Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Remark on “Housewitz” Case Advocacy

A Dutch student was sentenced recently to 40 hours of community work for perverse depiction of Auschwitz concentration camp by making a dance internetclip titled “Housewitz”. A video used images of the Auschwitz death camp, turning the infamous slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" into "Tanzen Macht Frei". The clip announced DJs with Sieg Heil, and spoke about “seven million party people, set their body’s on fire”, and said the dresscode was “skinny Jew." Similarly, English historian David Irving was sentenced to a 3-year prison sentence few months ago by Austrian court for his notorious and long standing denial of holocaust. Not just far right bigots, many legal theorists too in a warm hospitality of their campuses voiced their skepticism by what is supposed to be an apparent free speech infringement. Further, many good hearted citizens, who justly think of themselves as democrats are convinced that such laws are terribly outdated and have no place in a free society. If society is association of individuals, each of whom has a conception of good or worthwhile life, then facilitation of these goods by society should not be discriminatory. They argue that any view endorsed by society as a whole would be that of some citizens but not others. Those who see their views hindered by the state would not be treated with equal respect in relation to their compatriots advocating the established view.

In their advocacy zeal (cf. questioning whether it is appropriate to ban or hinder Housewitz interenetclip or the propagation of holocaust denial) the aforementioned views simply ignore ontological questions, regarding the factors that account for social life. I may not agree with severity of criminal justice retribution, especially not in the Irving case, but it follows from ontological argument that state is entitled to endorse or hinder particular set of values and particular worldview. Why?

In his Liberalism and Limits of Justice Michael Sandel argues convincingly that the way we live together in the society does not amount to an atomist model in which the self and identity is supposed to be unencumbered but much more to a holist model in which one’s identity and self is situated in various communities (family, cultural, local community etc.). A view that demands unconditional neutrality of the state simply overlooks that sustaining specific historical set of institutions and forms is and must be socially endorsed common end since it encourages the willing identification with the polis on part of the citizens. This need for the identification of citizens with the common goals of the polis is simply overlooked by unreflective procedural liberalism that excludes the socially endorsed conception of the good. Every democratic society, even a more libertarian one (i.e. governed by the difference principle), presupposes high degree of solidarity among its citizens through a strong sense of community. In a culture heavily infected with atomistic prejudices this awareness is often lost.

One of the crucial elements that form modern democratic European mindset is a phenomenon of a totalitarian state with its systematic, institutionalized, carefully planned and legally unrestrained use of physical and psychological violence. Its paradigmatic expression is a concentration camp, so accurately depicted by Hannah Arendt as a “world utterly devoid of thinking, feeling, judgment, personal identity, privacy and all else that distinguishes human existence”. Places like Auschwitz or vast and hidden GULAG archipelago, eerie events like silent mass killings of tens of thousands of Slovene and Yugoslav anticommunist POWs and civilians on Slovenian soil by Titoist special divisions immediately after the Second World War or massacre of 9000 Muslims in Srebrenica, Bosnia in summer of 1995 before the eyes of international community, may all very well be absurd. But they might just as well not be. They are the sad reminders for sure but as such they are also founding stones of united Europe and a part of European identity. The founding stones because they say unto us: Never again. In this way democratic societies are more than entitled to care for the objective depiction of events in the dark European 20th century.

It can be a matter of debate whether criminal law is appropriate means to tackle these issues but legal system latu sensu certainly cannot ignore them. What judges in Irving and “Housewitz” cases did was to remove the sneering mockery which disturbed the peace above the graves, thus enabling the victims to tell us their story again. A free society relies on a strong allegiance from its members and is based on the identification around the sense of common good – and around the knowledge of past evils.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Grant v. United Kingdom

The European Court of Human Rights has on Tuesday delivered its judgement in the case of Grant v. the United Kingdom.

Ms Grant, is a 68-year-old British national who lives in St Albans (the United Kingdom). She is a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. Ms Grant’s birth certificate showed her as male. She served in the army for three years from age 17 and then worked as a police officer. Aged 24, she gave up attempting to live as a man, and had gender reassignment surgery two years later. She has presented as a woman since 1963, was identified as a woman on her National Insurance card and paid contributions to the National Insurance scheme at a female rate . In 1972 she became self-employed and started paying into a private pension fund. The applicant applied for a State pension to start on 22 December 1997, her 60th birthday. On 31 October 1997 her application was refused on the ground that she would only be entitled to a State pension when she reached 65, the retirement age applicable to men. She appealed unsuccessfully.

