Posts Tagged ‘OSCE’

OSCE and Human Rights Defenders at the Warsaw meeting: no smooth sailing

September 28, 2016

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 »

Baku Games defended by ‘NGO Coalition‘ in Azerbaijan

June 6, 2015

typical NGO coalition?
My earlier posts on the Baku Games [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/azerbaijan/] would not be complete without a reference to what is being done by Government (here called “The Civil Society Coalition Support for the Baku 2015 first European Games”) which held a round table on “Double-standard approach of international organizations toward human rights” on June 2015.
Sometimes the best reply is to say nothing and show how the poor response is by voting the piece in full. Note that not a word was uttered about the content of the disputed article. Not even the beginning of a discussion on whether the human rights defenders in question should be in detention. One can only conclude that the facts as put forward by the 3 authors and international human rights organizations are correct:

“Delivering an opening speech at the event, Rufiz Gonagov, the coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition, chairman of the International Relations Research Center, said certain circles, which have an unfriendly attitude toward the relations with Azerbaijan, have already begun to express their concerns over the country as first European Games – the grandeur event of a global scale – is approaching.

Aydin Aliyev, the coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition, editor-in-chief of “Baku-xeber” newspaper, said in his speech that the European Parliament is due to hold hearings on the upcoming European Games and human rights situation on June 10.

“The article, co-written by UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, claims that representatives of international organizations and foreign human rights defenders undergo pressure in Azerbaijan as well. It is a groundless article which indicates double-standard approach of certain circles toward Azerbaijan as it is doing its utmost to hold the major sports event successfully,” Aliyev added.

Rauf Zeyni, the head of National NGOs Forum, said actions of anti-Azerbaijani circles pose a threat to the country’s independence, noting that as the Azerbaijani president stated, Azerbaijan will never give up its independence.

Alimammad Nuriyev, the chairman of the Center for Constitutional Studies, said the circles directed from a single center have already begun to take insidious actions as their attempts fail.

“I don’t remember such a statement was issued when people were shot during the Armenian parliamentary elections on February 19, two were shot dead on the eve of the elections in Georgia in 2011 and even after two Azerbaijanis were taken hostage by Armenians. However, these circles, including these three authors began to issue such a statement on the eve of the European Games,” he noted.

Vugar Rahimzade, the chief editor of “Iki sahil” newspaper, said these circles continue to demonstrate double-standard approach toward the negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s most painful problem.

“Some countries try to secure their own interests in Azerbaijan by putting pressure on the country through the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe. Behind the veil of democracy, people are being killed in the Middle East. We need to adopt a statement against such international organizations to put an end to double standards toward Azerbaijan,” he added.

Politician Elman Nasirov said these circles changed the direction of pressure when they saw that Azerbaijan is fully ready to host the first European Games.

“The article co-written by the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe representatives is aimed against Azerbaijan’s policy. This pressure will continue after European Games,” he noted.

Hikmat Babaoglu, the editor chief of “Yeni Azerbaijan” newspaper, regarded the joint statement of the representatives of the three international organizations as an attempt to unite their pressure due to the increasing power of Azerbaijan.

At the end of the event, a statement was adopted on the behalf of civil society institutions and media outlets.”

APA – Round table ‘Double-standard approach of int’l organizations toward human rights’ held in Baku – PHOTO.

“Some foreign diplomats run sponsored campaign to discredit Azerbaijan” says Government

June 4, 2015

Having just posted about the call by UN and others to free human rights defenders before the start of the Baku Games [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/un-council-of-europe-and-osce-ask-azerbaijan-to-free-human-rights-defenders-ahead-of-2015-baku-games/] , I feel I should also share what was written in response by Sara Rajabova on the site of the government’s news agency AzerNews:

Azerbaijan‘s Foreign Ministry has accused some officials of international organizations of abusing their status to discredit Azerbaijan. Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesperson, said on June 4 that officials of some international organizations abuse their status and act as the elements of a sponsored campaign to discredit Azerbaijan on the eve of the First European Games.

Who is ‘sponsoring’ and with what inducements remains unstated except that they serve “the interests of certain political circles”.

He noted that the first European Games in Baku will serve to the development of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, friendship, partnership and peace, which is topical in the European continent nowadays. All true, but human rights are not topical? Yes, but only when it comes to the “infringed rights of over a million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.”

via Some foreign diplomats run sponsored campaign to discredit Azerbaijan – AzerNews.

UN, Council of Europe and OSCE ask Azerbaijan to free human rights defenders ahead of 2015 Baku Games

June 4, 2015

Every time I now see one of the many flashy television announcements for the Baku Games starting next week, I have to think of the human rights defenders in detention there. So the effortd by many NGOs and experts to link the holding of these Games to Azerbaijan’s terrible human rights record seem to bear fruit. I have written myself several times along these lines [recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/], so I will not repeat all the arguments. Just to note that several heavyweights have added their voices: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Day 2014: ODIHR Director Link wants to move from words to deeds for human rights defenders in the OSCE

December 11, 2014

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on all OSCE participating States to do more to protect human rights defenders in the OSCE region: “It is time for all OSCE participating States to move from words to deeds and to provide more effective protection to those who strive to promote and safeguard human rights in our countries.

The words must refer to the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders which OSCE adopted this year: see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/osce-publishes-guidelines-on-the-protection-of-human-rights-defenders/

Unfortunately, in 2014 we have witnessed numerous attacks and threats against human rights defenders,” the ODIHR Director said. “This includes human rights defenders with whom ODIHR has worked, and I am particularly disturbed that those standing up for human rights in the OSCE region may be being targeted for activities they carry out in partnership with our Office.”

At the Budapest Summit, in 1994, OSCE participating States emphasized the need to protect human rights defenders, and at the OSCE Summit in Astana, in 2010, they underscored the important role played by civil society in helping to ensure full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. “That the environment in which human rights defenders operate has become more, not less, restricted across the region over the past few years is disturbing,” Link said. “Determined action is needed to reverse this trend.”

Human Rights Day 2014: Better protection of human rights defenders needed across the OSCE region, ODIHR Director says | OSCE.

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

Human Rights Defenders in Hungary: not yet ‘foreign agents’ but getting close

June 13, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT joint programme, expressed its concern that the Hungarian government is alarmingly shrinking the space of civil society by hindering their access to funding, conducting unexpected inspections and blacklisting prominent human rights organizations. The Observatory – not by accident – did so on 12 June 2014, the day the Hungarian Government was meeting representatives from a group of donor Governments including Norway.OMCT-LOGOlogo FIDH_seul

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »