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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Troubles in Transnistria: Why not a referendum to decide the issue?
HITS: 13276 | 19-02-2008, 15:39 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , PR and human rights, World health

The West and its surrogate agencies have shown themselves resolutely uninterested in the conduct of elections in Transnistria. After a month of impasse on the PMR-Ukrainian border, the OSCE in Vienna announced that it would not recognise the results of any referendum held in Transnistria to allow the local population to express its opinion on its fate.[1]
Igor Smirnov has been president of the breakaway region since 1990. During an interview with BHHRG he pointed out wearily how often the West – the “international community” as it calls itself - has ignored elections in Transnistria or prejudged them. Last December’s parliamentary elections had been won by the opposition but the West still denies legitimacy to such polls even though it accepts, for instance, that Montenegro’s Milo Djukanović has held power as premier or president or now again premier for almost 17 years. Despite the fact that the West has been happy to accept the disintegration of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, it remains strangely fixated on preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the post-Soviet states whose claim to political legitimacy is often shaky to put it mildly.[2]

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Sex and the Peacekeepers, or the Who, Whom? of Human Trafficking
HITS: 9745 | 19-02-2008, 15:30 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , PR and human rights, Analyzing

Any adult knows that it takes two for prostitution to exist. There must be a client as well as a whore. Forced prostitution requires three participants: the passive women, the man who pays, and the pimp who cashes in on his girl’s subjection to another man’s desires. Prostitution, forced or voluntary, depends as with any other product, legal or illicit, for demand to foster supply. Where is the market for sex slaves from Moldova, Ukraine or even Transnistria?
Although US, EU and OSCE mediators and monitors wax indignant about the alleged human trafficking via Transnistria, they are remarkably reticent about where the women and girls forced into prostitution are obliged to work as sex-slaves. The answer is that they are overwhelmingly deployed to satisfy the sexual needs of US, EU and OSCE personnel and soldiers in Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia. If the West had not intervened in the Balkans and deployed tens of thousands of mainly male personnel to control the region, the sex trade would not exist there to remotely the degree that it has boomed since 1995. Such is the poverty of most local men in the Balkans that even if they wished to exploit Moldovan or Ukrainian girls and women they could not afford to.

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Is the West helping to thaw or re-ignite a "frozen conflict"?
HITS: 9464 | 19-02-2008, 14:15 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , PR and human rights, Analyzing

Transnistrians protest against the economic blockade imposed by Ukraine in March 2006 Across the former Soviet Union, the status of four unrecognised states with de facto independence has remained unsolved since 1991. Three of these so-called “frozen conflicts” – Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia – are in the Caucasus, close to oil and gas pipelines. Each has a friendly neighbour – Armenia for Karabakh, Russia for Abkhazia and South Ossetia – which inhibits attack by the nominal sovereign, Azerbaijan or Georgia. The fourth unrecognised state, Transnistria, is sandwiched between its sovereign claimant Moldova and Ukraine. Since March, 2006, Moldova and Ukraine, backed by the EU and United States have tried to bring rebel Transnistria to its knees with a de facto blockade. Western analysts, who have backed secessionist movements in the Balkans have demanded the enforcement of Moldova’s sovereignty - until now.

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Montenegro: the past ten years
HITS: 2630 | 12-01-2007, 16:09 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , PR and human rights, Politics

After the Dayton Peace Conference ended the Bosnian war in 1995, the Western powers turned their attention to the political situation in Belgrade in the hope of toppling the Milosevic regime. A coalition of Serbian opposition forces known as Zajedno (Together) led street demonstrations for several months following disputed local elections held in November, 1996. However, by summer 1997 the chances that this group of people would overthrow the government and Milosevic, now President of Yugoslavia, evaporated in internal squabbles.

 

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Western leaders had more success in changing the regime in the small neighbouring republic of Montenegro, by 1997 the only other entity in what remained of the Yugoslav Federation. The country’s prime minister since 1990, Milo Djukanovic, led a putsch in the governing Social Democratic Party (the successor party to the League of Yugoslav Communists and sister party of the Serbian Socialists) taking over the leadership and expelling the republic’s president, Momir Bulatovic, and his minority supporters from the party headquarters. Presidential elections were brought forward to October 1997 and Djukanovic won in the second round of voting narrowly beating Bulatovic who went on to form his own party, the Socialist People’s Party (SNP).

