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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Euthanasia in the Netherlands: The present legal position
HITS: 2116 | 20-02-2002, 03:20 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , Politics, World health

The present legal position, like the present Dutch practices, is ambiguous. From the purely legal point of view, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. However, even the law recognizes euthanasia and assisted suicide as lesser crimes than murder, which is not the case in most other countries or in international human rights law. The sentences which apply to euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands are markedly lower than those which apply to murder, for the simple reason that Dutch law does not consider these acts to be murder. Adherents of the argument that even partially permitting euthanasia leads down a "slippery slope" to uncontrollable abuses might well locate here, in the Dutch criminal code itself, the beginning of that slippery slope.

Article 293 of the Dutch penal code states, "He who, on the explicit and serious desire of another person, deprives him of his life, will be punished with an imprisonment of up to 12 years or a fine in the 5th category (100,000 guilders)." Article 294 states, "He who deliberately incites another person to commit suicide, renders assistance in doing so or provides him with the means to do so, will, in case suicide follows, be punished with an imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine in the 4th category (10,000 guilders)."

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Euthanasia in the Netherlands: A history of Dutch euthanasia
HITS: 2258 | 20-02-2002, 02:55 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Netherlands , Politics, World health

There can be few issues which touch the twin human rights issues of the rule of law and the right to life more deeply than euthanasia. And yet, in a leading European Union country which vaunts its own commitment to the principle of human rights, euthanasia is widely and openly practiced, even though it is against the law.
The Dutch seat of government, the Hague, was the place where the first steps were made towards establishing a system of international criminal law: the first attempt at creating a supranational security system was made at the International Peace Conference in the Hague, while a series of conventions on the laws of war were signed at the Hague between 1904 and 1907, marking the preliminary building-blocks for a supranational legal system. Now, the Dutch city is once again in the vanguard of international criminal law, as it hosts the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the court which is expected to give rise, in time, to the International Criminal Court with universal jurisdiction.
Despite this, there are serious grounds for concern that the internationally famous Dutch toleration of euthanasia contradicts the very principles to which the Dutch have proclaimed themselves attached for a century. The Dutch parliament is currently considering a bill to bring the law into line with a quarter of a century of official toleration of euthanasia. However, even this regularization of the legal situation leaves open the more fundamental issues of the right to life and its potential infringement.

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Violence involving asylum seekers
HITS: 1931 | 9-01-2002, 00:17 | Comments: (0) | Categories: France , Political science, Global Events

In November 1997 violent confrontations broke out between between pro- and anti-immigration groups in Dover after a summer in which several hundred Czech and Slovak gypsies had arrived in the town seeking political asylum. Since then the situation has calmed down only to re-ignite alarmingly on the evenings of 13th and 14th August when several white youths were attacked with Stanley knives by groups of migrant youths at a local funfair and outside a petrol station in Dover. Some of the injuries sustained were severe _ in one case a white youth needed 175 stitches. Women are not immune: a 13-year-old girl had 48 stitches after being caught up in the attack.
It seems that local boys had taunted the foreigners. However, many saw the incident as a dangerous scenario that had been in the making for some time. Dover is a small, impoverished port of 40,000 people. The presence of less than 1000 migrants in the town at any one time where they are housed in bed and breakfast accommodation should pass unnoticed. This is not the case: the migrants are seen as compounding the problems of blight and unemployment that disfigure this coastal town. Competition between young males from the town and abroad for the attention of girls at the town’s few entertainment centres also seems to promote tensions.

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Refugees 1999: The port of Calais in France
HITS: 2076 | 27-12-2001, 00:07 | Comments: (0) | Categories: France , Politics, War and peace

France has a variety of problems associated with migration and asylum-seekers from North Africa, but the port of Calais just 22 miles across the English Channel from Dover provides the jumping-off point for people who wish to cross into Britain. Other Channel ports, including those in Belgium and Holland, attract some would-be asylum-seekers anxious to enter Britain but Calais is the most important point of embarkation by far. The means employed usually involve stowing away in the back of one of the many trucks that pass daily into the English port. Despite the fact that truckers face a fine in England if it can be proved they knowingly transported illegal immigrants, many say that their human cargo climbs into the back of the vehicles without their knowledge. Some have alleged that immigrants have threatened them with knives in order to gain passage, but it cannot be ruled out that others knowingly collude in the trade for the substantial financial rewards it offers _ up to several thousand dollars per person carried. On the day BHHRG visited Dover 140 people had been found hidden in the back of a truck.
Many also enter Britain on the Eurostar train service from France. Once in France an immigrant can buy a ticket in Paris for the last station before the Tunnel and a second for the cross-Channel section of the route and get on the train with only perfunctory checks on documents to contend with since on showing only the first ticket the impression is given that he intends only to travel to Calais.

