Headlines 28 February, 2014
28/2/2014- The Observatory has been informed about the attack of the headquarters of “SOS Racismo Madrid”, a human rights organisation which fights against racism and xenophobia since 1992. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Spain.
Description of the situation:
According to the information received, on February 21, 2014 at around 5 a.m., a group of supporters of the extreme right-wing party “Democracia Nacional” (DN) attacked the premises of SOS Racismo Madrid, in the Lavapiés district of the Spanish capital. Members of DN placed a large banner with hung puppets on the front of the building, containing xenophobic catchwords such as “Stop the invasion!” and blaming the human rights organisation for its “anti-spanish” activities of “denouncing those who protect [spanish] borders”. They also threw firecrackers into the offices of SOS Racismo, attracting the attention of the neighbours who called the police. The nationalist party openly claimed having initiated this action, placed its logo on the banners that were hung on the facade of SOS Racismo Madrid, and posted pictures of the action on its public Facebook page. DN further decided to organise a protest on March 8, 2014 in the same neighbourhood of Lavapiés, with the slogan “Stop the invasion! We have to protect our borders”.
SOS Racismo has strongly denounced this attack as an unacceptable threat against its human rights activities and filed a complaint against the DN, which led to the opening of an investigation by the police. In addition, representatives of SOS Racismo requested an interview with the Prosecutor specialised in hate crimes and discrimination. The Observatory firmly condemns this attack against the headquarters of SOS Racismo, which represents a clear threat against the human rights activities of the NGO, and more generally an infringement against freedom of expression and the fight against racism and xenophobia in Spain.
Please write to the Spanish authorities, urging them to:
1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee in all circumstances the protection of the human rights organisation SOS Racismo Madrid, its members and all human rights defenders in Spain, from any attack or threat;
2. Conduct a proper, thorough, and timely investigation about the attack committed against the headquarters of SOS Racismo Madrid in order to identify all those responsible and sanction them according to law;
3. React promptly to all racist and xenophobic actions undertaken by extremists movements and their supporters in Spain;
4. Take all necessary measures to protect all human rights defenders in Spain from any kind of harassment, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;
v. More generally, conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
+ its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
+ and its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
6 Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Spain.
Head of the Royal House, Mr. Rafael SPOTTORNO DIAZ-CAR Casa de su Majestad el Rey, Palacio de La Zarzuela, Carretera del Pardo s/n, 28071 Madrid, España, Tel: +34 91 599 24 24
President of the Government, Mr. Mariano RAJOY BREY, Complejo de la Moncloa, Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n. 28071 Madrid, España
First Vice-President, Minister of the Presidency and Spokeman of the Government, Mme Soraya SAENZ de SANTAMARIA, Complejo de la Moncloa, Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n. 28071 Madrid, España
Minister of Interior, Mr. Jorge Fernández DIAZ, Calle Amador de los Ríos, 7, 28010 Madrid, España: Tel: +34 060
Minister of Justice, M. Alberto RUIZ-GALLARDO, San Bernardo, 45, 28071 Madrid, España, Tel: + 34 902 007 214/+34 91 837 22 9
Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Cooperation, Mr. José Manuel GARCIA MARGALLO, Sede Palacio de Santa Cruz, Plaza de la Provincia, 1, 28012 Madrid, España, Tel: + 34 91 379 97 00
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Spain in your respective country.
Moscow's 'Gay Olympics' Are Off to a Nightmare Start (Russia)
Outraged by the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi despite Russia's harsh anti-gay climate, LGBT activists there and elsewhere had a dream they hoped would counter their disappointment.
28/2/2014- The first Russian Open Games — an Olympics for LGBT athletes meant to also promote LGBT equality in Russia — would feature more than 200 athletes from more than 10 countries competing in Russia's capital city of Moscow from Feb. 26 through March 3. Hotels were booked, as were sports venues, and the Open Games looked set to fill an attention gap between the Olympics' closing ceremony on Feb. 23 and the start of the Paralympics on March 7. Two days in to the Open Games, that dream is looking more like a nightmare — one that so far exists largely beneath the radar of mainstream Western media. The day before the Open Games were set to begin, four sports venues and a Hilton hotel in Moscow abruptly reneged on promises to host events, according to Russian organizers and their co-workers in the United States. A bomb threat — one of Russian anti-gay activists' favored disruption tactics — struck fear into the gay nightclub that was supposed to host the LGBT Olympics' opening ceremony on Wednesday. And a Friday morning smoke bomb attack canceled swimming and basketball competitions scheduled for later that day.
The spate of last-minute cancellations comes as little surprise yet makes many organizers and allies of the Games nearly certain Russia's notoriously anti-gay government pressured participating venues to bail, according to Bruce Cohen, a co-founder of the gay rights group Uprising of Love who has been working closely with Open Games organizers in Moscow. "The hope was partly that the international media would still be paying attention to Russia, so surely the government wouldn't just try to cancel the entire games," Cohen tells Mashable. "But it seems like that's exactly what they're trying to do." Particularly troubling is Hilton's reported last-minute cancellation as a major international brand, Cohen adds. "Hilton Worldwide is a proud supporter of diversity and the LGBT community," a Hilton spokesperson told Mashable by email. "We take this matter seriously and are working closely with this franchise partner to understand and address the events that occurred."
Gay Russians' many challenges
Russia's tough atmosphere for gay people took a harsh turn on June 30 of last year, when president Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices" that can potentially be seen by anyone under age 18. The law is not technically an outright ban on homosexuality, but its vague definition of "propaganda" has been used to essentially prohibit discussion of gay life in public arenas like schools and media. It's also the reason the Russian Open Games' site has a disclaimer reading, "The information on this site is intended only for the use of those aged 18 and over."
Neo-Nazi demonstration attack trial starts (Sweden)
The seven men, three deemed leading neo-Nazis, suspected of being behind the violent attack on peaceful demonstrators in Stockholm faced charges on Friday on the first day of the high-profile and high-security trial.
28/2/2014- Police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said officers knew of no specific threat against the trial, but the twenty some journalists and other members there to observe proceedings had to pass through airport-style security checks to enter the court room at Södertörn District Court, just south of the capital. "Because there was quite a bit of trouble in Kärrtorp, we have to be prepared for the same here too," he said. Seven men are standing trial for their suspected roles in a violent altercation in the Kärrtorp neighbourhood in mid-December. Three are described as key figures in the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen). "An authorized demonstration was attacked by around 30 people, who even attacked the police on the scene," Lindgren said after the heavy-handed attack when police and demonstrators forced the neo-Nazis into a nearby patch of forest.
"Two people were injured and taken to hospital and a policeman was also taken to hospital." Between 500 and 800 demonstrators, according to the organizers, had gathered in Stockholm's southern suburb of Kärrtorp to protest against the spread of racism in their neighbourhood. "I was giving a speech when the Nazis came and started throwing bottles and crackers at the families," Students Against Racism member Enzo Nahuel told news agency TT at the time. Witnesses told The Local that the many children at the event had been so startled by fireworks and crackers that they began crying. The original demonstration was organized by the Line 17 Network, an umbrella civic organization that had warned over the increasing presence of Nazi propaganda in the area since last summer. The attack lead to an even bigger anti-racism demonstration, with several key political figures in attendance.
See video of the altercation
© The Local - Sweden
120 arrested after mosque attack in Bulgaria
28/2/2014- More than 120 people were arrested in Bulgaria after hundreds of people attacked a mosque in the country’s second city Plovdiv on February 14. Over 2,000 nationalists and football hooligans had gathered outside a Plovdiv court as it heard an appeal case dealing with the return of an ancient mosque in the central city of Karlovo, taken over by the state more than 100 years ago, to Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti. The rally then marched through the city and some protesters, chanting racist slogans, approached a Plovdiv mosque cordoned off by police. The protesters also marched on the Turkish consulate in Plovdiv and on the city headquarters of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity. “Firecrackers, torches and stones were thrown at the mosque. One policeman was injured. Some 120 people were detained,” said a spokesman for the police. Sofia prosecutors said they had charged eight people with hooliganism, crimes against religion and xenophobia.
The Grand Mufti condemned the attack on the mosque and said the attempt to pressure the court put democracy at risk in the European Union country. Muslims make up about 13 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million people. The Grand Mufti has launched some 26 court cases to try to restore Muslim ownership of 29 mosques and other property across the Balkan state, prompting some public opposition in the predominantly Orthodox Christian population. The European Muslim Union said it is seriously worried by this new and unprovoked attack on an indigenous Muslim population of a European country, which is also a full member of the European Union: “The European Muslims are in solidarity with their Bulgarian sisters and brothers. This negative event is yet another proof for the need to enhance and enlarge professional PR-work at a European level.
The trial in Plovdiv highlights also the Balkan-wide need for a thorough reconsideration and – if justified – return of property which was taken from the Muslims by nationalist and communist regimes after the Osmani rule withdrew from the peninsula.” There was further political controversy on February 14 when the chief secretary of the Interior Ministry, Svetlozar Lazarov, said that Plovdiv mayor Totev was to blame for the bloodshed in the city because he had not banned the rally. According to Lazarov, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov had called Totev, asking him to stop the protest.
© The Muslim News
Legoland cancels fun day organised by Muslim group after far-right threats (UK)
Legoland has announced it has cancelled a fun day arranged by the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) on Sunday, March 9.
