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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Vandalism not religiously motivated
HITS: 2068 | 18-08-2004, 00:10 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , PR and human rights

J.A. Cuddon’s classic Companion Guide to Jugoslavia mentions the churches and monasteries of Prizren but insists, “The [sic]church to see in Prizren is Sv. Bogorodica Ljeviška (the Virgin of the Falling Asleep). It is an interesting mixture of Serbian, Greek and Romanesque styles built with five cupolas, an ex-narthex and a belfry” Begun in 1307, it had been converted into a mosque under the Turks who whitewashed over its medieval frescoes. After 1950 restoration began after the church had been returned to Orthodox control in 1913 after the Serbian army expelled the Turkish rulers. Turkish iconoclasm damaged the frescoes but the intention was only to cover them over. Cuddon noted, “Every few inches there is a white scar on the paintings giving the effect of a heavy snow storm. This was done to make it easier for the walls to take plaster. However, between and behind the flakes of this ‘blizzard’ one can still see the frescoes which are among the finest in the fourteenth century.” Whatever Cuddon saw is now locked away behind barbed wire. Fire damage is visible on the window frames and because KFOR prevents access to the interior the exact state of the wall paintings so admired by visitors before 1999 can only be guessed at.

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Where does Cameron go next?
HITS: 1936 | 17-06-2004, 22:42 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Analyzing

Possible scenarios of how a Blair-Cameron double act will save what Peter Mandelson called “The Project” are:
1) Cameron crashes and burns. This is the least likely outcome. The media and his backers have invested too much prestige and effort into promoting him to let David Cameron’s lack of precision, flat delivery and tetchy response to occasional awkward questions pull him down.[1] The fact that his “Ronald Weaseley”-style and even more youthful ally, Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, has been praised for his puerile personal abuse of Gordon Brown in most British newspapers and on television rather than slapped down by the commentators shows where the proprietorial muscle lies. A Cameron-Icarus would not help save Tony Blair’s tottering support among rebellious Labour backbenchers. If Cameron fails, Blair will fall with him.

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The “Force” is with Cameron
HITS: 2713 | 17-06-2004, 22:36 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Politics, Analyzing

Ignoring the Harry Potter comparison, two ex-Tory MPs, Matthew Parris, now a Times columnist and Michael Brown now of The Independent both preferred a Star Wars reference when interviewed by Alistair Stewart on the ITN news channel. For them the essence of the Cameron phenomenon was that the “Force” is with him.[1] They saw the irresistible rise of Margaret Thatcher and then of Tony Blair as precedents.
On this model the “Force” is a tidal wave of media opinion which swamps any other consideration. However, both before 1979 and afterwards, Margaret Thatcher never enjoyed anything like unanimously favourable media coverage. Quite to the contrary. The media establishment, including in large parts of the Tory press, was condescending at best and dismissive at worst of the “Iron Lady.” Even eleven years in power never brought her a consensus of respect let alone admiration.[2]

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The Politics of Harry Potter
HITS: 2047 | 17-06-2004, 22:30 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing

The vogue for books and films about a vanished age of public school boy heroes, matrons and manners is the backdrop to the re-emergence of the politics of deference in Britain. After decades of dumbing down and a public school prime minister like Tony Blair who mangles his Estuary English in a desperate attempt to please the plebs, suddenly posh is the new divine right of politicians.
Although American neo-conservatives like to present themselves as representatives of commonsense man against pointy-headed elitists who oppose wars of aggression and open-cast mining, British neo-conservatives are born-again class warriors. Of course not every journalistic advocate of Cameron is an Old Etonian but that just adds to the delicious atmosphere of deference.[1]
Whereas Murdoch’s US vicar, the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Steltzer, can assure readers of the Weekly Standard that the snobs were against George Bush’s America, our own Lord Rees-Mogg – whose first venture into boosting alleged drug abusers was his immortally comic deferential interview with Mick Jagger long before Cameron was born – drew on all his arts of self-parody to explain how 22 or more family entries in Burke’s Peerage and the Dictionary of National Biography made Cameron nature’s own candidate to rule democratic even demotic Britain.[2]

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Class A Drugs are not as bad as fags
HITS: 2488 | 17-06-2004, 22:23 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing

The nearest moment to a wobble in Cameron’s effortless rise to the top came when he failed to answer questions about any drug use in his past. As a member of Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon Club in the1980s – a group which has spawned a generation of cokeheads on the one hand and neo-con politicians in Britain and the New Europe on the other - Cameron clearly expected his decision to keep his pre-political private life “private” would be accepted with deference. In fact it took a host of commentators to knock it into Britons’ heads that past use of Class A drugs are a qualification for representing the “future not the past” in post-modern Britain.
Cameron presented questions about any past drug use as unwarranted intrusions into his privacy, but that overlooks two key points. When it had suited Mr Cameron to parade his private life, for instance, the distressing disability of his young son, Ivan, he seems to have had few qualms about making political profit out of it.

