Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 3

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Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 11:38:30 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 3

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Bigotry Monitor: Volume Two, Number 3 

Volume Two, Number 3
Friday, January 18, 2002

A Weekly Human Rights Newsletter on Antisemitism, Xenophobia, and
Religious Persecution in the Former Communist World and Western Europe

(News and Editorial Policy within the sole discretion of the editor)

Published by UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet

sharply criticized recent Russian military moves in Chechnya and
questioned the wisdom of stopping "encouraging contacts" with the
rebels. "The latest information on Russian operations in Chechnya
indicates a continuation of human rights violations and the use of
overwhelming force against civilian targets," State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher said on January 10. He again acknowledged
the existence of "terrorist factions in Chechnya with ties to al-Qaeda
and the international terrorism networks. And as part of the war on
terrorism, we are cooperating with the Russians on cutting off those
kinds of ties." He added that President George Bush and Secretary of
State Colin Powell have told their Russian counterparts "that only a
political solution can end the domestic conflict." But, he continued:
"Unfortunately, the Russians have not pursued the initial and
encouraging contacts with Chechen separatists. So the lack of a
political solution and the number of credible reports of massive human
rights violations, we believe, contribute to an environment that is
favorable towards terrorism." The final sentence of Boucher's
statement echoed the Bush administration's carefully balanced
assessment: "So we will continue to urge both sides to seek a
political solution to the war, and we continue to urge accountability
for human rights violations."

While the American press paid little attention to the State
Department's reiteration of known U.S. positions, Russians responded
angrily with charges that Washington is once again interfering in
Russia's internal affairs and applying "a double standard," meaning
one set of standards for al-Qaeda terrorists and another for the
Chechen rebels. On January 14, Peter Baker of "The Washington Post"
reported from Moscow that analysts there perceive tensions "beginning
to reemerge" but no danger to the alliance forged by Presidents Bush
and Vladimir Putin after September 11. "In the last several weeks,
there has been almost no movement forward in Russian-American
relations," Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute for USA and Canada
Studies, told "The Post." "Today it's a slogan without substance."
Without progress, Rogov warned, old issues such as human rights and
Chechnya can return to the forefront. "We need some progress and, in
fact, the new Russian-American relations should be fixed in the next
several months before President Bush comes here. If we don't have new
agreements and arrangements, then the window of opportunity may begin
to close." While Rogov's criticisms sounded constructive, "Izvestiya"
was caustic: "Things have returned to what they used to be before the
September 11 terrorist attacks -- the same rhetoric, the same
criticism, the same arrogant tone of a mentor. As if there had not
been a four-month-long moratorium on criticism of Russia, although not
officially declared yet strictly observed."

On January 13, the Russian military dismissed a request by human
rights groups that it halt "mopping-up operations" in Chechnya and
stop security sweeps and blockades of towns and villages. In a meeting
with Memorial and other Russian human rights groups who charged
massive abuses by the federal troops, General Vladimir Moltenskoy,
commander of Russian forces in the North Caucasus, declared that rebel
activity made such measures indispensable, according to Itar-Tass. On
a visit to Warsaw, President Putin told the Polish press that a
political dialogue in Chechnya was under way with "the citizenry and
everybody who wants the dialogue," simultaneously with military
operations. On January 17, "Nezavasimaya Gazeta" suggested that "this
was the Kremlin's way of showing the world that it does not refuse to
talk peace."    

14, the Russian Foreign Ministry filed a note with the U.S. Embassy to
protest the presence of two U.S. diplomats at a rally in Vladivostok
in support of Grigory Pasko. A military journalist convicted of
treason on December 25 in a Vladivostok court and sentenced to four
years in prison, Pasko exposed on Japanese television nuclear waste
dumping by Russia's Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Embassy said the two
officials attended the demonstration on January 10, but only to watch.
Human rights organizations and newspaper editorials have warned that
Pasko's conviction threatens the cause of free speech and freedom of
the press. On January 15, Pasko said he would not ask for a pardon
despite President Putin's offer to consider such a request. His
attorney, Anatoly Pyshkin, told reporters: "To ask for a pardon would
mean to admit guilt and agree with the verdict." Rallies calling for
Pasko's release have been held in ten Russian cities so far. The Pasko
case strains relations between Russia and the West. President Jacques
Chirac raised the subject during Putin's brief visit to Paris and was
told that the Russian head of state had no authority over the court's

