Headlines 26 March, 2010
SUSPECTED FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS SET FIRE TO POLITICIAN'S CAR (Germany)
26/3/2010- Unknown perpetrators believed to be far-right extremists set fire to the car of a Berlin politician with Kurdish roots early on Friday morning, city authorities reported. Evrim Baba, who has repeatedly taken a stand against far-right activity in her political career, is a member of the Berlin city parliament for the socialist Left party. The politician said she believed the attack came from the neo-Nazi scene after recently receiving a number of threats. Several days ago a smelly liquid was also thrown inside the 39-year-old’s car, rendering it unusable. City politicians from both Baba’s party and the centre-left Social Democrats condemned the attack. Baba fled with her family from the Turkey's then military regime as an eight-year-old child and worked as an interpreter before becoming a member of the Berlin legislature in 1999. She is the Left party’s speaker on women’s issues in the capital. The fire attack on Baba’s car follows a similar crime in which two cars were burned outside conservative Berlin politician Robbin Juhnke’s home in the summer of 2009. In that case left-wing anarchists claimed responsibility.
© The Local - Germany
POLICE ARREST NEO-NAZIS FOR ATTACK ON FOREIGN STUDENTS IN VOLGOGRAD (Russia)
26/3/2010- Police in Volgograd, Russia arrested a group of teenage neo-Nazis on suspicion of attacking foreign students, according to a a March 22, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The youths "ran amok on the streets, along with a group of unidentified young men wielding baseball bats," targeting ethnic minorities. There is no information in the report on the number of victims, their countries of origin, or the extent of their injuries, but luckily, nobody was killed in the attack.
HATE CRIME CONVICTIONS IN SLOVENIA
25/3/2010- Slovenia has seen its first convictions leading to imprisonment in an anti-gay hate crime case. Three men will spend 18 months in jail for attacking the Ljubljana lesbian bar Cafe Open during a pride week event last June. Along with several other men, they threw rocks, yelled anti-gay slurs and beat gay activist Mitja Blazic, who suffered head injuries as well as burns from the attackers' torches. The Ljubljana District Court found the three guilty of instigating hatred, violence and intolerance on the basis of sexual orientation. The men's lawyers said the verdict will be appealed.
© Between the Lines News
22/3/2010- On September 22, 2009, the regional court of the Rostovskaya Oblast found 34 Jehovah’s Witness publications “extremist” and determined that the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Taganrog were “extremist.” On December 8, 2009, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the Rostovskaya regional court ruling and publications by the Jehovah’s Witness now appear on the government’s list of banned extremist material. In the aftermath of the September ruling by the Rostovskaya regional court, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have faced extensive persecution. The number of incidents in which Jehovah’s Witnesses have been detained or attacked in Russia has been increasing dramatically ever the regional court’s ruling. In particular, there were 100% more reported attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in January and February of 2010 than there were in September and November of 2009. Similarly, there were 33% more reported detentions of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in February 2010 than in January of 2010. Specific incidents, which have been taken from Sova center reports, are related below.
There were a series of attacks of Jehovah’s Witnesses in January and February 2010 in different regions of Russia.
Here is the translation of Jehova’s Witnesses own materials. Translated by James freeman.
In January 2010, two Jehovah’s Witnesses in Krasnodar shared their religious convictions with the tenants of a house. They then met a man who wanted to know what they were doing. After learning that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, the man insulted them, started to chase them, and threatened them at gunpoint.
In January 2010 in Vyselki (Krasnodarskiy Krai), two Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke with people about the Bible. They met a man who attacked and smashed the lip of one of the believers. The Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed to the police, but the police laughed at them and refused to either file a complaint or report the incident.
In January 2010 in the village of Krasnozorenskom (Stavropol region) Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke with people about religion. Three men in military Cossack uniforms approached the believers. Presenting himself as ataman (commander), one of the men asked the believers what they were doing in the village. After checking the passports of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the ataman (commander) demanded to see documents attesting to the believers’ right to preach. In an aggressive manner, the men demanded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses leave the village during the next 20 minutes and threatened to burn the car of the Jehovah’s Witnesses if the believers did not comply.
On January 4 2010 in the Elizavetinskaya Station (Rostovskaya Oblast), a group of eight Jehovah’s Witnesses spoke with people about the Bible. A representative of the administration and a Cossack approached the Jehovah’s Witnesses and demanded that they leave the station nicely or be beaten unmercifully with whips.
On January 21, 2010 in Meleuz (the Republic of Bashkortostan) two Jehovah’s Witnesses met a man during the course of a sermon who insulted them and would not let them go. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses tried to call the police, the man attacked them and started to beat them. He smote them with blows to the face, head and body. In addition, he beat another Jehovah’s Witness who women in the in the location addressed in calls for help. The attack was stopped by the police (militsiya).
On January 29, 2010 in the village Baymak (the Republic of Bashkortostan) two female Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the residence of a young man who they knew in order to talk about religion. However, the young man was not at home. Suddenly a man jumped out of the apartment and injured both Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jehovah’s Witnesses called the police (militsiya), but the police refused to accept a statement from them. Instead, the police insulted the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Complaints were lodged to both the Republic of Bashkortostan and the office of the public prosecutor. Early in the morning of February 14, the perpetrator of the attack came to the house where the Jehovah’s Witnesses live and threatened further abuse.
In February of 2010 in Balakhna (Nizhy Novgorod oblast) two Jehovah’s Witnesses were preaching when a woman attacked them. She beat and insulted the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the victims had a concussion.
On February 4 2010 in Kineshma (Ivanovo Oblast) two elderly female Jehovah’s Witnesses were giving a sermon. A young man opened the door of their apartment. He pulled off a cross that he had around his chest and kissed it. He then banged one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses against the doorpost and shoved her down the stairs. The woman broke her arm. The victim appealed to the police (militsiya) with a statement.
On February 5, 2010 in Saint Petersburg, a Jehovah’s Witness was assaulted by a colleague while at work. He suffered multiple injuries.
On February 8 2010 in Naberezhnye Chelny (the Republic of Tatarstan), two Jehovah’s Witnesses were speaking with people about religion when a man assaulted and insulted them. One woman ended up with severe bruises as a result.
On February 10, 2010 in Murmansk two Jehovah’s Witnesses were preaching. A man opened the door of the apartment where the Jehovah’s Witnesses were and asked to enter. The man then drunk alcoholic beverages. After locking the door to the apartment, the man then pulled out a weapon (a “cold steel” saber that was 50 cm long). Exposing the blade, he began to threaten to kill the believers. After 30 minutes, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to leave the residence.
On February 18 in the village of Chunsky (Irkutsk oblast) there was an attack against 2 Jehovah’s Witnesses who were preaching. The assailants then fled from the scene of the attack.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis
HATE CRIME LAW COMES INTO FORCE IN SCOTLAND (uk)
24/3/2010- A new law has come into force to tackle hate crimes against gay or disabled people. The act puts hate crimes against disabled or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on the same footing as racist incidents. The legislation was put forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie in 2008. Its implementation comes the day after a survey by the Stonewall charity suggested one-third of Scotland's gay community has been physically attacked. According to the poll, two-thirds of LGBT people have been verbally abused, but 88% did not report it to the police. Only four out of ten people who had been physically attacked told the authorities. The Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Act brings Scotland into line with the rest of the UK by widening the definition of hate crimes. It means courts must take into account the motivation for the offence, which may result in a more severe sentence. Mr Harvie's member's bill gained cross-party support when it was introduced at the Scottish parliament. He said: "From today, perpetrators of hate crimes against disabled and LGBT Scots will be put on notice. "Courts can now take account of the true nature of their crimes when sentencing, and the police will be gathering data to see how effectively these offences are being tackled. "Personally, I am also delighted to see Scotland's first Green-initiated legislation go onto the statute books, and I have been pleased to work very closely with the Scottish government on the issue."
Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker said: "We need to send a clear message that hate crime will be dealt with with the full force of the law. "It is clear too many victims of hate crime do not feel confident in coming forward and reporting hate crime because they do not believe it will make a difference - that needs to change. "The new legislation will give sentencers greater powers and I hope that victims will feel that if they come forward they will get the support they need." Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "There is no excuse for any form of hate crime; it is simply not acceptable and it will not be tolerated. "When it does happen, victims must have the confidence to report it, confident that they will receive a good level of service from the police and other agencies. "That is exactly why we've got this new legislation coming into force which will rightly put these kinds of crimes on the same footing as racist incidents."
© BBC News
PROSECUTORS MUST 'RAISE GAME' ON DISABLED HATE CRIME (uk)
22/3/2010- The Crown Prosecution Service should do more to help disabled victims of hate crime, an official has said. Joanna Perry, of the CPS's equality and diversity unit, said the prosecution service for England and Wales needed to "raise its game" over the issue. She added that it must secure more successful prosecutions against those who target people with disabilities. Charity Mencap welcomed the call, saying many people with disabilities were reluctant to report crimes.
Ms Perry's comments follow the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter, Francecca Hardwick, 18, after years of abuse from a gang in Barwell, Leicestershire. And last March a man with learning difficulties, David Askew, collapsed and died after allegedly being harassed by youths in Greater Manchester. The CPS has recently issued new guidelines to prosecutors which it says will help increase the number of cases brought to court. They include a list of common factors in disability hate crime, asking prosecutors to look at whether there has been a pattern of offences, and encouraging more focus on the victim's right to justice. While the police and prosecution service have had some success in tackling race, religious and homophobic crime, they admit they have been less successful in combating hate crimes targeted at disabled people. In an interview with the BBC, Ms Perry said: "We think that the CPS could raise its game and that we could better identify where there is hostility against disabled people - in other words, where there's evidence we can bring to the courts' attention that shows that this crime, for example, was not just a robbery, it was a disability hate crime robbery."
