First Pride March held in Moldova
On 19 May, the first Pride March was held in Chisinau, Moldova. This is a historic day for people fighting for LGBT rights as well as a victory for freedom of assembly in Moldova.
Latest news on achievements, collaborations, events and activities.
On 19 May, the first Pride March was held in Chisinau, Moldova. This is a historic day for people fighting for LGBT rights as well as a victory for freedom of assembly in Moldova.
A court in Chisinau has found a man liable for harassment and victimization of his ex-wife on the ground of sexual orientation. “This is an important court decision in the fight against discrimination and for equal rights and we are happy that the court ruling is pronounced on the International Day against Homophobia”, says Åsa Bergqvist at Civil Rights Defenders.
Three United Nations independent human rights experts express serious concern at the “obstructive, intimidating and stigmatizing effects” brought about by the implementation in the Russian Federation of the law on ‘non-commercial organizations’. “Our fears seem to have been confirmed,” said the Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai.
The International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan strongly condemns a series of repressive legislative amendments that Azerbaijan’s National Assembly adopted on 14 May 2013. “The amendments seek to ban criticism and increase the cost of dissent,” the undersigned organisations said. A report recently published by Civil Rights Defenders shows that repression of civil society has reached new lows.
17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, in commemoration of the removal of homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization in 1990. In connection to this, Civil Rights Defenders’ partner in Albania, Aleanca Kundër Diskriminimit të LGBT, organises a two-week long event to raise the awareness on discrimination.
One year after Eurovision in Baku, the persecution of dissidents in Azerbaijan escalates. The abuse goes on without much criticism from the outside world. On May 14, Civil Rights Defenders publishes the report, “No sweet songs for human rights defenders’ showing that repression of civil society has reached new lows.
A number of NGO’s across Russia have received loosely worded warnings from the Prosecutor’s Office in the aftermath of inspections earlier this year. “This is an attempt by the authorities to force human rights organisations to register as foreign agents by confusing and frightening them.” says Joanna Kurosz, Civil Rights Defenders.
We welcome internship applications to the Department for Southeast Asia, the Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Department for support to human rights defenders at risk and to the Communication Department. An application should include a cover letter and a CV and be sent to us no later than 31 May 2013.
Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Serbia, stating that the ban on the Pride Parade 2011 was a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of assembly. The court awarded the Pride Parade Belgrade association €500 for immaterial damages.
The member states of the United Nations should hold Azerbaijan to account during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 30 April 2013 for its failure to protect basic human rights, says a group of international human rights organisations in a joint statement.
The Civil Rights Captcha was awarded one Golden Egg and two Silver Eggs in the competition for Sweden’s best and most creative communication solutions. “This year’s winner managed to fight both trolls and bots by asking a simple question: Are you human?”, the jury says in the motivation.
Henrik Steska’s team from Ljubljana, is the winner of the 7th Regional Moot Court Competition, held in Ljubljana, 19-21 April. In the finale Henrik Steska met the team Zoran Kompanjet from Rijeka. Both of the teams presented their case in front of judges from the European Court of Human Rights and the higher courts of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
The situation of the Roma in Sweden should be addressed as part of the government’s strategy for Roma inclusion. However, the strategy has shortcomings from a rights perspective and lacks concrete measures to combat discrimination against the Roma in Sweden, Civil Rights Defenders writes in the newspaper SvD.
During the summer of 2013 (1 June to 31 August), we are seeking an intern to the Department for support to human rights defenders at risk and the Department for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in Stockholm. As an intern you will help administrating the programs, gather information for statements and news to the website. Email your resume and a brief description of yourself no later than 5 May.
On April 22 the EU will review its suspended sanctions on Burma. A permanent lifting of sanctions is premature, says Civil Rights Defenders and the Swedish Burma Committee. The two organizations urge the EU to take the negotiations seriously and genuinely engage in a democratic development in Burma.
Civil Rights Defenders announces a potentially life-saving personal alarm, the Natalia Project, that uses GPS and social media to inform of a kidnapping within seconds. The first bracelets were distributed during Defenders’ Days this week. The Natalia Project is an important addition to Civil Rights Defenders’ program in support of human rights defenders at risk.