26/2/2014- The Winkfield Road theme park received an avalanche of offensive and threatening comments directed at is staff because of the event and it is for this reason the day has been cancelled. A statement on the park's website read: "The Legoland Windsor Resort prides itself on welcoming everyone to our wonderful attraction; however due to unfortunate circumstances the private event scheduled for Sunday 9th March will no longer take place. "This was an incredibly difficult decision made after discussions with the organisers and local Thames Valley Police, following the receipt of a number of threatening phone calls, emails and social media posts to the Resort over the last couple of weeks. "These alone have led us to conclude that we can no longer guarantee the happy fun family event which was envisaged, or the safety of our guests and employees on that day – which is always our number one priority."
Far-right groups the English Defence League and Casuals United had threatened to protest at the event due to the MRDF’s association with controversial preacher Haitham al-Haddad – chairman of the foundation. Police are investigating the threats made to the park. Legoland’s Facebook page was taken down for about a week after the page was inundated with abusive and offensive comments before being restored on Thursday , February 13.
© The Windsor Observer
UK: Man has part of ear bitten off in homophobic attack
27/2/2014- West Midlands Police are looking to trace two men in connection with a homophobic assault on a man that resulted in part of his ear being bitten off. The force has released CCTV images of two suspects they want to speak to. The incident happened at around 11.30pm on 18 October last year outside a bar in Anchor Parade in Aldridge.
During the assault a homophobic comment was made to the victim and officers are treating the offence as a hate crime.
© Pink News
Man suffers injuries after being assaulted in racial attack in Glasgow's city centre (UK)
The 30-year-old was taken to hospital for treatment following the attack in Gordon Street on Saturday night.
25/2/2014- A man needed hospital treatment after being assaulted and racially abused in a city-centre attack, police have said. The 30-year-old victim, who is Asian, was in Glasgow's Gordon Street when the incident happened shortly before midnight on Saturday. He was outside the Co-op shop when he was approached by the suspect, who started shouting racist comments and then seriously assaulted him. The victim received treatment at hospital for face and shoulder injuries. Police Scotland officers are appealing for information and have issued a description of the suspect. He is said to be white, 6ft and of stocky build. He was wearing a light-coloured top. Detective Constable Tony Brady, of city centre police office, said: "Since this incident was reported to police, officers have been carrying out enquiries in the local area and studying CCTV footage in an effort to gather more information on this crime and the man responsible. "Gordon Street would have been busy with people on a night-out and I would urge anyone who witnessed this crime, or has any information that may assist police enquiries, to contact Police Scotland on 101."
© The Daily Record
Woman with learning difficulties targeted by twisted yobs (UK)
Traumatised Tracy Lynch tells of her ordeal as ministers launch campaign to encourage victims of crimes based on prejudice to report abuse to police.
23/2/2014- As Tracy Lynch got out of her seat to get off a bus, two young women trapped her by tying the cords from the hood of her jacket to the hand rail. Tracy, 31, believes she was targeted because she has learning difficulties. While she shouted out for help, other passengers turned away. Frightened, upset and angry, Tracy eventually broke herself free by ripping the toggles from her waterproof jacket. She spoke to the Sunday Mail as ministers launch a new campaign to encourage victims of abuse and violence based on prejudice to report it to Police Scotland. Tracy, from Edinburgh, said: “I went upstairs on the bus to get peace and quiet and two females followed me up. “But when I was getting up to get off, they tied me up on the bus pole. I was shouting, I felt trapped and frightened. “I knew what they were doing was wrong. I was angry with them and knew they shouldn’t be doing it and should respect people with learning difficulties. “I couldn’t untie the knot so I had to burst it off the handle. I had to rip the toggle off, meaning I couldn’t tie the hood again. I was frightened I’d miss my stop. No one on the bus stepped in to help. They were all looking the other way.”
She complained to the driver. Tracy added: “He should have told them off but he didn’t. He didn’t take it seriously.” Tracy made her way home to husband Keith, 41, in tears. Keith, who also has learning difficulties, said: “She told me she was shouting but the bus driver didn’t pull over to find out what was wrong. She came home in floods of tears. “I called police and Tracy spoke to them. But when they spoke to the bus company, they said the picture quality of the CCTV wasn’t clear enough.” The couple battled against abuse for a year from locals who targeted them because of their learning disabilities. Tracy said: “Sometimes I get my words mixed up and stuff like that. When someone speaks to me, they realise I have learning difficulties. And we have support staff coming to our home so it would be obvious to people.” Keith added: “I can have difficulty understanding people. But people need to realise it’s not acceptable to bully anyone with learning difficulties or anyone in society. The only way to stop it is by reporting it.
“There are a lot of good people out there. It’s just there are some who treat us differently. Maybe it’s the way they’ve been brought up or the way their parents have been brought up.” Keith added: “The problems started with local teenagers kicking in our gate and calling us names in 2012. “They’d throw things at our window and hang about outside drinking. We were scared and felt trapped in the house. One day I was sitting watching telly and we jumped when we heard a bang. “I went out to investigate and I found someone had thrown a kid’s doll at our window. I phoned the police but by the time they arrived everyone had left. “I felt they were picking on us because we were an easy target because we have learning difficulties. “A few weeks later, I saw someone pull down the handle on the front door and go to walk into the house. "A male voice shouted, ‘Hey you!’ My wife was cooking but left the pot on and rushed to the door to close it. It could have caused a house fire. “I think they did it to scare us. It felt horrific. We should be able to sit in our home and feel safe without someone walking in.”
Keith said: “We started up a Neighbourhood Watch and when some young people were throwing boxes at a support worker outside another house, police came. “This time they got hold of one of them and issued a warning. That was last August and since then it’s gone quiet. It’s taken a while but both my wife and I feel happier now.” Tracy said: “I’ve got nice neighbours and they’re really friendly. There are nice young people around who smile and say hello – the ones I know from Guides. It’s not everyone who is like this to us – just people with anti-social behaviour. “I’m happier now this has stopped and I can get on the bus and get peace and quiet without being annoyed.” Keith and Tracy are now working with People First Scotland in a Speak Out Against Hate Crime group to highlight the effect of disability hate crime and change people’s attitudes. “I’m campaigning to try to change people’s attitudes towards people with learning difficulties so that we can stop hate crime from happening,” Keith said. “We’re heading in the right direction but there’s still work to be done to change attitudes. Since joining People First Scotland, I’m more determined to stamp this out.”
The campaign is launched days after the Mail revealed a vicious attack on blind charity worker Jacq Kelly. A six-foot thug punched Jacq, 34, from Gorgie, Edinburgh, to impress his girlfriend. It is one of dozens of hate incidents she has experienced due to her disability. Jacq said: “It really scared me and I felt humiliated. I just thought, ‘Why are you picking on me?’” Police are investigating.
Video: Ministers will wage war on hate crimes after more shocking footage emerges of a racist thug's attack on two bus passengers
© The Daily Record
Reports of racism are 700% higher in Northern Ireland
Reports of racism are 700% higher in NI than in the Republic - while the conviction rates for racially motivated crimes in Ireland are too low to release details.
25/2/2014- In 2009, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, recorded 1,038 incidents while the figure for the same period was just 128 for the Republic of Ireland - according to a review of figures carried out by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. The Council says the disparity raises very serious questions about the way incidents are recorded by Gardaí and the Department of Justice and suggest a lot of racism is going unreported. An examination of official figures for the Republic of Ireland by Newstalk Lunchtime with Jonathan Healy has found that conviction rates for racially motivated crimes are so low - that the exact number can’t be revealed.
Racially motivated incidents in Ireland are published yearly by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) with data based on the Garda PULSE system.
Between 2009 to 2011 the numbers of racially motivated incidents reported to the Gardai grew from 128 to 142.
In 2012 the numbers dropped to 100 reported incidents with similar figures for the first three quarters of 2013 - with 60 reported incidents.
The types of incidents reported are broken down by the CSO into categories including; racially motivated minor assaults, assaults causing harm, criminal damages (excluding arson) and public order offences. Also included are offences under the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act. However when it comes to the conviction rates for these incidents the CSO said they could not provide details as the numbers were so low it would risk identifying the interested parties.
For example in 2011 we know there were 139 reports of racially motivated incidents - this led to 33 proceedings and 10 convictions.
In 2010 there were 127 racist incidents reported, 37 proceedings resulting in 17 convictions.
The Court Services record that from 1st of January 2012 to November 2013 three people were convicted and imprisoned under Section 2 of the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act.
Eastern Ukraine synagogue hit by firebombs
24/2/2014- A synagogue firebombed in eastern Ukraine sustained minor damage. The firebombs hit the Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 250 miles southeast of Kiev, on Sunday night, according to a report the following day on the news site timenews.in.ua. The website published photos showing traces of a fire on the facade of the synagogue balcony. The synagogue opened in 2012. A spokesperson for the Zhovtneviy District where the synagogue is located said no one was hurt in the attack and that police were searching for suspects. Officers found the neck of a glass bottle that was used as a Molotov cocktail, according to the Central Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Several Ukrainian media reported erroneously that the attack happened in Kiev. The Ukrainian capital and other cities have seen a wave of violent demonstrations that culminated this weekend with the apparent ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
The country’s acting government has issued a warrant for Yanukovych’s arrest, accusing him of the murder of about 100 protesters who died in street clashes last week. The unrest began in November over his refusal to sign a deal that would have tightened Ukraine’s ties with the European Union — a move that many saw as jeopardizing the country’s complicated relationship with Russia. Several Jewish communities in Kiev have beefed up their security arrangements during the unrest. Other communities put their activities on hold for safety concerns. Ukraine has a Jewish population of 360,000 to 400,000 people, with about a quarter of the country’s Jews living in Kiev, according to the European Jewish Congress. The Jewish Agency put the figure at 200,000.