On 12 July 2002 she requested that her case be reopened in the light of the European Court of Human Right’s Grand Chamber judgments of 11 July 2002, Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom and I. v. the United Kingdom In those two cases the ECtHR found the British Government’s continuing failure to take effective steps to effect the legal recognition of the change of gender of post-operative transsexuals to be in breach of Article 8 of the Convention. On 14 August 2002 the applicant was informed that she had been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal. However, on legal advice, she decided not to pursue her appeal.

The ECtHR found that Ms Grant was in an identical situation to the applicant in the Christine Goodwin case; as a post-operative male-to-female transsexual, Ms Grant might claim to be a victim of a breach of her right to respect for her private life contrary to Article 8, due to the lack of legal recognition of her change of gender.

The ECtHR noted that, while it was true that the Government had had to take steps to comply with the Christine Goodwin judgment, which had involved drafting, and passing in Parliament, new legislation, which they had achieved with laudable expedition, it was not the case that that process could be regarded as in any way suspending her victim status. Following the ECtHR’s judgment in Christine Goodwin, there was no longer any justification for failing to recognise the change of gender of post-operative transsexuals. Ms Grant, as such a transsexual, did not have at that time any possibility of obtaining such recognition and could claim to be prejudiced from that moment. Her victim status came to an end when the Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force, thereby providing her with the means on a domestic level to obtain legal recognition. Consequently, in so far as the applicant complained about the refusal to accord her the pension rights applicable to women of biological origin, she might claim to be a victim of that aspect of the lack of legal recognition from the moment, after the Christine Goodwin judgment, when the authorities refused to give effect to her claim, namely, from 5 September 2002.

The European Court of Human Rights therefore found that there had been a breach of the Ms Grant’s right to respect for private life contrary to Article 8.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Symposium on international law this Wednesday at University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh, School of Law will be holding a symposium on international law for PhD students on Wednesday 24 May 2006.

The theme of the symposium is recent decisions of international courts, tribunals and organisations in any field of international law. The topic is designed to allow as many people as possible to discuss what impact recent developments in international law have had on their areas of research.

More info is available at:
http://www.hss.ed.ac.uk/symposium/. You are very welcome to attend!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rémi Brague v četrtek v Ljubljani

Nova revija vabi v četrtek, 25. maja 2006, ob 19. uri v Klub Cankarjevega doma, kjer bo imel francoski filozof Remi Brague predavanje z naslovom »Je evrocentrizem evropski?«.

Slovenski bralci Bragua poznajo predvsem po delu Evropa, rimska pot, pri Novi reviji pa so o njem pred predavanjem zapisali naslednje:

»Rémi Brague se uvršča med najvplivnejše evropske intelektualce. Kot profesor antične in srednjeveške filozofije predava na Sorboni ter na münchenski univerzi (kot naslednik Romana Guardinija). Pred tem je gostoval na številnih evropskih in ameriških univerzah. Objavil je številne filozofske študije, ki tematsko posegajo na vsa področja razvoja duha. Slovenskim bralcem je znan predvsem po prevedenem delu Evropa, rimska pot, v katerem razpravlja o konstitutivnem smislu evropskosti. Pri tem se opira na svoje bogato poznavanje antične in srednjeveške misli, kulture ter zgodovine.V predgovoru k slovenski izdaji je med drugim zapisal, kako je v tej knjigi »skušal pokazati, da je bil ključ evropskega kulturnega dinamizma priznavanje drugotnosti v odnosu do kultur, ki so občutene kot viri: v veri Stara zaveza, v svetni kulturi antična Grčija«. Pred kratkim je izšlo njegovo delo Modrost sveta. Zgodovina človeškega izkustva univerzuma.

