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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Black Roses - Georgia's Reformers Fall Out
HITS: 31054 | 20-02-2008, 05:03 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Political leaders

Exactly four years after the so-called Rose Revolution, the two key leaders of Georgia's People Power revolution are at each other's throats.

Georgia has made stunning progress in carrying out substantial economic, judicial and state reforms… that should allow Georgia to become a prosperous liberal market economy and a fully-fledged democracy governed by human rights and the rule of law. Georgia has set an example for the whole region and beyond.”
Council of Europe reporters Matyas Eorsi & Kastriot Islami
(13 September 2007)[1]

" The style of Saakashvili’s governance … has made dishonesty, injustice and oppression a way of life. Everyday repression, demolition of houses and churches, robbery, ‘kulakization’, and murders, I would stress, murders, have become common practice for the authorities.”
Ex-Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili in Tbilisi
(25th September, 2007)[2]

On Friday 2nd November, 2007, the centre of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, was occupied a huge crowd demanding the resignation of President Mikheil Saakashvili.[3] It was exactly four years since Saakashvili had cried foul about Georgia’s parliamentary elections and set in train the protests which brought him to power on 23rd November, 2003.

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Moldova the failed state as pro-Western model
HITS: 12725 | 19-02-2008, 15:14 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Political science, Political leaders

The economic and social implosion of Moldova since 1991 is routinely blamed on Transnistria but according to all the Western reform models promoting “shock therapy” the loss of the heavily industrial part of the country should have been pure gain for the rest of Moldova. According to the post-Communist market dogmatists industry was a handicap to prosperity and the sooner smokestacks ceased to pollute the higher the standard of living would be.
Under successive governments since 1991 Moldova to the west of the Dniestr has followed the nostrums of “shock therapy” to the letter and its population has endured a catastrophic fall in its standard of living, mass emigration and the humiliation of seeking economic salvation in prostitution or the sale of body parts. It is an index of Moldova’s industrial and social collapse that it no longer buys electricity from the Transnistrian power plant which used to supply it.
Despite its favourable reputation among Western “experts” as a model of economic reform and democracy, Moldova’s political system has been repeatedly criticised at home. In the run up to the re-election of Voronin’s Communists in 2004, opposition group’s made wide-ranging charges of electoral malpractice which were dropped after Voronin made publicly supportive statements about US policy and anti-Russian jibes.

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Belarus: Brokeback Revolution - the Candidates (Continuation)
HITS: 2193 | 10-02-2006, 17:56 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Political leaders, Analyzing

Three candidates challenged the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, for the presidency. Sergei Gaidukevich (who had stood previously in 2001), former Minsk University rector Alexander Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich. However, local oppositionists and the Western media gave the impression that Milinkevich was the only opposition candidate always dubbing him the ‘united’ opposition candidate. Therefore, is was perplexing to many people who told BHHRG that they had never heard of Mr. Milinkevich before he put forward his candidacy for the top job.

Milinkevich: The Jack-in-a-box Candidate?

Visiting the headquarters of the Belarussian Popular Front three weeks before the poll this Group’s observers found the activists busy preparing to distribute campaign literature and free newspapers (like Narodnaya Volya) on behalf of Alexander Milinkevich remarkably ill-informed about his past and personality. Repeatedly, they replied to questions about what they knew about Dr. Milinkevich with stock replies like “He is the candidate of the unified opposition” and could not explain what personal qualities or aspects of his career had led the “unified opposition” to choose him.

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Foreign Policy: turning up the heat on several fronts
HITS: 5649 | 10-01-2006, 02:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political science, Political leaders, Analyzing

Perhaps the PiS government’s most significant appointment so far is that of Radek Sikorski as Minister of Defence. Sikorski has been based in the UK and US almost continually since 1982 although he was, briefly, a deputy foreign minister and deputy defence minister between 1992-3 in the first post-Solidarity government. Although he bought a country house in Poland in the last years of Communism[1], Sikorski’s journalistic and think-tank career was primarily British and then Washington-based. However, he returned to contest a seat in the Senate in the 2005 elections which he won with over 76,0000 votes, a significant level of support even though he must be something of an unknown quantity at local level in Poland.
Mr. Sikorski is, however, no stranger to the power elite in Washington, where he was Executive - Director of the New Atlantic Initiative, an arm of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute, (AEI) from 2002 until the eve of the polls in 2005. During that time he has chaired numerous appearances by and conferences with some of the United States closest allies and supporters. Many ex- Communist turncoats who have found it highly profitable to switch their allegiance from Big Brother in the Kremlin to pay obeisance to an even more powerful and wealthy patron in Washington have been hosted at the AEI, where naïve (or cynical)?

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The Presidential Election in Poland
HITS: 2220 | 10-01-2006, 01:52 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political leaders

The state election commission registered 16 candidates for the 9th October elections.
In alphabetic order: Marek Borowski, Henryka Bochniarz, Leszek Bubel, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Maciej Giertych, Liwiusz Ilasz, Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw Kalinowski, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, Andrzej Lepper, Daniel Podrzycki, Jan Pyszko, Zbigniew Religa, Adam Slomka, Donald Tusk and Stanislaw Tyminski.
Daniel Podrzycki died prior to the poll and Zbigniew Religa, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Maciej Giertych withdrew from the race.
Donald Tusk - leader of the Civic Platform (PO) and Lech Kaczynski - mayor of Warsaw and the candidate of Law and Justice (PiS) led in pre-election opinion polls. Other candidates with significant levels of support were heart surgeon, Zbigniew Religa, Self-defence leader, Andrzej Lepper, and Polish Social Democracy (SdPl) leader, Marek Borowski.
According to the constitution, the Polish president has few legislative powers. However, he runs the country’s foreign policy and in this respect Alexander Kwasniewski’s ten year tenure has been regarded as a great success – at least, in the West. In particular, Kwasniewski has been loyalty personified to his post-1989 ally, the United States, by providing the third largest contingent of troops in Iraq and echoing Washington’s disapproval of Putin’s Russia. He also took the leading regional role in bringing the ‘Orange revolutionaries’ to power in Kiev in 2004.

