NEWS - Archive July 2013

Headlines 26 July, 2013

Bloody mannequins protest Cecile Kyenge's visit to Italian town (Italy)

26/7/2013- A nationalist political party has claimed responsibility for blood-smeared mannequins protesting the first black member of the Italian cabinet. The mannequins were discovered in the central square of Cervia, a small city near Ravenna in northern Italy, police said Friday. Cecile Kyenge was scheduled to visit Cervia a few hours later for Democratic Party meetings, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Nuova Forza (New Force), a nationalist group that opposes immigration and wants Italy to ban abortion and support traditional families, said it had placed the mannequins in the square. Police said they have identified at least six suspects. The mannequins, dressed in jackets and jeans, had chests smeared with blood and signs reading "Immigration kills." Police also found flyers opposing immigration around the square. Kyenge, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, trained as an ophthamologist. She became minister for integration in April, two months after she was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Since she joined the cabinet, Kyenge has been the target of racial attacks.
UPI

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Neo-Nazi Italian GP has bust of Hitler in library

26/7/2013- Italy’s dubious relationship with far-right politics is in the spotlight again with news that an unabashed neo-Nazi doctor has been reported to the country’s health ministry. Dr Gianantonio Valli, who has 1,400 health service patients on his books in the village of Cuveglio, near Varese, keeps a bust of Hitler in his library and subjects patients to swathes of racist propaganda in the waiting room. The holocaust-denying medic, whose surgery posters warn of the "scourge of immigration", a “third-world invasion ", and the "globalism led by the Jewish lobby," has apparently been able to practise for years in the extremely conservative Varese area, near the Swiss boarder, without causing outrage.

Patients appeared unconcerned that nestling among the motoring and cookery magazines were revisionist texts such as “The Auschwitz Lie” and leaflets denigrating black people. When his liberal expression of far-right views were finally reported this month in the local section of La Repubblica newspaper, centre-left parliamentarians led by the Jewish MP Emanuele Fiano, demanded action from the government. The health minister Beatrice Lorenzin has now called for a report on the situation. Dr Valli talks openly about his Nazi views – even if, like many on the extreme right, he attempts to apply a veneer of intellectual and cultural credibility. He has told reporters: “I am completely fascist, ie. Nazi. I see myself in the tradition of the pagan realism and I’m radically opposed to all aberrant Jewish religion and philosophy.”

Mr Fiano asked the health minister if employing Dr Valli, “one of the leading Holocaust deniers in our country who publicly expresses xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic ideas is compatible with the health system’s medical profession." News of the neo-Nazi GP comes just two weeks after the deputy speaker of the Italian Senate. Roberto Calderoli, refused to resign after he compared Italy’s only black minister, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan. And now further of Italy’s ambiguous position on far-right politics has come with the appearance of a local petition defending the Dr Valli. One patient -- who presumably isn’t isn't a Jew seeking a sex-change operation -- declared: "He's an excellent doctor, always ready to help." Dr Valli was not available for comment. Neither was anyone available at the National Federation of the Order of Physicians and Surgeons (FNOMCeO), which is reported to have launched an investigation.
Independent Digital

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Bosnia Muslims Condemn Hardline Foes of Shorts

Amir Karic said the Islamic Community condemned a reported verbal attack on girls wearing skimpy summer clothes, after a newspaper said that a hardline Wahhabi Muslim insulted two girls in Sarajevo for wearing shorts.

26/7/2013- An official of the Bosnian Islamic Community, Amir Karic, said his institution condemned verbal attacks on two teenage girls this week in Sarajevo by a member of the Wahhabi movement, who reportedly insulted them for wearing shorts during Ramadan. “We condemn any kind of violence towards anyone, because everyone has the right to make their own choice,” Karic said. “At the same time, we cannot be expected to take responsibility for the behaviour of one individual in the street.” Slobodna Bosna said that two 17-year-old girls were insulted on Monday by a man who shouted from a passing car that their outfits were inappropriate. The weekly newspaper said the man warned the girls that it was the holy month of Ramadan, when they should be fasting, not strolling around in shorts.

