UKRAINE: Politically biased election observation in Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics

Executive summary

 

EPDE (13.11.2018) – https://bit.ly/2JZ0Vxf – As the holding of “general elections” in the internationally non-recognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) ran counter to the Minsk agreements, the international community considered them as illegitimate and did not send any observers to monitor them.

 

Aiming to fill the void of legitimacy, the “authorities” of the DPR and LPR claimed to have invited 48 and 45 “international observers” respectively from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kongo, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Turkey, USA and Yemen, as well as from “Abkhazia”, “Palestine” and “South Ossetia”.

 

We have identified 38 “observers” in the case of the DPR and 43 – in the case of the LPR. Out of the identified individuals, around half of them were politicians and state officials. Other “observers” were predominantly businessmen, students, journalists, and far-right and far-left activists and conspiracy theorists. None of the observers were transparent about the methodology they employed for observing the election processes and, therefore, did not comply with the “Code of Conduct for international Election Observers” endorsed by all relevant international election observation organisations, including ODIHR/OSCE.

 

The overwhelming majority of non-Russian “international observers” have already been involved in various pro-Kremlin efforts that include, but are not limited to: (1) previous participation in politically biased and/or illegitimate electoral monitoring missions in Russia and elsewhere; (2) legitimisation and justification of Russia’s actions directed at undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; (3) criticism of the sanctions imposed on Russia in relation to its aggression towards Ukraine; (4) cooperation with the Russian state-controlled instruments of disinformation and propaganda (RT, Sputnik); (5) membership in pro-Kremlin movements, groups and organisations.

 

“International observers” were highly visible in the media space of the DPR and LPR: more than one-third of all news stories published on the voting day mentioned “international observers”.

 

“International observers” were invited to the DPR and LPR in order to provide a sense of general legitimacy and normalcy to the “elections” in the eyes of the domestic and Russian audiences.

 

Aiming to provide legitimacy to the otherwise illegitimate “elections”, the media of the DPR, LPR and Russia disinformed their audiences about the real international perception of the “general elections”, as well as promoting the following five major narratives: (1) the “elections” did not run counter to the Minsk agreements, and, therefore, were legitimate; (2) the “elections” were characterised by a high turnout and active participation; (3) the “elections” took place in a calm and orderly manner; (4) the life in the DPR and LPR is safe and peaceful; and (5) the international community should recognise the “elections”, as well as independence and sovereignty of the DPR and LPR.

 

Click here for the full report.

 

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EUROPEAN COURT/GERMANY: Freedom of expression and abortion

Freedom of expression does not give the right to label abortions performed by designated doctors “aggravated murder”

 

Registrar of the European Court (20.09.2018) – https://bit.ly/2zCSIdu – In today’s Chamber judgments1 in the cases of Annen v. Germany (nos. 2 to 5) (application nos. 3682/10, 3687/10, 9765/10 and 70693/11) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

 

no violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

The cases concerned a series of complaints by an anti-abortion activist, Klaus Günter Annen, over civil court injunctions on various actions he had taken as part of an anti-abortion campaign. The plaintiffs in the domestic proceedings were four doctors who performed abortions.

 

The Court held in particular that the injunctions had interfered with Mr Annen’s freedom of expression, but had been necessary in a democratic society. When examining whether there had been a need for such interferences in the interests of the “protection of the reputation or rights of others”, namely of the doctors, the Court’s role was only to ascertain whether the domestic courts had struck a fair balance when protecting the freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 and the right to respect for private life protected by Article 8 of the Convention.

 

In sum, the Court considered that the injunctions had not been disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and that the reasons given by the domestic courts had been relevant and sufficient. It pointed out that the domestic authorities had carried out a detailed analysis of the leaflets and webpage set up by Mr Annen and that the accusations by Mr Annen against the various abortion doctors had not only been very serious but might also have incited hatred and aggression. In this regard, the Court found the domestic courts’ conclusion acceptable that Mr Annen’s statements, in particular by using the term “aggravated murder”, could be understood as personalised accusations against the doctors of having perpetrated the criminal offence of aggravated murder.

 

 

 

Principal facts

 

The applicant, Klaus Günter Annen, is a German national who was born in 1951 and lives in Weinheim (Germany). The domestic courts issued four civil injunctions against Mr Annen, prohibiting particular aspects of his anti-abortion campaign.

 

In the first case (application no. 3682/10) Mr Annen was ordered to refrain from referring on his webpage to abortions performed by a doctor, Dr Q., as “aggravated murder” and comparing them with the Holocaust.

 

While the first-instance court in May 2006 rejected Dr Q’s application on the grounds that it was a fact that Dr Q. performed abortions and that the remainder of the website’s content was covered by Mr Annen’s freedom of expression, the Karlsruhe Court of Appeal granted an injunction in February 2007 after Dr Q. appealed. It pointed out that Mr Annen had insinuated, by using the term “aggravated murder” on the website, that Dr Q. had committed criminal offences and had compared abortions with the Holocaust. Furthermore, he had not referred to section 218a of the Criminal Code which exempted abortions as performed by Dr Q. from criminal liability. In sum, it was possible to interpret his statements as a personal accusation against Dr Q. of perpetrating aggravated murder.

 

At the origin of the second case (application no. 3687/10) was a public statement on a leaflet by Mr Annen that another doctor, Dr. S., had performed unlawful abortions in his practice, outside of which Mr Annen had also distributed various leaflets in November/December 2004 and in September 2005. They contained statements such as “Near you: unlawful abortions … and you are silent about the aggravated murder of our children?”

 

Subsequently, Dr. S. made a request for a civil injunction which was granted by the Karlsruhe Regional Court on 4 November 2005. It held that the statements had a “pillory effect” and amounted to a serious interference with Dr S.’s personality rights, which was not justified by Mr Annen’s freedom of expression. The court underlined that Mr Annen had singled out Dr S. by mentioning him by name and distributing the leaflets in the vicinity of his practice, that he had implied that Dr S. had committed the criminal offence of aggravated murder and that he had associated Dr S. with the Holocaust.

 

Both parties appealed. In February 2007 the Karlsruhe Court of Appeal confirmed the reasoning of the Regional Court and held that the wording of Mr Annen’s statements showed that he had described the abortions performed by Dr S. as aggravated murder, which could not be tolerated. It reiterated that by singling out Dr S., Mr Annen had created an unacceptable “pillory effect”. In that regard, the court noted that Dr S. had not been involved in the public debate about abortions in any way. Since Mr Annen had not clarified that he had only been criticising abortions, which according to the case-law of the Federal Constitutional Court were unlawful but not subject to criminal liability, he had exceeded the limits of justifiable criticism.

 

In the third case (application no. 9765/10) the application for an injunction was lodged by Dr St. because Mr Annen had approached passers-by and possible patients in the vicinity of Dr St.’s medical practice in April 2005, while distributing leaflets. The leaflets had stated that the abortions performed by Dr St. were unlawful and compared them with the Holocaust.

 

The injunction was granted in October 2005 by the Mannheim Regional Court whose decision was upheld by the Karlsruhe Court of Appeal in February 2007. Both courts referred to a previous decision of the Federal Court of Justice in which it had confirmed a civil injunction against similar conduct by Mr Annen. Mr Annen had attacked Dr St.’s legal professional activities by implying that he had committed criminal acts and had interfered with the relationship of trust between doctor and patient. The injunction order was justified in view of the massive “pillory effect” he had created by singling out Dr St. and criticising him in a harsh way in the immediate vicinity of his practice.

 

The fourth case (application no. 70693/11) dealt with a civil injunction and an order to pay damages against Mr Annen because of statements which he had made on an anti-abortion website. The website had implied that abortions amounted to aggravated murder, compared doctors performing abortions to concentration camp commanders and in general had equated abortions with the Holocaust. A link on the website directed readers to a list of doctors who performed abortions, mentioning, among others, Dr F., the plaintiff in this case.

 

The complaints by Mr Annen against the injunctions in all four cases were ultimately dismissed by the Federal Constitutional Court.

