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The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has produced a manual for journalists travelling to the Olympics in Sochi. The manual covers the political, human rights and environmental context of the winter games, which are taking place in a city on the Black Sea which has around 350,000 inhabitants. The manual is part of a major partnership to draw attention to the problematic aspects of the winter games in Sochi and developments in Russia regarding human rights and respect for human dignity, which is a central value of the Olympic Movement. The manual also includes an extensive list of useful contacts.
During the Winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today, an overwhelming majority voted for the adoption of the report "Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky"
The Government of Ukraine chose to meet demands for democracy with hastily adopted laws effectively taking away from people fundamental rights and freedoms. The last few days have been dominated by serious violence with clashes between police and protesters in Kiev, the city famous for its peaceful protests. This morning, we got the sad news that two demonstrators have been killed, we fear more as tension is on the rise. – European leaders should engage in what happens in Kiev and intensify efforts to support the protesters’ demand for human rights, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says. President Yanukovich clearly has demonstrated that Ukraine’s hard earned freedom and democratic development is of no importance to him. To avoid further bloodshed it is time to consider which sanctions could be efficient to force President Yanukovich and the Government of Ukraine to turn back, repeal undemocratic laws and to make sincere efforts to bring parties together for talks.
In September, Armenia’s President Sargsyan decided to sign initial agreements with the Russian-led Customs Union on the eve of when he was expected to sign documents on an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement with the EU.
-We can report only minor irregularities here in the Batumi area, and for what we have witnessed, the elections process this time is a big step forward for Georgia compared to what we have seen in previous elections. NHCs Aage Borchgrevink is in Georgia together with colleagues to observe the presidential elections in Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsike and Batumi. Even though we are aware of irregularities, compared to previous years, people are not put under pressure, they are more open and they went to vote in a calm manner, Borchgrevink says.
Letter to PM David Cameron:
Together with a coalition of 70 free speech, media freedom and human rights organisations worldwide, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, where we express our concerns that the way the United Kingdom government’s response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country. The government’s response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society. Rather than using national security as an argument to hinder journalists in their work, the Governemnet should honour the UK’s international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government’s pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them. The letter was initiated by Article 19, United Kingdom. Read the letter below.
Tajikistan Presidential Elections:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was present in Tajikistan this week to tap the atmosphere surrounding the 6 November presidential elections, where the incumbent Emomali Rakhmon as of Thursday morning took 83,9 % of the votes. The landslide win came as no surprise, with the run-up to Election Day following a familiar formula long established in Tajikistan as well as in many of its neighboring states. -Pre-determined election results are no proof of stability. We consider that it merely reflects the lack of political pluralism in Tajikistan, said Ivar Dale, Norwegian Helsinki Committee Regional Representative in Central Asia.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee follows with great concern the dramatic developments in the streets of Kiev where at least 350 000 protesters gathered this weekend demanding the resignation of President Yanukovich.
Civic Solidarity Platform:
Ivar Dale, NHC Central Asia representative, has participated at the OSCE Parallel Civil Society conference in Kiev in connection with the now ongoing OSCE Ministerial Council. During the meeting, the Civic Solidarity Platform developed a policy document containing civil society analysis and recommendations on alarming human dimension issues across the OSCE region and on human dimensions issues in Ukraine, in light of the country’s OSCE Chairmanship. It also includes recommendations for increasing the efficiency of the OSCE human dimension process. -The Platform provides an excellent opportunity for non-governmental organizations to meet and develop common strategies to fight the serious human rights violations that unfortunately remain all over the OSCE region. The Outcome Document should be studied closely by government representatives who wish to contribute to democratic development, Ivar Dale comments.
NGO meeting in Kiev:
On 5 December Foreign Minister Børge Brende met representatives from OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference in Kiev in connection with the now ongoing OSCE Ministerial Council.
On 16 December 2013 Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Baku (EMDS) and board member of the network European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) was arrested and given a three months pre-trial detention at the Nasimin District Court in Baku.
After a run-up marked by flagrant violations of political pluralism and freedom of information, President Ilham Aliyev’s reelection by an overwhelming majority on 10 October 2013, in a poll that the OSCE considered “seriously flawed”, has been followed by new crackdown on the media. The daily newspaper Azadliq, one of the few remaining opposition news outlets, is now in danger of succumbing to efforts to throttle it financially. NHC joins other human rights defenders in voicing concern at the situation.