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David Cameron: Comet or Icarus?
HITS: 1991 | 17-06-2004, 22:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political leaders

Is he the Tories’ Harry Potter or Wendell Willkie?

The Manufacturing of the Candidate

As Tony Blair’s power-base in Britain wobbles despite winning a third successive general election (but with only 36% of tThis Private Eye cover says it allhe popular vote) Britain’s media is hailing a bright new star in its political firmament. On 6th December, the world’s oldest political party, Britain’s Conservatives (also known as Tories) chose 39 year-old David Cameron as their leader. Until the last few weeks, “David who?” would have been the reaction of most of his fellow citizens. What a turnaround![1] Three months ago David Cameron was barely known to the British public. In September, 2005, only 4% of a BBC poll saw him as the best man to lead the Conservative Party. Even on the eve of the Tory Party Conference in October, only 13% of a nationwide poll backed Cameron. Yet after a single television focus group on BBC 2’s “Newsnight” programme, 39% of Tory activists polled suddenly put the 38-year-old Shadow Education Secretary ahead of all his rivals for the leadership of the Conservative Party.[2]

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Cyprus 2004: Curtains for the Annan Plan
HITS: 2840 | 3-06-2004, 17:38 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , Analyzing, War and peace

The Greek Cypriots said a firm 'no' to the Annan Plan in the 24th April referendum. But, will this end attempts to reunify Cyprus?
The results of the referendums on the Annan Plan[1] for reunification of the island of Cyprus, held on 24th April 2004, turned out much as expected. Voters in the south voted overwhelmingly ‘No’ while a majority in the north said ‘Yes’. As the campaign to sell the Annan Plan intensified, the international community’s former disapproval for TRNC vanished and the new ‘bad boys’ became those politicians in the south, Cyprus’s president Tassos Papadopolous in particular, who had urged his countrymen to vote no.
However, despite promises of increased aid and cooperation for the Turkish Cypriots from the US and Europe, there is limited room for manoeuvre as TRNC is an unrecognised state and there is no sign, as this report is written, of any change in its status. Similarly, it is difficult to see how the Republic of Cyprus can be effectively ‘punished’ as it is an economically successful state and now a member of the EU.

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The Referendum in Cyprus: Before, During and After
HITS: 2436 | 1-06-2004, 18:11 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , PR and human rights, Politics

The defeat of the anti-rejectionist parties in the December election led to the revival of the Annan Plan in January 2004. Although the CTP and its allies had demanded that Denktaş resign as TRNC’s main negotiator, he was kept on after consultations with Ankara. This in itself reflected divisions in society where the elder statesman still commanded popularity and respect. However, after leading the TRNC delegation in a preliminary visit to New York in February, Denktaş stepped down as final negotiations loomed, saying he could not advise acceptance of the plan as it stood.
As the parties had agreed to let the UN Secretary General ‘fill in the gaps’ in the parts of the plan where no agreement had been reached, arrangements were made for talks to be held, leaving time for a last-minute referendum to be called before the 1st May deadline on the final version of the document. At the same time, Erdogan was offered various sweeteners to reward TRNC (and Turkey) for their cooperation.

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Turkey and TRNC during elections in Cyprus 2004
HITS: 1948 | 1-06-2004, 17:59 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , Politics, Analyzing

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in November 2002, two months before the first demonstrations against Rauf Denktaş’s policies took place in TRNC. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayip Erdogan, and his new foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, are perceived to be loyal friends of the international community. They supported (albeit discreetly) the US invasion of Iraq and approved the dispatch of Turkish troops to help the coalition there, something eventually thwarted by lack of support from parliament. A solid commitment to pursue EU membership has gone in tandem with their pro-US policies.
For as long as anyone can remember, European institutions have been remorselessly critical of Turkey’s human rights record, in particular the country’s perceived over-militarization and persecution of its large Kurdish minority. The European Court of Human Rights has also penalized Turkey in numerous judgements condemning the depredations suffered by Greek Cypriots during the 1974 invasion, and awarding large sums in compensation for the loss of property.[1]

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Cyprus 2004: Parliamentary Election in TRNC
HITS: 2320 | 1-06-2004, 17:51 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Cyprus , Political science, Political leaders

BHHRG sent observers to monitor the conduct of the election itself held on 14th December 2003. As TRNC is an unrecognised state, official monitoring organizations like the OSCE as well as EU bodies were unwilling to send representatives to observe the poll. However, a group from the University of Oslo had been in TRNC for several months monitoring the campaign and a small number of German SPD MPs (including a member of Turkish Cypriot origin) attended the election itself. There were also two British observers, acknowledged supporters of TRNC.
7 parties contested the 50 seats in TRNC’s parliament. Elections are conducted by a complicated system of proportional representation which allows not only a vote for the bloc but also a preferential vote which can be for candidates from other parties. There is a 5% threshold for entry into parliament. By polling day, 141,479 electors had been registered.

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