'Kicked and punched'
But Ian Kelcey, chairman of the Law Society criminal law committee, warned that many such cases would not make it into court "A lot of these cases may fall at the first hurdle," he said. "When people with disabilities realise they've got to go to court, they've got to give evidence, they may feel somewhat disempowered, somewhat reluctant to go to court because of the issue of repercussions." Police say hate crime against people with disabilities is often difficult to define, but better training has raised awareness. Chief Constable Steve Otter, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said agencies needed to work together to tackle the problem. "There's no doubt we can do more. It's very challenging - we have to make sure our officers are trained properly so they can identify disability and mental health issues," he said. "We have to make sure that we can get the evidence into court in an admissible way and we have to make sure that we are working really hard to prevent these things from happening in the first place." Disability hate victim Keith Shortman spent two years sleeping under a bridge because he was too scared to stay at home after being targeted. He told BBC News: "I got kicked and punched to the ground. They just decided to pick on a disabled person. "They kept banging on the door, waking me up while I was asleep. I didn't want to stay in the house because I didn't want to be terrorised."
Mencap says it has conducted research that suggests about 90% of people with learning disabilities have been bullied, many of them victims of crime. The charity's chief executive Mark Goldring told the BBC: "It's great that the CPS have said this now. A lot of the issue is people don't report it, and people are scared to report. They're scared of coming into contact with authority. "When they do, they're seen as being unreliable, very difficult to pin down - people with a learning difficulty find it very hard to express themselves. "People with all disabilities fear that contact with authority, then authority thinks they're not going to be very reliable witnesses." Disability charity Scope said recognition of the need to tackle hate crime was long overdue. Ruth Scott, policy and campaigns director of Scope, said: "Too many disabled people are being denied justice for the crimes committed against them and conviction rates for disability hate crimes are still much lower than other types of hate crime. "New guidelines for police are a step in the right direction. Police officers and prosecutors need much clearer guidance and training on how to recognise, investigate and prosecute disability hate crimes if disabled people are to have any confidence in the criminal justice system."
© BBC News
SCOTTISH SURVEY SHOWS MOST LGBT PEOPLE HAVE EXPERIENCED HATE CRIME (uk)
• Two thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been verbally abused, a third physically attacked • 61% of those physically attacked did not report it to the police • Police stations across Scotland to display stickers to show it is safe to report hate crime. • Findings released as Hate Crime Law comes into force
22/3/2010- New statistics from Stonewall Scotland show that most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Scotland have been a victim of hate crime. Two thirds have been verbally abused because they are LGBT, and a third have been physically attacked. But 88% of those verbally attacked did not report it to the police and 61% of those physically attacked did not report it. The figures, from a new report by Stonewall Scotland, show a quarter of those surveyed said they would not report verbal abuse because it was just part of life as an LGBT person in Scotland. The figures come as the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 – the law that means homophobic and transphobic crimes are recognised by the legal system and treated appropriately – comes into force. The Act will be implemented on Wednesday 24th March. To help address the problem of under reporting, Stonewall Scotland has offered every Scottish police force rainbow flag stickers to show to the public that the police force has made a commitment to equality for everyone and to taking reports of hate crime seriously. The stickers have the slogan “Making Scotland Safer Together” and are supported by ACPOS and police forces across Scotland. They are accompanied by postcards for staff and members of the public which explain why they are displayed.
Carl Watt, Director, Stonewall Scotland, said: “Too many people in Scotland experience hate crimes – and many don’t report it, because they think it won’t make a difference or because it happens on such a regular basis. A quarter told us they accept the abuse and the attacks as part of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Scotland. “As this new law tackling hate crime comes into force, we’re working with the police to give people the confidence to come forward and report crime, and show perpetrators that attacking someone, physically or verbally, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is not acceptable in a modern Scotland. “ Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "There is no excuse for any form of hate crime; it is simply not acceptable and it will not be tolerated. When it does happen, victims must have the confidence to report it, confident that they will receive a good level of service from the police and other agencies. "That is exactly why we’ve got this new legislation coming into force which will rightly put these kinds of crimes on the same footing as racist incidents. This sends out a strong message that hate crime against LGBT and disabled people will not be tolerated. These kinds of measures are absolutely crucial, but we also want to tackle the root causes of the prejudice and discrimination which underpins bullying, or hate crime towards LGBT and disabled people. "We want to exceed the requirements of the anti-discrimination legislation, and to develop proactive policy and practice which actively promotes equality and inclusion for LGBT and disabled people in Scotland. This aspiration is based on a fundamental belief in the value of equality for all of our country."
Chief Constable Ian Latimer QPM, MA, ACPOS Lead on Equality and Diversity Business Area, said: “ACPOS acknowledges the Stonewall Scotland survey and notes the concerns highlighted by some of the LGBT people who responded to this. “Hate crime in any form is unacceptable and this helps to highlight the importance of the enhanced powers given to police in Scotland through the new legislation which will be launched tomorrow (Wednesday 24 March) by the COPFS and ACPOS. “Forces across Scotland take hate crime very seriously and are proactively developing policy and practice to address discrimination. There are many local initiatives in place which seek to build trust with LGBT groups and with other people at risk of discrimination in their communities. “We trust that these measures, in addition to the new legislation, will give all victims the confidence to report crime and know that they will receive a high quality police response.”
1. Stonewall Scotland campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
2. The rainbow flag is a recognised symbol of LGBT inclusion and equality – displaying it shows a commitment to treating LGBT people equally, and with respect.
3. Quotes from the survey are available.
4. The full findings are available for download here.
5. 277 people responded to the survey, which was available on Stonewall Scotland’s website for four months in the autumn of 2009, and was handed out at Pride in Edinburgh in 2009.
© Stonewall Scotland
LEFTIST EXTREMISTS CLAIM GREECE ATTACKS
22/3/2010- A Greek extremist group on Monday claimed responsibility for three bomb attacks last weekend that caused damage to the offices of a neo-Nazi movement, the home of a Pakistani and migration offices. The group, the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, said in a message posted on the left-leaning Indymedia website the attacks were a contribution to the ongoing debate in the country on immigration. It said Greece, which has become a major entry point for clandestine migrants, was an "off-putting example" of exploitation and lack of assistance. While denouncing widespread "racism", Conspiracy also said the Pakistani targeted was cooperating with Greek authorities. In the latest blast to rock the Greek capital a home-made bomb exploded outside a building housing immigration offices Saturday causing some damage but no one was hurt. Earlier Saturday, a bomb exploded outside the home of the Pakistani, the chairman of the Greek-Pakistan friendship association according to media reports, without injuring anyone. The Pakistani community in Greece numbers several thousand members, most of whom live in the greater Athens area. Early Friday the headquarters of neo-Nazi group Chryssy Avghi had been targeted. Chryssi Avghi members, who have held a number of rallies in central Athens for the last months, have been denounced by the left for attacking immigrants and anti-racist militants. Muslim migrants in Greece have faced increasing hostility from far-right militants, and the Pakistani community has frequently denounced attacks on its members by Greek youths. Last month a gang of mostly teenagers set fire to a house in Sparta, southern Greece as a group of Bangladeshi migrants slept inside. In May last year, five Bangladeshi migrants were injured after unknown assailants tried to burn down a makeshift mosque in Athens. Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire last claimed responsibility for a bomb attack outside the Greek parliament on January 9. Seven Conspiracy members have been arrested since police uncovered a cache used by the group in an Athens suburb in September last year. The group is suspected of having carried out a string of bomb and firebomb attacks in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki since 2008, but no life was lost.
EUGENE: HATE CRIMES AGAINST JEWS TURN VIOLENT (usa)
21/3/2010- The first assault happened just after 11 p.m. Saturday, five blocks from the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. That's when the victim said two men punched him, kicked him and hit him with a weapon. Two hours later the victim told police the same suspects attacked him again, this time a block east. According to Eugene Police, one of the suspects yelled anti-Semitic slurs at the 33-year-old Jewish victim. Anti-Semitism in this college town has become a more frequent occurrence of late. In January, an on-campus open-invitation event hosted by the pro-Nazi Pacifica Forum sparked student protests, with some saying the Forum made the university – and surrounding community – a dangerous place. The tension escalated when someone spray-painted a 4-foot-by-4-foot swastika in the office of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance. Though no Pacifica members are suspected, one of its January lectures focused on the symbolism of the swastika. Administrators found themselves trapped between the ideal of tolerance and the right to free speech. Meanwhile, students such as April-Kay Williams have said they're leaving the university in the face of these hate crimes. "It may be common to you but I've never experienced hate like this before," Williams said in an e-mail. "...I do not want to be on a campus where the president talks about diversity and inclusiveness but still allows a hate group on campus." In Saturday's assault case, police arrested 32-year-old Gary Lee Kehm overnight. Kehm is charged with second-degree assault, unlawful use of the weapon and first-degree intimidation. Sergeant Kris Martes said the assault is considered a hate crime. "The purpose and the motivation behind the crime, according to the victim, is his religious orientation," Martes said. According to police, all three men knew each other. None were university students, however. All are reportedly transients. The victim was hurt in the attack, but declined medical treatment. Police are still looking for the second suspect. They said he goes by the name "Sweetpea." Police said he is 5-feet-10-inches tall, with a thin build and shoulder-length hair and a beard. He's about 35 years old. He was last seen in a red baseball hat, maroon jacket and blue jeans, carrying a tan backpack.
REPORT: ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACKS RISING IN SCANDINAVIA
22/3/2010- Anti-Semitic attacks by Muslim extremists reportedly are on the rise in Scandinavia. Jewish communities across the region have lodged complaints about the rise in attacks and the lack of official intervention, according to a report in Die Presse, an Austrian Internet publication, published on March 16. Fredrik Sieradzk of the Jewish community in Malmo, Sweden, told die Presse that Jews are being "harassed and physically attacked." He said the perpetrators are "people from the Middle East," but was quick to add that only a small number of Malmo's 40,000 Muslims "exhibit hatred of Jews." In Norway, pupils have had yellow stars pasted to their backs by bullying classmates, some of whom have said that "all Jews should be shot." Teachers reportedly often don't react. In Copenhagen, Jewish pupils hide their Stars of David and remove their yarmulkes on the way home from school, particularly if their routes take them through neighborhoods with many Muslim residents, according to reports. The blogosphere is buzzing with reactions to a report on Norway's state-run TV on March 18 in which Jewish parents, their faces hidden from the camera, reported moving their children out of schools where they were being bullied, only to find the same problem cropping up again in new schools. Teachers said some Muslim pupils openly deny the Holocaust and complain when the subject of anti-Semitism comes up. One pupil who reported that a classmate had threatened to kill him because he was a "Jewish pig" was told by his teacher that "this could happen to anyone." Norwegian Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen has rejected charges that her highly critical stance toward Israel has encouraged an atmosphere in which Jewish pupils are victimized. She told Die Presse that "one's views on Israeli politics have nothing to do with harassment of Jews." The Swedish newspaper Skanska Dagblade reported that attacks on Jews in Malmo totaled 79 in 2009, about twice as many as the previous year, according to police statistics. Some 30 Jewish families have emigrated from Malmo to Israel in the past year, specifically to escape from harassment, Sieradzk told Die Presse. Jewish communities in Sweden number a total of about 20,000 members. Only a few thousand Jews live in Norway and Denmark.
