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Awards to journalism:
NHC congratulates the laureates of the Fritt Ord/ZEIT-Stiftungs «Free Media Awards» which were awarded in a ceremony in Tbilisi
last week. Imprisoned journalist Seymur Hazi from Azerbaijan and the Ukrainian TV program Nashi Groshi were both nominated
by NHC. The third laureate is the prominent Russian journalist Elena Milashina.
Jury member Martin Paulsen highlighted three virtues in his speech at the ceremony: "When it comes to your work, and the reasons why we chose you for this honour, I would like to emphasise the importance of three concepts: COURAGE, SOLIDARITY and COMPETENCE."
The Helsinki Committee has been engaged in Ukraine since the beginning of the 1990s. We have observed many elections and followed developments in the human rights situation throughout time from President Kuchma, Orange Revolution to Euromaidan and the recent dramatic development of Russian occupation of Crimea and their sneaky warfare in eastern Ukraine. We have previously had several projects in Ukraine, with an emphasis on human rights education in cooperation with local partners. We are also engaged in LGBTI issues in Ukraine.
NHCs Enver Djuliman is currently in Odessa, Ukraine, where Russian and Ukrainian youth are together for dialogues for reconciliation between Russian and Ukrainian youth. Symbolically, the participants planted trees of peace.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) asks that Zaporozhie Regional and City- Authorities protect the Equality Festival scheduled for 24 September. The organizers have been met with homophobic and transphobic threats from right wing extremists as well as protests from the City authorities, and the Jewish Community Center "Max Grant" that should have been the festival venue cancelled their contract due to fear of repercussions.
New Report and Seminar:
Even though the military conflict in Ukraine is not making big headlines, it is still ongoing. Soldiers and civilians continue to die and the Minsk agreement is broken constantly. With over 10 000 deaths, and close to 2 million of IDPs, and many alleged crimes unaccounted for, the issue of accountability is high on the Ukrainian and international agenda - including on the panel debate organised by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on 9 June where also the new report "Where did the shells come from: Investigation of cross-border attacks in Eastern Ukraine" was presented for the first time.
How can the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Norway promote justice and democracy in Ukraine? The seminar will provide first-hand information on the political situation and the status of reforms in Ukraine, as well as the latest accounts from the conflict-zone. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee invites you to join a discussion between politicians and human rights activists from Norway and Ukraine on ways of achieving accountability and democratic reforms.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee extend our full support for the organizers of Equality Festival Lviv-2016; scheduled for 19 – 20 March at the Museum of ideas in Lviv. We fear that repeated threats of physical violence and hate speech in social media may prevent the festival from taking place. The City Administration has not made any statement of support despite several inquiries from the organizers.
On 12 November the Ukrainian Parliament adopted Amendment Nº 3442 to the Labor Code, where protection against discrimination in the labor sector explicitly mentions sexual and gender minorities (LGBTI) among other vulnerable groups*. The amendment is the first Ukrainian Law where LGBTI persons are granted legal protection, and it was the final law that needed to be adopted before Ukraine could achieve a visa liberalization agreement with the European Union.
On 5th November the Ukrainian Parliament was only able to adopt two of 13 laws demanded by the EU in order to start the visa-liberalization process, rejecting among others the amendments on key-norms of anti-discrimination and anti-corruption measures.
- It is obvious to us that an increased international presence is needed on the Crimean peninsula. The human rights situation, especially with regard to freedom of speech and assembly, has deteriorated rapidly following the Russian takeover. This cannot continue, says secretary general Bjørn Engesland.
Two NHC representatives, Mina Skouen and Olga Shamshur Flydal, were on Sunday visiting polling stations in suburban Kiev as a part of a larger group of EPDE (European Platform for Democratic Election) election experts from Poland, Germany and former Soviet Union countries. This time Ukrainians cast votes electing over 168 000 representatives to local governments and mayors.
- The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) welcomes the Ukrainian government’s decision to accept International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over international crimes committed on its territory since February 2014, i.e. since the start of the armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea by Russia, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. – We consider this a milestone in the fight against impunity in former Soviet countries.
The ceasefire agreement, which entered into force as of Sunday 15 February, is good news for the civilian population in the Donbass region”, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. – However, it is already marred by violations and important questions remain unresolved. There are also serious flaws with the agreement. – The loser after nearly a year of hostilities is the civilian population in Eastern Ukraine who have seen their houses, economy, infrastructure and key public institutions shot to pieces. The human rights situation was far from perfect before the armed conflict, but there is no doubt that it has become much worse in the rebel-controlled areas.
Civil society organisation OPORA and Committee of Voters of Ukraine have concluded that the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine did not violate international standards and Ukrainian law in any serious way. Although a large number of violations were registered both during the election campaign and on election day, they did not influence the result of the elections.
