Plus, Tajikistan aims to monitor the Internet for insults to the president and a court ruling strikes a blow for Bosnia’s unity.by Barbara Frye, Josh Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, Sofia Lotto Persio, and Ernad Halilovic 16 July 2012
1. Most-wanted Nazi suspect found in Budapest
The Simon Wiesenthal Center says it has tracked Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, its most-wanted Nazi war-crimes suspect, to the Hungarian capital. Csizsik-Csatary, who has for decades eluded justice, is accused of collaborating in the murders of almost 16,000 Jews, AFP writes.
Wiesenthal Center director Efraim Zuroff said information has been sent to prosecutors in Budapest and he expected Csizsik-Csatary to be questioned and prevented from leaving the country, The Times of Israel reports.
Csizsik-Csatary, a member of the Royal Hungarian Police, was allegedly involved in the 1941 deportation of 300 Jews to Ukraine, where they were killed, and in the deportation of about 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944, according to the Associated Press.
A Czechoslovak court convicted Csizsik-Csatary in absentia for war crimes in 1948, pronouncing a death sentence. He fled to Canada in 1949 but left that country in 1997, when his citizenship was revoked, and was believed to be in Hungary.
Zuroff said the cooperation of the British newspaper The Sun was essential in gathering evidence of Csizsik-Csatary’s whereabouts. Reporters took several pictures of the man, who denied the allegations when questioned on his doorstep.
2. Astana: Evidence of terrorist activity discovered in burnt-out house
A search of a house destroyed by fire last week in a village outside Almaty has unearthed “guns, ammunition, police uniforms, and religious literature,” AFP reports, citing the office of Kazakhstan’s chief prosecutor.
In light of the discovery, President Nursultan Nazarbaev criticized the country’s security services, saying their intelligence efforts are lacking in the face of a perceived growing threat from Islamic extremists.
AFP reports that eight people, including four children, died in the fire, which happened in the village of Tausamaly.
In late 2011, months after the country’s first suicide bombing and a subsequent car bomb, Kazakhstan passed a law that tightened the government’s grip on religious life. More blasts followed in October, and in November a suspected Islamist militant killed seven people, including himself, in the southern city of Taraz.
3. Tajikistan sets up volunteer body to monitor Internet
Tajikistan has announced plans to step up pressure on Internet users critical of the government. Officials are launching a public organization to monitor online publications for foul language and instances of libel or insult of public figures, including President Imomali Rahmon, according to Reuters.
The volunteer-run organization, which is still waiting to be registered with the Justice Ministry, has already started its work, according to the head of the country’s communications service, Beg Zukhurov, who announced plans for the group 13 July.
Zukhurov told reporters that the group had already dealt with several users who had insulted “well-known personalities,” though he declined to give specifics about what powers or responsibilities it has other than to “track down and identify” the authors of offensive comments.
Asked what would happen to these authors, Zukhurov said, “I don't know. Probably, they will be shown the error of their ways,” according to Reuters.
Tajikistan has recently tightened its grip on the web. Internet service providers, under the direction of the communications services, cut access to Facebook and two news sites in March after they published an article critical of the president titled, “Tajikistan on the eve of a revolution.” Last month, access was blocked to Asia-Plus, an independent news site, after editors refused government requests to remove comments that included insults to officials.
4. Court ruling bolsters Bosnia’s beleaguered unity
In a ruling that reinforces Bosnia’s fragile unity, the country’s highest court last week said state property falls under the control of the federal government. In doing so, it rejected a move two years ago by the government of one of the country’s two ethno-political subdivisions to take control of state property in its territory.
In September 2010, the legislature of Republika Srpska adopted a law that shifted control of state property located within the Serb-dominated enclave to its own government. Leaders of Republika Srpska have threatened to secede from Bosnia and have been intent on amassing as much authority as possible for the subdivision at the expense of the federal government.
Bosnia’s other subdivision is the Muslim and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The move was challenged by a Bosnian Muslim party and the property measure was suspended by Bosnia’s international overseer. The 13 July ruling by the Constitutional Court is considered historic by many analysts and media in Bosnia, as it strengthens the country’s sovereignty.
The property decision took place as one prominent regional analyst warned about the country’s prospects for unity. Marko Prelec of the International Crisis Group said last week that pressure from the EU to implement an international court’s ruling on discrimination could lead to a botched set of constitutional changes that only exacerbates the country’s political paralysis.
Bosnia has been without a government for most of the 21 months since it held parliamentary elections. A 2009 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights requires it to amend its constitution to open up its highest offices to ethnic groups other than those currently allowed – Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats, and Serbs. But the constitution is the result of the Dayton peace agreements, which ended the 1992-1995 war and froze in place a multilayered and fragile system of governance and ethnic balancing.
“Though a return to violence remains unlikely, these issues are highly emotional and risk extending political paralysis and leading to state failure,” Prelec writes.
The analyst says that while the country’s leaders must refocus on constitutional reform, the EU should make the reform the goal, and not the starting point, of the accession process.
5. Russia could extend ‘foreign agent’ label to media
Russian lawmakers are considering introducing a bill that would label some media outlets “foreign agents” and provide for their monitoring, RIA Novosti reports, citing coverage by daily newspaper Izvestia.
Vladimir Burmatov and Ilya Kostunov, lawmakers with the ruling United Russia party, said the measure would target “media acting in the interests of foreign states.” They said outlets that receive funds from abroad interfere with internal politics and spread foreign propaganda.
The announcement came days after Russia’s lower house of parliament passed a law applying the “foreign agent” tag to civic and watchdog groups receiving international funds and requiring such organizations to publish yearly audits. European human rights advocates have criticized the wording of the bill for its echoes of the persecution of dissidents during the Stalinist era.
According to The Moscow Times, Kostunov told Izvestia that “the story with foreign agents isn't over” and that the concept would be defined in greater detail than for the law on civic groups.
If the media measure becomes reality, it would likely take effect in the fall.
Several opposition figures have spoken out against recent bills widely seen as Moscow’s bid to muffle dissent, among them a measure to create a blacklist of websites. Ilya Ponomarev, a Duma deputy for the Just Russia party, argued that “this is not a far-sighted decision by the authorities” but a prelude to a “clampdown.”