Amnesty International Calls For Ukraine To End Government Human Rights Abuses

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – The human rights watchdog group, Amnesty International, called on Wednesday for the Ukrainian government to reign in growing allegations of police corruption and human rights violations.

The group’s recommendations were part of a broader report issued by Amnesty International to the new President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.  Included were suggestions on how the national government could avoid past practices such as police brutality and racial discrimination.  The report also focused on the issue of foreign migrant workers being the targets of these abuses.  Similar concerns over police practices were raised in Amnesty’s report on Ukraine five years ago.  The ultimate objective of these proposed reforms is to bring Ukraine in line with international rights standards.

Amnesty International officials stated that “the new authorities in Kyiv must not squander the progress in the protection of human rights that Ukraine has made over the last 20 years.”

Also emphasized was Ukraine’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.  The former Soviet republic typically accepts less than 6% of the asylum applicants.  Refugees from nations with questionable human rights records are often sent back, despite the potential for those refugees to face persecution for attempting to leave.

In response to Amnesty’s report, the Yanukovych administration announced that it would support the creation of an independent governmental agency that would investigate allegations of police activity.  Presidential spokesman Hanna Herman stated that “everything possible will be done in order that no case of infringements on these rights be left without relevant reaction from the side of authorities, and those guilty be punished.”

For more information, please see:

ETHIOPIAN REVIEW – Ukrainian authorities respond to Amnesty International’s human rights challenge – 15 April, 2010

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL – Ukraine: Report calls on new President to back ‘words with deeds’ on human rights – 14 April, 2010

AP – Rights group urges Ukraine to end police abusers – 14 April, 2010

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Amnesty Urges Ukraine To End Rights Abuses – 14 April, 2010

Amnesty Condemns Deportation Policies of Several European Nations

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

In a report released on Monday April 12, London-based Amnesty International has documented and criticized the “no-torture” assurance policies of several European countries, and called for the European Union to prohibit member countries from continuing the practice.

Several European countries, including the United Kingdom, require assurances from countries that they will not torture individuals that are deported.

The assurances are used by the deporting European countries to assuage domestic and international concerns over sending individuals to countries that often have egregious human rights records.

The problem with these well-intentioned deals, according to the Amnesty report, is that they do nothing to guarantee compliance. Amnesty described the assurances as both “unenforceable” and “unreliable”, and characterized the practice used in at least half a dozen European countries as a “failed experiment”.

Moreover, Amnesty claims that governments are merely using the practice “to rid themselves of” alleged terrorists in lieu of prosecuting these individuals in domestic courts or releasing them.

The United Kingdom, in particular, was condemned by Amnesty, since the UK uses this method frequently to deport any individual deemed to be a “substantial threat” to national security.

In addition to the general assurance policy required for individual deportaitons, the UK has more formal “memorandums of understanding” with Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Libya. These memorandums of understanding preclude individualized assurances for each separate deportee.

The UK responded vociferously to the report. In particular, officials claimed that no deportees were sent to any country where there was a “significant risk of torture”.

Denmark, Germany, France, and Italy also have used and continue to use “no-torture” assurance policies and were implicated in the report.

The report is available online at Amnesty’s website.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Amnesty International criticise government on torture – 12 April 2010

INDEPENDENT – Diplomatic deals expose deportees to torture risk – 12 April 2010

JURIST – Amnesty condemns use of ‘no-torture’ deals in European deportations – 12 April 2010

Russian Judge Who Imprisoned Neo-Nazis Killed

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – A Russian judge who had earlier this year sentenced a number of ultra-nationalist leaders for murder and hate crimes was fatally shot today in Moscow.

Eduard Chuvashov, a Moscow City Circuit judge, was killed in what is believed to be a contracted killing in a stairway in the apartment building.  According to initial police reports, the assailant used a gun equipped with a silencer and collected the spent bullet shells.  Chuvashov was shot once both in his chest and head.

It is believed that the growing neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movement is responsible for this killing.  In recent weeks, many of these nationalist groups called for Chuvashov’s death on their websites.

Just last week Chuvashov had sentenced two members of the Ryno Gang to significant prison terms for their role in killing twenty migrant workers.  This past February, Chuvashov oversaw the trial of nine members of a organized gang known as the White Wolves, who had also attacked and killed eleven similar victims from central Asian countries.

In response to the killing, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev declared that “everything will be done so that the organizers and perpetrators of this cynical murder be found and punished.”

