Friday, July 13, 2007

The tragedy of the Krishna commune in Kazakhstan


This Krishna community may be driven away from their property and homes at any moment. To assist in relocating dozens of faithful and their temple, plus thirty beautiful cows and their barn.

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Summary of the Issue

1. The Society for Krishna Consciousness in Kazakhstan
2. History of the Conflict
3. Demolition of 13 homes
4. Recent events

1. The Society for Krishna Consciousness in Kazakhstan

The Religious Organization Society for Krishna Consciousness (RO SKC) was opened in Kazakhstan in 1994 when it was registered as a municipal religious organization by the bodies of justice in Almaty city.

Besides this organization in Almaty, there are seven more registered religious organizations Society for Krishna Consciousness in Kazakhstan: in Astana, Aktobe, Karaganda, Balkhash, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, Ust-Kamenogorsk. Followers of this religion can be found in a few other cities of Kazakhstan. All these organizations and groups (except the society in Almaty) are small and possess no real property.

Since the time of registration of the Religious Organization Society for Krishna Consciousness in Almaty it has been doing big social and humanitarian work: charity food distribution, numerous seminars propagating traditional spiritual life of India, benefits of vegetarianism, practice of yoga and mantra-meditation.

The cultural center Govinda’s was opened in Almaty.

As the number of faithful in Almaty grew they decided to establish a farm community in the country. To this end in 1999 the members of SKC purchased land in the Karasai district of Almaty province (40 km from Almaty) and started to develop the community meant to propagate healthy life-style and satisfy cultural and spiritual demands of the faithful. The community also works to build a bio-farm and provide necessary facilities for the development of the Society for Krishna Consciousness and its charitable activities in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It is the only farm community of RO SKC on the territory of former CIS.

The farm community is located on three separate plots of land with the total area of 47,7 hectares (116 acres). Two of these plots are cultivated land. The farmer’s house, the cowshed and other farm buildings are situated on the third plot. The farmer’s house serves as the office of the provincial Society for Krishna Consciousness. The Society is legally registered at that address. The third plot adjoins the summer colony. Some of the cottages in that colony belong to SKC members on the basis of individual ownership. Most of them live in their cottages the year round as they have no other accommodations.

2. History of the Conflict

At the time when the farm was purchased there was no law of private land ownership in Kazakhstan. Land was allotted for usage, and the right of land use was transferred from one person to another. The plots at issue were purchased and registered by three citizens of Kazakhstan.

The plots were in a deserted condition, however they included all the presently existing buildings. The faithful started to develop the farm: they made lawns and flower gardens, planted an orchard, set up a spring with drinking water which is currently used by people from the entire summer colony. The house, the cowshed and the accessorial buildings were renovated, the road in the summer colony was asphalted.

The number of people who desired to participate in developing this project gradually increased, the community needed additional premises. Since the functional purpose of the community’s plots did not allow for housing, the members of SKC started to buy cottages in the summer colony.

The growth of the SKC’s community attracted the attention of the local authorities. In April of 2002 the community was repeatedly visited by the officials with a series of checkups. The goal of the checkups became known to the community members from the interview given by the chief expert of the Social Department of the Karasai District Hakimat, Ms. Saule Babayeva, to “Ana Tili (Native Language)” newspaper (No.47 of November 21, 2002):
“Thinking of closing the questionable religious associations in our district, in April we organized special checkups conducted by the officers of the Committee of National Security, the Prosecutor’s office, the Fire Inspection and the Sanitarian Epidemical Department. At that time we unanimously decided to close these associations.”

Trying to act within the legislation of RK, the community applied for registration to the Ministry of Justice of Almaty province. In May of 2002 the community was registered as the Provincial Religious Organization “Society for Krishna Consciousness.”

However, after less then one year the district authorities again demonstrated their intolerance. In April of 2003 the prosecutor of the Karasai district filed a claim to withdraw the registration of the Provincial RO SKC. The claim was disallowed by the district court.

When the Law of Private Land Ownership was enacted in Kazakhstan, the plots with the total area of 47.7 ha (116 acres) used by the community were privatized by their owners (March of 2004).