© JTA News
More than 60 percent comes from educated Germans, with only 3 percent coming from ultranationalists.
25/2/2014- Over months, Prof. Monika Schwarz-Friesel read 14,000 letters, emails and faxes sent to the Israeli embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. She was looking for an answer to a question that had preoccupied her for some time: What does anti-Semitism look like in Germany at the start of the 21st century? “I wanted to find out how modern anti-Semites think, feel and communicate,” said Schwarz-Friesel, a linguistics professor at the Technical University of Berlin, in an interview with Haaretz. Previous studies of anti-Semitism didn’t satisfy her, nor did public opinion surveys, questionnaires or the annual reports put out by various agencies on anti-Semitic incidents round the world. “I wasn’t satisfied with the methodology of asking in a survey, ‘Do you think that Jews are ...,” she explained.
So she decided to search for data in another source that had never before been studied so systematically and comprehensively. She asked the Israeli embassy in Berlin and the local Jewish community to send her all the hate mail they received over a 10-year period, from 2002 to 2012. They gave her 14,000 letters, to which she added 2,000 letters from other Israeli embassies in Europe. Her approach to these institutions was made easier by the fact that her husband, Prof. Evyatar Friesel, once served as Israel’s state archivist. “In the end, I had a unique collection of information that enabled me to understand how modern anti-Semites think in the 21st century,” she said. Her research partner was Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, a historian and past president of Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Together with a few research assistants, they read and analyzed all the letters. “We were helped by modern technology that enabled us to sort them better than in the past,” Schwarz-Friesel said.
Their findings were detailed in a book published in Germany last year, “The Language of Hostility toward Jews in the 21st Century.” Next year, it will be published in English.
What they discovered is that more than 60 percent of the letters were sent by educated Germans, including university professors. The proportion sent by right-wing extremists was negligible – about 3 percent. “At first, we thought that most of the letters would be sent by right-wing extremists,” Schwarz-Friesel said. “But I was very surprised to discover that they were actually sent by people from the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.” She was also surprised to discover that most of the letter writers had no qualms about giving their names, addresses and titles. “Twenty or 30 years ago, that wouldn’t have happened,” she said. Still another surprise was the fact that there is no significant difference between the extreme right’s anti-Semitism and that of the educated mainstream. “The difference is only in the style and the rhetoric, but the ideas are the same,” Schwarz-Friesel noted.
“It is possible that the murder of innocent children suits your long tradition?” one letter said. “For the last 2,000 years, you’ve been stealing land and committing genocide,” said another. “You Israelis ... shoot cluster bombs over populated areas and accuse people who criticize such actions of anti-Semitism. That’s typical of the Jews!” declared a third. Certain key phrases kept cropping up in letter after letter. For instance, many letters sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany said, “The Jews are doing to the Palestinians exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews.” Schwarz-Friesel’s training as a linguist helped her identify anti-Semitic motifs even in letters that at first glance seemed innocent. An opening such as “I’m not an anti-Semite, but ...” is liable to be a substitute for a general statement about “Jewish” traits, which in itself has anti-Semitic elements.
About 80 percent of the hate mail was anti-Israel. Surveying these letters led Schwarz-Friesel to an unambiguous conclusion: “Today, it’s already impossible to distinguish between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Modern anti-Semites have turned ‘the Jewish problem’ into ‘the Israeli problem.’ They have redirected the ‘final solution’ from the Jews to the State of Israel, which they see as the embodiment of evil.” The study’s bottom line is gloomy. “Anti-Semitism is embedded very deeply in Western society, even after the Holocaust, all the learning of its lessons and the memorialization,” Schwarz-Friesel said. “For 2,000 years, they fashioned the image of the Jews as the enemy of Christianity and of humanity. That’s not a simple thing that can be erased in 60 years. It’s etched too deeply into the collective memory. Thus people who see themselves as humanists and are familiar with the lessons of the Holocaust permit themselves to express themselves in an anti-Semitic fashion even afterward.” Now, Schwarz-Friesel is busy with a new study of modern anti-Semitism on the Internet. “It hasn’t been confined to extreme right-wing sites for a long time now,” she said. “It’s also on fairly ‘ordinary’ sites.”
Headlines 21 February, 2014
Anti-Semitic, hate graffiti painted on Toulouse buildings (France)
17/2/2014- Swastikas and other hate graffiti were painted on buildings throughout the French city of Toulouse. Sunday night’s vandalism, which also included far-right symbols, struck an LBGT center, a university and cemetery, and the offices of left-wing candidates in elections next month, according to Radio France International. Police have not identified any suspects. The graffiti attacked Jewish groups and compared Jews to homosexuals, RFI reported. “Those hateful messages are a real danger for our republic,” Toulouse Mayor Pierre Cohen of the Socialist Party said in a statement. “It is our responsibility not to let this noxious atmosphere reminiscent of the inglorious past become established.”
The Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse was the site two years ago where a radical Islamist killed four people, including three children. Also Sunday, some 20 supporters of the French comedian Dieudonne M’laba M’laba held a “quenelle party” on the southwest French city’s main square, police told RFI. The quenelle, a gesture reminiscent of a Nazi salute that was created by Dieudonne, has been widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Last month, French police arrested a man who posted a photo on social networks that showed a young man wearing sunglasses performing the quenelle while standing in front of the entrance to the Ozar Hatorah School wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
© JTA News
Persecution of Roma in Hungary is spiralling out of control
Since the accession of Central European countries to the European Union (EU), threats to their Roma communities have escalated dangerously. This is evident in anti-Roma rallies, random violent attacks against families and neighbourhoods, and discriminatory public statements and government policies in many EU countries, including the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, France and Italy. Hungary, however, has become a particular concern.
By Margareta Matache, Research Fellow, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University
17/2/2014- In the past six years, sustained hate crimes and racist propaganda have created a threatening atmosphere for Roma families and communities across the country. The mounting incidence of violence against Hungary’s Roma is at the heart of a recent report issued by Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights. It recounts evidence of escalating violence, killings, military trainings, and propaganda against Roma in Hungary from 2008 to the present. I grew up in Romania and have worked on Roma rights issues in central and eastern Europe for several years. Although I have witnessed inter-ethnic tensions and extremist attacks against Roma, including Roma houses set on fire and Roma families expelled into the woods for weeks, the incidents I tracked on a recent field trip to Hungary still managed to shock me. In Hungary, anti-Roma sentiment is not limited to the blatant rejection and discrimination against the Roma community that currently abounds across Europe; it also includes systemic threats, physical attacks, and killings.
No end in sight
The FXB report alerts institutions, opinion-makers and the general population to the escalating violence and hatred targeted against the Roma. The report documents threatening behaviour by organisations, and the perpetration of crimes that have induced widespread terror amongst Hungary’s Roma population. Far-right parties and organisations continue to organise marches and rallies across Hungarian cities and villages. The amplification of these extremist voices has not only reinforced existing anti-Roma sentiments, but also provoked anti-Roma violence. Racially motivated crimes, which are not always treated as such, are now a common occurrence throughout the country. The European Roma Rights Center tracked 61 incidents of such violence between 2008 and 2012, and recorded the murders of seven adults and two children. In June 2008, for example, Human Rights First reported that a man killed a 14-year-old Romani boy in Fenyeslitke and threatened to “kill all the Roma in the village”.
Though the rise in racially motivated crimes and violent attacks since 2008 should have been strong signals for intervention, the FXB report shows how weak Hungarian government’s response has been. Because of its failure to act definitively, perpetrators and their followers have been emboldened, untrammeled by public outrage or strong government sanction. Racist violence is increasingly accepted as a legitimate form of retribution, a model followed by citizens, organisations, and leaders alike. Just as troubling as this escalating violence is the proliferation of secret camps run by neo-Nazi groups to prepare their members for armed combat. One of these groups, the Hungarian National Front, was found to be organising military trainings on weapon usage, combat, and urban fighting once a month in 2012-2013. According to an informant interviewed by the Athena Institute, training involves “physical exercises, running, basic formation exercises, which are roughly the same as a basic military training for conscripts”. He added: “tactical shooting, in-building and assault tactics were practised with air and paintball guns”.
The Wiesenthal Center, amongst others, urged the Council of Europe in 2009 to investigate the neo-Nazi revival, warning: “Hungary is sinking into the abyss of racial hatred that could easily spread throughout this region.” But so far, no organisation or individual in Hungary has been found guilty of clandestine combat preparation, even though organising military training in weapon usage, combat, and urban fighting is illegal in the EU.