 

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

 

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression) Mr Annen complained that the injunctions had interfered with his freedom of expression, without being justified by the protection of the doctors’ personality rights. His website and leaflets contributed to a public debate and he had not personally accused the doctors of perpetrating aggravated murder; rather he had criticised the legal framework in Germany regarding abortions.

 

The applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 15 January 2010, 8 February 2010 and 26 October 2011.

 

The judgments were given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

 

Yonko Grozev (Bulgaria), President,

 

Angelika Nußberger (Germany),

 

André Potocki (France),

 

Síofra O’Leary (Ireland),

 

Mārtiņš Mits (Latvia),

 

Lәtif Hüseynov (Azerbaijan),

 

Lado Chanturia (Georgia),

 

and also Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar.

Decision of the Court

Article 10

 

The Court underlined that its task under Article 10 was to look at the interference complained of in the light of the case as a whole and determine whether it had been “proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued” and whether the reasons adduced by the national authorities to justify it had been “relevant and sufficient”. Where a balancing exercise had been undertaken by the national authorities in conformity with the Court’s case-law, the Court would require strong reasons to substitute its view for that of the domestic courts.

 

Turning to the first case (application no. 3682/10), the Court accepted the domestic Court of Appeal’s conclusion that Mr Annen’s statements had been ambiguous and could be understood as an accusation that Dr Q. had perpetrated the criminal offence of aggravated murder. Distinguishing the present case from the case of its previous judgment Annen v. Germany (no. 3690/10, 26 November 2015), it noted that Mr Annen had not provided the additional information that the abortions performed by Dr Q. had not been subject to criminal liability. Furthermore, there had been no factual foundation for the very serious criminal allegations made by Mr Annen. Lastly, the Court observed that Mr Annen had not been ordered to pay damages or convicted but had only had to refrain from calling the abortions “aggravated murder”.

 

Having regard to the second case (application no. 3687/10), the Court agreed with the domestic courts observations that while – strictly speaking – calling abortions unlawful was correct, the statement by Mr Annen read in conjunction with the rest of the leaflet could be understood as an allegation that Dr S.’s professional activities constituted aggravated murder. It had to be noted that in this case too Mr Annen’s accusations against Dr S. were very serious and that he, nonetheless, was not per se prohibited from campaigning against abortions or criticising doctors that performed abortions. Since the domestic courts had thoroughly discussed various possibilities of interpreting the statements in light of the freedom of expression, the Court found no violation of Article 10.

 

In the third case (application no. 9765/10) the Court firstly agreed with the domestic court’s finding that the applicant had vilified Dr St. by implying that he had committed criminal acts. It secondly observed that Mr Annen had singled out Dr St. from all the doctors that had performed abortions and had thereby created a “pillory effect”. Even though Dr St. had been involved in various legal disputes in the past, the domestic courts had concluded that this did not have any substantial effects on Dr St.`s profile and could not redound to his disadvantage. Having regard to their direct contact with their societies, the Court found that it was primarily for the domestic courts to assess how well-known a person was. In conclusion, the Court saw no reason to call the domestic courts’ reasoning into question. It thirdly held that Mr Annen’s “pavement counselling” had severely disrupted the relationship of trust between Dr St. and his patients.

 

Lastly, since Mr Annen had not been convicted for slander or ordered to pay damages, the Court held that the level of interference with his freedom of expression had been relatively low and had been “proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued”. Therefore, in the Court’s view, the national courts had thoroughly assessed the conflicting interests by referring to the previous judgment of the Federal Court of Justice and considering the factual and legal differences of the cases.

 

The Court also found no violation of Article 10 of the Convention in the fourth case (application no. 70693/11). It found that there was not a sufficient factual basis for calling abortions as performed by Dr F. “aggravated murder”. Furthermore, distinguishing the present case from the case of its previous judgment Annen v. Germany (no. 3690/10, 26 November 2015), the Court observed that Mr Annen had equated the medical activities of Dr F. with the unjustifiable atrocities inflicted on Jews under the Nazi regime and had even stated that “Equating the Babycaust with the Holocaust would mean relativising today’s abortion murders”. These accusations were very serious and had severely undermined Dr F.’s reputation. Based on the national courts’ detailed reasoning, the Court considered therefore that both the injunction and the order to pay damages against Mr Annen had not fallen outside their margin of appreciation and had not been disproportionate. Accordingly, there had been no violation of Article 10 of the Convention in any of the four cases.

 

 

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EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Joint motion for a resolution on the rise in neo-fascist violence in Europe (2018/2869(RSP))

On 25 October, the European Parliament adopted a strong and comprehensive resolution on the rise of neo-fascist violence in Europe and more broadly racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. The first time such a resolution has been adopted since 1999 and it is an important position of the parliament ahead of the EU election.


The European Parliament,

 

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 

– having regard to the report of 9 May 2017 by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,

 

– having regard to UN General Assembly Resolution 71/179 of 19 December 2016 on ‘Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’,

 

– having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 14 thereof and Protocol No 12 thereto,

 

– having regard to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,

 

– having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

 

– having regard to Articles 2, 3, 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

 

– having regard to Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000(1) prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race and ethnic origin (the Race Equality Directive),

 

– having regard to Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law(2),

 

– having regard to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime(3),

 

– having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1141/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations(4),

 

– having regard to the establishment in June 2016 of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance,

 

– having regard to the Council of Europe resolution of 30 September 2014 on counteraction to manifestations of neoNazism and right-wing extremism,

 

– having regard to the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation,

 

– having regard to the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online,

 

– having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

 

A. whereas as enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU, the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities; whereas these values are common to all Member States;

 

B. whereas the lack of serious action against neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups has enabled the occurrence of the current xenophobic surge in Europe;

 

C. whereas openly neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist and xenophobic groups and political parties have been inciting hatred and violence in society, reminding us of what they were capable of doing in the past;

 

D. whereas the dissemination of hate speech online often leads to a rise in violence, including by neo-fascist groups;

 

E. whereas neo-fascist groups have taken the lives of thousands of people of all kinds, such as refugees and immigrants, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQI people, human rights defenders, activists, politicians and members of the police force;

 

F. whereas neo-fascist groups use and abuse our democratic tools to spread hate and violence;

 

G. whereas, as reported by Europol, the EU Security Commissioner Sir Julian King, speaking at an event on 22 March 2017 to commemorate the 2016 Brussels attacks, highlighted the growing menace of right-wing violent extremism, stating that he was not aware of a single EU Member State that is not affected by the phenomenon in some way, specifically citing the 2011 Norway attacks, the assassination of British MP Jo Cox, and attacks on asylum centres and mosques across Europe to highlight what he warned was a ‘less reported’ threat to security; whereas neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups manifest themselves in a variety of forms; whereas most of these groups exclude certain individuals or groups from society; whereas these organisations often use aggressive language towards minority groups and seek to justify their doing so by invoking the principle of freedom of speech; whereas the right to freedom of speech is not absolute;

 

H. whereas Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that nothing in the declaration ‘may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms’ set forth therein;

 

I. whereas the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination affirms that its States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organisations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin;

 

J. whereas the promotion of fascism is banned in several Member States pursuant to their national laws;

 

K. whereas the TESAT 2018 Europol report recorded a near doubling in the number of individuals arrested for right-wing extremist offences in 2017;

 

L. whereas on 22 July 2011, 77 people were killed and 151 injured in the Norway attacks;

 

M. whereas on 16 June 2016 Jo Cox, Member of the UK Parliament, was brutally murdered in Birstall, UK;

 

N. whereas according to the TESAT 2018 Europol report, five foiled, failed or completed terrorist attacks attributed to farright individuals were reported in 2017(5) in the United Kingdom;

 

O. whereas on 21 September 2018 Eleonora Forenza, MEP, and her assistant Antonio Perillo were assaulted after an antifascist demonstration in Bari, Italy;

 

P. whereas the French intelligence service has expressed concern at the increasing number of members of military and law enforcement forces joining far-right violent groups(6);