V četrtkovem predavanju bo Rémi Brague obravnaval vprašanje, kaj pravzaprav menimo z oznako »evrocentričnosti«, ki pogosto nastopa v postmodernih kulturoloških študijah, in kaj kultura kot center sploh pomeni.«

Saturday, May 20, 2006

B-16 Extols Separation of Church and State

Last week Pope Benedict XVI described separation of Church and state as »great progress for humanity«. In a news bulletin by zenit.org, B-16 is quoted saying there is a fundamental

"distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, in other words, the distinction between Church and state, or the autonomy of the temporal sphere."

It may be added here, that one of the origins of a later notion of civil society and one of the roots of western liberalism is an idea, developed in the early Middle Ages, that society is not identical with its political organization. This notion that took place in Latin Christendom was followed by a crucial differentiation - political authority was now its own organ and Church was a societas which was independent from the authority. Pontiff is clearly appreciative of a conception in which Church is simply a part of civil society, participating in common discourse:

"[W]ithout doubt, a healthy laicism of the state ensures that temporal matters are dealt with according to their own norms; to this, however, are associated ethical concerns that have their foundations in the very essence of man and that therefore, in the final analysis, can be traced back to the Creator. [...] In current circumstances, by recalling the value for public and private life of certain ethical principles rooted in the great Christian heritage of Europe, and in particular of Italy, we commit no violation of the laicism of the state, Rather, we contribute to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society."


Thorough acknowledgment of separation principle by Catholic Church can be found in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and most recently in B-16's own Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Racial and religious tensions continue in the United Kingdom

Yesterday an excellent student and a promising footballer has been stabbed to death in north-west London. The pupil had been involved in what police described as an altercation with another boy outside the gates of the London Academy in Edgware. You may read the whole story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4996626.stm

It is no clear yet if the attack was racially motivated but it is already a second murder of pupils in four days after teenage Irish pupil was murdered in Northern Ireland by peers from IRA sympatizing families.

When will those kind of attacks cease if ever ? Is this the price we need to pay for living in free and liberal societies?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Music list

English daily newspaper The Independent published on this Tuesday a list of ten favorite songs of Condi Rice, argubly the most powerful women in the world. Here is the very sophisticated list.

1. Mozart - Piano Concerto in D minor
2. Cream - 'Sunshine of Your Love'
3. Aretha Franklin - 'Respect'
4. Kool and the Gang - 'Celebration'
5. Brahms - Piano Concerto No 2
6. Brahms - Piano Quintet in F minor
7. U2 - Anything by U2
8. Elton John - 'Rocket Man'
9. Beethoven - Symphony No 7
10. Mussorgsky - Boris Godunov

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blues for Allah, pt.2

In Matej's post of May 10th, the letter to George Bush by Iranian president Ahmadinajad was quoted, along with the proposition to continue the debate on »liberalism, atheism, religion and public reason«, issues already debated here. Although Ahmadinajad's letter is hardly an appropriate reason for a debate [since a) letter was clearly just a stunt to boost pan-Arabic public opinion and b) it's hard not to agree on Ahmadinajab whatever he says], the proposed subject is important on its own.

Incited by the letter Avbelj asks, rhetorically I think, “should the world really adopt a religious discourse?” Since it seems that somewhere in this question mark a bumper sticker “Support Denmark” is hidden, I have to point to my position on the dialectic between faith and reason stated very clearly in my “Slavoj Žižek Delivers a Sermon in NY Times” post and in subsequent debate with our reader Luka Lesjak, and in some of my other posts as well.

Moving to the next point, Avbelj concludes that certainly “the greatest value we have to defend is the INDIVIDUAL and his GENUINE LIBERTY”. Once again this could sound as a debate non-starter, since it is exactly the idea of the individual’s supreme worth that is indisputable basis of our culture, expressed already by the Renaissance humanists, for whom the dignity of man was a favorite theme, most notably in the writings of Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. They of course “stood on the shoulders” of Judeo-Christian tradition grafted on Greek-Roman roots. There are very few modern thinkers who have rejected this notion of individual’s supreme worth, perhaps some late romantics, Neo-Hegelians, fascists and Marxists-Leninists. Certainly not a very pleasant crowd. But a problem of GENUINE LIBERTY is far more interesting.