The FXB report notes that over the past year, violent attacks, marches, and racially motivated crimes against Roma have declined, and this is certainly a positive development. However, the fact that right-wing extremist policies and laws are simultaneously being put into place is deeply worrying. Instilling fear can take many forms. In Hungary, violent attacks, killings and rallies of the past five years have now given way to extremist right-wing policies, which generate the same lack of safety for Roma and for other minority groups. The tendency to replace actual violence with repressive legislation has been seen in other countries affected by mass violence and conflict, such as Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The renewal of anti-Roma activity demands we hold the EU and its member states responsibile for protecting the Roma community, as they are compelled to do. Societies across the continent are riven by economic, political, and ethnic tensions. Hungary, along with other European countries, has experienced a serious economic decline over the past few years. In such precarious times, the EU’s stated obligation to defend democracy and protect the safety of all its citizens becomes even more pressing. The EU was founded on lessons learned from the lethal excesses of extremist ideology, and by failing to address the insecurity of the Roma in Hungary, the it fails in its obligation to preserve human dignity, respect for human rights, equality and freedom. It is a shame and an outrage that the Roma community must rely on advocates and human rights groups rather than governments. The increasingly frightening case of Hungary shows how urgently Europe’s Roma need new allies and guardians.
© The Conversation
Seven charged for Stockholm Nazi attack (Sweden)
Seven people were charged on Monday in the wake of a neo-Nazi attack on anti-racist demonstrators in Stockholm last year. But prosecutors say more indictments are on the way.
17/2/2014- Charges were filed on Monday against people who took part in a violent riot in Stockholm's Kärrtorp suburb in December last year. Four of the suspects were charged with violent rioting (våldsamt upplopp) and hate speech (hets mot folkgrupp) and another three were charged with instigating violent rioting. According to the indictment, several of those charged threw bottles, rocks, and firecrackers. "There will be more charges filed than just these, altogether there were around 30 people detained after the demonstration," Ulf Sundström of the Söderort police told the TT news agency. Preliminary investigations continue into the actions of the others who were detained in connection with the incident, prosecutor Tove Kullberg added.
The riots kicked off when around around 800 peaceful anti-racist demonstrators, a group that included children, were set upon by a group of neo-Nazis from the national socialist Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska Motståndsrörelsen, SMR). The demonstrators were taking a stand against the spread of racism in their neighbourhood. Police arrested 28 people following the chaos, which saw three people rushed to hospital, including one police officer. Other suspects face possible charges of attempted aggravated assault, weapon crimes, and hate speech. Only six police officers were on hand to keep an eye on the demonstration in December, a move that has been criticized as police were aware that there was a threat. The week after the riot, around 16,000 people gathered in Kärrtorp to protest against racism and violence.
© The Local - Sweden
UK: Gang of three jailed over anti-gay assault on man
Three Slovakian friends, who brutally beat a man in a homophobic assault in Cheshire, have been jailed.
19/2/2014- Dominic Nagy, Vladimir Puchala and Martin Uhlar, all living in Warrington, attacked the victim after he was invited to a house for drinks in June last year. The defendants, aged between 24 and 33, punched the victim repeatedly and shouted homophobic abuse as he tried to escape the house on 1 June 2013. He had been lured there after chatting to a man he believed to be called Stephan on a Slovakian chat room for several hours earlier that day. The trial heard Puchala entered the room and started to punch the victim shouting homophobic insults at him. Uhlar and Nagy then joined in, with all three men repeatedly punching the victim in the head. The victim managed to escape and was later treated at Warrington Hospital for bruising and swelling and was kept in overnight due to his head injuries.
The three men were convicted of the attack last month at Halton Magistrates Court. The Warrington Guardian reports District Judge Bridget Knight saying in her sentencing remarks: “It is difficult to think of a more terrifying ordeal than the complainant in this case had to go through. “He was invited to your address and then he was set upon by all three of you. “He was punched hard to his head and face several times while being subjected to homophobic abuse. “He suffers from anxiety and stress and has not been able to return to work.” Nagy, 24, was handed 26 week and four week sentences for assault by beating and possession of the knife, Ulhar, 33, was given 23 weeks in prison and Puchala, 30, was told to serve 20 weeks both for assault by beating.
© Pink News
Far-Rightists Threaten UK Muslims Fun Day
A family event planned to offer British Muslim children a day of fun at famous Legoland has been targeted by far right and neo-Nazi extremists, planning demonstrations against young Muslim children and attacking the park’s pages on social websites.
16/2/2014- “It’s just a fun day, this is for children,” one Muslim woman considering taking her child to Legoland told The Express on Sunday, February 16. The plans for the fun day were announced by Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) after they hired Legoland Park in Windsor, Berkshire, on March 9. The day of “Halal entertainment” was suggested after the success of an earlier event that was hosted in Chessington World of Adventures theme park in Surrey for an Eid Fun Day last November. “By the Grace of Allah … we are launching our 2nd Family Fun Day at Legoland Windsor Resort – with the hope that the two events will become the standard and annual fundays for decades to come, insha’Allah,” the organizers’ website reads. “Family Fun Day is a family centered event where we aim to bring Halal entertainment/environments for Muslim families in the West. “The aim is to provide a true alternative in which like minded families can enjoy safe and enjoyable time while at the same time conducive to their faith.”
Hearing about the plans, English Defence League and the neo-Nazi linked Casuals United have threatened demonstrations at the Berkshire park. The EDL and Casuals United have mocked up an offensive poster for the demo featuring Lego “warden” welcoming two other Lego figures: one dressed like a terrorist holding a gun and another in a full Burka. The message from the warden reads: “Muslim welcome. We hate Christians.” There was “a great deal of resentment building up against Legoland” in the town, Tom Bursnall, a Ukip councillor in Windsor, said. “There should be a peaceful demonstration. Residents are up in arms about this.”
Rejecting the planned event, EDL and Casuals United have been inundating Legoland with abusive phone calls and messages on Twitter and Facebook calling for bosses to cancel the event. The abuse became so upsetting for Legoland fans and staff that police asked the company to take down its Facebook account while they investigated. “These types of messages will not be tolerated and may constitute a criminal offence,” Thames Valley Police said, adding that any demonstration would be policed in a proportionate way. “An investigation is underway to identify whether any offence has been committed and to identify those responsible.” Meanwhile, the Muslim organization asserted that their event at Legoland Park was open to all faiths, to promote harmony and respect among UK faiths. "The Family Funday 2014 at Legoland is an opportunity for the UK public to gather with British Muslims in a relaxed family environment,” MRDF said in a statement on Saturday. "It is open to people from all faiths and cultures in an open and welcoming environment without the promotion of any particular ideology.
"The real concern here is the threat to the cohesion of our community by far right groups linked to the EDL and Christian Patrols. "We should not be intimidated by violent threats to our way of life. "MRDF, a charity governed by English Law, have consistently promoted non-violence and political participation in the UK. "All of our volunteers, staff and trustees are well respected members of the community and have worked in varies capacities as promoters of harmony and respect among all communities." Hostility against British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.7 million, has been on the rise since 2005’s 7/7 attacks. A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims. A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
© On Islam
UK: BBC blasted over new documentary showing racist attack on busker
BBC Scotland is under fire over a documentary featuring racism, violence and sexism.
15/2/2014- The first episode of The Street tomorrow night follows characters who live and work on Glasgow’s famous Sauchiehall Street. In the most disturbing scene, a black street musician suffers racist abuse and a physical assault during an unprovoked attack by two thugs. It also shows scantily-clad women lying inebriated in the street, brawling groups of men, overt sexism from bouncers and bar managers and includes references to drugs. Last night, politicians, anti-racism campaigners and alcohol support workers blasted the BBC. The homeless guitarist, Melo, who is from Angola, lived in Glasgow for 15 years and refuses to claim benefits, surviving only by busking. He is being filmed when a drunk skinhead unleashes a foul-mouthed tirade at the 39-year-old, branding him a “black b*****d”. The disturbing rant goes on: “What about the British, or the homeless? You’re sitting here milking our country for thousands. How much do you make sitting here busking every day?”
The burly man and his accomplice punch and kick Melo and he is forced to defend himself, while passers-by are seen trying to calm the situation before the police finally arrive. Even then, however, the racist abuse continues and afterwards, a visibly shaken Melo says: “It’s not just in Glasgow, it’s everywhere.” In a separate incident, Melo is abused again before revealing he experiences racism on a daily basis. He adds: “I am feeling sick, man. Since 1998, I’ve been abused everyday, that’s why I just feel like leaving. I need to be happy.” The Street was filmed more than a year ago and it is understood that Melo, whose real name has not been disclosed by the BBC, has now left Scotland. Neither Police Scotland nor the BBC was able to say if either of his two assailants ever faced charges over their racist abuse. Exposing the turmoil of Glasgow’s streets at the weekend, the first episode in the three-part series also features revellers spilling out of Sauchiehall Street’s bars and clubs.
In another uncomfortable scene, Lee – manager of pub Barbushka – laughs about one patron who exposed himself, adding that they do not tolerate that behaviour. But then, in a chauvinistic twist, Lee and a bouncer are filmed sneering about how a woman doing the same thing would be welcomed. Speaking last night, a spokesman for Show Racism The Red Card described the racist incidents as “not all that surprising”, adding: “When we work in schools, we see the presence of racist attitudes and racist behaviour. We know that can escalate to violent racist attacks. It is very sad to hear that Melo has left Glasgow because of this.” Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “People who have had far too much to drink can become incapable of looking after themselves or become involved in arguments and violence. “The high concentration of bars and clubs on Sauchiehall Street means it has long been a hot-spot for alcohol-related harm, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.”
