Posts Tagged ‘PACE’

RUXIT: a real possibility and bad for human rights defenders

May 9, 2019

An article in www.politico.eu describes in ominous terms the looming rift with Europe that could have far-reaching consequences: “Ruxit.” That’s what Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, has called Russia’s potential withdrawal from the human rights organization after 23 years as a member, amid a dispute over Crimea. 

The prospect of Ruxit — which could happen within the coming months — has Russian human rights defenders worried. Leaving the Council of Europe, Russian opposition figures warn, would be catastrophic for human rights in their homeland and provide a boost to Kremlin hard-liners.

In 2018, Russians submitted the largest number of petitions to the Strasbourg-based court out of any of the Council of Europe’s 47 members. Around 20 percent of the ECHR’s 56,000 pending cases were filed by Russian citizens. In the past two years, Moscow has reluctantly paid out €23.3 million to claimants, including opposition protesters, prisoners, and LGBTQ activists.

The European Court of Human Rights is the only legal body capable of restoring justice for those people who are illegally imprisoned and tortured, as well as ruling on compensation for the relatives of people killed either during investigations or while in prison,” said Maria Alyokhina, a Pussy Riot activist and co-founder of Zona Prava, an organization that works to protect prisoners’ rights in Russia.

….Although Russia, a signatory to the 1949 European Convention on Human Rights, has failed to implement around two-thirds of the court’s judgements — including many on the torture or ill-treatment of prisoners — human rights activists say the ECHR’s positive impact on Russian laws and judicial practice should not be underestimated. Even with all the severe problems with human rights in our country, the situation would be a lot worse if Russia hadn’t been a member of the Council of Europe,” reads an open letter signed in November by dozens of Russian human rights defenders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin | Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images

….The dispute that could lead to Russia’s exit from the Council of Europe has been simmering since 2014, when the Kremlin’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea triggered a suspension of its voting rights in the organization’s parliamentary assembly (PACE).  Russia hit back by refusing to participate in PACE sessions. As a result, more than half of the ECHR’s judges, who serve a single nine-year term, have been elected without Russia’s participation in the voting process. From June 2017 onward, Moscow also started freezing its membership payments, which amount to €33 million a year — equal to around 7 percent of the Council of Europe’s annual budget.

Under the Council’s regulations, countries that have failed to make payments for two years are automatically suspended from the 47-member organization and can later be expelled.  Russia has said it will jump, rather than wait to be pushed, and could announce its departure next month if the organization does not alter its rules in Moscow’s favor at its meeting of ministers in Helsinki on May 17.

Why should we be in an organization that we can’t work in and that doesn’t meet our interests?” Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy speaker of Russia’s parliament and head of the country’s PACE delegation, told POLITICO. Jagland, who stands down this year after serving two terms as secretary-general, has said he wants to avoid a Russian exit. France and Germany, as well as other members of the Council, have also said they would prefer Russia to remain. But time may be running out.

…In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved legislation giving Moscow the right to reject ECHR rulings if the country’s Constitutional Court decides that they contradict Russian law. So far, however, that law has only been enforced twice. And despite continuing tensions with the West, 58 percent of Russians are in favour of their country’s membership of the Council of Europe and the ECHR, according to a recent survey carried out by the Levada Center, an independent pollster in Moscow. Only 19 percent were opposed, while the rest of the respondents did not express an opinion.

Russia’s exit from the human rights organization would mark the second time a member state has left it since it was formed in 1949. Greece’s military junta withdrew in 1969 under the threat of expulsion, but the country was readmitted five years later after the junta’s fall.

..Dmitry Oreshkin, a Moscow-based political analyst whose vote-monitoring efforts helped spark massive protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011-2012, said that the dispute is symbolic of Russia’s shift away from Europe as part of the Kremlin’s revival of “Soviet values.”  But he added that economic and trade links with Europe, a key consumer of Russian energy exports, would make it hard for Moscow to cut ties entirely, and suggested that the Kremlin’s rhetoric is intended purely for domestic consumption. The Council of Europe is a convenient enemy,” Oreshkin said. “Leaving it would give Putin a burst of support among ultra-patriotic voters, but this would be a short-term propaganda victory that wouldn’t last long.”  He added: “It’s easy to slam the door, but a lot harder to open it again.

For other posts on Russia, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/russia/

https://www.politico.eu/article/ruxit-russian-human-rights/

Dunja Mijatović new Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

January 25, 2018

 

On Wednesday 24 January 2018, Dunja Mijatovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was today elected as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights by the  Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg. Ms Mijatovic was elected for a non-renewable term of six years starting on 1 April 2018.