Since I mentioned Ahmadinajab and Žižek I will try to discuss question of liberty by slowly moving to the infamous case of Danish cartoon controversy. The idea of freedom is itself very old, but the modern or liberal idea of freedom emerges with the notion of rights of the individual. Modern language of rights provides for precise instrument for finding and sorting out the demands of justice. But it can also very easily become a hindrance to a clear thought when the question is: What are demands of justice? What were demands of justice during the cartoon controversy? Famously Ronald Dworkin treats rights as “individuated political aims” which are not subordinate to conceptions of “aggregate collective good” or the “general interest” or “general utility”. But Dworkin himself puts limitations to this view:

"I must not overstate the point. Someone who claims that citizens have right against the government need not go so far as to say that the state is never justified in overriding that right. [A]lthough citizens have a right to free speech, the Government may override that right when protecting the right of others […]."
However, in the case of Danish cartoon controversy Dworkin took the side of cartoonists, though somewhat reluctantly. I think he was wrong.

In different approach to the problem John Finnis defines modern Human Rights documents as a way of sketching the outlines of the common good, the various aspects of individual well-being in the community. What Human Rights documents, Slovene Constitution included, really say is that each and everyone’s well-being , in each of its basic aspects must be considered and favored at all times by those responsible for coordinating the common life.

This concept of common good is of course a part of every legal order, in Slovene constitutional case law for instance it’s known as ordre public, public order. Still, one cannot say that rights are subject to the common good, for the maintenance of human rights is a fundamental component of the common good. But we can say that human rights are subject to or limited by each other, and by other aspects of common good, subsumed under conception of ordre public. In the case of Danish cartoon controversy the well-being of European Muslims in democratic community was infringed. Unjustified suppression of religious language and sentiments in public discourse is in my view one of the reasons for the general insensitivity and incompetence of European states to detect outlines of common good in this and similar cases.

Leaving aside Ahmadinajab, both an islamist and a funny guy (if you live outside his police state), the reaction of European press to the cartoon controversy was simply wrong, since by insulting Muslim citizens it infringed the common good in a democratic state and thus well-being of its citizens. The exercise of a right to free speech in this case was not a expression of GENUINE LIBERTY but of a mere free speech fundamentalism.

Or is there something else to find in Justice’s robes?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Criminal Justice or Victor's Justice?


Joseph Berry Keenan, Chief of Counsel for the United States at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial after World War II, commented some years after II world war:

World society acting through the Allied Powers, clearly had the right to try persons for war crimes and punish tem if they were guilty. This right of world society is innate and inalienable. General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the Pacific, acted on behalf of world society in accepting the delegation of authority to implement the Instrument of Japanese Surrender, and in exercising the power he received. Tokyo trials were founded on the basis of Christian-Judaic absolutes of good of evil. Principles upon which this trial rests may never be available as precedent for any nation which has espoused antithetic standards and norms.”

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMFTE) also known as the the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, was convened to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity, committed during World War II, including some incidents such as the Rape at Nanjing.

Radhabinod Pal, the Indian justice at the IMTFE, argued in his dissenting opinion that Japan was innocent. He wrote, "If Japan is judged, the Allies should also be judged equally." However, his opinion was not shared by the majority of the justices at Tokyo. The restriction of trial and punishment by the IMTFE to personnel of Japan has led to accusations of victor’s justice and that Allied war crimes could not be tried for henious crimes such bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ooh Yeah – Eurovision Song Contest Strikes back









It is always painful, embarrassing and most of all very hilarious to watch one’s own country and other countries participating in the Eurovision Song Contest, especially if one carefully reads very thougthful and deep lyrics of the most participating countries. This year is (alas) no exception. The Slovenian entry for 2006 is a song entitled “Mr Nobody” performed by a very good young singer Anžej Dežan. Leaving the performer aside, we feel that is a great need to concentrate more on lyrics of the Slovenian entry itselfl. Indeed, it is very difficult to surpass this year Maltese entry and its lyrics “I do I do I do I do I do love you like a fool” as Justin rightly suggests at his blog http://www.neebother.blogspot.com/.

However, we will let to our readers to judge if lyrics of Slovene song are any good. So we ask you to consider, read carefully and discuss appropriately the lyrics of Slovenian song. Thereafter, you may feel to compare those lines with one of the poems “In Silver Moonlight” of one of the most essential Slovenian poet, Srečko Kosovel.