The European Platform for Democratic Elections protests against the intimidation of its member organization, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku. We are worried that the investigations led by the Prosecutor general’s office, have political motives, a reaction to the critical statements made by EMDS after the recent Presidential elections in Azerbaijan. - As a member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections, we join the protests and we are very worried to see that another efficient election monitoring NGO is targeted by the authorities, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. Last April, Russian partner Golos was convicted for failing to comply with NGO-legislation and failing to register as 'foreign agents'.
In a surprising statement after last week's elections in Azerbaijan, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly concluded that they had observed "free, fair and transparent electoral process". They did this despite the widespread and reliable reports of fraud, pressure against voters and other manipulations. - We find it quite astonishing that European parliamentary delegation members, who should defend the voters' right to democratic elections, instead choose to look away from the facts of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, secretary general Bjørn Engesland says. Together with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) we have made a statement criticizing the delegations.
On 30 September 2013, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a democratization package to address some of the fundamental issues in the country, including freedom of religion or belief issues. “While the package includes positive elements, it falls short of introducing a principled approach to freedom of religion or belief”, said Mine Yildirim, head of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey.
On 8 October 2013, Mikhail Kosenko, one of the defendants in the so-called Bolotnaya square case was found guilty of taking part in mass disorder (article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code) during the “March of the Millions” on 6 May 2012. The Zamoskvoretsky Regional court also found him guilty of physically assaulting police officers (article 318 of the Criminal Code) . - The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is critical of the trial, which did not comply with fair trial standards, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. - The conclusions of the court were not backed by solid evidence. Two police witnesses were unable to identify Kosenko as a person who had been involved in any violence. In the photo, Aleksandra Dukhanina, another of the victims from Bolotnaya awaiting trial is arrested. Photo: Rustam Adagamov
The new NHC report Kazakhstan: Cunning democracy, analyzes the current situation for democracy in the country, and summarizes some of our current concerns with regards to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. The report is co-written with Freedom House.
In a joint call issued today on the eve of the Presidential election, 22 human right organisations and press freedom campaigners warn that the failure of the government of Azerbaijan to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government. - Azerbaijan should take immediate action to ensure fundamental rights are protected ahead of the election, including by releasing journalists, political activists and human rights defenders, to ensure the election is free and fair, NHCs Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says.
In July 2012, Tajikistani authorities used disproportional force in a special operation in the mountainous Pamir region of Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan. Officially, the authorities were aiming to arrest criminals linked to militant forces in Afghanistan. Effectively, communications lines were cut off for a long period of time, a large number of civilians suffered in terms of property damage and injuries, and more than 22 people died. One year later, the authorities have failed to provide adequate information on the details around what happened and which legal acts are being taken to punish those involved.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee congratulates the Belarussian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski with the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. - Ales Bialiatski has devoted his life to the fight for human rights, democracy and freedom for all citizens of Belarus. As our good friend and collegaue we have seen how his work has made a tremendous impact on so many people lives. I can hardly imagine a more well-deserved prize, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
From 26 September to 3 October 2013 the Norwegian Helsinki Committee will participate at this years' OSCE Human Dimensions Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw. HDIM is an arena where civil society representatives can present views and directly challenge state represenatives. For many of the participants from non-democratic countries this is a rare opportunity. NHC is, as always, very active during the conference.
- Supporting and protecting the Belgrade Pride Parade and Pride Week 2013 is an opportunity for Serbian authorities to show its commitment for the human rights for all persons, and in particular, the human rights of those belonging to sexual and gender minorities (LGBTI), Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee says. The Pride Parade march in the streets of Belgrade is scheduled for September 28.
UN Human Rights Council:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other Civic Solidarity Platform members urge in a letter to Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, Norway to use its influence at the UN Human Rights Council to oppose the “traditional values” agenda. This agenda attempts to undermine the universality of fundamental human rights, and is part of a global trend to qualify human rights protections and restrict the civic space for the expression of dissent.