 

Q. whereas the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), established by the Council of Europe, expressed alarm over the rise of right-wing extremism and neo-fascism in Croatia in a report published on 15 May 2018(7);

 

R. whereas in Poland, during November 2017 manifestation, pictures of six Members of the European Parliament, who stood up for tolerance, rule of law and other European values, were strung from a makeshift gallows in a public square in the southern city of Katowice by the members of the far-right Polish movement – ONR (National Radical Camp); the investigation is still ongoing, but no charges were brought so far against any of suspects, even though the event was reported in numerous media, including video footage;

 

R a. whereas in November 2017 to mark Poland’s independence day, far-right organizations organized a large manifestation in Warsaw, gathering more than 60,000 people; the demonstrators were holding xenophobic banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations”, including the ones depicting “falanga” a fascist symbol from the 1930s;

 

R b. whereas the trial of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, on charges of being a criminal organisation and of the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, among other crimes, including attempted murder, is still ongoing in Greece; whereas on 21 September 2018 LGBTQI activist Zak Kostopoulos was brutally assassinated in the centre of Athens; whereas one of the accused is allegedly related to extreme-right forces; whereas a full investigation is needed so that those responsible for his death and ill treatment be brought to justice,

 

R c . whereas an Italian man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for shooting and wounding six African migrants in a racially motivated attack in the central Italian city of Macerata;

 

R d. whereas seven members of a far-right ‘vigilante’ group arrested in Chemnitz in mid-September 2018 for breaching the peace were recently arraigned on suspicion of forming a terrorist organisation calling itself Revolution Chemnitz; whereas according to federal state prosecutors, investigators had upgraded the charges from criminal to terrorist after reviewing the group’s internal communications;

 

R e. whereas in France on 7 December 2017 five members of the movement Generation Identitaire were convicted of incitement to racial and religious hatred ; whereas individuals linked to far-right groups, including Action Française, were planning a terrorist attack against a number of French politicians and mosques during the 2017 presidential elections; whereas on 24 June 2018, 10 members of the far-right group Action des Forces Opérationnelles (AFO) were arrested for planning a series of attacks targeting members of the Muslim community ; whereas on 14 September 2018, two ex skin-heads were found guilty of the murder of Clément Méric, a young student and antifascist activist killed in June 2013;

 

R f. whereas in Spain 12 members of the neo-Nazi organisation Hogar Social Madrid are currently being investigated for incitement to hatred; whereas members of the Spanish fascist groups Falange, Alianza Nacional and Democracia Nacional were arrested and convicted by the Supreme Court in Spain after attacking the Blanquerna Cultural Centre in Madrid during the celebrations of Catalonia’s National Day in 2013; whereas in 2016 the anti-racist NGO SOS Racismo documented 309 cases of xenophobic violence ; whereas the president of this organisation received death threats after reporting these cases and has condemned the lack of effective mechanisms to denounce these crimes;

 

R g. whereas 19 people have been accused by the Francisco Franco Foundation, an entity that glorifies a dictatorship and its crimes, and the Franco family of several offences that could amount to 13 years of prison after carrying out a peaceful and symbolic action which involved unfurling two large banners from the Pazo de Meirás manor house calling on the public authorities to intervene to reclaim this property for the Galician people;

 

R h. whereas the Spanish Congress adopted a motion to move Francisco Franco from his tomb at the war memorial known as the Valley of the Fallen, a place of pilgrimage for the far right; whereas all remaining symbols or monuments exalting the military uprising, the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship should effectively be removed and that those that cannot be removed be subject to the necessary contextualisation and reinterpretation, in order that they may contribute to public awareness and remembrance of the past;

 

R h. whereas neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) regularly stages rallies throughout Scandinavia, chanting slogans and waving the organisation’s green-and-white flags; whereas several members of NMR have been convicted for violent attacks on civilians and the police; whereas the numerous arson attacks against refugees reception centres led the Swedish Government in 2015 to hide the location of buildings earmarked for housing refugees;

 

R i. whereas every year on 16 March thousands of people gather in Riga for Latvian Legion Day to honour Latvians who served in the Waffen-SS;

 

R j. whereas since the beginning of 2018 C14 and other far-right groups in Ukraine such as the Azov-affiliated National Militia, Right Sector, Karpatska Sich and others have attacked Roma groups several times, as well as anti-fascist demonstrations, city council meetings, an event hosted by Amnesty International, art exhibitions, LGBTQI events, women’s rights and environmental activists;

 

  1. Strongly condemns and deplores the terrorist attacks, murders, psychological violence, violent physical attacks and marches by neo-fascist and neo-Nazi organisations that have taken place in various EU Member States;

 

  1. Is deeply concerned at the increasing normalisation of fascism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance in the European Union, and is troubled by reports in some Member States of collusion between political leaders, political parties and law enforcement with neo-fascists and neo-Nazis;

 

  1. Is especially worried about the neo-fascist violence affecting society as a whole and targeting particular minorities such as black Europeans/people of African descent, Jews, Muslims, Roma, third-country nationals, LGBTI people and persons with disabilities;

 

  1. Strongly condemns all violent attacks by neo-fascist groups against politicians and members of political parties as reported in some Member States, and in particular the recent attack by CasaPound fascist squads against Eleonora Forenza, MEP, her assistant Antonio Perillo and others who took part in an anti-fascist demonstration on 21 September 2018 in Bari, Italy;

 

  1. Is deeply concerned by the impunity with which neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups operate in some Member States and stresses that this sense of impunity is among the reasons that explain the alarming rise in violent actions by certain far-right organisations;

 

  1. Acknowledges the worrying trend of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups using social media and the internet to organise and strategise across the European Union;

 

  1. Deplores the fact that in some Member States public broadcasting has become an example of single political party propaganda, which often excludes opposition and minority groups from society and even incites violence;

 

  1. Recalls that the fascist ideology and intolerance are always associated with an attack on democracy itself;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to strongly condemn and sanction hate crime, hate speech and scapegoating by politicians and public officials at all levels and on all types of media, as they directly normalise and reinforce hatred and violence in society;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to take further measures to prevent, condemn and counter hate speech and hate crime;

 

  1. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and social media companies to counteract the spread of racism, fascism and xenophobia on the internet, in cooperation with the relevant civil society organisations at a national and international level;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and to share best practices for identifying and investigating hate crimes, including those motivated specifically by the various forms of xenophobia;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to envisage and provide for adequate support for the victims of racist or xenophobic crimes and hate crimes, and the protection of all witnesses against the perpetrators;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to set up anti-hate crime units in police forces; calls on police forces to ensure that their personnel do not engage in any form of racist, xenophobic or discriminatory act, and that any such act committed is investigated and those responsible brought to justice;

 

  1. Calls on the Commission to launch a call for civil society organisations to monitor and report hate speech and hate crime in the Member States;

 

  1. Supports, commends and calls for the protection of community groups and civil society organisations that fight against fascism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance;

 

  1. Calls for consolidated EU anti-discrimination legislation, including the transposition/implementation of existing legislation and the passing of new legislation, including the Equal Treatment Directive;

 

  1. Recalls that Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, the implementation deadline for which was November 2010, provides for a legal base for imposing penalties on legal persons publicly inciting violence or hatred against a minority group, such as exclusion from public benefits, disqualification from commercial activities, placement under judicial supervision or the issuance of a winding-up order;

 

  1. Urges the Commission to update its 2014 report on the implementation of the aforementioned Council Framework Decision, and to initiate infringement proceedings against those Member States that have not complied with the provisions of the Decision;

 

  1. Urges the Member States to safeguard their compliance with the provisions of the Council Framework Decision, to counter organisations spreading hate speech and violence in public spaces and online and to effectively ban neofascist and neo-Nazi groups and any other foundation or association that exalts and glorifies Nazism and fascism, while respecting domestic legal order and jurisdiction;

 