On July 15, 2009, Natalia Estemirova was abducted and later found murdered because of her committed human rights work. In honour of her memory and with your participation we are proud to present a personal assault alarm for human rights activists at risk.
Nataša Kandić, founder of Humanitarian Law Center, Serbia, is the recipient of the 2013 “Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award”. Nataša Kandić receives the prize: “For her persistent and fearless work on documenting war crimes and the most serious human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia, and for supporting war crimes trials by providing courts with evidence and witnesses.”
In late March, Civil Rights Defender’s partners Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network submitted their alternative reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, offering their commentary on the most recent state report. In the official report, the Russian Federation completely ignores the existence of people under 18 who identify as homosexual, bisexual, and transgender.
In a letter to the President of Kazakhstan, Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations express serious concerns about Vadim Kuramshin’s life. Vadim Kuramshin is a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, sentenced to 12 years in prison, who is to be transferred to penal colony EC 164/4, a prison infamous for human rights violations.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, non-governmental organisations in Russia are being subjected to inspections. The wave of check ups comes after the introduction of a series of laws restricting the activities of civil society and discrediting their work in the eyes of the public.
Civil Rights Defenders and the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation express their deep concerns and strongly condemn the death threat against Ms. Nazlie Bala, a well respected Kosovo human rights defender. The organisations call upon the responsible institutions to ensure protection of human rights defenders in line with international and domestic obligations.
On 4 March, Kenya held presidential elections in which Uhuru Kenyatta defeated his rival Raila Odinga with the slightest margin, 50.07% of the votes casted. The election deemed free and fair by many observers, though Odinga, the current prime minister, vowed to challenge it in the court.
Civil Rights Defenders is organising a unique forum to enhance capacities of human rights lawyers and encourage them to exchange lessons learnt. Around 50 participants, mainly lawyers, staff and volunteers from human rights organisations, are gathered in Durres, Albania, to attend the first Lawyers for Lawyers Forum 14-16 March.
The Azeri independent journalist and editor-in-chief of Khural, Avaz Zeynalli, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for bribery, extortion and tax evasion, in a trial that appears to have been fabricated. Civil Rights Defenders calls on the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt and his European colleagues to prioritise human rights in their contacts with the Azeri government.
Since its launch in December 2012, Civil Rights Defender’s partner, the Art for Democracy campaign, has been under attack by the Azerbaijani authorities. These moves have occurred against a backdrop of a vicious ongoing crackdown on broader civil society in Azerbaijan, the organisation says in a press release.
Civil Rights Defenders is seriously concerned about the repeated harassment of Stepan Popovsky in connection to his human rights work. We urge the President of the de facto administration of Transnistria, Mr. Yevgeny Shevchuk, to ensure that the accusations against Stepan Popovsky are impartially investigated.
Twenty years ago, the Army of the Republic of Serbia abducted 19 non-Serb citizens of Serbia and Montenegro on the railway station in Štrpci (BIH). The passengers were taken to the village of Visegradska banja, where they were tortured and killed. Up till now, the remains of three victims have been found. On February 27, Civil Rights Defender’s partners in Serbia marked the 20th Anniversary of the abduction in Strpce in front of the main railway station in Belgrade.
After 15 years of struggle, Civil Rights Defender’s Moldovan partner GenderDoc-M was finally able to exercise its legitimate right to assembly on 14 February. All previous attempts have been banned or in different ways hindered by the authorities. Freedom of assembly is not only a human right, guaranteed by major international and European instruments, but also expressed in the Constitution of Moldova.
4-5 February, participants from Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia and Albania gathered in a meeting to kick-off the Balkan tour of the play Seven at the Embassy of Sweden in Belgrade. The tour is organised by Hedda Produktion AB, Civil Rights Defenders and several of its local partners and the Swedish embassies in each country.
The Azeri government is putting new pressure on the country’s already repressed civil society. NGOs that receive even minor funds can be severly punished, according to a new draft law. The draft follows a series of repressions of media workers and civil activists. This is especially worrying taking into account the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan in the autumn.
