I CARE - Special Report - HDIM 2006

Live reporting from the OSCE Human Dimensions Implemetation Meeting
(HDIM) October 2 -15, 2006, Warsaw, Poland.













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[October 11]
[October 12]


HDIM - October 12





***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***
Quotes of the day - Editorial - BELARUS Demo - Happenings at the Plenary - videobytes - Da Buzz - Tolerance and Non-Discrimination information system - Roma and Sinti at the OSCE - False sense of security - Those things we really do not want to talk about - IN MEMORIAM Anna Politkovskaya - Intervention Roma and Sinti action plan -

Quotes of the day

'Nobody votes themselves out of business here'

'And then he gave me that good-old 500-yard KGB glare'

'Sorry, this is kind-of a low-tech meeting'

'Can't we skip the NGOs this time?'

Participate!

You want to have your comments or other contributions (opinion articles, reports) published here? Send them to hdim@icare.to.

Editorial

'more importance'

So what happened to the questions that were asked yesterday in the plenary during the the Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan on Roma and Sinti? Ok, some of those where answered. We're right now waiting for the electronic version of that. In the meantime look here, the official report on the plenary session on the action plan. Further on you will find the text of the intervention in which the questions were asked.

All HDIM 2006 documents up to now can be found here.

The good news is that the Tolerance and non-Discrimination program will have funding for another year. Also the 3 personal representatives of the Chair in Office will continue their work. You would've expected that all 3 personal representatives of the Chair in Office would be here. However, that is not the case. Gert Weisskirchen, the personal rep for Antisemitism has pressing family matters to attend to, which can happen. Anastasia Crickley, rep for Christianophobia and other discrimination issues showed up at the last possible moment, waltzing in the plenary, waltzing out as soon as she could, spending 15 minutes at a side event and magically disappearing into the mist after. The only rep that's been here for a few solid days is ambassador Ömer Orhun the personal representative for Islamophobia (I really prefer 'Hate against Muslims), which is somewhat cynical, since during the Cordoba conference last year Islamophobia was bumped down in importance over Christianphobia. Later today during a side-event we found out that at least in Turkey Christianophobia is a serious problem, but since all the tiny minorities in Turkey are suffering discrimination that is not very surprising. Still there is no firm data on discrimination against Christians in the OSCE-participating states. There's lots of frowning and cynicism going on over the Christianophobia thing, coming from governmental delegates and NGOs both. Somewhat understandable, Christianity in Europe is still the religion of the white majority in power, it is not like all of a sudden Christianity faces discrimination all over. The side event on Christianophobia of this evening was not well attended; 3 priests, 1 TnD staffer, 1 governmental delegate and 1 NGO rep. But let's keep an open mind. As I said, some firm data on incidents would probably help to stop the snickering.

Fun and games on antisemitism and Islamophobia was created by EU chair Finland. Finnish delegates were having a heated debate in the corridor in front of the plenary about the font-size of the words antisemitism and Islamophobia on two leaflets they'd produced. One word was bigger than the other, and of course this could possibly reflect 'more importance'.

Yesterday evening 'The Church of Scientology' organized a side-event about 'Human Rights issues' (!). It wasn't on the official program. Somebody was distributing flyers and many HDIM-going NGOs got the invite spammed. What a hoot, Scientology, a sect that brainwashes people, rips-off their money and makes them mentally dependent is talking about Human Rights. It mystifies me that they are allowed to peddle their nasty ideology here, posing as human rights NGO. They are an illegal organization in Germany and no sane NGO or government wants to be associated with them. Anyway. Seven people turned up for their event and others embarrassedly peeked-in from the corridor.

Surprise, the morning started with a picket-line of some 6 Belarussians in front of the venue! They were trying to get attention for civil rights violations in Belarus. More on this further on. I have to say though that an ODIHR staff member went over to meet them. You have to give it to the ODIHR people; they work in a country which government and human rights situation is pretty bad, they have to sit nicely with all kind of undemocratic governments during the course of their work, but they stay on track, support NGOs, take the right moral stances and try to advance human rights, sometimes seemingly against all odds.

