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 Election in Estonia: Polling day and results
HITS: 1996 | 1-05-2003, 16:59 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Estonia , Elections, Political science

BHHRG observed the voting in Paldiski, Keila, Rakvere, Vaike-Maarja and Tartu. On the whole, the voting was conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner, but BHHRG’s observers were struck by the absence of domestic observers in any of the polling stations - the only exception was at Paldiski No. 1, where one observer was present. This observer was actually a candidate from the Russian Party (which campaigned on a platform of overhauling the health system to allow inexpensive Russian medicines into the country). This should set alarm bells ringing for the forthcoming EU referendum is held with a similar dearth of domestic observers.
In other polling stations, BHHRG encountered a few minor problems. In Keila No. 2, also in the 4th district, BHHRG found the polling station housed in a sports complex that did not qualify as a public building. The complex, which included an indoor swimming pool, was a business concern that belonged to a “sports union.” This was odd, considering Keila was clearly a large enough municipality to have schools and other public buildings to serve as polling stations. BHHRG was bothered by the large poster of Reform Party leader and Prime Minister Siim Kallas displayed just beyond the parking lot, a little too close to the polling station entrance for comfort.

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Estonia, NATO and the War on Iraq
HITS: 1992 | 1-05-2003, 16:42 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Estonia , PR and human rights, Analyzing

Estonia’s entry into NATO and the EU should have been significant issues, but BHHRG’s impression was that NATO entry was not at the forefront of average voters’ minds – perhaps people fail to appreciate the costs of NATO entry which demands that 2% of a country’s GDP be spent annually on defence. All six parties that were predicted to make it into parliament favoured membership in both organizations, although, official opinion polls showed popular support for EU below that for NATO. In fact, Estonia has gained something of a reputation among Eurosceptics as the least enthusiastic of the candidate members. A group of British Eurosceptics recently set up a fund to help the Estonian ‘No’ campaign with its public relations, needless to say, all state funding, as well as assistance from Brussels goes to those in favour of accession to the union. Estonia’s referendum is planned for September, months after most of the other 10 countries have voted a sign, perhaps, that any lingering doubts will be put to rest when it is seen that everyone else has voted ‘Yes’.

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Estonia 2003 electoral issues: official and real
HITS: 2073 | 3-04-2003, 16:33 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Estonia , Elections, Political science

Background to the election
Estonia gained independence from the USSR on 6th Sept., 1991, a couple of weeks after the abortive coup attempt in Moscow against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. From this point onward, the Estonian Popular Front, founded in 1988, took the lead in political life. Led by Edgar Savisaar (now Mayor of Tallinn and leader of the Centre Party) and Marju Lauristin (now a leader of the Moderate Party), the Popular Front expanded to include various nationalist parties such as the staunchly anti-Communist “Pro Patria Union” led by one-time prime minister Mart Laar. Eventually the Popular Front disintegrated into the plethora of parties visible in Estonia today, and the republic began its post-independence political life of endlessly shifting coalitions.
There was not much to distinguish the leading parties competing in the 2nd March election from each other. The Moderates, Centre Party, Reform Party, Res Publica and Pro Patria all agreed on issues such as NATO and EU entry, privatization and continuation of the present discriminatory policies towards the Russian minority. The People’s Union finessed their position on the EU question somewhat by stating that it would not support entry into a ‘federal Europe’. A smaller entity, the Independence Party had a different profile being opposed to EU membership, but as it is regularly attacked for neo-fascism, it never surmounts the 5% threshold necessary to gain a seat in parliament.

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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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Estonia parliamentary elections 2003: Is small beautiful?
HITS: 2015 | 3-04-2003, 16:10 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Estonia , PR and human rights, Elections

Estonia is hailed as one of post-Communism's success stories but is this correct? BHHRG went to see and monitored the parliamentary election held in the republic on 2nd March 2003.
Introduction
The small Baltic republic of Estonia has been hailed as a bastion of democracy and one of the economic success stories of post-communism. In the present year, 2003, the Heritage Foundation concluded that it has the sixth freest economy in the world, thus putting it ahead of France and Germany! Such fulsome approval has, no doubt, contributed to the fact that the country is now poised to enter both NATO and the EU. In November 2002, Estonia became one of seven new ex-Communist countries to be invited to join the alliance, along with Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. Estonia is also among the top contenders for membership in the European Union. Referendums to endorse membership of both organizations will be held later in 2003.

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