She obtained 107 of the votes cast in the second round, a relative majority. Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ (France) obtained 103 votes and Goran Klemencic (Slovenia) obtained 19 votes. Mijatovic will replace Nils Muiznieks, who has held the post since 2012.

From 2010 to 2017, Dunja Mijatovic was the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Previously, she served as Director of Broadcasting at the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CRA). She was also the Chairperson of the European Platform of Media Regulatory Authorities (EPRA) and she chaired the Council of Europe’s Group of Specialists on freedom of expression and information in times of crisis.

Mijatović was awarded the Médaille Charlemagne in 2015. Since 2000 the Médaille Charlemagne is awarded to a European personality who has made an outstanding contribution to the process of European integration and the development of a European identity. She is also the recipient of the City of Geneva PEC AWARD 2015 for her work on the issue of the safety of journalists and media freedom in Ukraine during the crisis and her “exceptional personal commitment for the promotion of freedom of information in the whole region.”

The International Peace Center in Sarajevo awarded her the “FREEDOM” prize in 2010 for her work and activities on the struggle for freedom, peace and development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe and the world.

http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=6941&lang=2&cat=8

Turkey angry after PACE Havel prize is awarded to jailed judge

October 18, 2017

Turkish judge Murat Arslan, who was head of the Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV).

The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, named after the dissident playwright who later became Czech president, is given by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). On Monday 16 October the prize awarded to the Turkish judge Murat Arslan, who was head of the Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV). Arslan was arrested in October 2016 on suspicion of links to Gulen who Ankara blames for the failed coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The PACE described Arslan as a “staunch supporter of the independence of the judiciary.” But the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that it “is wrong and unacceptable to award the prize … to a person who is a member of Feto terrorist organisation“. “While the judicial process is underway, presenting a terrorism suspect as a human rights defender is a betrayal of the ideals of democracy and human rights,” it said. For more on the award see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace

In his absence, the prize was received by a representative of the European Magistrates for Democracy and Freedom group (Medel) which had nominated him. In a message from jail, Arslan told the ceremony that Turkey had “learnt nothing” from Europe’s 20th century history but “we will not let ourselves be closed up in a wall of fear”. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/08/31/finalists-for-pace-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-announced/]

Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1950 but relations have frayed after the PACE in April voted to reopen political monitoring of the country.  see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/11/council-of-europe-losing-patience-with-turkey-after-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/

http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/turkish-mp-slams-europe-body-for-rewarding-feto-suspect/939149

Finalists for PACE Václav Havel Human Rights Prize announced

August 31, 2017

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, enduring symbol of opposition to despotism. The Prize consists of a sum of €60 000.

The finalists for 2017 are:

  • Murat Arslan (Turkey). The nominee, in detention since 2016, is a well-known and reputed judge. President of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), he has always been a supporter of the independence of the judiciary.
  • Hungarian Helsinki Committee. A non-governmental human rights organisation founded in 1989 and based in Budapest, it carries out a broad range of activities in the area of human rights with a particular focus on access to justice and the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.
  • Father Georg Sporschill (Austria). A Jesuit who has devoted his life to the care of the most vulnerable, notably children. He has set up an association (Elijah) which carries out numerous projects in Austria, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova and Romania.

Chairing the meeting of the selection panel, Sir Roger Gale, the most senior Vice-President of the Assembly, said: “the jury chose the candidates from among a long and well-qualified list of nominees, fully respecting the spirit and the principles of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize”.The winner of the prize is due to be announced on 9 October 2017. The 2016 Prize went to Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/18/yazidi-survivor-nadia-murad-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-2016/]

Source: Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

Council of Europe losing patience with Turkey after arrest of human rights defenders

July 11, 2017

Many NGOs and governments have expressed deep concern over what is happening in Turkey. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) probably matters more than most in this case as it is one of the few international institutions where Turkey still is a ‘functioning member’. Back in April it was put on a ‘watch list’ and Turkey reacted furiously [http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-politics-councilofeurope-idUSKBN17R18U ]. Now, on 7 July 2017, the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC), have expressed serious concern at the arrest of several prominent human rights defenders in Istanbul on 5 July, including Amnesty International Director Idil Eser.

These arrests, which took place during a training seminar on human rights defenders, are another devastating signal at a time when Turkey needs to address serious human rights issues, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly in its most recent resolution.” “We ask for the immediate release of these human rights defenders, and urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, are duly and effectively secured, and to refrain from further action which might have a chilling effect on society,” said the co-rapporteurs.