Wishing to legalize their cottages, the individual members of the community also tried to privatize their plots of land. Those who were the first to apply for privatization managed to receive title documents. However, very soon the local authorities demanded that all the applicants for privatization should have stated in writing that they were not members of RO SKC. Later the process of privatization at this summer colony was fully stopped at the decree of the District Hakimat.

In 2004 the Anti-Extremism Law was enacted, which was followed by new intense checkups at the community conducted by different authorities in August of 2004. During that month the community was visited by all possible controllers practically every day. They found a number of administrative infractions.

Trying to obey the legislation of Kazakhstan, RO SKC paid the fines and gradually eliminated the infractions, which is confirmed by the respective documents. In particular, the members of RO SKC fulfilled the order to destroy the foundation of a temple that the community members started to build that summer. It was the only construction conducted by the community members from the time when the land was purchased.

Although all the prescriptions were fulfilled, the local authorities took even stricter actions against the community. Thus, in October of 2004 the Provincial Land Department filed its first claim to confiscate one of the community’s plots of land (the one with the farmer’s house and the juridical address of RO SKC) for the reason of non-functional (unauthorized) usage. The claim was dismissed by the district court. After a month the claim was repeatedly made by the same plaintiff and again dismissed.

In November of 2004 the cottagers members of RO SKC whose individual applications for privatization had been repeatedly rejected made a collective application for privatization of 30 summer plots. In that application the members of RO SKC expressed their willingness to meet the head of the local authority to discuss the situation. Unfortunately, the local authorities totally refused to negotiate about the issue. Instead, in December of 2004 the Provincial Land Department made a collective claim against all the cottagers listed in the application accusing them of non-functional use of their plots. The claim was disallowed by the district court. None of the other cottagers (those who are not members of RO SKC) received any claims against them.

In the same month the then President’s Advisor for Religious Affairs, Amanbek Mukhashov, speaking at the panel discussion on anti-extremism issues, mentioned numerous infractions found in the activities of RO SKC and called the Society for Krishna Consciousness an extremist organization.

In December of 2004 M. Tanirbergenov, the assistant director of the Almaty Provincial Department of Justice, said to the reporter of the informational agency Kazakhstan Today, “Our Department of Justice in cooperation with the law-enforcement authorities is taking measures to liquidate the Society for Krishna Consciousness on the territory of the Merei peasant farm.”

The leaders of SKC requested to explain the reasons for the liquidation of the society and once again expressed their willingness to meet the local authorities and discuss the situation. In answer to this Mr. Tanirbergenov said that numerous infractions had been found in the activities of the society, however the question of liquidation had not been raised.

On February 22, 2005, the director of the Provincial Department of Justice, T. Onalbayev, in his answer to the inquiry of the Provincial Hakim, S.K. Kulmakhanov, virtually described step-by-step program to liquidate RO SKC. He wrote in that letter, “Also the question of confiscating 30 summer plots in the Horticultural Association “Ptitsevod” of the Eltai village district of the Karasai district is considered as the plots are used contrary to their purpose… At the present time the Department of Land Resources Management, requested by the Karasai district court, is preparing materials about the confiscation of the plots of land from each of the land-users separately… At the present moment we consider it practical to confiscate the plots of land thru the court… The mentioned facts form the ground for the liquidation of the juridical entity – the religious organization in our case, according to section 49 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (general part). The prosecutor’s organs should initiate the liquidation of the juridical entity thru the court.”

In accordance with Onalbayev’s instructions, in April of 2005 first individual claims were made against each of the cottagers members of RO SKC. All the claims made at that time and later have affected exclusively members of RO SKC. The authorities did not make claims against any other cottagers, even though all the 199 cottages in that area had been purchased and used under the same procedure.

The cottagers were accused of non-functional use of their summer plots and of the absence of title documents to land and buildings. It was for the first time that the head of the local authority, the Hakim of the Karasai district B.S. Kutpanov, began to act as the plaintiff. Since that time not a single court case has been won by the members of RO SKC in both the district and the provincial courts. The situation is absurd because the Hakim is the only one to give permission for privatization, and without his permission one cannot apply for legalization of the building situated on the plot of land. The cottagers repeatedly approached the Hakim, but he answered with new claims against them based on the absence of privatization and title deeds for the buildings.