In recent years Russia has experienced a significant rise in violent acts perpetrated by neo-Nazi and far-right ultra-nationalist groups.  Approximately 60 people were killed and 306 injured in hate crimes last year, according to a Russian hate-crimes watchdog group.  Last year one of the lawyers who helped bring the White Wolves defendants to trial was killed in Moscow.

Chuvashov’s killing has raised questions about whether Russia’s ultra-nationalist groups are targeting political and legal leaders who attempt to punish them for their attacks on migrants. “[Cheuvashov’s death] could be retribution from far-right groups” stated Allison Gill of Human Rights Watch.

For more information, please see:

AP – Moscow judge who sentenced neo-Nazis shot to death – 12 April, 2010

DEUTSCHE WELLE – Russian judge murdered in Moscow – 12 April, 2010

TELEGRAPH – Russian judge gunned down in ‘neo-Nazi’ revenge killing – 12 April, 2010

REUTERS – Moscow judge who sentenced neo-fascists shot dead – 12 April, 2010

RT – Russian judge killed in Moscow, police cite race hate motives – 12 April, 2010

Anti-Roma, Anti-Semitic Party Gains Significant Ground in Hungarian Elections

  

The Magyar Garda
At a Jobbik rally, members of the paramilitary Magyar Garda watch over party supporters. / Source: The Telegraph, Aaron Taylor

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Jobbik, a far-right party which has openly expressed anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric, achieved a breakthrough in Hungarian elections, entering Parliament for the first time and finishing third in national polls. The center-right party, Fidesz, won fifty-two-percent of the vote, and the incumbent Socialist party only received nineteen percent of votes. Jobbik, with seventeen percent of the vote, acquired twenty six seats in the Hungarian Parliament

Hungary’s largest Jewish organization, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities, warned that the political gains by Jobbik mark “the first occasion that a movement pursuing openly anti-Semitic policies” has taken steps to power since the Nazi era.

A recent copy of the Jobbik party’s weekly newspaper shows a statue of the Hungarian saint, Saint Gellert, holding a menorah instead of a cross. The picture’s caption reads: “Is this what you want?”

The rise of Jobbik, which is allied with the right-wing British National Party, coincides with a surge of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Hungary, and parallels the rise of far-right parties across Europe.

Jobbik has close links with a banned  paramilitary wing organization, Magyar Garda. Magyar Garda, which has an insignia modelled on the Arrow Cross used by Hungarian Nazis during the Second World War, have staged a series of marches against “gypsy crime” in towns and villages throughout Hungary where the largest Roma communities are located. The rise of the Magyar Garda has coincided with a series of attacks on Roma villages in 2008 and 2009 which claimed six lives.

Laszlo Molnar, a member of the Magyar Garda, said: “Actually, I am a racist . . . So what? Why do I have to like those who are in fact my enemies?”

Gabor Vona, the thirty-one year old leader of Jobbik, has vowed to be sworn in as an MP while wearing the banned uniform of the Magyar Garda. He said: “I will keep my promise to go into parliament on the first day in a Garda vest.”

According to analysts, the Socialist Party, which has dominated Hungarian politics for the past eight years, allowed large parts of eastern Hungary to become an economic wasteland, and allowed the situation of the Roma to further deteriorate, which has inflamed social tensions. Hungary was only able to avoid financial meltdown at the end of 2008 through a twenty billion euro bailout from the IMF, the World Bank, and other institutions.

Gergely Böszörményi NagyGergely Borszomeny-Nagy of the the Perspective Institute, a think tank, said: “This is a supposedly leftist Government but over the past eight years the gap between rich and poor has drastically widened.”

Unemployment in Hungary is currently at eleven percent and  inflation is at six percent. 

As the economic crisis in Hungary deepens, the Roma people have increasingly been targeted as scapegoats. George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier and philanthropist said:  “There is no question that the crisis that hits people unexpectedly . . . gets them angry and they want to take it out on someone.”

Jobbik has drawn much of its support from young Hungarians, and is especially strong in the nation’s universities. Many young people who have been unable to find work have taken refuge in nationalist politics, which blame outsiders for the nation’s economic problems. 

Tamas Vardai, a university student in Budapest said: “Jobbik is the only party that can put this country in order.”