The journalist, Almir Panjeta, says he drew angry comments from readers for writing about the topic while on social networks he faced open threats. “I was accused of spoiling the image of Sarajevo, of giving too much significance to the case, while many even accused me of making the story up,” Panjeta told Balkan Insight. “The 'Sharia police' does not formally exist here, but we can see some of their activity and it is nothing new, as other girls contacted me after this article saying they had the same experience,” Panjeta added. The so-called Sharia police is a colloquial expression used to refer to members of the Wahhabi movement who preach randomly to people on the street about their behaviour.
Balkan Insight

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Blacklisted - the new low of the European Commission (opinion)

A few months ago I walked out of a meeting of the European Commission focused on Roma. It was indeed, not the nicest thing I did but it was out of frustration and not out of spite I did that. Until that moment I tried my best to signal to the EC that Roma issues should be addressed differently (some of my articles about it have been published in the European Voice) in order to increase impact and efficiency of the very much needed EU funds for Roma social inclusion. I decided I will not take part in any EC meetings until there would be a significant change. The abysmal presence of Roma experts as speakers at EC meetings and the embarrassing show of disinterest on behalf of high level bureaucrats to listen to those that have hands on experience in changing the situation at the ground in Roma communities were some of the reasons why I walked out. A number of Roma activists – part of ERGO network decided to walk out with me back then. It lead to a blacklisting of ERGO on behalf of the European Commission.I do know that this blacklisting is informal and that the EC will never acknowledge such a practice. I did post an open letter about the blacklisting of ERGO.  Valeriu Nicolae

26/7/2013- Last week a close friend told me that the European Commission blacklisted the NGO she works for. I used to work for the same NGO in the past. The members of the network are people I know for a long time- people I am proud to have worked with- committed and hardworking. The idea that ERGO is blacklisted by the European Commission sounded foolish to me and I expressed my doubts that such a thing is possible and encourage her to continue. A few days ago, accidentally, I found out that in fact she was right. ERGO is indeed blacklisted.

The idea that the European Commission can blacklist an NGO such as ERGO should sound preposterous for anybody that knows the Roma civil society. The fact that ERGO was blacklisted because dares to criticize the European Commission and tries hard to find and experiment alternative solutions that could work but are uncomfortable for bureaucrats in Brussels is plain scary. This is the most dangerous approach the European Commission has taken up to this moment. It is much beyond acceptable arrogance of a far too confortable bureaucracy.

It leads to radicalism and polarisation as it will push some of the best, passionate and most motivated Roma activists towards Euro-skepticism and into becoming the enemies of the European Commission. It will reward at the same time the large number of opportunists ready to pay lip-service towards the Commission and provide the needed fake reporting of positive practices for whatever the European Commission supports while criticizing those disliked by powerful bureaucrats in the EC. In medium to long term that will have catastrophic results for the credibility of the European Commission as well as for the development of a healthy Roma Civil Society.

The NGOs financed by the European Commission should be those capable to change things at the grassroots in the communities and not those that are producing hot air and are ready to do whatever needed to please the Commission. The NGOs paid by the EC should not be what most of them are at this moment- a tool the Commission uses for self-praise and to say critical things it can not say itself to the Member States. In addressing issues as complex and sensitive as Roma issues are, the Commissions need to hear critical voices and adapt fast before it goes into a disastrous direction as it happened many times in the past.

In the last Commission there were high-level people within the EC that were patient, emphatic and smart that would gather the valuable and critical voices and discuss and work with them. They functioned as mediators between the passion and permanent sense of urgency of the activists and the constrains and slowness of a huge bureaucratic apparatus such as the European Commission. Spidla’s cabinet and the Deputy Director within DG Regio and people at DG Enlargement and DG Social Affairs are just some of these examples. Despite a horrible clash I had with the head of unit in charge of Roma at that moment- Belinda Pyke- she continued the dialogue and gained both my respect and support. Commissioner Andor himself and his cabinet are doing some of this mediation work still but his DG is much less politically relevant than it is the DG Justice that decided to blacklist ERGO.

