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 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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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.
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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Russia's policy towards Kaliningrad
HITS: 2470 | 18-02-2003, 21:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Russia , Political science, Political leaders

The official view is that Russia has ‘fought all the way’ to preserve its sovereignty and protect the rights of Kaliningrad’s inhabitants. As negotiations between Russia and the EU over the transit issue dragged on during 2002 the rhetoric coming from Moscow was uncompromising. The EU’s visa plans for Kaliningrad were “worse than the Cold War” and would “divide the sovereignty of Russia”. Mr. Putin, whose in-laws come from Kaliningrad oblast, “flatly rejected the visa plan” and Russia “will do its utmost to guarantee totally the rights of its citizens living in Kaliningrad”.[1]

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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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From Hollywood Ten to the Vilnius Ten
HITS: 1855 | 27-12-2002, 22:48 | Comments: (0) | Categories: EU , Political science, Analyzing

The monolithic line of the Soviet superpower was promoted by vast campaigns conducted via petitions expressing international solidarity against U.S. imperialism and its lackeys. The “Letter” or the “Petition” expressing the will of the working class or peace-loving nations was a standard Stalinist ploy in public diplomacy. A signature on such a document implied loyalty to much more than the text itself: it was a declaration of fealty to the Kremlin. At the height of the Cold war US actors and intellectuals who had signed Soviet-inspired or CPUSA promoted appeals for peace or international solidarity fell foul of the McCarthyite blacklist.

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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 US Midterm Election 2002
HITS: 9705 | 29-11-2002, 09:39 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Politics, Elections

Florida state law specifies that the only persons allowed inside the polling stations while voting is taking place are:
The Supervisor of Elections or the Deputy Supervisor of Elections (county officials who are the equivalent of regional or district election commission chairmen)
Clerk and Assistant Clerks (equivalent of precinct election commission chairman and deputies)
Inspectors (precinct election commission workers who verify identity and authorize voters to receive ballots)
Poll Deputies (civilian officials who maintain order around the polling station)
Poll watchers (equivalent of election observers)
Poll watchers must be certified by the Supervisor of Elections and must be designated by a candidate, political party, or “political committee.”

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US midterm elections: Political demographics and redistricting
HITS: 1935 | 29-11-2002, 09:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Elections, Political leaders

Florida has perhaps witnessed more controversy than any other state in America on the issue of redistricting, the process of redrawing the boundaries of legislative districts due to population changes (see Lucy Morgan, “Redistricting squabbles a sign of fights to come,” St. Petersburg Times, June 22, 2002). An editorial from the Naples Daily News from July 2002 reads as follows:
We wondered who Florida lawmakers were listening to when they carved the state into new U.S. House districts.
Actually, we did know. They were listening to friends in high political places — Florida’s big cities and Washington. We were asking rhetorically, because we knew lawmakers were not listening to Southwest Florida constituents who wanted to stick together.

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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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