For more information, please see:

euronews – Hungary’s far right secures seats in parliament – 12 April 2010

Times Online – Far-right party Jobbik makes breakthrough in Hungarian elections – 12 April 2010

Telegraph – Hungary elections: first step to power for far-Right since Nazi era – 11 April 2010

Georgian Opposition Leaders Detained, Fined

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

TBILISI, Georgia – Eight leaders of Georgia’s opposition parties were arrested, reprimanded, and released from custody on Friday, according to Georgian media outlets.

The political secretary of the People’s Party, Aleksandr Shalamberidze, was one of the arrestees. He was “verbally reprimanded” for violating a public order not to enter a building.

Seven other opposition political leaders associated with the National Council were released and fined for violating the public order and scuffling with police. The National Council is an umbrella organization that united the three main opposition parties in Georgia, namely the Conservative Party, the Movement for Fair Georgia, and the People’s Party.

The opposition leaders were attempting to enter the Tbilisian Publishing House offices, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. They were taken into custody for trespassing in violation of the public order banning National Council representatives from entering the building. Allegedly, they scuffled with police as they attempted to enter and obtain printed election materials.

The Publishing House offices were closed by Georgian police just last week in anticipation of the May 30 local elections. National Council claims that local and national Georgian politicians are applying pressure on the Publishing House to support incumbent candidates, as the Publishing House is responsible for printing election campaign materials.

Zurab Nogaideli, the leader of Movement for Fair Georgia, characterized the incident as another episode of “terrorism” against legal opposition activities. But Mr. Nogaideli also noted that “no one will be able to frighten us”, vowing to “destroy these authorities.”

Before Mr. Shalamberidze and his colleagues were released, Koba Davitashvili, chairman of the People’s Party, threatened that opposition activists would protest by blocking Rustaveli Ave in central Tbilisi. But Mr. Shalamberidze and his colleagues were released just hours later, although all were reprimanded for violating the public order.

Nonetheless, National Council has consistently protested official targeting of publishing houses by Georgian political leaders. They have vowed to continue to do so until the May 30 elections.

For more information, please see:

CIVIL GEORGIA – Opposition Activists Released after being Fined – 8 April 2010

GEORGIAN TIMES – Opposition Activists Released after being Fined – 8 April 2010

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Georgian Police Briefly Arrest Opposition Leader – 8 April 2010

Italian Prosecutors Request Indictment Against Prime Minister Berlusconi

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Italian prosecutors on Friday began legal proceedings to request a indictment against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his son for embezzlement and tax fraud that relates to an ongoing legal battle involving some of the country’s largest media corporations.

The indictment suggests that Mediatrade, an Italian media corporation, purchased the rights to American television programs and films, during the time period of 2002 to 2005 at inflated prices, and embezzled the profits of that inflation.  According to the prosecutors, the excess embezzled funds were placed into a slush fund.  The charges of tax fraud, which allegedly took place between 2005 and 2009, are also associated with these actions.  Since Mediatrade was originally founded and owned by Berlusconi, and has family still controls the company, the prosecutors believe that he is still its ‘de facto’ leader and therefore bears some of the responsibility for its allegedly illegal actions.

The indictment request was filed by two prosecutors, Fabio De Pasquale and Sergio Spadaro, in the northern city of Milan to Judge Marina Zelante.

Even if the judge grants the prosecutors request, the recently passed federal shield law would apply and thereby delay the legal action for up to 18 months.  The law provides temporary immunity for the Prime Minister and his ministers.  Supporters of the legislation argued that the shield law was necessary because potential legal actions would this officials would be a ‘legitimate impediment’ to the responsibilities of their offices.

This shield law was enacted following a decision by Italian Supreme Court, which last year ruled that another immunity law that had been supported by Berlusconi and provided him with permanent protection from any charges brought against him, was unconstitutional.

For more information, please see:

ANSA – Berlusconi Indictment Sought – 9 April, 2010

RTE – Berlusconi could stand trial over TV rights – 9 April, 2010

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Berlusconi Faces Call to Stand Trial – 9 April, 2010

Baltasar Garzón to be Tried for ‘Knowingly Overreaching’ his Jurisdiction Through Investigation of Franco-Era Disappearances

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain – Spain’s crusading human rights judge, Baltasar Garzón, is to be tried for “knowingly overreaching” his jurisdiction through his investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Garzón has been suspended from his job while he awaits the start of the trial, which is likely to begin in June.