However, Glasgow’s sole Conservative councillor, David Meikle, insisted: “It is disappointing Glasgow has been shown in this light, because that is not most people’s experience. It is a famously welcoming and friendly city.” A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland last night defended the show, adding: “Public drunkenness and disorder are part and parcel of modern town centres. It would not be realistic to cut this from the series, given anyone who has ever been in Sauchiehall Street at night knows that is what happens, but it is largely seen in the context of the street pastors who are out and about trying to help people.” Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that a Scottish Government minister was racially abused in Glasgow city centre earlier this month. Humza Yousaf MSP, the minister for external affairs, was selling the Big Issue magazine to raise awareness about homelessness. He was outside Queen Street train station on February 6, when a man aimed obscenities at Mr Yousaf and told him to “f*** off back home”. A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We have received a complaint in relation to a racially aggravated incident and are currently investigating.”
© The Daily Express
Headlines 14 February, 2014
Man left with facial injuries after stepping in to stop racial abuse (UK)
11/2/2014- A man was assaulted as he stepped in to stick up for workers at a Chelmsford convenience store who were being racially abused. Two men were spouting threatening and abusive language at staff in PJ Foodstore on Writtle Road at around 7.45pm on Saturday, February 8. One male then intervened and the two men turned on him. The man was punched several times and left with cuts and bruises on his face. The two yobs then ran away. Ronnie Egan, the district commander for Chelmsford, said: "We're looking to speak to the two men in connection with this incident. "One is described as white, aged between 23 and 24, of slim build and 5ft 7. He had short, cropped blonde hair and stubble. He was wearing a white jumper and blue jeans. "The other man is also described as white, 21-years-old, 5ft 10 with short ginger hair. He was wearing a dark jumper and jeans." Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact PC Theresa Booth at Chelmsford station on 101.
© Chelmsford Weekly News
How anti-gay groups use 'Russian Facebook' to persecute LGBT people
With Sochi under way, we look at widespread homophobia across VKontakte – and what little is being done to stop it
11/2/2014- It is known as the Russian Facebook, and it is the 8th biggest social networking site in the world, with over 239 million registered users and 55 million active daily. It is VKontakte (VK), and it is host to videos of rapes, threats to kill, and the humiliation of gay people. While the world tunes in to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, hundreds of gay, lesbian, and transgender Russian citizens will be persecuted and attacked; the result of plots formed online by homophobic groups buoyed up by Putin’s anti-gay propaganda laws. “Occupy Paedophilia” was one of the leading groups to feature in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, broadcast last Wednesday, which exposed the extent of the violence faced by the LGBT community. The group has a prominent presence on VK, with over 90,000 followers – as well as other local factions pulling in more supporters. Occupy Paedophilia use the site to connect with gay men, posing as potential love interests, before luring them into situations where they will be attacked, a process they refer to as “safaris” using “bait”.
Uploaded regularly to the site, films show victims being violently attacked and humilliated. This is content that is easily available to view, and is “liked”, passed around, and shared on the site, seemingly without impediment. The leader of Occupy Paedophilia, Ekaterina Zigunova, has posted screenshots of abuse she has received from UK television viewers after the airing of the Dispatches investigation, in which she featured heavily. Despite the group claiming on screen that they are not neo-Nazis, but rather upholding a moral obligation to rid Russia of paedophiles (whom they conflate with homosexuals), the VK pages of Occupy Paedophilia and other similar groups are littered with Nazi insignia. So what is VK doing about the profiles and groups which organise and post evidence of the criminal activity (although not recognised as hate crime under Russian law) which has brought so much widespread international criticism and resulted in calls for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics?
When contacted by the Guardian, George Lobushkin, VK’s press officer, pledged to delete the content. “We do our best to remove the content that violates our terms of service, as fast as possible. Videos of violence and abuse are forbidden,” he said. “We also block and delete communities where users call to violence or illegal actions against gay people or any other people. Please note that we are the only Russian social network that lets its users select a same-sex person when specifying their relationship status. “But it is very important for VKontakte to be an independent company, equidistant from any ideological position or belief. People can express themselves freely, as long as they don’t commit illegal acts or call others to those.” VK is not the only social network site on which Occupy Paedophilia is operating. YouTube returns over 23,000 search results for the gang, and hate propaganda from Russian fascist groups is tweeted often.
Kirill Maryin is a teenager in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city, who has set up the Twitter account, @ru_lgbt_teen. The profile’s name is simply Gay Teen from Russia, with a picture of an SOS sign, and the bio: “World, help us! I plead you! History must not happen again!” Kirill tweets about the everyday discrimination that he faces, as well as coverage of Russia’s politics, authorities, and how Russia’s homophobia is being covered by external news outlets. He told the Guardian he started the account to help the world understand the struggles of the LGBT population in Russia from the viewpoint of a teenager on the ground, rather than a celebrity campaigner. “General information about gay life in Russia has come from Nikolai Alekseev and his project GayRussia in the past few years. “I wanted people who live abroad to hear the true story of life for LGBT teenagers from Russia. I have no husband in Switzerland, I do not live in the ECHR, I do not organise Gay Pride in Moscow. I am an ordinary LGBT teenager, and in this country, that is incredibly dangerous. “Gays have become targets of crimes and human rights violations. The Russian state uses LGBT as a shorthand for ‘internal enemies’. Homophobia is very much prevalent in our society.”
The time Kirill feels the impact of homophobia the most is at school. “I have been insulted and humiliated, and the teachers pretend that nothing is happening. I am called ‘motherfucker, fag, cock, a non-entity, a mistake of nature’. “Once they told me I should move to the Netherlands because that country is for fags. I hate my school, my class and my teachers. I have no friends there, and I dream of it ending. “I am not considered a person. I have low self-esteem. Psychologists cannot do anything, and they are often also homophobic. Honestly, I cannot see an end to this problem.” As Lobushkin points out, the site does have LGBT groups. I ask Kirill if thse help him. He tells me that although he has an account and has added many LGBT groups, he limits his activity and he does not openly identify as gay on the site because he could be targeted. “I would like them to remove all the fascist calls and actions. I do not feel free there.”
Children 404 is one of the biggest LGBT support groups on VK. The 404 element is a reference to the internet error message – ‘404 not found’ – because gay people feel isolated and ignored, and because Russian authorities like to pretend that gay individuals do not exist. Or as the group’s founder Lena Klimova explains: “they believe LGBT people arrived from Mars”. Klimova is 25 and lives in Nizhny Tagil, in the Urals area of Russia. She is openly gay and works as a journalist. Children 404 focuses on helping gay teenagers. “I saw that they needed help, at least this kind of help – the possibility to tell other people about themselves, the chance to speak out and possibly get some advice, to form a community online. “Homophobic harassment is very common on VKontakte, as in real life. And you don’t necessarily have to be openly gay, or a gay at all. The harassment hits everybody who is speaking out in favour of gays, everybody who looks like they might be gay, and everybody who does not conform to the standards of a “real man” or a “real woman”.
On Wednesday, the same day as Channel 4’s Dispatches programme aired, Klimova was charged under Putin’s new gay propaganda laws. She has been told her court hearing will be in a couple of weeks, and she faces a large fine. Lena was pursued after Children 404 was investigated by Vitaly Milonov, a prominent politician in St. Petersburg. “I am depressed. I feel very sad, hurt and bitter. LGBT people are experiencing harsh oppression: they are living in fear, they fear being fired, being beaten up, being killed just without any reason. In Russia such harassment isn’t considered hate crime. It is terribly frightening.” Despite pledging to remove the violent content and deleting the relevant accounts, five days after the Guardian’s enquiry only one video had been removed, turning a blind eye to the thousands of videos still hosted on VK; men looking into the camera with their eyes full of fear, while members of Occupy Paedophilia grab them by their necks and punch them, and Zigunova laughs.
© The Guardian
Russia claims documentary about attacks on gays is timed to disrupt Winter Olympics, and says similar films could be made about abuse of Britain's redheads
11/2/2014- Russia has attacked a Channel 4 film about attacks on homosexuals in the country, saying a similar documentary could have been made about abuse towards redheads in Britain. 'Hunted', a documentary about gangs who abduct and beat gay men and women, is part of a "well-engineered campaign of slander" timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics, Russia's embassy in London said. President Putin has been condemned by leaders around the world for a federal law that bans "homosexual propaganda" among minors. The Kremlin says it is designed to “protect children” but critics say it amounts to a de facto ban on gay rights campaigns. It is strongly supported by the Orthodox Church, some of whose priests conflate homosexuality with paedophilia. The law has coincided with a large number of vigilante attacks on gay people, which campaigners say are often ignored by the police. The embassy said the Channel 4 film screened last week was "hate propaganda" and "full of distorted facts and unverifiable allegations".
The Russian state does not condone attacks on gay people, diplomats insisted. “The documentary’s emotional appeal is misleading, since the film falls far short of the standards of professional journalistic investigation. "One could have easily whipped up such 'documentary' about a hunting season on redheads in the UK saying that 'ginger' people face unmotivated verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis," it said. “If the authors of the documentary really had evidence of rampant gay hate crimes in Russia, they wouldn’t need to wait until an international sporting event takes place in Russia to raise the alarm. While violent attacks on homosexuals sometimes take place in Russia, just like in many other European countries, this does not mean that they are condoned, supported or, let alone, encouraged by the Government. Such attacks are few and far between and by no means reflect general sentiments of the Russian people.”
The film showed a vigilante group, ‘Occupy Paedophilia’, luring a gay man to an apartment, where he was beaten and forced to film a ‘confession’ video. Such videos are often posted online, causing people to lose their jobs or be shunned by their families. The embassy said the leader of the group has been arrested and charged with extremism - but appeared to defend Occupy Paedophilia, saying: “As its name suggests, [it] targets only paedophiles both straight and gay”. President Putin has also conflated homosexuality with child sex abuse, telling journalists that gay people have nothing to fear at Sochi as long as they leave children alone. “One can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please.” The British Foreign Office announced an increase in funding for gay rights groups such as Stonewall working in Russia, days before the Winter Olympics began. The move is likely to infuriate Russia, experts said, because it regards civil rights as a strictly internal affair.
© The Telegraph
Aboard Belgian train, Jews asked to get off and shower at Auschwitz
11/2/2014- Unidentified passengers aboard a Belgian train used the speaker system to urge Jews to get off at Auschwitz and shower at the concentration camp. The incident of Jan. 31 prompted the Belgian rail company SNCB to file a complaint with police over incitement to hatred, the RTL broadcaster reported Tuesday. According to RTL, the suspects gained access to the speaker system during rush hour, at 5 p.m., while traveling from Namur to Brussels. One of the passengers said in French, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.” The incident had been reported to Viviane Teitelbaum, a Jewish lawmaker in the assembly of the Brussels region. Teitelbaum told RTL that the witness to whom she spoke suspected that members from a group of adolescents may have gained access to the keys that conductors use to make announcements over the loudspeakers. A similar incident occurred in 2012 aboard the same line when the perpetrators, who were never caught, said, “Welcome to this train heading to Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark at Buchenwald.”
© JTA News
Romania's President Basescu fined for Roma comments
An official anti-discrimination agency has fined Romania's president 600 lei ($185; £112) for saying Roma avoid work and make a living by stealing.
10/2/2014- The National Council for Combating Discrimination initially declined to take the case because he made the comments outside the country. But the Supreme Court ordered the autonomous body under the control of parliament to take the case. President Traian Basescu did not immediately react to the ruling. The agency fined Mr Basescu for having said "very few of them (Roma) want to work'' and "traditionally many of them live off stealing", during a 2010 news conference in Slovenia. Romania officially has 620,000 Roma (Gypsies) but the number is believed to be far higher because many do not declare their ethnicity to avoid widespread discrimination.
Many Roma live on the margins of Romanian society in bad housing and squalid conditions, with little access to government services such as health and education. Unemployment rates are high and life expectancy is far below the national average. It is not the only time Mr Basescu has made controversial statements about the Roma. Speaking in Berlin in January, while defending the right of Roma to move freely around the European Union, he said Roma irritate people by begging and are "perhaps more troublesome than a banker who makes tens of billions disappear from a bank". He did add that banks cost governments far more during a financial crisis.
© BBC News
Turkish Jews Targeted in Terrifying Anti-Semitic Attack
Violent attack on two Jews in northwestern Turkey underscores fears for country's Jewish minority.
10/2/2014- Even amid reports that Israel and Turkey are close to "normalizing" relations again, it appears that the long-term impact of years of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement since the souring of relations in 2010 will be far more difficult to roll back. Arutz Sheva has seen an email by a Turkish Jewish businessman, relating a harrowing anti-Semitic attack on him and his partner in the northwestern Turkish town of Babaeski, in the country's Marmara district, once again highlighting fears for the future of Turkey's 15,000-strong Jewish minority. The two men - who requested anonymity - were visiting clients in the Thrace Region, when they stopped off in the town for a lunch break. But upon making their orders at a local restaurant, they were in for a nasty shock. "We gave our orders at a fish restaurant, but the owner of the restaurant realized that we are Jewish," the email related. "After he made it clear that he won’t serve food to Jews, he started to insult Jews, the Jewish religion. He finally lost his control and marched over two of us with a dangerous tool."
Arutz Sheva has learned from a friend of the victim that the "tool" in question was in fact a doner blade - a large, sword-like implement for cutting meat. He said passersby did nothing to intervene. Faced with such sudden and extreme violence, the two men had little choice but to flee. "We could not defend ourselves at all, we just ran away from this anti-Semitic man. We ran for our lives. Experiencing an event like that affected us so much." He said he felt a duty to share story with others, and said he and his partner were lucky to make it out in one piece. "Thank God we are safe at home now," he said. Blatantly anti-Semitic statements by Turkish leaders have become almost routine since Israel-Turkey relations soured in 2010; from the country's Deputy Prime Minister accusing a dark conspiracy by "Diaspora Jewry" of being behind the popular "Gezi Park" anti-government protest movement, to similar comments made by Prime Minister Erdogan himself. The Turkish Prime Minister has a particularly long history of anti-Semitism. Prior to his stint as PM, in 1998 Erdogan - then mayor of Istanbul - infamously declared that "the Jews have begun to crush the Muslims in Palestine, in the name of Zionism.
Today, the image of the Jews is no different than that of the Nazis." And those anti-Semitic sentiments are filtering down into society, where they have clearly found fertile ground, not least among the Islamist support-base of Erdogan's AKP party. In October of last year, a Turkish newspaper revealed how young Jews were flocking to leave the country over rising anti-Semitism. Just two months later, pro-Erdogan demonstrators attacked a woman in Istanbul whilst shouting "are you Jewish?" The same period saw two incidents in which Turkish students were arrested at the sites of Nazi death camps in Poland for giving Nazi salutes. Describing the atmosphere for Jews within Turkey, one recent emigre told Arutz Sheva that many Jews were leaving Turkey out of sheer "desperation." "They were like, 'let's go before it's too late,'" he related, saying that the number one destination for emigres was Israel, followed by the United States.
© Arutz Sheva
Immigrant attacked upon arrival in German town
Second chance for Hoyerswerda begins poorly
8/2/2014- The destitute east German town of Hoyerswerda waited 23 years for a second chance to prove they were a welcoming place, after a mob chased foreign refugees and migrants in 1991. When that chance arrived this week, it took them about 36 hours to blow it. They got their chance Wednesday afternoon when 36 refugees, including 10 kids, from places including Syria, Pakistan and Morocco arrived at their brand new center. A Moroccan man was attacked Friday morning. A primary difference, of course, between the attacks in 1991 and Friday was that this was an isolated attack. In 1991, an estimated 500 neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant protesters attacked a refugee center and apartment house for international contract workers. The attackers rained Molotov cocktails, rocks and even tracer bullets, injuring 32 and prompting police to admit defeat, close the center and usher the immigrants out of town.
Friday's attack took place while one of the newest residents of the city of 35,000 was standing on the ancient and very quaint city square. A resident riding by on a bicycle slapped him, then turned around and came back and hit him again, at least a couple times. Which leads to another difference between the 1991 attack and the attack this week. After the attacker left, several other newly arrived refugees came to help the victim, and when the attacker circled back yet again, one used his camera phone to snap a photo. Police immediately recognized the attacker. Perhaps disturbingly, while known to police he had no known connections to neo-Nazi groups, who have sworn to again run the refugees out of Hoyerswerda. The attacker, instead, had a record as a petty thief. He was questioned later Friday, the Hoyerswerda police announced.
© McClatchy DC
Headlines 7 February, 2014
Anti-Semitic incidents drop in Britain, survey shows
6/2/2014- Anti-Semitic incidents in Britain fell 18 percent over the previous year, according to an annual survey. The Community Security Trust, which advises Britain’s Jewish community on security issues, recorded 529 anti-Semitic incidents across the country during 2013, compared to 649 incidents in 2012. An additional 465 reports were received by CST but were not deemed to be anti-Semitic and are not included in the total. “Any fall in the number of ant-Semitic incidents that takes place is to be welcomed, but we are always wary of reading too much into short-term trends as we know that the picture can change considerably from year to year,” CST spokesman Mark Gardner said in a statement released Thursday. Members of the Jewish community, Jewish organizations and other victims of or witnesses reported the incidents.
The incidents included 69 violent assaults, the same number as recorded from 2012. Eighty-six incidents involved the use of social media to transmit anti-Semitic threats or abuse, compared to 81 such incidents the previous year. The most common type of incident in 2013 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public, with 185 incidents. In 89 of these incidents, the victims were visibly Jewish, usually due to religious or traditional clothing, school uniform or jewelry bearing Jewish symbols, according to CST. CST has recorded anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom since 1984. The most was 931 in 2009.
© JTA News
Bosnia Gay Festival Violence Blamed on Police Inaction
Sarajevo Open Center, which organized the queer film festival, says the failure of the police to secure the festival from attack last weekend needs to be investigated.
5/2/2014- Two 25-year-old were arrested over suspicion they were among the group of ten which was reported attacking participants of the international queer film festival Merlinka last weekend. But following widespread condemnation of the attack on the queer film festival, questions have arisen as to why police did not protect the event. Sarajevo Open Center, the organizer of festival, said the event had been announced some 20 days before it opened. Encouraged by a degree of support from the authorities, it then invited people to come see films and participate in discussions on sexuality. “They [police] knew the risks,” the organizers said. “We got directions about what we had to do. Encouraged by those agreements, we invited people.” Sarajevo Open Center said few policemen turned up at the last Friday's opening and when they received direct threats on Saturday on Facebook, and called the police, no police came to secure the premises.
