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Together with Civil Rights Defenders, Sweden, and Freedom Now, USA, NHC has written a letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres ahead of his visit to Tajikistan, reminding him of the grave human rights situation and the negative development in the country. Since 2014, the Tajik government has undertaken a widespread crackdown to dismantle and discredit the country’s peaceful political opposition.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee joins protests in reaction to credible reports of the arrest, torture, and conviction following unfair trials, and imprisonment under inhumane conditions of 18 men in Turkmenistan. The sentences, from 12 to 25 years, were handed down in a closed, two-hour trial, and set out in a summary of the verdict that lacks any information about the specific acts the men are accused of committing or the evidence against them.
Letter to the Prime Minister of Georgia:
In a letter to the Prime Minsiter of Georgia, NHC has joined several human rights organisations to express our concern about the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli, an exiled Azerbaijani journalist, on 29 May in Tbilisi. He went missing after leaving his colleagues in the evening, before resurfacing the following day in Baku in the custody of Azerbaijan’s state border agency. Mukhtarli reports that he was forced into a car near his home, tied up and beaten. His abductors put a bag over his head and 10,000 euros were stuffed into his pockets while crossing the Azerbaijani border. We question the role of Georgia in letting this abduction take place.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee urges Ukrainian authorities to support and protect Kyiv Pride Week, which will be organized June 9 to 18, 2017. An important part of the program will be the KyivPride March on 18 June, a manifestation in support of fundamental human rights and freedom from violence for Lesbian, Gay, Bi- Trans- and Intersex persons (LGBTI) in Ukraine.
The Council of Europe’s legitimacy is at stake over Azerbaijan’s persistent non-compliance with the European Court judgment. On 22 May, three years had passed since the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgment on the case of political prisoner Ilgar Mammadov, concluding that the Azerbaijani authorities had detained him to punish him for his criticism of the government.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a partner of the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) which is now underway in Oslo. OFF is a thriving global community of people who share the common vision of making the world a more peaceful, prosperous, and free place. The ninth annual forum will unite dissidents, activists, artists, journalists, and changemakers in Oslo on May 22-24, 2017.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights called on President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on May 10 and 11, 2017, to turn his government’s pledges for reform into concrete human rights improvements and fulfill its obligations under human rights law, eight human rights groups said today. The rights groups endorsed the high commissioner’s recommendations, calling on Mirziyoyev to end ongoing abuses and deliver on Uzbekistan’s human rights commitments in full.
Kazakhstan: Free political prisoners Bokayev and Ayan:
Today the Norwegian Helsinki Committee congratulates political prisoner Max Bokayev on his 44th birthday and appeals to the authorities of Kazakhstan to free him and fellow political prisoner Talgat Ayan. The two remain in prison after an Atyrau court last year sentenced them to five years imprisonment in retaliation for their peaceful activism. Текст на русском ниже
NHC has issued a statement protesting the conviction of Dr Serdar Küni, from Turkey, addressed to the Gaziantepe Regional High Court. The statement is supported by 28 other organisations from various countries. Küni's prosecution is part of a wave of arrests, dismissals and other legal actions taken against human rights defenders, medical professionals, lawyers, journalists, and academics since July 2015 in Southeast Turkey, and throughout Turkey after the failed military coup in July 2016. The statement underlines the principal importance of the case. Dr. Küni is a medical doctor, and is therefore under a professional duty to provide medical assistance to any person in need of such assistance. He is also a human rights defender.
World Press Freedom Day:
Joint Statement: As World Press Freedom Day is celebrated across the globe on May 3, we, the undersigned organizations, cannot forget the untenable price journalists pay for government criticism in Azerbaijan. The case of Mehman Huseynov is emblematic.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses concern about increased political tension in Macedonia after protesters forced their way into the Parliament in Skopje Thursday 27 April.
The Annual Assembly of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has released the 2016 Annual report. The report illustrated the wide range of activities NHC of last year, and underlined the importance of continued engagement for fundamental human rights in an unstable world. Human rights in Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and the South Caucasus remain in the center of our attention, where we through cooperation with local civil society are an efficient advocate for fundamental human rights defense at home and abroad. In 2016, we became a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and also the assumed the responsibility of hosting the secretariat for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB).
“The trial proceedings against Dr. Küni ignored the most basic of international fair trial standards, and failed to take into account the arbitrary nature of the charges against him”. Deputy Secretary General Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal is currently on mission to Turkey. He is part of an international trial monitoring group, monitoring the trial against Dr. Serdar Küni, a medical doctor who provided medical treatment during clashes in Cizre in 2015 and 2016.
North Caucasus report in PACE:
Ahead of the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Amnesty International, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Center “Memorial” and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have written to the members of the Assembly to urge them to participate in the Plenary debate on the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on “Human Rights in the North Caucasus” and to support the adoption of the very important resolution and recommendations raised by the report.
Demonstrations and arrests:
This last weekend, 25. – 26. March, peaceful protest actions took place across Russia, Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan, which were met with heavy police forces, mass arrests and violence from the authorities. Although they did not seem to have been coordinated in any way, the protests have in common that they were supported by citizens fed up with corruption and oppression. Governments of the three countries seem to know only one way of reacting: Interdiction, violence and detentions. Still, citizens for the first time in a very long time, defied fears and participated. The participation across Russia, not limited to big cities, had not been seen for years.
We strongly condemn the continuing wave of detentions and harassment of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights defenders,
civil society activists, anarchists and opposition party members in Belarus. More than 250 people have been detained since
3 March, and several detentions have been carried out with excessive use of force. On the eve of planned demonstrations in
Minsk and several other places in Belarus on 25 March, we urge President Lukashenka to abide human rights principles.
Photo by Andrey Liankevich.
On March 16, Azerbaijan's authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev displayed another self-serving magnanimity and pretended to be merciful. He signed a decree, pardoning 423 prisoners, among them 4 activists that human rights groups have labeled as political prisoners. This is happy news for all of those pardoned and their families, but there is very little else to celebrate. The decree left many political prisoners firmly behind bars, in prisons populated by prominent dissenters and activists.
