Balkans

Romania: protest wave against mega-mine

Some 20,000 Romanians marched and formed a human chain around the parliament building in Bucharest Sept. 21 to protest plans by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources to establish Europe's biggest open-pit gold mine at Rosia Montana in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. Bucharest has seen daily protests against the  project for two weeks, organized by the campaign Salvati Rosia Montana, with thousands more taking to the streets in other Romanian cities. The protests began after the government proposed a law Aug. 27 to give extraordinary powers to Gabriel Resources' local partner, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, allowing the company to relocate people whose homes are on the perimeter of the mine site, and guaranteeing all necessary permits within set deadlines, regardless of court rulings or public participation requirements. The operation would involve the destruction of three villages and four mountains. (EuroNews, Sept. 22; MondoNews.ro, Sept. 21; The Guardian, Mining.com, Sept. 17; BBC News, Sept. 9)

Srebrenica: 18 years later, quest for justice goes on

Thousands of Bosnians again marched cross-country on July 11, along the path that refugees took when they fled the massacre at Srebrenica on that day in 1995. They arrived at the ​Potočari memorial cemetary outside the town for a ceremony where 409 more bodies were laid to rest. Among the interred remains were those of a baby girl who was born during the massacre; the mother took refuge at the Dutch-run UN "peacekeeping" camp outside the town, and gave birth there. She was told the baby was stillborn and would be buried; then the beseiging Serb forces overran the camp, meeting no resistance from the "peacekeepers." The baby ended up in a mass grave—one of several used to hide the bodies of more than 8,000 of Srebrenica's men and boys, summarily killed by the Serb rebel troops.

Bulgaria protesters say 'NOligarchy!'

Over the past 10 days, thousands of protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets of Bulgaria to oppose the Socialist-led coalition government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, which is accused of corruption. A popular slogan is "NOresharski! NOligarchy!" While a generalized anger at the country's political elite animates the protests, the spark that set them off was Oresharski's appointment of MP Delyan Peevski as director of the State Agency for National Security (SANS). Peevski is a leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which advocates for Muslims and ethnic Turks in Bulgaria—pointing to a xenophobic element in the protest movement. Bulgaria's parliament revoked the appointment of Peevski, but protesters continue to call for the government's resignation. 

Samantha Power signals Syria intervention?

The usual frustrating mess. The ascendance of Samantha Power, longtime advocate of "humanitarian intervention," as Obama's new UN ambassador (replacing Susan Rice, named for National Security Advisor), is applauded by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch (NBC)—and, we may be certain, opposed by both the anti-war left and the paleocon right. Google results reveal that the paleocons have beat the lefties to the punch. A Fox News report picked up by World Net Daily taunts: "'Nazi' Problem for Obama's UN pick?"...

Gitmo detainee seeks ECHR ruling on CIA prison

Lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah on Jan. 28 asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to rule on whether Poland violated their client's rights by aiding the US in detaining and allegedly torturing Zubaydah in a secret CIA prison. Zubaydah, a top al-Qaeda suspect, alleges that he was transferred to Poland and subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques." An investigation into the prison has been ongoing in Poland since 2008, but Zubaydah's lawyers argued that it has made no noticeable effort to bring any perpetrators to justice. The letter is notice that an application for a hearing will be filed.

Europe rights court rules for rendition victim

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Dec. 13 ruled (PDF) that the government of Macedonia is responsible for the torture and degrading maltreatment of a man the ECHR found to be an innocent victim of CIA "extraordinary rendition" in 2003. Lebanese German citizen Khaled el-Masri was arrested and mistreated for 23 days of interrogation in a hotel in the Macedonian capital Skopje, then transferred to CIA agents who took him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months. After a hearing in May, the ECHR Grand Chamber of 17 judges unanimously held that el-Masri had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Macedonia was responsible for several violations of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3, the right to liberty and security under Article 5 and others. The ECHR ordered the government of Macedonia to pay el-Masri €60,000 in damages. El-Masri has been implicated in several violent incidents in Germany in the last few years, receiving a suspended sentence for arson in 2007 and a two-year prison sentence for assaulting a town mayor in 2010, for which he is still serving time.

Econo-protests rock Slovenia

Protesters clashed with police in Slovenia's second city Maribor Dec. 3 in a march against austerity measures. Police said more than 20 were arrested and at least one officer was injured after some from a crowd of around 6,000 protesters threw rocks and fireworks. Protests began in the city last week to demand the resignation of Mayor Franc Kangler, who is accused of corruption. But over the weekend, deomstrations spread to the capital, Ljubljana, taking up general anti-austerity demands. Protests in Ljubljana and five other cities of small post-Yugoslav state were peaceful but large, bringing thousands to the streets.

War crimes tribunal acquits ex-KLA commander

The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Nov. 39 acquitted former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) commanders Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Laji Brahimaj of all charges. Haradinaj (Kosova's former prime minister) was a commander of the KLA in the Dukagjin area of western Kosova; Balaj, a commander of a special operations unit known as the Black Eagles; and Brahimaj was deputy commander of the Dukagjin Operative Zone. In April 2008, the Trial Chamber originally acquitted Haradinaj of all charges, as was Balaj, but Brahimaj was convicted of mistreating a detainee and ordering the mistreatment of another, and was sentenced to six years. However, in July 2010, the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed the judgments, finding that the Trial Chamber had failed to take sufficient steps to counter witness intimidation. The ICTY began the retrial in August 2011, with the prosecutor seeking a 20-year sentence for Haradinaj. However, the Trial Chamber rendered judgment in favor of the defendants, ordering for their immediate release.

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