All in all this HDIM did not bring a lot of new things. Islamophobia stayed still somewhat off-radar, main problem there seeming to be that it is hard to find Muslim NGOs to work with - there are very little Muslim umbrella-organizations or networks- and after all ODIHR needs NGO-feedback to be able to do their work.

A big follow-up conference on all the conferences on Tolerance issues of the last few years will be held next year in Bucharest will be a possibility to engage with Muslim groups - which in my view is direly needed.

Ronald Eissens.





Videobite:

Interview with Hanna Stemann, James Lawson and Bert Verstappen of ODIHR/TnD, about the new data collection mechanism.

click here to play the Video file.





Roma & Sinti at the OSCE

Roma NGOs at the HDIM are extremely well organized. They have to be, since there's a host of anti-Roma feelings in the OSCE-countries Roma traditionally live. I've noticed this myself many times, either by overhearing remarks like 'the Roma are making too much noise' or, more openly hateful, traveling in those countries and hearing the majority population do their worst.
I remember we were standing in Auschwitz talking to someone, and the guy started about 'how the value of your house goes down when Roma move in next to you and he'd rather not have that'. Saying a thing like that in Auschwitz, mind you. He was sure we would understand and was hurt when we kicked his miserable ass all over the place. A figure of speech, of course. After all, we did not really want to lower ourselves to his level.


On a diplomatic level people are more cautious, although some Russian Federation delegations have no such restraint. At times they will just go plain nuts and state during meetings that 'Roma and Sinti are a dirty, stealing, begging lot who should disappear'. Of course diplomacy will ensure that it gets ignored or that other countries will speak mild words about 'not agreeing with their esteemed colleagues'. Blah. Diplomacy is useful but at times plain nauseating.


Overkill?
All the time you hear there's too much on Roma - but hey, you will hear that about antisemitism and Holocaust denial too - you will hear that either Roma or 'The Jews' are 'always coming with this or that' (what a surprise) or 'trying to take this or that over' (more suprises). Funny, you never hear that being said about the International Human Rights NGOs or other NGOs that are either not 'ethnic' or have a topic that does not deal with antisemitism or discrimination of Roma. Wel, pretty soon, with the careful appearance of more Muslim-NGOs it will go 'those Muslims always want this or that' in the corridors. Welcome to the club!


By the way - this is really the umpteenth time I see that the Roma NGOs are pretty much going it alone. Natural mistrust plays a big part, and I see a lot of similarity with how the Jewish NGOs operate. For that matter, Roma & Sinti and Jewish organizations should be natural partners - and have been so many times- but lately not a lot is happening. The OSCE is an excellent environment for Roma and Sinti and Jewish NGOs to team up, I would say.


Anyway - Roma and Sinti are right now a minority in Europe that is more under attack all the time than other communities. Not that I want to go into the whole hierarchy of suffering thing, no way. Everybody hurts. Just making a point here for those who think that Roma and Sinti are 'going over the top'. They're not, ok?

Ronald Eissens





Intervention on implementation of the OSCE Action Plan

Presented by Gabriela Hrabanová, Athinganoi (prepared in collaboration with Romani NGOs representatives)

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentleman

After years of efforts there are various policy papers on Roma at international and national level. We have national strategies, Roma Decade, OSCE Action Plan etc.

This is the moment, perhaps, for the OSCE to define certain priorities of the Action Plan. Prioritizing certain issues, chapters or measures would generate clarification of the review methodology and assessment of the implementation of the Action Plan by the Member States and complete the "package" based on complementary commitments.

The relation between Roma and police could be internationally discussed only at OSCE forums and in the framework of the Action Plan. Therefore it should be one of key priorities of the OSCE Action Plan.

Specific cases of excessive use of force by the police toward Roma communities are already well documented.

