On 4 April 2017 Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, wrote about “The Shrinking Space for Human Rights Organisations“. The new EU ‘alert site I referred to yesterday [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/03/protectdefenders-eu-launches-new-alert-website-but-no-single-stop-yet/] showed in 2016 some 86 reported violations in the European (and Central Asian) region, mostly detention and judicial harassment. Also the recent CIVICUS findings of the narrowing space for civil society points in this direction. An example could be Hungary as illustrated by reports of Human Rights Watch (2016), Human Rights First (2017) and Amnesty International (2016/17); the issue of academic freedom is not directly related but part of the restrictive trend [see links below].
Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Europe’
The Diplomat wrote under the title “OSCE Manages to Irritate Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Human Rights Advocates, Too” a good piece summarizing the situation at the latest annual human rights conference (officially the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting), taking place from 19-30 September 2016, in Warsaw.
Most attention should go to the recurring reprisals against HRDs and in particular (when they are out of reach through exile) against their family: Read the rest of this entry »
Who will be the next secretary-general? The field is still wide open but thanks in part to the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, campaigning for the job is – for the first time in UN history – mostly public, even if the decision is ultimately made by General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. There are strong arguments in favor of a woman (first time ever, see link below) and someone from Eastern Europe (‘their turn’ in the informally agreed regional rotation). Of the nine candidates currently in the running, UN insiders and others close to the process see UNESCO head Irina Bokova, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and former Slovenian President Danilo Türk as the frontrunners (if the bookmakers are right).
If there was any doubt on where civil society stands on the issue of reprisals and repression of NGO activity in Russia, the letter below and the enormous number and variety of organizations having signed it should put the doubt to rest: [see also: https://plus.google.com/+HansThoolen/posts/2nWSsUBuCJw]
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to urge you to stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent non- governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.
We are deeply concerned that under the legislation on “foreign agents”, hundreds of NGOs have been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials which have interrupted and obstructed their legitimate work with dozens currently embroiled in lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders have had to pay prohibitive fines, and some were forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents” – an expression akin to spying. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision. More than a dozen of leading Russian rights groups have already been branded by the Ministry. These NGOs are not foreign spies or “agents”, and have worked in the interest of the people of Russia. Many more face the same fate.
Under the previous legislation, NGOs in Russia were already accountable to the government and the public, having to report on their activities and finances. It is difficult to avoid concluding that the only purpose of the legislation on “foreign agents” is to publicly discredit and stigmatise them.
We believe that NGOs are essential to the healthy functioning of society. They play an important role in providing much needed services to the public. They help keep officials accountable and improve policies in the interests of the people.
We are calling on you as the President of the Russian Federation and the guarantor of its Constitution and of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the “foreign agents” law is repealed and NGOs in Russia are able to do their work without hindrance, harassment, stigmatisation or reprisals.
• Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT) (France)
• Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’homme (AEDH) (France)
• Amnesty International
• ARTICLE 19 (UK)
• Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
• Bunge la Mwananchi (Kenya)
• Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement (CRID) (France) • Centrum Kształcenia Liderów i Wychowawców im. Pedro Arrupe (Pologne)
• Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement – Terre solidaire (CCFD) (France)
• Committee on the Administration of Justice Ltd (CAJ) (Northern Ireland, UK)
• Cordaid (Pays-Bas)
• Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General
• English PEN (UK)
• European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) (UK)
• Emmaüs International (France)
• Finnish PEN (Finlande)
• Foundation Max van der Stoel (Pays-Bas)
• Free Press Unlimited (Pays-Bas)
• Front Line Defenders (Irlande) • Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji (Pologne)
• Fundacja im. Stefana Batorego (Pologne)
• Gevalor (France)
• Greenpeace Spain (Spain) • Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) (Pologne)
• Hivos (Pays-Bas)
• Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
• Human Rights House Foundation HRHF (Switzerland)
• Human Rights Watch
• Index on Censorship (UK) • INPRIS – Instytut Prawa i Społeczeństwa (Pologne) • Instytut Spraw Publicznych (Pologne)
• International Service for Human Rights
• Kansalaisjärjestöjen ihmisoikeussäätiö KIOS (Finlande)
• Kenya Human Rights Commission (Kenya)
• Koalicja Karat (Pologne)
• La lliga del drets dels pobles (Spain)
• Ligue des droits de l’Homme (France) • Małopolskie Towarzystwo Oświatowe (Pologne)
• MEMORIAL Deutschland e.V. (Germany)
• Milieudefensie (Pays-Bas)
• MONIKA – Naiset liitto ry (Finlande)
• Movies that Matter (Pays-Bas)
• Naisten Linja Suomessa ry (Finlande)
• Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Pays-Bas)
• Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten (NJCM)
• Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) (Pays-Bas)
• NGO Working Group OSCE (Switzerland)
• Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (joint program FIDH and OMCT) (France/Switzerland)
• Pakolaisneuvonta ry (Finlande)
• Pat Finucane Centre, (Irlande)
• Queer Youth Norway (Norway)
• REDRESS (UK)
• Reporters sans frontières (RSF) (France)
• Russie-Libertés (France)
• Sadankomitea (Finlande)
• Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland)
• Stiftung Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte (Germany)
• Stowarzyszenie Wschodnioeuropejskie Centrum Demokratyczne (Pologne)
• The Bellona Foundation (Norvège)
• The Norwegian LGBT Association (Norvège)
• UNITED for Intercultural Action (Pays-Bas)
• XENION Psychsoziale Hilfen für politisch Verfolgte e.V. (Allemagne)
• Автономная некоммерческая правозащитная организация «Молодежный центр консультации и тренинга» (Russie)
• Автономная некоммерческая организация «Правозащитная организация «МАШР» (Russie)
• Благотворительный фонд развития города Тюмени (Russie)
• Общественная правозащитная организация «Солдатские матери Санкт-Петербурга» (Russie)”
Another interesting side event taking place in the margin of the UN Human Rights Council is the one organized by the Human Rights House Foundation on Monday 17 March 2014 from 10h00-11h30 in room XXI in the Palais des Nations.