The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), Civil Rights Defenders (CRD), Freedom House, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Uzbek–German Forum for Human Rights (UGF) are extremely relieved to learn that Uzbek journalist Muhammad Bekjanov, the winner of RSF’s Press Freedom Prize in 2013, was released today after 18 years in prison.
NHC has signed on to an Open Letter to the European Union College of Commissioners regarding the situation in Poland. The letter urges the College to pursue the enforcement action against the government of Poland under the Article 7 of the EU treaty, as the government of Poland continues to undermine the rule of law. NHC supports the letter in the framework of our membership in the International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH.
Today, the Turkmenistan Civic Solidarity Group issues a statement regarding Sunday's Presidential "Elections" in Turkmenistan. In it, the organisations urge all interested parties, including the OSCE and other international organizations, to take a principled stance and to not recognize the presidential “elections” in Turkmenistan as free, transparent, fair, competitive, and in accordance with international standards.
- Den norske Helsingforskomité støtter forslaget om å endre statsborgerloven § 26 slik at tilbakekallelser av statsborgerskap bare kan skje ved dom*. Regjeringen bør avvente saksbehandling av tilbakekallelser til regelverket er endret. Dette sa Helsingforskomiteens assisterende generalsekretær Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal i sitt innlegg på åpen høring i Stortingets kommunal- og forvaltningskomité 9. februar 2017.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is seriously concerned for the future of Hungarian NGOs working for the protection and promotion of democracy and human rights, for marginalized groups and transparency. Legislation which has recently been proposed by the Hungarian Government will, possibly unconstitutionally, target and paralyze non-government organisations that receive grants from foreign funds.
The undersigned organisations, including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, strongly condemn the abduction and torture of Azerbaijani journalist Mehman Huseynov and call on Azerbaijan’s authorities to immediately investigate the case and to hold those responsible accountable. Moreover, Huseynov’s conviction should be overturned and the travel ban against him lifted.
Human Rights Center (HRIDC), Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) call on the Georgian authorities to take concrete steps towards accountability for crimes committed during 2008 war, including, renew investigative activities, ensure access of victims of the August 2008 war to their national case file and renew communication with the victims in order to respect their rights to effectively participate in national proceedings.
The final report of the limited election observation mission to the Republic of Georgia is ready.The mission was organised
jointly with the European Platform of Democratic Elections (EPDE), the International Partnership of Human Rights (IPHR), the
International Elections Study Center (IESC) and
the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC).
– Tajikistan’s security services have taken new actions against relatives of at least three political activists abroad who engage in peaceful criticism of the government, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today.
In another farcical day in a Baku court today, 21-year old activist Bayram Mammadov was sentenced to 10 years in jail. He was arrested simply for spraying graffiti, but was later tortured into confessing to serious drug crimes. Bogus drug possession charges to silence critical voices is not new in Azerbaijan, where the authorities widely plant drugs on their opponents to lock them up.
The government of Azerbaijan is carrying out a multi-pronged attack on freedom of expression, including introducing harsh penalties for critical speech online, imprisoning young activists for nothing more than graffiti, blocking access to websites of independent media, and harassing and violating the rights of journalists and activists. The undersigned organisations call upon the Azerbaijani authorities to reverse this alarming trend and respect basic human rights and freedoms, as well as for international partners to ensure Azerbaijan honours its treaty commitments as a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
-Authorities in Kazakhstan must ensure civil society organizations the freedom to fully carry out their activities in accordance with domestic law and international human rights standards, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – In a recent development local authorities have aimed to thwart civic education events organized by the not-for-profit organization Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan (YISK).
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 Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the five-year sentence given yesterday to peaceful activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan in retaliation for their peaceful protest against proposed amendments to the country’s land-law in April and May. The harsh prison sentence is in violation of the Constitution of Kazakhstan and the country’s international human rights obligations, and must therefore be quashed, the NHC said.
Uzbek authorities should ensure a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the alleged torture of two brothers by the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB), and the death in custody of one of them, Human Rights Watch, the International Partnership for Human Rights, Freedom House, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said today.
Imprisoned opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov's appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected on Friday 18 November, disappointing anyone who had hoped for his release. The judgement is a mockery of the previous decision by the European Court of Human Rights, demanding an immedeate release of Ilgar Mammadov.
Human rights education:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee organised 13-17 November 2016 a Human Rights School for 27 high school students from Murmansk and Kirkenes.
20 November is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), dedicated to the memory of trans and gender-diverse persons who have been victims of homicide worldwide.
8 of November is the Intersex Day of Solidarity and Remembrance. It is a day to acknowledge the suffering and injustice caused to intersex people in the past, and call for adequate redress, reparation, and access to justice. It is also a day to challenge the faulty categorization of human beings as being strictly “male” or “female” to inspire respect, inclusion and human rights for all.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to Norway’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations today to express a deep concern for a scheduled 8 November vote in the General Assembly Third Committee which may revoke the mandate of the UN Independent Expert to monitor violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The letter was also sent to other Permanent Missions to the UN.
Human rights and the rule of law in Hungary have been under sustained attack since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took power in 2010, reveals FIDH in a new report released today. FIDH urges the government to halt this assault and calls for a strong and prompt reaction by the European Union, up to the activation of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which could lead to the suspension of Hungary’s rights under the Treaties. NHC is a Norwegian member of the international network of human rights organisation FIDH.
The NHC is proud to announce that we today are launching our first podcast. The podcast series "Human Rights in Focus" will shed light on some of the most pressing human rights challenges we are facing in Europe today. In this first episode we are discussing the situation for human rights in Azerbaijan with prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus. She is joined by NHCs senior adviser and Azerbaijan expert Berit Lindeman.
(Berlin, Brussels, Oslo and Tbilisi, 9 October 2016) The joint international election observation mission of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), International Elections Study Center (IESC) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and was established in Georgia on 12 September. On Election Day, the Mission deployed 36 international observers who visited more than 200 polling stations across the country. This preliminary statement summarizes our findings.
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.
Human rights defenders and former political prisoners Leyla and Arif Yunus from Azerbaijan have visited Norwegian Helsinki Committee to join the “finissage” of the exhibition at Akershus Art Centre exhibiting art depicting the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. –Human rights are violated more than ever in our home country, Leyla Yunus said. –The numbers of political prisoners keep increasing, and every year around ten prisoners die from torture and ill-treatment in the brutal Azerbaijani jails.