  1. Calls for full and timely cooperation between law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the judiciary and civil society organisations in the fight against fascism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to follow the Council of Europe’s recommendations on counteracting manifestations of neoNazism and right-wing extremism;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to provide mandatory, human rights-based and service-oriented in-service training to law enforcement officers and officials in the judicial system at all levels;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to focus on prevention through education, awareness-raising and the exchange of best practices;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States and national sports federations, in particular football clubs, to counteract the scourge of racism, fascism and xenophobia in stadiums and in the sports culture by condemning and punishing those responsible and by promoting positive educational activities targeting young fans, in cooperation with schools and the relevant civil society organisations;

 

  1. Encourages the Member States to provide training to those working in public broadcasting and the media to raise their awareness about the challenges and discrimination faced by the victims of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to put in place national ‘exit programmes’ to help individuals to leave violent neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups; underlines that such programmes should go far beyond one-to-one interventions and should involve long-term support for those struggling to find jobs, relocate and develop new and safe social networks;

 

  1. Emphasises that an awareness of history is one of the preconditions for preventing such crimes from occurring in the future and plays an important role in educating the younger generations;

 

  1. Calls on the Member States to condemn and counteract all forms of Holocaust denial, including the trivialisation and minimalisation of the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators; points out that the truth about the Holocaust must not be trivialised by political and media discourses;
  2. Calls for a common culture of remembrance that rejects the fascist crimes of the past; is deeply worried that the younger generations in Europe and elsewhere feel less and less concerned about the history of fascism, and hence risk becoming indifferent to new threats;

 

  1. Encourages the Member States to promote education through mainstream culture on the diversity of our society and on our common history, including the atrocities of World War II, such as the Holocaust, and the systematic dehumanisation of its victims over a number of years;

 

  1. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations.


(1) OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, p. 22.

(2) OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, p. 55.

(3) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 57.

(4) OJ L 317, 4.11.2014, p. 1.

(5) https://www.europol.europa.eu/activities-services/main-reports/european-union-terrorismsituation-and-trend-report-2018-tesat-2018

(6) https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/090418/forces-de-l-ordre-liees-l-ultra-droiteviolente-la-dgsi-s-inquiete?onglet=full

(7) https://rm.coe.int/fifth-report-on-croatia/16808b57be

 

 

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NORTH KOREA: Why do North Koreans workers choose to be exploited by their own state abroad?

Paper presented on the occasion of the screening of “Dollar Heroes” at the European Parliament on 9 October(*)


By Eun Kyoung Kwon, Director of Open North Korea and Secretary General of ICNK

 

HRWF (29.10.2018) – Over 100,000 citizens of the DPRK work in about 40 countries around the world including: Mongolia, Russia, Poland, Kuwait as well as China. Cumulatively, these workers earn approximately 900 million dollars a year.

 

North Korean overseas workers have to submit 70% to 95% of their earnings to the authorities in the form of ‘state-assigned earnings’ or a ‘state fee.’ They work over 8 hours a day, sometimes up to 20 hours according to former North Korean overseas workers.

 

Why do such many North Koreans come to work in foreign countries despite the fact that around 90% of their salaries will be confiscated by the state? In order to find this answer, we must investigate the system of forced labor in the DPRK.

 

There is a law in North Korea which punishes the unemployed.  Article 90 of the Administrative Punishment Law states that “those who do not take a job at a company where they have been dispatched to within 6 months, without fair reason, or those who do not report for duty at a company for over a month, will be sentenced to up to three months of forced labor in a labor-training camp (rodong dallyeondae). In serious cases, culprits may be sentenced to longer than three months.”

 

The North Korean economic system is, as everybody knows, a state-planned economy where enterprises, factories, and other workplaces must operate in accordance with the state economic plan, regardless of their realistic capacity. The salary system is also included in the state plan.

 

In fact, the state-designated monthly wage for most employees is around 2,000 North Korean won, only enough to purchase 500 grams of rice. Therefore, many North Korean people go to their workplaces not to earn a living but to avoid punishment for the crime of unemployment. No North Korean expects to receive a living wage from their company. Perversely, North Korean companies extort money and resources from their employees. It is how and why the companies exist.

 

Let’s imagine how the North Korean people survive with 2,000 won of monthly wage, which is equivalent to 500 grams of rice. The solution used to be the food distribution system, but now it is markets. Through producing, selling, and circulating goods privately in markets, a North Korean can earn a living wage. However, to work in markets, one must escape from duties at their assigned workplace. In order to avoid the punishment for unemployment, market operators pay monthly bribes to their employers. The amount of bribe is at over score times their monthly wage. About 30% of company employees pay bribes in order to attend to their private businesses.

 

These days, markets are home to thriving private businesses such as transportation, distribution, manufacturing and various other companies. But, working for these private businesses is not fully authorized as an official occupation in North Korea.

 

Many state-run enterprises and factories don’t operate efficiently enough to make a profit, however, their role is to supervise and control employees’ political beliefs. This is conducted through weekly self-criticism meetings and more than three times of political lectures for a month organized by the Workers Party committee. If an employee wants to skip such political activities, they must offer over 100,000 won per month in bribes to the company.

 

In addition, all workplaces are required to provide labor and resources for national construction projects. When a state-planned construction project is undertaken, employees of factories and enterprises across the country will be mobilized to provide labor for the project.

 

Laborers are mobilized for constructions through a systemized rotation process in a company. However, if you offer over 400,000 North Korean won a year, you can avoid the mobilization. The monthly salary is around 2,000 won.

 

Therefore, it is poorer employees who are most likely to be mobilized for national construction projects. For the duration of the project, they will continue to receive insignificant remuneration from their companies but, more damagingly, be deprived of the opportunity to earn money through market activities for the entire duration of the construction project. There is no additional compensation.

 

In terms of resources for the construction, enterprises have to provide most of the construction materials, with the authorities only supplying cement, sand, and gasoline. The remaining necessary materials are the responsibility of the local employees to provide.

 

Since Chairman Kim Jong Un took office, the state has been actively pursuing construction projects. In Pyongyang, they built Scientists Street, Changkwang Street, and Ryeomyung Street and, in the northern city of Hyesan and Chongjin, new apartment complexes, and a few tourist resorts in a coastal city. For these projects, authorities do not appropriate a budget for labor and most construction materials, as they are the responsibility of enterprises and their employees.

 

There is another forced labor system, which is used also for major national construction projects and can be considered a contemporary form of a slavery. It is the permanent dolgyeokdae, a shock brigade or a military-style construction youth brigade. It is set up as a supplementary military service, but designed for meeting the labor needs of national construction projects.

 

The structure and management of this dolgyeokdae brigade are almost the same as that of the People’s Army. The dolgyeokdae is a formal alternative to military service, with a service period of seven years, as opposed to 10 year service period for the army.

 

Technically, members of dolgyeokdae receive a salary, though it is around one third of normal workers’ salaries. However, of the 30 former dolgyeokdae members I have met in South Korea, none received salaries during their service, for almost ten years.

 

Due to the dire working situation and high intensity labor requirement, only the most vulnerable class of people are dispatched to dolgyeokdae after their graduation from high school.

 

To summarize, a workplace of North Korean workers exists not to provide for the economic lives of employees but to extort money, resources and labor from employees and control their political lives and ideological beliefs. These are ordinary practices for North Korean workers, including those who work in foreign countries.

 

North Korean workers in foreign countries can pick up construction contracts as a second job after work and during the weekends. Experienced engineers can even leave their own workplace to work contract jobs. Like in North Korea, however, they must pay massive bribes to managers in order to leave their workplace during the daytime.

 

This system puts double or triple burden of labor on shoulders of N. Korean workers both in the country and foreign countries. To bring an end to forced labor, the North Korean government must decriminalize unemployment, recognize private businesses as a legally valid profession to allow citizens to earn a living privately, and importantly dismantle the dolgyeokdae system in the long run.

 

There is one additional point that I’d like to speak on.

 

While the money that North Koreans earn overseas makes its way into state coffers, the little money that they earn through contract jobs functions as a driving force for vitalization of markets and has a stabilizing effect on people lives.