Charges that Garzón exceeded his power were first brought by the far-right lobby group, Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), and fringe fascist party, Falange Española. They alleged that Garzón deliberately and knowingly overstepped his powers by pursuing an investigation into 114,000 people who disappeared during and after the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, which ended in 1975.

Luciano Varela, a Supreme Court magistrate, ordered Garzón to stand trial on the basis of the allegations. Varela argued that Garzón proceeded with the inquiry despite being “aware of his lack of jurisdiction” under a 1977 amnesty for crimes committed during the Franco regime. The amnesty law pardoned politically motivated crimes committed during that period, and is part of the “pact of silence” which was implemented to ease Spain’s transition from a right-wing dictatorship to a democracy.

Garzón began looking into the disappearances in the summer of 2008, and ordered the Catholic Church and government ministries to provide him with information on the missing people. He reluctantly stepped away from the probe a few months later after a dispute over jurisdiction, and the investigations were transferred to lower courts. 

Families of the victims have hailed Garzón as a hero, and many have begun to dig up the mass graves left behind by Franco’s death squads.

Garzón has argued that the amnesty has no force because the crimes committed during the war and the Franco regime were politically motivated crimes against humanity. He has also asserted that no statute of limitations exists where crimes against humanity are involved.

Garzón has earned a global reputation for his use of international human rights law against former South American military regimes, and is responsible for the 1998 arrest of former Chilean dictator August Pinochet in London. He is also the world’s leading practitioner of universal jurisdiction, which holds that in exceptional crimes – such as crimes against humanity – jurisdiction is not limited to the country where the crime was committed. During the course of the  past year Spanish legislators have sought to curtail Garzón’s employment of the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.

British human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, told the Guardian:

“[Garzón’s] ruling that there can be no posthumous impunity for crimes against humanity is important to all descendants of the victims of such crimes worldwide, whether they be from the Armenian genocide or the Nazi holocaust . . . As a matter of international criminal law he was undoubtedly right.”

He added: “This is a trial of the integrity of Spain’s judges and of the reputation of Spanish jurists who will, if they find for the prosecution, be held in universal contempt by international lawyers.”

Carolyn Lamm, president of the American Bar Association, wrote in a public letter to Spain’s Attorney General:

“Numerous sources of international law suggest that amnesties for crimes against humanity are inconsistent with a State’s obligations to protect human rights, including the right of access to justice . . . It is difficult in light of these principles to view [Garzón’s] ruling as legally indefensible, or as warranting criminal prosecution.”

She added: “The big question is why the Supreme Court isn’t satisfied with simply annulling his decisions . . . Why do they have to treat him like a criminal?”

Garzón’s suspension from the National Court will prevent him from pursuing several high profile cases currently underway. If he is found guilty he could be removed from the bench for twelve to twenty years – effectively ending the fifty four year-old judge’s career.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Spanish judge Garzon face trial over Franco probe – 7 April 2010

Guardian – Crusading Spanish judge faces abuse of powers trial – 7 April 2010

EiTB – Spanish judge Garzon faces trial over abuse of power in war case – 7 April 2010

Time – In Spain, a Crusading Judge Faces a Trial of His Own – 7 April 2010

Karadzic Seeks Stay in ITCY Trial

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Kardzic, currently on trial for war crimes, has filed a motion asking the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ITCY) to “stay the proceedings in his trial due to resume next week on April 13.

Specifically, Mr. Karadzic claims that the trial is tainted because of “the admission of the unprecedented number of prior statements and testimonies” the “taking of judicial notice of an unprecedented number of adjudicated facts.”

Karadzic’s American attorney, Peter Robinson, contests that if the trial proceeds, it will “violate the fundamental tenets of fair criminal trials” and deprive Mr. Karadzic of the opportunity to defend himself.

The motion indicates that the ITCY Trial Chamber accepted some 1,500 facts found in previous Bosnian war crimes cases with different defendants. Moreover, written affidavits of 141 prosecution witnesses have been admitted in court, allegedly without adequate opportunity for cross examination. Without the ability to question these facts and witnesses, Mr. Karadzic says that he will not be afforded a fair trial.

This stay is another potential delay in bringing Mr. Karadzic to justice for 11 charges of crimes against humanity, genocide, and violations of the laws of war. The charges stem from when Mr. Karadzic served as the leader of Bosnian Serbs and allegedly ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

Since being arrested in 2008, Mr. Karadzic has consistently attempted to delay proceedings. For example, in October 2009, Karadzic boycotted the prosecution’s opening statements.

