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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is among 56 Non-governmental organisations have appealed to the Council of Europe Parliamentary
Assembly (PACE) for launching external, independent, and impartial investigation into allegations of corruption and other
violations of the Parliamentary Assembly Code of Conduct in connection with its work on Azerbaijan.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow have today sent a letter to the presidents of
FIFA and UEFA, urging them to initiate investigation into allegations of the use of North Korean slave labour during the construction
of the football stadium Zenit Arena in St. Petersburg. While there are still numerous violations of human rights with respect
to workers and migrants in Russia, it is vital that well-known and respected international bodies such as FIFA, do not become
complicit in such practices, and act upon the human rights commitments underlined in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Sustainability
Strategy and FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future.
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.
The Norwegian NGO forum issued a Submission for the Day of General Discussion on a draft General Comment on State Obligation
under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The paper draws the attention to the increasing
trend by States Parties of the Covenant in giving priority to private sector development and investments as part of international
development cooperation. This trend must be accompanied by increased efforts by states of ensuring that human rights principles
are respected fully by private sector actors taking part in international development cooperation.
On occasion of the International Women’s Day the Norwegian Helsinki Committee issued a statement calling on the government
of Uzbekistan to immediately and unconditionally free five woman political prisoners. These women languish in prison in for
no other reason than their legitimate and peaceful activities, and the charges against them are trumped-up and must be dropped,
the NHC said.
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.
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.
During the first round of the Parliamentary Elections in Georgia on 8 October 2016, three international election observers
were attacked and the vote count disrupted in the village of Jikhashkari. One observer was beaten and two others had their
mobile phones taken away from them by force. It is vital that the incident is properly investigated.
Prison authorities in Uzbekistan have placed Muhammad Bekjanov, one of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists, in solitary
confinement, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership
for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the Uzbek–German Forum for
Human Rights (UGF) 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).
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.
Letter to the Members of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Board on the Working Conditions of Civil Society
In light of the upcoming review of Azerbaijan's status in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in October,
the undersigned organisations call on the EITI Board to suspend Azerbaijan from participation in EITI, due to continuous breach
of the initiative’s requirements for fostering an enabling environment for civil society. The letter is published jointly
by 18 NGOs.
(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.
Serious Blow to Independence of Legal Profession. – A court in Tajikistan on October 6, 2016, sentenced two prominent human
rights lawyers to long prison terms, Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Association for Human Rights
in Central Asia said today
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nine human rights organizations have sent a joint open letter to Turkmenistan’s Prosecutor General regarding an appalling
attack on Umida Jumabaeva, a justice-seeking mother. She was physically assaulted and had acid thrown at her by unknown perpetrators
on 22 May 2016, leaving her with severe burns to her face and body. The context of the attack suggests that she may have been
targeted in retribution for petitions she filed regarding her son, a military conscript. The signatories call for a prompt,
thorough and impartial investigation into the attack, with due attention being given to this possible motive for the attack.
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
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.
– 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 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
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.
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.
On the 2nd anniversary of the murder of independent Russian journalist, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
signed a joint letter with 27 other NGOs calling for the investigation into his case to be urgently raised to the federal
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.
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.
The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), of which NHC is a foundig member, has issued a statement today strongly
protesting severe harrassment and intimidation of election observers from the Russian election observer organisation GOLOS.
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
Limiting the number of recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review can be detrimental to the whole process. Instead states
should focus on making concrete, specific and measurable recommendations.
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.
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 Memorial lawyer Murad Magomedov was attacked yesterday, February 4, and beaten by five men outside the Dagestan Supreme
Court building in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He sustained severe head injuries and is in critical condition in hospital, unable
to explain the details of what happened to him. Murad Magomadov had been defending villagers of the Vremennyi village in Dagestan
who were lost everything during a so-called counter terrorism operation autumn 2014.
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.
Together with 30 other international human rights organisation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent a letter to Aleksandr
Bastrykin, Head of the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation, calling for progress in the investigation into the murder of the
journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev.
Sous couvert de la guerre en Ukraine, la Russie et ses Etats voisins attaquent les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme et les
médias. Les Etats démocratiques doivent oeuvrer pour protéger les défenseurs en danger.
In a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee argues that a recent decision
by the European Court of Human Rights points to the importance of bringing the program, lesson books and activities associated
with the mandatory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (Din Kültürü Ahlak Bilgisi- DKAB) courses in line with international
human rights requirements, and that these are key issues for Turkey’s democratization and social harmony. Read the letter
in full below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the verdict against the renowned independent election observer Anar Mammadli, who
in a Baku court yesterday was sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and
using their office to falsify election results.
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
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
34 election observers from eleven countries in the former Soviet Union have observed this years' Norwegian parliamentary elections.
The observers have received a warm welcome throughout the country, and they have observed an election with a high degree of
trust in the electoral process. However, the observers see potential for improvement in Norway.
In a surprising statement after last week's elections in Azerbaijan, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council
of Europe Parliamentary Assembly concluded that they had observed "free, fair and transparent electoral process". They did
this despite the widespread and reliable reports of fraud, pressure against voters and other manipulations. - We find it quite
astonishing that European parliamentary delegation members, who should defend the voters' right to democratic elections, instead
choose to look away from the facts of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, secretary general Bjørn Engesland says. Together
with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) we have made a statement criticizing the delegations.
The Siberian newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny, and Yelena Kostyuchenko, journalist of Novaya Gazeta, were among the laureates of
this year’s Press Freedom Award, issued by Fritt Ord and Zeit Stiftung. – The prize jury has come to an important and appropriate
decision, drawing attention to the deteriorating conditions for freedom of speech and the difficult situation for journalists
in today’s Russia, said Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Following her detention upon arrival to Tashkent International Airport from Bishkek at 7:20 PM on Monday 24 June, prominent
Kyrgyzstani human rights activist Tolekan Ismailova was deported to Almaty, Kazakhstan in the afternoon of 25 June.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the legislation waved through this week by the Russian State Duma; prohibiting “propaganda
of non-traditional sexual relations”. The restrictive legislation is part of a wider trend of worsening human rights situation
for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has joined a call to the President of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that records
of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reflect all recommendations presented to the state under review. Recently, Russia managed
to remove two recommendations from Georgia from the list of recommendations at the end of the report and to get them added
as footnote. This is the last blow against the format of the Working Group reports which regularly, under the attack of countries
under Review, get modified and weakened. The statement calls on the President to issue a statement which would clearly define
how the Working Group report should be made and what it should contain.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee works to fight human rights violations through monitoring and reporting on the human rights
situations in specific countries. The committee places particular emphasis on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,
the right to participation, minority rights, the right to freedom of thought and religion and the right to life and personal
security. In recent years, the security and working conditions for human rights activists have also become an important issue
in many countries.
The Committee prepares reports and presents these to the governments of the countries where we work, the Norwegian authorities,
international organizations and other relevant actors. Our method is first hand contact with key stakeholders in the involved
countries. We therefore travel regularly to all the countries we work with, and keep ourselves updated when major events are
scheduled to take place. Increasingly, advocacy has become an important part of our work. We work for the inclusion of and
attention to human rights issues should be held high on the agenda of Norwegian Government and Parliament. We also have a
large international network, so that we can unite and coordinate efforts in key areas with the most important international
human rights organizations. We present our views in the UN, Council of Europe and OSCE: We have a partner in Brussels, International
Partnership for Human Rights, to coordinate our efforts in EU structures.
Election observation has a long tradition in the committee. The right to participate is a basic human right, while democracy
is a prerequisite for limiting power that may else be abused. Elections are also critical steps in the democratic development
of states that are in a transition situation after a conflict or the fall of an authoritarian regime. Therefore, it is of
great importance that international and national standards for free and fair elections are followed to ensure that those elected
have democratic legitimacy. We have observed numerous elections over the past twenty years. We have also organised international
election observation in Norway in 2005 and 2009.
One year after the bombing of the DIY pub and violent counter demonstrators attacked a Diversity March in Yerevan, Armenia
still suffers from widespread intolerance and discrimination of minorities. The legislation does not include hate crime with
intent towards gender and sexual minorities, and the government fails to protect the rights of these citizens. Media is more
often used as a tool to build up under prejudice and intolerance, and homophobic statements are frequently used by stakeholders
to gain popularity.
Voting at the 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia is underway, following a month of low key campaigning. The ruling Republican
party’s candidate and incumbent president Serge Sargsyan is expected to win the majority of the votes in an election where
the three largest opposition parties in the Parliament did not advance or support any candidate. NHC's Lene Wetteland is observing
the elections in Vanadzor.
On 12th December 2012, Norwegian Helsinki Committee was among twelve civil society organisations supporting or conducting
citizens’ election observation in the states of the Eastern Partnership, the Russian Federation, Norway and the European Union
who launched the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) in Warsaw.
On Sunday 15 January, Kazakhstan held early Parliamentary elections after President Nazarbayev expressed that more than one
party now should be represented in Parliament and law amendments were made to provide for this. However, despite promises
of democratization and the recent period as chair of the OSCE, several violations took place and did not allow for a fair
and democratic competition for the seats in Parliament.
The tendency in the result of the voting yesterday nevertheless shows that the Russian population is getting wary of the tightfisted
rule of the Medvedev/Putin tandem, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Bjørn Engesland. -Independent
national observers all over the country have registered countless violations in the election legislation, including pressure
against voters to vote for the ruling party United Russia.
Russian authorities undermining trust in elections by impeding monitoring. In the run-up to Russian Duma elections taking
place on Sunday 4 December, the country’s most experienced election monitoring group is being under scrutiny by prosecutors
and pro-government media. –The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned that these are deliberate attempts at hindering Golos
important work, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General. “By limiting monitoring of the elections, authorities are also undermining
trust in elections being conducted in compliance with international standards of freeness and fairness.”
The elections process ahead of the 4 December Duma elections in the Russian Federation has not been fair”, said Bjørn Engesland,
Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. “We have serious concerns on obstacles related to nomination of delegates
and registration of parties, as well as lack of equal opportunities to campaign.”
Following a visit to Kosovo 13-18 November, a delegation of Helsinki Committees calls on authorities there to improve the
rule of law and the fairness and efficiency of the justice systems for all, and to extend a hand to its minorities and demonstrate
in practical terms that the local and central government takes care of the needs of its citizens. The recent events in the
North of Kosovo, where severe unrest and violence has marked the KFOR removal of barricades, demonstrates the need for Prishtina
and Belgrade to seriously engage to avoid further escalation in conflict levels and inter-ethnic tension.
In Kyrgyzstan, the previous Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has received approximately 63% of the votes in Presidential
Elections that were found mostly free and fair by the observers. Violations in the electoral process were mainly related to
the voter’s lists, where a significant number of the voters could not find their name and thus could not vote.