In Ukraine, the early elections to Verkhavna Rada (Parliament) is underway, and by 15.00 o'clock no serious incidents have been reported. In occupied Crimea and in large parts of Eastern Luhansk and Donetsk, it is not possible to organise elections, and some 4.5 million out of a total of 35 million voters are unable to cast their ballot today. Norwegian Helsinki Committee is in Kyiv to observe the elections.
Together with the other members and partners of the Human Rights House Network, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent
a letter to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, where we urge the Ukrainian authorities to refer situation on the internationally
recognised territory of Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC) until the state becomes a member of the ICC by acceding
to the Rome Statute.
In the letter we also call upon the Ukrainian government to support the work of human rights NGOs, journalists, bloggers and other media, and aknowledge the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as an essential component of ensuring their protection. In this important periode for the country, we also urge the Ukrainan government to ensure that the reform process in the country, as well as all dialogue about the future of the country, is inclusive and transparent, giving space to civil society.
Read the letter below.
European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a network of NGOs observing elections in Europe, has been united to observe the crucial Presidential elections in Ukraine that took place 25 may. 200 trained civil society observers monitored the elections in 10 regions of Ukraine in cooperation with local observers from Opora and Committee of Voters Ukraine. Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a co-founder of EPDE, joined the mission and assisted in the coordination of the effort. Today, the mission statement was published at a press conference in Kiev.
NHC is currently in Ukraine observing the election together with our network European Platform for Democratic Elections. In most of the country it is reported that voters turn out in unpresedented high numbers and that lines are forming in many polling stations. In a large majority of the country, the polling takes place in a calm atmosphere and elections seem to go well by 14:00. In two regions, Donetsk and Lugansk, the polling has been cancelled for security reasons or the fact that some areas are under de facto control of armed pro-Russian rebels
Ukraine, Russia crisis:
NHC is proud to present our new publication format, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee's policy paper. Our first policy paper is a Q&A on the Ukraine, Russia crisis, where we want to point to some of the main legal and human rights issues in the current situation. You can read and download the policy paper below.
The crisis in Ukraine develops by the day, and the need for sound and objective information is huge. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee recommends the regular updates provided by the Civic Solidarity Platform, a network of human rights organizations who cooperate to gather information with a special attention to the human rights situation. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a founding member of the Platform and among the NGOs to assist in the efforts in Ukraine. The information provided in the updates is always based on findings by human rights experts on the ground, and our local members of the Platform are key providers of information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee participated in a picket in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Oslo Monday, passing on a statement to Counsellor Vitalii Pantus. The statement comes as a reaction to the recent violent attacks on a peaceful demonstration organized by Ukrainian LGBTI organizations, where several activists were victims of violence. – We are concerned with the development in many European countries. It seems to be a trend of violent intolerance that is unacceptable in countries that are aspiring at rapprochement to Europe, hosting European Championships in Football, Olympic Games or applying for EU membership, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Ukrainaseminar 2 desember:
(01/12-2004) Helsingforskomiten, i samarbeid med NUPI, arrangerer den 2 desember et seminar om situasjonen i Ukraina. Ett av innleggene var planlagt for lederen for Kharkov Human Rights Protection Group, Evhen Zakharov. Situasjonen i Ukraina er fremdeles uavklart, og Zakharov har vurdert det som vanskelig å forlate landet nå. I stedet har han tilbudt Helsingforskomitéen å publisere noe av materialet som har blitt offentliggjort i Kharkov. Dokumentene gir et bilde av omfanget av manipulasjoner ved valget som fant sted den 21.november, samt en vurdering av juridiske forhold som kan bidra til en løsning av den pågående krisen i landet.
(28/01-2005) Under den såkalte oransje-revolusjonen i Ukraina har den omstridte partilederen Julija Tymosjenko spilt rollen som frihetsgudinne. Hun er vant til kamp, men vil den kommende statsministeren også kunne inngå kompromisser? Dette spør Helsingforskomiteens Aage Borchgrevink i en artikkel i Morgenbladet i dag. Artikkelen er skrevet etter reisen som Helsingforskomiteen nettopp hadde til Ukraina.
New level of cooperation:
(05/11-2009) The Conference on the Development of Human Rights Education initiated by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Understanding Human Rights All Ukrainian Educational Program took place in Kyiv, on 29 and 30 October 2009. In the course of two days 148 participants from Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Serbia, Norway and Moldova shared their expertise and information concerning the existent examples of initiatives, projects and programs for human rights education in Ukraine and abroad. They discussed the current situation with the development of human rights education in Ukraine, prepared recommendations concerning strategies and possible forms of the development of formal and informal human rights education, worked out mechanisms of cooperation and interaction for the development of human rights education in Ukraine.
– The Tymoshenko and similar cases is part of a widespread and deep rooted problem in Ukraine, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. Even though Ukrainian officials portray the cases as anti-corruption, they clearly form part of a pattern of selective justice and political influence over the judiciary. It is important that Norway and other European governments and institutions step up pressure to end these practices. Beginning in May 2010, a number of criminal cases were opened against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. On 11 October 2011 a court found her guilty of abuse of power, and sentenced her to seven years in jail.