Questions related to the recent events about police misconduct and excessive use of force and problems related to housing in Romania as well as the in France and forced evictions in Turkey Istanbul and Russian three main communities. Others are focusing on the rebuilding of the lives and safety of Kosovar Romani refugees and internally displaced persons. All the questions prepared by Romani representatives were posted on the ICARE website www.icare.to and they are available for all the delegations online. The questions for the Member States related to Romani issues were already placed in pigeon boxes of 56 Member states:

Here, I would have some specific questions:

  1. In Skopje CPRSI (Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues), HCNM (High Commission on National Minorities) and SPMU (Strategic Police Matter Unit promised to establish a fund for Roma NGOs in order to address the issue on police and Roma. Is there any development regarding this commitment?
  2. As general approach of the OSCE is to assist the Member States upon the request - Which state is ready to invite HCNM, SPMU, and CPRSI for undertaking the action regarding police and Roma in the framework of the OSCE Action Plan on Roma?


Recommendations

  1. Non-governmental organizations could not supplement the work of the government and political parties. Similarly as we consider very low representation of majority women in politics we need to increase the minority representation especially of Roma who are the citizens of their countries and for considerable part European citizens. We call upon the governments to support citizenship education - such as voters' education, politicians trainings directed both to Roma and non-Roma to ensure higher democratic representation and mutual understanding of all people in OSCE countries.
  2. OSCE should promote priorities of the Action Plan and support the Member States toward their implementation.
  3. Member States should request from the OSCE institutions and field operations to assist them in implementation of measures related to Police.
  4. OSCE should establish a fund to support initiatives on Roma and police


To conclude and repeat all questions of Romani non-governmental organization (some of them were presented on this session) were delivered to respected delegations also in written form, therefore we ask you to answer them in written form to ODHIR Contact Point For Roma and Sinti Issues. Therefore we task the Contact point to collect all the answers for the questions in written form, and to distribute them to the registered Romani organization for the HDIM 2006

In final words, as a representative of Romani NGOs present on the HDIM 2006, I would like to express our thanks for the work of Nicolae Gheorge, Senior Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues will finish his seven years of serving in the same time to OSCE and Romanies in OSCE area. We strongly hope that his successors will continue the comprehensive works in targeting improvement of Roma and Sinti.

Thank you Nicolea.
Thank you for your attention.





Videobite:

Interview with Joanne Bishop, TnD head of program, talking about the Tolerance and non-Discrimination Program.

click here to play the Video file.





BELARUS Demo

A small gathering of protesters stood in front of the Sofitel Victoria hotel where the HDIM is held. They were calling attention to the situation in Belarus, where people are persecuted for, amongst other things, their political views. One of the placards showed a picture of Alexander Kazulin, one of the opposing presidential candidates during the elections in Belarus last spring. He was arrested and sentenced to five and a half years prison for organizing demonstrations, insulting the president and hooliganism. The latter two charges related to an incident when Kazulin's fist met with a portrait of president Lukashenko. Representatives of ODIHR spoke with the protesters and received a statement from them, to be handed to the Chair in Office of the OSCE. Click here to read the statement

Warsaw has a refugee camp for a few hundred Belarussians that had to flee the country. They are composed of people from all over the political (opposition) spectrum, and of people that do not belong to any particular party, all just advocating a more open and transparent election process in Belarus.





Videobite:

Interview with ambassador Õmer Orhun, OSCE personal representative for Islamophobia, about the ruined fault-lines between Muslim communities and Western communities.

click here to play the Video file.





Da Buzz

Will the Bucharest conference be useful? The normal OSCE mechanism of implementing measures, reporting and evaluation during the HDIM seems to get diluted by the wealth of topical conferences since 2003. The impression is that countries lean back at bit, letting 'the conference' take care of matters. Also, the mandate of the 3 Personal rep's is secured for another year, but grumbling in the corridors is being heard. 'Does it work' being the main question, always followed by 'do we really need 3, can't we combine them'. Well, somehow we can't see the personal Rep on antisemitism deal with Islamophobia or vice versa. Nor do we see any need to 'let them travel together to save money'. They all have their own mandate and expertise and should not be forced to get into each other's way.