Also, just last week, Mr. Karadzic filed a motion to postpone the trial to allow him more time to prepare the defense. However, the ITCY Appellate Chamber refused to grant the motion and delay the trial past April 13, the day which the prosecution will call its first witness to testify.

For more information, please see:

BALKAN INSIGHT – Karadzic Files for ‘Stay of Proceedings’ in ITCY – 6 April 2010

CTV – Ex-Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic asks UN to halt trial – 6 April 2010

ETAIWANNEWS – Karadzic says trial is unfair, asks court for halt – 6 April 2010

Ethnic Minorities in Russia Fear Retributive Backlash in Wake of Terror Attacks

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – In the aftermath of last week’s twin suicide bombings in the Moscow metro, ethnic minorities living in Russia have expressed concern over the potential for violent backlash. The Moscow-based Sova Center, which monitors racially motivated attacks, already recorded assaults on at least five members of ethnic minorities since the attacks, and estimate that the true number is much higher.

Among those attacked were three women, including a seventeen-year-old Armenian girl, and two women wearing headscarves. Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy director of the Sova Center, reported that the seventeen-year-old girl “was beaten up in the street, her hair torn, face injured, her clothes torn,” because she appeared Muslim.

Kozhevnikova also said that the number of attacks is undoubtedly higher, as minorities are often afraid to report attacks, and the police are frequently hesitant to investigate attacks.

She said: “We know that many people who don’t have a Slavic appearance have consciously avoided going out in public in the days following the attack. They are afraid of attacks.”

Recent remarks and provocative rhetoric by Russian politicians have added further fuel to fears. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged, on the day after the attacks, that the Russian government would “drag” terrorists “from the depths of the sewer.”  On Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told police and security forces in Dagestan to use tougher, “more cruel” measures to fight the “scum” who are responsible for the terrorist attacks.

According to Radio Free Europe, State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Gurov claimed that concerns over ‘political correctness’ were preventing Russian authorities from effectively dealing with terrorism. He said:

“How much can we play with this so-called tolerance?”

Aleksandr Verkhovsky, director of the Sova Center, said that the “over-the-top rhetoric” by Russian politicians “is destructive.” He added: “It encourages negative emotions. This is the prime minister speaking, not some common citizen talking in the kitchen.”

Abdullah Duduyev, editor of the Chechen-language magazine “Dosh,” said that the Chechens in Moscow were “saddened” the metro bombings.

He added: “Attitudes toward us have gotten worse . . . When two Muslim women were beaten up in the metro, not a single person in the crowded wagon stuck up for them. This shows the mood of society. Stress, fear, and grief are visible on people’s faces. It is impossible to hide the aggression people feel toward outsiders.”

For more information, please see:

Hurriyet Daily News – Moscow’s minorities fear retribution in bombing’s aftermath – 2 April 2010

AP – Russia’s Medvedev promises ‘crueler measures’ – 1 April 2010

Radio Free Europe – For Moscow’s Ethnic Minorities, A Fresh Sense of Fear – 1 April 2010

Dawn.com – Fear of anti-Muslim backlash after Russia blast – 30 March 2010

Gender Discrimination Suit Filed Against Ukrainian Prime Minister For Statements On Role Of Women In Government

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

KIEV, Ukraine – An international women’s rights organization filed a discrimination lawsuit last week against the Ukrainian Prime Minister in response to recent statements he made regarding the role of women in government.

During a economic speech on 19 March, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov speech focused on a theme that women may not be able to properly handle the current economic issues that Ukraine is facing.  Azarov declared that “some say our government is too large; others that there are no women.”  He then went on to state that “with respect to women, conducting reforms is not women’s business.”

Yekaterina Levchenko of La Strada-Ukraine International Human Rights Protection Center, one of the women’s rights group that filed a suit, stated that Azarov’s statements were evidence of “direct discrimination against Ukrainian women.”  Another suit against the Prime Minister was brought by Olena Suslova, a leader of the Information and Advisory Women’s Center, in response to his statements.

The lawsuits state that the Prime Minister’s comments violated Ukraine’s constitutional mandate for equality among men and women.

After drawing increasing criticism from both national and international rights groups, Azarov spoke publicly in an attempt to clarify his earlier comments.  He stated that the remarks in his speech were only meant to establish his belief that he did not wish for any woman to work more than 15 hours a day, as his cabinet ministers often do.

