BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The Andijan Tragedy: Why no pictures of the massacre itself?
HITS: 2341 | 24-08-2005, 19:47 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Analyzing, War and peace

Whether William Randolph Hearst ever telegraphed the infamous phrase, “You provide the pictures and I’ll provide the war” to Frederick Remmington after his complaint in 1897 that there was no sign of war in Cuba is open to doubt. However, the widespread acceptance of this iconic statement of the power of the press baron is very revealing since it simultaneously indicates that people suspect that much of what they are told as news is “imaginary” to put it kindly and yet still such is the power of images that they impose a picture of events on us.[1] That was in the age of newspapers. Today publics in the West are commonly supposed to be in thrall to the audio-visual media but strangely enough our own electronic age no longer requires pictures to confirm words. Vivid prose and radio pictures are all that the posse of journalists and NGO activists in Andijan on that dreadful day can offer us by way of description of events. Pictures exist of before the “massacre” and of its aftermath but not of the event itself. This is a curious omission in an age of ubiquitous photographic devices.

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Events in Kosovo: Prizren
HITS: 2802 | 18-08-2004, 22:34 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, War and peace

Prizren is about as far from Kosovska Mitrovica as it is possible to get in Kosovo. This south-western city of medieval Orthodox churches and Ottoman mosques was one of the worst affected parts of the province by the anti-Serb pogrom. Although Western media reports routinely attributed the March 2004 Albanian on Serb violence to a reawakening of the desire for revenge as a result of Albanian sufferings at the hands of Serb forces in 1999, the mass attack on Serbs in Prizren casts doubt on the idea of revenge as the psychological root of the violence.
Contrary to common assumptions, Prizren did not suffer from brutal ethnic cleansing in the spring of 1999. Local Albanians there could not have harboured barely repressed anger against any erstwhile Serb persecutors in 1999 because the city was not the victim of ethnic cleansing. As television footage of the arrival of German troops on 12th June, 1999 revealed, large numbers of Albanians of all age groups and both sexes were in the city to welcome their liberators.
Prizren survived the 78-day NATO war against Yugoslavia almost undamaged. At the outbreak of the NATO bombing campaign radical Serb nationalists blew up the League of Prizren monument in the city.

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Cultural Genocide in Kosovo
HITS: 2850 | 18-08-2004, 22:20 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Global Events, War and peace

Arson and vandalism after 17th March, 2004

On 17th March, 2004, rioting spread across the UN-administered province of Kosovo. At least nineteen people, mainly Serbs trapped in village ghettoes since June, 1999, were murdered. Many Serb houses were damaged or destroyed by fire. A number of important historical monuments also came under attack. BHHRG has sent observers to Kosovo on numerous occasions since the end of the NATO air war in June, 1999. In March 2003, the Group had warned that the steady withdrawal of KFOR troops from Serb enclaves left both the ghettoised population and their cultural monuments at risk if the Albanian majority turned on them. At that time, a Swedish KFOR contingent had pulled its tanks away from the world famous orthodox monastery at Gračanica outside Priština.[1]
Ostensibly, the violence broke out when local Albanians were enraged by reports that three teenage boys had been chased to their deaths in the River Ibar by a gang of Serbs accompanied by savage dogs. According to the initial reports, these events took place near the ethnically-divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the north of the province which had been a flashpoint for violence in the past.

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Kosovo: Independence as (the Final) Solution
HITS: 2209 | 18-08-2004, 00:25 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, Global Events

On 25th May, the UN’s special representative Harri Halkeri announced his resignation. It would be unfair to pin all the blame for Kosovo’s recent problems on him. He was simply the latest in a line of international officials who have presided over the consequences of the war in 1999. The NATO states fought that war on a false premise. Their propaganda blaming the Serbs for all the region’s ills and boasting about the Alliance’s ability to restore order and prosperity to a “multi-cultural” Kosovo/a has proven entirely false. Only the fact that the Western media was so implicated in spouting the NATO line and therefore has been unwilling to revisit and question much of what it had reported has prevented Western audiences discovering how disastrous the post-1999 situation in Kosovo has been.
Whereas the violent resistance in Iraq has shaken complacent support for the Bush-Blair line there, the fact that violence in Kosovo has been largely directed by the Albanian majority at the Serb and other minorities with very few KFOR casualties[1] (and most of those caused by mutual fights or suicides) means that the Western media have not given the negative realities of Kosovo remotely the same level of coverage as Iraq has received. If Serbs, for instance, had waged guerrilla warfare against NATO forces as Iraqis have against US and others in Iraq, or as Albanians have in southern Serbia and Macedonia repeatedly since 1999, then their plight might well have been noticed and even steps taken to improve conditions for them in Kosovo.

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Cyprus 2004: Curtains for the Annan Plan
HITS: 2840 | 3-06-2004, 17:38 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , Analyzing, War and peace

The Greek Cypriots said a firm 'no' to the Annan Plan in the 24th April referendum. But, will this end attempts to reunify Cyprus?
The results of the referendums on the Annan Plan[1] for reunification of the island of Cyprus, held on 24th April 2004, turned out much as expected. Voters in the south voted overwhelmingly ‘No’ while a majority in the north said ‘Yes’. As the campaign to sell the Annan Plan intensified, the international community’s former disapproval for TRNC vanished and the new ‘bad boys’ became those politicians in the south, Cyprus’s president Tassos Papadopolous in particular, who had urged his countrymen to vote no.
However, despite promises of increased aid and cooperation for the Turkish Cypriots from the US and Europe, there is limited room for manoeuvre as TRNC is an unrecognised state and there is no sign, as this report is written, of any change in its status. Similarly, it is difficult to see how the Republic of Cyprus can be effectively ‘punished’ as it is an economically successful state and now a member of the EU.