Terrorism and Death Penalty:
Today, on 10 October 2016, the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is joining an international campaign raising awareness about the application of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences and to reduce its use. NHC urges the abolishment of all forms of death penalty.
(Brussels, Oslo and Tbilisi, 9 October 2016) During the Georgian Parliamentary Elections on 8 October 2016 a violent incident occurred in Western Georgia. A group of unidentified men broke into polling station 79 in the village of Jikhashkari in the Zugdidi district, disrupted the counting procedure and physically attacked international election observers, who represented the joint mission of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE).
Authorities in Kazakhstan must drop all charges against civil society activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, and immediately free them, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a statement today. The trial against Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan is scheduled to start on October 12 in the city of Atyrau. The two peaceful activists risk five to ten years imprisonment if found guilty on charges that appear trumped-up in retaliation for their role in organizing peaceful protests earlier this year, the NHC said.
A delegation from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, in cooperation with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and International Partnership for Human Rights, is in Georgia to observe the upcoming Parliamentary Elections 8 October 2016.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was active at this years Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), which took place in Warsaw 19-30 September. Photo: OSCE/Piotr Markowski.
Together with our partners in the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is seriously concerned about threats received by leading Kyrgyz human rights defenders Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdurasulova in relation to their participation in the 2016 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) and call for immediate and effective measures to ensure their safety.
Referendum in Azerbaijan:
Amid reports of fraud and pressure against voters, Baku's Central Election Commission has preliminary announced an overwheling victory for the amendments, which include an extension of the presidential term from five to seven years. The alarming consequences of the constitutional amendments after yesterday´s referendum will increase the power of the President, dramatically weaken democratic institutions and will further isolate and repress dissent in Azerbaijan. NHC has made a statement highly critical of the amendments and calls for sanctions against the regime.
- The Azeri government have done their best to silence bloggers, journalists and human rights defenders. But they have been unsuccesful. Several of the former political activists, like Khadija Ismayilova, Anar Mammadli and Intigam Aliyev are now released from prison, and continue to work for a democratic Aserbaijan. This gives me hope that we can change the situation in the country, said human rights defender Rasul Jafarov at the seminar "To Draw is to See" at the house of Literature monday 19. September. The seminar was a joint event between the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO), Akershus Art Centre, and Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), and was organised in conjunction with the exhibition "The Big Draw - Drawing for Freedom" which is displayed at Akershus Art Centre in the period 17. September- 16th of October.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee supports a campaign calling US President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. He is a US whistleblower now living in Moscow because of fear of unfair prosecution in the US for revealing in June 2013 illegal surveillance programs by the US government and its allies.
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.
“The low turnout at 47.8% in the Duma elections on 18 September may be seen as an expression by Russians of discontent with the Government and the ruling United Russia party. There may also be widespread lack of trust in the electoral process among many Russians”, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). – “Even if these elections represented progress in transparency and the Central Election Commission (CEC) played a professional role in reacting to some of the reported irregularities, a range of serious problems remain.”
The citizen observers initiative Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections (Human Rights Center "Viasna" and Belarusian Helsinki Committee) criticize the lack of equal access to state media for all candidates, lack of impartiality of election commissions, facts of abuse of administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, numerous facts of forcing voters to participate in early voting, non-transparency of some election day procedures.
In a statement published today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, condemn the recent sentencing of Mr. Zhalaudi Geriev, a journalist of the Russian independent news portal Caucasian Knot on September 5, 2016 and demand his unconditional release. We are deeply concerned about a string of attacks against the freedom of expression in the region, which for years has been marred by violence and threaths agains journalists.
The report, “Beaten, burnt and betrayed: Armenians awaiting accountability for police violence”, is published by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Civic Solidarity Platform. It is based on conclusions from a fact finding mission to Yerevan in July and was launched at a press conference in Yerevan today. The report is now also available in Armenian. You can download the report in English and Armenian below.
International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances:
On this International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Prove They Are Alive! campaign reaffirms its solidarity with all victims of disappearances in Turkmenistan’s prisons and their families, urges the Turkmen authorities to immediately end this gross violation of human rights, and calls on the international community to make the ending of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan’s prisons a key condition for development of cooperation with the Turkmen government and firmly demand that Turkmenistan implement international legal norms and its obligations in the framework of these organisations.
At the 39th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa 24-26 August 2016, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) was accepted as new member. – We are proud to become part of one of the most important families of human rights organizations in the world, said Bjørn Engesland, NHC Secretary General.
We are saddened to learn about the death of Armenian human rights defender Mikael ("Mika") Danielyan this morning.
Less than six weeks ahead of a constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities have unleashed a new wave of repression to silence critical voices. NHC, as a Sport for Rights coalition member, condemns this renewed crackdown, and and joins the call on the Azerbaijani authorities to take immediate steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, starting with the release of political prisoners.
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.
Are you wondering how it is to be an LGBTIQ activist when society looks upon you like a pervert and sodomite? How people continue fighting for human rights of LGBTIQ persons when it seems like every step forward is followed by two steps back? Or were you among the many people worldwide that spoke up against Russia's so-called anti-homosexual propaganda laws before the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014, and want to know how you can be an ally for LGBTIQ once again?
6th World Congress Against Death Penalty:
In the framework of the program of the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, the Human Rights Center Viasna, (Belarus), FIDH and Norwegian Helsinki Committee organizes a side event on the death penalty in Belarus.
Happy birthday Ilgar:
Today, the opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov spends his 46th birthday in one of the vile prisons in Azerbaijan, prisons which have a history of housing dissidents. In May 2014, the European Court of Human Rights concluded, in a strongly worded judgment, that the actual purpose of Mammadov’s detention “was to silence or punish Mammadov for criticizing the government.” Citing that ruling, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has called repeatedly for Mammadov’s release. Yet the government, which controls the courts, the parliament and the media, remains deaf to the calls.
Do you want to join a small team in NHCs active office in Kazakhstan? NHC has a vacancy for an Administrative Officer at our Central Asia Office in Almaty. Deadline for applications is 24 June 2016.