© JTA News
JEWISH SCHOOL IN BULGARIA VANDALIZED
25/3/2010- Anti-Semitic graffiti was spray painted on the walls of a Jewish school in the capital of Bulgaria. A Star of David equated with a Nazi swastika and the words "stop occupation" were spray painted on the wall of the Dimcho Debeljanov Jewish School, the only Jewish school in Sofia. The vandalism occurred on Sunday, according to the European Jewish Press. It is apparently linked to current events in Israel. “This act of vandalism has been made a week before the Jewish holiday of Pesach and the Christian Easter. At a time when all people, without difference in ethnicity or religion, should open their hearts for the good, these vandals have sown hate; hate which verges on terrorism… We appeal to citizens and to civil society to react definitely against such acts and to remember that whoever sows hate today reaps storms tomorrow,” read an official statement from Shalom, which represents the Jewish community of Bulgaria. There are about 5,000 Jews living in Bulgaria. “Bulgaria is justifiably proud of its friendly and protective relations with its Jewish community. World ORT trusts that this outstanding tradition will be translated into constructive efforts to ensure that the ugly upsurge in anti-Semitism seen in so many parts of the world does not manifest itself in your beautiful country,” World ORT, which supports the school, said in a letter sent to Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education.
© JTA News
SKIN HEADS ARRESTED AFTER SKIRMISH WITH GAY RALLY IN BULGARIA
21/3/2010- Six men were arrested in Bulgaria’s Pazardzhik after they assaulted physically a rally supporting gay rights. Six activists of the youth organization “Lesbians, Gay, Bi- and Transgender in Action” arrived to the city of Pazardzhik from Sofia in order to protest an order to local City Council banning the display of homosexuality in public. The activities arranged large banners on which they started writing articles from the Bulgarian Constitution and the UN Human Rights Charter. No local gay rights activists joined them, Darik Radio reported. However, about 100 local young men most of them with shaved heads and in black clothes staged an anti-rally claiming they had gathered to express their support for the order issued by the City Council. As several of skin heads members attacked the gay rights activists they were immediately knocked down to the ground and arrested by the policemen guarding the rally, who were led personally by the head of the Pazardzhik Police Directorate, Commissar Stoyan Stoyanov. No-one was hurt during the skirmish. However, the anti-rally protestors shouted offensive slogans directed against the gay rights activists such as “No one wants you, losers”, “Out of Pazardzhik”, “Go to Uganda, freaks”. The gay rights organization has attacked the order of the Pazardzhik Municipality before Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection from Discrimination, which is to come up with a ruling on Wednesday.
Headlines 19 March, 2010
ROMANI FAMILY IN OSTRAVA SUFFERS MOLOTOV COCKTAIL ATTACK (Czech Rep.)
15/3/2010- An unknown perpetrator attacked a Romany family house with a Molotov cocktail in Ostrava's Bedriska neighbourhood at night on Saturday, fortunately injuring no one, the criminal police told reporters yesterday, "Unacceptable, appalling, mad. These are things that have no place in a normal society. I firmly believe the affair will be properly investigated," Prime Minister Jan Fischer said in reaction to the case. The case will be investigated by a special team. "The perpetrator, unknown for now, threw a Molotov cocktail through the window glass...but it did not catch fire," the officer said. The Molotov cocktail did not break after it fell on the floor, therefore the inflammable liquid neither leaked nor flared up. The police are now waiting for the results of an expert assessment that is to be completed by the end of the week. The attack occurred at night from Saturday. The Molotov cocktail flew into a children's room where a 14-year-old girl was sleeping. She woke up at the noise. Local Romanies now say they fear for their safety. Last April, arsonists attacked a Romany family house in Vitkov, elsewhere in north Moravia, with three Molotov cocktails. Three people were injured by the fire, including a 2-year-old girl who suffered burns on 80 percent of her body. The trial of the four suspects in the case, all right-wing extremists from north Moravia, is to start on May 11. They have been charged with attempted racially motivated murder targeting several people, including a child. They face up to 15 years in prison, if found guilty, but a longer sentence or even life imprisonment cannot be ruled out.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
SF POLICE PROBE MORE HATE CRIME BB-GUN SHOOTINGS (usa)
13/3/2010- Prosecutors who have charged three cousins with a hate crime for shooting a San Francisco man with a BB gun because they thought he was gay said Friday they're considering charging the suspects in 11 similar shootings. A video recording recovered by police from a car belonging to Mohammad Habibzada, 24, and Shafiq Hashemi and Sayed Bassam, both 21, show the cousins shooting at the other victims, Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew said. No serious injuries have been reported from the 11 additional shootings. "We're looking to talk to others who may have been victimized," Buckelew said. The cousins from Hayward, Calif., are accused of shooting a 27-year-old man in the cheek as he was smoking outside a bar in San Francisco's Mission district on Feb. 26. The victim called police and said he'd been shot by a passing car. Police pulled the suspects over as the cousins drove by the bar a second time as officers were interviewing the victim. Police allegedly found a "rifle-style" BB gun and a video camera inside the car. Investigators later discovered a recording of the shooting on the camera, police said. "They basically stated to officers that they came to San Francisco to target gay people," police spokesman Samson Chan said. The cousins have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with a hate crime enhancement discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, and attempted mayhem for the initial shooting. They are in custody after a judge granted prosecutors' request Friday to raise the suspects' bail to $450,000 each, pending the new charges, which are expected to be filed in the next couple weeks.
© The Associated Press
THE STATE OF TRANSGENDER HATE CRIMES IN D.C. (usa)
18/3/2010- Last month, D.C. police released a report breaking down every hate crime reported in D.C. [PDF] over the past five years. In 2007, changes to the D.C. Human Rights Act required police to begin recording hate-bias crimes motivated by the victim’s “gender identity or expression”—in other words, crimes that specifically target transgender victims. Since then, crimes against the transgender community have been the second most frequently recorded type of hate crime committed in D.C., after sexual orientation. Since 2007, D.C. police have recorded 16 bias-related crimes based on gender identity. Last year, D.C. recorded seven of these crimes (which can include anything from destruction of property to assault to murder). But as trans activist group the DC Trans Coalition notes, transgender victims often face barriers to having crimes against them reported, investigated, and properly coded as a hate crime. According to the DCTC, “Since many trans communities (particularly low-income trans women of color and those who are sex workers) experience violence at the hands of police themselves, it is likely that anti-trans crimes in general are under-reported. Further, DCTC has also learned via a Freedom of Information Act request that MPD still is not tracking statistics about police response rates to cases involving trans individuals.” And because the transgender community in D.C. is so small, seven crimes in a year is an extremely significant figure. We’re talking about a very limited population of potential targets, which means that any hate crime against a trans person holds more power to terrorize the entire community.
In 2009, D.C. experienced several highly visible bias crimes motivated by the victim’s gender identity. Last March, a transgender man was assaulted outside of Fab Lounge by some of the gay bar’s other patrons. In August, Tyli’a Mack and a friend, both trans women, were stabbed on the street in the middle of the afternoon. Mack was killed. The most recent hate-bias crime based on gender identity occurred last weekend, when two transgender individuals were assaulted in Petworth with a metal pole. The new D.C. police report resolves one reporting problem for D.C.’s transgender community: In an original hate crimes report released in November of last year, D.C. police failed to distinguish between gender identity and sexual orientation in its data, leaving the transgender community with no information on how many victims were being targeted specifically for their gender identity. After some prodding by activists, D.C. released the fully differentiated data last month.
© The Washington City Paper
TEEN SOUGHT IN ANTI-SEMITIC GRAFFITI CASE (Canada)
17/3/2010- A Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for a teenager accused of spraying graffiti targeting the Jewish community in Calgary. Several anti-Semitic slogans and signs were spray-painted on three Jewish centres, including a Holocaust memorial, and nearby property in the southwest in November 2009. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of an 18-year-old man, but because the offences were committed when he was 17, he cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The warrants are for mischief to property, as well as hate-related charges of mischief to a place of religious worship motivated by hate, and inciting public hatred, said police on Wednesday. The documents were issued after an extensive investigation and consultation with the Crown prosecutors' office and the Alberta justice minister and attorney general, said police. The Calgary Jewish Community Council praised the police for their diligence in pursuing justice in the case. The council's vice-president said he was pleased with the charges under the hate crime provisions of the Criminal Code. "These charges send a very strong message that Calgary does not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism of any kind," said Adam Singer. Surveillance video captured one person in the incidents but police said at the time that others could have also been involved.
© CBC News
RELIGIOUS GROUPS GET SECURITY BOOST(Canada)
13/3/2010- Eight of Edmonton's most frequently vandalized religious and ethnic centres will soon boast enhanced security, federal minister of public safety Vic Toews said on Friday. His head covered with a yellow bandana in accordance with Sikh tradition, Toews made the announcement to a small crowd of Sikhs and other religious minorities gathered at the Sikh temple on Millwoods Road. "The unfortunate reality is that although Canada is a very welcoming nation, it is not immune from violent acts that target individuals or groups based on their race, culture, religion, or identity," he said, noting that police reported more than 800 hate crimes across Canada in 2007. Of those, 185 of them were directed at religions. While the vandalism at minority religious centres is sometimes considered a "victimless crime, the harm is profound," Toews. "Hate-motivated crime often leaves more than just physical damage; it can put entire communities into a state of fear and anxiety." To combat such hate crimes, Toews announced the federal government's security infrastructure pilot program would match the $265,000 raised by eight Edmonton religious centres to install security systems. The installations -- including fencing, improved lighting, and video cameras -- will be used at the Sikh temple as well as Jewish, Islamic, Coptic, and Jamaican gathering places. Taking the podium after Toews, Const. Ken Smith praised the religious communities for coming together to help fund security improvements.
"From my experience, it's well documented that when the community itself works within itself to find solutions to crime, it's much more effective. This is (such) a case ... and we've seen results," he said. He encouraged any threatened groups to contact the police department for help improving security. Such consultation with police led the Coptic Orthodox Church to raise $65,000, matched by the federal government, to install a gated fence and light poles on its grounds. The church has dealt with numerous broken windows and been vandalized with swastikas as recently as last year, said Dr. Fawzy Morcos, a member of its board of deacons. "It was really horrible," he said of a 2005 incident, which saw the number 666 and the phrase "F ... Jesus" written on the building's entrance. Once the lights and fence are installed, Morcos hopes his church will see a drop in incidents similar to what's happened at the Sikh temple, where a three-year barrage of racist graffiti ended after security cameras were installed earlier this month. Bal Sandhu, chairman of the temple's advisory committee, said his community feels safer now, "especially the kids. Because when the kids see this kind of writing on the wall, they starting asking questions: 'Why are people writing? Why do they hate us? Why do they do this? So that has eliminated that.' " Edmonton police reported 155 hate crimes in 2009, out of 228 provincewide.
© The Edmonton Journal
HOLOCAUST MONUMENT IN POLAND VANDALIZED
13/3/2010- Vandals sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti on Holocaust memorials at a former Nazi concentration camp in Poland, desecration that authorities discovered Saturday and are investigating. Words including ''Jude Raus'' -- German for ''Jew Out'' -- and ''Hitler Good!'' in English, were found in red paint Saturday on a large monument at the former Plaszow camp near Krakow. A smaller memorial plaque was also painted with a swastika and ''Jude Raus.'' The vandalism was discovered a day before a planned memorial march marking the 67th anniversary of the liquidation of Krakow's ghetto. On March 13, 1943, German soldiers started a two-day action in which they emptied Krakow's ghetto of its estimated 16,000 Jewish residents, shipping them to Plaszow and to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The news agency PAP quoted a police official, Anna Zbroja, as saying authorities are on the spot trying to determine when the vandalism occurred. The Plaszow camp featured in Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning film ''Schindler's List,'' which chronicled efforts by German industrialist Oskar Schindler to save Jews by having them work in his Krakow factory.
© The Associated Press
Headlines 12 March, 2010
FEARFUL IN MOSCOW (Russia)
Seoul Ought to Take All Necessary Diplomatic Steps
9/3/2010- In just three weeks, one Korean student lost his life and another nearly did so presumably by ultranationalists in Russia. Going further back, an average of one Korean has been killed or injured by Russian neo-Nazis and other thugs every year since 2005, showing foreigners' security in the former leader of the socialist bloc has reached an intolerable state. Diplomats may be tempted to think the six Koreans are just part of the hundreds of victims stabbed, strangled or beaten to death by more than 70,000 skinheads belonging to about 20 ultra-right organizations in the socially and economically unstable country over the years. Sunday's incident shows, however, it might not be entirely incidental. Various circumstantial evidences seem to indicate that the two assaulters carefully planned the crime, considering the victim, a 29-year-old cinema-student-cum-TV-cameraman, had taken part in producing a program on neo-Nazi skinheads not long ago. It also means Koreans have emerged as a group noticeable enough to become targets of premeditated attacks. This should be a rude awakener to both Korean and Russian diplomats in a country where up to 15 percent of local youths are sympathetic with the xenophobic, racist groups, which believe everything bad in their country is ascribable to foreigners, as these aliens are exploiting Russia's wealth and resources while taking away local people's jobs. Regretful are the reports that Moscow appears not very eager to crack down on these anti-social, anti-human elements ¯ even if one acknowledges this is neither a problem peculiar to Russia nor an easy one to root out ¯ not least because such xenophobic trends would drive foreign investors and tourists further away, which will in turn lead to even greater economic difficulties and a wider income gap among the Russians in a vicious circle.
None other than Korean residents in Russia are reportedly expressing not just shock and anger but fear, raising questions whether Russia is a law-abiding, civilized state where law enforcement authorities are operating normally. These ethnic Koreans have already been suffering enough from inconveniences with visas and other consular problems there. The foreign ministry is considering issuing a travel warning for more regions of Russia, while telling Koreans to avoid pleasure quarters especially after dark as well as to travel in groups. This ``take-good-care-of-yourself" advice may be better than nothing, but Koreans in Russia are asking, ``Does it mean we'll have to personally hire bodyguards?" Seoul must go way further from this and call for Moscow to thoroughly investigate these incidents, punish the criminals and promise to do its best to prevent their recurrences ¯ not just in words but in deeds. If these requirements are unmet, there is no reason President Lee Myung-bak shouldn't make a personal call to either Russian President Dmitri Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and show them what summit diplomacy is supposed to be. Concerns about possible diplomatic frictions must give place to the safety of his own people, which is the foremost duty of any government.
© The Korea Times
COURT GIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE TO MAN FOR RACIST UTTERANCES (Czech Rep.)
9/3/2010- Pavel Sedláèek has received a one-year prison sentence, suspended for a trial period of three years, due to racist statements he made in October 2008 at a gathering of the nationalist National Party (Národní strana - NS) in Prague. The District Court for Prague 1 found him guilty of the crimes of defaming a nation, ethnic group, race or belief, inciting hatred toward a group of persons and/or suppressing their rights and freedoms. Presiding Judge Libor Vávra reported the verdict to the Czech Press Agency today. The court order took effect on 26 February. Sedláèek made the statements on 28 October 2008 on Wenceslas Square in Prague. City officials responded to them by dispersing the gathering. In their view, the event had deviated from its announced purpose, which was to celebrate the creation of Czechoslovakia. Officials called the remarks racist and xenophobic. “The gathering began to head in the direction of a call to incite hatred and intolerance towards a particular group,” official Pavel Štefaòák told journalists at the time.
Štefaòák said one of the main reasons officials dispersed the event prior to its announced ending time was the statement that “this country is not for colored people.” “There is no room either on our flag or on our territory for another color,” Sedláèek was quoted as saying. His speech also included references to “yellow drug dens” and “niggers” who “occupy” no small part of Wenceslas Square, where they “deal in drugs and white women”. Zdenìk Zboøil, a political scientist and expert on extremism who monitored the gathering, said Sedláèek’s statements as illegal at the time, according to the Prague Police. He then wrote an evaluation in which he characterized the speech as racist and xenophobic. Zboøil said Sedláèek also referred during his speech to 14 words from an English-language sentence famous in extremist circles: “We must protect the existence of our people and the future of white children.” The quote is from US right-wing extremist David Lane, who was sentenced in the USA to 190 years in prison for his crimes in 1985. "I have the honor here of being the first person to stand up and sacrifice everything for the future of our people and the safety and happiness of our white children,” Sedláèek said in his speech. In the past this same quote from Lane has turned up, for example, on the website of the neo-Nazi National Resistance organization.
Police initially shelved the Sedláèek case, claiming no crime had been committed, but the state attorney instructed them to re-investigate. An order to charge Sedláèek was subsequently issued. Last November, the District Court for Prague 4 also issued a court order for suspended sentences to representatives of the National Party who allegedly were the authors of the content in the party’s television advertisement during the European Parliamentary campaign. The video clip featured the phrase “the Final Solution to the Gypsy Question” and alternated footage of Romani children and families with slogans such as “Stop Black Racism”, “No Favoritism for Gypsies”, and “We Don’t Want Black Racists Among Us”. Another prosecution related to the National Party concerns a publication entitled The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question (Koneèné øešení otázky cikánské), which in addition to other ideas promotes the notion that the Roma should be deported to India. The author of the publication, evidently Jiøí Gaudin, once a member of the National Party’s leadership structure, was charged by South Bohemian detectives last year. The National Party currently has no members seated in the Czech Parliament. It has been active on the Czech political scene since 2002. The party has long lobbied against the European Union and against immigrants. Its website has been offline for some time now, and the party, which has been characterized as “virtual”, has practically fallen apart. Last October party chair Petra Edelmannová resigned, and by 1 December all other members of the party leadership council had resigned as well. Czech Interior Ministry spokesperson Vladimír Øepka told the Czech Press Agency today that the ministry has no information as to whether the party has ceased its activity.
Pavel Sedláèek has received a one-year prison sentence, suspended for a trial period of three years, due to racist statements he made in October 2008 at a gathering of the nationalist National Party (Národní strana - NS) in Prague. The District Court for Prague 1 found him guilty of the crimes of defaming a nation, ethnic group, race or belief, inciting hatred toward a group of persons and/or suppressing their rights and freedoms. Presiding Judge Libor Vávra reported the verdict to the Czech Press Agency today. The court order took effect on 26 February. Sedláèek made the statements on 28 October 2008 on Wenceslas Square in Prague. City officials responded to them by dispersing the gathering. In their view, the event had deviated from its announced purpose, which was to celebrate the creation of Czechoslovakia. Officials called the remarks racist and xenophobic. “The gathering began to head in the direction of a call to incite hatred and intolerance towards a particular group,” official Pavel Štefaòák told journalists at the time.
Štefaòák said one of the main reasons officials dispersed the event prior to its announced ending time was the statement that “this country is not for colored people.” “There is no room either on our flag or on our territory for another color,” Sedláèek was quoted as saying. His speech also included references to “yellow drug dens” and “niggers” who “occupy” no small part of Wenceslas Square, where they “deal in drugs and white women”.
