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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Why Old Europe should beware its new partners
HITS: 1825 | 27-12-2002, 22:41 | Comments: (0) | Categories: EU , Political science, Analyzing

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

Orwell’s satire on Stalin’s unscrupulousness is conventionally taken to be his reckoning with the Soviet dictator’s willingness to collude with Hitler on the eve of the Second World War. But the fact that Orwell wrote the fable in early 1944, the latter part of the war when “Uncle Joe” was the West’s ally - and the attempts by British censors to suppress the book - suggest that its target was more Capitalist-Communist connivance in general than the Nazi-Soviet Pact in particular.
With the collapse of the Soviet bloc’s Communist regimes between 1989 and 1991 has Orwell’s satire lost its sting?

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Florida Revisited: US midterm elections 2002
HITS: 2002 | 29-11-2002, 09:49 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Elections, Analyzing

The election seemed at best sloppy, so much so that even elections BHHRG has monitored in “pariah” states of the ex-Communist bloc compared favorably in terms of cleanliness and order.  Furthermore, turnout by BHHRG’s observation was lower than reported.  Even if the large figures for early voting in some south Florida regions were correct (approx. 25% for Miami-Dade County, 20% for Broward County), the stream of voters going to the polls on polling day itself never appeared to exceed a trickle.  As already noted, at one polling station, BHHRG waited almost twenty minutes for a voter to even show up.  A report from The Miami Herald on Nov. 6th claims that Broward County’s initially reported turnout figure had to be “corrected” from 35% to 45% after it was discovered that the new voting machines had made an error – 104,000 ‘missing’ votes suddenly appeared.  But from what BHHRG could see, the 35% figure was closer to reality.

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The Legacy of the Gothenburg Summit Riots (June, 2001)
HITS: 1763 | 30-10-2002, 05:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Politics, Global Events

Sweden’s image as a peaceful law-abiding society was shattered by the world-wide broadcast of riots at the combined EU and EU-US summit in Gothenburg in June, 2001. The scenes of vandalism and the resort to firearms by the Swedish police were sharp breaks with tradition.
The Group’s observers heard claims that the police had doctored video tape evidence by overlaying the film track of defendants clashing with the police with another soundtrack which gave the impression that the crowds around him were chanting aggressive slogans. Several people made this point independently. A defense lawyer suggested that since the opening of the trial of one of his German clients had been prefaced by the playing of the videotape in which the defendant did not appear, that this unprecedented use of audio-visual material in a Swedish court had the effect of creating an emotive atmosphere prejudicial to all defendants, even those not featured on the film or soundtrack.

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Swedish General Election 2002: Immigration and the EU
HITS: 1899 | 30-10-2002, 04:37 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Elections, Analyzing

The question of future inflows of people from EU accession-states likely to join the EU in 2004/05 was avoided in the campaign. From this Group’s experience and recent opinion polls in candidate countries like Poland or Slovakia, Sweden may expect a marked increase in arrivals from its neighbors across the Baltic. Up to 7 million Poles are expected to seek work in the existing EU states after Poland’s accession (regardless of any rules limiting free movement of labour which might be conditions of entry). Migration on this scale cannot help but be a socio-economic issue in the politics of the existing member states like Sweden.
Left-wing parties like the Marxist KPML (r), which has a strong municipal presence in Gothenburg also find themselves largely invisible in the established media even if they would share the established media’s revulsion at the Swedish Democrats’ views. On the question of immigration, the extra-Parliamentary left seems divided between those who see accepting an influx of foreigners and defending their right to maintain their own identity as an act of solidarity, and those who fear that wages and social conditions will be eroded by the import of a “reserve army of labour” as Marx himself might have characterized it.

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Swedish General Election 2002: Technical Aspects
HITS: 1897 | 30-10-2002, 04:25 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Elections, Analyzing

Although the Swedish PR system appears to guarantee equal chances and reasonable local access to all potential points of view, there are features of the electoral system which, despite being in force for many years, are of dubious value. Like most people in Britain, most Swedes are understandably proud of their long history of parliamentary government. However, as in Britain complacency about election procedures can creep into the system and make people unaware of emerging flaws or even irregularities and cheating.
Although initial counts in the individual polling stations around the country are open to observers from the different parties and members of the general public, participation of non-members of election commissions throughout the whole counting process is not universal. Where all members of the local commission are known to each other and may be friends/comrades, even if not drawn from the same party, there is always the risk of collusion in counting. This, admittedly small risk, is magnified by the very large number of ballot papers floating around the country. Given that voters, and even non-citizens, can pick up ballot papers at post offices around the country at least 18 days before the election day, the possibility of “valid” ballot papers being available to substitute for ballots actually cast exists.