More on this year Eurovision may follow in next days. You may watch an listen to all entries at http://www.eurovision.tv/english/index.htm.


MR NOBODY

YOU, YOU CAME TO ME ONE NIGHT,
JUST LIKE A RAY OF LIGHT,
I THOUGHT WE'D BE FOREVER
NOW, IT'S SO CLEAR TO ME,
I'M PART OF HISTORY,YOU'RE LEAVING ME IN SORROW

SO DEEPLY,
SO BADLY,
YOU'RE HURTING ME

TELL ME,
WHO'S THAT LUCKY HERO,
SLEEPING
TIGHTLY ON YOUR PILLOW,
TELL ME,
WILL IT BE FOREVER

'CAUSE WHEN YOU LOOK AT ME,
I'M MR NOBODY,
IT'S JUST A GAME YOU PLAY,
CAN'T LET YOU WALK AWAY

LIKE A STRANGER PASSING BY,
WITH NO MORE TEARS TO DRY,
YOU'RE LEAVING ME IN SORROW

Srečko Kosovel, In Silver Moonlight

A dark boat floats
in silver moonlight,
from the green harbour
a boatman set sail,
- from the green crystal
of a silent heart.
From the heart of midnight.

The leaves did not move
as if still in a dream,
alone by the shore
green they lean.

Each night on a silver ocean
the young boatman
dreams to and fro,
but back to the harbour
he'll never go.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Demise of Liberalism Revisited

"Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God. Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is : Do you not want to join them?"

Mahmood Ahmadi-Najad President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (excerpt from his letter to President Bush of the USA, which is in its entirety available here.)

The debate on liberalism, atheism, religion and public reason already figured on the agenda of this blog. Now the Iranian President has tossed the ball again back to us. What is he saying? Is he right? Are his contentions perverse in the light of his actual deeds? How to draw the line between the values of liberty and the abuses committed by those who enjoy this liberty? What about those who do not enjoy the liberty at all? Should the world really adopt a religous discoure? What would that mean?

In our eyes Iranian letter is an extremely well thought tactical move inspired by the very same criticism that is waged against liberalism, human rights etc. by the nihilist western left, with a single exception that Iran is not offering atheism as a model of discourse, but religion. But in essence, there is the same red line combining the two approaches. Both are intolerant: a comprehensive doctrine should trump the public discourse and hence the individuals' liberties, their rights to decide about their life on their own following their religious convictions that they share, whatever might those be, provided that they do not inflict pain on the others and on what is defined as public interest.

This, in my view, unprecedented letter will stir a lot of controversies and rightly so: but my standing is clear: this letter and the ensuing discussion will certainly show that the greatest value we have to defend is the INDIVIDUAL and HIS GENUINE LIBERTY. And this is what I have been defending in my previous posts on liberalism opposing some other contributors whose turn is now to raise their voice.

Membership of the new UN Human Rights Council

Yesterday the United Nations Assembly elected 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council. It is reported that first signs from the election of the 47 members of the Council are very encouraging for the future of this new body. Slovenia failed to secure a seat in the Council, but we will no go into the reason for that at this point. The membership of the Council is quite impressing; however the likes of Cuba, Pakistan and China still managed to be elected in the Council. The revolution must go on…

Membership of the Human Rights Council is available here:
http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/membership.htm

Monday, May 08, 2006

Slovenia: Diversity to Discover

You can check the Diversity here.

Mysterious ways of British politics – Tony Blair’s night of long knives

Would now be the right time for Tony Bair to hand over his position as incumbent UK prime minister to a fellow Scot, Gordon Brown, Labour party vice-chairman and acting Chancellor of Exchequer, or not ?. The answer is far from being straight-forward but it became very relevant after the Labour party suffered a heavy defeat in local elections in England.

On last Friday Tony Blair executed the most extensive overhaul of his cabinet since wining power in 1997, in order to refresh the momentum of his government after Labour’s party drubbing in the local election. One may describe as an act of Blair’s determination to stay in Downing Street. However, a poor election result triggered an immediate call from fifty prominent Labour MPs who demanded that Blair sets a date for his departure.