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The Parliamentary Election
HITS: 2389 | 10-01-2006, 00:56 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political science, Political leaders

To gain representation in the 460 seat Sejm inidividual parties have to surmount a 5% threshold, which is set at 8% for coalitions. There are 100 members of the Senate. Ten parties were registered in all electoral districts. A parliament runs for 4 years while the president is elected to serve a five year term.
The Democratic Left Alliance - (SLD) the victor of the 2001 elections, albeit in coalition. SLD promised a "return to roots" on the left. The party’s new leader Wojciech Olejniczak wants to cut unemployment. It should also take an active part in talks on the EU Constitution.
Polish Social Democracy (SdPl) -Labour Union-Greens coalition - party that broke away from the SLD in 2004 to distance itself from its post-communist legacy.

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Election Background: Poland Today
HITS: 2085 | 10-01-2006, 00:41 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Elections, Political leaders

With a population of 38 m. Poland is by far the largest of the 8 countries from the ‘New Europe’ which joined the EU in 2004. In the 15 years leading up to accession to the union it suffered a profound assault on its economic well – being as ‘shock therapy’ kicked in and factories were closed putting millions out of work. At the same time, farmers were badly hit as state subsidies dried up. Some of the large state farms in the north of the country managed to convert to modern agribusinesses, often with new Dutch or German owners. But most small farmsteads were pronounced economically unviable, often only providing a subsistence living for their owners. Many of these developments are visible to anyone travelling around Poland even though the media both domestic and foreign foster the impression that the country is ‘booming’ using statistical sleights of hand worthy of Stalinist “growth” figures.
Commentators and neo-liberal Polish politicians, like PO’s Jan Rokita, regularly state that Poland should not follow the ‘old European’ model of France and Germany.[1] Its “fast-growing, low-wage and low-tax system is perceived as a threat by the stodgier, high-unemployment economies of France and Germany” says the International Herald Tribune.

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The case of Sulkhan Molashvili
HITS: 3263 | 21-12-2005, 23:40 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Political leaders

BHHRG interviewed Sulkhan Molashvili in the Deputy-Governor’s office in the hospital wing of Prison No. 5 (formerly No1) c. 5.00 - 6.45 pm, 29th July, 2005.

The facts surrounding the trial of Sulkhan Molashvili are a perfect illustration of the ‘black hole’ that is Georgia’s legal and penitentiary system today. Only the tenacity and perseverance of Mr. Molashvili’s lawyers and the work of one local NGO, “Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights”, have brought the abuses into the open. When BHHRG’s representatives asked to see Mr. Molashvili while visiting Prison No. 1. in April 2005 they were told that “he didn’t want to see them”. The following chronology contains facts generally agreed by all parties, Mr. Molashvili’s lawyers’ account of events leading up to his trial and Mr. Molashvili’s own version of events described to BHHRG during an interview conducted on 29th July, 2005 in the prison hospital. The Group wishes to thank the trial judge who granted permission for the interview and the prison authorities who vacated their offices and who did not impose restraints or a time limit on the meeting.

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Mikheil Saakashvili: Power Grab
HITS: 2412 | 21-12-2005, 23:09 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Political leaders, War and peace

 “We call Saakashvili Stalin …he is good, fair and that is why” (a citizen, Imedi TV, 19th February, 2005)

“We had the first televised revolution in history. We were live on CNN for four and a half hours without a commercial” (Saakashvili – Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9th March, 2005)

To describe the November 2003 events in Georgia as a ‘revolution’ indicates a failure to understand the trajectory taken by revolutions in the past. Yet, most Georgians, including those disenchanted by the Saakashvili regime, continue to repeat this oxymoron. As BHHRG pointed out in its report on the November 2003 election[1], the main beneficiaries were all former ministers and leading cadres in the ex-president’s political party. Historically, a revolution has signalled a break: neither Louis XV1’s ministers nor relatives of the Tsar took power after the respective revolutions in France and Russia. People’s failure to notice any improvement in their lives in Georgia since November 2003 may be because the same people are running the country as they did during the 1990s.

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Latvian minorities: The educational reform
HITS: 2440 | 10-11-2005, 21:38 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Latvia , Political leaders

The determination to cling to the fiction of “occupation” has led to permanent friction with the Russian minority ever since 1991. This friction has got worse over time, even though Latvia has been incorporated into the main Western institutions. This is in spite of the size of the non-Latvian population in Latvia, a fact with which any wise government would surely try to find a civilised accommodation. According to the census carried out in 2000, there were 2,375,339 people in Latvia: 57.6% of them are ethnic Latvians; 29.6% ethnic Russians; 4.1% Belarussians; 2.7% Ukrainians; 2.5% Poles; 1.4% Lithuanians; 0.4% Jews. This means that at least 36.4% of the population is Russophone: someone who is, to all intents and purposes, Russian can be categorised as “Ukrainian” if his family came from there, or as a “Jew”, rather as a purely Anglophone Briton can be “Welsh”, “Scottish” or “Irish” The true percentage of Russophones may well be higher than this census: because hundreds of thousands of Russians in Latvia are stateless (see below) they cannot emigrate as easily as Latvians.

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