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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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 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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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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Strategy for the endgame for Kaliningrad
HITS: 1950 | 18-02-2003, 22:12 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Russia , PR and human rights

It is for these reasons that the EU proposed the new visa regime. Lithuania did not demand it, and Lithuania was not even a signatory to the agreement on Kaliningrad between the EU and Russia. [1] (The Lithuanians, bizarrely, still claim that this agreement is designed to protect their sovereignty!) Europe alleges that the new regime is necessary to conform with the EU’s laws; but Lithuanian will not join until May 2004, while the new visa regime applies already, and it will not join the Schengen agreement (which abolishes all border controls between member states) until 2006 or 2007. In any case, it would be possible for Lithuania not to join Schengen, as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark are not members of it.

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The rule of law in Kosovo
HITS: 2082 | 7-01-2003, 18:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , PR and human rights, Political leaders

The situation in the international protectorate of Kosovo then is far removed from the success story described by spokesmen for both Kfor and UNMiK. This is in large part because of the distorting effect of the international presence, which stymies self-generated improvements in infrastructure and economic conditions. However the international community’s commitment to proper governance and the rule of law is nowhere more questionable than in the way it deals with suspected criminals - as the events which took place in Kosovo on 14th December 2001 demonstrate.
Around 1.30 pm that day, the last day of Ramadan, a unit of Italian carabinieri (military police) and other Kfor troops surrounded the offices in Djakova of two humanitarian organisations. They arrived with tanks and were surveyed by helicopters whirring above. The Director of one of the charities, the Global Relief Foundation, was in his office and he bid the soldiers and the police welcome. They responded by telling him to get out. He was threatened with beating and told to come with them. He was made to stand spread-eagled against a wall and his cap was violently pulled over his eyes so that he could not see. He was taken to the main military base in Djakova, where he was brutally pulled out of the vehicle by the face. He stumbled to the ground and the soldiers started to beat him. They pulled his up, causing him great pain in the process.

 

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US midterm elections: New Voting Systems
HITS: 2188 | 29-11-2002, 09:19 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Foreign media, Politics

The new iVotronic voting system in use in Miami-Dade County and other areas of Florida was produced by Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software (ES&S). In 2001, ES&S received an order from various counties in Florida for $70.6 million to provide the new system. Of this sum, Miami-Dade County paid $24.5 million, while neighboring Broward County paid $18 million. A group called, appropriately, the Florida Association of Counties lobbied for ES&S before the Florida legislature after endorsing ES&S’s touch-screen iVotronic machines, receiving a commission of $300,000 from ES&S in return. The chief lobbyist for ES&S in the deal was Sandra Mortham, who served as Florida’s top election official from 1995-99 and founded “Women for Jeb” (Bush). Some local officials have suggested that Mortham’s actions exhibited a conflict of interest.

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Swedish General Election 2002: Media Coverage
HITS: 2035 | 30-10-2002, 04:32 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Media World, Foreign media

Parties which are outside the centre-left/centre-right consensus, even though not necessarily particularly hard left or right find it difficult to get access to the media whether in its news coverage or advertising space. The high cost of newspaper and journal distribution through the PressByran network which appears to have an effective monopoly on retail outlets for news and current affairs makes marginal viewpoints still more marginal in Sweden.
The Swedish Democrats complain that their attempts to place advertisements have been boycotted by the news media. According to the Swedish Democrats some media refuse their materials point blank, while others invoke their need to show solidarity with an informal media “blackout” of the “extremists”. Private media may have the right to pick and choose whom they permit to advertise, but when nationwide public organizations like Swebus choose to provide a platform for some but not other legal parties then the fairness of the campaign may be drawn into doubt.

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A report on the second Irish Referendum on the Nice Treaty
HITS: 1882 | 5-06-2002, 06:40 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Ireland , PR and human rights, Politics

On 19th October, the Republic of Ireland held a second referendum on the Nice treaty. That treaty, signed at Nice in December 2000, restructures the European Union, ostensibly with the aim of permitting the accession of 10 new member states in 2004. The first Irish referendum on Nice, which had been held in June 2001, had produced a clear negative result, to which the Irish government reacted by telling the other EU member states to press ahead with their ratification processes. This they duly did, and so when the Irish government put the same treaty before the Irish electorate a second time, a fait accompli had been created, in which Ireland was the only country not to have ratified the text. All other EU states ratified the treaty through parliamentary means. It is a sad reflection on the state of democracy in Europe that the only country to have held a democratic vote on this latest stage in the EU integration process should have deliberately ignored the results of a perfectly legitimate vote in 2001, only to submit the text again a year later. It goes without saying that referendums which produce Yes results are never run a second time.

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Hungary 2001: The Hungarian Media Today
HITS: 2201 | 12-03-2002, 19:35 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Hungary, Media World, Politics

A new report by the International Federation of Journalists is highly critical of the media situation in Hungary. BHHRG considers the allegations behind the report and asks whether the Czech scenario could be repeated in Budapest.
Introduction
Following the successful rebellion at the state television in the Czech Republic (see BHHRG report Turmoil at Czech Television) there have been numerous suggestions that similar disruptions will follow in Hungary. In particular, the International Federation of Journalists, which supported the rebels in Prague, has issued a report harshly criticising the state of the media there ("Television on the Brink: the political and professional crisis of public broadcasting in Hungary"). As the sudden flare-up in Prague shows, events can occur very quickly and their speed helps to obscure the real issues at stake. BHHRG representatives, therefore, travelled to Budapest to investigate the media situation in Hungary.
In the Czech republic, the sudden way in which the rebellion against the appointment of George Hodac as the new director of Czech TV broke out managed to obscure the fact that the real issues at stake were different from that which was reported in the Western media. As the BHHRG report shows, it owed little to any urge to ensure free speech and instead a lot to the desire to prevent restructuring of Czech TV and a proper financial audit being conducted into its rambling financial affairs. In Prague, there was also the additional ingredient of President Havel, who supported the strikers and whose penchant for "non-political politics" helped to change the system by which the TV council is composed, removing representatives nominated by political parties. These two elements - unclear finances and the role of political parties in the TV and radio councils - are both present in Hungary. This is why the forces who supported the putsch against Hodac in Prague may also think that similar results can be obtained in Budapest.

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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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