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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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.
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. 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.
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 (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.
Possible scenarios of how a Blair-Cameron double act will save what Peter Mandelson called “The Project” are: 1) Cameron crashes and burns. This is the least likely outcome. The media and his backers have invested too much prestige and effort into promoting him to let David Cameron’s lack of precision, flat delivery and tetchy response to occasional awkward questions pull him down. The fact that his “Ronald Weaseley”-style and even more youthful ally, Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, has been praised for his puerile personal abuse of Gordon Brown in most British newspapers and on television rather than slapped down by the commentators shows where the proprietorial muscle lies. A Cameron-Icarus would not help save Tony Blair’s tottering support among rebellious Labour backbenchers. If Cameron fails, Blair will fall with him.
Ignoring the Harry Potter comparison, two ex-Tory MPs, Matthew Parris, now a Times columnist and Michael Brown now of The Independent both preferred a Star Wars reference when interviewed by Alistair Stewart on the ITN news channel. For them the essence of the Cameron phenomenon was that the “Force” is with him. They saw the irresistible rise of Margaret Thatcher and then of Tony Blair as precedents. On this model the “Force” is a tidal wave of media opinion which swamps any other consideration. However, both before 1979 and afterwards, Margaret Thatcher never enjoyed anything like unanimously favourable media coverage. Quite to the contrary. The media establishment, including in large parts of the Tory press, was condescending at best and dismissive at worst of the “Iron Lady.” Even eleven years in power never brought her a consensus of respect let alone admiration.
HITS: 2047 | 17-06-2004, 22:30 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing
The vogue for books and films about a vanished age of public school boy heroes, matrons and manners is the backdrop to the re-emergence of the politics of deference in Britain. After decades of dumbing down and a public school prime minister like Tony Blair who mangles his Estuary English in a desperate attempt to please the plebs, suddenly posh is the new divine right of politicians. Although American neo-conservatives like to present themselves as representatives of commonsense man against pointy-headed elitists who oppose wars of aggression and open-cast mining, British neo-conservatives are born-again class warriors. Of course not every journalistic advocate of Cameron is an Old Etonian but that just adds to the delicious atmosphere of deference. Whereas Murdoch’s US vicar, the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Steltzer, can assure readers of the Weekly Standard that the snobs were against George Bush’s America, our own Lord Rees-Mogg – whose first venture into boosting alleged drug abusers was his immortally comic deferential interview with Mick Jagger long before Cameron was born – drew on all his arts of self-parody to explain how 22 or more family entries in Burke’s Peerage and the Dictionary of National Biography made Cameron nature’s own candidate to rule democratic even demotic Britain.
HITS: 2488 | 17-06-2004, 22:23 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing
The nearest moment to a wobble in Cameron’s effortless rise to the top came when he failed to answer questions about any drug use in his past. As a member of Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon Club in the1980s – a group which has spawned a generation of cokeheads on the one hand and neo-con politicians in Britain and the New Europe on the other - Cameron clearly expected his decision to keep his pre-political private life “private” would be accepted with deference. In fact it took a host of commentators to knock it into Britons’ heads that past use of Class A drugs are a qualification for representing the “future not the past” in post-modern Britain. Cameron presented questions about any past drug use as unwarranted intrusions into his privacy, but that overlooks two key points. When it had suited Mr Cameron to parade his private life, for instance, the distressing disability of his young son, Ivan, he seems to have had few qualms about making political profit out of it.
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 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.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in November 2002, two months before the first demonstrations against Rauf Denktaş’s policies took place in TRNC. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayip Erdogan, and his new foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, are perceived to be loyal friends of the international community. They supported (albeit discreetly) the US invasion of Iraq and approved the dispatch of Turkish troops to help the coalition there, something eventually thwarted by lack of support from parliament. A solid commitment to pursue EU membership has gone in tandem with their pro-US policies. For as long as anyone can remember, European institutions have been remorselessly critical of Turkey’s human rights record, in particular the country’s perceived over-militarization and persecution of its large Kurdish minority. The European Court of Human Rights has also penalized Turkey in numerous judgements condemning the depredations suffered by Greek Cypriots during the 1974 invasion, and awarding large sums in compensation for the loss of property.
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. 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. 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.