn't ask us."

    Conference registration was coordinated by the Black World Today, a black news Web site. The news agency's phone has been disconnected. A spokeswoman at the Barbados prime minister's office said that no one could discuss the conference or the government's sponsorship. A manager at the Barbados Tourist Authority, which provided a financial contribution of an undisclosed amount, said that the sponsorship would be reviewed. The Authority also arranged for discounted air and hotel rates for those coming to the West Indies island. "The chairman of the authority is very aware of the conflict," Gerald Cozier said. "It is something that he will deal with." Among the Americans scheduled to attend the conference this week are actor Danny Glover and Roger Wareham, an activist lawyer who in April filed slavery-reparations lawsuits against FleetBoston Financial Corp., Aetna Inc. and the CSX Corp.
    ©The Washington Times

    It ended as it had begun. The same rousing fanfare and pomp that had greeted the participants to the African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism here a week before resonated once more as the delegates filed from the Sherbourne Center and back to their respective communities. Between this beginning and end there was a score of scintillating moments that ran the gamut of emotions. From the very inception there was a moving invocation from the Rev. Aaron Larrier, the event's president, who observed that if you turned the map of Barbados upside down it mirrored Africa. "Rather than calling Barbados ‘Little England,'" he said, "we should call it ‘Little Africa.'" Then the first female Attorney General of Barbados, Mia Mottley, offered an extended welcome that touched on a number of controversial points that would surface as the conference progressed, particularly the issue of race and color. Zimbabwean representative Sabelo Sibamda electrified the audience during one of the plenary sessions, passionately recounting and correcting the broad misconceptions about his country's current crisis on the question of land reform. It contained all the conviction and insight of an earlier report from a psychologist who in her presentation carefully delineated the terrible consequences of post-traumatic slave disorder.

    All of these compelling moments were almost overshadowed by a resolution that passed asking all non-Africans to leave the conference. It may not have been a defining moment for a conference already beset with financial and ideological problems, but it certainly consumed a lot of time and created an unnecessary amount of turmoil and stress. Two days after the resolution was introduced by a member of the British contingent, the issue continued to be a source of tension and endless debate. And many feel it may have a lasting impact and negatively affect future endeavors. David Comissiong, the Director of the Commission on Pan-African Affairs in Barbados is more sanguine about the aftermath of the proceedings. "The decision to exclude non-Africans only applies to this conference," he explained. "It doesn't mean the new organization, which we hope to forge from this conference, will entertain such an exclusionary procedure as part of its policy. This issue may present a problem to some of the institutional bodies, but at the level of the people's organization, I don't think it will present a problem."

    The departure of the Cuban delegation was particularly disturbing, Comissiong continued since he had personally worked so hard to develop strong fraternal relations with the country. "But as we form the new organization out of this conference, they have expressed an interest in working with us and we are hopeful about that eventuality." He noted there were more than 650 people registered for the conference and fewer than 15 had departed, including members of the South African and Zimbabwean delegations. Among the disgruntled delegates remaining was Dr. Lily Golden, a member of the Russian delegation. Dr. Golden said she had traveled more than 4,000 miles to attend the conference in order to deliver a message about the spread of racism in her homeland and parts of Eastern Europe. "But when I arrived I was met with more racism," she lamented. "This is very upsetting and the decision must be changed." During several impromptu meetings with Comissiong, Dr. Jewel Crawford and other members of the Central Organizing Committee, Dr. Golden tried to offer "a way out…a way to save face," she said. "Since the resolution was not on the agenda, it can be retracted. This is not the policy of the Barbados government or the United Nations. This conference is very important for the future of Africans from all over the world and we cannot make mistakes." "We took the resolution and placed it before the body and they voted in favor of removing the non-Africans; it was a democratic procedure and the will of the people," said Dr. Crawford, chair of the Central Organizing Committee. "We wanted to have a family talk. We know that we have been traumatized by racism and we wanted to have our own meeting. Every group of the world is free to talk among themselves, and why shouldn't we have the same opportunity. We dared to struggle and dared to win, and we did it." Beyond the ejection of whites were important findings of the various working groups that included reports on globalization, reparations, decolonization, labor, media, health, youth programs, religion and spirituality, education and economics, and gender-based issues. Each of the working groups was asked to submit a list of priorities, new programs, barriers to achieving recommendations, funding proposals, and regional caucuses, among other requisites.

    "People will be going back to their communities and organizing locally and regionally," Dr. Crawford said. "There will be conferences on a regular basis. And we will start working to pull the programs and projects together. " Dr. Crawford said that the end result of the conference would be the drafting of the "Bridgetown Protocols," and the formation of a new organization to carry on the process that began in Durban, South Africa last year. "The plan is to structure a new organization to further empower us as we move to gather the funds to finance the various programs and projects. We will also put in place new leadership." Does she hope to be part of that new leadership? "If it's the will of the people," she smiled. The will of the people, at least that of the majority of delegates who attended the weeklong affair, was that despite the clamor around the resolution to eject whites, the conference had done a good of job of extending the spirit of Durban and achieving most of the intended goals. As for the next major conference, the third leg, many feel it should occur in Washington, D.C. or in London, which would symbolically complete the triangular aspect of the so-called TransAtlantic slave trade.
    ©The Black World Today

    Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe was recovering well in hospital Monday, a day after stabbed in the stomach by a man who said he hated homosexuals. Delanoe, who is one of France's few openly gay politicians, "spent a good night and his doctors are very reassuring," his deputy Anne Hidalgo told French radio. He was expected to stay in hospital for eight days. The 52 year-old mayor was attacked early Sunday morning as he greeted members of the public at the Paris city hall -- or Hotel de Ville -- as part of an all-night festivity organised across the capital. His assailant, Azedine Berkane, was being held in police custody Monday and was expected to be placed under judicial investigation for attempted murder by the end of the day. On Sunday he told police that the knifing was an "isolated, unpremeditated" act, but that "he did not like politicians and in particular he did not like homosexuals," investigators said. Newspaper reports Monday described Berkane, 39, as a shiftless loner. He lives with his Algerian parents in a poor estate in the northern Paris suburbs and has been unemployed most of his life. Investigators said he has been hospitalised for psychiatric treatment at least twice. He is a devout Muslim, and has several convictions over 20 years for theft and drug-dealing. In prison he developed an interest in computers, newspapers reported. Police said that Berkane carried a knife with him all the time, but he could not have known he would come across Delanoe in the Hotel de Ville, so the act must have been spontaneous. Delanoe, a Socialist elected in March 2001, had come back to the majestic riverside building after touring sites in the capital which were open overnight as part of the celebrations known as "Nuit Blanche" -- or "Sleepless Night." Berkane, who was in a crowd of about 100 people in the city hall's ornate reception rooms, suddenly lunged at the mayor with the knife. Delanoe bled profusely and was taken to hospital, where doctors pronounced him out of danger. The attack reopened debate about the security of public officials. This became a live issue after a gun-attack in March in which an unbalanced loner killed eight councillors during a municipal debate in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre. In July President Jacques Chirac -- himself for 18 years mayor of Paris -- was unscathed when a man opened fire during the annual Bastille day parade in the Champs Elysees. But Hidalgo said Delanoe wished to remain an accessible figure and did not want to turn the Hotel de Ville "into a barricaded castle." A quiet-spoken career politician, Delanoe came out as a homosexual in a television interview in 1998, and after municipal elections in March 2001 he became the capital's first left-wing mayor in 130 years. After the left's defeat in parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year, he is one of the country's most prominent Socialist politicians. In charge of a five billion-euro (4.9 billion dollar) budget and 44,000 municipal employees, he has launched several high-profile initiatives -- such as the "Paris-plage" summer attraction, in which a long section of the bank of the river Seine was turned into a beach. Opinion polls suggest he remains a popular leader, though his programme to discourage private car use by carving out large separate lanes on main roads for buses and taxis has angered some residents.
    The Tocqueville Connection

    French police say a man detained for the drive-by shooting of a French teenager has confessed to the crime. Mohamed Maghara, 17, was shot and killed on Friday as he chatted with friends outside a cafe in Grande-Synthe, near the northern port of Dunkirk. Maghara was of Moroccan descent and was at a cafe popular among the North African community. The killing was quickly condemned by the government as "obviously racist" and was followed on Saturday by a silent protest march by hundreds of residents. The unnamed suspect - a 45-year-old white lorry driver - is reported to have told police that he had a grudge against Arabs. Police detained the man in a dawn raid on his house following a tip-off, prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert told reporters.

    Double shooting
    The killing on Friday came half an hour after another drive-by shooting, apparently carried out by the same man. Shots were fired at the window of another cafe frequented by North Africans in Dunkirk. As he fired ther shots, the man reportedly shouted: "Watch out! I'll kill you all!" Three people were injured in the shooting, one seriously. The shootings horrified the town and the rest of France. About 300 people joined a tense but silent march on Saturday. Two vehicles and several rubbish bins were later set alight. In an interview published on Monday in Le Progres paper, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin called it "a horror... a racist attack is an attack on France and its values".
    ©BBC News

    A symbolic stronghold of the far-right in France has fallen to the socialists. Voters in Vitrolles, outside Marseille in the south of France, ousted Mayor Catherine Megret. The National Republican Movement (MNR), led by her husband Bruno, is an off-shoot of the National Front, which earlier this year propelled Jean-Marie Le Pen to the second round of the French presidency. The MNR has been struggling at the polls, and Vitrolles was the last town it ran. Ms Megret had been mayor of Vitrolles since 1997. "I am extremely disappointed. It's a victory for corruption and disinformation," said Ms Megret. She held the seat in March 2001, but the election result was annulled by a judge who ruled that her supporters had distributed election material which defamed another candidate. In Sunday's fresh poll, socialist Guy Obino beat her by 54% to 46%. "Vitrolles is free," he declared after his victory. The mayor of the MNR's only other town, nearby Marignane, has started backing the National Front instead. The loss of Vitrolles caps a miserable year for Mr Megret, whose policies are seen as further to the right than those of Mr Le Pen. Mr Megret took only 2.3% of the presidential first-round vote, and in the parliamentary elections which followed his party slumped to just 1%. Mr Megret was once Mr Le Pen's deputy, but broke away in 1998 to form the MNR after an internal dispute. Mr Obino's victory comes as a welcome result for the battered French Socialist Party, still reeling after losing Lionel Jospin from the French presidential election and then losing the subsequent parliamentary poll. However, Mr Obino was helped to victory by decision by President Jacques Chirac's centre-right alliance, the UMP, which did not contest the seat.
    ©BBC News

    Suggestions and comments please to