In phrases recalling the old days, the Russian Foreign Ministry has
also accused the United States of attempting to pressure Russian
courts to reverse a decision to liquidate TV6, usually identified in
the press as the last major independent national television channel in
Russia. The Foreign Ministry found U.S. statements on the subject "a
manifestation of double standards concerning the freedom of the press
in Russia" and characterized American efforts as constituting "a call
to put pressure on the courts, which is inadmissible."

its just-released 670-page "World Report 2001," Human Rights Watch
(HRW) noted "impatience" with "the uneven progress on human rights" in
Europe and Central Asia in the ten years since the failed 1991 coup in
Moscow. That impatience turned to "regret at lost opportunities" in
the interlude between the Cold War and the war on terrorism. While
ethnic conflicts engulfed parts of the disintegrating USSR and
Yugoslavia, central and east European countries instituted reforms in
the hope of joining the European Community, which itself became
"increasingly intolerant of immigration and ethnic diversity." HRW
finds that since September 11, the prospects for tackling the region's
human rights problems dimmed because of "the competing and overriding
anti-terrorism imperative." Governments "from Skopje to Moscow
scrambled to cast their own often brutal internal conflicts as part of
the new international antiterrorist cause." In Western Europe, leaders
"ramped up their anti-immigrant rhetoric" and, using the slogan of
fighting terrorism, "further restricted the rights of migrants,
refugees, and asylum seekers." At the same time, "criticisms of human
rights abuse softened," particularly for states important to the
U.S.-led action in Afghanistan. The United States and Uzbekistan
announced a "qualitatively new relationship," notwithstanding the
latter's "brutal crackdown on independent Muslims." German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder urged a reevaluation of Russia's war in Chechnya. In
November, President Bush praised Russian President Putin's talk of
negotiating peace in Chechnya without giving due recognition to
Russia's violations of international norms.

What HRW called "the most alarming development" in 2001 occurred in
Central Asia, where the transition from the Soviet Union brought "ever
more repressive governance." After September 11, these governments
became key allies of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan. HRW singled
out "the apparently unconditional U.S. relationship with Uzbekistan,
where Islam Karimov's dictatorship permitted no true opposition
political activity, no civil society, and no independent media, and
locked up and tortured thousands who dared demonstrate independent
thinking." HRW cited U.S. officials arguing that the new relationship
puts them in a better position to address gross violations, but,
according to the report, there has been no relief from the Uzbek
government's assault on human rights defenders, dissidents, and
religious believers, and convictions on trumped-up charges continue.

"Terrorists believe that anything goes in the name of their cause,"
said Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director. "The fight against terror
must not buy into that logic. Human rights principles must not be
compromised in the name of any cause." Roth argued that the
anti-terrorism campaign will not succeed if it is conducted "merely as
a struggle against a particularly ruthless set of criminals. To defeat
the fundamental amorality of terrorism requires a firm grounding in
international human rights."

of mostly elderly demonstrators gathered in Nizhny Novgorod in early
December to protest the widespread sale and advertisement of alcohol
in the city, according to the December 7-13, 2001 issue of the local
"Novoe Delo" newspaper. Holding signs like "If you drink wine and
beer, you are a lackey of Tel Aviv!" as well as yelling other
antisemitic slogans, the demonstrators seemed to discourage alcohol
consumption by linking it to Jews. The rally was organized by the
antisemitic monarchist group Otchizna, but attracted some Communists
as well. The newspaper criticized policemen stationed nearby for "not
reacting in any way" to "illegal hate speeches" by rally participants.
When interviewed by the newspaper, one young passerby said:  "When you
see signs like 'If you drink wine and beer, you are a lackey of Tel
Aviv' it makes you want to go out and buy a bottle of vodka just out
of spite."