There is no chance the Commission will acknowledge that indeed it blacklisted ERGO. This, again, is understandable. What would be impossible to understand is to carry on with this silly approach. The EC needs people like those part of ERGO network as allies if to have a chance to convince the Member States to do what they need to do in order to stop the rampant exclusion Roma face and the terrible economical consequences that come with it. I sincerely hope that the EC will decide to go back on appointing people with experience and capacity to negotiate conflict of ideas in charge of dealing with NGOs and give a strong signal to fast to blacklist egotistical bureaucrats that this is not the way the EC works.

Passionate Roma activists make mistakes and yes, we are not always fair with the bureaucracies. We can be stubborn, sometimes plain nasty and almost always impatient. But some of us work in some of the worst ghettoes and communities and face working conditions and risks few of you at the EC can comprehend. We do not have your comfort and rarely have the patience to understand your institutional constrains. But you are obliged to try your best to work with us because you are not willing and most of you can not do the work we do. And while there are millions that wish to have your jobs there are almost none that want ours.

So do stop this idiocy of blacklisting uncomfortable people with spines that have a record of great results and show the sense, mediation skills and professionalism we need from the best paid bureaucracy in Europe.
Blog Valeriu Nicolae

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Two people charged over book of Hitler's speeches (Czech Rep.)

26/7/2013- The Czech police suspect two men of denying, challenging, approving and justifying genocide by publishing a book of selected speeches of Adolf Hitler, police spokeswoman Petra Vedrova told CTK Friday. The book, Adolf Hitler: Projevy (Speeches), appeared in Czech bookshops last year. The publisher, Pavel Kamas, told CTK that he and his aide Lukas Beer, who wrote the preface and some comments, are the suspects in focus of the police. Kamas previously said the book's goal is to offer Hitler's hitherto practically unaccessible speeches to readers as a chance for them to make their own opinion. Vedrova said the two men are suspected of misdemeanour and their trial may start within two weeks. In the past months, the book came under the criticism of experts, who said Hitler's speeches were an instrument of Nazi propaganda and may be misleading if published without any comments of experts.

Kamas has defended the book from the beginning. "Lukas Beer is a top quality author and an expert in the problem at issue, he is no ideological criminal. As for me, I'm a mere publisher. We both view the accusation as a gross violation of the freedom of speech and expression, which is guaranteed by the constitution," Kamas wrote in a statement for CTK. The controversial book was issued by the Guidemedia publisher's house. Some sellers have withdrawn it from bookshops recently. It is a book of selected speeches Hitler gave in 1939-1942. It has 650 pages, the print run was 10,000 copies and it has been available via the Internet sale only. A text promoting the book on www.hitlerovyprojevy.cz says Hitler spoke about Czechs with respect and appreciation, that he respected Slovaks, sought peace, wanted to have mass destruction weapons liquidated, wished sincere friendship with Britain and had nothing against Russians.

Czech political analyst Miroslav Mares said it is still uncertain what is a crime in similar cases and what not. "This is an interesting case. In my opinion, [the court verdict on] it will define the activities punishable as criminal [in this area]. It may define the framework of what is punishable and what not. By all means it is a controversial case," Mares told CTK. The Guidemedia publisher's company has been mentioned by the Interior Ministry's report on the situation on the extremist scene in the first quarter of 2013. It says the comments related to the book of Hitler's speeches directly and indirectly defend Nazism. Guidemedia's publishing plan, for its part, directly confirms the promotion of these ideas under the veil of publishing historical books and works, the ministry wrote in the report.
The Prague Daily Monitor

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Monuments to Ukrainian far-right movement erected in USA

A group of monuments to Ukrainian nationalists has been set up in the US city of Baraboo in the Sauk County, Wisconsin.