Election observation 2013:
34 election observers from eleven countries in the former Soviet Union have observed this years' Norwegian parliamentary elections. The observers have received a warm welcome throughout the country, and they have observed an election with a high degree of trust in the electoral process. However, the observers see potential for improvement in Norway.
Election observation mission 2013:
An international observation mission will observe the upcoming Norwegian Parliamentary Elections on 9 September 2013. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has invited 35 experienced NGO observers from 11 countries in the former Soviet Union who will observe the election from Norway’s Stavanger in the south to Kirkenes in the north.
In a letter to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyevin and the Prosecutor General Zakir, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, along with several Human Rights NGOs, express a profound concern regarding the continued harassment and intimidation of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and the resulting interference in her work. - We urge the President of Azerbaijan to take immediate steps to ensure a prompt, thorough, effective and transparent investigation into the threats made against the journalist Khadija Ismayilova, as well as ensuring the effectiveness of the current investigation into the violation of Ismayilovas right to privacy, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland says.
– The guilty verdicts of lawyer and world known whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky and the man he represented, William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Management Capital, by a Moscow court on 11 July 2013 represents a new low point in Russia’s efforts to distort facts and cover-up the real wrongdoing in the case, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – The Magnitsky case implicates Russian authorities in a series of human rights violations, including illegal arrest, torture, and failure to provide medical treatment. Now they have added new violations to the list; exposing the legal nihilism and lack of rule of law in the country.
On 29 June, Jennifer Lopez and other artists performed at a birthday concert for President Berdymuhammedov, Turkmenistan's
- Turkmenistan is one of the worst human rights performers in the world, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsiniki Committee Bjørn Engesland. Such an appearance in Turkmenistan not only legitimises a corrupt and authoritarian regime, but also reflects badly on any artist's aspirations to draw attention to human rights issues. In an open letter to Ms Lopez, the NHC and several other international NGOs encourage her to donate the fee she received to a charity working to improve the dismal human rights situation in the country.
– The killing of journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev on Tuesday 9 July should be promptly investigated and those responsible should be prosecuted, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – The attempted murder on Akhmednabiev in January 2013 was ignored by the Prosecutor’s office, in spite of a Dagestan Supreme Court decision that it should be investigated. This culture of impunity for those attacking and even murdering journalists and human rights defenders in North Caucasus must end. If not, authorities will remain complicit in these killings.
Council of Europe:
In a letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with 23 other international human rights organisations, strongly urges PACE to condemn so-called “homosexual propaganda” bans as incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the prohibition of discrimination. The Assembly should vote in favour of today’s resolution and recommendation on tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Read the letter below
Following her detention upon arrival to Tashkent International Airport from Bishkek at 7:20 PM on Monday 24 June, prominent Kyrgyzstani human rights activist Tolekan Ismailova was deported to Almaty, Kazakhstan in the afternoon of 25 June.
The Siberian newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny, and Yelena Kostyuchenko, journalist of Novaya Gazeta, were among the laureates of this year’s Press Freedom Award, issued by Fritt Ord and Zeit Stiftung. – The prize jury has come to an important and appropriate decision, drawing attention to the deteriorating conditions for freedom of speech and the difficult situation for journalists in today’s Russia, said Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
The Turkish government should respect freedoms and establish independent investigation into police violence against demonstrators. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about recent reports of police abuse against largely peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul, Ankara and many other Turkish cities.
Den norske Helsingforskomité har sluttet seg til en markering på Youngstorget på onsdag 19. juni kl. 18.00. Markeringen arrangeres
av LIM - nettverket, norsk - tyrkiske fredsaktivister og Norges Fredsråd med støtte fra en rekke andre organisasjoner.
Budskapet er: Respekter ytringsfriheten, ta vare på miljøet og stopp politivolden mot demonstrantene. Nefise Özkal Lorentzen fra LIM og John Peder Egenæs fra Amnesty International Norge er blant appellantene. Sufimusikk og fotoutstilling med bilder fra demonstrasjonene i Tyrkia står også på programmet.