The European Court has handed down the first judgement of a case stemming from Chechnya under Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule. The case regards Tamerlan Suleymanov, who was abducted in spring 2011. This shows that grave human rights violations and impunity in Chechnya has not ended with the armed conflict.
Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders are concerned for the safety of human rights defenders in Transnistria, the internationally unrecognised separatist republic of Moldova. The two organisations urge the Transnistrian administration to do their outmost to protect and ensure that threats or attacks against human rights defenders are publicly condemned and investigated.
A Russian federal law banning “propaganda of homosexuality” was approved in its first reading in the State Duma on 25 January, with only one out of 390 deputies voting against it. The law imposes hefty administrative fines on “propaganda” among minors. LGBT activists, including Civil Rights Defender’s partner, the Russian LGBT Network, have expressed their deep concerns against this discriminatory law.
In December, Civil Rights Defenders wrote a letter to the Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and urged him to demand stronger protection for human rights defenders in Kosovo. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has replied that “we are discussing these important issues on a political level. When Prime Minister Hachim Thaci visited Sweden in October, EU integration and the necessary reforms, including human rights, were major themes.”
The Belarusian authorities have initiated what seems to be a campaign against the LGBT community in the country. Over 30 members of the human rights organisation Gay Belarus have been interrogated by police after the organisation attempted for the second time to register at the Ministry of Justice.
Theoretical and practical insight into national media legislation and European standards in the field make law students better prepared to handle human rights issues in their future work as legal professionals. That is why Civil Rights Defenders, together with one of its long-term partners, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is conducting trainings for law students in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Watch this short animated film to find out how we work and what we achieve. Help us become more visible by sharing it in your network. Animation and production by Mattias Gordon, voice by Anders Johannisson. Thank you for your contribution!
In the end of the year, Civil Rights Defenders and Transparency International gathered human rights organisations for a workshop on how to encourage citizens in the fight against corruption. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Institution of Ombudsperson for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A high profile appeals hearing against Dieu Cay and two other bloggers, in Ho Chi Minh City on 28 December, show that heavy-handed muffling of dissenting opinions continues in Vietnam. Civil Rights Defenders call on the Vietnamese authorities to release all peaceful bloggers and to respect the right to freedom of expression.
The Cambodian criminal justice system continues to silence voices. Late December, a leading staff member at the human rights group ADHOC was charged for his work, while a grassroot activist was sentenced to three years in prison for her peaceful protest. An unexpected Appeals Court decision on the 2004 killing of union leader Chea Vichea, sent two innocent men to prison.
Seven LGBT activists were detained for kissing at a rally near the State Duma in Moscow on 19 December. The event was organised by Civil Rights Defender’s partner, the Russian LGBT Network, and other local LGBT organisations, and was a protest against the bill banning ‘’propaganda of homosexuality’’.
On 18 December, the European Court of Human Rights criticized Russia for systemic non-investigation of disappearances in Chechnya. The court also recommended measures to address continuing violations in the region. This was stated in a ruling in the case Aslakhanova and others v Russia, led by Civil Rights Defender’s partner, Russian Justice Initiative.
Civil Rights Defenders urges the government of Kosovo to bring to justice everyone responsible for the recent hate crimes by radical groups against the Magazine Kosovo 2.0 and the LGBT organisation Libertas. Further, the government must ensure their fulfillment of international and domestic obligations in protection of human rights.
On 21 December 2012, Brussels is hosting a EU-Russia summit. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize last week, the European Union has a special responsibility for focusing on human rights in its talks with Russia, says Civil Rights Defenders, along with a number of leading human rights defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders urges Swedish authorities to denounce the bill on “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” and call on Russian authorities to honor their obligations in protection of human rights. The bill is up for reading in the State Duma on 19 December. It punishes propaganda of homosexuality among children, thus neglecting the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
The Nobel Peace Prize was recently awarded to the EU. The prize originates from a fortune, amassed from oil dealings in Azerbaijan. Today, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will be in Baku with colleagues from Poland and Bulgaria. We expect that the conversation with the dictatorship will be infused by criticism of the human rights situation, Robert Hårdh and Rasul Jafarov, write on Newsmill.
