|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 205, 00-10-23
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 205, 23 October 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA EXPRESSES REGRET OVER SHELVING OF U.S. GENOCIDE RESOLUTION...Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan said in Yerevan on 20 October that Armenia regrets the U.S. House of Representatives' decision to withdraw from its agenda a bill that recognized the 1915 killings in Ottoman Turkey of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. House speaker Dennis Hastert had cancelled a vote on the bill the previous day at the urging of U.S. President Bill Clinton, who argued that it would adversely affect U.S.-Turkish relations. Papyan said Yerevan still hopes Turkey will agree to embark on a "dialogue" on all issues that obstruct the normalization of bilateral relations. Spokesmen for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun and the Orinats Yerkir party also expressed disappointment that the bill was shelved. LF
 ...WHILE AZERBAIJAN TERMS DECISION 'CORRECT'Presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov described the U.S. House of Representatives' decision not to proceed with the vote on the genocide bill "a logical, correct, and appropriate step," according to Turan on 20 October. The Religious Board of Muslims of the Caucasus similarly issued a statement greeting the U.S. move as "restoration of fairness and banning of falsification of historical facts," the news agency reported the next day. LF
 WESTERN DONORS AGREE ON NEW AID PACKAGE FOR ARMENIAWestern donor states and international organizations pledged on 20 October to provide Armenia with up to $350 million in new loans and aid by the end of 2001, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported, quoting Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Levon Barkhudarian. The World Bank will provide some $75 million of that total. At the same time, the donors called on the Armenian government to take "more resolute action to remove constraints on private sector development and privatization, to improve the rule of law" and to develop the health, education and social services sectors. They also expressed concern at the ongoing failure to meet revenue collection targets. LF
 ARMENIAN FARMERS WARN OF IMMINENT FAMINEA coordinating council consisting of representatives of the country's farmers and of seven political parties warned on 20 October that the financial situation of many farmers is rapidly deteriorating owing to their tax burden and increasing debts, Noyan Tapan reported. Council head Sargis Sedrakian noted that Armenia does not yet have a comprehensive agrarian policy. LF
 KARABAKH CEASE-FIRE VIOLATEDTwo Azerbaijani servicemen were wounded late on 19 October near the Tazakend settlement in Aghdam Raion during shelling from Armenian positions, Azerbaijani news agencies reported the following day. LF
 TWO AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES CONCLUDE ELECTION ALLIANCEMusavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar and the leader of the "conservative" wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Mirmahmud Fattaev, signed an agreement in Baku on 20 October pledging to cooperate during the ongoing parliamentary election campaign, Turan reported. The Azerbaijan Popular Front faction, which was barred from contesting the party list seats in the 5 November ballot, will back Musavat's candidates competing under the proportional system, while Musavat will support Popular Front candidates in single-mandate constituencies. The two parties will also cooperate in monitoring the vote. LF
 CHECHEN INFILTRATORS SURRENDER TO GEORGIAN TROOPSGeorgian Interior Ministry and army troops late on 22 October surrounded a group of between 20-60 Chechen fighters who had crossed into Georgian territory from Chechnya via Ingushetia several days earlier, Caucasus Press reported. Most of the Chechens surrendered after negotiations with the Georgian side. Reuters on 22 October cited Georgian Television as reporting that the Chechens wanted to pass through Georgian territory en route to Azerbaijan or Turkey. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Grigol Katamadze on 22 October described the Chechen infiltration as "a deliberate act of sabotage," which he said could not have taken place without the connivance of Russian border guards. A spokesman for the Russian Federal Border Service rejected that accusation the same day, according to Interfax. LF
 FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER ATTACKED, WOUNDEDFormer Energy Minister Davit Zubitashvili received severe gunshot wounds in a struggle on 20 October with unidentified persons who tried to abduct him near his Tbilisi home, Caucasus Press reported. Zubitashvili is under investigation for alleged financial malpractice. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION LEADER TRADE ACCUSATIONS...Incumbent President Askar Akaev's election campaign staff issued a statement in Bishkek on 20 October accusing opposition presidential candidates of calling for the destabilization of the political situation, Interfax reported. The statement said that an appeal to the electorate by opposition candidates demanding copies of polling protocols constitutes "a breach of the election code" and could provoke "mass disturbances and violence at polling stations." Meanwhile former National Security Minister and Vice President Feliks Kulov, who was deemed ineligible to contend the poll after refusing to sit the mandatory Kyrgyz language test, appealed to law enforcement agencies not to break up election rallies or detain persons canvassing for opposition candidates. LF
 ...AS OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CHARGE DISCRIMINATIONKyrgyz opposition presidential candidates Omurbek Tekebaev and Melis Eshimkanov told journalists in Bishkek on 20 October that local authorities are doing everything in their power to prevent campaigning on behalf of any candidates other than Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 20 October, aides to opposition presidential candidate Almaz Atembaev said that Kyrgyz state radio and television and the independent television and radio station KOORT refuse to broadcast election propaganda on Atambaev's behalf. LF
 KYRGYZ INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FINEDA Bishkek district court ruled on 20 October that the independent newspaper "Asaba" must pay 5 million soms (about $105,000) in compensation to parliamentary deputy Turdakun Usubaliev for having repeatedly insulted him over a period of eight years, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. "Asaba" editor Ernis Asek Uulu said he will appeal the court ruling. LF
 KYRGYZSTAN OFFERS RUSSIA RARE METAL PLANTS IN PAYMENT OF DEBTThe Kyrgyz government has offered Moscow 23 wholly or partly state-owned firms, including plants engaged in the processing of gold and uranium, in payment of its debts, Interfax reported on 20 October, quoting State Property Fund Deputy Chairman Anatolii Makarov. Kyrgyzstan's external debt is estimated at $1.76 billion, of which $30.5 million is owed to Russia. LF
 WORLD BANK TO CONSIDER LOANS FOR TAJIKISTANWorld Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn met with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 21 October to discuss the release of the final $14.1 million tranche of a loan intended to support economic restructuring, Russian agencies reported. Linn said the World Bank will also consider in the near future making available an additional $3 million loan to alleviate the impact of this summer's severe drought. LF
 THREE DETAINED FOR ATTACK ON KOREAN RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY IN TAJIKISTANThree Tajiks have been arrested in Dushanbe in connection with the 1 October bomb attack on a Korean religious congregation, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). Seven people died and some 50 were injured in that bombing. LF
 TURKMENISTAN LAUNCHES MAJOR IRRIGATION PROJECTTurkmenistan has embarked on a $5-6 billion project to create a giant reservoir in the Karakum desert that will provide water to irrigate some 4, 000 square kilometers of land, AP and Reuters reported. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who conceived the project, has rejected as unfounded some environmentalists' fears that it could prove counter-productive. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION READY TO RELAUNCH STREET PROTESTS?Talks between supporters of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and backers of his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic, are slated to begin again in Belgrade on 23 October. Heading the agenda is the formation of a power- sharing transitional government for Serbia until the 23 December elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2000). Some of Kostunica's backers have said repeatedly in recent days that they may call for street protests once again if Milosevic's Socialists (SPS) do not quickly reach an agreement with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). Matters became more complicated on 22 October when the DOS presented the SPS with a list of an unspecified number of Milosevic loyalists whom the DOS wants out of office. Among those included on the list are security chief Rade Markovic and ranking SPS functionary Branislav Ivkovic, AP reported. PM
 KOSTUNICA WORKING ON SETTING UP YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENTKostunica began talks with Montenegrin leaders in Podgorica on 22 October about the formation of a new Yugoslav government. Among those he met with was Socialist People's Party (SNP) leader Zoran Zizic, who is widely expected to be the next Yugoslav prime minister, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Kostunica said that he will begin launch a discussion with Podgorica on the future of the legal relationship between Serbia and Montenegro once he has a government in place in Serbia, VOA's Croatian Service reported. PM
 SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC SOUGHT TO SAVE OWN SKINDOS leader Zarko Korac, whom many believe will be the next Yugoslav foreign minister, told the Zagreb weekly "Feral Tribune" that Milosevic was interested only in protecting himself and his family when he met with Kostunica on 5 October, "Danas" reported on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2000). Chief of the General Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic brought Kostunica to Milosevic's home. Korac added Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, have no future in politics. Many observers believe that Kostunica promised Milosevic that he will not be deported to The Hague in return for having peacefully given up the presidency. PM
 KOSTUNICA PAYS CONTROVERSIAL VISIT TO BOSNIA...Kostunica held talks with Bosnian Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian leaders at a meeting hastily convened by representatives of the international community at Sarajevo airport on 22 October, after he had visited the Republika Srpska. Halid Genjac, who is the Muslim representative on the joint presidency, said: "We agreed that this is the beginning of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries," AP reported. Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic, who is a moderate ethnic Croat, added that Kostunica's visit was a "good start for future relations." Kostunica, who supported hard-line Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic during the 1992-1995 conflict, said that he favors setting up diplomatic relations between Sarajevo and Belgrade. He added that "truth is not one-sided, especially when we talk about interethnic relations." Kostunica came to Bosnia for the reburial in Trebinje of a Serbian poet who died in the U.S. in 1943 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2000). Bosnian officials previously made it clear that Kostunica must meet with Bosnian government representatives during his stay lest he appear to show disrespect for Bosnian sovereignty. PM
 ...MAKES GESTURE TO KOSOVARSKostunica asked officials of the Justice Ministry to begin proceedings to pardon and free from prison ethnic Albanian human rights activist Flora Brovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 21 October. Brovina is the best-known Kosovar detainee in Serbia, along with student leader Albin Kurti. At least 700 additional Kosovars remain in Serbian jails following round-ups in 1998 and 1999. Kosovar leaders have called on Kostunica to free all of them as a gesture of good will. PM
 WILL U.S. HAVE LIMITED ROLE IN BALKANS?Condoleeza Rice, who is senior national security adviser to Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush, told "The New York Times" of 21 October that Bush would like peacekeeping in the Balkans to become a European responsibility within a "new division of labor" in NATO. She stressed that Bush wants the U.S. to concentrate on its broader obligations: "The United States is the only power that can handle a showdown in the Gulf, mount the kind of force that is needed to protect Saudi Arabia, and deter a crisis in the Taiwan Straits. Extended peacekeeping detracts from our readiness [for] these kinds of global missions." Rice added, however, that Bush will consult with European allies and not undertake "precipitous" action. PM
 GORE SUGGESTS U.S. WOULD STAY IN BOSNIA, KOSOVA UNDER HIS ADMINISTRATIONDemocratic candidate and Vice President Al Gore told Reuters by telephone on 21 October that "without U.S. participation in peacekeeping missions, we would no longer be able to continue U.S. leadership of NATO. And without U.S. leadership of NATO, the alliance would be doomed over time to collapse [and] peace in Europe may not long endure." U.S. General Wesley Clark told the news agency: "When [NATO] allies are putting in more than 80 percent of the effort [in Kosova], there is not much room for an argument about burden- sharing. If we want to be part of this, we can't do much less." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said: "To be talking about [reducing the U.S. role] right now, when Kostunica is putting together his new coalition...I think is truly dangerous.. .. We need to [concentrate and] finish the job." Terence Taylor, assistant director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that "the Balkans is the new NATO mission." PM
 CROATIA'S MESIC NOT TO GO TO SKOPJE SUMMITCroatian President Stipe Mesic will not attend the planned meeting in Skopje on 25 October of leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, and Romania, his spokeswoman told Reuters in Zagreb on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2000). The Macedonians set up the meeting so that regional leaders could discuss Balkan issues with Kostunica. Mesic's spokeswoman said, however, that "we want to have good relations with the neighbors, but the president, although willing to go, cannot make it because of his [previously scheduled] visit to Germany." Macedonia's Makfax news agency reported on 20 October that it is not clear if Albanian President Rexhep Meidani will attend the meeting. Many regional leaders recall Kostunica's nationalist past and want him to show that he has broken with greater Serbian ideas before they politically embrace him (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2000). PM
