MINELRES: RFE/RL Newsline on minority issues

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Sat Nov 15 11:21:02 2003


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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 213, Part II, 10 November 2003 

UNHRC SUGGESTS LATVIA DO MORE TO ELIMINATE POLICE VIOLENCE, HUMAN
TRAFFICKING. The Latvian Foreign Ministry announced that the UN Human
Rights Commission (UNHRC) has suggested that Latvia carry out additional
measures to stem police violence, human trafficking, domestic violence,
and to alleviate overcrowding in prisons, BNS reported on 7 November.
The commission called for Latvia to establish an independent mechanism
to investigate allegations of police violence. It also suggested that
Latvia develop translation services and prevent language policies from
harming communications between the population and state or municipal
institutions, as well as take measures to reduce possible negative
effects planned education reforms could have on minorities. The UNHRC
praised Latvia for amending its constitution by adding a section on
human rights, establishing the Constitutional Court and Human Rights
Office, adopting an asylum law, dropping language requirements for
candidates to parliament, and approving a social-integration program
with a Public Integration Fund. SG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 214, Part I, 12 November 2003 

RUSSIAN MINISTER UNVEILS CENSUS DATA ON ETHNIC, RELIGIOUS MINORITIES.
According to the preliminary results of the Russian census conducted
last year, there are 14.5 million Muslims in the Russian Federation,
which is equal to 10 percent of the total population, Nationalities
Minister Vladimir Zorin told a press conference in Moscow on 10
November, Interfax reported. Recent estimates of the number of Muslims
in Russia have ranged from 12 million to 20 million. Zorin said the
number of Jews in Russia has fallen by over 50 percent since the last
(1989) Soviet census, from 540,000 to 230,000. He said there are
currently seven ethnic groups in Russia numbering over 1 million people,
including the Tatars, Bashkirs, Chechens, and Armenians. The number of
Mordvins has fallen below 1 million (at the time of the 1989 census,
there were 1,153,516 Mordvins in the USSR). The number of Ukrainians and
Belarusians in Russia has fallen by one-third since 1989, while the
number of Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Tajiks, and Chechens has risen. LF

NEW LAW ON RELIGION GOES INTO EFFECT IN TURKMENISTAN. A new, more
restrictive law on religious activities went into effect in Turkmenistan
on 10 November, turkmenistan.ru, Russian news agencies, and the website
of Forum 18 (http://www.forum18.org), a Norwegian-based NGO monitoring
freedom of religion in the former USSR, reported on 10 and 11 November.
The new law formally criminalizes religious activities by any confession
that is not registered by the Justice Ministry -- in effect, any
confession other than Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy. Violators may
be sentenced to one year of corrective labor. Previously, unregistered
religious groups were subject to administrative sanctions. The new law
also requires that any religious group seeking to register must prove
that it has 500 members in Turkmenistan, and only clergymen with Turkmen
citizenship and a higher education in theology may lead a congregation.
Formation of political parties or movements on a religious basis is
prohibited, along with private teaching of religion, which is also
criminalized. BB

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