Plus, Polish ex-spy chief charged over abuse of terror suspects and a Romanian woman’s remarkable rise from poverty.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, and Ioana Caloianu 28 March 2012
The charges were filed in January, Polish Radio quoted Siemiatkowski as saying. He is accused of exceeding his authority and unlawfully depriving suspects of liberty and subjecting them to physical punishment. Reports have identified a military base in Stare Kiejkuty, northeastern Poland, as the site of the CIA facility.
The European Parliament’s civil rights committee discussed the secret prisons at a hearing this week.
The Polish government opened an investigation in 2008, three years after the first allegations in the press that the CIA began using secret prisons in Poland and Romania in the wake of the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks.
In 2011 Lithuania closed its investigation into secret prisons in that country, citing a lack of evidence. Officials rejected a request by Amnesty International in October to reopen the probe.
Ukraine has announced plans to build a new containment structure at the Chernobyl nuclear plant starting next month, according to RIA Novosti. President Viktor Yanukovych spoke about the plans for the new “sarcophagus” during a conference on nuclear safety in Seoul on 27 March.
Construction of the 20,000 ton metal structure, which is designed to contain radioactivity, will start on 26 April, exactly 26 years after one of Chernobyl’s reactors exploded, spewing radioactive fallout across much of Europe in the worst nuclear accident in history.
The sarcophagus is expected to be completed by 2015. It will be 105 meters tall and 260 meters long and will replace a decaying concrete chamber built following the 1986 disaster. Reports put the cost of the structure at $1.2 billion to $2 billion, paid largely by international donors
At the conference, Yanukovych also said Ukraine will build a nuclear safety research and development center at Chernobyl. “Twenty-five years of Ukrainian experience could be useful to the whole world,” he said, according to Interfax. Nuclear power supplies about half of Ukraine’s electricity.
Two new political parties are planned in Turkmenistan in a move that will mark the end of one-party rule, at least formally. Work is under way to found an agrarian and an entrepreneurs’ party, Deputy Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toyliyev said 26 March, the Associated Press reports.
Currently, the Democratic Party is the only legal party. The country’s two presidents since independence, Saparmurat Niyazov and Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, have also served as party leaders, and the country’s weak legislature is dominated by party members.
Officials said the new parties would be launched “soon,” Radio Free Europe reports. Reports do not say whether officials will continue to manage the parties once they begin work.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2013.
Relative to their populations, Serbia and Kosovo continue to produce high numbers of asylum seekers, according to fresh UN and EU data.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says 21,200 citizens of Serbia, including Kosovo, requested asylum in 2011, of a total of 441,300 worldwide. Only Afghanistan, China, and Iraq produced more asylum seekers last year. The agency includes Kosovo and Serbian requests together because the UN does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
That figure is down from 2010, when Serbia and Kosovo headed the list with 29,600 applications. The UNHCR said the high number of applications that year was linked with the EU’s move to abolish visas for short-term visits by Serbian citizens.
High numbers of Serbs and Kosovans have sought asylum over most of the past decade, but their relative proportions are changing. In 2009, residents of Kosovo made up 74 percent of the total for Serbia and Kosovo, but that figure fell to 41 percent last year, according to the Balkan Transitional Justice website.
Slightly more than 300,000 people requested asylum in the EU last year, Eurostat reports. The main sources of asylum seekers were Afghanistan (28,000), Russia (18,200), Pakistan (15,700), and Iraq (15,200), followed by Serbia (13,900, Kosovo excluded).
The hard work and determination of a Romanian Roma woman took her from selling newspapers on the streets of Manchester to dining with the British monarch, the Guardian reports. Ramona Constantin, 27, was among the guests at a mid-March lunch in Manchester attended by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Originally from the Romanian town of Urziceni, Constantin never attended school and married at 19. Her life-changing decision to move to Britain came three years ago. Initially a vendor of The Big Issue in the North, a magazine sold by homeless people, after becoming fluent in English she participated in a training scheme for young Romani adults organized by the magazine's sister charity and several municipal organizations. Now she divides her time among jobs as an interpreter, classroom assistant, and youth and family worker.
Constantin said the invitation to lunch with royalty made her feel “incredible,” especially because “it was the only time when my family from Romania told me they are proud of me,” rather than asking her to return home. Being the only Rom invited made her feel special, she said, adding, “It has motivated me to keep on doing my work and trying to inspire people in my community to raise their aspirations.”