The subject is:: 20 YEARS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN WRONGS IN THE BALKANS, CAUCASUS AND EASTERN EUROPE.
5 women human rights defenders will share their experience and present the new Human Rights House Network info graphics on the protection of human rights defenders:
- Lara Aharonian, Women’s Resource Center Armenia Human Rights House Yerevan,
- Anna Dobrovolskaya, Youth Human Rights Movement, Human Rights House Voronezh, Russia
- Shahla Ismayil, Women’s Association for Rational Development, Human Rights House Azerbaijan, Baku
- Sanja Sarnavka, Be active. Be emancipated (BaBe), Human Rights House Zagreb, Croatia
- Maria Dahle, Human Rights House Foundation. Oslo, Norway
Human Rights House Network (HRHN) was established 20 years ago and now unites 90 human rights NGOs in 18 independent Human Rights Houses in 13 countries. HRHN aims to protect, empower and support HRDs locally.
The info graphics themselves, which try to cover all the key topics in the creation of an enabling environment for human rights defenders as laid down in the latest report of the Special Rapporteur, will be publicly available as from 17 March on http://humanrightshouse.org or contact <anna.innocenti[at]humanrightshouse.org>
All 12 of the HRDs highlighted in the campaign have displayed great courage and integrity in their work on a range of human rights issues. Read the rest of this entry »
Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders is looking for a replacement to the organisation’s Programme Director for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia department. This is a full-time position starting from 24 March 2014, lasting at least until 10 February 2015 though it might be prolonged. Deadline for applications is 20 January 2014.
The Programme Director is stationed in Stockholm, though frequently travelling and meeting with human rights defenders in the region, and representing Civil Rights Defenders in public. The tasks of the Programme Director include fundraising. Qualifications: MA in Law, Political Science, International Relations or related fields/areas, including training in international human rights mechanisms; Minimum of 5 years of working experience with human rights; At least 2 years of management experience; Working experience from Eastern Europe, Central Asia or the South Caucasus, preferably in human rights, and extensive knowledge about the human rights situation in the region; Fluency in at least two of the following languages: English, Swedish, and Russian.
Application to kim.matthis[at]civilrightsdefenders.org
For 2012 Civil Rights Defenders, a NGO based in Stockholm, has started an interesting campaign: the Human Rights Defenders of the Month. Amnesty International has long done this for the ‘prisoner of the month’ and we should welcome the effort to focus similarly on HRDs. Whether the organisation will manage to keep a good international spread in view its current strong emphasis on Eastern Europe (understandable as it is the successor of the Helsinki committee) is another matter. The case of Svetlana Lukic is certainly a very deserving one which reminds me of the work done by Natasha Kandic, the 1999 MEA laureate.
During the Balkan wars in the 1990s the Serbian journalist Svetlana Lukic was suspended twice from her post at Radio Belgrade because of the way she chose to report. Even after the fall of Milosevic’s regime in year 2000, the pressure continued. Today most media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. One exception is the radio program Pescanik (in English: The Hourglass), which has gone from 100.000 listeners per week to 475.000 in the past five years. The Pescanik web portal has around 7.000 visitors a day. Several media houses, among them the national Public Broadcasting Service, have described Pescanik as ‘anti-Serbian’ or ‘treacherous’; an opinion also shared by right wing and fascist groups.
“Whenever I feel afraid for my safety, I am ashamed because I remember all those people I saw during the wars in the 90s who suffered and had real reasons to be afraid. Some of them are not alive any more.”
Ten years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, Serbia is still dealing with the political, economic and cultural burden inherited from the conflicts that lasted for more than 10 years in the 1990-s. The country is deeply affected by issues like dealing with the past, the inability to secure continuity in the reform processes, a deep division between pro-European and right wing blocks and a lack of awareness on basic human rights and accountability of duty holders. Governments are ultimately responsible for human rights and democratic reforms. In transitional societies, however, like Serbia, the civil society is the driving force for the observance of human rights. They play a key role by continually monitoring the machinery of power, providing independent information and space for debate, as well as working to ensure that the state and its representatives take responsibility when mistakes are made. The majority of media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. There is a tendency to support policies of the current government uncritically, and to avoid coverage of issues that could politically damage the current holders of political power.
According to Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index for 2011-2012, Serbia is ranked 80 out of 179: “In a new and regular phenomenon since national independence, journalists have been the victims of reprisals for investigating the country’s criminal underworld and its growing influence in political and financial circles.”