 ALBANIAN ELECTION COMMISSION CONFIRMS SOCIALIST VICTORYThe Central Election Commission said in a report on 21 October that the governing Socialists won control of 252 out of 398 towns and municipalities in the two recent rounds of local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2000). The opposition Democrats of former President Sali Berisha will govern in 118 communities, Reuters reported. Berisha claimed fraud in the first round and boycotted the second one. The ballot is widely seen as a test of political strengths in the runup to the 2001 legislative election (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 October 2000). Genc Pollo and other leaders of the Democrats' reform faction have called on Berisha to step down. PM
 OPINION POLL CONFIRMS ILIESCU, PDSR IN THE LEADAccording to an opinion poll conducted from 10-15 October, former President and Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) Chairman Ion Iliescu is in the lead ahead of the 26 November presidential election, with 47 percent backing. Iliescu is followed by independent candidate Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu (15 percent), National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Theodor Stolojan (13 percent), and Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor (11 percent). The PDSR is leading the field ahead of the parliamentary elections with 52 percent backing, followed by the PNL and the PRM (11 percent each). Thirty percent of respondents were undecided or said they will not vote. The opinion poll was conducted by three different polling institutes and has a margin of error of 1.6 percent. ZsM
 RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS MOSCOW READY TO IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH BUCHARESTIgor Ivanov said in Bucharest on 20 October that Russia is willing to improve political and economic relations with Romania, despite the two countries' failure to agree to a bilateral agreement, AP reported. Ivanov said after meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Petre Roman, that the lack of a bilateral treaty should not be an obstacle to better ties. Roman said that Bucharest's orientation toward the EU will not prevent it from improving relations with Russia. Romania refuses to sign a treaty with Russia until Moscow returns the treasury Romania sent to it in 1917 for safekeeping. It also wants Moscow to denounce Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, which resulted in two Romanian provinces being ceded to the former USSR. PB
 MOLDOVAN FARMERS DECRY LACK OF GOVERNMENT SUPPORT, CORRUPTIONSome 4,000 farmers rallied in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau on 21 October to demand a cut in taxes on agricultural produce, AP reported. Protest leaders also called for the removal of immunity for parliamentary deputies, judges, and prosecutors and urged that corrupt state officials be criminally charged. In other news, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi said on 20 October that he welcomes the parliament's decision to privatize two of the country's major industries: wine and tobacco. The decision will help Moldova qualify for $125 million in loans from the World Bank and the IMF, ITAR-TASS reported. PB
 BULGARIA SAYS LIBYAN HIV TRIAL MAY BE POSTPONED AGAINBulgarian Justice Minister Teodossyi Simeonov told the parliament on 20 October that the trial of six Bulgarians accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the HIV virus may be delayed once again, Reuters reported. The trial of five nurses and one doctor has already been postponed six times at the request of the defense. It is scheduled to open on 4 November. The defendants face the death penalty if convicted. Some 393 children in a Benghazi hospital were infected with HIV, and the Bulgarians have been charged, along with eight Libyans and a Palestinian, with conspiracy aimed at destabilizing Libya. PB
[C] END NOTE
 JUDGE'S DISMISSAL UNDERLINES PROBLEMS FACING RUSSIAN JUDICIARYby Sophie Lambroschini
Earlier this month, Sergei Pashin, a respected judge, was stripped of his post by Moscow's Qualification Collegium of Judges for allegedly violating legal ethics.
But it was not because of corruption--generally acknowledged to plague the Russian court system--that his peers judged Pashin unworthy of his job. Rather, he was dismissed for criticizing the sentencing of a young man to a prison term for draft-dodging, despite the constitutional right to conscientious objection, and for giving his personal telephone number during a radio show to a listener in need of legal help. Pashin has said he will appeal the dismissal.