24/7/2013- Several bronze busts of Symon Petliura, Yevgeny Konovalets, Roman Shukhevich and Stepan Bandera, all members of Ukraine’s 20th century violent independence movement, have been erected on the territory of the Beskyd summer camp, which belongs to the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM). Not far from the sprawling complex of bronze busts-crowned columns is a towering monument to Ukraine’s statehood act signed with the USSR on June 30, 1941. The local authority told reporters it had been oblivious to CYM’s intentions. Maxim Volchenko of the local Duane Morris law firm said he had no idea who the US nationals of Ukrainian descent meant to honour with these installations, but stressed they should have asked for the permission of the city council before doing so. A CYM member told journalists the memorial complex was open to everyone, although the land was in private ownership.

CYM’s Pavel Bandrivsky said the intent was to let Ukrainian children who come to the Beskyd summer camp “know Ukrainian heroes by face” so that they could “follow in their step and serve the nation.” “We will continue to build monuments to fallen Ukrainian heroes,” said Konstantin Matvienko, a Ukrainian political analyst. “Don’t take it for an anti-Soviet jab. Ukrainians don’t pay as much attention to such events as Russians do,” he added. The Ukrainian Youth Association, founded in 1925, was run by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists until World War II. After the war, its outposts sprouted across Europe – Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, and Britain – and reached as far as Argentina, Australia, Canada and the US. The movement claims its goals are to propagate Ukrainian heritage and Christian ethics among young Ukrainians.
The Voice of Russia

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UN urges Czechs to shut pig farm on former Nazi camp

25/7/2013- The Czech Republic should remove a pig farm located on the site of a concentration camp where Roma were held and killed during World War II, a United Nations rights watchdog said Thursday. The UN Human Rights Committee said the issue was a litmus test of the Czech Republic's treatment of its marginalised Roma minority and that the country should "redouble its efforts". The committee said the country should be "actively engaging in nurturing respect for the Roma culture and history through symbolic acts, such as removing the pig farm located on a World War II Roma concentration camp in Lety".

Between 1940 and 1943, the occupying Nazi Germans and Czech collaborators imprisoned almost 1,300 Czech Roma in Lety, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the capital Prague. In all, 327 Roma, including 241 children, died at the camp, while more than 500 were sent to Nazi Germany's infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied Poland. Alongside the six million European Jews killed in the Holocaust, an estimated 500,000 Roma perished at Nazi hands, but their suffering is less widely known. In 1972-1976, the communists ruling the former Czechoslovakia built a pig farm at Lety, later taken over by a private firm after the regime's collapse in 1989.

Tensions between Czech Roma and authorities have flared over the issue for well over a decade, with the deeply marginalised minority insisting the state purchase the farm, tear it down and build a fitting memorial. The company that runs the farm says it was built on a field immediately adjacent to the former camp, which had been razed at the end of the war. Historians, however, contend the two sites overlap. The Czech Republic, a nation of 10.5 million people, has a Roma population estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000.
AFP

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Zeman wants to clamp down on Czech neo-Nazis

24/7/2013- Neo-Nazi signs must be followed with much more repressive punishment, Czech President Milos Zeman told CTK Wednesday in reaction to the recent riots, anti-Romany rallies and extremists' marches at the Maj housing project in Ceske Budejovice, south Bohemia. "Active repression is the only way," Zeman said. "This means clamping down on their demonstrations, their pseudo concerts, those making the Nazi salute from the very beginning," he added. "The shops in which Nazi paraphernalia are sold should be confiscated. In my view, this is an efficient way," Zeman said. He said the attempts at re-education were hardly efficient. "Though I may wish it, re-education of the skinheads is hardly an efficient way because re-educated can only be those whose skull includes sufficient brain," he added. "In the case of skinheads, it is not always so," Zeman said.

He said he had spoken about the problem of neo-Nazism in his inauguration speech. "I even said the slogan Czech Lands to Czechs is highly reminiscent of the slogan Juden raus," Zeman said. "By chance, the slogan Czech Lands to Czechs could be repeatedly heard in Ceske Budejovice," he added. "It may be said that I reacted beforehand. I believe that much more intensive reprisals should be used against the Nazi militant groups," Zeman said. The conflicts at the Maj housing project started on June 21 at a playground when a brawl between children turned into a fight in which a hundred of adults from both communities got involved. Extreme right militants then started organising marches to the housing estate at the weekends. The police detained tens of people over the protests some of which turned violent. Some participants in the protests against what they called Romany violence complained about police brutality and they said they had nothing in common with the extremists.
The Prague Daily Monitor

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AC Milan in fresh racism row as midfielder Constant storms off over alleged abuse from Sassuolo fans (Italy)

24/7/2013- Italian football has been rocked by another racism flashpoint after an AC Milan player reacted to abuse from the stands by walking off the pitch. In a carbon copy of Kevin-Prince Boateng's angry stance in a friendly game six months ago, Milan midfielder Kevin Constant picked the ball up and volleyed it at his tormentors in a pre-season tournament game against newly-promoted Serie A side Sassuolo. Unlike the Boateng incident, when his team-mates followed him off and the game was abandoned, Milan sent on a substitute, and the Trofeo TIM tie continued. Teenage midfielder Mario Piccinocchi replaced Constant, who stormed straight down the tunnel, and, after a tannoy warning that the referee could call a halt if he heard any racist abuse, play resumed, with Sassuolo wnning 2-1.

It is understood that while former Tottenham midfielder Boateng was subjected to repeated racist chanting, French-born Guinea international Constant reacted to a single insult that was not heard by others. The Italian football federation are to investigate the incident, with Milan vice president Adriano Galliano saying: 'Racist chants are despicable and scandalous and they should be fought against and I want to stress that. 'But the rules are that when they happen, you should turn to the referee, who will tell the fourth official, who will advise the person responsible in the police, who is the only one authorized to suspend the game. 'There is solidarity with Constant, but it is not OK to leave the pitch. I have told him, repeated it and written it to everyone: You can't leave the pitch.'

The game suddenly erupted in the 34th minute, when 26-year old Constant picked the ball up and booted it at home fans in the Distinti Nord section of Sassuolo's 20,000-capacity Mapei Stadium before turning towards the bench and walking off. AC Milan also released a statement on their website, it read: ‘Yesterday evening July 23, 2013 occurred the latest episode of vulgar racism: this time the victim was Kevin Constant, who reacted by leaving the field of play. 'It was not Constant’s competence to take this decision and, while the reasons are understandable, AC Milan has a duty to remember that all the decisions against such abuses have to be taken by referees and are responsible of public order. 'It is not about defending.'

Though Sassuolo went on to win the tie, in a tournament that also involves Juventus, the town in northern Italy is now bracing itself for sanctions from an Italian federation that is coming under mounting pressure to deal with the persistent problem of racism among fans. Boateng led a mass walk-off by Milan players in the 26th minute of a friendly at fourth division side Pro Patria in January, following sustained racist chanting by the home crowd.
The Daily Mail

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Right-Wing Terror: Hungary Silent over Roma Killing Spree

Five years ago, right-wing terrorists murdered six Roma in Hungary. Now the trial against them is coming to an end. But the political elite has expresed hardly any sympathy for the victims, and a large portion of the public is uninterested in the topic.

23/7/2013- The murders happened just a few meters away. Each time she steps out of the door to her house, Erzsébet Csorba sees the burnt out ruins of the house where her son, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren used to live. Every day Csorba thinks about how she found her son Róbert bleeding in the snow, and how, later, her grandson Róbi was carried into the house, the four-and-a-half-year-old's lifeless body riddled with buckshot. "I wake up with the memories and go to sleep with them," says the 49-year-old. "How could they do they do it -- simply kill innocent people?" The isolated village of Tatárszentgyörgy is located 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) south of Budapest. On the outskirts, several Roma families live in run-down houses. The Csorbas live in the last house before the edge of the forest. On Feb. 29, 2009, right-wing extremists set fire to Róbert Csorba's house and shot the family when they tried to escape. Father and son died. Both mother and daughter survived. The mother sustained minor injuries, while the daughter was more seriously wounded.

