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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Local Slovaks and The Roma Population
HITS: 17694 | 12-05-2010, 18:54 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Slovakia , Political science

As pointed out, unemployment among ordinary Slovaks in the east of the country is also high. Although there is little evidence of inter community tension, people are, albeit mutedly, critical of the Roma regarding them as lazy, unreliable and untrustworthy. While the Slovak press adopts a responsible line on the subject, their correspondence columns often seethe with anger over what readers consider to be favouritism shown to Roma asking why “they” can’t have fewer children and clean up their act.[1] Their critics point out that Roma lie when they say they have to steal because they can’t afford to buy food alleging that most of the goods stolen were drink and cigarettes and that they get into debt due to the shark like interest rates imposed on them by local money lenders.
Not all of these accusations are false. For example, BHHRG saw an advertisement for something called Expres Financial a money lending outfit outside the Rokoko supermarket used by Roma in Čierna nad Tisou.

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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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Transnistria 2006
HITS: 9896 | 19-02-2008, 15:07 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Political science

On 3rd March, 2006, the Ukrainian customs authorities suddenly implemented a new system of control along the 310 mile-long border (c. 5000 km) with the internationally-unrecognised republic of Transnistria (PMR). The Ukrainians announced that henceforth they would only permit goods bearing official customs stamps from the Republic of Moldova to enter Ukraine or to transit across its territory. Until 3rd March, the Ukrainian customs had accepted PMR’s customs stamps as validating goods for import into Ukraine or for transit across its territory.
The effect of this sudden unilateral act was to produce a dilemma for the Transnistrian authorities in Tiraspol. Either they could accept the Ukrainian act as a fait accompli which would mean effectively transferring customs revenues to the Moldovan capital Chisinau and renouncing their economic sovereignty and therefore their self-proclaimed independence since 1990, or they could refuse to comply with the Ukrainian demands and in effect accept an embargo on their exports with all the severe economic consequences which would flow from stopping the country’s exports.

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Independence in Montenegro: For and Against
HITS: 2208 | 12-01-2007, 16:43 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , Politics, Political science

Montenegrin independence is supported by the leading political party, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and its allies the Social Democrats, although traditionally the issue was always associated with the small Liberal Party that has been in and out of coalition with the DPS over the past eight years. The minorities – Albanians in the south and Bosnians along the border with Bosnia Herzogovina – have also propped up Mr. Djukanovic’s governments. They, too, support independence. BHHRG visited the Albanian village of Tuzi which lies on the main highway to Albania, south of Podgorica. The road is known as a conduit for stolen cars and a steady stream of expensive Western models passed through that day. Some Montenegrins cynically point out that the Albanian and Bosnian communities which live mainly in the border areas would benefit from the smuggling opportunities resulting from internationally recognised borders with their own customs arrangements.

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Independent Montenegro: Liberation or Balkanization
HITS: 2241 | 12-01-2007, 15:57 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , Elections, Political science

Montenegro's example could have far reaching consequences if others seek to emulate its successful drive to independence.


A pro-independence poster displayed in an empty shop window in Cetinje: its message is that a 'Da' (Yes) vote is a vote for Europe

On 21st May, the people of Montenegro voted for independence by the narrow margin of 2009 votes (55.5%) in a referendum which puts the final nail in the coffin of what was Yugoslavia. Since 2003 Montenegro and Serbia have been joined in a loose federation established with the assistance of the EU and which demanded a three year moratorium before either side could choose to opt out. However, Montenegro a small country of c.620,000 has operated as a de facto independent state since the late 1990s when it broke most of its ties with and economic dependency on Serbia, even adopting the DM in 1999 and, later, the Euro in 2002. It also developed its own diplomatic relations and quasi-embassies in important foreign capitals like Brussels and Washington.

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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 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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The political scene in Slovakia; The Romanies and Slovakias politicians
HITS: 2102 | 12-05-2005, 19:00 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Slovakia , Politics, Political science

The Roma were overwhelmingly scathing about the government in Bratislava, claiming that none of its members ever came to visit them. The minister responsible for ethnic minorities, Pal Csaky, is an ethnic Hungarian and the Roma were quick to point out that is the only minority he cares about. They claimed that the government had ‘stolen’ money given to Slovakia by foreign donors explicitly for Roma projects and, it is hard not to believe that such allegations are mere idle gossip – EU funds have disappeared into the void in both Slovakia and Romania. For example, in 2001 “Roland Toth in charge of development project funding from the EU has been accused of misusing €330 m. in EU taxpayers’ money”.[1] The minister responsible, Pavel Hamzik, was also dismissed.
Part of the problem lies in the centralised way the country is governed. Slovakia’s election law treats Slovakia as one constituency meaning that party lists contain few names that mean anything to local voters even with the addition of a handful of preferential votes. By 2004, like many citizens in the former Communist bloc, Slovak voters had tried out most parties from left to right of the spectrum, most of which had failed to improve their lives in any way.

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Happy Havel has his day
HITS: 2050 | 14-04-2005, 05:24 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Czech Republic , Elections, Political science

The Financial Times on 17th June described Václav Havel as the “happiest Czech” after the election results came in. One month later, on 17th July 2002, he appointed a new cabinet led by new prime minister, Vladimír Špidla. There are 17 members of the government: 11 ministers are from the CSSD, 3 from the KDU-CSL and 3 from the US-DEU. Stanislav Gross continues in his post as minister of the interior. Also continuing with their previous portfolios are Culture Minister, Pavel Dostál, Defence Minister, Jaroslav Tvrdík, Pavel Rychetský (justice) and Jiří Rusnok (industry). Petra Buzková becomes minister of education. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda is the new Foreign Minister with the ministries of transport and environment also going to the KDU, while the US’s Petr Mareš becomes minister for science as well as being one of 4 deputy prime ministers.

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Election in Czech Republic 2002: details of the campaign
HITS: 2120 | 14-04-2005, 05:01 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Czech Republic , Elections, Political science

The election campaign was low key. Czech TV fulfilled its duties and broadcast the parties’ election programmes. However, the print media was generally hostile to the ODS – as pointed out, it is the second most popular party in the Czech Republic (and the one that led in opinion polls until weeks before the election) yet it has no newspaper outlet.

Fewer posters were on display than in 1998 and most were dull and uninspiring. The most unappealing posters were those of the ODS which featured close-up shots of Václav Klaus whose cold, steely eyes peered over sinister rimless glasses – hardly a heart-warming image. The party also covered lamp posts and walls in Prague with silly leaflets warning of a return to proto-Communist rule if the ČSSD returned to power.

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