The National Party currently has no members seated in the Czech Parliament. It has been active on the Czech political scene since 2002. The party has long lobbied against the European Union and against immigrants. Its website has been offline for some time now, and the party, which has been characterized as “virtual”, has practically fallen apart. Last October party chair Petra Edelmannová resigned, and by 1 December all other members of the party leadership council had resigned as well. Czech Interior Ministry spokesperson Vladimír Øepka told the Czech Press Agency today that the ministry has no information as to whether the party has ceased its activity.
US HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ON HUNGARY HIGHLIGHTS VIOLENCE AGAINST ROMA
12/3/2010- Violence against Roma was highlighted in the Hungary country report of the US Department of State's 2009 human rights report published on Thursday. "In the wake of the economic downturn, there have been a number of killings and incidents of violence against Roma, including in Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic," the report assessing the situation of human rights in 194 countries around the world said. "Roma are the largest and most vulnerable minority in Europe; they suffer racial profiling, violence, and discrimination," it added. The country report stated that human rights problems in Hungary included police use of excessive force against suspects, particularly Roma. Additional problems highlighted in the report were government corruption, societal violence against women and children, sexual harassment of women and trafficking in persons. According to the report, some problems worsened, such as extremist violence and harsh rhetoric against ethnic and religious minority groups. "Extremists increasingly targeted Roma, resulting in the deaths of four Roma and multiple injuries to others," the report said.
© Politics Hungary
US STATE DEPARTMENT 2009 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Introduction to the 2009 Country Reports
2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices All Reports
Europe and Eurasia:
Albania Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan Belarus Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Kosovo Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macedonia Malta Moldova Monaco Montenegro
Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania Russia San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey Ukraine United Kingdom
11/3/2010- 2009 was a year of contrasts. It was a year in which ethnic, racial, and religious tensions led to violent conflicts and serious human rights violations and fueled or exacerbated more than 30 wars or internal armed conflicts. At the same time, it was a year in which the United States and other governments devoted greater attention to finding ways to acknowledge and combat these underlying tensions through showing leadership in advancing respect for universal human rights, promoting tolerance, combating violent extremism, and pursuing peaceful solutions to long-standing conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. As President Obama said in his June speech at Cairo University, we should be defined not by our differences but rather by our common humanity, and we should find ways to work in partnership with other nations so that all people achieve justice and prosperity. 2009 also was a year in which more people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the Internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies. Yet at the same time it was a year in which governments spent more time, money, and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet and the flow of critical information and to infringe on the personal privacy rights of those who used these rapidly evolving technologies.
Today, all governments grapple with the difficult questions of what are appropriate policies and practices in response to legitimate national security concerns and how to strike the balance between respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensuring the safety of their citizens. That said, during the past year, many governments applied overly broad interpretations of terrorism and emergency powers as a basis for limiting the rights of detainees and curtailing other basic human rights and humanitarian law protections. They did so even as the international community continued to make tangible progress in isolating and weakening the leadership in violent extremist and terrorist groups such as al-Qa’ida. This report explores these and other trends and developments and provides a specific, detailed picture of human rights conditions in 194 countries around the world. The U.S. Government has compiled these reports for the past 34 years pursuant to a requirement placed on the U.S. executive by law in part to help the U.S. Congress inform its work in assessing requests for U.S. foreign military and economic assistance, as well as to set trade policies and U.S. participation in the multilateral development banks and other financial institutions. The reason for publishing this report is to develop a full, factual record that can help U.S. policymakers to make intelligent and well-informed policy decisions. It has also been increasingly used by policymakers abroad and has become a core reference document for governments, intergovernmental organizations, and concerned citizens throughout the world.
Many have questioned the reason the U.S. Government compiles this report, rather than the United Nations or some other intergovernmental body. One answer is that we believe it is imperative for countries, including our own, to ensure that respect for human rights is an integral component of foreign policy. These reports provide an overview of the human rights situation around the world as a means to raise awareness about human rights conditions, in particular as these conditions impact the well-being of women, children, racial minorities, trafficking victims, members of indigenous groups and ethnic communities, persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, and members of other vulnerable groups. Also, we provide these reports as a form of comprehensive review and analysis. While some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) do extensive and excellent reporting on some countries, none cover the world as we do. And while we have encouraged more detailed and comprehensive reporting from the UN and other intergovernmental bodies, thus far these organizations have not met this need. Because of this unmet need, the U.S. Congress has mandated this report. Even as we continue this reporting exercise, we encourage the UN to take up this type of thorough and comprehensive reporting, and we stand ready to work with them to meet the challenge. We will continue to press for enhanced UN reporting, for example through the UN Human Rights Council as part of its review of its own operations in 2011.
Some critics, in the United States and elsewhere, also have challenged our practice of reviewing every other country’s human rights record but not our own. In fact, the U.S. Government reports on and assesses our own human rights record in many other fora pursuant to our treaty obligations (e.g., we file reports on our implementation of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture). We are reviewing our reporting, consistent with President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s pledge that we will apply a single universal human rights standard to all, including ourselves. Later this year, the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report, for the first time, will rank the United States as it does foreign governments by applying the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as amended. And in the fall the U.S. Government will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first Universal Periodic Review of our domestic human rights situation.
These country reports are written to provide an accurate, factual record of human rights conditions around the world, not to examine U.S. policy responses or options or to assess diplomatic alternatives. Yet in a broader sense these reports are a part of the Obama Administration’s overall approach to human rights and an essential component of that effort. As outlined above, the administration’s approach, as articulated by President Obama and Secretary Clinton, is guided by broad principles, the first of which is a commitment to universal human rights. In preparing this report, we have endeavored to hold all governments accountable to uphold universal human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to their human rights treaty obligations. As Secretary Clinton stated in December, all governments, including our own, must "adhere to obligations under international law: among them not to torture, arbitrarily detain and persecute dissenters, or engage in political killings. Our government and the international community must consider the pretentions of those who deny or abdicate their responsibilities and hold violators to account." The first step in that process is to tell the truth and to identify specific instances where such violations are occurring and where governments are failing to take responsibility for holding violators accountable. A second element of our approach is a principled and pragmatic engagement with other countries on these issues. This means that we will pursue steps that are most likely to make human rights a human reality. This principled pragmatism starts with an honest assessment of human rights conditions and whether violations are the result of deliberate government repression, governmental unwillingness or inability to confront the problems, or a combination of all three. As Secretary Clinton has said, "With China, Russia, and others, we are engaging on issues of mutual interest while also engaging societal actors in the same countries who are working to advance human rights and democracy. The assumption that we must either pursue human rights or our ‘national interests’ is wrong. The assumption that only coercion and isolation are effective tools for advancing democratic change is also wrong." These reports provide an essential, factual predicate upon which we can shape current and future polices.
A third element is our belief that although foreign governments and global civil society cannot impose change from outside, we can and should encourage and provide support to members of local civil society and other peaceful change agents within each country. As part of such efforts, these reports can and often do amplify these voices, by making reference to their findings, publicly reinforcing their concerns, and by widely disseminating this information to opinion makers, both internationally and within affected countries. A fourth element of our approach is to keep a wide focus where rights are at stake and to adopt a broad approach to democracy and human rights. As Secretary Clinton stated, "Democracy means not only elections to choose leaders, but also active citizens and a free press and an independent judiciary and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly." President Obama has also highlighted the crucial linkages between development, democracy, and human rights, noting the centrality of issues such as corruption to the realization of basic rights. Consistent with that approach, these reports cover a wide range of topics and trends, providing a detailed and comprehensive picture of human rights and democracy in each country. The fifth and final element of our approach has been to pursue progress on these issues through multilateral processes and institutions. As President Obama has acknowledged, we live in an increasingly interdependent and multipolar world, and to achieve our international goals, we need to collaborate with other governments and international actors. That is the reason we have joined the UN Human Rights Council, have actively supported human rights initiatives in the General Assembly, and have more thoroughly engaged in regional bodies like the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in promoting democracy and human rights.
In preparing these reports, we relied on information collected by officials in U.S. embassies around the world and on information from other governments and multilateral organizations. We also solicited and relied on useful information from nongovernmental human rights groups, both those operating internationally and those that work at a national level. We also collected information from academics, lawyers, trade unions, religious leaders, and the media. While we benefited from these many inputs, the U.S. Government alone bears responsibility for the content of these reports. The preparation of these reports involves a major commitment of time and energy by hundreds of people, and includes a lengthy process of fact-checking and editing to ensure high standards of accuracy and objectivity.
The Year in Review
In 2009, governments across the globe continued to commit serious violations of human rights. As we survey the world, there still are an alarming number of reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, and other violations of universal human rights. Often these violations relating to the integrity of the person are in countries where conflicts are occurring. These violent attacks are a central concern wherever they take place. In a significant number of countries, governments have imposed new and often draconian restrictions on NGOs. Since 2008, no fewer than 25 governments have imposed new restrictions on the ability of these organizations to register, to operate freely, or to receive foreign funding, adversely impacting freedom of association. In many countries, human rights defenders are singled out for particularly harsh treatment, and in the most egregious cases, they are imprisoned or even attacked or killed in reaction to their advocacy. These restrictions and repressive measures are part of a larger pattern of governmental efforts to control dissenting or critical voices. This pattern also extends to the media and to new forms of electronic communications through the Internet and other new technologies. Restrictions on freedom of expression, including on members of the media, are increasing and becoming more severe. In many cases, such restrictions are applied subtly by autocrats aiming to avoid attention from human rights groups and donor countries, such as through the threat of criminal penalties and administrative or economic obstacles, rather than through violence or imprisonment; the end result is still a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
A third trend we observed is the continuing and escalating discrimination and persecution of members of vulnerable groups – often racial, religious, or ethnic minorities, but also women, members of indigenous communities, children, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups that lack the political power in their societies to defend their own interests. These key trends are discussed in the subsequent sections, illustrated by thumbnail sketches of selected countries (ordered alphabetically) that were chosen for notable developments – positive, negative, or mixed – chronicled during calendar year 2009. For more comprehensive, detailed information, the individual country reports themselves should be consulted.