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Roma Life in Eastern Slovakia
HITS: 1971 | 12-05-2004, 18:45 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Slovakia , World health

It is difficult to say how many Roma live in Slovakia – the number has been put at c.400,000.[1] Slovak government representatives claim that only 30% live in miserable conditions while the remaining 70% - the majority - is fully integrated into normal Slovak life. However, in conversations with BHHRG, some Roma estimated that barely 10% of their population was, in fact, living what might be called a ‘normal’ life. Many Roma families have upward of four children and BHHRG met people with as many as eight young mouths to feed. Nowadays, all these children are likely to live into adulthood – unlike in the past - as the Slovak authorities operate a full vaccination programme within the Roma communities.[2] However, BHHRG noted several examples of children and young people with severe birth defects while the toil associated with endless childbirth and rampant poverty means that Roma women do not live to a great age. BHHRG saw no elderly women – though many who were prematurely aged - during their visits to the Roma settlements in Eastern Slovakia.

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East is East, and West is East
HITS: 1942 | 27-12-2003, 01:02 | Comments: (0) | Categories: EU , Political science, Global Events

If ex-Communists and their kids are the avant-garde of the New World Order in the east, what about Western Europe?
Although Tony Blair was never a member of the British Communist Party (CPGB) or any of its Trotskyite rivals, it is striking how all of his most belligerent ministers were one-time Party-members (and that lack of enthusiasm for war is expressed - if only by silence - by non-ex-Communists). Blair’s appointee as chairman of the Labour Party, Dr. John Reid was a Communist and is now the public face of New Labour’s New European-style aggressiveness. (In the early 1990s, Dr. Reid was one of the most vocal advocates of the Bosnian Serb cause and a drinking partner of the indicted war criminal, Dr. Radovan Karadzic, before a volte-face - typical of his career - when he became one of the most vocal New Labour advocates of bombing Yugoslavia in 1999.)

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Prostitution, Child Abuse and Trafficking in Estonia
HITS: 1900 | 3-04-2003, 16:23 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Estonia , World health

In April 2003 a 56-year-old Swedish woman went on trial for procuring and trafficking more than two dozen Estonian women as part of a prostitution ring operating from Stockholm. The proximity of the Scandinavian countries has exacerbated the sex trade in all the Baltic States – the short ferry journey from Finland is the means whereby much of the business is conducted. There are also growing numbers of young men from Western Europe going to cities like Tallinn for stag parties which amounts to a weekend of cheap booze and commercial sex.
There are also fears that the procurement of children for sex is widespread in the Baltics. In many poverty-stricken post-Communist countries (Ukraine is another example), people of working age have gone abroad to seek jobs, leaving their children behind to roam the streets. The same problem seems to have arisen in the Baltics. There are numerous ‘modeling agencies’ in the Baltic States with connections in Scandinavia.

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Kaliningrad: Black hole or black propaganda?
HITS: 30302 | 18-02-2003, 23:27 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Russia , PR and human rights, World health

The Baltic port city of Kaliningrad is the former capital of East Prussia, Königsberg; the surrounding territory is the northern half of that historic German province. In 1945, Königsberg was captured by the Soviet army and subsequently incorporated into the Soviet Union as part of the Russian Federation of the USSR and Kaliningrad became the headquarters of the USSR’s Baltic fleet. However, the United States and some legal scholars in the West have, thus far, refused to accept its de jure incorporation into either the USSR or Russia, leaving open a possible change in its future status.

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The post-Kosovo Refugee Crisis: Italy - the Problem
HITS: 2444 | 17-01-2003, 05:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, Global Events, War and peace

The majority of illegal immigrants enter Western Europe through the south-eastern Puglia region of Italy. The area is poor but it has two important ports, Bari and Brindisi, which connect Italy with the Balkans, Greece and Albania with regular ferry services used by many freight vehicles. A flat, scrubby coastline dotted with abandoned buildings makes clandestine landings from the small craft _ mainly fast rubber boats with outboard motors _ used by the Italian and Albanian smugglers (known as Scafisti) and the dispersal of their cargo of asylum seekers relatively easy.

It is general knowledge that most of the smuggling operates from southern Albania, from the port of Vlora (Italian Valona) from where high - powered speed boats that carry around 40 passengers usually evade the Italian coastguard patrols to reach the coast. Although the trade in refugees has been publicized widely since the Kosovo crisis _ many Kosovan refugees paid middlemen to arrange their departure from camps in Albania _ it has been going on for some time. In January 1998 BHHRG representatives saw groups of mainly young men making their way in broad daylight towards boats waiting along beach of the bay in Vlora. Police stood nearby doing nothing even though the new Albanian government (elected in summer 1997) had assured European governments of its commitment to stamp out the trade.

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