On 5 July 2017, ten human rights defenders were arrested and detained: Nalan Erkem and Özlem Dalkiran (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Idil Eser and Veli Acu (Amnesty International), Günal Kursun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nejat Tastan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), Seyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and moderators Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner. [See also back in 2016: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

On 8 June 2017, Yves Pozzo Di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), PACE’s rapporteur on “Ensuring the protection of human rights defenders in the member States of the Council of Europe“, had already expressed his deep concern after the arrest of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International. (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/09/human-rights-watch-urges-turkey-to-release-amnestys-country-head/)

Turkish author Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak urges her fellow writers to resist self-censorship and instead challenge tyranny and repression with their pens. However, it’s not enough for writers alone to defend democracy — we all must become activists and stand in solidarity with those who oppose tyranny worldwide. See her speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year: Oslo Freedom Forum
On 24 May 2017 Front Line Defenders urged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – joining the leaders of other NATO nations to attend a summit of the military alliance in Brussels on 25 May – be held accountable for his treatment of HRDs. Front Line Defenders urged countries to call on the Turkish government to fulfil the country’s international human rights obligations and to cease the systematic targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs).

Source: PACE: News

https://turkeypurge.com/rights-activists-detained-in-turkey-at-risk-of-torture-says-un-spokesman

 

Today PACE must adopt resolutions on human rights defenders and NGO restrictions

January 28, 2016

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) must address the shrinking space for civil society. It must adopt resolutions to strengthen the protection and role of human rights defenders, and to prevent restrictions on NGO activities, in an increasingly worrying environment in many Council of Europe countries, especially Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation. These were the conclusions of discussions at the NGO side event on 27 January 2016 in Strasbourg. HRHN - network logo

I cannot accept that so many remain in prison and Europe doesn’t react strongly… The reason Azerbaijan continues the crackdown is that nobody, including the Council of Europe, takes any serious action,” stated Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS), speaking at an event organised by a group of NGOs at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, sponsored by MPs Mailis Reps (Estonia) and Yves Cruchten (Luxembourg).

Since 2012, the situation has deteriorated in Russia… The activities of HRDs and NGOs are now considered political activities, and even if they do not receive foreign support they end up on the list of foreign agents and are constantly victims of harassment. It would be great to see a Council of Europe reaction on this,” commented Konstantin Baranov, International Youth Human Rights Movement, also speaking at the event.

The Assembly now has an opportunity to act, by adopting two draft resolutions today, 28 January 2016. Together, these resolutions address reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the Council of Europe and impunity for actors targeting civil society, and call for measures to end restrictions on NGOs and the misuse of restrictive legislation to criminalise the work of human rights defenders. See my earlier post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/council-of-europe-draft-resolution-addresses-reprisals-with-priority/

Rapporteur Mailis Reps, author of the draft resolution Strengthening the Protection and Role of Human Rights Defenders, at the event stated: “Too many human rights defenders are paying a high price for their work and their fate should receive much greater attention from the Council of Europe’s institutions and member states.”

Rapporteur Yves Cruchten, author of the draft resolution Preventing Inappropriate Restrictions on NGO Activities, further stated: “When a member of a parliament decides to join PACE, this MP makes a pledge to human rights. We need to speak up and not let our governments make deals that disregard human rights.” 

Source: PACE Must Act: Protect human rights defenders, prevent NGO restrictions – Human Rights House Network

http://website-pace.net/en_GB/web/apce/plenary-session

88-year old Russian human rights defender received 2015 Vaclav Havel Prize

October 2, 2015

 

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has awarded its annual Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize to veteran Russian activist Ludmilla Alexeeva, 88, at a special ceremony in Strasbourg on the opening day of its fall plenary session on 28 September 2015.

Ludmilla Alexeeva has inspired many generations of activists in Russia, but also abroad, to commit themselves to the struggle for justice” – PACE President Anne Brasseur, chair of the selection panel, said presenting the award on 28 September. In her youth, Alexeeva gave up an academic career to join the Soviet dissident movement, going on to become a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976. A year later, she was forced to emigrate to the United States. Alexeeva returned to Russia in 1989 and became the International Helsinki Foundation president and later joined the Russian presidential human rights commission. At a demonstration in Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square in 2010 against restrictions on the freedom of assembly, the by then 82-year-old head of the Moscow Helsinki group, received a severe blow to the head.

Alexeeva told the Assembly that for her receiving the prize was a “recognition of all Russian human rights defenders who work in very hard circumstances”. She also condemned the so-called foreign-agent law adopted in 2012, which she said aimed at “destroying” civil society groups. [Critics say the Russian government is using the foreign-agent law to hound non-governmental organizations that are critical of the Kremlin. As of June, there were 67 organizations deemed as such by Russia’s Ministry of Justice, including Transparency International and the Sakharov Center.]

Source: Russian Rights Activist Awarded Vaclav Havel Prize – Transitions Online

for info on this award: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/václav-havel-prize-human-rights