Specific Human Rights Trends
Human Rights Abuses in Countries in Conflict
In many countries where conflicts were raging during the year, noncombatant civilians faced human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. In many of these conflict zones, insurgents, terrorist organizations, paramilitary forces, and government security forces used murder, rape, and inhumane tactics to assert control over territory, silence opponents, and coerce the cooperation of civilian communities in conflict zones. Throughout the world, thousands of men, women, and children died or were mistreated not only in conflicts, but also in campaigns to intimidate civilian populations. The security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated significantly because of increased insurgent attacks, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. Armed conflict spread to almost one-third of the country, hindering the government’s ability to govern effectively, extend its influence, and provide services, especially in rural areas. As a result of the insurgency, 1,448 Afghan military personnel, 1,954 government employees, and 2,412 civilians were killed. Approximately five million of the 15 million registered voters participated in the August elections that were marked by serious allegations of widespread fraud, insufficient conditions for participation by women, and a concerted effort by the Taliban to disrupt the voting. Nevertheless, more polling stations opened than in previous elections, the media and public debated political alternatives, and the election followed the constitutional process.
The government in Burma continued its egregious human rights violations and abuses during the year, including increased military attacks in ethnic minority regions, such as in the Karen and Shan state. In August, government soldiers attacked the Kokang cease-fire group, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which the government claimed was launched in order to shut down narcotics and arms factories. Tens of thousands of civilians reportedly fled across the border to China as a result of the fighting. Government soldiers destroyed several villages in Shan territory, and some media estimates suggested the army razed up to 500 homes in Kokang territory. The regime continued to rule by decree and was not bound by any constitutional provisions guaranteeing any fundamental freedoms. The regime continued to commit other serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, custodial deaths, disappearances, rape, torture, forcible relocation of persons, the use of forced labor, and conscription of child soldiers. The government detained civic activists indefinitely and without charges.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), conflict in mineral-rich parts of the east, including counterinsurgency operations by government security forces, resulted in the killing of more than 1,000 civilians; the displacement of hundreds of thousands whose government did not adequately protect or assist them; the rapes of tens of thousands of women, children, and men; the burning of hundreds of homes; the unlawful recruitment or use of thousands of children as soldiers by the DRC military and various armed groups; and abductions of numerous persons for forced labor and sexual exploitation, both domestically and internationally.
Despite substantial improvements in the general security situation in Iraq, human rights abuses continued. There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings in connection with the ongoing conflict, and insurgent and terrorist bombings, executions, and killings continued to affect all regions and sectors of society. Due to the continuing conflict, violence against the media was common, and media workers reported that they engaged in self-censorship. Although the government publicly called for tolerance and acceptance for all religious minorities and took steps to increase security at places of worship, frequent attacks by insurgent and extremist groups on places of worship and religious leaders, as well as sectarian violence, hampered the ability of individuals to practice their religion freely.
In response to a sharp increase in the number and frequency of rocket attacks from Gaza against civilians in Israel shortly prior to and following the expiration of Hamas’s agreed period of "calm" on December 19, 2008, the Israeli Defense Forces launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27, which consisted initially of airstrikes targeted against Hamas security installations, personnel, and other facilities in the Gaza Strip, and later ground operations. Hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters continued through January 18, and the Israeli withdrawal of troops was completed on January 21. Human rights organizations estimated that close to 1,400 Palestinians died, including more than 1,000 civilians, and that more than 5,000 were wounded. According to Israeli government figures, Palestinian deaths totaled 1,166, including 295 noncombatant deaths. There were 13 Israelis killed, including three civilians. In the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces relaxed restrictions at several checkpoints during the year that had constituted significant barriers to the movement of Palestinians, yet remaining barriers limited Palestinian access to places of worship, employment, agricultural lands, schools, hospitals, and the conduct of journalism and NGO activities. In Gaza, which remained under the control of Hamas, there were reports of corruption, abuse of prisoners, and failure to provide fair trials to those accused. Hamas also strictly restricted the freedom of expression, religion, and movement of Gaza residents, and promoted gender discrimination against women. Killings by Hamas-controlled security forces remained a problem. There were reports of torture by Gaza Hamas Executive Force and victims were not only security detainees but also included persons associated with the Fatah political party and those held on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel. Hamas authorities in Gaza often interfered arbitrarily with personal privacy, family, and home.
National police, army, and other security forces in Nigeria committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects. Violence in the form of killings, kidnappings, and forced disappearances; mass rape; and displacement of civilians attributed to both government and nongovernment actors continued in the Niger Delta, despite the formation of the Joint Task Force in 2003 that sought to restore stability to the region. Reports of incidents attributed to militant groups in the Niger Delta decreased upon the president’s offer of amnesty, although violence remained pervasive in the south. Between July 26 and July 29, police and militant members of Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic group, clashed violently in four northern states, resulting in the displacement of approximately 4,000 people and more than 700 deaths, although this figure is not definitive because quick burials in mass graves precluded an accurate count. Sect leader Muhammad Yusuf; Yusuf’s father-in-law, Baba Mohammed; and suspected Boko Haram founder Buji Fai reportedly were killed while in custody of the security forces.
Although Pakistan’s civilian authorities took some positive steps, significant human rights challenges remain. Major problems included extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances. Militant attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) killed 825 civilians; security operations to repel the militants from Malakand Division and parts of the FATA displaced almost three million persons at the peak of the crisis (although by year’s end, approximately 1.66 million had returned to their home areas). The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the New York Times, and several local publications reported that security forces allegedly committed 300 to 400 extrajudicial killings during counterinsurgency operations in NWFP and Swat. There were widespread accusations that insurgents conducted terror- and revenge killings to intimidate local populations and law enforcement officials. Sectarian violence killed approximately 1,125 persons, and more than 76 suicide bombings killed 1,037 persons.
The situation in the North Caucasus region of Russia worsened as the government fought insurgents, Islamist militants, and criminal forces. Local government and insurgent forces in the region reportedly engaged in killings, torture, abuse, violence, politically motivated abductions, and other brutal or humiliating treatment. In Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, the number of extrajudicial killings increased markedly, as did the number of attacks on law enforcement personnel (in actions involving insurgents, 342 members of law enforcement were killed and 680 were injured.) Some authorities in the North Caucasus acted with impunity and appeared to act independently of the federal government, in some cases, allegedly targeting families of suspected insurgents for reprisal and engaging in kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial punishment.
Before the 33-year conflict in Sri Lanka came to an end in May, government security forces, progovernment paramilitary groups, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) used excessive force and committed abuses against civilians. Several hundred thousand ethnic Tamil civilians were not allowed freedom of movement by the LTTE from LTTE-controlled areas Artillery shelling and mortar fire by both sides occurred close to and among civilian encampments, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths during the last months of the conflict. From January to May, the LTTE dramatically increased its forced recruitment of child soldiers. Although the number of children recruited and killed in fighting is unknown, the government reported 527 ex-LTTE child soldiers in custody several months after the end of the war. The confinement in camps of nearly 300,000 persons displaced by the end of the conflict called into question the government’s postconflict commitment to human rights, although the government began to make significant progress on the treatment of internally displaced persons and other human rights improvements toward the end of 2009, in the run up to the January 2010 presidential election.
Conflict and human rights abuses in the Darfur region of Sudan continued despite the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement between the government and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army. Government-sponsored forces bombed villages, killed civilians, and supported Chadian rebel groups. Women and children continued to experience gender-based violence. Since the conflict in Darfur began in 2003, nearly 2.7 million civilians have been internally displaced, approximately 253,000 have sought refuge in eastern Chad, and more than 300,000 have died. Tensions also persisted between the north and south over the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Interethnic conflict and violence perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army in southern Sudan resulted in the deaths of approximately 2,500 and the displacement of 359,000 persons during the year.
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Association (including NGOs)
Many governments continued to exert control over information that came into and was produced within their countries. This was accomplished by hindering the ability to organize in public, online, or through use of new technologies; by restricting the dissemination of information on the Internet, radio, or television or through print media; and constructing legal barriers that made it difficult for NGOs to establish themselves. According to the National Endowment for Democracy, 26 laws in 25 countries have been introduced or adopted since January 2008 that impede civil society.
In Belarus, the government’s human rights record remained very poor. Civil liberties, including freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and religion, continued to be restricted. The government limited distribution of independent print and broadcast media outlets. Authorities used unreasonable force and intimidation to discourage participation in demonstrations and to disperse peaceful protesters. NGOs, opposition activists, and political parties were subjected to persistent harassment, fines, and prosecution, and several leading NGOs were again denied registration, forcing them to operate under threat of criminal prosecution. Following a few positive steps taken by authorities in 2008, the absence of reform during 2009 was disappointing.
The government of China increased its efforts to monitor Internet use, control content, restrict information, block access to foreign and domestic Web sites, encourage self-censorship, and punish those who violated regulations. The government employed thousands of persons at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications. In January the government began an "anti-vulgarity" campaign that resulted that same month in the closure of 1,250 Web sites and the deletion of more than 3.2 million items of information. The government at times blocked access to selected sites operated by major foreign news outlets, health organizations, foreign governments, educational institutions, and social networking sites, as well as search engines, that allow rapid communication or organization of users. During the year, particularly around sensitive events such as the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, authorities maintained tight control over Internet news and information. The government also automatically censored e-mail and Web chats based on an ever-changing list of sensitive key words. Despite official monitoring and censorship, dissidents and political activists continued to use the Internet to advocate and call attention to political causes such as prisoner advocacy, political reform, ethnic discrimination, corruption, and foreign policy concerns.
Independent media in Colombia were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, and all privately owned radio and television stations broadcast freely. However, members of illegal armed groups intimidated, threatened, kidnapped, or killed journalists, which, according to national and international NGOs, caused many to practice self-censorship and others, 171 to be specific, received protection from the government. The official Administrative Department of Security monitored journalists, trade unionists, the political opposition, and human rights organizations and activists – physically, as well as their phone and email communications and personal and financial data. According to some NGOs, the government allegedly detained arbitrarily hundreds of persons, particularly social leaders, labor activists, and human rights defenders (HRDs), although a key NGO reported that such detentions in 2009 were half the 2008 level. HRDs were also persecuted and accused of supporting terrorism in an effort to discredit their work. Prominent NGOs reported that eight human rights activists and 39 trade unionists were killed during the year. However, the government also worked to protect thousands of union members, human rights activists, and other such groups.