BELIEVERS. The political movement called Working Russia, led by the
antisemitic Communist Viktor Anpilov, is forging an alliance with
military officers and will soon begin recruiting among believers,
according to Anpilov's statements at a press conference covered by the
Moscow daily "Kommersant" of January 10. He boasted about "the unity
of Working Russia and the army," and presented as evidence Colonel
Valentin Polyansky, Russian Cossack Ataman Mikhail Filin, and Union of
Soviet Officers leader Vladimir Tkachenko. Polyansky, deputy commander
of the 106th Tula Airborne Division and a veteran of both Chechen
wars, said he might soon leave the army and join "a patriotic
organization" such as Working Russia. When a reporter asked Polyansky
if there are other army officers who feel the same way, Anpilov
answered, saying that many officers including generals are interested
but he cannot give out names for fear of damaging their reputations.
Launched in 1992, Working Russia's electoral support has declined
sharply in recent years. It peaked in the 1996 Duma elections, when it
came close to crossing the 5 percent barrier, which would have given
it several seats.  

the United States spotted in Kazan by officers of Tatarstan's Ministry
of Interior had their visas curtailed and had to leave Russia on
January 10, according to Keston News Service. A Tatar Ministry of
Interior official told Keston that the two missionaries had been
denied registration in Tatarstan -- an autonomous republic within the
Russian Federation -- because their Mormon congregation did not have
registration. The Mormons' Russian lawyer, Lev Simkin, told Keston
that the Tatarstan authorities' decision violates the constitutional
principle of freedom of movement by foreign citizens. The registration
application of the Kazan Mormons' congregation has made no progress in
two and a half years even though the registering body is obliged to
decide on registration within a month, or within six months if an
expert commission is appointed. Contacted by Keston on January 16,
Gulnara Abdurakhmanova, the head of the department for the
registration of religious organizations at Tatarstan's Ministry of
Justice, claimed that her office has no current application from the
Mormons, adding that "the subject was closed long ago." 

Ovnikyan, 21, a member of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation, was
found guilty by an Armenian court for refusing to serve in the army,
according to the Armenian news agency Yerevan Armininfo quoting local
Jehovah's Witnesses. The church, which claims 7,000 members in the
country, reports that more than a hundred of its members have been
convicted of the same offense, despite the state's commitment to the
Council of Europe to adopt a law on alternative military service. The
registration application of Jehovah's Witnesses is pending.  

Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber emphasizes his tough stance against
immigration in challenging Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the
upcoming German national elections, according to news agency
dispatches. "With 4.3 million unemployed, we can't have more foreign
workers coming to Germany," Stoiber told the press on January 16 in
Kreuth, at a meeting of his Christian Social Union party, often
identified in the press as "ultraconservative." His statement, one of
the first since his nomination last Friday, coincided with an opinion
poll indicating that the conservatives had overtaken the center-left
Social Democrats and would score 41 percent or five points ahead of
them if elections were held now. The German press expects the thorny
issue of immigration to dominate the election campaign. The Berlin
daily "Der Tagesspiegel" suggested that "the arch-conservative from
the southern state of Bavaria" would have to tone down his rhetoric to
win votes in the liberal north. Reuters quoted analysts warning that
Stoiber's hard-line views could "polarize" voters. Schroeder expressed
confidence that he would beat his opponent who, he said, "abandons the
middle ground.'' So far the election posters of Schroeder's party have
focused on Stoiber's reputation as a right-winger, and some leaders
have compared Stoiber to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Austria's Joerg

* * * QUOTE OF THE WEEK * * * Assessing Vladimir Putin's two years as
head of state, Lilia Shevtsova, senior analyst with the Moscow
Carnegie Center, wrote in "Obshchaya Gazeta" on January 10: "Putin's
modernization is simultaneously an opportunity and a threat for
Russia. The chance is that having overcome the lethargy of 2000, the
president made two breakthroughs: He restored the economic reforms and
turned the country towards the West. The threat is that he is again
trying to reform Russia without involving the civil society in the
process. Thus, the current reforms work for the bureaucracy and the
tycoons and preserve stagnation and parasitical structures."