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Bosnia Herzegovina 2001: The International Community and the Bosnian Croats
HITS: 10891 | 24-05-2001, 21:37 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Bosnia Hercegovina , Global Events, War and peace

Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina to investigate the stand-off between the international community and the Bosnian Croats. This report reveals the ongoing problems with the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement five years on.
Bosnia Herzegovina 2001: the international community versus the Bosnian Croats
On 6th April 2001 a well-planned international operation which included SFOR troops and masked security operatives closed down 6 branches of the Hercegovacka bank in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH). The incident was just the latest in a series of assaults by the High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch and his office (OHR) on the Croat community in Bosnia and on the leading Croat political party, the HDZ. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group’s representatives visited Mostar, the capital of the Herzegovina region of Bosnia, soon after the bank raid. They talked to leading local politicians, journalists, administrators and the deputy high representative, Colin Munro. They also visited the pilgrimage town of Medjugorje whose local branch of the Hercegovacka bank had been raided on 6th April.

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Italian Elections 2001
HITS: 2319 | 16-05-2001, 20:07 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Italy , Foreign media, Elections

One of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group’s regular election observers was in Italy for the general election on 13th May, 2001. He saw no evidence of fraud and no substantial allegations of it were made. This election saw efforts by the foreign media to influence the outcome.
The media versus democracy?
One of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group’s regular election observers was in Italy for the general election on 13th May, 2001. There was widespread chaos towards the close of the poll, as many more eligible voters appeared at polling stations than had been expected by the officials of the Ministry of the Interior. Despite this, he saw no evidence of fraud and no substantial allegations of it were made. The election was also controversial because of efforts by the foreign media to influence the outcome. Not since 1948, when the young CIA strained every muscle to prevent a Communist victory at the polls, had Italian voters been subject to so much pressure from abroad to discourage them from voting for a change of regime, in this case from a government led by the reform-Communists to one from the centre-right. Below, the Group’s rapporteur considers the role of the media as the main issue of the Italian elections.
Italy versus the World, or at least its media
I don’t think we’re arrogant. We’re a Marxist-style collective really – we’re the most pro-free market collective ever invented. Globalisation is here to stay and we are the house magazine of globalisation.”
Bill Emmott, Editor in chief of The Economist and critic of Silvio Berlusconi  

On 13th May 2001, Italy held elections to both houses of parliament and to several large municipalities. The election represented a considerable advance in the quality of Italian democracy, to the extent that two large multi-party blocs, each with its own clearly designated candidate for prime minister and clearly defined political programme, confronted one another. This was an improvement on the old system, where the voters voted but found that leadership and policy of the national government was decided behind closed doors after the election, and where the leader was frequently changed in the middle of a parliamentary term. Indeed, the victory of the Berlusconi coalition in these elections can be seen as a first in Italian democracy, to the extent that it is the first time that one political government has been thrown out at an election and replaced by a political government of the opposite political complexion. (The 1994 and 1996 elections, which brought to power, respectively, a right-wing and a left-wing government, came after periods of “technical” government.)
Despite these democratic advances, the world’s media made extraordinary efforts to present the election as the beginning of the end of Italian democracy. Indeed, CNN and other international media over-egged the pudding by repeatedly reported Italy was heading for its 58th since 1945, while omitting to comment on the fact that Italian politics has shown a marked increase in stability since electoral reform promoted a largely first-past-the-post electoral system after Silvio Berlusconi won the 1994 general election. The media campaign alleging that Italian democracy was in danger was launched simultaneously in various high-profile if little-read journals in Britain, France and the United States against the leader of the Italian right, Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi may be by far and away Italy’s leading media magnate but on a global scale he was definitely outgunned by the united international media onslaught. Given these foreign television news stations’ and newspapers’ ability to overlook or even endorse candidates in other countries accused of worse crimes than Mr. Berlusconi, their vociferous attacks on him raised serious doubt about the objectivity of these organs.

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Parliamentary Elections in Croatia
HITS: 1957 | 14-03-2001, 19:23 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Croatia, Elections, Political science

The results of the parliamentary elections held in Croatia on 3rd January mean that there is likely to be a major shift in future government policy. BHHRG monitored the poll and while its observers found it to be conducted properly, concerns remain about certain aspects of the election.
Introduction and background
Parliamentary Elections in Croatia, 3rd January 2000

The Republic of Croatia held parliamentary elections on 3rd January 2000. These were the third since independence was declared in 1991 and the fourth multiparty elections since 1990. The elections were awaited with anticipation by the United States and European Union, in particular, which had long criticized the outgoing government, especially for an alleged "democratic deficit.". The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had ruled the country since 1990. Its members had been elected to all key posts from the Presidency to a majority in local government. Following the death of President Franjo Tudjman on 10th December, 1999, the 3rd January elections were widely seen as the first serious opportunity for a democratically based change of power, especially as Presidential elections were scheduled soon afterwards for 24th January. (Full results of the Parliamentary elections were released on 19th January 2000.)

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