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June 8, 2012

Putin signs law inceasing fines for illegal protestors

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Friday, June 8, 2012

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President Vladimir Putin of Russia today signed a new law increasing the fines available against those involved in unlawful protests, overriding concerns from his human rights advisor and the Council of Europe.

Putin, seen here in his official portrait, is facing protests against his third term as President.

The measure was proposed by ruling United Russia after May 7 protests coinciding with Putin’s third inauguration saw clashes between protestors and police, with 400 arrests. The United Russia-dominated State Duma voted 241–147 in favour earlier this week, ahead of a protest scheduled for Russia Day, June 12, in Moscow against Putin’s twelve-year rule.

The new legislation increases maximum fines for individuals involved in illegal protests from 100 rubles (US$3) to 10,000 rubles (US$300), but those breaching “the established rules of conduct” face fines of up to 20,000 rubles, up from a previous high of 1,000 rubles. Officials caught engaging in illegal demonstrations have had their maximum penalty increased from 50,000 to 600,000 rubles (upper equivalent: US$20,000).

Organisers of protests that result in injury or damage can be fined up to 300,000 rubles. Smaller violations can be dealt with by detention of up to fifteen days, and up to 200 hours of community service is available as an alternative sentence to a fine. Protestors are banned from concealing their faces and nobody with a criminal record may organise a protest.

Supporters say the bill is required for public safety. Putin explained protests “must be organized in such way that they inflict no damages to other citizens, who do not take part in them” and insisted authorities “should apply the new law in such a way that it does not limit the citizens’ right for expression over any issue of internal or external politics, including street marches, events and rallies”.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, said the law would be published in Saturday’s edition of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta; it takes effect instantly upon publication. He said the law matched similar legislation in other European nations. Irina Yarovaya, who leads the State Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, agreed that health and safety was the law’s top priority.

Demonstrators at a rally earlier this year, with banners showing support for parties including communists and Yabloko.

Yarovaya noted the ‘youth’ of democracy in Russia, saying “We are only beginning to have the experience that other countries have been accumulating for decades and centuries.” She said Putin’s “political mission” is “protection of public security and national interests of the country”.

Putin says he investigated the laws of European Union members, and found “There is nothing in our law which would have been more tough than similar legislation in the countries I named,” which included Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. He today spoke of last year’s “mass riots, torched cars and robbed stores” in the UK.

The law has faced local and international criticism. Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Council, urged Putin to veto the law and said much depended on enforcement, which he hoped to be “moderate”. The Council claims it breaches existing legislation including the constitution.

Presidential copy of the Constitution, which Kremlin advisors say is breached by the new law.

Cquote1.svg A society which permits rallies and marches must protect itself from radicalism Cquote2.svg

—Vladimir Putin

Igor Lebedev, a prominent Liberal Democrat, said Putin’s signature was “absolutely expected”. The Liberal Democrats opposed the bill. Yalboko leader Sergey Mitrokhin called the law “a ban on holding rallies and political actions” which he cannot organise protests against because “Now anyone can be punished with slave labor or a crazy fine. I can’t gather people for a rally knowing that they might be sent straight to the galleys from there”.

Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-President of the former USSR, characterised today’s signing as “a mistake” that could leave revisions necessary. Putin himself acknowledged the possibility; “Nothing we have is frozen solid. If we find out the MPs have missed something, that something must be laid out in a different way… we can approach the State Duma deputies, look at how the law is applied and ask them to make some corrections.”

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Russia’s opposition says Putin’s true motivation is to provide a response to the planned June 12 rally against him, which stems from widespread claims of irregularities in this year’s Presidential election. Ilya Yashin, a leader of the movement, called the law “absolutely irresponsible policy” that would not deter protestors. “The authorities are fighting against the protests, instead of fighting against the injustice that is causing them,” said Yashin.

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly also spoke out against the law. Putin, however, cautioned that “A society which permits rallies and marches must protect itself from radicalism”.



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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg 2011–2012 Russian protests
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March 19, 2011

Crucifixes can be displayed in state schools, European court rules

Crucifixes can be displayed in state schools, European court rules

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

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European Court of Human Rights

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The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously yesterday that state school classrooms displaying crucifixes do not violate the rights of non-Catholic pupils.

In a reversal of the unanimous November 2009 decision the court said, although the crucifix is “above all a religious symbol“, it is an “essentially passive symbol” and there is no evidence crucifixes displayed on classroom walls influence pupils.

The court’s final ruling reverses their 2009 decision in a case brought by a Finnish-born mother living in Italy who objected to the Roman Catholic symbols in her children’s classrooms on the grounds that they violated the secular principles state schools should uphold. The court agreed, saying the crucifix might be “emotionally disturbing for pupils of other religions or those who profess no religion”. But the decision created a vociferous outcry in many European countries, such as Italy, which argued the crucifix is a cultural symbol, and a part of Europe’s culture and history.