 

I don’t expect North Koreans to return to the dire situation while operating a strict state-planned economy as they suffered until the early 1990s. We expect people’s economic activities in markets to become more vitalized and to bring comparative stability to their lives. (It is one of a few solutions for human rights improvement in the DPRK.) (As the human rights situation improves, the path for normalization of the country will become clearer.)

 

If North Korea follows through on promises of complete denuclearization, Kim Jong Un will expect economic development with much international support in near future. This support should be given for the sake of the people’s betterment and the international community must make it clear that forced labor cannot be involved in any way and that all laborers must be compensated with a fair salary and work in enhanced working conditions.

 

The 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review is coming in May next year. I hope the stakeholders and relevant officials at the EU accept my suggestions for your recommendations to the DPRK, so that North Korea can implement practical solutions to end the forced labor.

 

(*) The conference and screening of the movie “Dollar Heroes” had been organized at the European Parliament by MEP Laszlo Tokes with Human Rights Without Frontiers.

 

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BELGIUM: The 2015 migration crisis was not fueled by the war in Syria, Theo Francken says

In a book published simultaneously in French and in Dutch in September 2018, Continent Without Border[1], State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Franken criticizes the passivity and the politically correct culture of the Belgian and European leaders in the migration crisis since 2015.


Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (23.10.2018) – In summer 2015, 1,257,030 new applications for asylum were introduced in the European Union.

 

At the height of the crisis between August and December 2015, 5000 persons filed an application for asylum in Belgium but only 21.1% were introduced by Syrians: 7554 out of 35 776[2].

 

The other asylum-seekers were Afghans and Iraqis that traffickers in human beings had convinced that EU countries would provide them housing, cash and facilities for family reunification, according to Francken. The reason behind the massive wave of emigration of Baghdadis was not the (non-existent) war waged by ISIS troops in the capital city of Iraq but prospects of a better economic future. The salaries of the public servants had just been dramatically reduced because of the fall of the oil price and because Turkey had liberalized the visa regime concerning the Iraqi citizens.

 

In September 2015, 2662 migrants from Baghdad filed an application for asylum in Brussels. An information campaign targeting Facebook profiles of young Iraqis finally erased the image of Belgium as a “Promised Land” and contributed to the reduction of this immigration wave from Iraq.

 

While the Western media were presenting the asylum-seekers as “Syrian war refugees”, State Secretary Theo Francken stresses that the migration crisis only broke out four years after the war was raging in Syria, that less than 1/3 of the persons entering Europe without visa claimed to be Syrian (but not all were) and most of the (really Syrian) asylum seekers were not coming directly from Syria but from UNHCHR refugee camps or in big cities of Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan where they had been living for years.

 

It was therefore obvious that Europe was not facing a crisis of Syrian refugees but was confronted to the sudden rise of a broader international migration crisis that had already been proliferating for years, according to Francken. In 2015, people from no less than 117 countries requested asylum in Belgium, that is to say 70% of non-EU countries.

 

“Few asylum seekers come from war regions and they have also travelled across many safe countries before setting foot on the European territory,” says Francken who stresses that the end of the war in Syria will not lead to the end of the migration pressure on Europe.

 

Last but not least, Francken accuses the media, Belgian politicians and EU top leaders to have spread views of the crisis that did not correspondent to the statistical realities.

 

[1] Continent sans frontière, 310 pages, Editions Jourdan

[2] https://cgra.be/sites/default/files/statistiques_asile_decembre_2015.pdf

 

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European Parliament: HRWF debate on child marriage on EU REPORTER TV

– Watch the video here:  https://youtu.be/wgOK0_XA6Vg

Panelists

Elisa Van Ruiten, a Gender Specialist at Human Rights Without Frontiers International;
Mohinder Watson, a researcher and activist against child marriage, who escaped a forced marriage of her own as a teenager;
Emilio Puccio, the Coordinator of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, which is a cross-party and cross-national group comprising over 90 MEPs and 25 child-focused organizations.

The presenter was EU Reporter’s Jim Gibbons.

“Every day somewhere in the world, 39,000 young girls are married before they reach the age of majority; more than a third of them are younger than 15, according to the Council of Europe. We may be well into the 21st century but too many girls are still forced to live in a bygone age of male dominance. Human Rights Without Frontiers has just produced a report on women’s rights and the Abrahamic faiths o Christianity, Islam and Judaism.”

EU Reporter – https://bit.ly/2CTvNPh

Next Programme about North Korea (November) –

IF YOU WANT TO BE A PARTNER OF HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS IN AN EU REPORTER TV PROGRAM OF YOUR CHOICE, SEND AN EMAIL TO

w.fautre@hrwf.org




ROMANIA: Romanians and Hungarians in Europe – Another type of dialogue

Centenary – a chance for dialogue : Presentation of MEP Tőkés László at the conference he hosted at the European Parliament on 16 October


MEP Tőkés László (17.10.2018) – Today’s conference articulates the goal and hope of a “different kind of dialogue” between Romanians and Hungarians. In order to inform our foreign guests, I would like to clarify that our event is not about the inter-state communication between Romania and Hungary. Rather it concerns the dialogue between the majority Romanians of our common country and the one and a half million Transylvanian minority Hungarians. This dialogue is absent but all the more desirable. Keeping in mind our objective to resolve the situation of our bilateral relations and the situation of Hungarians in Romania, there is an extremely important circumstance to consider, namely that our nations are part of united Europe, whose entire system is based on dialogue and whose basic treaty foresees the protection of minorities in detail. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the case of Romanian-Hungarian dialogue was put on the agenda in Brussels today – since we are asking and expecting help from the European Union and its institutions to resolve our common matters.

 

Last Friday, in the capital of Transylvania, Romania, in Kolozsvár/Cluj a similar conference took place, entitled Our centenaries. How to go on with the Romanian-Hungarian relations? Our discussion based on trust between the Romanians and the Hungarians is now the sixth in the line in creating a tradition for the mutual understanding of Romanian-Hungarian relations, which are also traditionally bad. By analogy, I could mention the French-German reconciliation, which was the basis of the establishment of the European Union at the time. Following the example of the “fathers of Europe”, in the Carpathian Basin the Hungarian-Romanian reconciliation is equally important.

 

At our meeting in Cluj, we accepted a joint statement signed by twelve remarkable Romanian and Hungarian political-public figures on each side. In our resolution published for collecting additional signatures, we made a call for co-operation between the majority Romanians and native Hungarian minority in Transylvania, knowing that the land of Transylvania has been “the field of complementarity and could become once again the model of religious and cultural pluralism for centuries”. The Romanian and Hungarian lecturers recalled that Transylvania, once an autonomous Hungarian principality, the land of religious tolerance in 1568 was the first in the world to proclaim the freedom of conscience and religion, thus preceding the whole of Europe by centuries. We are aware and are rightly proud that our Transylvanian religious and spiritual heritage has preceded the universal value system of today’s common Europe, namely: European diversity, freedom of conscience and religion, and non-discriminatory tolerance. In our meetings in Kolozsvár/Cluj and Brussels, we also stood for these fundamental Transylvanian-European values, consistently and in a constructive dialogue for mutual understanding, peaceful settlement of Romanian-Hungarian relations, together with the settlement of the oppressed Hungarians’ situation.

 

Our endeavor is extremely timely, for our country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Great Romania this year. This centenary is, however, two-faced. The Transylvanian Hungarians are mourning this year for the beginning of their seizure away from Hungary, which led to the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty. Our centenaries are therefore very ambivalent: for one of them – the Romanians – they brought overwhelming gains and for the other side – for the Hungarians – a tragic loss. This anachronistic historical contradiction is the main obstacle to convergence and dialogue of any kind.