Azarov’s statements come in the midst of increased political pressure in favor of greater roles for women in Ukraine’s national government.  Protests, organized by national women’s rights leaders, were held in front of the federal Cabinet buildings in Kiev earlier this month calling for greater diversity on the all-male national Cabinet.

For more information, please see:

AP – Ukraine Premier Accused on Discrimination –  1 April 2010

ITAR-TASS: Female activists sue Azarov for violation of women’s rights – 31 March 2010

THE GUARDIAN – Ukrainian women berate ‘Neanderthal’ PM for sexist remarks – 24 March 2010

Serbia Seeks Arrest of Nazi War Criminal

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia – A court in Belgrade, Serbia issued an international arrest warrant for a former Nazi accused of committing war crimes during World War II against Jews.

Peter Egner, 88, is suspected of committing mass murder during the Nazi occupation of Serbia. The Nazis occupied large parts of Serbia, including Belgrade, from April 1941 to October 1944.

He is accused of taking part of executing 17,000 civilians between 1941 and 1943, including “Jews, Romas, and political dissidents”. The indictment also suggests that Mr. Egner directly ordered some of those executions.

Some of the victims were executed in Belgrade in a van specially designed for gassing. Others executed later after being sent to concentration camps.

The alleged crimes occurred when Mr. Egner was part of a Nazi-run Serbian police unit known as Einsatzgruppe. Mr. Egner has consistently claimed not only that he was not a part of Einsatzgruppe, but knows nothing about its existence.

Mr. Egner, born in the former Yugoslavia, is an ethnic German, who has been an American citizen since he moved to the United States in the 1960’s. Mr. Egner also currently lives in the United States.

The United States Department of Justice has cooperated with Serbia in investigating war crimes committed by Einsatzgruppe, and plans to continue to do so.

As a result of the investigation, the Department of Justice has filed a motion with a federal court to revoke Mr. Egner’s citizenship.

For more information, please see:

B92 – Arrest warrant out for WW2 Nazi – 2 April 2010

BBC – Serbia issues warrant for ‘Nazi murderer’ Peter Egner – 2 April 2010

NEW YORK TIMES – Serbia Seeks Extradition Of Suspected Nazi From U.S. – 2 April 2010

UPI – Serbia issues warrant for WW II suspect – 2 April 2010

Belarusian Journalist, Critic of Lukashenko Government, Stripped Of Citizenship

By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MINSK, Belarus – A prominent Belarusian journalist and critic of the national government was stripped of his citizenship earlier this week.

Pavel Sheremet was informed by officials from the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow, where he is currently living, that his citizenship had been revoked.

The Belarusian government pointed to 2002 legislation which attached new requirements regarding Belarusian citizens who reside in other countries.  Those citizens face a possible revoking of their citizenship if they join a military, law enforcement or intelligence unit of that foreign nation.  The final order to take action against Sheremet was made by national Belarusian Security Council.

In response to the notification regarding his citizenship, Sheremet declared that he had done nothing to violate the 2002 legislation.  Since living in Moscow, he stated that he had not joined a Russian government agency of any kind.  He also questioned why, after he had been openly living in Russia for over a decade, the Belarus government decided now to take this action.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international non-governmental organization that attempts to protect the rights of journalists, was quick to criticize the actions of the Belarusian government and call for the re-establishing of Sheremet’s citizenship.

“Sheremet has long been critical of the regime of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and has been jailed, attacked, and harassed for his work in the past.  This latest official move appears as yet another act of official retaliation.  It must be stopped at once.”

Sheremet noted that “the desire to take away my Belarusian passport [was] a manifestation of aggravation of the Belarusian special services’ hysteria.”  He went to conclude that the action of Belarus was “revenge for [his] professional activities.”

Sheremet has been detained and jailed a number of times by both Belarusian and Russian authorities.  During the 2006 Belarusian Presidential election, Sheremet was jailed while covering protests that arose in its aftermath.  In 2004 Sheremet was attacked in Minsk and subsequently charged with disturbing the peace following his publishing of a biography critical of the Lukashenko government.