Tolerance and Non-Discrimination information system

During their side event TnD presented its new information system, which can be foud at http://tnd.odihr.pl/.



We know that a lot of work went into building this. Please go and have a look, and use it - actually by entering your data you make it even better!



Here's the official blurb on it:



The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights was tasked by the Ministerial Council in 2003 to serve as a collection point for information related to tolerance and non-discrimination on the basis of information received from the participating States, civil society and intergovernmental organizations.

The ODIHRs Tolerance and Non-Discrimination information system was created to store and facilitate retrieval of information received from the participating States, as well as from partner organizations.

In order to share and promote practical initiatives and to provide information and raise awareness on issues related to tolerance and non-discrimination this website has been made available to the public.

Related legislation is made available in co-operation with Legislationline, the ODIHR's online legislative database created to assist OSCE participating States in bringing their legislation into line with relevant international human rights standards.

Partnership with HuriSearch HuriSearch is a vertical search engine developed by HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems International) indexing websites from more than 3,000 human rights organizations worldwide.

In a strategic partnership with the ODIHR, HURIDOCS provides customised access to over 1,500,000 documents as an integrated part of the ODIHR's website. A link on every key issue or corner page queries HuriSearch for documents and reports published by the human rights community of relevance to the theme of the current page.

The ODIHR welcomes feedback on the usefulness and the user-friendliness of this website. The ODIHR also welcomes information about resources on tolerance and non-discrimination issues. Submissions will be reviewed by ODIHR and made publicly available where appropriate.

The Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System gives easy, one-point access to information through various entry points. The menus with the entry points are available on every page and can be revealed or hidden with a single click.





Videobite:

Interview with Alexander Verkhovsky from SOVA Center in Moscos, about hate crime in the Russian Federation.

click here to play the Video file.





Those things we really do not want to talk about

Yes, there are things like that. CHECHNYA is one of them. You name Human Rights violations in Chechnya and Russian Federation delegates will look daggers and maybe even use their right of reply (which they hardly ever do, they love to ignore the little people) and foam at the mouth. Other delegations will just frown a bit and look embarrassed. Especially the EU-delegates will studiously look at the ceiling or the nice centerpiece with flowers. Winter is coming and the Gazprom gas needs to keep flowing, thank you very much. This maybe all sounds burlesque. I assure you, it is less burlesque for the Human Rights activist, critical journalists and NGOs in the Russian Federation. They are in danger all the time.





Videobite:

Interview with Paul Legrand from Human Rights First, about hate crime in Russia.

click here to play the Video file.









Happenings at the Plenary today

Here's a mood-impression and a short rundown of some interesting moments and interventions.

The Islamic Union thinks that human dimension is disregarded with Muslims issues and asks for a less paternalistic and cultural domination behaviour and more a true dialogue on an equal footing. On education, discrimination is suffered by Muslims children in Germany where there is a prohibition for them to be taught in their mother tongue and where there is no Islamic religion education.

Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe by CEJI . To live in a diverse and respectful society requires knowledge and understanding. Knowledge about who the other is, its history and culture and understanding and learning about somebody's else identity. All participants States should acknowledge the existence of racism and develop measures to tackle it among which education, promotion of dialogue, support of networks with people from different backgrounds.

The Holly See enumerated the different activities supported by the Catholic Church to promote Interfaith dialogue and peace

An association representing young migrants in Germany gave some interesting figures: 10 per cent of unemployment in Germany, 25 per cent of unemployment among migrants, 55 per cent of unemployment among Turkish people. Crime rate for Germans is equivalent to the Turkish crime rate, because the Turkish Family structure does not accept misbehaviour. The following points should be addressed. The participation rate of migrants in higher education has to go up and in order to achieve this young migrants need special schemes to support them. The creation of Youth parliamentary Council in each German federal state and in all OSCE countries is needed. The Youth parliamentary Councils should have power of recommendation. Furthermore, the establishment of a Youth Day, e.g. 19 May which in Turkey is already the day of Turkish Youth and support for Migrant Youth organisations. Town twinning's should be promoted between Turkey and Germany, with the aim of promoting exchange of young people.