New Study Scores Romania for Discrimination Against Its Roma Minority 

Like others in the region, many Romanians are in the habit of
shrugging off the disadvantaged status of the Roma (also known as
Gypsies and Romanies) as a centuries-old arrangement that may take
centuries to change. But the treatment of minorities -- and
increasingly the special case of the ubiquitous Roma -- is a key issue
in screening applicants to the European Union (EU), whose
representatives are frequent visitors to countries with sizable Roma
populations. Reports bearing the imprimatur of the Council of Europe
hold governments accountable for the accumulated sins of the past.
Official reactions denying discrimination are no longer acceptable,
and charges of insulting the nation's honor are quietly ignored. Given
the numerous benefits offered by the European Economic Community and
the needs of Romania's precarious economy, the stakes are very high.
Though worried about the strong and vocal far-right component in the
Romanian electorate, Bucharest is making efforts to live up to EU

Under the aegis of the Council of Europe, the Advisory Committee on
the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has
studied Romania's multi-ethnic mosaic and has expressed "deep concern"
with "numerous acts of discrimination" directed against the Roma
minority in "a wide range of societal settings." The Advisory
Committee is particularly concerned with the persistent practice of
police brutality against the Roma. The committee's report was adopted
in April 2001 but made public in Strasbourg only on January 10 this
year, after consultation with state authorities in Bucharest. Some
human rights activists find the entire process laborious and bending
over backwards to be friendly to the government. Others argue that the
diplomatic approach does bring incremental results.

EU officials are courteous and tactful but persistent. For instance,
the Advisory Committee's report "recognizes the cooperative spirit
shown by the Romanian authorities" after the report's submission and
throughout the process which led to the report's final adoption. While
the report expresses its concern with "the persistence of wide
socio-economic differences and living conditions between a large
number of Roma and the remaining population, which are aggravated by
the unsatisfactory status of the Roma in the educational system," the
sentence begins with a clause that has the footprint of a government
editor: "Despite the determination of the authorities to speed up the
social integration of the Roma."

Moreover, the Advisory Committee states that it found "that Romania
has made commendable efforts to support minorities and their cultures
including through the establishment of a Council of National
Minorities and the introduction of a right to a special representation
in the Parliament." In particular, the committee welcomed "the
improvements recorded in recent years in the inter-community relations
in particular between the Hungarian minority and other parts of the
population of Romania. It notes with satisfaction that the policy
pursued has contributed to the promotion of a climate of greater
tolerance towards minorities and expresses the hope that the
authorities will consolidate these achievements in the future."

Popular reactions do not justify the Advisory Committee's optimism, as
inter-ethnic relations remain strained. A recent opinion poll
conducted for the Cluj-based Ethnic Diversity Resource Center showed
that only 22 percent of Romanians from Transylvania think that
Romanian-Hungarian relations within the country have improved compared
to 1989, though 44 percent of ethnic Hungarians agree with this
statement. Asked if they view their relationship as cooperative, only
43 percent of Romanians and 51 percent of ethnic Hungarians agreed. On
December 16, 2001 representatives of the Hungarian minority were the
only the ones who did not sign a declaration to support Romania's
accession to the EU, the local news agency Mediafax reported. Gyula
Szep of the Hungarian Democratic Federation in Romania said that the
declaration contains "worn-out and exaggerated" phrases, and that
Romania cannot be considered a model for interethnic harmony. He added
that several basic requests by the ethnic Hungarian minority -- such
as the establishment of a Hungarian-language university and the return
of confiscated church properties -- remain unanswered.

The Advisory Committee noted that the Romanian Constitutional Court in
its decision in July 1999 "incorrectly stated" that Romania had not
ratified the Framework Convention on National Minorities. "The
Advisory Committee considers that awareness of this instrument (as
well as of other international human rights standards) is one of the
essential factors in establishing and maintaining a pluralist and
genuinely democratic society," the report said, and called "of crucial
importance" that awareness of Romania's signature on human rights
documents engage both the judicial system and civil society. The
Committee suggested that the government "take further measures to
improve awareness of the Framework Convention, its 7explanatory
report, and the rules concerning its monitoring at the international
level," including the publication and dissemination of the Advisory
Committee's report.
* * * *
Copyright (c) 2001. UCSJ.  All rights reserved.

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