Pashin says that the real reason he lost his post was because of his "independence," an appraisal with which human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Memorial agree. Pashin argues that as obtaining and keeping a job has grown more difficult in Russia, judges have become more subservient to their superiors. Also, he says, the reluctance of Russian authorities to push for long-promised judicial reforms adds to pressure on judges not to make just decisions but rather non-controversial ones.
Pashin told RFE/RL last week that insecure work conditions are a major factor in making judges dependent on the state. "Judges, like all of us, are very dependent on their bread and butter," he commented. "That's why the majority of decisions concerning either their own colleagues or other citizens are linked to a fear of arguing with the boss, a [fear] of being [punished for that]."
Pashin said he has been offered up to $20,000 in bribes for a desired verdict. Nonetheless, he hesitates to charge judges in general with taking bribes. Rather, Pashin believes that indirect financial pressure on judges is more important in corrupting them.
The Russian press has frequently reported that as real wages have declined in recent years, governors have regularly been paying judges so-called "extras" out of their regional budgets. According to those reports, until last year Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov paid judges regular bonuses. Ostensibly, they were given to supplement the judges' low federal wages-- $100-200 a month. But as long as Luzhkov was providing the bonuses, he did not lose a single case he brought against newspapers that criticized him. Last fall, the Kremlin publicly criticized Luzhkov for this practice and pledged to end political influence over the courts in the regions.
According to Pashin, judges are themselves rated by the number of "acceptable" rather than legally correct decisions they make. That helps explain the extreme harshness of Russian courts' decisions today, he added. Acquittals are rendered in less than 1 percent of cases, a proportion even lower than the acquittal rate under Stalin.
In principle, such problems should have been ironed out as early as 1992, when then President Boris Yeltsin ordered a sweeping series of new laws and codes to provide a transition from the Soviet court system to a democratic Russian one. Pashin was one of the main authors of the reform, which included introducing a status for judges that guaranteed their independence and the institution of jury trials and administrative courts separate from criminal ones.
Some of the reforms were at least partially implemented, such as the publication of a new penal code. Jury trials were set up on an experimental basis in nine of Russia's 89 regions. But then the reforms stalled.
There have since been a few cases of judicial independence, notably the acquittal of environmentalist Alexander Nikitin by a Saint Petersburg court, which was twice upheld by Russia's Supreme court, despite heavy government pressure. But on the whole, as Supreme Court president Vyacheslav Lebedev told the daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" earlier this month, overworked and underpaid judges simply are unable to "fulfill their potential in defending peoples rights."
A number of studies have shown that the perceived arbitrariness of Russian courts is a major reason why potential foreign--and domestic--investors are wary of putting money into the country. It is also undoubtedly one reason why President Vladimir Putin made the transformation of the judiciary one of the main points of the reform plan he revealed after his election in the spring.
The State Duma has also pledged new efforts in this direction. Several months ago, lawmakers adopted some important amendments to judicial laws. And a new penal procedure code is expected to be adopted by the end of the year, replacing the 40-year-old Soviet document still in effect.
Viktor Pokhmelkin, a member of the Duma's legislation committee, puts most of the blame for the stalled reforms on the previous legislature, in which, he noted, the communist-dominated legislation committee blocked many bills. Pokhmelkin says that today's Russian government supports key legal reforms.
The Union of Right Forces, of which Pokhmelkin is member, is insisting that the budget contain "a special paragraph for judicial-legal reform in addition to the existing financing of the courts," he said. "We consider that additional, and large, sums of money should be allotted to intensify and speed up judicial reform. In general, [the government] supports this proposal...but there is some disagreement on the sums that should be allotted for these aims."
But Pashin harbors strong doubts about the Kremlin's dedication to overhauling the legal system. He says the government's financial decisions so far show that legal reform is far from being a priority, adding that "I would suppose that the military actions in Chechnya cost the equivalent of dozens of judicial reforms."
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Moscow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty