Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Serbia's Parliament Apologizes for Srebrenica Massacre

    8:02 AM   No comments
Serbian Parliament Speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic speaks during a parliament session in Belgrade, Serbia, 30 Mar 2010

Serbia's parliament has apologized for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims by Bosnian-Serb forces in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. But, the declaration does not directly call the crime "genocide", as survivors had demanded.

After 13 hours of debate Serbia's parliament adopted a resolution condemning Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Two-thirds of the lawmakers voted for a declaration that analysts said ends years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings.

About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian-Serb forces overran the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. The atrocity happened during the Balkan conflict that led to the break up of Yugoslavia.

The text of the resolution says, "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian-Muslim population of Srebrenica in July, 1995."

Lawmakers also expressed "their condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy."

The parliamentary leader of the ruling coalition's Democratic Party, Nada Kolundzija, said the resolution marks a new chapter for Serbia.

She says with this resolution Serbia's parliament recognizes "terrible things have happened in Srebrenica" and that her country does not support those who committed the crime. The lawmaker calls the declaration "a milestone on Serbia's road to the construction of a modern European society".

But survivors of the Srebrenica massacre have condemned the resolution, saying it does not describe the killings as genocide.

Nationalists outside the parliament building protested the resolution, while inside several legislators expressed their reservations about the declaration. Some Serbs say they are angry about the apology because it does not mention crimes committed against Serbs.

Those critics include Tomislav Nikolic, who leads the Serbian Progressive Party. He suggests the resolution was needed for Serbia's integration into the European Union. But Nikolic says the ruling coalition wants the parliament "to declare the whole nation guilty". He says "Nations do not commit crimes, individuals do."

The resolution is seen as another step towards Serbia's EU membership. The country has extradited former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the Netherlands-based U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. But war-time commander Ratko Mladic, whose forces were involved in the massacre, remains at large.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told VOA Serbia will extradite Mladic "as soon as he is found" to the U.N. Tribunal in The Hague.

Jeremic said he does not know yet when that will happen, but made clear he wants him to be captured soon. "If I knew how to answer this question, he would not have been at large. But what can I say that in the context of the cooperation with [the Tribunal in] The Hague, the government of Serbia is going to continue [the search] doing its utmost," he said.

Ironically, among those supporting the Srebrenica resolution were the Socialists of former president Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted by the The Hague Tribunal for his alleged involvement in the Srebrenica massacre. He died before he could be sentenced.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ministers Reaffirm Stance on Jerusalem

    7:02 AM   No comments


JERUSALEM — Senior Israeli ministers have publicly rejected American demands for curbs on Jewish building in East Jerusalem and other concessions to the Palestinians, indicating no imminent end to the rift between Jerusalem and Washington.

Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet — which has met twice since Mr. Netanyahu returned from Washington last week — said Monday on Israel Radio that the status of East Jerusalem should be resolved in direct negotiations with the Palestinians, not in advance.

“It’s irritating and certainly a cause of concern,” Mr. Begin said of the American request. “This change will definitely bring about the opposite of the declared goal. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority.”

Mr. Netanyahu, who met with President Obama in the White House last week, has promised answers to his requests regarding Jerusalem and other confidence building measures aimed at starting indirect talks with the Palestinian Authority. But with Passover starting Monday night, the prime minister was not expected to convene his inner cabinet again till midweek to fashion a reply.

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and another member of the inner group of seven ministers, said in a newspaper interview that the Obama demands included a building freeze in most of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem. He added: “I have not seen anyone among the seven who has consented to this. The past few days have taught me that there is no point to further concessions.”

Mr. Netanyahu himself has said that he could not see acceding to any request that slowed down or interfered with construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem which Israel annexed in 1967, a move unrecognized by the rest of the world.

Ehud Barak, the defense minister and Labor party leader, also in the group of seven, the only member from a left-of-center party, told military reporters on Sunday that Israel alone was responsible for its safety but said keeping strong relations with the United States was vital.

He also said that the specifics of the American requests were less important than the message from Israel that it was “with them and serious about the peace process.”

Mr. Lieberman’s comments in Maariv newspaper took nearly the opposite approach, saying he had opposed from the start the mission ofGeorge J. Mitchell, the American envoy to the region, and his position had now been validated.