The Draft Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia was adopted by the National Assembly of Armenia in its third reading on
25 May 2016. - This is very disappointing, taking into consideration all the domestic and international organisations which
have criticized the proposed amendments, said Lene Wetteland, senior adviser for Armenia in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
"In its current form it will significantly limit the effective monitoring of elections and referenda in Armenia, only 6 months after the referendum on constitutional amendments received substantial criticism and illustrated the need for such monitoring. We support the call for immediate amendments to the Draft Electoral Law published by Armenian organisations yesterday," Wetteland concluded.
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.
On the occasion of the International Week of the Disappeared, the human rights campaign “Prove They Are Alive!” calls upon the government of Turkmenistan to shed light on the fate of dozens who have been imprisoned for more than a decade, and to immediately halt the practice of enforced disappearances. The government of Turkmenistan should inform the relatives of the disappeared of their fate and whereabouts and allow them access to their loved ones without further delay.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in Azerbaijan to release Azerbaijan’s leading investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. It’s indeed happy news to those who know Ismayilova and her important work as a courageous journalist and civil society leader tirelessly exposing corruption in Azerbaijan, including activities involving the members of the president Aliyev’s family. Her reporting had caused her arrest in December 2014.
The Boris Nemtsov Foundation presents an annual award to a person who is particularly committed to fighting for the freedom of expression and helping those who are persecuted on political, racial or religious grounds in Russia. The first prize is given to the opposition politician Lev Shlosberg for his fight for democratic values in the Russian Federation.
Upon invitation, NHC has made a submission to the European Commission Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. The submission points out that the situation of civil and political rights in Turkey has deteriorated in 2015-2016. Some of the actions and statements of senior politicians – including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – led to an erosion of the rule of law. In particular, the media and the judiciary were under pressure by the executive power. The submission also points to challenges related to refugees, freedom of religion and belief and LGBTI. It raises concerns that the end of the Kurdish peace process will lead to further detoriation of respect for human rights.
Authorities in Kazakhstan must immediately release all peaceful activists arrested ahead of planned protests on May 21, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Adil Soz, International Legal Initiative and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said in a statement today.
Global Magnitsky Sanctions – Effective tool to address gross violations of human rights against human rights defenders and
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), a long term partner of the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), has the pleasure of inviting you to a side event on Global Magnitsky Sanctions at the OFF 2016. The event is arranged in co-operation with the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Campaign, with the participation of its leader, Bill Browder.
Stop Harassment, Ensure Fair Trial: The prosecution of an independent journalist on charges of “disseminating false information” will commence before a court in Almaty, capital of Kazakhstan, on May 5, 2016, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today. Authorities detained Guzyal Baidalinova, 47, a journalist and the owner of Nakanune.kz, an independent online news site, on December 23, 2015 as a suspect in the case, and have held her in pre-trial detention since her formal arrest three days later, despite multiple requests for bail.
Respect Independence of Legal Profession: Oslo, May 3, 2016: Tajik authorities should immediately and unconditionally release four human rights lawyers and two sons of another prominent lawyer who are imprisoned or detained on politically motivated charges, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today. Tajik authorities should stop harassing and targeting independent lawyers.
Annual meeting 2015:
The annual meeting of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has released the 2015 Annual report. The report illustrated the wide range of activities NHC had the year of 2015. NHC was engaged the refugee crisis in Norway, when the influx of asylum seekers tripled and the Government introduced new restricitive measures. Human rights in Turkey, Russia, Central Asia and the South Caucasus remain in the center of our attention, where we through cooperation with local civil society are an efficient advocate for fundamental human rights defense at home and abroad.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about the situation at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (‘ICTY’), created by acquittals in 2012-2013 and a deep split among its judges. The concerns have been conveyed in a letter to President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (‘MICT’), former ICTY President, current ICTY judge and a key player of the institution. According to the letter, the acquittals represent changes in the direction at a very late stage of the ICTY’s life. They “disorient victims, their families, and the wider struggle against impunity ... there remains a strong, unanswered case for [Theodor Meron] to take responsibility for the unfortunate situation at ICTY”.
Our magnificent collection of art works in the exhibition we have called “Drawing for Freedom” this week exhibits at Defenders’ Days in Stockholm. The artworks, conceived by art students from the Academy of Fine Art of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, depict current and former political prisoners in Azerbaijan. We are very happy that newly released human rights defenders Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov for the first time could see the works depicting themselves. Main illustration: Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, freed human rights defenders, and the son of imprisoned human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, Necmin Kamil, in front of the exhibition.
On March 17, Azerbaijan's authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev was merciful. He signed a long-awaited decree of pardon, which was timed to mark the upcoming Novruz holiday. Aliyev pardoned 148 prisoners, among them 13 activists that human rights groups have labeled as political prisoners.
On 16 March, another attack on the human rights organisation Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) took place in Chechnya. The head of the organization, Igor Kalyapin, was attacked outside the Grozny City hotel and forced to leave the republic.
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 9 March, unknown assailants attacked a minibus with lawyers and human rights activists from the Joint Mobile Group and international journalists on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Among those attacked were a Norwegian and a Swedish journalist.
Symbol of Courage:
Today marks 11 years since the murder of famous journalist Elmar Huseynov, who was a critical voice of the authoritarian Azerbaijan government, writing on injustice, rampant corruption, state repression and many other human rights abuses.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the other undersigned members of the Sport for Rights coalition express serious concern regarding the on-going disciplinary case against Yalchin Imanov, a prominent human rights lawyer in Azerbaijan. Any disciplinary sanctions against the lawyer could severely undermine his independence as member of the legal profession and hinder his important and legitimate professional activity.
Since his arrest on 19 February, the well-known political activist Vardges Gaspari has been subject to torture and ill-treatment in the Nubarashen prison in Yerevan. He had initiated a hunger strike in order to be moved to a separate cell, but no response was given to his complaints by the prison administration. Information was only available as Gaspari was transported to a psychiatric hospital for a forensic examination on 24 February. Update: On 26 February he was released, but investigations into allegations of ill-treatment remains to be initiated.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is relieved to learn that Shabnam Khudoydodova has been freed from detention in Belarus. Ms. Khudoydodova was released in Brest on 22 February, 2016 after eight months in detention pursuant to an extradition request from Tajikistan.