Blair in his purge sacked Charles Clarke as a home secretary (after a week of disastrous publicity to over his department’s failure to detain, deport or keep track of foreign former prisoners), moved Jack Strew to post of Commons leader and took away departmental responsibilities of deputy prime minister and daily icon in British tabloid press after his affair with 25 younger secretary, John Prescott.

What does that mean for Mr Gordon Brown? In British press it is widely seen that reshuffle means a significant boost for Mr Brown’s allies since they gained more important positions in the government.

A cabinet reshuffle was clearly one the last cards remaining in the hand of Mr Blair whose authority is visibly frying. Beneath the talk over sex scandals, loans-forpeerages and missing foreign convict lies doubts about the character and competence of Mr Blair’s government. It is a bit peculiar BUT for the first time in nine years voters have a genuine alternative in David Cameron’s Conservative party. On last Thursday local election the Conservative party won 40 per cent of the vote. Gordon Brown described the results as warning shot and said that renewal of New Labour must begin immediately.

But do you find any similarities with Slovenian political scene?

Friday, May 05, 2006

"Be not Afraid"

"There is another reason we can have confidence in the future of democracy. Individual rights, self-determination, and respect for the dignity of each person are consistent with our nature as human beings. We are created in the image and likeness of God, and He has planted in our hearts a yearning to be free. And because of that immutable truth, the idea of liberty will always stir men and women to action. So to those who struggle to secure their freedom, let us offer the same support we would ask for ourselves, and the same words of encouragement once given by Pope John Paul II to an afflicted Europe: 'Be Not Afraid.'"

Dick Chaney, Vice President of the USA in his recent speech in Lithuania, particularly critical of Russia and its treatment of democracy and freedom. (available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/04/world/europe/04cnd-cheney-text.html)

Outrageous

Slovenian Student Association has crossed the Rubicon. They have announced another protest on the eve of the ex-socialist Day of Youth. Not just students, but also high-school pupils and their PARENTS are to be invited, presumably again escorted by the biggest Slovenian Trade Union.

The lesson is: if you can not exact from the government the impossible, go to the streets and you'll get it there. Following this logics every social group, whenever dissatisfied, should go to the streets and protest, even if against the bad weather.

The student life in Slovenia, and especially of those self-proclaimed leaders of a Student organization with a highly dubious pedigree, is uncomparably luxurious in comparison to anything else I've seen around Europe and in the United States where I studied. N0body anywhere is eating 30% priced food in the posh restaurants subsidized by the state, nobody is working instead of studying, and nobody has a free public transport...

Excursus: Graduate Education is not the Right it is the Opportunity -- that the State encourages for the well-being of the society. But everything has its limits. Even stupidity as the time will show.

These demands really sound like a joke, a bad one though. But the best is the aggrieved claim: due to the new tax 150.000 students and high-school pupils will remain unemployed, i.e. without job. I really did not know that all those guys were actually employed- who the f... is studying then? It seems that we have again 150% rate of employment in Slovenia.... No wonder there is never a single free parking spot in the faculty-neighborhoods in Ljubljana. Btw: the State should also pay for the gas to the poor students who are otherwise not able to attend the lectures... That they in any case don't.

The clearly politically affiliated leader of the Slovenian Student Association should stop vasting the student money, paid by the state by the way, for his political projects. In modern democracies the politics is not done or imposed in the streets, but in the parliament. He should go and stand for elections if he likes as any other citizen, yet not backed up by the state money... But above all, at his age many would be ashamed to be an under-grad student...

I suggest: Return to the books and stop using the taxpayers money for street-parties.

Addressing human rights violations in the Basque country - independent report by the Australian television SBS

With the help of our Basque friends, we are hereby presenting the independent report of the Australian television SBS about the grave human rights violations in the Basque country.

The almost half-hour TV report may be viewed here:
http://news.sbs.com.au/dateline/index.php?page=archive&daysum=2006-04-05

As we portrayed in our previous pots the Spanish government presents the whole Basque opposition as terrorist and implement anti-terrorist measures in the two directions that we have explained previously. It accuses Basque citizens of “being terrorists”, without any evidence and without a fair trial. At this stage, they have implemented counter terrorism mechanisms in flagrant opposition to the international human rights, using incommunicado detention, which allows the existence of torture, denying a fair trial in the Special Antiterrorist Court (Audiencia Nacional), where statements taken under torture are sufficient to find the suspect guilty …. The last (E/CN.4/2002/76/Add.1) report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo van Boben, to the UN Commission on Human Rights, acknowledged the existence of 58 cases of torture denounced by Basque suspects during the year 2000. Second, political and social organizations that until now were working in a public, legal and free manner, are now being accused of being terrorists. By doing
so, they have violated the freedom of association, freedom of expression and opinion. There are, nowadays, two possibilities to allow the ilegalization of political and social organisations. There amany attempts to damage the political activity of the political party Batasuna. One of them comes from the intervention of judge Baltasar Garzón, examining magistrate of the Special Antiterrorist Court. He has decided that all the Basque social and grassroot organisations, political groups and even the media, included Batasuna, belong to ETA, and, therefore, they are against the law. He can take special pre-trial measures and, as a cautionary step, suspend the activities of these organisations. No substantial evidence is provided. More than 200 people are implicated in this process.

Another approach takeen by Spanish authorities consists in reforming the Parties Act and considering that the parties that do not agree with the “constitutional principles” are operating outside the Spanish law. The decision will be taken by the Special Court in the Supreme Tribunal. There will be no evidence either, but a media campaign which will have to convince Spanish public opinion. The activity of Batasuna will have been suspended for many years, with all the obvious consequences for both, the party and its electorate. In last decades there has been a serious record of violations of public freedoms and the lack of guarantees in the promotion and protection of human rights. It’s important to raise the voice of alarm in an attempt to prevent this situation from being translated into other political contexts, wherever they may occur.

It takes E.R. to draw attention to a humanitarian crisis in Darfur

The humanitarian disaster unfolding in Darfur received yesterday its most prominent exposure so far on American television. It was episode (and next episodes) of hospital drama E.R., which has brought to light the tragedy taking place in the Darfur region of war-torn Sudan, where upwards of 400,000 people are believed to have been killed in attacks by ethnic Arabs against black Africans. 2 million more were driven from their homes in the western Sudan province since 2003.

The three mayor American network evening newscasts devoted less than a combined 10 minutes so far this year to the political and ethnic conflict in Darfur

Resources on humanitarian crisis in Darfur:
http://hrw.org/doc?t=africa&c=darfur

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darfur_conflict

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Which country is shortchanged on bank holidays?

The Guardian, g2, Monday, 1 May 2006.

“This year, according to European parliament, every country in the EU will enjoy more public holidays than England, Scotland and Wales. By the time 2006, is out, the Slovenians will have treated themselves to 18 extra days off, scattered thoughfully and evenly throughout the year…To risk being teenage about it: it’s so unfair. Especially as, due to loophole in UK law, employers are allowed to subtract bank holidays from statutory 20 days of annual leave.”

Great Britain has only eight public holidays a year.

Croatia faces a bizarre case due its even more bizarre Penal Code

According to the Croatian web-news provider http://www.index.hr/ the co-ordinator of autonomous women house (NGO in Zagreb) was indicted by the president of the District court in Zadar, Croatia, for "exercising pressure on the judge by commenting on the trial and decision of the court before the finality of the judgment."

Believe it or not, Croatian Penal Code in its Article 309, Par. 2 provides the following (mine translation, supplemented by original in Croation for those who understand):

"Who during the process before the court, but before the final judgment has been rendered, in public media, at a public assembly or in front of the group of the people, presents his opinion on how the justice affairs official would need to act or decide in this particular case, is to be punished by a pecuniary fine of 150 daily incomes or imprisoned up to 6 months…
The act is not incriminated if conducted by the defendant or his lawyer if they presented their opinions after the official statement given by the state attorney or the judge in this respective case.
"

"(2) Tko za vrijeme postupka pred sudom, a prije donošenja pravomoćne sudske odluke, u javnim sredstvima priopćavanja, na javnom skupu ili pred skupinom ljudi, iznosi svoje mišljenje o tome kako bi u tom slučaju pravosudni dužnosnik trebao postupati ili kakve odluke donositi, kaznit će se novčanom kaznom do stopedeset dnevnih dohodaka ili kaznom zatvora do šest mjeseci. (3) Nema kaznenog djela iz stavka 2. ovoga članka ako njegovo zakonsko obilježje ostvari optuženik ili njegov branitelj, ako su iznijeli svoje mišljenje nakon službenog priopćenja za javnost od strane državnog odvjetnika ili suca glede određenog slučaja."