Six months later, in August 2009, the alleged perpetrators were apprehended: four fanatical right-wing extremists from the southeastern Hungarian city of Debrecen. Since 2008, they are thought to be responsible for murdering six Roma and severely wounding another 55 people, nearly all of them Roma -- a series of racist, terrorist killings the likes of which is unprecedented in Hungary's postwar history. Over the next few days, after two years and 170 days of court proceedings, the trial against the four suspects will come to an end. On Wednesday, brothers István and Árpád K., as well as Zsolt P. and Isvtán Cs. will give their closing statements. The verdict is due by the beginning of August. There is little doubt as to the guilt of the accused: They have admitted their presence at the crime scenes, but they deny having committed the murders.

'No One Has Paid Their Respects'
As brutal as the deeds were, however, the public reaction in Hungary has been minimal, and hardly any wider debate has arisen from the conclusion of the trial. "These murders were crimes against humanity, yet they didn't shake Hungarian society," says Aladár Horváth, a Roma politician and civil rights activist. "On the part of the government, of the political elite, no one has paid their respects to the victims and their families. No one has taken responsibility, neither symbolically nor legally nor politically, and the family has not received any significant financial aid." Indeed, former President László Sólyom, who was in office when the murders occurred and the suspected perpetrators were arrested, uttered not a word of sympathy for the victims. Even the socialists, who were in power during the Roma murders in 2008-2009 and put much stock in their anti-fascist image, offered only the standard clichés.

Now, the current conservative-nationalist governing coalition under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wants nothing to do with the topic. They wouldn't want to scare their constituency, which extends far into the right wing of the political spectrum. Only the culture minister, Zoltán Balogh, recently managed to make a gesture: His ministry paid for the funeral for Erzsébet Csorba's husband Csaba, who died in February of this year after being overcome by grief about the murders. The lack of public concern is also evident in the investigation of the "Roma Killers," and in the trial itself. It has become clear that that the far-right terrorists had the help of at least one more person and probably had several accomplices. Yet they are missing from the courtroom and it is unclear whether investigators are still looking for them. The trial is being kept secret for reasons of national security.

It's even possible that some of the murders could have been prevented. Two of the defendants had been monitored by intelligence agents because of right-wing extremist activity until 2008, shortly before the killing spree began, but then the officials shelved the operation. Another defendant was working as an informant for a military intelligence unit. But Hungary's intelligence community remains silent about its role in the murders.

Outrageous Negligence
There were also outrageous scenes that played out when authorities arrived at the crime scene. In Tatárszentgyörgy on the night of the murder, for instance, police tried to dissuade the Csorba family from reporting an attack and urinated on evidence at the crime scene. Observers of the trial like liberal former parliamentarian József Gulyás, who was permitted to see secret investigation files, accuse the Hungarian authorities of sloppiness at the very least -- and Gulyás doesn't rule out a cover-up. He also criticizes the fact that the suspects were only charged with murder, not for terrorist offenses. "It seems as if the Hungarian government and the Hungarian authorities want to bring an end to the embarrassing affair while drawing as little attention to themselves as possible," says Gulyás.

Journalist and filmmaker András B. Vágvölgyi, who attended nearly every hearing, criticizes the "technical conduct" of presiding Judge László Miszori. "Political questions played hardly any role in the trial," he says. "A court has an obligation -- especially in a country like Hungary, which is entrenched in ideological and moral confusion -- to act with a certain moral weight." Erzsébet Csorba, for her part, hopes that the accused "never again see the light of day." She, too, is convinced that there are more perpetrators who still walk free. But she, her children and her grandchildren continue to live in fear in their house at the edge of the woods. What she would like most is to build a high fence all the way around her property, but she doesn't have the money. Sometimes her teenaged sons and young grandson awake terrified in the night because they hear noises. "Go back to sleep," says Erzsébet Csorba, "it's only the shrubs and trees rustling in the wind." But she wonders silently if killers lurk outside once more.
The Spiegel

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