Right of reply

Turkey wants to express its indignation about the disconcerting way the country has been portrayed. A former speaker from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre accused Turkey to propagate antisemitism through books that were distributed at a book fair in Germany. The Turkish delegate firmly refutes this false allegation and clarifies that the books were issued by a private institution of publishers.

Germany explains that a lot of work that is being done in Germany at Federal-state and national level to improve the situation of Young migrants. Special efforts are developed to promote education, training and vocational training of young migrants.

End of the day

On Behalf of ODHIR, Joanne Bishop highlights some of the recommendations made during the session such as the acknowledgment of the specific asset of Youth in the fight against racism or to facilitate the emergence of a Youth Forum with the power of making recommendations. Hate crimes is a key issue which has been the object of a report by ODHIR. She thanks the NGOs for providing additional information to the report. The report stresses the lack of data, the lack of effective response from states, and particularly from police. She also mention good practices that were developed in OSCE participating States, such as the improvement of legislation in Croatia and Estonia, the efforts developed to train law enforcement agencies in Ireland and Serbia, the establishment of a specialised body in the Czech Republic and the fact that Latvia is now addressing the specific needs of Roma in its action plan to combat racism .





Videobite:

Interview with Mrs Shpresa Agushi-Romane from the NGO Romnja-Kosovo about important issues for Roma women.

click here to play the Video file.





Videobite:

Interview with Maxim Anmegichean, ILGA Programmes Director on a topic 'ILGA's position on the issues of tolerance and non-discrimination in frames of OSCE activities'.

click here to play the Video file.





False sense of security

Since 9/11 security has been beefed up all over the place. Not so during the HDIM. The entrance to the main plenary hall has a security gate and staff - but for years now they hardly look at their screen. This year the metal detector everyone has to walk through was even broken, and nobody bothered to have it fixed or replaced, or to check people using the mobile detectors (laying unused on the table). I got through lots of times with all kind of electronics in my pockets, and a whole number of items that could possibly be used for harmful activities. The security is not only a joke, it is a disgrace and an accident waiting to happen. BOOM.





Videobite:

Interview with Nicolae Georghe, Director of the ODIHR Contact Point for Roma and Sinti (CPRSI).

click here to play the Video file.





IN MEMORIAM

Anna Politkovskaya
Journalist, Human Rights Defender, Democrat

Born 30 August 1958 in New York City
Died 7 October 2006 in Moscow
Murdered for her convictions





Videobite:

Interview with Oxana Chelysheva, Russian-Chechen Friendship Society about 'Discrimination of Chechens and other minorities in the Russian Federation'

click here to play the Video file.









HDIM - October 11





***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***ARTICLES***
Balanced Identity: A matter of perceptions - Police And Roma: TOWARDS SAFETY FOR MULTIETHNIC COMMUNITIES - Videobytes: Enissa Eminova - Bashkim Ibishi - Saimir Mile - Preparation for the session on Roma and Sinti Issues Today - God, Gays and Freedom - Editorial - ODIHR/Anne Frank Teaching Material - Interview with Mr. Valeriu Nicolae Ciolan - Interview with Floriane Hohenberg -

Quotes of the day

'They give you pyjamas by the way, and a nice duvet!'

'You can see I don't look like Osama Bin Laden or any imam!'

'It's mostly complete drivel that I've written'(governmental delegate).

Participate!

You want to have your comments or other contributions (opinion articles, reports) published here? Send them to hdim@icare.to.

