Need for a sharpening of human rights policies
Last week, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee hosted a delegation of Azeri, Belarusian, Russian and international human rights defenders. They took part in seminars arranged by the NHC at the Norwegian parliament Stortinget and the Fritt Ord Foundation. In their recomendations to the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE and Stortinget, they called for a sharpening of human rights policies towards Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia.
On 7 June they took part in a seminar organized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) under the auspices of Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament. On 8 June, they took part in a public seminar hosted by the Fritt Ord Foundation.
The discussions focused on the disastrous human rights situation in Belarus, political prisoners and suppression of independent media in Azerbaijan, killings of whistleblowers in Russia, the situation of human rights defenders in Europe, and business and human rights (human rights abuses and corruption are often fueled by income from natural resources, sometimes with the complicity of international companies). The participants made the following recommendations:
To the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE:
1) Focus on the issue of business and human rights, for instance by commissioning a report.
2) Focus on the problem of murders and attacks on human rights defenders, the need for accountability, and preventive measures to protect defenders at risk.
3) Focus on freedom of movement/travel restrictions for human rights defenders and journalists, as there is a trend of visa denials and travel restrictions targeting them.
4) Focus on efforts to identify and free prisoners of conscience.
To the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament:
1) Ask for measures such as visa denials, freezing of assets, and possible criminal investigations against Russian officials involved in the deaths of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow and the Chechen refugee and whistleblower Umar Israilov in Vienna – and ask for these kinds of measures to be imposed in other, similar cases concerning human rights defenders and whistleblowers.
2) Consider ‘adopting’ political prisoners in Belarus and Azerbaijan.
3) Review the Norwegian human rights policies in Azerbaijan, e.g. support for civil society, and including the role of state-owned Norwegian companies in the country.
To the Norwegian government:
1) Vote against extending new credits to Belarus at the International Monetary Fund and make economic support and trade conditional on the release of political prisoners and substantial measurable progress in fulfilling international human rights obligations.
2) Continue to ask for justice for the Azeri editor Elmar Huseynov, who was murdered in 2005.
3) Increase support for independent media, investigative reporting and human rights monitoring in Azerbaijan.
4) Create more scholarship opportunities, based on transparency and merit, for students from Azerbaijan and Belarus, especially in the fields of law, social sciences and media.