 

In extremis, this opposition has lately gone so far that in my city Nagyvárad/Oradea, on October 12, the City Day was celebrated – exactly on the day when in 1918 the Romanian National Party of Transylvania accepted the Self-determination declaration of Romanians in Hungary, and in 1944 the Romanian troops following the Soviet invasion occupied the then predominantly Hungarian majority city. The overwhelming Romanian festivities, but also the provocative timing of Oradea’s Day itself, are also an open incitement against the Hungarian population of the city. It is a similar situation with the  Romanian National Day on the 1st of December, as in 1918 the Romanian People’s Assembly of Alba Iulia announced the disengagement of Transylvania from Hungary at the time.

 

The Transylvanian Hungarians believe that Oradea’s day and the national holiday of Romania should not be celebrated on these days, since they represent the painful loss for one and a half million Hungarians of their former country, Hungary, that they cannot be happy about. Therefore, Hungarians in Romania have in many cases demanded that the national and city holidays based on the Hungarian enemy image be changed in a way that they can become a common celebration for all the citizens of the country, both Romanians and Hungarians.

 

However, the present Romanian centenary is not only offensive and unacceptable in the symbolism of the holidays. The jubilee year of the majority Romanians is also used for the most violent anti-Hungarian attacks and official abuses. It was the climax of verbal aggression when Mihai Tudose, a former Socialist prime minister, threatened with hanging those Szekler Hungarians who dare to set their flags in public places. In Romania this year, anti-Hungarian manifestations and measures followed each other reminding directly of the anti-Hungarian Ukrainian retaliation (abolition of the Hungarian university, the re-nationalization of Hungarian properties, the imprisonment of political prisoners, etc.). The notorious President of the Romanian Academy of Sciences suggested that the mere mentioning of Hungarian autonomy be sanctioned by law in the name of Romanian national unity. Professor Gabriel Andreescu, present today, noted correctly, that „ This initiative is dangerous. By the academic call for public bodies, they want to achieve as a first step that the centenary of the Great Union become an anti-Hungarian manifestation. (…) Anti-Hungarianism was one of the strong pillars of national communism in Romania. If the founding of the Romanian statehood is celebrated in an anti-Hungarian spirit, then national communism is legitimized, with its former representatives and present followers.”

 

It is easy to admit that there is no room for dialogue under the current circumstances of the perseverance of the returning national communism and the still operating, although in a new shape, communist secret service –the notorious Securitate.

 

At the “liberating Christmas” of 1989, Romanians and Hungarians found each other in a miraculous way. Following the popular uprising in Timisoara, the road was opened for the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation. The renowned Timişoara Declaration exemplified not only the ultimate struggle against communism but also the abolition of all nationalism and the cooperation of the Romanians and the nationalities of the country in the spirit of “tolerance and mutual respect”. But this is all the past. Nearly three decades after the change of regime, the spirit of Ceauşescu continues to haunt us in our country.

 

It is not enough that during the persisting domestic political crisis, the Romanian Socialist-Liberal government parties and their opposition are completely incapable of dialogue, but the same applies to the Romanian-Hungarian relations, so that without exception the entire Romanian political class is characterized by irreparable anti-Hungarianism – now, at the centenary. Not even President Klaus Iohannis is an exception, who as a German is seeking the favors of the Romanian nationalism in a compensatory manner, being the first with regard to anti-Hungarian manifestation. The Hungarian National Council of Transylvania and the ally National Szekler Council turned to him at the beginning of this year with the initiative of starting an institutional and representative Romanian-Hungarian dialogue – but our proposal fell on deaf ears at the head of state.

 

The discriminatory anti-Hungarian Romanian politics is an integral part of the lack of Romanian rule of law, which has even led the European Parliament to put the issue on its agenda. As a whole, the post-communist Romanian political class completely lacks the political will not only to overcome systemic corruption, which is a national peculiarity, but also to settle the traditionally unresolved minority issue, alongside other anomalies. Without this, however, in the long term, the realization of peace and stability in our society can hardly be imagined.

 

The initiators and supporters of the joint Romanian-Hungarian Centenary Declaration believe that “stable borders and respect for minority rights is a prerequisite for the safety of both national communities.” Accordingly, they stand out for the long-stalling Romanian-Hungarian dialogue, and call on their compatriots and the authorities, as follows: “Honour the Centenary by rejecting nationalist incitement, avoiding conflict, and giving room for hope and construction.”

 

In the European Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels, in a symbolic and political sense, we ask for this and call for strong support from the European Union!

 

Tőkés László
Member of the European Parliament

 

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ROMANIA: Centenary of the unification of Transylvania with Romania

HRWF (17.10.2018) – On 16 October, MEP Tőkés László hosted an event at the European Parliament about the relations between the Romanians and Hungarian communities. The conference was held on the occasion of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania. On 12 October, in Kolozsvà/ Cluj, a joint declaration about the centenary was signed by 12 Romanian and 12 Hungarian prominent personalities of the two communities.

 

Joint Romanian – Hungarian Declaration

 

Many celebratory events dedicated to the Centenary of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania had anti-Hungarian overtones and worsened the series of misunderstandings between the two communities. These events started before the 1st of January 2018 and continued until the last few months. Taking into account the symbolic importance of the moment, adversarial behaviour has the potential to poison interethnic climate for many generations to come. These are the reasons why we, the signatories initiate and support the following declaration:

 

Transylvania was and may again be transformed into an area characterised by complementarity, thus becoming a model of cultural and religious pluralism. Promoting the identities and traditions peculiar to Transylvania serves both Romanians and Hungarians. The safety of both communities depends on stable frontiers and the observance of minority rights.

 

Today, there is nothing to set in opposition the interests of Romanians and Hungarians. Hungarian aspirations for cultural and territorial autonomy stem from a desire for better organisation and, hence, are beneficial to us all. Perpetuating the confusion between the concepts of autonomy and independence reflects at times certain misinterpretations, other times ill-willed manipulation.

 

Today, there is nothing to set in opposition the interests of Romania and Hungary. The leadership of the two states may or may not embody the ideals of the respective societies; and might as well proceed correctly or make mistakes regarding the issue of interethnic relations. The criticisms formulated by domestic or foreign actors and levelled against the two leaderships, respectively, should not affect the long-term relationships between the two peoples. Political leaders do change, as their accession to and ousting from power at specific moments of time is dependent on the nature of the democratic systems in which we live.

 

Hungarians living in this country are citizens of the Romanian state, having equal and inalienable rights to propose models to rebuild the common state-and-homeland. The distance they kept from the celebrations of the Centenary sheds light on a fundamental topic concerning the history of the last one hundred years, namely: what meaning does the Hungarian community attribute to the last century. Speaking on their behalf, Hungarian political leaders in Romania pointed out repeatedly that almost all Hungarians perceive this period as “100 years without fulfilments”. Nonetheless, it is rather natural to treat this year as the year of drafting the balance sheet and meeting the unfulfilled desires of the minority, since these are not in conflict with general societal interests, and allow Hungarians to feel comfortable in Romania – i.e., in their own country.

 

The Centenary of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania offers Romanians and Hungarians the opportunity to revive the ideal formulated in 1918, which is: to become – for Romanians, Hungarians and other state-forming minorities – a homeland, devoted to fulfilling the aspirations of all these communities. This goal cannot be achieved overnight; but we can transform this ideal into a project for our country in order to complete it during the next years. We call on our fellow countrymen and public authorities to honour the Centenary by rejecting nationalistic instigation and avoiding interethnic conflict, while favouring constructive behaviour and rising people’s hopes.

 

Only in this manner can the Centenary become a natural celebration of Romanian communities from all over the world as well as of the Hungarian community in Transylvania.

 

Kolozsvár/Cluj, 12 October 2018.