Editorial

A congregation of suits unlimited (both NGO and governmental representatives) descends on the Sofitel Victoria Hotel here in Warsaw, the traditional venue for the annual Human Dimensions Implementation Meeting - or as some call it, the 'name and shame' session, the place were governments and NGOs from the 55-participating OSCE states look at the issues that were decided upon in the previous year (s) and if anything was actually implemented. Lots of naming and the occasional shaming, although the latter is 'really not done' in this arena. Well, NGOs get away with it, sort of. Although the OSCE and especially its Human Rights office ODIHR cannot exist without civil society input, some of the countries do not exactly treat their society in any civil way. Hate crime against minorities like Lesbians and Gays, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Muslims and others is on the rise in a number of OSCE participating states. To name and shame one country; Poland. Traditional host to the HDIM, home base for ODIHRs main office in Warsaw. Things are not well in Poland. Violence and discrimination against Gays and Jews, antisemitic rhetoric running rampant, and the ultra-right wing government which is power by and large looks the other way. ADL just wrote a report about it. Read it and weep. (link to report)

So what kind of HDIM will this be? A 'Let's just take what we learned from the big conferences on Antisemitism, Islamophobia, discrimination and xenophobia, in short discrimination, and put in in a beautiful blender so what comes out is this bland tolerance-soup that everybody can be sort-of happy with? Or is this the HDIM that we will all use to strengthen the existing Tolerance and non-Discrimination program and the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti, in that way giving space for all relevant issues, each with their own focus, expertise and special problems? I hope the latter. I also hope that the most pressing issues, Islamophobia, discrimination of Roma and Sinti and antisemitism will keep the support they deserve - including the continuation of ODIHR's Tolerance and non-Discrimination program and the personal representatives.

The topic we will be reporting on today is mainly Roma & Sinti issues, the plenary should generate some answers to the questions that the NGOs asked on that (see further). We'll try to slip-in some stuff for tomorrow too.

The Roma are very organized - I wish we could all be like that - but I wonder if everybody appreciates their number of side-events. It is not the first time I hear some whisper things like 'I'm all Roma-ed out'. Of course this is never done in public, and I've heard it all before; 'Jew-ed out, Muslim-ed out…' That we're at a meeting about Tolerance and non-Discrimination does not mean there are no bigots here. Far from it. Luckily, you can also at times see excellent work being done here. Walking into the plenary this afternoon I heard U.S. Delegate Erika Schlager say; 'the prejudices against Roma in the Russian Federation create a combustible environment'. In other words 'Get the hell of your asses all, the Roma in Russia are in grave danger'.

Ronald Eissens.

Preparation for the session on Roma and Sinti Issues Today

As a preparation for today's afternoon session (October 11, 3 pm), the Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan on Roma and Sinti Issues, in cooperation with the ODIHR Contact Point for Roma & Sinti we are inviting everybody to send questions on this subject. We will then bring those to the attention of the plenary meeting and will report on any answers. Please send you mail to hdim@icare.to before October 11, 12 am. The OSCE Action Plan on Roma and Sinti Issues and other relevant info can be found here .

Here you can find a summary of the first week side events on Roma and Sinti issues!

Have a look at some of the questions we already got in:










Videobite:

Interview with Bashkim Ibishi, Executive baord member of the Kosovo Roma and Ashkali Forum in Kosovo, about their position paper.

click here to play the Video file.





Balanced Identity: A matter of perceptions

We attended the side event on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Expression: Recent Controversies and Recent Developments, organized by ODIHR Advisory Counsel on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, where discussion of the Danish cartoon controversy and the wearing of headscarves dominated the conversation. While the speakers gave formal examples of governmental decisions regarding respecting the religious freedoms of minorities and opening dialogue, I found the participants responses to be the most interesting and eye-opening to the problems facing the OSCE member states today.

Ambassador Omur Orhun, the Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination Against Muslims was in attendance and was the first in the crowded room to speak. Her stated his concerns over the balance of freedom of expression and respect for religious intolerance and although he didn't feel that the two needed to be mutually exclusive, he expressed concern that there is a growing fault line between Muslim and western communities.

Overall, it all seemed to be a matter of perceptions. The religious-based NGOs and activitists (Russian Orthodox Church, Scientologist, Ecumenical Groups) were concerned that their identities were being oppressed by the majority, while governmental representatives and humanists seemed alarmed at the fading of rights such as academic freedoms and general freedom of speech and the erosion of the principles of liecity. It was an interesting and at times charged meeting and ended with no real solutions or recommendations.