“Five minutes after the panel discussion started, the sounds of shouting and cursing were heard and 12 masked persons barged into the auditorium... tearing down and smashing everything in their way,” the Open Center recalled. Recalling the closing day of the festival, when around 200 people appeared to proclaim their “civil and human resistance to a fascist ideology, fear and anarchy”, Sarajevo Open Center said those responsible for the attack needed to be tracked down. “It is important for us that the political and legal system labels and penalizes the masked persons who crashed the festival, striking and beating everyone in their way,” the Open Center said. “It is important for us to find who was responsible for the police not being there on time as agreed and why they showed up when it was already too late to prevent the violence,” it added.
Amnesty International, on Monday in a press release, condemned the attack on the festival panel discussion, in which three people were hurt, as another example of the vulnerable position of gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Bosnia. “The alleged motive [for the attack] based on sex, gender and sexual orientation should be duly taken into account in the prosecution phase and be adequately reflected in the sentence,” Amnesty said. “Despite the calls for protection, no officers were present at the cinema at time of the attack,” it noted. “The lack of response by the police to such threats and harassment is concerning, and it should be investigated,” Amnesty added. Sarajevo Canton police have not released any further information about the attack beyond the official report on the event, from Saturday.
© Balkan Insight
Spain's new cardinal probed for 'inciting anti-gay hate'
5/2/2014- Spanish prosecutors have opened an investigation into newly chosen Spanish Cardinal Fernando Sebastian Aguilar after a gay-rights group accused him of hate speech for calling homosexuality a "defect". The public prosecutor for the southern province of Malaga, Juan Carlos Lopez, said he had opened a preliminary inquiry "to clarify whether the allegations constitute a criminal offence," according to a document obtained Wednesday by AFP. Sebastian, who is close to Pope Francis, is one of 19 new cardinals chosen by the pontiff last month to be officially appointed on February 22. A week after being picked, the 84-year-old archbishop emeritus of Pamplona gave an interview to a Malaga newspaper that drew condemnation from gay-rights activists. "A lot of people complain and don't tolerate it but with all respect I say that homosexuality is a defective way of manifesting sexuality, because that has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation," he said.
He compared homosexuality to his own high blood pressure -- "a defect I have that I have to correct as far as I can" -- and said: "Pointing out a defect to a homosexual is not an offence, it is a help because many cases of homosexuality can be recovered and normalised with adequate treatment." After the interview was published, gay and lesbian rights group Colegas lodged a complaint against Sebastian for violating the constitution's guarantees of dignity and non-discrimination and for "clearly inciting hate and discrimination". "We're very satisfied because this is the first time" such an investigation has been opened, Colegas president Paco Ramirez told AFP Wednesday. The archbishopric of Malaga condemned the move, saying Sebastian had not used the word "disease" and accusing his critics of "distorting his words". Activists have launched a petition to the pope to withdraw his nomination of Sebastian, which the website hosting it, change.org, says has gathered 20,000 signatures.
Afrophobic acts spread among the Swedes
3/2/2014- Afrophobic acts on the rise in Sweden. It emerges from recent statistics released by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, that reported an increase of 24% from 2008 to 2012. In general, hate crime motives have recorded a decrease of 6% in 2012 compared to the previous 4 years. But it is not true for all hate crimes. In fact, not only afrophobic acts are up, but also anti-Semitic (+39%) and anti-Roma (+21%). Compared to these, Islamophobic acts, even if increased (+13%) are not statistically significant. Among the main acts, there are violent crimes (particularly high in relation to homophobic and Afrophobic motives), hate speech (especially towards Jews and Muslims), unlawful discrimination (towards Roma) and graffiti/criminal damage offences (especially towards Christians).
Download Brå - Hate Crime 2012 Statistics on self-reported exposure to hate crime and police reports with identified hate crime motives (PDF)
© West, on-line newspaper aimed at providing the last breaking news on welfare policies.
Russia: Sochi Games Highlight Homophobic Violence
Authorities Turn Blind Eye to Crimes Against LGBT People
4/2/2014- The Russian authorities need to address a deteriorating situation of widespread and concerted abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and activists. The authorities’ failure to act and some officials’ homophobic comments expose LGBT people to further harassment and violence and embolden the attackers, Human Rights Watch research found. As the host to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which begin on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia should act in accordance with the principle of nondiscrimination, a core provision of the Olympic Charter. As a member of the Council of Europe, and party to multiple human rights treaties, it should meet its obligations to provide equal respect and protection for LGBT people. “The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so,” said Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people.”
LGBT people face stigma, harassment, and violence in their everyday lives in Russia, and LGBT victims of violence and groups told Human Rights Watch that these problems intensified in 2013. Victims in cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk told Human Rights Watch they were attacked in public places, abducted, beaten, harassed, threatened, and psychologically abused. They told Human Rights Watch that they were afraid to go to the police to report violence, fearing further harassment and believing the police would not bother to pursue their attackers. When victims did lodge complaints with the police, few investigations followed. The absence of relevant data makes it impossible to quantify the extent to which such violence and harassment increased during 2013, but all of the victims and LGBT groups who spoke to Human Rights Watch said they experienced an escalation in homophobic attacks starting in late 2012.
The Russian LGBT Network, an umbrella LGBT group based in St. Petersburg, conducted an anonymous survey on discrimination against LGBT populations in Russia in 2013. More than 50 percent of the 2,007 respondents had experienced psychological abuse, and 15 percent had experienced physical violence. Only 6 percent of victims contacted police. At least three murders allegedly motivated by homophobia were reported in May, a month before the adoption and signing of the federal anti-gay “propaganda” law. The adoption of the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors,” one measure among several federal anti-LGBT laws proposed or adopted in 2013, coincided with the spread of homophobic violence. Violating the law is an administrative offense punishable by a range of fines. Media and organizations face particularly hefty fines. On January 30 a court found a newspaper editor in Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East, in violation of the federal “propaganda” law and fined him 50,000 rubles (US$1,450). The editor was charged in connection with publishing an interview in which a gay school teacher, forced to resign over his sexual orientation, was quoted as saying, “My very existence proves that homosexuality is normal.” The editor will appeal the decision.
Foreigners who violate the law are subject to fines, up to 15 days in detention and deportation. The law also bans representing “traditional” and “nontraditional” relationships as equally acceptable. That makes it illegal to say anything positive about being gay publicly or to tell a child that there is nothing wrong with being gay or being raised by gay parents. Simultaneously, a vicious homophobic campaign began in the media, particularly state- sponsored and state-controlled media outlets. Government officials, journalists, and celebrities have publicly called LGBT people “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal,” and have conflated homosexuality with pedophilia. The deputy director of a government television and radio holding and also one of the leading talk show hosts proposed to “burn or bury” the hearts of gay organ donors rather than use them for transplants because they are “unfit to continue anyone’s life.” “The discriminatory impact of the anti-LGBT law and hateful language on state television have created a climate of intolerance against the Russian LGBT community,” Cooper said. “Russian leaders should denounce, not feed, homophobic hysteria, or the Kremlin’s silence will be taken as condoning the violence.”
Starting in late 2012, numerous vigilante groups consisting of radical nationalists began attacking and harassing gay people in dozens of Russian cities. Mostly claiming to be fighting pedophilia, these groups lure men and boys to meet, accuse them of being gay, humiliate and beat them, and post videos of the proceedings on social networks, intentionally exposing their victims to further abuse. The groups have posted hundreds of videos online. On January 17, 2014, during a meeting in Krasnaya Polyana, one of the Olympic locations, president Putin said that gay people were welcome in Sochi and would be “comfortable” there, but asked them “to leave children in peace.” “Russian officials embolden homophobes and their violent attacks by persistently equating homosexuality with pedophilia,” Cooper said. “Such a chilling and wrongheaded message about LGBT people from Russia’s head of state is irresponsible and extremely dangerous.”
Public events in support of LGBT rights have long been met with official intolerance and violent counterdemonstrations. LGBT activists have increasingly become targets of vicious attacks during such events. Human Rights Watch documented violent attacks on LGBT activists during 2012 and 2013 in several Russian cities, including Voronezh, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Novosibirsk. Threats and intimidation against Russian LGBT groups also spread in 2013. Several LGBT organizations and their staff experienced violence, threats, and interference with their work. One egregious attack occurred in November at LaSky, an HIV prevention center serving the LGBT community and men who have sex with men in St. Petersburg. Two people entered the LaSky office during a social event and attacked visitors, shooting one in the eye with a pneumatic gun and beating another with a baseball bat. “Russian officials have long denied that discrimination against LGBT people exists, including to the International Olympic Committee, yet the hostility and violence clearly have been intensifying,” Cooper said. “As Russia hosts the Olympics in this atmosphere of homophobic hatred, the government needs to take urgent measures to support the rights of LGBT people and protect them.”
Harassment and Physical Attacks Against LGBT People
People in Russia identified as or perceived to belong to the LGBT community are targeted for violence. Assailants harass victims in public places, including in the subway, on the street, or at cafes, accusing them of being gay or dressing like “faggots,” and threatening them with violence. Ivan Fedoseyev (Johnny), a 21-year-old gay man from St. Petersburg, told Human Rights Watch that during 2013 he was harassed at least four times because of his sexual orientation. Several times, men he did not know approached him on the street, asked him whether he had sex with men, and tried to assault him. In August Fedoseyev was on his way to a fashion show, stylishly dressed. A man approached him in the metro and asked whether Fedoseyev was not afraid to walk “dressed like this.” The man asked Fedoseyev, “Do you know that we have a law that bans gays?” He then began to call Fedoseyev a “faggot” and slapped him in the face. Fedoseyev left the train at the next stop. He did not report the incident to the police because he thought nothing would come out of it. “The law gave a green light to homophobes to attack us,” Fedoseyev said.