 

 

Signatories

 

  1. Gabriel Andreescu, activist pentru drepturile omului, politolog (R)
  2. Tőkés László, az EMNT elnöke, európai parlamenti képviselő (H)
  3. Lucian Nastasă-Kovacs, istoric de arte, director (R)
  4. Szilágy Zsolt, az Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt elnöke (H)
  5. Marius Tabacu, director, Filarmonica Transilvania (R)
  6. Bodó Barna, politológus, egyetemi tanár (H)
  7. Cristian Sandache, istoric, profesor universitar (R)
  8. Toró T. Tibor, az Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt ügyvezető elnöke (H)
  9. Radu Răileanu, coordonator, Active Watch (R)
  10. Bakk Miklós, politológus, egyetemi tanár (H)
  11. Sabin Gherman, jurnalist (R)
  12. Dávid László, egyetemi tanár, a Sapientia Erdélyi Magyar Tudományegyetem rektora (H)
  13. Ramona Băluțescu, scriitor, jurnalist (R)
  14. Péntek János, nyelvész, egyetemi tanár (H)
  15. Liviu Antonesei, professor universitar (R)
  16. Florin Mihalcea, preşedinte al Societăţii Timişoara (R)
  17. Kolumbán Gábor, a Civitas Alapítvány elnöke (H)
  18. Mircea Toma, jurnalist, activist pentru drepturile omului (R)
  19. Molnár Gusztáv, filozófus, politológus (H)
  20. Ovidiu Pecican, scriitor, istoric (R)
  21. Szilágyi Ferenc, egyetemi tanár (H)
  22. Cristian Pîrvulescu, politolog, professor universitar (R)
  23. Kincses Előd, ügyvéd (H)

 

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NORTH KOREA: Co-chairs urge President Trump to include human rights in North Korea negotiations

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (16.10.2018) – https://bit.ly/2pVi6GI – Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, wrote to President Donald Trump on the strategic importance of incorporating human rights indicators into the Administration’s ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea. To further this objective, the Co-Chairs also urged the President to appoint a Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues as provided for in the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017. The letter follows a September hearing convened by the Commission on human rights in North Korea. The full text of the letter is below.

 

The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was established in 2008 by unanimous consent in the United States House of Representatives to promote, defend and advocate for international human rights. The Commission undertakes public education activities, provides expert human rights advice and encourages Members of Congress to actively engage in human rights issues.

 

__________

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We commend your recent efforts to ensure North Korean denuclearization. A wholly denuclearized North Korea is imperative for the preservation of American safety and security and that of regional allies. To that end, the incorporation of human rights indicators into a credible, verifiable denuclearization deal with North Korea is strategic and could facilitate the long-term success of such an agreement.

 

At a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing last month, security and human rights experts testified about how to raise human rights objectives in negotiations with North Korea and incorporate them as criteria for improved relations between our two nations. North Korea’s steps to address human rights would demonstrate trustworthiness in negotiations with the United States. Follow-through on concrete human rights commitments would lend credibility to North Korea’s security commitments in a variety of ways.

 

As a first step, we urge you to appoint the Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues provided for in the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017.  A Special Envoy with appropriate expertise on both human rights and national security could provide valuable insight for your administration and could engage directly with the North Korean government on improving human rights conditions.

 

Second, we recommend including several specific human rights issues and appropriate indicators in your negotiations with North Korea as a measure of good faith. A primary concern is the protection of American citizens who visit North Korea. The North Korean regime’s treatment of individual Americans demonstrates a disregard for the safety of the American people and a lack of respect for our nation as a whole. Ensuring necessary protections for American visitors would facilitate increased travel and information sharing between the people of both nations.

 

Facilitating family reunions for Korean Americans who have long been separated from their relatives in the North would also contribute to increased interactions between North Koreans and the outside world. Reunions should not take place solely in North Korea but should be available to all via a transparent process facilitated by the existence of open and ongoing lines of communication between separated families.

 

North Korea’s verified compliance with international standards for humanitarian aid would provide reassurance as to the appropriate use of United States funds to North Korea and ensure that resources are reaching those who are in greatest need. The illicit diversion of food and aid to the military and the political elite exemplifies the defiant behavior of North Korea. Humanitarian workers must have access and be able to verify that aid reaches those for whom it was intended, including those held in prison and labor camps.

 

Revenue derived from the export of slave labor and exploitation of labor camps is used to enrich the North Korean government, which reportedly continues to develop military and nuclear capabilities. Verifiable steps to abolish forced labor and human trafficking would directly impact illicit funding sources for North Korea’s aggressive military posture.

 

Lastly, the United States should pursue the termination of North Korea’s information blockade against independent media outlets. Recommended actions could include permitting radio broadcasts or other messaging to provide people with useful ways to address problems they face in business, private markets, and agriculture along with information about individual universal freedoms.

 

In support of these recommendations, we also urge your administration to ensure that this year’s United Nations General Assembly resolution on human rights in North Korea maintains the strength and resolve of last year’s statement. A Security Council meeting on human rights in North Korea should also be held to continue to highlight the direct ways human rights are linked to security in this situation.

 

We also strongly urge you to work with the Chinese government to ensure that North Korean refugees are not forcibly repatriated.

 

As you made clear in your 2018 State of the Union Address, “No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship of North Korea.” In this spirit, we encourage the timely appointment of the Special Envoy so that human rights can be incorporated into denuclearization talks in a way that is both strategic for their success and reflects the universal freedoms that are accorded to all people.

 

Sincerely,

 

Randy Hultgren, M.C.                                    James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chair, TLHRC                                            Co-Chair, TLHRC

 

 

Cc: The Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
The Honorable Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

 

 

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POLAND/NORTH KOREA: The exploitation of North Korean Workers in Poland raised at the European Parliament and at the OSCE

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (09.10.2018) – Today, MEP Laszlo Tökes and Human Rights Without Frontiers organized the screening of a film dealing with the exploitation of North Korean workers in Poland despite the UN and EU sanctions forbidding the hiring of workforce from North Korea. With the complicity of private companies and Polish state agencies, North Korean workers continue to work in Poland and to be exploited by Pyongyang, left only with an income of less than USD 150 per month.

 

On 19 September last, Human Rights Without Frontiers made a public statement at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the OSCE/ODIHR in Warsaw asking the Polish delegation to the OSCE “How many North Korean Workers are currently working in Poland, and how many work visas have been issued since the last HDIM?” (1)

Poland exercised his right of reply and gave again conflicting statistics.

Last official statistics revealed by Poland

In its oral right of reply limited to one minute, the delegation answered there were still “circa 350 DPRK citizens with the purpose of stay in Poland whilst to perform work. This number is constantly decreasing. And moreover it is important to reiterate that in 2016 and 2017 Poland did not issue any work visas to North Korean citizens – as visas on the one hand and permits of stay and work on the other are different titles of stay.”

 

In its full official right of reply publicized on the website of the OSCE/ ODIHR, the answer of the Polish delegation was however different (2):

 

I would like to exercise my right of reply in regard to the statement delivered by the Human Rights Without Frontiers.

The Polish government does not take an active part in the process of hiring North Korean workers nor does it promote such practices. The existing cooperation is based on private companies’ independent agreements.

The government institutions, such as the National Labour Inspectorate and the Border Guard, oversee the DPRK nationals’ employment conditions and ensure the Polish laws are respected in their workplace. To that end, these institutions regularly inspect the companies where DPRK nationals are employed. Inspections performed by the above-mentioned institutions did not confirm any cases of forced labour related to North-Korean workers in Poland.

Poland, similarly to other EU countries, did not have systemic solutions prohibiting North Korean citizens (or citizens from any other country) to take up work in Poland before the adoption of UN resolutions 2371 and 2375. In this view a general ban on entering Poland and taking up work for specific nationalities would be discriminating.

We welcomed the UN resolutions 2371 and 2375 adopted in this regard as providing the international community with adequate tools related to issue of the DPRK workers. In order to exercise these resolutions we stopped the issuance of new work permits to DPRK workers since August 2017. The related laws regulating access to labour market have been amended in order to find a solution to the problem. The necessary amendments have entered into force on February 2018.

Poland also strives to implement the provisions of the UN resolution No. 2397 that will enable return of DPRK workers to their country.

We estimate that as of September 2018 there were 225 DPRK citizens, whose purpose of stay in Poland was to perform work. This number is constantly decreasing. To actively implement the resolution’s provisions, we have begun to withdraw residence permits granted in previous years to DPRK nationals. By mid-September 2018, decisions revoking 250 DPRK citizens’ work authorizations had been taken. We can say that we are ahead of schedule – more than half of the DPRK citizens present in Poland at the time of the adoption of the UNSCR 2397 have already returned to the DPRK.