For more information, please see:

CHARTER 97 – Committee to Protect Journalists has called upon returning citizenship to Sharamet – 31 March 2010

CHARTER 97 – Paval Sharamet deprived of Belarusian citizenship – 31 March 2010

RADIO FREE EUROPE – Belarusian Journalist ‘Loses Citizenship’ – 31 March 2010

CPJ – More than two dozen journalists jailed in Belarus – 28 March 2006

Belgian Parliamentary Committee Votes to Ban Face-Covering Islamic Veils

Photo: If the Belgian parliament approves the home affairs committees resolution, women in Belgium could face fines and imprisonment for wearing the burka and the niqab. Source: John Moore/Getty Images
A Belgian parliamentary committee has unanimously voted to prohibit the wearing of the burqa and the niqab in public. Source: John Moore/Getty Images

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The Belgian parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee has unanimously approved a draft law calling for the prohibition of the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils, such as the niqab and the burqa, in public. If the proposed law is passed individuals could face fines of up to €25 or seven days in prison for wearing the burqa or the niqab.

The measure, which has the backing of all five parties in the ruling coaltion, still needs to be approved by the parliament before becoming law and is likely to be voted upon by April 22, 2010. If approved, Belgium would be the first European country to implement such a ban.

Support for the measure has transcended both party and linguistic lines in Belgium. Daniel Bacquelaine, the liberal MP who proposed the bill, told channel RTL in Brussels:

“A person cannot claim the right to see another person without being seen himself . . . I think there is also an aspect related to human dignity — the women’s imprisonment under a burqa is not acceptable in a civilized society.”

Denis Ducarme of the Belgian center-right Refomist Movement said: “This is a very strong signal that is being sent to Islamists . . . I am proud that Belgium would be the first country in Europe which dares to legislate on this sensitive matter”.

Several districts in Belgium have already banned such veils under old local laws designed to prohibit people from fully masking their faces during carnival.

There are roughly 500,000 Muslims living in Belgium, and, according to the Belgian Muslim Council, only a couple dozen Muslim women in Belgium actually wear the face-covering veils. Bacquelaine has admitted that there is no current problem with the face-covering veils, but said: “We have to act as of today to avoid [its] development.”

The proposal has raised the alarm among those who see such regulation as an attack on civil liberties. Isabelle Praile, the vice-president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, remarked that such a law could set a dangerous precedent. She was quoted by AFP news agency as saying:

“Today it’s the full-face veil, tomorrow the veil, the day after it will be Sikh turbans and then perhaps it will be mini-skirts . . . The wearing of a full-face veil is part of [an] individual’s freedoms.”

Guy Harpigny, a Catholic bishop in the southern Belgian town of Tournai, said: “Does the state really have the right to regulate the symbols of  personal beliefs?

Measures to ban face-covering veils have also been considered, as of late, in France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: “The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women . . . The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws.”

The headscarf has already been banned in French schools on the grounds that it is to ‘conspicuous’ of a religious symbol to be allowed in secular state schools. No nation-wide ban on the headscarf in the classroom has yet been passed in Belgium, but last year the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in Belgium passed a law banning the wearing of Muslim head scarves in state-run schools.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders – a far right politician who received considerable support in recent local elections – has campaigned for Muslim veil bans, and has warned of the “Islamification” of Dutch society.

The debate over face-covering veils has not been confined to Europe. Last week the Canadian province of Quebec introduced a parliamentary measure which would prohibit those in public service employment from wearing facial coverings.  The measure has received overwhelming public support.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Belgian politicians back veil ban – 31 March 2010

BBC – Belgian committee votes for full Islamic veil ban – 31 March 2010

The Guardian – Belgium moves towards public ban on burqa and niqab – 31 March 2010

Radio Free Europe – Belgian Parliamentary Panel Approves Draft Law Banning Full Veil in Public – 31 March 2010

UN Immunity for Srebrenica Massacre Upheld

By Kenneth F. Hunt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A Dutch appellate court ruled today that the United Nations has immunity against claims brought by family members of genocide victims for failure to protect Bosnians during the notorious Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

Mothers of Srebrenica, the victims’ rights group suing on behalf of family members of the victims, brought the claim in 2007. The allegation was that Dutch troops sent by the UN to protect the Srebrenica safe haven in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War failed to protect the 8,000 some Muslim boys and men killed during the massacre.

Mothers of Srebrenica argued that the UN and Netherlands should be held responsible, particularly emphasizing UN responsibility for failing to adequately assess the forces necessary to prevent genocide. In fact, the United Nations has admitted error in handling the Srebrenica episode, confessing in 1999 that it expected the small force of 100 troops to be effective in preventing genocide.