It is indeed striking that this kind of provision, clearly a dead hand of the past, still exists in contemporary Croatia since it is on its face contrary to the European Convention for Human Rights (trials are to be conducted in public, which entails their commenting and discussing in public) and since it straightforwardly breaches also the right to free speech as embedded in Croatian constitution.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Waiting for Ratko Mladic

It is over ten years since Ratko Mladić was on 21 July, 1995, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and numerous war crimes(including crimes relating to the alleged sniping campaign against civilians in Sarajevo). On 16 November 1995, the charges were expanded to include charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for the attack on the UN-declared safe area of Srebrenica in July 1995. Mladić is also responsible for the taking of hostages amongst UN peace-keeping address personnel.

He is suspected to be hiding either in Seriba or the Republika Srbska, but more likely around the major area of Belgrade. Serbian government in late March promised to hand over Mladić by end of April. That has not occurred. Therefore today the European Union suspended its negotiations with the Serbian government.

Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, confirmed the reluctance of cooperation of Serbian government in her address to the United Nations Security Council on 15 December 2005. She inter alia submitted the following:

“Until recently, there was no political will on either of these parties to go aggressively after Karadzic and Mladic. At the rhetorical level at least, this has changed now, and there are numerous statements by Serb and Bosnian Serb political and even religious leaders saying that Karadzic and Mladic must be brought to The Hague. These intentions at the top have, however, not necessarily filtered through all the layers of the institutions involved. To sum up this most crucial issue, my main partners in the hunt for Karadzic and Mladic are now the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro and the relevant authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The international community, through conditionality, is providing political incentives for the local authorities to arrest these indictees. On operational issues, however, the involvement of the international community has been minimal, at least over the past two years.

Serbia and Montenegro’s cooperation has, unfortunately, deteriorated in the past months. There is no serious, well-articulated action plan on the fugitives. Moreover, there is a lack of co-ordination between the State Union authorities and the two Republic’s Governments, and the rivalry between the involved agencies is palpable. The information passed to my Office is scarce and unconvincing. The Army of Serbia and Montenegro continues to hamper, both actively and passively, the co-operation of Serbia and Montenegro with the ICTY. Serbian civilian authorities admit today that the Army as an institution was protecting Ratko Mladic until as late as at least May 2002.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

Slovenia Celebrates 2nd Anniversary of EU Membership

In these days Slovenia celebrates the 2nd anniversary of the membership in the European Union. The membership has brought many positive changes; above all the change in the public discourse. Especially among the young people old ideological Kultur-kampf is not taking roots, despite its great support in the media and by some opposition figures. However, Slovenia has not yet burried all of its dead siblings from the WWII since the ideological stands are still too strong. And this undermines the country in a civilizational sense.

Nevertheless, the future seems to be promissing. Slovenia is going to adopt Euro with 1st of January 2007, it is going to preside the Union in 2008 and the domestic economy reforms in pursuance of Lisabon strategy are envisaged to be implemented in the same years.

What Slovenia would deserve most, however, is the opening of the intellectual and public domain, fresh winds, demise of arrogant and ideological parlance and ever-repeating Kultur-kampf. The country needs optimism, the life has to be, literally, infused into it - since the birth-rate has been in a persistent decline for more than 25 years now. It is easy: it is all about the perception and the image Slovenian reality would have in people's eyes - if we shared a feeling of mutual co-operation full of incentives for a better tomorrow instead of fights over the ideological picture of the past; if we got rid of proverbial envy, provincialism and of self-destructive attitude we would flourish.

Slovenia would not be just "a diversity to explore", a magnificent country with white mountains, blue sea and the green plains where our eyes can rest, it would be also an intellectual oasis where our hearts and minds would thrive. Non vedo l'ora...