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Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2015:
During the opening of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly autumn session today, prominent Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. The award honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights, and it includes a €60 000 prize. - NHC warmly congratulates Ludmilla, she is one of the founders of the Russian human rights movement. To award the prize to her this year in particular, while we are celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the Helsinki Declaration, carries a lot of symbolic weight, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland says at the news of the prize.
A new list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has just been published. The list now comprises of 80 names, as compared to the 98 which were included in the list published in August last year. Although this means that there have been some very welcome releases, the Government of Azerbaijan continues its policy of imprisoning what they consider opponents. The last few weeks, prominent human rights defenders Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev were convicted to many years' prison. In 2014, Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan received the Sakharov Freedom Award from NHC.
On 21 April, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with European Stability Initiative, Forum 18 and the International Federation for Human Rights will host the side event: For a Europe without political prisoners: The case of Azerbaijan, at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Se full program below.
Last night, on 23 June, the Summer 2015 session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) adopted the new monitoring report on Azerbaijan, The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan, Resolution 2062 (2015). From a relatively weak draft presented by the co-rapporteurs from Spain and Poland, the report was significantly improved by the adoption of several important amendments during the session. Most significantly, the report now includes a demand for the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, mentioning several of them by name.
Annual roundtable event on the right to freedom of religion or belief was organised by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Freedom of Belief Initiative in Istanbul. This year’s roundtable discussion focused on the general trends and issues related to religious freedom in Turkey, based on the Monitoring Report on the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief – July 2013-June 2014. The second part of the discussion centred on the intersection between the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to education.
Bosnia and Herzegovina:
A regional conference for universities adopted the Sarajevo Declaration on the Role of Higher Education and Civil Society in Education for Peace on 20 March 2014. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee organized the regional conference “The role of universities in peacebuilding” in Sarajevo on 20 March together with our local partners as part of our project Build Bridges, not Walls.
Policy Paper 2/2015:
A new policy paper from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee presented today argues that Norway and other democratic countries should establish mechanisms to freeze the assets of persons who commit gross violations of human rights with impunity and prohibit their entry into the country – the victims of these violations being human rights defenders or whistle-blowers.
Policy Paper 6/2014:
The NHC presents our sixth policy paper of 2014. The so-called Foreign Agents Law has already hit hundreds of non-governmental organizations unwilling to register, and its chilling effect is no longer a prediction but a reality. The paper argues that the Foreign Agents Law has dire consequences for Russian civil society, violates human rights and should be repealed.