Today the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to Republic of Armenia General Prosecutor and Head of Investigative Committee to express our concern about the recent developments that endanger non-discrimination principle and protection of human rights in Armenia.
UN human rights council:
The Norwegian NGO Forum on Human Rights has issued a document with recommendations for the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (29 February - 24 March 2016).
The Tajik government is arresting, imprisoning, and torturing members of the country’s peaceful political opposition, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today. The government is also targeting perceived critics abroad, seeking their detention and extradition back to Tajikistan, and has forcibly disappeared critics abroad only to have them reappear in Tajik custody.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Rafto Foundation have sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende in connection with the court liquidation of the human rights organization Agora last week.
Agora, a 2014 Rafto Prize laureate and a member of the Russian President’s Human Rights Council became the first nongovernmental organization to be liquidated by a regional Supreme Court on 10 February. – The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns this decision, which violates the human rights of an important organization, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. Agora's chair Pavel Chikov met Prime Minister Erna Solberg when he visited Oslo in October 2015. Photo: Prime minister's Office
Uzbek authorities should immediately stop harassing the human rights defender Uktam Pardaev and lift the unlawful restrictions on his fundamental rights imposed by police, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Human Rights Watch said today. Pardaev is the chairman of the Jizzakh branch of the Independent Human Rights Organization in Uzbekistan.
Final report of joint European Platform for Democratic Elections/Citizen Observer Initiative has been published, presenting all the findings of the more than 1000 civic observers monitoring the Constitutional amendment referendum in Armenia on 6 December 2015.
- Ceasefire in Turkey today, not tomorrow, that is our goal. This was the message from Metin Bakkalci, a leading human rights defender in Turkey, who was the main speaker at the seminar "Human rights in Turkey – moving in the wrong direction?". The Norwegian Helsinki Committee arranged the seminar at the House of litterature on 26 January together with the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) and the Norwegian Medical Association.
In the period since Armenia’s disputed 6 December 2015 Constitutional Referendum, persecution, violence and threats against the regime’s opponents has intensified. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor strongly condemn the auhtorities' unlawful practices of the authorities. We require that they urgently abide by the legal framework Armenia is bound to as a member of the Council of Europe and as signatory to international human rights conventions.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee appealed to Missions to the UN to support resolution on human rights defenders, which comes up for vote in the UN General Assembly on the 17 December. The resolution contains a strong message to the world’s governments that they should support and protect human rights defenders; not attack them. The appeal was backed with signatures of people from across the world.
10 December: We — members of the Civic Solidarity Platform and the Sports For Rights Campaign — were relieved to learn that one of Azerbaijan’s most well-known political prisoners, Leyla Yunus, was released from detention yesterday and that that the Baku City Court of Appeal changed her sentence and that of her husband Arif into suspended sentences of 5 years, on probation.
Political prisoners in Azerbaijan:
On Tuesday 8 December, 2015 more than 30 works of art produced by Norwegian artists thematically related to political prisoners in Azerbaijan were displayed at the main town hall (Hôtel de Ville) in Paris, France.
Leyla Yunus has been released from prison today following a request by her lawyers due to her deteriorating health condition.
– The poor quality of the 6 December 2015 constitutional referendum was unprecedented in the country. There were blatant violations of the electoral code and verbal and physical attacks on observers and journalists, said Lene Wetteland, senior advisor of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). "We are critical both of the campaign, the contents of the amendments as well as of the conduct of the vote itself."
The anniversary of journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest one year ago highlights the Azerbaijani regime’s unprecedented repression in 2015.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply disappointed to learn of the decision by Kyrgyzstan to declare Mihra Rittmann, researcher for Human Rights Watch in Central Asia, persona non grata in the country. Rittmann was deported from Kyrgyzstan upon her arrival to Manas International Airport in Bishkek on 2 December, after living and working for several years in the country.
– Uzbek authorities should immediately release from detention and drop their criminal case against Uktam Pardaev, a prominent human rights activist arrested on November 16 in Jizzakh, Uzbekistan, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today.
On the 25 November, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognises the important role of human rights defenders.
As a member of the Prove They Are Alive! campaign, the NHC has joined a statement where we express our disappointment and regret at the failure of the government of Turkmenistan to provide a substantive reply to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on its decision on the case of Boris Shikhmuradov within the period established by the Committee.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) Freedom of Belief Initiative outlines in this report, covering the period from July 2014 to June 2015, the need for Turkish legislation and practice to be brought into harmony with human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief.
Transgender Day of Remembrance:
20 November is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, dedicated to the memory of trans*persons who have been victims of homicide. It is also a day to remind all of us that it is Our obligation to fight hate crimes, prejudices and hatred towards gender minorities not only today but every day.
A new list of political prisoners in Armenia has just been published. The list now comprises of 12 names. These are political activists who have used the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech to express their discontent with the current government of Armenia.
The presentation of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards 2015, honouring nine prominent politicians, lawyers, and journalists for their support of the Magnitsky campaign, took place in London on 16 November, six years after the death of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
On 5 November 2015 a controversial draft law pertaining to the activities of the non-governmental sector passed its second reading in the Kazakhstani Senate. Approved by the Senate, a signature by the president of Kazakhstan is the next step.
– One of the world’s longest imprisoned peaceful political activists, Murod Juraev, was finally released from a jail in Uzbekistan on November 12, 2015, after 21 unjustified years behind bars, nine human rights groups said today. The nine rights groups, including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, now calls on UN to hold Tashkent accountable for arbitrary detention.
Arif Yunus was today released from prison and transferred to house arrest because of his deteriorating health.
In Ingushetia on 6 November, armed security servicemen carried out a raid in the offices of the human rights organization MASHR and in the private home of the organization’s head Magomed Mutsolgov. The masked men removed large amounts of documents, office computers and even the children’s iPad.
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.
As a founding partner of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses its concern over international election observation missions delegitimizing the institution of election observation as well as damaging the reputation of those parliaments and international institutions that they represent.