A transgender woman, Risa R. (not her real name), was abducted and brutally assaulted in St. Petersburg in the summer of 2013. Four attackers forced her into their car and drove to the outskirts of the city, where they stripped her, beat her, and pulled out two of her toenails with pliers. They kept calling me a faggot and telling me how they hate gays. I told them that I wasn’t gay, that I was a transgender woman, but they did not want to listen. One of them said, “You’re nothing but a faggot. We will get your brain straight right now.” They threatened to rape me several times. Then they took pliers from the car and ripped out two of my toenails. Afterward, they said, “Now you will be better off. Now you will be pretty.” The attackers drove away with Risa’s clothes, leaving her naked and bleeding. She had to walk four and a half hours to reach home. “The only thing that mattered to me at that point was that I was home, that I was alive,” she said. “I told myself I will not look at my feet, I had experienced enough pain that night.” Risa did not go to the hospital because she was afraid that she would be asked how she had received her injuries. She also did not report the attack to the police because she had “no illusions that the police would investigate.” In the following months, Risa said, she was verbally and physically attacked several more times on the street and on public transport.
Violence and Harassment Against LGBT People by Organized Vigilante Groups
Since late 2012, members of a group calling itself “Occupy Pedophilia” have harassed and attacked gay people in many Russian towns under the pretext of fighting pedophilia and protecting children. “Occupy Pedophilia” is a loosely organized group of vigilantes that calls itself a “social movement.” Maksim Martsinkevich, also known as Tesak (“cleaver” or “hatchet” in Russian), founded the group. He was a part of a neo-Nazi group and is known for hate speech and violence. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in 2009 for inciting ethnic strife and was released in late 2010. In December a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Martsinkevich, who was in Cuba at that time. He faces extremism charges, reportedly unrelated to his group’s violence against LGBT people. In January Cuban authorities reportedly detained and expelled Martsinkevich to Russia. He was arrested by Russian authorities in a Moscow airport on January 27.
“Occupy Pedophilia” is an explicitly homophobic movement that entraps men seeking a same-sex encounter and then berates them with homophobic slurs and physically assaults them while recording the proceedings on video. The group posts the videos on various social networking websites to further humiliate the victims. The group has carried out attacks in cities including St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Ryazan, Rostov, Tula, Omsk, Kazan, Magnitogorsk, and Irkutsk. The group’s webpage hosts hundreds of videos from more than 30 Russian cities. Other nationalistic groups not directly associated with “Occupy Pedophilia” use similar methods to attack LGBT people. Human Rights Watch met with several victims of these vigilante groups. Zhenya (last name and city withheld for security reasons), 28, was ambushed, beaten, and robbed by a vigilante group in July. When he arrived for an arranged “date,” several men who appeared to be in their late 20s surrounded him. They accused him of being a pedophile and hit him several times, breaking his jaw in two places. The attackers forced him to give them 50,000 rubles (approximately US$1,450). Zhenya reported the attack to the police several days later, but they have not carried out a meaningful investigation or identified suspects. It took Zhenya four months to recover from his injuries.
Attacks and Intimidation Against LGBT Activists
Russian LGBT activists told Human Rights Watch that in 2013, anti-gay activists responded to almost all public events in support of human rights and equality for LGBT people with violence and intimidation. In the majority of cases, police did not take adequate measures to prevent and stop the harassment and attacks. In some cases, police used excessive force against LGBT activists and arbitrarily detained them. On January 20, 2013, a small group of LGBT activists gathered in Voronezh to protest the draft law banning “homosexual propaganda.” Local authorities had approved the demonstration. When a dozen LGBT activists arrived at the site, they saw a large crowd of counter-protesters and very few policemen. Andrey Nasonov, an LGBT activist who was attacked during the demonstration, told Human Rights Watch, When I came to the central square, I saw maximum 10 policemen, and no OMON [riot police]. I saw a huge crowd of anti-gay protestors, around 500 people, which ran toward me as soon as I unfurled my poster, which said, “Stop hatred.” Two men pushed me, I fell, and they started kicking me in the head. When they stopped, I got up, walked a few steps and passed out.
Nasonov lodged a complaint with the local police, but no one was found responsible for the attack. Nasonov told Human Rights Watch he felt unsafe in public places and suffered depression. On June 29, a group of LGBT activists gathered at Mars Field in St. Petersburg to express their support for LGBT rights and protest discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Counter-protesters from informal nationalist groups verbally and physically attacked the activists, several of whom had to be hospitalized. Witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed said that law enforcement officials at the event did not take appropriate measures to protect the activists and indiscriminately and arbitrarily detained more than 60 LGBT rights activists. The activists faced administrative charges, which were later dropped. Human Rights Watch documented other cases of violence and harassment of LGBT activists in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Voronezh, Samara, and Kazan.
Threats and Intimidation of Russian LGBT groups
In 2013 several Russian LGBT organizations were threatened with violence and their activities were disrupted. Side by Side, an LGBT International Film Festival based in St. Petersburg, experienced unprecedented harassment by anti-gay activists. In November several film screenings were disrupted, delayed, or rescheduled due to anonymous bomb threats. One person was arrested for making a bomb threat, but there have been no reported arrests in conjunction with other incidents. The Russian LGBT Network staff told Human Rights Watch that they had received threats from anti-gay activists in St. Petersburg in November. A homophobic slur was written across the office door of Coming Out, another St. Petersburg LGBT group.
© Human Rights Watch
Three Russian Men Convicted of Brutal Homophobic Murder
A court has found three men guilty of murdering a fellow villager in Russia's Far East in a homophobic hate crime, local prosecutors said Monday.
3/2/2014- The 29-year-old man was lured into the forest in May last year, brutally beaten and stabbed to death in the Kamchatka Region after the perpetrators decided that he was gay, the court heard. The victim was stabbed in the chest, face and neck. The attackers, now aged 26, 22 and 18, put the body of their victim inside a car, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire to conceal the crime. The three men were sentenced to between nine and 12 1/2 years in jail. Hate crimes against gay men are not uncommon in Russia, though law enforcement authorities rarely attribute homophobia as a motive. In May, investigators in the southern city of Volgograd opened a probe into the murder of a 23-year-old man whose body was covered with various injuries, including to his genitalia. Officials said they suspected it was a homophobic crime. Gay rights activists say a law passed in Russia last year that criminalized the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations to minors” has led to an increase in attacks on members of the LGBT community.
© RIA Novosti
Slovakia: Romani victims of police harassment testify
1/2/2014- A Slovak court has just completed a two-day hearing into the case of police officers who harassed Romani boys in 2009. Four of the children and several of their parents have testified to date. News server Korzár.sk reports that 10 residents of Košice have sued the police in the case from 2009. On Wednesday and Thursday at the Košice II District Court, 10 active and former police officers faced charges of abusing their powers as public officials. The case concerns harassment that took place at the Košice-Jih police station in March 2009. An investigation was begun after a DVD recording was published that showed police officers forcing six boys, who were suspected of having robbed a pensioner, to beat one another, kiss one another, and strip. (The video footage is available here).
Evidence and testimony by the victims and their parents continued this week. On Wednesday two boys testified and did their best, within the realm of possibility, to recall those fateful moments. Since they were only able to superficially describe what happened, and since their testimonies contradicted one another, the court also played the audio recording of their initial interrogation by detectives about the incident. Two more boys testified on Thursday. "They first forced us to kneel, and then we walked into the hole. There we had to beat each other, kiss each other, and slap each other. When they ordered us to strip, they spit at us and cursed us as stinking degeši [unclean people] and Gypsies. Then they got the dogs to bite two of us. The officers were laughing at us and filming us with their mobile telephones," Ondrej H. testified.
The court also deposed some of the boys' parents, who had not been present during the harassment but who repeated what they had learned from their sons about what had happened at the police station. What was curious was that while five of the 10 defendants were present in court on Wednesday, on Thursday not one of them was present. The defendants agreed the hearing could be held in their absence and that they would be represented by their attorneys. The next hearings will be in mid-March, followed by two in April, where more victims and witnesses are to be deposed. According to the prosecution, the police officers brought the six Romani boys between 10 and 16 years of age to the Košice-Jih District Department of the Police Corps on 21 March 2009. They were suspected of having mugged a pensioner.
The officers reportedly threw the boys to the ground in front of unmuzzled police dogs that then allegedly bit three of them. The young Roma were struck several times and the police officers reportedly forced them to beat one another and then to kiss each other. The police made video recordings of everything and mocked the boys' Romani origins during the proceedings. According to the prosecutor, the harassment then continued in the basement of the building, where the officers sent the youths and ordered them to strip within 10 seconds. One police officer reportedly hung one of the boys from a railing, beat him, and forced him to say the name of his mother. Another officer reportedly put a gun to the head of another Romani boy and asked if he wanted to be shot. That same defendant reportedly ordered the Romani detainees to lick his boot, then used a shovel to strike another youth. Four of the police officers are also being charged with extortion.