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2256 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2002 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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Georgia 2005: Opposition Politics
HITS: 2509 | 21-12-2005, 23:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Media World, PR and human rights

The Media: Soon after Saakashvili became president three late night discussion programmes were pulled from Imedi, Mze and Rustavi 2 television channels. Later, 2 independent TV stations – Iberia and the Ninth Channel – were closed. Action was taken by the authorities according to the (much decried) Russian method of charging media owners with ‘tax avoidance’. This practice came perilously close to shutting down Rustavi 2 when its owner, Erosi Kitsmanishvili was accused of getting above himself in business deals and Rustavi 2 was said to owe $4.5 m. in back tax to the state.[1] Kitsmanishvili was forced out and replaced with regime insiders. Saakashvili had promised not to let what he called the “channel of the victorious” go down.
Now, most shares in the company are owned by Khibar Khalvashi, a friend of Okruashvili. 50% of the shares in Mze are owned by MP Davit Bezhuashvili, brother of Gela, Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council and another 50% by Vano Chkhartishvili, a former Shevardnadze minister. Mze itself has been censored – it was banned from showing the funerals of dead Georgian troops after the debacle in South Ossetia and, again, was “in trouble” for its reporting following prime minister Zhvania’s death.[2] Its daily talk show was halted following the demonstration over the arrest of wrestlers on 30th June.

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Events in Andijan: Will international scrutiny get to the bottom of what happened?
HITS: 2222 | 24-08-2005, 23:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , PR and human rights, Global Events

Demands for an “independent international inquiry” into the events in Andijan came thick and fast after 13th May. Getting reliable information was clearly difficult and yet providing a clear account of what happened would certainly help any peaceful settlement of the dispute. Nonetheless, the loudest voices calling for such an “independent international inquiry” have form. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has hardly encouraged openness about his own country’s role in imprisoning suspected terrorists or their treatment in US custody. The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Louise Arbour, was the Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague, whose Canadian citizenship did not recuse her from charging Slobodan Milosevic with genocide when country Canada was participating in a war with his. The perception of Western hypocrisy is as important as the reality of any faults in the West’s treatment of suspects of terrorism or “rogue regimes”.

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The Andijan Tragedy: People Powers Brief Triumph
HITS: 2171 | 24-08-2005, 23:04 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Media World, PR and human rights

The grotesque is rarely far from tragedy. Sadly even as bloodshed disfigured Andijan, the wishful thinking of Western journalists expressed itself in a post-modern fantasy about the border town of Kara su comparable to Maupassant’s parody, “The Coup d’état.” The star reporter of BBC 2’s “Newsnight, ” Tim Whewell, put all of his talents into a report on 18th May from the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border town:
“In a long oppressed corner of Central Asia… the people of one Uzbek town have taken over the job of their government. They’re rebuilding the bridge ancient Silk Road… Today I can cross the frontier without showing any papers People can import their hearts’ desires after years of deadening trade restrictions. The only reason this bridge is now open is because the People demanded it… They demanded that their mayor re-open the bridge. When he refused they beat him up, and they opened it themselves. Now it is the People and only the People who are in charge in this tiny corner of Uzbekistan. [emphasis added] Now they’re celebrating freedom from hated officials….. The revolt in Andijan was suppressed by a barrage of government bullets, but here the Revolution triumphed.”

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Andijan: Refugee flood or trickle?
HITS: 6078 | 24-08-2005, 20:14 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Uzbekistan , Media World, PR and human rights

Whatever happened in Andijan and elsewhere in the Ferghana Valley, it did not precipitate a refugee crisis. There was no mass flight even though the Uzbek authorities clearly did not control the border with Kyrgyzstan around Kara su. It was not Kosovo nor Darfur.
Accounts given to journalists over the border in Kyrgyzstan suggest that the refugees from Andijan were mainly directly connected with prison break out: either defendants or their rescuers. For instance, one defendant, 29 year old “[Shamshudin] Atamatov said he heard about 10 shots, then someone opened the door of his prison cell with a crowbar. He and another 11 inmates in the cell came out to the street.
Someone there, whom Atamatov said he didn't know, said: "Those who want can come with us to the governor's office." And so he went…”

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