In a joint press release after the parliamentary election in Azerbaijan 1 November, FIDH and Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) urge the international community to unanimously condemn the lack of civil and political freedoms in Azerbaijan, and voice a strong support to its targeted civil society.
- 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.
On November 1, 2015, Azerbaijan will go to the polls to elect a new parliament. FIDH, OMCT and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee wishes to extend our deepest concern regarding the conditions in which the polls are being organised, which cannot meet international standards for free and fair elections.
No political prisoners:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has launched a webpage with information and updates about the situation for the political prisoners in Europe.
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 welcomes the decision by Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on October 8 to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC to open an investigation of core international crimes during the war in Georgia in 2008,” says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
-The elections in Kyrgyzstan 4 October highlight the country's uniquely democratic position in Central Asia, says Marius Fossum, Norwegian Helsinki Committee Regional Representative in Central Asia, who was present in the capital Bishkek on election day and during the last days of campaigning.
Yesterday’s presidential election in Belarus gave no surprises in the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko to his fifth term as the country’s authoritarian president. With no real competition, control over administrative resources and massive coercion and pressure to participate in early voting, the election process gave the incumbent leader a simple walk-over.
“The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned over the escalation of fighting between Turkish security forces and the Kurdish Labour Party (PKK) as well as the ongoing polarization of society which could jeopardize years of efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue,” said Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is planning to monitor the 1 November parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly opposes such a decision.
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.
Drawing for freedom:
In September, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the National Art Academy of Fine Arts Oslo (KHIO) jointly kicked off an art project with focus on the political prisoners in Azerbaijan. More than 80 political prisoners are now behind bars in the country, many of which were arrested while Azerbaijan was chairing the Council of Europe.
Tajik authorities detained at least 13 activists of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) on September 16, 2015, Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said today. Authorities should immediately release or, if there is credible evidence that they have committed a legitimate offence, promptly charge them and ensure due process for all the detainees, including timely access to independent counsel and contact with family members. Photo: 2013 HRW
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.
The Tajik government should reverse its decision to order the closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and allow the party to operate freely, Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said today. Tajik authorities should also halt their ongoing campaign of harassment against the party and its members and allow independent political parties to operate freely in Tajikistan.
- 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.
Belarus and Moldova:
In two joint letters to the governments of Belarus and Moldova, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia urge them to uphold their international obligations and secure two peaceful Tajik opposition activists from extradition to Tajikistan and possible torture and other ill-treatment. Moldova and Belarus are bound by international refugee law as well as the UN Convention against Torture. They cannot lawfully return Mr. Sobir Valiev and Ms. Shabnam Khudoydodova to Tajikistan where torture remains widespread.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly condemns the sentencing of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova to a staggering 7,5 years in jail today. - We are shocked and saddened at yet another cruel decision to imprison one of the nations' finest citizens. We call on this verdict to be nulled, and that Khadija is released from jail immediately. Failing the release of Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and so many other poltical prisoners, we continue to repeat that it is time to impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan´s main human rights perpetrators, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
“The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about the fate of Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, an independent journalist and activist who is still unaccounted for following his arrest near the seaport town of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) in Turkmenistan on 7 July 2015”, said Ivar Dale, Senior advisor in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). “On the international level, the Turkmen government has made promises to improve the human rights situation in the country. Yet, time and again, we see evidence of the opposite happening. Nepeskuliev’s arrest is yet another grave example of this. He must be released immediately.”
Together with six other international human rights organisations, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee today sent a letter to the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan, Askhat Daulbaev. The letter concerns a recent case of intimidation, pressure and obstruction of the work of lawyer Snezhanna Kim in Kostanay, Kazakhstan.
On 22 July, 2015, Slobodan Franović (68), founder and for many years the President of the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, passed away.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the harsh sentences against the Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leila and Arif Yunus. If the verdicts are not nullified immediately, then it is time to impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan´s main human rights perpetrators.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee publishes a new report today, focusing on how universities can play a positive role in peacebuilding processes in the Western Balkans.
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.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered yesterday in Armenias capital Yerevan to protest against state regulators decision to raise electricity prices by 16 %. This morning the Armenian police forcefully dispersed the demonstrations, leaving 18 persons injured.
A new list of political prisoners in Russia has just been published by Memorial Human Rights Centre. The list now comprises 50 names, as compared to the 46 which were included in the list published in October last year. 10 people have been released, but 14 have been arrested. None of the political prisoners were acquitted, amnestied or pardoned during this time.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee supports a letter sent to the President of the European Council Mr. Donal Tusk, sent from the Sports for Rights campaign and supported by members of the European Parliament, urging Mr. Tusk to postpone his planned visit to Azerbaijan this week, and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the country´s jailed journalists and human reights defenders.
Today is the official opening of the European Games in Baku. To mark the opening ceremony, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with other organisations in the Human Rights House Oslo, is demanding the unconditional release of the country´s jailed journalists, human rights defenders and activists.
The outcome of the 7 June 2015 Parliamentary Elections in Turkey sends a strong signal that the people of the country do not favour strengthening the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogen’s office at the expense of accountability and checks and balances, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
The NHC supports a letter sent yesterday to the Council of Europe and the OSCE urging them not to support proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the incumbent president's position in Armenia.
The office of the Joint Mobile Group in Grozny, Chechnya, was earlier today on 3 June attacked by a group of masked men.
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.
The NHC annual meeting, on 29 April 2015, adopted our 2014 Annual Report. The report is an account of a wide range of our activities last year. With the worrisome developments in the area of our geographical focus, this has been a truly busy year for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Naturally the events in Ukraine have been high on our agenda in 2014. The imprisonment of so many of our friends in Azerbaijan demanded much of our attention. In the Annual Report you can read about our engagement in Ukraine, where the NHC has observed both the parliamentary and presidential elections, in addition to carrying out facts finding missions to Ukraine. We have met with Ukrainian officials, activists, journalists, volunteers and internally displaced, recording gripping accounts of people deeply affected by this infinitely tragic year. You can also read about all our other fields of activities in 2014.
On 26 April 2015 presidential elections were held in Kazakhstan. Incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev, in office since 1991, expectedly won the race with an official 97.7 % of the vote, in an election characterized by lack of genuine choice.