New NHC report:
The report "Women: Turkmenistan’s Second-Class Citizens” gives a unique look into the everyday life of women in Turkmenistan.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the legislation waved through this week by the Russian State Duma; prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”. The restrictive legislation is part of a wider trend of worsening human rights situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund for Central Asia. All organizations with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. While we are open to all good proposals, we encourage projects in Kazakhstan related to the outlying regions of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, we are particularly interested in projects addressing the basic human rights of vulnerable groups as well as legal initiatives. In Tajikistan, strengthening of the media and the rights of children is important. However, we are open to original and innovative ideas.
Russian Civic Assistance Committee will soon present a book,- a collection of memories of eyewitnesses of and participants in the Chechen wars. The title of the book, published in Russian, is ‘Stories of one war’ / Каждый молчит о своем: истории одной войны,
Human Rights Council:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has joined a call to the President of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that records of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reflect all recommendations presented to the state under review. Recently, Russia managed to remove two recommendations from Georgia from the list of recommendations at the end of the report and to get them added as footnote. This is the last blow against the format of the Working Group reports which regularly, under the attack of countries under Review, get modified and weakened. The statement calls on the President to issue a statement which would clearly define how the Working Group report should be made and what it should contain.
One of Russia’s most respected human rights defenders, Svetlana Gannushkina, is prosecuted for “failure to comply with legal requirements by the Prosecutor” and is to stand trial on 4 June. Gannushkina, the head of the Civic Assistance Committee (CAC), suspended cooperation with the Moscow Prosecutors' office in April 2013 because unreasonable requirements were imposed on her organization. In 2007, Svetlana received the Sakharov Freedom Award from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. She has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize by Erna Solberg, the head of the Conservative Party in Norway.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is present in Kiev during the Kiev Pride 2013. Ahead of the Pride March, Queer Youth Norway and LLH - Norwegian LGBT Association jointly with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to the Ukrainian Embassador to Norway, Yurii Onischenko, expressing concern over the reports that the Pride might be banned by the Kiev City Administration. Read the letter below.
-Norwegian authorities should contribute to Europe enacting Magnitsky type legislation, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – There is need for new ways of addressing the very serious human rights violations that take place in Russia from the part of European governments and institutions. Magnitsky legislation may prove to be an efficient supplement to regional and international human rights mechanisms. Norway should signal support of the EU enacting Magnitsky type legislation.
One year after the bombing of the DIY pub and violent counter demonstrators attacked a Diversity March in Yerevan, Armenia still suffers from widespread intolerance and discrimination of minorities. The legislation does not include hate crime with intent towards gender and sexual minorities, and the government fails to protect the rights of these citizens. Media is more often used as a tool to build up under prejudice and intolerance, and homophobic statements are frequently used by stakeholders to gain popularity.
Today, 13 May 2013, eight years have passed since the horrific massacre of civilians by government forces in the Uzbek town of Andijan. In spite of repeated calls from the international community, Uzbekistan still refuses to carry out an independent investigation.
The journalist Elena Bondar has been granted refugee status from the UNHCR. Bondar had been working as a reporter for Ferghana News Agency, the leading news site covering Central Asia, often writing under a pseudonym. Uzbek authorities opened criminal investigations against her, and she was forced to leave the country. Originally, the UNHCR rejected her application for asylum, but the decision was overturned after Bondar lodged an appeal.
Endemic corruption, arbitrariness and denial of justice are key words that illustrate the justice system of Turkmenistan today. Few citizens dare to address the system for help, knowing that virtually any case is decided through money and good connections. Now, three brave persons that independently of each other have been through the system and back with their complaints to no avail, hope that international resonance to their case can create a positive precedence for others.
With today's opening of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki, the Don’t Play with the Dictator! campaign has written a letter to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation René Fasel, where we urge him and the representatives of the national IIHF member organisations to support the victims of human rights violations by removing the 2014 IIHF World Championship from Belarus at the next meeting of the IIHF General Congress in Stockholm in May 2013. The NHC is a member of the Don't Play with the Dictator! campaign. Read the letter below.
Azerbaijan at the UPR:
In a statement published 29 April, NHC and the International Partnership Group on Azerbaijan urges the member states of the United Nations to hold Azerbaijan accountable during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 30 April 2013 for its failure to protect basic human rights. The International Partnership Group on Azerbaijan, in which NHC is a partner, urge the UN to take Azerbaijan to task for failing to implement the commitments it made after its first review in 2009. Read the full statement below.
