Posts Tagged ‘ODHIR’

OSCE message for Human Rights Day: human rights defenders will lead in 2021

December 15, 2020

(Alex Tait/ Creative Commons 4.0)

On 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) issued a statement “The brave people strengthening human rights in 2020 will lead us out of adversity“. A bit belatedly. I reproduce here OSCE paying “tribute to human rights defenders and many organizations across the OSCE region that have protected our rights throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and will have a key role to play if the global recovery is to put respect for human rights at its core

OSCE states have long recognized the important role played by human rights defenders in ensuring full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.  Throughout the pandemic, numerous organizations, initiatives and activists have worked hard to lessen the suffering caused by the health crisis. They have exposed gaps in responses to the health emergency and drawn attention to the undermining of human rights standards and democratic values in the name of public safety.​​

As public emergencies were introduced across the OSCE region and human rights and freedoms of millions of people were restricted, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) as well as civil society organizations were swift to hold accountable those states that were using vaguely defined regulations to bypass human rights obligations and lower standards. In addition to their regular monitoring activities, NHRIs were often quick and resourceful in developing solutions and disseminating key information to the public when it was needed. 

A spirit of dialogue and compromise, the ability to combat systematic inequality and exclusion, and the will to overcome ever-deepening polarization, are hard to imagine without a strong and vibrant civil society. But in many places across the OSCE region, pressure on civic space is increasing. This takes many forms, from legislation restricting the activities of civil society to smear campaigns against human rights defenders and journalists.

Despite their commitment – or because of it – many courageous human rights defenders across the OSCE region have been the brunt of attacks in 2020. They have faced threats and intimidation, frequently initiated by national authorities, as well as funding cuts and risks to their data security and privacy.

Two years ago, ODIHR launched its first ever targeted assessments on the situation of human rights defenders. Early next year, ODIHR will publish trends and recommendations based on an analysis of almost 250 discussions across five OSCE countries. The report will identify gaps and challenges in the protection of human rights defenders, as well as highlighting good practices so countries can learn from each other as they seek to rebuild societies overwhelmed by the challenges of the pandemic. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/11/human-rights-day-2014-odihr-director-link-wants-to-move-from-words-to-deeds-for-human-rights-defenders-in-the-osce/]

Today, ODIHR wants to thank all those brave people across the OSCE region who are committed to safeguarding the human rights of us all. The Office will continue to support and work with them towards this ultimate goal.

https://www.osce.org/odihr/473352

New contact group among intergovernmental organisations to support human rights defenders in Europe

May 12, 2019

On 10 May 2019 the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) reported that from 7 to 8 May, representatives from intergovernmental organisations and EU institutions responsible for cooperation with civil society and for supporting human rights defenders in Europe and Central Asia met in Warsaw at the invitation of the FRA and the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Others represented at the meeting were the Council of Europe, European Commission, European External Action Service, European Asylum Support Office (EASO), OSCE Chairmanship in Office, OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, the OHCHR Geneva and Brussels office, UNDP, UN Women, and the World Bank.

The press release did not elaborate what was discussed or achieved but only that “It served to establish ongoing, practical information exchanges to facilitate further cooperation between these organisations in supporting human rights defenders.”

The need for more action in support of HRDs in Europe has been often referred to in this blog. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/27/human-rights-ngos-in-europe-no-longer-the-standard-to-follow/

https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2019/new-contact-group-support-human-rights-defenders-europe-among-intergovernmental

Protection International Focuses on national protection mechanisms

December 3, 2014

Protection Int'I_logo_final_vertical_72dpiBrussels-based Protection International‘s Focus Report  provides detailed monitoring of developments in the field of national public policy on the protection of Human Rights Defenders. This year’s edition of Focus highlights the renewed interest in adopting legal instruments for the protection if HRDs in Latin America (in Honduras and Guatemala) and in Sub-Saharan Africa (in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and Mali).

The report (second year running) draws attention to the recent publication of guidelines on the protection of HRDs by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The work of several Latin American civil society organisations (CSOs) that have presented cases concerning murdered HRDs before the regional mechanisms has been of great value. These efforts have led to the development of jurisprudence by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Finally, this edition includes contributions by external collaborators:

  • the Preface, prepared by Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders;
  • an analysis of advances in the field of protection in the Americas, by Jesús Orozco H., President of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders;
  • an overview of the topic in Africa by Reine Alapini Gansou, the Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); and
  • contributions by representatives of local CSOs in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, countries that have pioneered the effective implementation of public policies for the protection of HRDs.
  • PI hopes to enrich the discussions on the adoption of appropriate policies in countries where they do not exist and to help authorities and civil society organisations implement them where they do.

For last year’s report: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/protection-international-publishes-focus-report-2013-on-policies-concerning-human-rights-defenders/

Focus 2014 Report:  http://files.flipsnack.com/ /embed.html?hash=fd152nkz0&wmode=window&bgcolor=EEEEEE&t=14174580301417458119

Time for Azerbaijan to quit the Council of Europe !

November 14, 2014

This video clip is an excellent introduction to the the question of whether Azerbaijan still belongs in the Council of Europe.

Azerbaijan wrapped up its chairmanship on November 13 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan took over as chair of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s executive arm and decision-making body, back in May. Over the course of its six-month term, authorities in Baku bullied and imprisoned scores of  journalists and human rights defenders, jailing some of the country’s most prominent such as Leyla and Arif Yunus, on trumped-up charges. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov attended a ceremony in Strasbourg on November 13 marking the transfer of the chairmanship from Azerbaijan to Belgium. A document posted on the Council of Europe’s website states that “Azerbaijan deployed considerable efforts in furthering the objectives of the Council of Europe around its three key pillars – human rights, rule of law and democracy.”

This assertion makes a mockery of reality as shown by the statements of a great many actors from international NGOs, OSCE to regional defenders networks:

  • Giorgi Gogia, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch: “It can be said without exaggeration that Azerbaijan’s tenure represented an assault on the institution and everything it [the Council of Europe] stands for”.
  • Two regional networks, the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders, addressed an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev, detailing government rights abuses and calling for immediate changes. “We specifically call upon you [Aliyev] to immediately and unconditionally release all civil society actors currently detained due to their engagement in human rights activities and for raising critiques against Azerbaijan’s authorities”.
  • Another rights network called the Civic Solidarity Platform released the No More Business as Usual video at the top of this post,  urging policymakers in European Union member states to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its rights violations. “It is a disgrace Azerbaijan used its chairmanship … not to improve its human right record, but, on the contrary, to jail activists and journalists and to get further away from international standards of democracy and rule of law.”
  • Dunja Mijatovic, media representative of the normally careful 57-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement “Practically all independent media representatives and media NGOs have been purposefully persecuted under various, often unfounded and disturbing charges“. [She spoke after Azeri blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained at Baku international airport earlier in the day while trying to depart for Georgia to attend the 11th South Caucasus Media Conference on the invitation of the OSCE. Huseynov was released after several hours of questioning. In 2012 he was hit with a three-year travel ban after being convicted of resisting and insulting police.
  • Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on 31 October cited the case of Azerbaijani human rights defender and journalist Khadija Ismayilova in calling on OSCE participating States to refrain from pressuring or harassing individuals for their legitimate activities in supporting the promotion and protection of human rights. “Ismayilova was detained and questioned at the end of September upon returning from the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, where she raised concerns over failures by the Azerbaijani authorities to meet the country’s commitments in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Link said. “I raised her case yesterday in my first report to the OSCE Permanent Council, stressing that human rights defenders have to be able to work free of harassment and intimidation.” A clear case of reprisal!
  • The Sakharov Freedom Award went to 98 Azeri prisoners: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/sakharov-freedom-award-goes-to-98-azeri-political-prisoners/
  • Several other human rights defenders were sentenced to varying prison terms earlier this year on charges included tax evasion, illegal business activity and hooliganism. Defense lawyers called the charges unfounded and politically motivated. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/azerbaijan-a-hot-summer-in-summary/

Among the many sources used:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/10/us-azerbaijan-rights-idUSKCN0IU1TG20141110

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/70901

No more business as usual for Azerbaijan – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

http://www.osce.org/odihr/126225

http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/20559.html

OSCE publishes Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

June 11, 2014

Didier Burkhalter (r), OSCE-Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister, alongside Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, at a conference on human rights defenders, Bern, 10 June 2014. (FDFA)
The two-day conference “The OSCE and Human Rights Defenders: The Budapest Document 20 Years On” brings together national human rights experts, human rights defenders and civil society representatives from across the OSCE region. Opening the conference, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, stressed the role of political will in supporting the work of human rights defenders: “The implementation of human rights norms first and foremost needs one thing: political will … Allowing the voices of human rights defenders and civil society to be heard – even  when these are uncomfortable voices – is at the basis of a well-functioning democracy,” .. “These men and women working to increase awareness and respect for human rights often take high risks to help their fellow citizens be able to live their lives in dignity. They need and deserve our support.” In his keynote address, Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, told participants that human rights have never been a battle between different cultures, but within them. He added that human rights have always been the universal language of the powerless against the relativism of the powerful: “Freedom of expression makes sense when we disagree, and especially when we strongly disagree,” Lambrinidis said. “Governments don’t have the obligation to agree with civil society; they have clear obligations, including providing human rights defenders with a safe and enabling environment. Strong confident countries speak to human rights defenders.” The first day of the conference saw the launch of the ODIHR Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a publication designed to assist OSCE participating States in promoting security for human rights defenders, in light of the increasing risks they face in carrying out their work. Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of ODIHR, stressed that the approach presented in the Guidelines to ensuring such protection has to be based on co-operation. “The Guidelines will only prove as effective as their implementation will be,” Lenarčič said. “I believe the key to success is precisely that genuine partnership that the Budapest Document spoke of 20 years ago. It has to include all those involved in efforts to protect human rights defenders – from States and civil society to regional and international governmental organizations. This remains as important today as it was two decades ago.”

Political will the key to ensuring the protection of human rights defenders, say participants at OSCE conference in Bern | OSCE.

JOINT NGO RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENSURING PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CENTRAL ASIA

May 21, 2014


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From 20-21 May 2014 there was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Regional Workshop on Implementing the Human Dimension Commitments and Enhancing the role of Civil Society. An important contribution was the joint statement by six NGOs containing recommendations to protect human rights defenders in Central Asia.  The text in its totality follows below:  Read the rest of this entry »

Human rights defenders call on OSCE to establish rapid response mechanism in cases of mass rallies

January 22, 2014

Human rights defenders call on OSCE to react to dispersal of rallies

In the face of the inactivity of international institutions in the OSCE region concerning mass protests the International Civic Initiative for OSCE calls to establish a special rapid response mechanism in the framework of the OSCE.

The current situation in Ukraine with clashes in Kyiv’s streets has gained attention of many of us. Read the rest of this entry »