“I warned the government that in the end, we would be maneuvered into the corner, and would stand in it alone against the whole world,” he said of the Mitchell approach. “Now a year later, we have reached exactly the situation that I feared.”

Mr. Lieberman heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party and although he holds the foreign affairs portfolio, he has been essentially kept out of direct dealings with Washington or relations with Arab countries because of his positions. Still, as a member of the inner seven minister group and leader of the country’s third largest party, he has influence.

He does not give many newspaper interviews, preferring public comments and speeches. In Maariv, his radical views were on display. He said, for example, that the only hope for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was not a negotiated two-state solution but a land swap and population exchange in which Palestinian citizens of Israel would end up in a Palestinian state.

Asked how he expected the international community to accept that, he said, “The world will accept anything that we rally around.” He added: “The world is fed up with us. They want a solution by all possible means. We have become a global headache.”

Mr. Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement, said he had no intention of taking his party out of the coalition even if his approach was rejected by the government. He predicted that in the next election, his party would become dominant by doubling its number of seats in parliament.

On the question of Washington’s demands regarding East Jerusalem, he said he was certain Israel could convince the administration that curbing Jewish building was unreasonable. Asked what he would do if he was unsuccessful, he replied, “There will be no choice but to insist, to pay the price even if it is high.”

Source: NYT

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Human Rights Watch says gagged by Tunisian police

    6:54 AM   No comments

Wed, Mar 24 2010

TUNIS (Reuters) - New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Tunisian authorities on Wednesday of using police to prevent journalists attending the launch of a report critical of the government's rights record.

A former French colony on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia hosts millions of tourists each year and also attracts large sums in investment from EU countries.

Tunisia wants the European Union to grant it "advanced status," which could give it preferential trade terms, but diplomats say concerns in some EU capitals about its rights record risk complicating the application.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) employee said police had surrounded the lawyer's office where the group was trying to brief reporters about its new report, which accuses Tunisia of adopting repressive measures toward former prisoners.

"Plainclothes police physically prevented journalists and human rights activists from reaching the venue. Only one diplomat and three human rights activists were able to reach the event," Eric Goldstein told Reuters.

"Who is free to speak in Tunisia when the government tries to silence an international human rights organization?" Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement.

A Tunisian official source told Reuters the authorities had cooperated with the rights group which he said was acting in a provocative way that showed a lack of respect for Tunisian laws.

Human Rights Watch said a hotel room that was originally booked to hold the news conference was flooded soon after HRW staff checked in and the hotel said it had no other rooms.

The Tunisian official, who did not want to be identified, rejected the group's allegations.

"The behavior of the organization's delegation to Tunisia is marked by provocative actions and demonstrates a lack of respect for the country's laws and sovereignty, although it has been received by officials and been allowed" to hold other meetings connected to its research, the official said.

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has run the country for more than two decades and was re-elected to a fifth term in office last year with 89.62 percent of the vote. Many Tunisians credit him with overseeing stability and relative prosperity.

Tunisia's rights record came under international scrutiny last year when a court handed down a six-month jail term on journalist Taoufik Ben Brik. He said he was being punished for dissent, while prosecutors said he assaulted a woman.

The 42-page Human Rights Watch report, entitled "A Larger Prison," alleges that Tunisian authorities subject former prisoners to surveillance, threats to re-arrest any who speak out on human rights or politics, and restrictions on movement.

The Tunisian official told Reuters the report contains lies and fabrications which were designed to mislead the public about the human rights situation in Tunisia. He said former prisoners were treated in accordance with the law.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

الرئيس التونسي يهاجم معارضيه

    8:06 AM   No comments

بن علي مدليا بصوته في انتخابات 2009 الرئاسية (الأوروبية-أرشيف)

هاجم الرئيس التونسي زين العابدين بن علي معارضين هددوا بمقاطعة الانتخابات البلدية المقرر إجراؤها في مايو/أيار القادم، واتهموا السلطات بتزوير نتائجها قبل إجرائها.