Council of Europe:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) commends the resolution Discrimination against transgender people in Europe, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 22 April 2015. The resolution urges member states to abolish sterilization and other medical requirements such as a mental health diagnosis as a basis for gender recognition. They should adopt legislation that protects gender minorities in all parts of society.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among numerous NGOs who demand the release of imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists and activists all considered political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The call comes after the human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev were sentenced to 6,5 and 7,5 years respectively in Baku. The charges against them were trumped up and politically motivated, their trials deeply flawed.
Young, prominent and dedicated human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, was convicted to six and a half years in prison in a Baku, Azerbaijan court today. -It is hardly news anymore that human rights defenders are handed long prison sentences in Azerbaijan, where punishing the dissent on bogus charges has become commonplace for the government in past years, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says.
The EU leaders should prominently address human rights issues with Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev, who is in Brussels for meetings on 26-27 March, and insist that he use his powers to ensure compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations.
18 March the Norwegian Helsinki Committee sent a letter to the Latvian Prime Minister Mrs. Laimdota Straujuma, expressing our concern that the Latvian organisation Association Antiglobālisti attempt to use legal loopholes to prevent EuroPride from taking place in Riga in 2015. The loophole is of an administrative nature.
Policy Paper 1/2015:
Den norske Helsingforskomité presenterer i dag et Policy Paper som argumenterer for at Norge bør etablere en global Magnitskij-mekanisme.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee today publishes a new report on the right to public protest in Kazakhstan, an essential part of the country’s obligation to ensure Freedom of Assembly and Association.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was shocked and saddened to learn of the assassination of Tajik opposition leader Umarali Kuvatov, who was shot at close range by an unknown person outside his home in Istanbul, Turkey, on the evening of 5 March. Kuvatov was in the presence of his wife and children when he was killed by a gunshot to the head.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee visited Tajikistan last week to gain an impression of the climate in which the 1 March parliamentary elections were carried out. With 54 out of 63 seats in parliament, the ruling party has cemented the parliament's role as merely a rubber stamp body for the president. The authorities have targeted especially the Islamic Revival Party during the last year. The state-owned propaganda machinery has attacked and discredited the party and its members, linking it to extremism and terrorism among other things. Furthermore several of the party's candidates have been disqualified on questionable grounds and its campaigning material has been blocked.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is saddened and shocked by the news of the murder of Russia’s prominent opposition politician
Boris Nemtsov, shot dead the in the heart of Moscow in the late evening of 27 February.
– The murder of Boris Nemtsov must be independently and transparently investigated and the people responsible be brought to justice, whether they pulled the trigger or ordered the killing, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – We express our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Boris Nemtsov.
Statement issued by International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Kazakhstan International
Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, 27 February 2015.
The Almaty City Court yesterday upheld the closure of the outspoken ADAM bol magazine over an article about the conflict in Ukraine. We condemn this decision as another serious blow to freedom of expression and media pluralism in Kazakhstan.
Together with 46 other international organisations, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has signed a letter sent yesterday to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Yury Ya. Chaika, where we appeal to take all necessary measures to free environmental defender Evgeny G. Vitishko (born July 3, 1973) immediately and unconditionally; to initiate legal proceedings regarding the wrongful conviction of Evgeny Vitishko; hold those responsible for his conviction legally accountable; and clarify the withdrawal by the Office of Prosecutor General of the request to vacate the decision of the Tuapse city court of Krasnodar Krai from December 12, 2013 to revoke the suspended sentence and transfer Evgeny Vitishko to a penal settlement colony. We also ask you to investigate the facts of the violation of water and forest laws in Bzhid township (Tuapse District, Krasnodar Krai).
HRHW film festival:
- Western democracies should impose targeted sanctions against the Azerbaijani elite. Statements of concerns from European leaders are only benefitting the Aliyev regime said Vugar Gojayev, human rights defender in exile and NHC project coordinator in the discussion after the screening of Amazing Azerbaijan at the Human Rights Human Wrongs film festival on Saturday.
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.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) Freedom of Belief Initiative outlines in this report, covering the period from July 2013 to June 2014, that Turkey needs to take comprehensive steps in order to bring legislation and practice in line with international human rights law.
Wednesday January 27, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee arranges a seminar entitled Time for a New Norwegian Roma Policy - A meeting with Romanian Roma rights activists and Norwegian policy makers.
Freedom of religion or belief is under threat together with other fundamental rights in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, according to a fresh NHC and Forum 18 report launched in Russian and English today.
Civic Solidarity Platform:
The Basel declaration contains recommendations from the members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, in which the NHC is a member, to the participants of the OSCE ministerial council meeting held in Basel, 4-5 December 2014.
Repression in Azerbaijan must stop:
On Friday 5 December, another prominent civil society figure was arrested in Azerbaijan as a Baku court authorized investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova's pre-trial detention for two months on bogus charges of "inciting suicide". This shows that there is no end to the assault on independent voices by the government of this oil rich country and provides further proof of its disregard for founding values of the Council of Europe and its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Civil Solidarity Platform calls for the supsension of Azerbaijan for the Council of Europe in a statement Saturday 6 December.
NHC joins a number of civil society organisations from the OSCE region in protesting the recent initiative of Tajikistan’s government to regulate and restrict access of NGOs to financial assistance from foreign and international sources.
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.
Sakharov Freedom Award 2014:
The Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 ceremony was a tribute to the brave political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Relatives of the laureates received the award in an emotional ceremony at Hotel Bristol on 13 November.
Sakharov Freedom Award Seminar 2014:
Yesterday's Sakharov Freedom Award seminar 2014 at the House of Literature in Oslo discussed what intergovernmental organizations like the Council of Europe, states like Norway, businesses like Statoil, and human rights organizations can do with the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan and the imprisonment of human rights activists, journalists, political activists on political grounds.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee(NHC), The Norwegian LGBT Organization (LLH) and Amnesty International Norway expressed concern for the situation for LGBTI persons in Macedonia in a letter sent to Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of Macedonia, 6 November 2014.
Side event OFF:
Together with the London based organisation Fair Trials International, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee organized a breakfast seminar tuesday at the Hotel Bristol as a side event to the Oslo Freedom Forum, discussing how INTERPOL is being abused by dictatorships.