In holding that the UN had immunity from prosecution, the court affirmed a 2008 Dutch trial court decision that held that “in international law and practice, the absolute immunity of the UN is the norm and is respected.” The court on Tuesday emphasized that UN immunity is a principle implied in both the UN’s founding conventions and in essential for UN peacekeeping missions going forward.

The decision indicates that the court was sympathetic to the fact “that the mothers and their relatives have suffered atrocities”, but noted that the interests in favor UN immunity outweighed the interests in redressing these wrongs. The court said that the victims can seek further redress against the Netherlands, however.

Axel Hagedorn, an attorney for Mothers, felt that the court should have submitted the case to the European Court of Justice for further deliberation. He told the press that the case extends “far beyond the interest of the Mothers of Srebrenica. This case is all about fundamental European rights.” As such, Mr. Hagedorn said that Mothers will appeal the decision seek redress against the UN from the ECJ.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Court: Srebrenica women cannot sue U.N. – 30 March 2010

DUTCH NEWS – Dutch court upholds UN Srebrenica immunity – 30 March 2010

RADIO NETHERLANDS – Dutch court upholds UN, Dutch immunity in Srebrenica case – 30 March 2010

Suicide Bombers Strike Moscow Metro Twice, Leaving Thirty Eight Dead

Photo: The Park Kultury Metro Station, scene of the second bombing. Source: EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV
Photo: The Park Kultury Metro Station, scene of the second bombing. Source: EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia – At least thirty five people were killed and sixty four others injured after two female suicide bombers staged two separate attacks on the Moscow subway system this morning. At least twenty three people were killed in the first attack, which occurred in the Lubyanka metro station at 7:50 a.m. Forty minutes later another blast killed twelve people in a train carriage at the Park Kultury metro station.

Passengers streamed out of the stations, some reportedly panicking, running, and falling, and many in tears. One man exclaimed: “This is how we live!”

Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of  the Russian secret police, indicated that the act was likely carried out by a terrorist group with links to the Northern Caucasus. Valdimir Vasiliev, head of the security committee in the state Duma, said: “There is no doubt who stands behind these explosions. Recently there have been several anti-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus to liquidate ringleaders and terrorists of underground groups.”

These attacks follow a surge of violence in the North Caucasus region which began last summer after a suicide bomber drove an explosive laden car into a police station in Nazran, the capital of the autonomous republic of Ingushetia. Three autonomous republics, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, have been torn apart by a low-intensity civil war which has been ongoing in the region since the 1990s.

One militant leader thought to be hiding in the mountains of Chechnya, Doku Umarov, has publicly threatened terrorist attacks in Russia twice in the past four months. In an Internet video from February 14 he said:

“The Russians do not understand that the war today is coming to their streets, the war is coming to their homes, the war is coming to their cities, they do not think that the war is coming, the war does not concern them, but we plan, God willing, to prove to them that the war is coming to their homes.”

Umarov also claimed that his group was responsible for the November bombing of the Nevsky Express passenger train en route from Moscow to St. Petersberg, which killed twenty six people.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared that those responsible would be punished. He said: “A crime that is terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner has been committed . . . I am confident that law enforcement bodies will spare no effort to track down and punish the criminals. Terrorists will be destroyed.”

The Time Online reported that the boyfriend of a woman seriously injured in this morning’s blast swore vengeance against all Muslims. He reportedly showed off blood on his hands to journalists gathered at Lubyanka Square, claiming it had come from punching a Muslim passer-by in the face.  He said:

“I am going to kill one of them. A Tajik, an Azerbaijani, it does not matter, they are all the same . . . War is going to begin.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that he has ordered senior officials to fight terrorism “without hesitation, to the end.” He said that Russia would act without compromise to root our terrorists, and that security would be boosted across Russia. A Kremlin spokesperson added that human rights would be respected during the police investigations.

Amnesty International released a statement condemning the attack, but stated: “The Russian authorities must also ensure human rights are respected in their response to the attack.”

More than eight million people use the metro system in Moscow each day.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Deadly Moscow Subway Bomb Attacks Condemned – 28 March 2010

Financial Times – At least 38 killed in Moscow metro blasts – 29 March 2010

Moscow Times –  2 Bombs Explode in Moscow Metro – 29 March 2010

Times Online – Screams in the smoke as Moscow rush hour turned to horror – 29 March 2010