The appeal was handled by New York University legal scholar Joseph Weiler, arguing extreme secularism could threaten the use of British national anthem God Save the Queen.

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, welcomed the reversal. According to the newspaper La Repubblica he said, “The decision underlines, above all, the rights of citizens to defend their own values and their own identities. I hope that following this verdict Europe will begin to examine issues of tolerance and religious freedom with the same courage.”

Friday’s ruling is binding on the 47 countries that are members of the Council of Europe, the continent’s monitor of human rights, paving the way for petitions to other governments to allow religious symbols in schools for those who want them.



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June 6, 2010

WHO\’s reaction to H1N1 influenced by drug companies, reports claim

WHO’s reaction to H1N1 influenced by drug companies, reports claim

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reports suggest the World Health Organisation’s declaring a swine flu pandemic was an error driven by drug companies, and lead to unjustified fear. A year after the swine flu pandemic was declared, stocks are left unused and governments try to abandon contracts, pharmaceutical companies have profited at least £4.6billion from the sale of vaccines alone.

Reports by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) and the Council of Europe claim that The World Health Organisation reaction to H1N1 was influenced by pharmaceutical companies and that key scientists behind advice had financial ties with firms Roche and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). These conflicts of interest have never been publicly disclosed by WHO, an apparent violation of its own rules.

The World Health Organisation issued H1N1 guidelines in 2004, recommending countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medication. The advice prompted many countries around the world into buying up large stocks of Tamiflu, made by Roche, and Relenza manufactured by GSK.

A joint investigation with the BMJ and the BIJ, found that scientists involved in developing the WHO 2004 guidance had previously been paid by Roche or GSK for lecturing and consultancy work as well as being involved in research for the companies. “The WHO’s credibility has been badly damaged,” BMJ editor Fiona Godlee said in an editorial.

A report by the health committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights watchdog, found that the WHO’s reaction was influenced by drug companies that make H1N1 antiviral drugs and vaccines. It criticised WHO lack of transparency around the handling of the swine flu pandemic and says the public health guidelines by WHO, EU agencies and national governments led to a “waste of large sums of public money and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public.”

Cquote1.svg We’re still in the pandemic Cquote2.svg

—Margaret Chan of the World Health Organisation said yesterday.

A spokesman for WHO said the drug industry did not influence its decisions on swine flu. Margaret Chan, the organisation’s director, had dismissed inquiries into its handling of the A/H1N1 pandemic as “conspiracy theories” earlier this year, she had said: “WHO anticipated close scrutiny of its decisions, but we did not anticipate that we would be accused, by some European politicians, of having declared a fake pandemic on the advice of experts with ties to the pharmaceutical industry and something personal to gain from increased industry profits.”

Yesterday, a 16-member “emergency committee” consisting of advisors from the World Health Organisation said that the H1N1 pandemic is not yet over. The WHO has refused to identify committee members, arguing that they must be shielded from industry pressure, so possible conflicts of interest with drug companies are unknown. The BMJ report also reveals that at least one expert on the “emergency committee” received payment during 2009 from GSK.

In related news, Reuters reported, Pfizer Inc, the world’s biggest drugmaker, is selling its swine vaccine business to Chinese Harbin Pharmaceutical Group for $50 million.

Related news

  • “WHO: H1N1 influenza virus still a pandemic” — Wikinews, June 4, 2010

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January 11, 2010

Health expert: Swine flu outbreak exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies for profits

Health expert: Swine flu outbreak exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies for profits

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Monday, January 11, 2010

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Wolfgang Wodarg, a European health official, has said that the severity of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic was intentionally exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies so they could receive large profits.

Wodarg, who is the Council of Europe’s head of health, claimed that the manufacturers of the anti-virus drugs pressured the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a global pandemic over the outbreak. The Council said it would investigate the allegations in a debate scheduled for later in January.

Wodarg commented about his accusations to the Al Jazeera news agency. “There is a very inefficient work of our agencies. They made a big panic with the bird flu and they made big panic with the swine flu. The national governments spent billions of euros to buy their vaccines [for H1N1] so we have to investigate what was behind it, we cannot afford such agencies that spent the money for useless health measures,” he said.

The official also commented that “it’s just a normal kind of flu. It does not cause a tenth of deaths caused by the classic seasonal flu,” as quoted by FOX News. “The great campaign of panic we have seen provided a golden opportunity for representatives from labs who knew they would hit the jackpot in the case of a pandemic being declared.”

“We want to clarify everything that brought about this massive operation of disinformation. We want to know who made decisions, on the basis of what evidence, and precisely how the influence of the pharmaceutical industry came to bear on the decision-making […] A group of people in the WHO is associated very closely with the pharmaceutical industry.”