Authorities in Cuba interfered with privacy and engaged in pervasive monitoring of private communications. There was no ability to change the government. There were also severe limitations on freedom of expression and no authorized press apart from official media; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of religion; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or independent journalists or to permit them to function legally. The law allows for punishment of any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons, including those for private religious services in private homes. The law also provides for imprisonment for vaguely defined crimes such as "dangerousness" and "peaceful sedition." The government did not grant permission to any antigovernment demonstrators or approve any public meeting by a human rights group. Authorities held numerous opposition leaders pursuant to sentences ranging up to 25 years for peaceful political activities and detained activists for short periods to prevent them from attending meetings, demonstrations, or ceremonies. Although unauthorized, the organization Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) generally was allowed to assemble and walk to church each Sunday demanding freedom for their imprisoned family members. However, the organization reported that its activities beyond the traditional weekly marches to church were disrupted on several occasions during the year. In addition, a prominent blogger and her colleague were detained and beaten while en route to a peaceful protest. Human rights activists also reported frequent government monitoring and disruption of cell phone and landline services prior to planned events or key anniversaries related to human rights. Authorities have never approved the establishment of a human rights group; however, a number of professional associations operated as NGOs without legal recognition.
The government’s poor human rights record degenerated during the year, particularly after the disputed June presidential elections. Freedom of expression and association and lack of due process continued to be problems within Iran, and the government severely limited individuals’ right to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections. Following the June 13 announcement of President Ahmadi-Nejad’s reelection, hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest. Police and the paramilitary Basij violently suppressed demonstrations. The official death count was 37, although opposition groups report the number may have reached 70. By August, authorities had detained at least 4,000 individuals, and arrests continued throughout the year. A massive show trial involving many of the more prominent detainees was undertaken in September. On June 20, according to eyewitnesses, Basij militia killed Neda Agha-Soltan in Tehran. The video of her death appeared on YouTube and became a symbol of the opposition movement. Ahead of the June presidential election, on the actual day of election, and during the December 27 Ashura protests, when authorities detained 1,000 individuals and at least eight persons were killed in street clashes, the government blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. After the June election, there was a major drop in bandwidth, which experts posited the government caused to prevent activists involved in the protests from accessing the Internet and uploading large video files. The government continued to restrict freedom of religion severely, particularly against Baha’is and, increasingly, Christians.
The government of North Korea continued to subject citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, specifically denying citizens freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. Reports by defectors and NGOs of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and arbitrary detention, including of political prisoners, continued to paint a grim picture of life there. The government sought to control virtually all information: there were no independent media, Internet access was limited to high-ranking officials and other elites, and academic freedom was repressed. Domestic media censorship continued to be strictly enforced and no deviation from the official government line was tolerated. Similarly, the government prohibited all but the political elite from listening to foreign media broadcasts, and violators were subject to severe punishment. There was no genuine freedom of religion. Reports continued that religious believers, their families, and even their descendents were imprisoned, tortured, or simply relegated to a lower status. Indoctrination was carried out systematically through the mass media, schools, and worker and neighborhood associations and continued to involve mass marches, rallies, and staged performances, sometimes including hundreds of thousands of persons.
Government actions weakened freedom of expression and media independence within Russia by directing the editorial policies of government-owned media outlets, pressuring major independent outlets to abstain from critical coverage, and harassing and intimidating some journalists into practicing self-censorship. During the year, unknown persons killed a number of human rights activists and eight journalists, including prominent journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who spent more than 10 years documenting cases of killings, torture, and disappearances that she linked to the Chechen authorities. President Medvedev stated it was "obvious" that the killings were connected to Estemirova’s work and ordered an immediate investigation to find the perpetrators, but there have been no arrests or prosecutions in this case. The government increasingly attempted to restrict media freedom to cover sensitive issues such as the conduct of federal forces in Chechnya, human rights abuses, and criticism of some government leaders. Likewise, many observers noted a selective pattern of officials encouraging government-friendly rallies while attempting to prevent politically sensitive demonstrations. The government also attempted to restrict the activities of some NGOs, making it difficult for some to continue operations. Upon hearing criticism of the 2006 NGO law at a meeting with the Presidential Council on Human Rights, President Medvedev called existing regulations a "burden" and announced that some regulations would be eased. None of the amendments to the law applied to foreign NGOs.
Government officials in Venezuela, including the president, used government-controlled media outlets to accuse private media owners and reporters of fomenting antigovernment destabilization campaigns and coup attempts. Senior federal and state government leaders also actively harassed privately owned and opposition-oriented television stations, media outlets, and journalists throughout the year, using administrative sanctions, fines, and threats of closure to prevent or respond to any perceived criticism of the government. The government’s harassment of Globovision, the largest private television network, included raiding the home of the company’s president and publicly calling for the company’s closure. At year’s end, 32 radio stations and two television stations had been closed, and 29 other radio stations remained under threat of closure. One domestic media watchdog reported that 191 journalists either were attacked or had their individual rights violated during the year. NGOs expressed concern over official political discrimination against, and the firing of, state employees whose views differed from those of the government. Private groups also alleged that the government was pursuing 45 persons as "political objectives" using various legal and administrative means. The Organization of American States’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recently noted "a troubling trend of punishments, intimidation, and attacks on individuals in reprisal for expressing their dissent with official policy."
The human rights record of the government of Vietnam remained problematic. The government increased its suppression of dissent, arresting and convicting several political activists. Several editors and reporters from prominent newspapers were fired for reporting on official corruption and outside blogging on political topics. Bloggers were detained and arrested under vague national security provisions for criticizing the government and were prohibited from posting material the government saw as sensitive or critical. The government also monitored e-mail and regulated or suppressed Internet content, such as Facebook and other Web sites operated by overseas Vietnamese political groups. The government utilized or tolerated the use of force to resolve disputes with a Buddhist order in Lam Dong and Catholic groups with unresolved property claims. Workers were not free to organize independent unions, and independent labor activists faced arrest and harassment.
The government of Uzbekistan tightly controlled the media and did not permit the publication of views critical of the government. Government security officials regularly gave publishers articles and letters to publish under fictitious bylines, as well as explicit instructions about the types of stories permitted for publication. In July, a court convicted independent journalist Dilmurod Sayid to 12 and one-half years in prison on charges of extortion and bribery soon after he published articles regarding the corruption of local government officials. The government requires all NGOs and religious organizations to register in order to operate, and the activities of international human rights NGOs are severely restricted because the government suspects them of participating in an international "information war" against the country. Any religious service conducted by an unregistered religious organization is illegal, and police frequently broke up the meetings of unregistered groups, generally held in private homes. Reportedly, in some regions, universities and schools closed to send students to work in cotton fields; students who refused were expelled or threatened with expulsion.
Discrimination and Harassment of Vulnerable Groups
Members of vulnerable groups – racial, ethnic and religious minorities; the disabled; women and children; migrant workers; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals – often were marginalized and targets of societal and/or government-sanctioned abuse.
China continued to exert tight control over activities and peoples that the government perceived as a threat to the Chinese Communist Party. For example, public interest lawyers who took on cases deemed sensitive by the government increasingly were harassed or disbarred, and their law firms often were closed. The government also increased repression of Tibetans and Uighurs. The government tightened controls on Uighurs expressing peaceful dissent and on independent Muslim religious leaders, often citing counterterrorism as the reason for taking action. Following the July riots that broke out in Urumqi, the provincial capital of XUAR, officials cracked down on religious extremism, "splittism," and terrorism in an attempt to maintain public order. In the aftermath of the violence, Uighurs were sentenced to long prison terms and in some cases were executed, without due process, on charges of separatism. At year’s end, Urumqi remained under a heavy police presence and most Internet and international phone communication remained cut off. In the Tibetan areas of China, the government’s human rights record remained poor as authorities committed extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and extrajudicial detentions. Authorities sentenced Tibetans for alleged support of Tibetan independence, regardless of whether their activities involved violence. The preservation and development of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage also remained a concern.
The government of Egypt failed to respect the freedom of association and restricted freedom of expression, and its respect for freedom of religion remained very poor. Sectarian attacks on Coptic Christians mounted during the year. The government failed to redress laws and government practices that discriminate against Christians. The government sponsored "reconciliation sessions" following sectarian attacks, which generally prevented the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Copts and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution. This practice contributed to a climate of impunity and may have encouraged further assaults. Members of non-Muslim religious minorities that the government officially recognized generally worshipped without harassment; however, Christians and members of the Baha’i faith, which the government does not recognize, faced personal and collective discrimination in many areas. In a step forward, the government promulgated procedures for members of unrecognized religions, including the Baha'i faith, to obtain national identification documents and reportedly issued 17 such documents and 70 birth certificates to Baha'i during the year.
As a growing number of people cross borders to find work, migrant workers have become particularly vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. In Malaysia, foreign workers were subject to exploitative conditions and generally did not have access to the system of labor adjudication. However, the government investigated complaints of abuses, attempted to inform workers of their rights, encouraged workers to come forward with their complaints, and warned employers to end abuses. The law allows for employers to confiscate employees’ passports, and it was common practice for employers to do so. Some domestic workers alleged that their employers subjected them to inhuman living conditions, withheld their salaries, confiscated their travel documents, and physically assaulted them.