In each of the claims the cottagers are accused of unauthorized construction (even though all the houses existed at the time of purchase) and of unauthorized use of their houses as “hostels of the religious organization ‘Society for Krishna Consciousness,’” while the religious affiliation of the defendants is directly mentioned. Thus, in the claim No.01-10/804 of the Almaty Provincial Land Department and the Hakim of the Karasai district dated April 15, 2005, against A.V. Markin for the eviction from the plot of land, demolition of the illegally constructed building and declaring the records in the horticultural books null and void it is stated, “A.V. Markin… built a two storied house that he uses contrary to its functional purpose as a hostel of the religious organization “Society for Krishna Consciousness” which he is an active member of.”

All the other claims have the same contents except for the owner’s name and the serial number of the plot.
In May of 2005 the district Hakim filed a claim to cancel the entire series of contracts related to the plots of land owned by the community, beginning from the contract of 1999. The community members are accused of the alleged forgery and non-functional use of all the three plots of land.

The district Hakim filed this claim even though
- the period of limitation had expired twice,
- all the contracts (there was a number of them) had been personally signed by the Hakim,
- the Hakim was not a party to the contracts, thus he could not act as a plaintiff,
- the contracting parties did not have claims against one another.

This claim was made to prevent the transfer of the ownership of the community’s land from the physical person to the religious organization.

At that time the religious organization was using the land (its right of land use was soon confirmed by the decision of the Supreme Court of RK dated June 30, 2005, which remains in force till now). The members of RO SKC who used the land wished to transfer the ownership of these plots to the religious organization in order to re-register the land for religious purposes, in accordance with the legislation of RK. However the local authorities did not allow it to happen as they again preferred to take strict actions against RO SKC.

In case the contract is cancelled the parties have to return each other all the items of the contract. However, according to the ruling of the Karasai District Court of December 22, 2005, all the contracts were declared null and void, and all the plots of land at issue transferred to the district land reserve without any compensation offered to the land’s owners.

In this way, the members of SKC who legally purchased the plots and struggled to develop them for 6 years, were deprived of their entire property by the decision of the court.

RO SKC and its members have repeatedly approached both local governmental authorities and different governmental organs in Astana requesting them to enter a dialogue and peacefully settle the conflict.

On April 25, 2006, the local authorities attempted to demolish the cottages owned by five members of RO SKC. Once again they demonstrated their unwillingness to have a dialogue with SKC. However their attempt failed because of the passive resistance offered by the faithful and the presence of mass media.

This event attracted the attention of the world community and the human rights organizations.

In September of 2006 the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, was preparing to host the Second International Congress of World and Traditional Religions. At that time the world community actively discussed the religiously colored conflict between the Kazakh authorities and RO SKC. In response to that, one week before the opening of the Congress, a special commission was established in Astana at the Religious Affairs Department to investigate and resolve the situation around RO SKC. A. Mukhashov was appointed the chairman of the Commission.

The activities of the commission were observed by representatives of OSCE, the Almaty Helsinki Committee and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law. Expressing their opinion of the Commission’s activities, the observers stated,
“Unfortunately, we have to declare that, in our opinion, it was not the objective and impartial conflict analysis that was the purpose of the Commission’s activities, nor studying of the circumstances de jure and de facto and looking for its fair settlement, but the absolute confirmation of the local authorities’ actions’ lawfulness and proving the absence of religious discrimination.”

Until the establishment of the Commission the Religious Affairs Department had remained inactive for a long time in spite of numerous appeals made by the representatives of RO SKC. In summer of 2006 the coordinator of RO SKC in Kazakhstan in Central Asia, Govinda Swami, met with the chairman of the Religious Affairs Department, E. Tugzhanov, who asked the question, “What does your religious organization need so much land for?” One of the officers of the Department also remarked that RO SKC is the only religious organization in Kazakhstan that owns such a big property.

3. Demolition of 13 homes

On November 21, 2006, the governmental authorities demolished 13 houses of the members of RO SKC without any notification of the date and the time of the action.

That day all electricity to the community was suddenly disconnected and later heavy equipment was brought to the community, accompanied by 200 riot policemen. The police cordoned off the entire area of the settlement and blocked the entrance ways of the community. Journalists, human right observers and members of the congregation who were not present in the village at the time, were not allowed in. All cameras and video recorders were confiscated.