Human rights education:
As part of the NHC project on the role of Universities in peacebuilding, a conference was held 19-20 April in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of the conference was to initiate a dialogue on how universities can contribute to build and promote peace in the region. The University of Tuzla is one of five partner universities from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo, that participates in the project Build Bridges not Walls: the Role of the Universities in Peacebuilding.
NHC annual meeting:
NHC annual meeting, on 25 April 2013, has adopted our 2012 Annual Report. The report is an account of our wast activities during last year, one of the most active in our history. Among many other issues you can read about the Norwegian Helsinki Committe 35 years' anniversary, celebrated last year with a jubilee seminar with partners and friends as well as the Sakharov Freedom Award 2012 ceremony, presenteing the award to the Russian Association Golos on 23 October last year.
Today, Golos was convicted for failing to comply with NGO-legislation and failing to register as foreign agents.NHC was a witness during the trial where we refuted claims that Golos has accepted prize money from us. The legislation is itself in violation of international law, and we condemn the court decision as unlawful. Golos must pay a fine of 300 000 roubles, approx. 9 500 USD. Follow updates on our Facebook-page and on Twitter nhc_no.
Sonia Biserko, Chair of the Serbian Helsinki Committee and author of the book “Yugoslavia’s Implosion” published by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, visited Brussels on 19-20 March to launch the book and take part in discussions around the topic of “Serbian nationalism still alive: what impact for EU enlargement?”.
In a letter sent yesterday to the Turkish Minister of Interior Muammar Güler, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses our
concern about the death treats against the Turkish lawyer Erdal Doğan, who is a legal counsel for the victims in the Zirve/Malatya
trial concerning the killing of three Christians on 18 April 2007 in Malatya, South Eastern Turkey. The letter is a part of
NHC's new initiative in Turkey, the Freedom of Belief Initiative, a human rights project founded to improve the protection
of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief in Turkey. The project is headed by our co-ordinator in
Istanbul, Mine Yildirim. A letter has also been sent to Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of
Human Rights Defenders and Nils Muižnieks,
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was relieved to learn of the decision by Ukrainian authorities to respect international human rights obligations and to reject an extradition request for the former Prime Minister of Tajikistan to his home country.
Universal Periodic Review Armenia:
Together with the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have submitted a mid-term assessment (May 2010–December 2012) following recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council at Armenia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2010.
Russia, mass inspections of NGOs:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about recent developments in Russia related to freedom of association and the rights of human rights defenders to conduct their work, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. – Large numbers of non-government organizations were today subject to inspections from authorities, including Memorial and other well-known human rights organisations. The inspections are follow-up on recently adopted restrictive legislation that violates freedom of association and aims at obstructing human rights work in the country. European institutions and governments should react strongly.
Serbia and Europe:
Chair of the Helsinki Committee for human rights in Serbia Sonja Biserko will present her book «Yugoslavia’s implosion», as well as views on Serbia with relevance to Serbia’s EU integration, in events in Brussels on 18-20 March 2013. The book, published by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, will be presented to the public on Wednesday 20 March at 13.00. There will also be meetings with the European Parliament Working Group for Western Balkans, representatives of the European Commission, Directorate General of Englargement among others. The visit is organized by the NHC in co-operation with our liason in Brussels, the International Partnership for Human Rights.
Myanmar President Thein Sein visits Oslo:
In a letter to President Thein Sein the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International Norway, the Norwegian Burma Committee and several other human rights organizations call on the President to give attention to the human rights violations that are still going on in Myanmar (Burma).
Election Day in Armenia was characterized by reports of ballot stuffing, multiple voting and intimidation of voters, following
a campaign where the three main opposition parties decided not to nominate their presidential candidates. This is the conclusion
of a delegation from the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), consisting of four experts of the Norwegian Helsinki
Committee, Swedish International Liberal Centre SILC, Sweden, Association GOLOS, Russia and European Exchange, Germany to
the Presidential elections on 18 February in Armenia.