واتهم بن علي (73 عاما) -في خطاب ألقاه السبت بمناسبة احتفال بلاده بعيديْ الاستقلال والشباب- من أسماهم "محترفي التشكيك وإلقاء الاتهامات الجزاف"، بأنهم "يخافون دائما المواجهة الشريفة والشجاعة للمنافسات الانتخابية لقلة الثقة بأنفسهم وببرامجهم وعزوف الشعب عنهم".

وكان الحزب الديمقراطي التقدمي -الذي يوصف بأنه أبرز تنظيم معارض في تونس- هدد مؤخرا بمقاطعة الانتخابات البلدية بعد أن كان قاطع انتخابات 2009 التشريعية والرئاسية، قائلا إنه يرفض أن يكون "ديكورا في انتخابات لا تتوفر فيها الشروط الدنيا للمشاركة".

ودعت الأمينة العامة للحزب مية الجريبي السلطات إلى "رفع الحواجز أمام العمل السياسي، ووقف غلق المقرات العمومية أمام اجتماعات أحزاب المعارضة، وتوفير مناخ ينبذ الخوف، وتحرير الإعلام من القيود لينقل الاختلاف، وفسح الحد الأدنى (من الحرية) أمام المواطن حتى يتمكن من مشاركة فعلية، ويطلع على برامج المعارضة دون خوف".
الجريبي طالبت السلطات بمزيد من الانفتاح السياسي (الأوروبية-أرشيف)
وتجري الانتخابات البلدية المقبلة في التاسع من مايو/أيار. وسيفتح باب الترشح لعضوية 264 مجلسا بلديا يسيطر أنصار حزب التجمع الدستوري الديمقراطي الحاكم على أغلب مقاعدها كل مرة. يذكر أن الدستور التونسي يمنح 25% من مقاعد المجالس البلدية للمعارضة.
لكن الحزب الديمقراطي التقدمي توقع أن "تهدي" الحكومة هذه النسبة إلى أحزاب المعارضة الموالية لها، وأن تستبعد منها الأحزاب الراديكالية الثلاثة وهي الديمقراطي التقدمي وحركة التجديد والتكتل الديمقراطي من أجل العمل والحريات، المعروفة بعلاقاتها التصادمية مع السلطة.
من موقع الحياد
وأعلن الرئيس التونسي في خطابه تكليف المرصد الوطني للانتخابات بمراقبة الانتخابات. وأضاف أن هذا الهيكل "سيتولى من موقع الحياد والاستقلالية معاينة هذه الانتخابات ومراقبة سيرها بمختلف مراحلها".

وتعهد بأن تكون صناديق الاقتراع "الفيصل بين القوائم المترشحة بمختلف ألوانها وانتماءاتها". ودافع عن مصداقية كل الانتخابات التي أجريت في عهده والتي دأب معارضون على اتهام الحكومة بتزويرها.
وتواجه تونس انتقادات من منظمات تعنى بحرية التعبير بتكميم حرية الصحافة وملاحقة الصحفيين المستقلين، لكن بن علي قال إن تونس ليست فيها محظورات ولا ممنوعات في ما يتناوله الإعلام من قضايا، داعيا إلى "الامتناع عن تجريح الأشخاص والقدح في أعراضهم".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey

    6:44 AM   No comments
By: Angel Rabasa, F. Stephen Larrabee

As a Muslim-majority country that is also a secular democratic state, a member of NATO, a candidate for membership in the European Union, a long-standing U.S. ally, and the host of Incirlik Air Base (a key hub for logistical support missions in Afghanistan and Iraq), Turkey is pivotal to U.S. and Western security interests in a critical area of the world. It also provides an example of the coexistence of Islam with secular democracy, globalization, and modernity. However, having a ruling party with Islamic roots — the Justice and Development Party (AKP) — within a framework of strict secularism has generated controversy over the boundaries between secularity and religion in the public sphere. This monograph describes the politico-religious landscape in Turkey and the relationship between the state and religion, and it evaluates how the balance between secular and religious forces — and between the Kemalist elites and new emerging social groups — has changed over the past decade. The study also assesses the new challenges and opportunities for U.S. policy in the changed Turkish political environment and identifies specific actions the United States may take to advance the U.S. interest in a stable, democratic, and friendly Turkey and, more broadly, in the worldwide dissemination of liberal and pluralistic interpretations of Islam.

Read the report: Political Islam in Turkey

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