It was a winter day, snowing, and with subzero temperatures. Тhe homes and entire family belongings were destroyed.
Kazakhstan accepted an International Pact on economical, social and cultural rights. The International Pact recommends the governments to avoid forcible eviction of people from their property, considering it to be a rough violation of human rights. Thus it is said that in case of evacuation of people, the government should study all possible measures to avoid the eviction and in case of evacuation the government should provide sufficient compensation for the property. In accordance with article 1.15 it is strictly forbidden to conduct evacuation in bad weather or at night. And finally evacuation should not end with people left homeless.

The November demolition was all the more unexpected for the members of the community because they were waiting for a final decision of the special Commission chaired by A. Mukhashov which was supposed to be pronounced in December. On the day of demolition Mukhashov said that he knew nothing of the demolition, that he was on vacation, and asked to stop disturbing him.

Two days after the demolition, on November 23, 2006, the district Hakim filed five new claims against the members of RO SKC for their eviction and the demolition of their houses. The chairman of the Commission refused to comment on that action, and the members of RO SKC lost all hope for the Commission to be able to resolve the situation.

On December 16 it came to the knowledge of RO SKC that the decision of the Commission had appeared to exist, it had been signed by Mukhashov (though it was undated) and distributed thru the channels of the Foreign Ministry. A written inquiry was sent to the Religious Affairs Department about when and who made that decision in the absence of the representatives of RO SKC who were also the members of the Commission, however that inquiry was never answered. The members of RO SKC were invited for the next meeting of the Commission which clearly showed both the reason behind the decision of unknown origin and the goal of the Commission itself.

On that meeting (December 22, 2006) the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, G. Beiseyeva, read a letter of the Deputy Foreign Minister of RK, R. Zhoshybayev, to the RK Ministry of Justice (which includes the Religious Affairs Department). The letter said about the urgent necessity to convene the Commission and give subsequent reports in the mass media. The Foreign Ministry was concerned with the response of the world community to the situation around RO SKC because this response was detrimental to the international image of Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, the goal behind the establishment and the activities of the Commission proper was the same – the government was dissatisfied with the broad publicity given to the situation around the Society for Krishna Consciousness in Kazakhstan, and tried to give tangible proofs to the public that the conflict had no religious background.

The Commission recommended in its decision that the Hakimat should allow all the cottagers to privatize their property. However in January of 2007 all the Krishnaite cottagers’ applications for privatization were again rejected.

The Commission also recommended that RO SKC should approach the district Hakimat with the request to allot a plot of land to the Society for the construction of a place of worship.

In the end of the last week the leaders of RO SKC were hastily called to the Religious Affairs Department. At the meeting that took place the Department’s chairman and an officer from the President’s Administration emphatically recommended the Society to apply for the allotment of land for a place of worship as soon as possible.

Two days after the meeting, the government-sponsored mass media reported that
- the conflict around SKC is the result of infractions on the part of the members of SKC,
- the conflict is nothing but a land dispute, there is no religious persecution in Kazakhstan,
- the Religious Affairs Department has offered a solution to the Society which is to apply for the allotment of land for a place of worship.

The governmental officials avoid discussing the issues of compensation to the injured whose houses were destroyed and of withdrawal of claims against RO SKC and its members. The Department’s chairman E. Tugzhanov said at the last meeting with the leaders of RO SKC that the claims would continue to be considered in the court and the government was not going to interfere in the court cases.

4. Recent events

At the February 5-9, 2007 Annual meeting of the OSCE Advisory Council on freedom of religion and belief in Warsaw the Advisory Council decided to continue working on SKC issue as the Kazakh Foreign Ministry finally responded on OSCE November 27, 2006 statement and invited OSCE experts to be mediators in the issue. It was decided to send delegate 2 members of the Council to Kazakhstan for mediation.

On February 21-23, 2007 the visit of OSCE Advisory Council experts to Kazakhstan, Malcolm Evans and Cole Durham took place. OSCE experts met SKC representatives and Human Rights observers in Almaty and visited the commune to see the damage made to community. Then they left to Astana to meet officials there.

No concrete decision was taken by the Government during the experts visit. Kazakhstan officials said that there would be no way which the litigation against SKC would stop. Officials denied discrimination on religious grounds.