Violence against women, violations of the rights of children, and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common in many countries in the Middle East region. In Saudi Arabia, for example, Muslim religious practices that conflict with the government’s interpretation of Sunni Islam are discriminated against and public religious expression by non-Muslims is prohibited. Human rights activists reported more progress in women’s rights than in other areas, and the government made efforts to integrate women into mainstream society, for example, through the founding of the Kingdom’s first coeducational university in September. However, discrimination against women was a significant problem, demonstrated by the lack of women’s autonomy, freedom of movement, and economic independence; discriminatory practices surrounding divorce and child custody; the absence of a law criminalizing violence against women; and difficulties preventing women from escaping abusive environments. There are no laws specifically prohibiting domestic violence. Under the country’s interpretation of Shari’a (Islamic law), rape is a punishable criminal offense with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. Statistics on incidents of rape were not available, but press reports and observers indicated rape against women and boys was a serious problem.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda faced arbitrary legal restrictions. It is illegal to engage in homosexual acts, based on a 1950 legal provision from the colonial era criminalizing "carnal acts against the order of nature" and prescribing a penalty of life imprisonment. No persons have been charged under the law. The September introduction in parliament of a bill providing the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" and for homosexual "serial offenders" resulted in increased harassment and intimidation of LGBT persons during the year; the proposed legislation also provides for a fine and three years’ imprisonment for persons who fail to report acts of homosexual conduct to authorities within 24 hours. Public resentment of homosexual conduct sparked significant public debate during the year, and the government took a strong position against such conduct despite a December 2008 ruling by the High Court that constitutional rights apply to all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. The local NGO Sexual Minorities Uganda protested alleged police harassment of several members for their vocal stand against sexual discrimination.
Traditional and new forms of anti-Semitism continued to arise, and a spike in such activity followed the Gaza conflict in the winter of 2008-2009. Often despite official efforts to combat the problem, societal anti-Semitism persisted across Europe, South America, and beyond and manifested itself in classic forms (including physical attacks on Jewish individuals, synagogue bombings, cemetery desecrations; the theft of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign from the Auschwitz Death Camp; and accusations of blood libel, dual loyalty, and undue influence of Jews on government policy and media.) New forms of anti-Semitism took the form of criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that crossed the line into demonizing all Jews, and, in some cases, translated into violence against Jewish individuals in general. Instead of combating anti-Semitism, some governments fueled it, most notably Iran’s President Ahmadi-Nejad. Anti-Semitic propaganda, including Holocaust denial, was circulated widely by satellite television, radio, and the Internet. A television show in Egypt that was widely aired throughout the region did not deny the Holocaust, but instead glorified it, praising the slaughter and humiliation of Jews and calling for future Holocausts.
In several countries with generally strong records of respecting human rights, there were nevertheless some notable examples of members of vulnerable groups facing discrimination and harassment. Discrimination against Muslims in Europe has been an increasing concern. A recent case that received international attention was the passage on November 29 in Switzerland of a constitutional amendment banning the construction of minarets. A provision in the Swiss constitution enables direct citizen involvement. The amendment passed with 57.5 percent of the vote despite opposition from both parliament and the Federal Council and public statements by many of the country’s leaders describing such a ban as contradicting basic values in the country’s constitution and violating its international obligations. Proponents of the initiative to ban minarets contended the construction of minarets symbolized a religious and political claim to power.
In the wake of the economic downturn, there have been a number of killings and incidents of violence against Roma, including in Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Roma are the largest and most vulnerable minority in Europe; they suffer racial profiling, violence, and discrimination. There were also reports of mistreatment of Romani suspects by police officers during arrest and while in custody. Roma faced high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy, as well as widespread discrimination in education, employment, and housing.
© US Department of State
MAUTHAUSEN WALL DEFACED AGAIN (Austria)
8/3/2010- The outer wall of the former Nazi concentration and death camp at Mauthausen, Upper Austria, was defaced again last Friday night, police said. An unknown party wrote "The blood of Turks and Jews is poisonous," said Michael Tischlinger, the head of the provincial office for protection of the constitution and the fight against terrorism. He said the words were written in the same place as other neo-Nazi slogans had been written in February 2009 and the letters were the same colour and size as those on the wall in that incident. That meant the same party might be responsible for both incidents, he added. Last year, President Heinz Fischer deplored the defacement of the camp’s outer wall. In a letter to the International Mauthausen Committee, he said: "I hope it was an isolated incident. My office has been in contact with the interior ministry, and I can assure you our security authorities are intensively investigating the incident. "The perpetrators will be brought to justice if they are apprehended. I have been informed security has been tightened at the memorial. Austria and its constitutional organs hold the Mauthausen memorial in the highest respect," he added. The words, "The progeny of Muslims are for us what the Jews were to our fathers. Be on your guard. A third world war – an eighth crusade," were spray-painted in 70-centimetre-high letters on the outer wall at the memorial’s entrance. In response, Mauthausen Committee Austria Chairman Willi Mernyi called the defacement "a radical-right provocation" and said it constituted "a wholly new dimension of right-wing extremism." He added the choice of words showed the perpetrators were familiar with Nazi hate language. The Austrian Islamic Denomination appealed to politicians and to civil society to take "the frightening signal" seriously and to undertake measures to promote more public consciousness of the situation in Austrian society. The Nazis imprisoned a total of around 200,000 people at Mauthausen, of whom around half did not survive the experience.
© The Austrian Independent
BIAS INCIDENTS ROIL UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA(usa)
8/3/2010- Swastikas, nooses, a KKK hood, graffiti, epithets and jeers. An ugly spate of bias incidents has crossed several University of California campuses over the past month, causing consternation, outcry and fear that bigotry is alive among the young and educated. Students have protested and administrators have condemned, but the question remains of what lies behind the sudden parade of prejudice — a growing climate of insensitivity on campuses or a bunch of immature kids yearning for peer acceptance and attention. "My guess is some of all of those things," said interim UC Provost Lawrence H. Pitts. "I'd like to believe it's really an extreme minority. It does suggest there's some underlying feeling of intolerance in our community." The incidents have roiled several campuses in the 175,000-student state university system, which is one of the nation's most respected and diverse.
At UC San Diego, black students were offended by an off-campus "Compton Cookout" party that mocked ghetto stereotypes, a noose and KKK-style hood found on campus and a student making racially derogatory remarks on a student-run TV station.
At UC Davis, swastikas cropped up and the gay and lesbian center was vandalized with graffiti. At UC Santa Cruz, a picture of a noose was scrawled. On the Irvine campus, the Israeli ambassador was heckled to the extent that he was forced to end a speech early.
The acts were particularly shocking because they occurred on university campuses — usually considered centers of intellectual enlightenment above acts commonly associated with ignorance. But experts note that universities are microcosms of society at large, and that includes hatemongers. Upticks in hate crimes are often seen in times of economic malaise as people seek scapegoats, noted Jack Levin, a Northeastern University sociologist who has studied hate. Still, surveys show that prejudice among today's young people is at a low and interracial and interethnic marriages are at an all-time high, said Tom Smith, director of the general social survey at the National Opinion Research Center. Studies have also long found that education increases tolerance of different groups, he added. "College students, as a group, are quite liberal on this issue," Smith said.
Minority students said that's why they're galled that fellow students today would even think that something like hanging a noose in a library is funny or acceptable. The school paper later published a letter of apology from a female student who wrote that she had only been playing with a rope, accidentally left in the library and did not mean to offend. "Part of the problem is that people don't realize it's insensitive," said Joelle Gamble, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles. "They see it as free speech." Free speech is a buzzword on college campuses, which tend to be regarded as "marketplaces of ideas" where students are encouraged to express opinions freely, said Brian Levin, director of Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. But sometimes opinions can cross into offensiveness.
In 2007, a UCLA fraternity member sent out invitations to a Mexican-themed "Fiesta Friday" party. But administrators received complaints that the event appeared to stereotype Mexican-Americans and the party was quickly canceled, said Eamon Reilly, a member of the fraternity's board of directors at the time. "It's a very fine line between what is insensitive and what is sensitive," Reilly said. "A lot of people have a hard time drawing that line." At UC Irvine, pro-Palestinian students saw the jeering of the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren as a political statement, but administrators saw it as intolerance, albeit of a political viewpoint. Eleven students were arrested. "This is a place where we would like to expose students to a wide a spectrum of the world as we can construct," Provost Pitts said. "We have a very broad curve of human belief here. It's a huge place. So it's hurtful that this comes up."
Experts point out that some racist incidents are likely sophomoric pranks as students cross the bridge from adolescence to adulthood. Although students are expected to behave as adults, some still possess a teenager's impulsiveness and desire to impress peers which can lead to boorish behavior. Then there are the copycats who enjoy the ensuing uproar and media attention. "It's the jackass phenomenon," Cal State's Levin said. "Most are not hard-core bigots, but some are." Levin and others note that bias incidents occur on campuses all over the country, and college hate crimes are likely vastly underreported.
UC Davis psychologist Gregory Herek said gay and lesbian students tell him they are regularly harassed. "The truth is there are many acts of intolerance," he said. "This is a day-to-day experience." Whatever lies behind the bias incidents, university officials are stepping up efforts to make underrepresented groups feel more included on campus. UC San Diego, for one, is working with the Black Student Union to establish diversity curriculum requirements and recruit more minority students and faculty.
On Friday, UC President Mark Yudoff appointed a special adviser to assist UC San Diego on tolerance issues. Pitts said chancellors will be evaluated on increases of student-body diversity. "This is a reminder," he said, "this is a battle that's never won."
© The Associated Press
Headlines 5 March, 2010
BODYGUARDS PROTECT PM'S WIFE THREATENED OVER HELP TO ROMA
28/2/2010- Security guards have been protecting Dana Fischerova, Czech prime minister's wife, since early January, she says in the issue of the weekly Tyden to be out of Monday, adding that the measure was a reaction to the threats she faced over her helping an attacked Romany family. Apart from Prime Minister Jan Fischer and his wife, the police also protect their son Jan, 22. Fischerova, 61, says she has been protected over the threats an unknown man addressed to Anna Sivakova, a Romany whose family house in Vitkov, north Moravia, was burnt down in an arson attack last April. Sivakova's daughter Natalka, then aged 2, suffered serious burns in the attack. Doctors have described her survival, after many months in hospital and numerous transplant operations, as a miracle. "The threats were also targeted at me and our Jan," Fischerova told Tyden. She said she believes that the potential risk will fade away after some time. Four supporters of the ultra-right wing have been charged with attempted racially-motivated murder in connection with the arson attack in Vitkov. They are to stand a trial in May and June. Fischer's family also faced right-wing extremists' threats last year. They targeted Jan Fischer jr. The daily Pravo then wrote that the police guarded Jan over the threats he received from the extremist group White Justice. Prime Minister Fischer, 59, and his son Jan adhere to the Jewish faith.
© The Prague Daily Monitor