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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PMR - Presidential Elections Report
HITS: 2284 | 17-01-2006, 04:12 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Elections

On 10th December, 2006, the unrecognized republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) held its fourth presidential elections in a calm, orderly and efficient manner. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group sent two representatives to observe the elections for President and Vice-President of the Republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) on December 10, 2006. The team visited polling stations in Tiraspol, Rybnitsa, Grigoriopol, Kamenka, and the villages of Podoina, Rashkov, and Malajesti. The observers met the Head of the Regional Electoral Commission in Grigoriopol and the representative of the Grigoriopol region on the Central Election Commission.
The election itself proceeded smoothly in every polling station visited by BHHRG. Both the electoral commissions and the electorate were well-informed on the electoral regulations and procedures. The chairman and secretary of the local commissions, as well as their deputies, had attended seminars on the correct conduct of the elections at the regional commission level. In turn, they had instructed the members of their local commissions in preparation of Election Day.

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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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Poland:Europe's neo-con Nation
HITS: 2174 | 10-01-2006, 00:33 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Politics, Elections

Parliamentary and Presidential Elections in 2005 have brought a group of unpredictable nationalists to power
On 23rd October, 2005, Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski was elected President of Poland, becoming Poland’s third president since 1990. Earlier, on 25th September, Kaczynski’s party, Law and Justice (PiS) gained the largest number of votes in elections for the Parliament (Sejm) and Senate, just ahead of the free market, Citizens Platform (PO). As his campaign posters proclaimed, Mr. Kaczynski’s central pledge was the creation of a Fourth Polish republic which would be founded on the country’s moral revival.
The results of both elections also marked the third time that the country’s voters had veered from left to right: the outgoing Alliance of the Democratic Left (SLD) minority government had been shaken for some time by corruption allegations and popular discontent with its policies which were a continuation of the broad trends set by its predecessors since the first post-Communist government in 1989.

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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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Georgia 2005: Law and Disorder
HITS: 2223 | 21-12-2005, 23:35 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Analyzing, Global Events

Attacks on the Judiciary

The legal system in Georgia has been tinkered with on numerous occasions since independence. In 1999 a new system of exams was introduced which had to be taken by both new and serving judges. Judges told BHHRG at the time that this was a way of sacking people who offended the government.
Perhaps, observers assumed that Mikheil Saakashvili’s legal training would impact positively on the rule of law, but, according to observers: “The level of justice has seriously deteriorated since the rose revolution”. Lawyers told BHHRG that Sakkashvili knew nothing about the nuts and bolts of Georgian law - his courses in the US were most likely the typical, content-less melange of ‘modules’ in subjects like human rights and international justice.

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Georgia 2005: Opposition Politics
HITS: 2509 | 21-12-2005, 23:28 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Media World, PR and human rights

The Media: Soon after Saakashvili became president three late night discussion programmes were pulled from Imedi, Mze and Rustavi 2 television channels. Later, 2 independent TV stations – Iberia and the Ninth Channel – were closed. Action was taken by the authorities according to the (much decried) Russian method of charging media owners with ‘tax avoidance’. This practice came perilously close to shutting down Rustavi 2 when its owner, Erosi Kitsmanishvili was accused of getting above himself in business deals and Rustavi 2 was said to owe $4.5 m. in back tax to the state.[1] Kitsmanishvili was forced out and replaced with regime insiders. Saakashvili had promised not to let what he called the “channel of the victorious” go down.
Now, most shares in the company are owned by Khibar Khalvashi, a friend of Okruashvili. 50% of the shares in Mze are owned by MP Davit Bezhuashvili, brother of Gela, Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council and another 50% by Vano Chkhartishvili, a former Shevardnadze minister. Mze itself has been censored – it was banned from showing the funerals of dead Georgian troops after the debacle in South Ossetia and, again, was “in trouble” for its reporting following prime minister Zhvania’s death.[2] Its daily talk show was halted following the demonstration over the arrest of wrestlers on 30th June.

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Georgia post �rose revolution government: mixed revues
HITS: 2460 | 21-12-2005, 23:20 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Georgia , Analyzing, Global Events

The new presidential palace in Tbilisi now under construction

“For the first time in our history, our police have discovered you don’t have to torture people to keep crime in check” [Mikheil Saakashvili, Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9th March, 2005].

Police reform: This is hailed as one of Saakashvili’s success stories. The president’s admirers point to the abolition of the traffic cops and their replacement by a new patrol police as one of his major achievements since coming to office. Since then, it is claimed, the practice of regularly stopping motorists for bribes has ceased and the force is able to do more useful work. The police are properly paid (400-500 lari per month), new Volkswagen Passats have been donated and officers wear smart, American-style uniforms. In the process “16,000 good for nothing, corrupt policemen were fired”, according to former Minister of the Interior, Irakli Okruashvili.[1] Only 15% of former police officers remained in the force. This meant that if only some of these men had families, at least 34,000 people were deprived of a bread winner - something that obviously left Mr. Okruashvili and his associates untroubled.

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