On February 15, 2007 a meeting of the SKC representatives with the Religion Committee and representative of the Administration of the President took place at Astana. Officials suggested SKC to apply to local Hakimat for a land plot for religious purposes. It was said that SKC could apply for a land plot from a part of the current 116 acre property or in another location. Officials declared that litigation regarding 116 acre and numerous summer plots will continue till the end.

On March 15th, 2007 the Religious Committee offered the community 5 acres of land 70 kilometers northeast from Almaty city. The chairman of the Religious Committee repeatedly instructed the community's leaders to accept the offer as soon as possible. The Karasai Hakimat emphasized that the community would not retain the land on which it is presently situated.

Officials have offered to compensate the Krishna devotees for the loss of the 116 acres of lush green farmland with a five-acre plot of arid desert. Reportedly, the soil is filled with salt and the only vegetation that the proposed land now sustains is thorn bushes.

The unseemly offer suggests that Kazakhstan is seeking a quick-fix to its tarnished image.

On March 20 a band of men armed with sledge hammers and crow bars attempted to demolish a second group of homes of the commune. According to a Forum 18 News Report, government officials hired the workers to destroy more homes, but were prevented by the sudden arrival of “a person in a black Mercedes Benz” – purportedly a high level official – who ordered the demolition be immediately stopped.

In Vienna at the OSCE meeting on March 30, 2007 the head of the Kazakh delegation Bolat Baikadamov met the Coordinator of the Society for Krishna Consciousness in Central Asia Govinda Swami. Ninel Fokina of the Almaty Helsinki Commission participated in the meeting.

Baikadamov emphatically stressed that he had been instructed by the Administration of the President of Kazakhstan to deliver a message that the Kazakh government saw the issue of the Krishna Society as an obstacle to their aspirations to attain OSCE chairmanship. Thus he expressed the government's desire to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

He said that the president's administration viewed the issue as "bad governance" of the Karasai district authorities, the government Land Committee, and the state controlled Religious Committee. Therefore the issue is directly under the guidance of the president's administration and would no longer be dealt with by the above mentioned bodies.

On April 5th Baikadamov announced in media that a solution to the issue had been reached in Vienna. He said that Govinda Swami agreed to accept one half (1/2) acre of land in the vicinity of Almaty city, that the government may consider land for herd of cows, and that the government may consider compensation for the homes destroyed.

Society for Krishna Consciousness advisors in Kazakhstan have opined that this media blitz was conducted due to the arrival in Kazakhstan of the OSCE Chairman in Office Miguel Angelo Moratinos.

The Society sent a letter to the president's administration and to the OSCE advisory committee requesting OSCE to participate as observers in the course of negotiations with the Kazakh Government on our issue.

As of no reply from the President's administration, SKC secretary spoke to Baikadamov on Friday April 20, 2007. Baikadamov stated that the issue is not under the President's administration, that it was never under the President's administration, and that it will not be under the President's administration. He said that the issue remains under the Religion Committee under the guidance of Yeraly Tugzhanov. Such statement came as a total "about face." When being informed, Ninel Fokina was dismayed as she had participated in the conversation.

Yeraly Tugzhanov told that he had liaised with the Almaty city administration and instructed SKC to apply for land in Almaty city to establish a temple. When SKC leaders did so the Almaty city administration appeared to know nothing of the situation.

Thus it appeared that the Kazakh government is again playing the game of dragging out time, doing nothing, but sending signals to the world that the issue is being dealt with in order to secure its OSCE bid. In reality, nothing has been done.

On May 4, 2007 bailiffs of the Karasai district again made an attempt to destroy another 13 homes of the faithful. Observers from OSCE and the US Embassy, as well as media people came to the demolition spot. The community leaders informed of the situation the General Prosecutor’s office, the President’s Administration, and the Religious Committee.

Religious Committee told that that the issue of the community is under negotiation and was interested to know who initiated the demolition. General Prosecutor office as well as Almaty province Hakimat could not answer who gave an order for demolition, since there is an agreement that no force can be used until the conflict remains unresolved. Finally the bailiffs did not come, and the demolition did not take place.