Videobite:

Interview with Enissa Eminova, consultant on Roma Women's issues about what the most important issues are right now for Roma women.

click here to play the Video file.





Police And Roma: TOWARDS SAFETY FOR MULTIETHNIC COMMUNITIES

This was the last Roma side event organized by Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues and was held to address the Subchapter on Roma and Police and the measures to combat and to eradicate police abuse. Moderated by Mr. Nicolae Gheorghe, Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues, it was a packed session - at times standing room only.

He explained that the organization of Roma side events was directed at highlighting the Action Plan - all events were set up to address the Action plan chapter by chapter - 10 chapters and 10 events. This was strategically done to give Roma activists a thorough overview of the issues being addressed before the Working Session on the Implementation of the Action Plan. Although there has been talk that the number of Roma events at the HDIM has been excessive, this plan seems to be a logical and efficient way to make sure that a small but organized group, like the Roma, are getting the best bang for their buck - maximizing the two weeks of the HDIM to pose strategic questions and get answers from the 55 member OSCE.

Mr. Nicolae Maximillian, Commissioner, the Romanian Institute for Research and Prevention of Criminality was the guest speaker and did his best to be a spokesperson for the Roma Police Force - an unenviable position when it comes to answering questions about police human rights abuses. He was positive when explaining the efforts being made by Romania in combating police abuses against Roma and bridging the gap between international police standards and the reality in Romania. He described the current self assessment being done by the Romanian police force to address problems such as abuse in police intervention with Roma arrests, obtaining of warrants, police behavior towards Roma suspects and follow-up by the police on Roma complaints of abuse by law enforcement.

Although the final report on the self assessment will not be completed until the end of October, he was quick to stress that the police will continue to monitor the progress, laws and internal regulations after the report and that they want it to be a process and not just a stage of a particular activity. "We still have lots of work to do in our organization in order to improve our relationship with Roma" said Mr. Maximillian and he is right. Although he wants to see more involvement from Roma leaders - educating their communities on police action and the role of police, the onus cannot completely be put onto the Roma for this. It will take full cooperation from both sides and seeing that the power structure lies more in favour of the police, it seems that they will have to make the larger effort.

The suggestions by Roma activists that the inclusion of Roma men and women into the police force as well as the active training of police on Roma issues by the Roma are sound and seem to be in line with what the Romanian governments ultimately wants. We will just have to wait and see if it can become a reality.



Videobite:

Interview with Saimir Mile, President of the NGO 'The voice of the Rroms' about Roma issues in France.

click here to play the Video file.





Side-event: ODIHR/Anne Frank Teaching Material on Anti-Semitism: presentation of the pilot Program

In order to implement commitments made by the OSCE participating States at the Berlin conference, the ODHIR was tasked to assist the participating States in preventing and responding to anti-Semitism, including through educational programmes. The ODHIR has worked with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in developing teaching materials on Anti-Semitism and in cooperation with experts from 7 countries: Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine.

Karen Polak from the Anne Frank House and coordinator of the international group of experts explained that the teaching materials, which target low-level students, aims at achieving the following objectives: the pupils are able to identify and understand Jewish culture and identity and are able to give examples of Jewish life; the pupils can understand what Anti-Semitism is, to acquire insights into Anti-Semitism as a historical phenomenon and make links between historical and current Anti-Semitic comments; the pupils are aware of how prejudice works, they can argue why prejudices are not correct and they can explain how scapegoating works.

The 'ready to use' material that will give detailed information, graphics and assignments for the students will come in three parts. Part 1 is on the history of Anti-Semitism, part 2 on contemporary forms of Anti-Semitism and part 3 puts Anti-Semitism into perspective with other forms of discrimination.

The materials are designed in such a way as to provide schools and teachers with flexibility in terms of where to place such subject matter in their curriculum: They could fit easily into such subjects as History, social sciences or civic lessons. One innovative aspect of this project is that the materials are not of the one-size-fits-all variety. The two projects partners worked closely with national experts to produce materials specific to the context of each of the pilot countries.