Moreover, it is important to reiterate that in 2017 and 2016 Poland did not issue any work visas to North Korean citizens – as was stressed by our delegation previously. It is important to underline that according to the Polish law, the visas issued by consuls of the Republic of Poland on the one hand, and residence permits issued by regional governor’s offices on the other are different titles of stay.

We are also pleased to inform that the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland in Vienna remains in contact with the representatives of the Human Rights Without Frontiers in regard to this topic.

 

A brief analysis of the official position of the Polish delegation suffices to highlight the incoherence and contradictions of the reply:

  • Poland does take an active part in the process of hiring North Korean workers as for decades, including in the last few years and despite the UN and EU sanctions, it has granted North Korean citizens visas allowing them to work on its territory.
  • The assertion that since 2016 Poland has not delivered new visas allowing North Korean citizens to work is vigorously contested by journalists of Vice (3) and of The New York Times (4). Moreover, the Polish delegation contradicts itself in its right of reply as it says “we stopped the issuance of new work permits to DPRK workers since August 2017” but says afterwards “in 2017 and 2016 Poland did not issue any work visas to North Korean citizens – as was stressed by our delegation previously.”
  • Poland, as a state, denies hiring North Korean laborers but tolerates Pyongyang’s exploitation system of its citizens and makes itself an accomplice of it.
  • Poland states that the National Labor Inspection did not detect any case of forced labor but we never said in our statement that North Korean workers were victims of forced labor. The issue is that Poland turns a blind eye to the sophisticated system of exploitation of North Korean workers put in place on the Polish territory by Pyongyang. Moreover, Vice journalists have highlighted the complicity of some labor inspection actors in the exploitation system.
  • Before the UN and EU ban on hiring North Korean workers, some other EU member states such as the Czech Republic or The Netherlands immediately felt morally obliged to stop granting them working visas and to put an end to their activities when they were informed about the exploitation system. Poland did not feel morally obliged to do so and still does not. When Poland uses the argument that “a general ban on entering Poland and taking up work for specific nationalities would be discriminating”, its answer is biased and suggests that UN and EU sanctions would be discriminatory…
  • Last but not least, the Polish delegation says in its official written reply this year that ”as of September 2018 there were 225 DPRK citizens, whose purpose of stay in Poland was to perform work” while in its official oral answer as video-recorded by the OSCE, it says that “there were circa 350 DPRK citizens withthe purpose of stay in Poland whilst to perform work.”

Our ‘dialogue’ with the Polish authorities on this issue will continue so that UN and EU sanctions become a full reality in Poland as soon as possible but in fact Poland does not seem to know how many North Korean workers are really employed on its territory. In the last three years, many contradictions and counter-arguments concerning their statistics have been highlighted by various researchers and investigators.

 

Poland’s past official statistics rejected by various researchers and investigators

In September 2016, Human Rights Without Frontiers asked the Polish delegation to the OSCE how many North Koreans were working in Poland (5). The official answer was “about 550”. In September 2017, we again asked the same question (6). The answer this time was approximately 400. The Polish authorities claimed that they did not issue new work visas in the last two years (2016 and 2017), yet this was contested by Prof. Remco Breuker from the University of Leiden who published a 115-page report entitled “North Korean Forced Labour in the EU: the Polish Case.” (7)

 

These questions were raised again on 31 December 2017 by The New York Timesin an article by Peter S. Goodman, Choe Sang-Hun and Joanna Berendt entitled “Even in Poland, workers’ wages flow to North Korea” (8). As the article recounts:

At an isolated shipyard on Poland’s Baltic coast, men in coveralls used welding torches under a cold drizzle, forging an oil tanker for a customer in the Netherlands. The scene was unremarkable, save for the provenance of a dozen of the workers

“Yes, we are from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” one of them said. “We have been here quite a while. Then he hurried away, alarm seizing his face.”

 

The New York Times found North Korean workers at a shipyard near the German border and at Remprodex, a manufacturer of shipping containers in the nearby town of Czluchow, 100 miles southwest of Gdansk; The workers said they had arrived in Poland in early 2017.

 

According to the American newspaper, the State Labor Inspectorate, which regulates working conditions at Polish companies, said that, as of mid-2017, some 450 North Koreans remained in the country, employed by at least 19 companies, including a complex of greenhouses growing tomatoes south of Warsaw.

 

In Poland, provincial governments issue work permits to foreign laborers, and there is little coordination with national agencies. As a result, no one appears to know precisely how many North Koreans are in Poland or what they are doing,The New York Times reported.

 

The New York Times furthermore requested information on work permits issued to North Koreans from Poland’s 16 provincial governments. There were nine responses that disclosed, in total, 124 new permits issued in 2017 and 253 granted in 2016. These numbers clearly contradict the official responses from the Polish authorities.

 

The statistics provided by various Polish authorities are therefore confusing and unreliable.

According to the official website of the Polish ministry in charge of the issuance of work permits, 299 North Korean citizens applied for a work permit in 2016 and Poland granted it to 187 of them. These figures contradict the answer of Poland’s Delegation to the OSCE who said among other things at the HDIM in 2017 that

“[…]there are no more than 550 North Korean workers in Poland. Under the existing laws, all visa applications continue to be reviewed on a case by case basis. We would like to stress that in 2016 Poland has not issued any work visas for DPRK’s nationals. In 2015 we issued only 129 such visas.”

 

Moreover, in an email dated 19 May 2017, the Polish delegation to the OSCE told Human Rights Without Frontiers that the number of North Korean workers in Poland as of 1 January 2017 was estimated at around 400 persons and no visas were issued in 2016.

Recommendations

Considering that the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose strict sanctions on North Korea in order to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring hard currencies, including through its overseas workers,

Human Rights Without Frontiers calls again this year upon the Polish state; 

 

  • to publicize accurate and reliable statistics concerning the number of North Korean workers still employed in Poland;
  • to abide by the UN and EU sanctions;
  • to abide by International Labour Organization standards;
  • to stop granting new work visas to North Korean workers;
  • to give a date by which the employment of North Korean workers in Poland will end.

 

Human Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the OSCE to collect data from its Participating States regarding the issuance of work visas to North Korean citizens and the status of their workplace conditions; Russia is still hiring North Korean workers at an alarming rate, according to a recent report of the South Korean NGO, North Korea Database (NKDB).

 

Human Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the European Commission to start a full investigation on the situation in Poland and then, if necessary, to move on to the next level and start an infringement procedure against Poland in line with the legal avenues at its disposal.

 

Footnotes
(1) Oral statement (Video)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13e4AECu6Ejb0djJ_BRierLJNqhsUpMuB/view

Written statement

https://www.osce.org/odihr/396293?download=true

(2) https://www.osce.org/odihr/397718?download=true

(3) An exceptional 32-minute investigation video report made by Polish journalists about the exploitation of North Korean workers in Poland is available online at the following web addresses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNVCdL908ko (Sub-titles in English and French)http://www.vice.com/nl/video/cash-for-kim-de-noord-koreaanse-dwangarbeiders-diezich-doodwerken-in-polen-293 (German) More reports about North Korea’s involvement can be found at the following web address: http://www.vice.com/nl/tag/Noord-Korea (Dutch)

(4) http://nyti.ms/2lJiJ3H

(5) https://www.osce.org/odihr/266761?download=true

(6) https://www.osce.org/odihr/342706?download=true

(7) Report: http://leidenasiacentre.nl/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/rapport-slaves.pdf

Statistics from the official Polish website

https://www.mpips.gov.pl/analizy-i-raporty/cudzoziemcy-pracujacy-w-polsce-statystyki/

(8) See footnote 4.

 

Additional reading
Also see the HRWF Report presented at the European Parliament in 2014: North Korean Overseas Workers – Human Rights Challenges and Opportunities

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/2014-North-Korea-Overseas-Workers.pdf

 

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