On May 8, 2007 the RK Supreme Court passed by the judgment that the land of the Hare Krishna community may be confiscated in favor of the government at any moment. The Supreme Court reversed its own judgment made on June 30, 2005, which had enabled the community to use 116 acres of land and receive the right of ownership after processing respective documents by the registering bodies of the Karasai district. These bodies have never registered the plots in favor of the RO Society for Krishna Consciousness because the land was arrested by the Karasai District Court at the request of the local Hakim.

The chairman of the Society for Krishna Consciousness explained to the Panel of the Supreme Court that the religious organization had never been informed of the proceedings. Furthermore, the courts of the first and second instance did not even take the trouble to send their decisions to the defendant, i.e. the religious organization. The chairman of the RO requested the court to postpone the hearing as she needed time to study the case and invite lawyers. However the court decided to conduct the hearing immediately and only gave the RO chairman a few hours to study the rulings of the courts of the first and second instances. Thus the defendant was left without legal protection, unable to retain an attorney.

The judgment of the Supreme Court came into force from the moment it was read. It means that at any moment the land of the main center of the RO Society for Krishna Consciousness can be confiscated and transferred to the Karasai district land reserve.

On May 18, 2007 the Coordinator of the Society for Krishna Consciousness in Central Asia Govinda Swami met in Astana with the Chairman of the Religious Committee Yeraly Tugzhanov. Govinda Swami expressed his concern that the allotment of land to SKC promised by the government was supported only by word of mouth, while there were no duly signed documents that could attest good intentions of the government to resolve the issue. Govinda Swami requested Mr. Tugzhanov that both parties should sign an agreement on their intentions as a guarantee that the Society would be given a plot of land. The Chairman of the Religious Committee declined this request and said that he would not sign anything.

Govinda Swami asked him what guarantees the religious organization has that the government would give the promised plots, namely

* 0.75 acres of land in Almaty city for the construction of a place of worship,
* about a dozen acres of land to keep the cows (including a cowshed, a summer pen and a farmer’s house),
* 0.25 acre plots for individual housing of the each victim of the demolition.

Mr. Tugzhanov assured that this question is supervised by the President’s Administration and he is directly supported by the President’s Administration. On the strength of this Mr. Tugzhanov said that he guarantees

* that a plot of land will be allotted in the city for the construction of a place of worship,
* that a plot of land will be allotted in Almaty province to keep the cows by the end of the next week (by May 26, 2007)

As for the compensation to the victims of the demolition, the situation remains unclear. The only thing that Mr. Tugzhanov said was that the members of the Society should discuss this question in the district Hakimats of the Almaty province. Mr. Tugzhanov appointed a meeting of Govinda Swami with the first deputy hakim of Almaty province, Mr. Dolzhenkov.

On May 19, 2007 Mr. Dolzhenkov said that the hakims of the Iliy and Talgar districts had been given an order to pick several plots of land for cows from the land reserve for SKC to choose among.

The representatives of the Society explained that the courts had also ruled that the owners be evicted from their land plots. Therefore SKC representatives asked a question whether it was possible to get plots of land for the individual housing of those members of the Society who suffered their cottages’ demolition.

Mr. Dolzhenkov said that he had heard nothing of it, then he said that, according to the legislation, only those citizens of Kazakhstan who have no house and who have never (before) applied to the government for housing may get land for individual housing. He said that in principle this question might be considered, but the law should be maintained. Also he said that this question should be discussed directly with the district hakims of the Almaty province.

On May 21 the Chairman of the Religious Committee Yeraly Tugzhanov was told by the SKC leaders that one acre of the land offered in Almaty province is not sufficient to keep the cows and have individual housing. Mr. Tugzhanov replied that it is not a question of religious matters and should be discussed with the local authorities. He told SKC to fit in one acre plot offered. Then he told that if SKC wants to have individual housing to relocate faithful together with cows then no land plot at the Almaty city would be offered.

Finally Mr. Tugzhanov instructed the community's leaders to contact district hakimats as soon as possible.

There have been a total of 17 hearings in court.

There are 27 homeowners who have had cases brought against them.

14 homes have already been demolished.

13 more houses of the faithful may be demolished at any moment.

With the court judgment, any day the faithful may be forced to vacate the land wherein the Society is registered. SKC will need to relocate around 45 devotees, 30 cows and the temple.

Still as for the compensation to the victims of the demolition, the situation remains unclear.

In practice nothing has been done on the issue over the last two months since the Government declared the issue to be resolved.