The drug company GlaxoSmithKline responded to Wodarg’s allegations. “Allegations of undue influence are misguided and unfounded. The WHO declared that H1N1 swine flu met the criteria for a pandemic. Responding to it has required unprecedented collaboration. As WHO have stated, legal regulations and numerous safeguards are in place to manage possible conflicts of interest,” it stated.

Swine flu’s impact across the world hasn’t been as serious as was initially predicted, the Guardian reports; in the UK, up to 65,000 deaths from the virus were anticipated at the height of the scare, now the estimate is about a thousand, and the current death toll from H1N1 is 360. As a result, there is now a surplus of vaccines.

David Salisbury, the Department of Health’s director of immunisation, said that it hasn’t yet been decided what to do with the UK’s surplus of vaccine, although talks are underway. “We have to keep a stockpile for ourselves because we simply don’t know what is going to happen over 2010, and we know that there are proportions even within the risk group who have not been vaccinated. If there were a UK resurgence during 2010, we would look very foolish if we had disposed of a valuable stockpile.”



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June 3, 2008

Human rights group alleges U.S. prison ships

Human rights group alleges U.S. prison ships

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The USS Bataan

The British branch of human rights organization Reprieve has accused the United States government of using naval military ships to detain in secret and interrogate alleged terror suspects. The United States swiftly denied the allegations. Clive Stafford Smith, founder and director of Reprieve, said, “the U.S. administration chooses ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers.”

According to Reprieve, prisoners such as the Australian David Hicks, and the American John Walker Lindh were imprisoned on naval ships stationed off the coasts of both Somalia and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Reprieve also noted that “prisoners have been interrogated under torturous conditions before being rendered to other, often undisclosed locations.”

According to the United States Navy, some ships have been used for short term prisoner housing, but denied they were prisons. “We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships. Department of Defense detention facilities are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.” said Navy Commander Jeffrey D. Gordon from the Pentagon. Gordon did acknowledge that it was a matter of public record that some individuals had been put onto the ships in question “for a few days”, in what he labelled the ‘initial days of detention’.

Among the United States ships named by Reprieve as having served as prison ships were the USS Peleliu and the USS Bataan, both of which are amphibious assault ships. Also named was the USS Ashland, a dock landing ship. Reprieve stated that its assessment was based on evidence from sources in the U.S. military, the Council of Europe and from testimony received from former detainees at the U.S. prison camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Monday, Reprieve said it would publish details of its research later this year, in a full report on the alleged activities of the U.S. military. The organization went on to claim that the United States was imprisoning as many as 26,000 foreign detainees in secret prison facilities, including land-based prisons. Gordon was quoted as calling Reprieve’s comments “inaccurate and misleading.”



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March 3, 2008

Medvedev becomes Russian president-elect

Medvedev becomes Russian president-elect

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Monday, March 3, 2008

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Dmitry Medvedev.

Dmitry Medvedev, age 42, has won the presidential election in Russia and is expected to take office on May 7, 2008, replacing Vladimir Putin who has served two 4-year presidential terms since 2000.

The elections were held on Sunday, March 2, and participation among registered voters was 69.65%. On Monday morning, Russian Central Election Commission announced that almost all of the votes were counted with Medvedev receiving 70.21% of votes that were cast. In second place was Communist Party leader Gennady Zuyganov with 17.77%, followed by Liberal Democrat Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 9.37%, and Democratic Party candidate Andrey Bogdanov who got 1.29% percent of the votes.

Medvedev is Putin’s announced “successor”. Medvedev has repeatedly promised to continue the political course of the current Russian government. Medvedev officially ran as an independent but was endorsed by United Russia, Fair Russia and other political parties.

Fairness questioned

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, human rights activist Vladimir Bukovsky, reformer Boris Nemtsov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were all prohibited from taking part in the election for various technicalities. The Russian media have focused heavily on Medvedev while giving little attention to the opposition candidates.

The head of the Western observer organisation Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called the elections “neither free nor fair”, but also admitted that “to reduce the whole election to a spin by the forces working in the Kremlin, would be too simple.” He added that “The president-elect will have a solid mandate given him by the majority of Russians.” Kasparov called the elections “a farce” and demonstrated in St. Petersburg with over 1000 activists.

Only 300 foreign observers monitored the election that involved about 96,000 polling stations across Russia’s 11 time zones. The key European monitoring group, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, refused to come, saying restrictions imposed by the Russians would have made a meaningful assessment impossible.

Vladimir Putin, who has been working with Medvedev since he was a KGB agent, is expected to become Prime Minister. Medvedev is currently Putin’s chief of staff and also holds the position of chair of Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned giant natural gas company. Medvedev is expected to give up that post, since it cannot be combined with the presidency. Medvedev is considered as a pro-democratic, less nationalistic politician compared to Putin.



