European Theater

Mass strike in Catalonia; Franco-nostalgia in Spain

Hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Barcelona as a general strike was called Oct. 3 to protest "grave violation of rights and freedoms" by Spanish security forces during the vote on independence for Catalonia two days earlier—when close to a thousand people were injured as Civil Guard troops dispatched by Madrid used rubber bullets and tear-gas in an attempt to prevent the poll from taking place. The strike was widely honored; the city's port was shut down, and Barcelona's metro lines cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times. Street traffic was snarled by barricades erected by protesters on major arteries, with hand-painted banners reading "Occupation forces get out!"

Crimean Tatar leader sentenced to prison

Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov was convicted by Russian-appointed judges in Simferopol Sept. 27 on spurious "separatism" charges, and sentenced to two years. An outspoken critic of Russia's occupation of peninsula, Umerov was arrested late last year, forcibly interned in a psychiatric facility, and then charged on counts of separatism, and forbidden to leave the country. The European Union condemned his sentencing as "a violation of human rights," while Human Rights Watch called it "ruthless retaliation" for his opposition to Moscow's annexrtion of Crimea. Umerov was deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Majlis, which has now been officially suspended by Moscow. (UNPO)

Bad news both sides of Russo-Ukrainian breach

The rights situation in Crimea "has significantly deteriorated under Russian occupation," the UN Human Rights Office finds in a Sept. 25 report (PDF), citing arbitrary arrests. disappearances, torture, infringements of the Geneva Conventions. The report especially highlights discrimination against those who have resisted taking up Russian citizenship. Individuals without Russian Federation citizenship are denied many rights, including the right to vote or run for office, the right to own agricultural land, and the right to register with a religious community. The groups most susceptible to rights violations are "those who formally rejected citizenship; civil servants who had to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship or lose their jobs; and Crimean residents who did not meet the legal criteria for citizenship and became foreigners." This prominently includes the Crimean Tatars, who have strenuously rejected Russian annexation of the peninsula. (RFE/RL, Jurist)

Moscow stonewalls on fate of Holocaust hero

A Moscow district court rejected a lawsuit Sept. 18 filed by a relative of Raoul Wallenberg, seeking to access uncensored documents concerning Wallenberg's death in Soviet captivity. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who is said to have rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II. Soviet forces detained Wallenberg in 1945, supposedly for espionage, and placed him in Moscow's Lubyanka Prison (then part of the headquarters complex of NKVD, later the KGB). The USSR released a document in 1954 saying Wallenberg died in Lubyanka of heart failure in 1947. The actual cause of Wallenberg's death is still a matter of speculation. Wallenberg's niece, Marie Dupuy, filed the lawsuit against the KGB successor organization, the Federal Security Service (FSB), requesting documents that would shed light on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Ukraine says Russia behind global cyber-attack

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has publicly blamed the recent global cyber-attack on Russia and the Kremlin. The SBU stated that the hackers behind the most recent attack are the same as those who conducted an attack on the Ukrainian power grid in December 2016. Experts worldwide are still trying to decide who was behind the most recent attack, which took out computers, disrupted shipping, and hit banks across the globe. Some experts are unsure if the Russians are the ones behind the attack, as Russian oil companies Gazprom and Rosneft both reported that they were affected by the attack. There was a minor ransom demand for $300, but it has been concluded that financial enrichment was not the purpose behind the attack. The SBU stated that "the main purpose of the virus was the destruction of important data, disrupting the work of public and private institutions in Ukraine and spreading panic among the people". While purpose of the recent attack was directed against financial institutions, it quickly spread to other sectors.

'Soviet-style' trial of Crimean Tatar leader

The first hearing in the case against Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov opened in Simferopol June 7. Russian authorities who control Crimea have charged Umerov—deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Majlis, now banned by Moscow—with separatism. His supporters say he is being persecuted for speaking out against the growing persecution of the Tatars since Russia's annexation of Crimea. Umerov suffers from serious medical conditions that have prevented authorities from remanding him in custody, as they have fellow Majlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz. However Umerov has been subject to "punitive psychiatry," according to Ukraine's Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. The independent rights monitor calls the case against Umerov a "Soviet-style" show trial.

Manchester, xenophobia and the left's complicity

The horrific Manchester suicide bombing of May 22 is said to have been carried out by a son of Libyan refugees, and speculation is rife that he was linked to militant networks rather than being a lone wolf. The UK's right-wing tabs are responding predictably. The Daily Star screams that Libya has become an "ISIS breeding ground where THOUSANDS of terrorists are created." We are told that the attacker's older brother "was recently arrested in the Middle Eastern country after intelligence suggested he was about to commit an attack there." After thusly revealing that they don't know where Libya is (it's in North Africa, not the Middle East), the Star goes on to sensationalize about the jihadist threat there. Embarrassingly, it cites a UN report from November 2015 (yes, more than a year and a half ago) that warned, "ISIS has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya."

Rights situation in Belarus deteriorating —again

The human rights situation in Belarus has seen a dramatic deterioration, according to a report published May 22 from Miklos Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus. The report notes numerous instances of rights abuses, beginning with the suppression of peaceful protests in March over a law (PDF) imposing a tax on people who are not employed full-time, in which more than 900 people were detained. Among those detained in the March protests were political opponents, civil activists, human rights defenders, journalists and foreign observers. This wave of mass arrests was the most severe repression of human rights since the contested election of 2010. Before the new crackdown, there were reports of political opponents, social activists, and human rights defenders being harassed.

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