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Changes made before the second referendum
HITS: 1934 | 5-06-2002, 06:54 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Ireland , Politics, Analyzing

The Irish and European political classes clearly received a considerable shock when the Irish voted No to Nice in June 2001.  Dublin decided almost immediately to prepare the ground for a new referendum.  Indeed, the determination of the political class as a whole to force Nice through is evidenced by the fact that both of the main political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, campaigned for a yes vote.  Like political classes across Europe, the desire for unaccountable power in Ireland is great enough to unite all sides in pressing for ever close European integration.
The preparations for the second referendum were minutely laid.  The first change was radically to overhaul the role of the Referendum Commission which is responsible for running referendums in Ireland.  That Commission had been created in 1998, following an appeal to the country’s Supreme Court in 1995 by the Green Party Member of the European Parliament, Patricia McKenna.

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Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Deficiencies in palliative care
HITS: 9858 | 20-02-2002, 04:03 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , PR and human rights, World health

It is often claimed, especially by opponents of euthanasia, that one of the reasons why euthanasia is practiced so widely in the Netherlands is that palliative medicine is underdeveloped there. Palliative medicine is medical treatment whose purpose is to cure symptoms where there is no hope of curing the underlying illness. This was developed, especially in England, after the Second World War.
A leading opponent of euthanasia in the Netherlands is Dr. Karel Gunning. He presides a Dutch and an international organization of anti-euthanasia doctors. He is highly critical of the present arrangements, and says, "The whole law is complete nonsense because doctors know in advance that they cannot be punished. If they fill in the forms wrongly (explaining why they put an end to their patients’ life) they will simply be asked to fill them in again."

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Euthanasia in the Netherlands: The proposed reform in the Netherlands
HITS: 1943 | 20-02-2002, 03:58 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , PR and human rights, World health

The proposed new law has been introduced into the lower house of the Dutch parliament by the Minister of Justice, Bank Korthals, and the Minister of Health, Dr. Els Borst. A provision is to be included in the Netherlands Criminal Code which would provide for the termination of life on request and assistance with suicide would not be punishable if certain criteria were fulfilled. The bill is a consequence of the coalition accord which led to the present coalition government, involving the Labour party and two Liberal parties.
The two conditions under which a physician will not be subject to prosecution are:
The physician must have fulfilled the requirements on due care, as laid down in a separate act, namely the Termination of Life and Request and Assistance with Suicide (Review) Act.

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Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Comparison with Britain
HITS: 1888 | 20-02-2002, 03:54 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , Analyzing, World health

In dealing with this exceedingly difficult area of medical ethics, it is illustrative to compare the difference in philosophical approach between Dutch doctors and their colleagues in other countries.
As a matter of moral principle, the British Medical Association makes a distinction between, on the one hand, breaking off or withholding treatment which is artificially prolonging the dying process or which is counter-productive, and, on the other, measures taken with the intention of ending a person’s life. In other words, it draws a distinction between allowing death to occur and causing it. Its guidelines say that doctors should never withhold treatment with the intention of hastening death.

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Human Rights and the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands
HITS: 1989 | 20-02-2002, 03:30 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , PR and human rights, World health

The extent to which the practices of euthanasia, assisted suicide and other forms of doctor-assisted death have flourished in the Netherlands are relatively well understood, thanks to two surveys conducted confidentially in 1990 and 1995 by the Dutch government. They came to the following findings:

 

    1990
% of all deaths/number of cases
1995
% of deaths/number of cases
Euthanasia 2.4% / 3,256 cases

1.8% / 2,319 cases

Assisted suicide 0.3% / 386 cases 0.3% / 407 cases
Cases in which a patient's life was deliberately ended by a doctor without the patient's request 0.8% / 1,031 cases 0.7% / 950 cases
Intensified pain treatment, partly intended to hasten death 3.89% / 4,895 cases 2.9% / 3,935 cases
Withdrawal of treatment or decision not to administer treatment, with the explicit intention of hastening death 8.7% / 11,208 cases 13.3% / 18,045 cases

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