Related news

  • “Putin will accept prime minister position if Medvedev wins” — Wikinews, December 17, 2007
  • “Putin backs Medvedev as United Russia party’s candidate” — Wikinews, December 10, 2007

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January 6, 2008

Mikheil Saakashvili re-elected President of Georgia

Mikheil Saakashvili re-elected President of Georgia

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mikheil Saakashvili narrowly won the presidential election with 52.8% of the vote.

Election officials have declared Mikheil Saakashvili the winner of the Georgian presidential election, which occurred earlier than usual due to anti-government protests in November 2007. He garnered 52.8% of the vote, while the leading opposition candidate Levan Gachechiladze came in second with 27% of the vote.

The election had been a controversial one, with opposition leaders claiming it was unfair and that Saakashvili had rigged the vote in his favor. Allegations of intimidation, media bias, and vote buying were widespread.

In a report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the election “consistent with most O.S.C.E. and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections”, but also noted violations, including people apparently voting more than once at certain polling stations and some ballot boxes not being properly sealed. Giorgi Kandelaki, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, responded by saying there were “very few violations that could be regarded as serious”.

Cquote1.svg I perceive this election as a viable expression of free choice of the Georgian people, but the future holds immense challenges. Cquote2.svg

—Alcee Hastings, U.S. Congressman and OSCE coordinator

After exit polls showed Saakashvili in the lead on Saturday, he declared an early victory, which prompted thousands of protesters to gather in Tbilisi. Gachechiladze spoke at the rally, saying, “We have won despite pressure, despite intimidation, despite televised terror exerted against us.” He said that the opposition will contest the results in court and scheduled another rally on January 8, since Georgia celebrates Christmas on Monday.

Alcee Hastings, United States Congressman and coordinator of OSCE, called for the protesters to regard the election as legitimate and for the government to institute electoral reforms in time for upcoming parliamentary elections. “I perceive this election as a viable expression of free choice of the Georgian people, but the future holds immense challenges,” Hastings said.



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October 12, 2007

Creationism dangerous in education: Council of Europe resolution

Creationism dangerous in education: Council of Europe resolution

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Cquote1.svg If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights … Cquote2.svg

—CoE Resolution 1580 (2007), art 2

A Museum of Creation and Earth history.

The Council of Europe Parliamentary assembly (CoE) urged its member states to only teach creationism as nothing more than belief. The CoE stressed the potential threat to human rights that may result from creationist doctrines.

The adopted resolution targeting creationism is a reaction to growing fear in the CoE member states that progressive scientific thought is threatened by the advancement of fundamentalism and its perceived dangers. The British government marginalized intelligent design into ‘religious’ belief even before the adoption of the CoE resolution.



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August 27, 2007

Prescott to stand down as UK MP

Prescott to stand down as UK MP – Wikinews, the free news source

Prescott to stand down as UK MP

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Monday, August 27, 2007

John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is to stand down as a Member of Parliament after the next general election.

Mr Prescott, 69, who has been MP for the constituency for Hull East for 37 years, made his announcement for at a weekend garden party. Stephen Brady, chairman of the local Labour association said, “John told us he would not be standing again. People paid tribute to his long service. It was an emotional event.”

Prescott, recently took up the post of head of the Parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe. It is suspected he may enter the House of Lords and has been reported that he sold his memoirs for £300,000.

There has also been speculations over who will replace Prescott as an MP. Amongst the people who have been mentioned are Prescott’s son David Prescott and Chris Leslie, an aide to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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June 18, 2007

Council of Europe report challenges teaching of Creationism

Council of Europe report challenges teaching of Creationism

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Monday, June 18, 2007

The spread of Creationist doctrines within the education systems of Council of Europe member states “could become a threat to human rights”, according to a report which will be discussed and voted on by the Council of Europe on 26th June.

Cquote1.svg Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the human rights (the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe) will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. Cquote2.svg

—Council of Europe Report

The text written by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council, firmly challenges the belief in a creator and a world which was created, to the exclusion of accepted theories of evolution. Although Creationist doctrines were for a long time an American phenomenon and not too widespread within the European countries, the report suggests that they are tending to spread to Council of Europe member states.

According to the document, Creationism – fundamentalist doctrine of the origin of the world based on the Bible – is not based on facts and does not rely on any scientific grounds.

The report notes that children currently study predominantly evolutionary theories with a scientific basis, and suggests that there is a consequential risk of introducing confusion for them when presented with alternatives based on “convictions, beliefs and ideals” with no scientific basis.

The Parliamentary Assembly urges member states and their education authorities, inter alia, to “firmly oppose the presenting of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection and in general resist presentation of creationist doctrines in any discipline other than religion”.

Related news

  • “Vatican issues defence of evolution, rejects fundamentalist creationism” — Wikinews, November 9, 2005

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