After an evaluation and feedback received from students, the material is currently being revised and should be ready in 2007. Other interested countries are invited to work with the project partners to adapt the materials to their own national contexts and to make them an integral part of the curriculum in their school systems.

The project was in general very much welcomed by the participants in the side event even though some of them expressed their concern about the ability of certain teachers to deal properly with such a sensitive and politicised issue. Suggestions were made to improve the Teacher's guide and to provide them with concrete support.

Interview with Mr. Valeriu Nicolae Ciolan

Interview with Mr. Valeriu Nicolae Ciolan, European Roma Grassroots Organization (Bucharest) regarding the impact of media on the image of the Roma community. Mr. Ciolan is a Romani activist working out of Bucharest for the European Roma Grassroots Organization, an organization whose goal is to focus on the positive by concentrating their efforts on developing actionable solutions to the problem facing Roma communities throughout Europe.

What role do you think the media plays in the negative image of the Roma in communities throughout Europe?

I think the media has been terrible. They are the main promoters of anti-gypsy statements in mass media. At best, they often portray Roma as subhuman - like animals. They make articles saying Roma are criminals, rapists and thieves and tens of tens of these articles can be found every week throughout Europe.

For example in Italy and Romania there were recently articles like this and there were about 4000 reader responses, and something like 80,000 readers who viewed the articles. The responses were horrible - "they should be burned, kill them all, we should do what Hitler did." Out of all of those responses, there was not one positive response. Not once response that said "This is racist".

What do you think could be responses or solutions to improve the media coverage of the Roma image?

I think that the media needs to not just target "stereotypical" Roma when covering Roma issues. They need to focus on finding more professional Roma - although many are in "hiding", not out in the open, because of extreme social stigmas. The media even focuses on the elites of the far -right and that gives them a better image. For example, Nicolae (Gheorghe - Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues for the OSCE), has never been invited to talk on any Romanian talk show. There have been several talk shows on Roma issues and they have never even invited the top Roma official in Europe to come and discuss the issues"



Videobite:

Interview with Floriane Hohenberg, NGO-Liaison and capacity builder for ODIHR's Tolerance and non-Discrimination Program (TnD), about TnD and the role of civil society.

click here to play the Video file.





God, Gays and Freedom

Side-event: The Role of Religion in Promoting Tolerance and the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People - ILGA - Europe
This meeting, hosted by ILGA Europe and with panel members from Canada, England and Pakistan, provided a unique look into the LGBT communities that are seeking to be able to express their devotion to their faith.

The first speaker addressed Islam and homosexuality and was quick to highlight that the Koran does not encourage violence and non-tolerance against LGBTs, but that it says to make things easy for the people and to not make things difficult. He suggested that when addressing the issue of homosexuality and Islam with Muslims, it must be done in a general and respective manner and not be accusatory, but also noted that it should be understood that no one should be asked to choose between his or her nationality, religion and culture.

The last two speakers were both Reverends, one from the Church of England and the Metropolitan Community Church, an international church with an all-gay congregation. Both speakers were supportive of gays have the freedom to support their faith, but the last speaker, Rev. Diane Fischer spoke from the heart and was quite inspirational. She spoke of how the subject touched her closely, since she was a lesbian bishop who is married to a Jewish woman and has a child that has two gays dads. She mentioned this because she wanted to highlight how as a bishop she was dedicated to her faith, but that she knows that many fundamentalists would never acknowledge that and would only consider her the epitome of all things evil due to her "lifestyle".

She explained that LGBT were not allowed to be complete, whole and express their faith and beliefs in a safe environment or to hold god in their hearts because they are seen as sinners. LGBT rights should be incorporated into all human rights struggles because all struggles inevitably have a gay man or women who is involved. It can't be religious freedom and belief for everybody but…. Freedom of assembly for everybody but……. They must be included in all - because it must be understood that there are many ways to be in the world. Bless her for her insight!

Onwards to the disco! :-)

Best,

ICARE Team in Warsaw.

Suggestions and comments please to hdim@icare.to