-Though there were several reports about fraud before and during Election Day, social media showed that many Armenians took this opportunity to state their opinion, says NHC’s Lene Wetteland, who was present in Armenia for the elections. - Many demonstrated contempt by voting for American celebrity Kim Kardashian; one ate his ballot, another returned the 5000 AMD bribe with a note that not everyone can be bought, and surprisingly many voted for the runner-up Raffi Hovhannisyan, who is now arranging rallies in towns all over Armenia.
In a statement today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has joined two large civil society networks, the Civic Solidarity Platform
and the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan together with local organizations condemning the latest campaign against
freedom of expression and association in Azerbaijan. – We are extremely concerned about the situation, it just seems that
there is no end to the steps the authorities are willing to take to retain power firmly in hand, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland
Since the start of the year, Azerbaijani authorities have broken up rallies arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Journalists, writers and bloggers have been harassed and 75 year-old acclaimed author Akram Aylisli has been subjected to severe threats even from the members of the national parliament. Proposals for restrictive legislation, running counter to international standards for freedom of association and expression, has been fielded. – Bearing in mind that presidential elections in Azerbaijan is just months away, the development is not acceptable and will undermine any hopes of democratic progress in the country, Engesland continues.
Voting at the 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia is underway, following a month of low key campaigning. The ruling Republican party’s candidate and incumbent president Serge Sargsyan is expected to win the majority of the votes in an election where the three largest opposition parties in the Parliament did not advance or support any candidate. NHC's Lene Wetteland is observing the elections in Vanadzor.
On 6 February 2013, the regional court in Nizhny Novgorod ruled that the city administration had violated human rights when refusing to provide time and place for a March of millions demonstration. – The court’s recognition that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights should prevail is a promising development, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, NHC Deputy Secretary General. – It should set precedence for other courts handling similar cases of protesters being denied their rights under Russian and international law to freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
Oslo/Almaty: On 5 February 2013, the former Prime Minister of Tajikistan, Abdulmalik Abdullodzhonov, was arrested at Borispol International Airport in Kiev, Ukraine. Abdullodzhonov, who has been residing in the USA for the past 14 years, had arrived to Ukraine on private business and was detained due to his having been included on the Interpol wanted list by Tajik authorities. If extradited, Abdullodzhonov is at great risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture.
The film festival Human Rights Human Wrongs, Scandinavia’s only film festival dedicated to human rights, was arranged for the fourth time February 6-10. Speakers included Alma Masic from the organization Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and NHC staff Akhmed Gisaev and Inna Sangadzhiyeva. In cooperation with the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, the NHC also arranged visits by Alma Masic to two high schools to promote and inform about the project “Srebrenica: Mapping Genocide”.
NGO Forum for Human Rights:
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, of behalf of the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights, has submitted the annual recommendations to the Government of Norway on human rights at United Nations. The recommendations are particularly directed towards Norway's efforts before the UN Human Rights Council, but are relevant also to other UN bodies.
Election observation network:
- “Civic observation is a powerful instrument for citizens’ control over electoral processes and deserves the attention and the support of the European institutions. We wish the best success for the newly established “European Platform for Democratic Elections” said Werner Schulz, Member of the European Parliament, during the presentation of the EPDE at the European Parliament on Wednesday January 30th.
In a statement the Civic Solidarity Platform and the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA) condemn the harsh response by the Azerbaijani authorities to recent protests in the country. They call on the Council of Europe to ensure that Azerbaijan respects its human rights obligations as a member state and stop punishing critical voices, including human rights defenders and journalists. NHC is a member of bothe the Civil Solidarity Platform and IPGA and we support the statement.
A new report published by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, 'Democracy and human rights at stake in Hungary', describes how Viktor Orbán’s government is centralizing power, undermining the independence of courts and putting media freedom under pressure. – Until recently, Hungary was seen as one of the most successful of the new democracies, but in a short time democratic standards have deteriorated to a degree few thought was possible, said Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Parliamentary Assembly votes on Azerbaijan:
The International Partnership Group, coordinated by ARTICLE 19, along with Amnesty International, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and several Azerbaijani and international NGOs urges the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to make a strong call for Azerbaijan to improve its deteriorating human rights record. On Wednesday 23 January, the vote on two crucial resolutions on Azerbaijan will be an opportunity for the Assembly to show its genuine commitment to its human rights principles.