Sakharov Freedom Award 2014:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee awards The Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award in 2014 to political prisoners in Azerbaijan. They exhibit great courage and make huge efforts in promoting dignity, democratic values and human rights in their home country. Azerbaijan is a European country that is developing towards dictatorship, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), Bjørn Engesland, in today’s press release. This award is given to all of the political prisoners. It is a sad fact that they are too numerous to all be mentioned here.
Early parliamentary elections in Ukraine:
The very important early parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 October will be monitored by thousands of domestic observers. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is in Kiev on behalf of the European Platform for Democratic Elections to support domestic observers OPORA and Committee of Voters Ukraine at an international press center in Kyiv.
On 15 October 2014, a bill which proposes criminal and administrative liability for «formation of a positive attitude to non-traditional forms of sexual relations» passed its first reading in the Kyrgyz Parliament. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned about the consequences that this bill may have for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans persons (LGBT) in the Kyrgyz Republic, if adopted.
INTERPOL is the world's largest policing organisation, but it is being abused by countries around the world to persecute refugees, journalists & peaceful political demonstrators.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the International Partnership for Human Rights today sent a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, regarding this week's visit to Brussels by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Anna Politkovskaya Seminar 2014:
Welcome to the Anna Politkovskaya Seminar 2014: The anatomy of media propaganda in Russia.
Venue: House of literature, Amalie Skram, Wergelandsveien 29
Time: Wednesday 15 October 2014, 14:00-16:15
Snacks, coffee and tea will be served
OSCE meeting in Warzaw:
NHC is active at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2014 which is currently taking place in Warsaw.
Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is very pleased to learn that the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014 has been awarded to the renowned Azerbaijani independent election observer and human rights defender Anar Mammadli.
Moscow City Court:
A decision by the Moscow City Court published on 8 September 2014 concludes that the Association Golos, an election watchdog, and its former executive director Lilia Shibanova, have not violated the law on “foreign agents”. Golos had refused to register as a “foreign agent”, which is required by the law for organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined political activities. – This is an important decision and indeed good news for Golos, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Lower courts found Golos in breach of the law because of receiving our Sakharov Freedom Award in 2012. The Moscow City Court, however, said that since Golos did not receive the 10 000 US Dollar prize money, it was not obliged to register. The ruling is a serious defeat for the Ministry of Justice.
On occasion of the UN International Day of the Disappeared, which is on August 30, 2014, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee together with the Prove They Are Alive! campaign launch a video clip and press release to put the spotlight on the issue of enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan.
The brutal attack on the journalist Ilgar Nasibov, in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, is an outrage, and Azerbaijan’s authorities should ensure a prompt, effective and impartial investigation, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, People in Need, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, International Media Support, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters without borders said today.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned after learning that the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) of Kyrgyzstan has sued an independent journalist based in Osh, Shokhrukh Saipov, following an article he published with the Ferghana News Agency in May 2014.
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.
Azerbaijan's independent civil society has for a long time been engaged in a major effort to go through the lists of possible political prisoners in the country, to identify those that meet the criteria adopted by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. The list, containing as many as 98 names, was compiled under the leadership of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov. Both Leylas and Rasuls own names have been added to the list the last few weeks.
Update 12 August: The lawyer Intigam Aliyev was arrested Friday 8 August, and was the fourth human rights activist who in a short time have been detained in Azerbaijan. This means that in the two last weeks, four of the most prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan have been sent to prison, all under investigation for serious crimes and risking many years behind bars if convicted. The four have all been outspoken critics of the regime of President Ilham Aliyev, and by the move Azerbaijan once again shows a blatant contempt towards the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this, Azerbaijan currently holds the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe Council of Ministers.
On 2 August 2014 the prominent human rights defender Rasul Jafarov was arrested in Baku. Together with the Civic Solidarity Platform, a coalition of 60 human rights NGOs of the OSCE region, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee calls upon the authorities of Azerbaijan to release the human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and stop putting pressure on the civil society of the country. Read the statement in full below.
On 17 June 2014, the Human Rights Committee of the Kyrgyz Parliament Zhogorku Kenesh approved a draft law that, if passed, will make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual (LGBT) people and activists more difficult.
As the world marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has received the tragic news of the death of Abdurasul Khudoynazarov, a 58-year old human rights activist from Uzbekistan.
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.
Policy Paper 5/2014:
The NHC presents our fifth policy paper of 2014. The policy paper shows how a Russian sponsored initiative at the UN Human Rights Council has been targeting core tenets of international human rights. The proponents of the initiative have camouflaged it as laying out new ways of promoting human rights. Traditional values of humankind are a tool to strengthen and underpin human rights at the local level, they claim. In reality, the initiative threatens to destroy consensus among the states of the world on how they should honor their human rights obligations.
Over the last months, Armenian human rights activists have been increasingly subject to pressure and intimidation, and in many cases media is used actively to spread intolerance towards activists and the vulnerable groups they protect, in particular topics of LGBTI and gender. The NHC has responded to this development by joining local partners in an alternative report to the UPR on Armenia and an open statement addressing these issues.
In our report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee recommends that the government of Kyrgyzstan investigates and brings to justice perpetrators of violence against civilians among government forces during the June 2010 events in the south of the country, and in the period following the violence. The Human Rights Council will review the situation for human rights in Kyrgyzstan at their 21st session set to January 2015. Read NHC report in full 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.
The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Sir Suma Chakrabati, visited Kazakhstan during the week of 9 June. During his visit to Almaty, the President and several of his colleagues from the EBRD met with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Regional Representative in Central Asia, Ivar Dale, to discuss recent developments in the sphere of human rights.
NHC joins campaign:
A vision of a Europe with out political prisoners gathered activists and policy makers on 2 June in Berlin for a conference organised by European Stability Initiative (ESI). Senior European policy makers, parliamentarians, and human rights activists gathered to discuss what different institutions – the Council of Europe, the European Union and international human rights organisations – must do to realise the vision of a Europe without political prisoners in the near future. NHC was a supporter of the conference and secretary General Bjørn Engesland a speaker.