On 29 November, Ramush Haradinaj, Prime Minister in the Kosovar government 2004-2005, and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was again aquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Haradinaj was on trial for crimes against civilians in the prison camp in Jablanica in 1998. Civil Rights Defenders deeply regrets the fact that the ICTY failed to properly establish the facts in this case.
Today, on the International Human Rights Day, Civil Rights Defenders starts a collaboration with the human rights campaign Art for Democracy. The campaign is launched by the Baku-based Human Rights Club and aims at promoting democratic reform and respect for human rights in Azerbaijan, by bringing together the country’s artistic and human rights communities.
A new court case against Stanislav Dmitrievsky, Head of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, signals that Russian authorities continue to restrict the work of human rights defenders. Civil Rights Defenders calls for international attention to this case as this is yet another attempt to silence Stanislav Dmitrievsky and his organisation for their work against impunity in the North Caucasus.
On 25 November, Civil Rights Defender’s partner, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, organised a protest against the discriminatory provision of the Bosnian constitution, implying that only members of the three main ethnic groups can hold high political offices. According to the European Court of Human Rights, this violates the right to free and fair elections and the prohibition of discrimination.
On 19 December the Russian Duma will begin the first reading of a bill which, if passed, effectively will ban “propaganda of homosexuality” in the country. The bill is allegedly aimed at protecting children from harmful information. Civil Rights Defenders urges the Russian Duma to dismiss the proposed legislation that is clearly in conflict with the freedom of speech.
28-30 November, Civil Rights Defenders is organising a workshop on hate crimes and hate speech. The aim is to build the capacities of local human rights organisations to deal with hate crimes in a more consistent and comprehensive way. Another goal is to build a coalition that will monitor and report on hate speech and hate crimes.
On 26 November, Belarusian authorities confiscated the office of Human Rights Centre Viasna. The seizure is connected to the case of Viasna’s chairman Ales Bialiatski, who in 2011 was sentenced to 4,5 years in prison and confiscation of property. “Viasna will continue its activities as usual”, says Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy Chairman.
The Roma population in Serbia is continuously exposed to severe discrimination and persistently threatened or actually victimized by acts of forced eviction from their homes. To raise the awareness of their situation and to discuss what can be done to tackle discrimination, Civil Rights Defenders organised three round table discussions and street actions in October and November 2012.
Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the fact that the infamous so-called anti-gay bill once again is on the table in the Ugandan parliament, and urges president Museveni to use his veto to block it. Although the final draft has not been made official, it is clear that the outcome for the LGBT community in Uganda will be disastrous.
On 22 November two police officers were sentenced to two years in prison for power abuse in Dagestan. “Although these cases have numerous shortcomings, the mere fact of court hearings against police officers is a positive step forward”, said Joanna Kurosz, at Civil Rights Defenders.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Russian Federation violated the right to education in the cases of Moldovan schools using Latin in the region of Transnistria. The court has sentenced Russia to pay one million and twenty thousand EUR in respect of non-pecuniary damage and fifty thousand EUR for costs and expenses.
The Night Watch – this is what a group of about 20 Russia Young activists called the late-night act of vandalism on the premises of internationally funded Russian human rights organisations as well as the picket in front of Transparency International later that day. At least two organisations’ premises were vandalised with chalk drawings saying “foreign agent” and “I love USA” on their buildings on the same day as the “foreign agents” law came into effect.
Sweden and the EU must, in all their contacts with the Belarusian regime, demand the immediate release of Ales and the other political prisoners as a prerequisite for all forms of exchange and cooperation beyond political dialogue. The silenced need all the voices they can get, Robert Hårdh, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders, writes in an article in Sydsvenskan.
In a reply to Civil Rights Defender’s partners, Russia denies the existence of discrimination against LGBT people. Mr. Georgy Matyushkin, head of the Russian delegation, stated that ‘discrimination is prosecuted under the Criminal and Administrative Codes. The Russian legislation does not contain any norms that would discriminate against persons on grounds of sexual orientation.’
On 14 November, highly controversial amendments to the treason law took effect in Russia. While the previous law describes treason as activities threatening Russia’s external security, the new legislation deems any activity that may threaten Russia´s ´´national security, constitutional order, state or territorial integrity´´ as high treason.
On 15 November, 64 grassroots, national, regional, and international civil society groups called upon ASEAN Member States to postpone the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. The declaration does not follow existing international human rights standards and is therefore not worthy of its name.
A police officer in Ingushetia was sentenced to eight years in prison for torture this week, in the first trial of its kind in this south Russian republic. Earlier this autumn a police officer in Dagestan was sentenced to three years in a similar case. Despite big flaws these are landmark sentences in a region where impunity for grave human rights violations is persistent.
On 8 November, Russia’s leading NGOs present their alternative report, as part of the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s official hearings on Russia’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture. In another report, the Russian LGBT organisations Coming Out and Russian LGBT Network, specifically pointed out several problems related to torture and ill treatment of LGBT people.
On 3 November, the fifth conference for LGBT rights opened in Moscow. The conference, organised by Civil Rights Defenders and the Russian LGBT Network, gathers around 100 activists from Russia. “This year we have to decide how we will continue counteracting the rapidly spreading homophobic legislation and the growing pressure on the civil society”, says Igor Kochetkov, Chair of the LGBT Network.
Moldova’s Supreme Court of Justice has issued recommendations to local juridical instances that will improve the legal status of transgender people in Moldova. In another recent court ruling a Chisinau court stated that the right to private life was violated when a website published a “black list” of public figures promoting homosexuality.
On the night between 3 and 4 November, Stanislav Dimitrievski’s family was exposed to an attack in their home. Masked and heavily armed men crushed the windows, encased with lead, with a special hammer. They also squirted glue into the lock on the apartment door to prevent the family from escaping. This is yet another reminder of the horrific situation for human rights defenders in Russia.
Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations call for the postponement of the adoption of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. In a letter sent to ASEAN Heads of State, the organisations point out that the Declaration risks creating a sub-standard level of human rights protection in the region.
The situation for citizens and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus continue to deteriorate; grave human rights violations turn everyday life into a nightmare. In November 2012, Civil Rights Defenders gathers about 20 of the key human rights defenders from the region to the North Caucasus Conference. During a few intensive days in Stockholm we develop strategies to improve their security and to increase the awareness among decision makers in order to create real change.
Two of Civil Rights Defender’s partners have appealed the regional laws that prohibits ”propaganda for homosexuality” to the Russian Supreme Court. In the latest ruling, on 25 October, the Court decided in favor of the law in St Petersburg but stated that dissemination of information about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues cannot be banned. The laws have already been used to clamp down on LGBT activists.
It only took a couple of minutes for the Russian Parliament to approve the controversial high treason bill, in its third and final reading, on 23 October 2012. The bill presents a fundamental threat to human rights in the country. The legislation is now awaiting approval in the Upper House before it is delivered to the President for signing.
In Russia the recently introduced regional laws on the so-called “promotion of homosexuality among minors” have been condemned by the human rights community. According to a report by Civil Rights Defenders partner, the Russian LGBT Network, they are also in conflict with the federal legislation. Read more in the report that also includes an overview of discrimination and hate crimes.
For the Belarusian organisations fighting for a democratic development in Europe’s last dictatorship, Human rights house in Vilnius provides some breathing space. Civil Rights Defenders supports the Human rights house because it is essential that the democracy movement can meet and talk freely, without fearing repercussions. Listen to Swedish Radio’s report from Vilnius (only in Swedish).
This year’s Per Anger-prize winner, Sapiyat Magomedov, is a human rights lawyer from Dagestan. In a context where the perpetrators seldom or never are brought to justice, she represents cases where people have been raped, tortured or murdered. In an opinion piece, published in Swedish newspaper SvD, Civil Rights Defenders and the Living History Forum presents Sapiyat Magomedova.
The human rights lawyer Sapiyat Magomedova has been awarded the Swedish Government’s Per Anger Prize. In the violent Dagestan, she defends victims of grave human rights violations. She has taken on cases that many lawyers would reject due to security reasons. And she has won legal cases in a context where it is almost impossible to do so. For people in the region she has become a symbol of courage.
On 18 October the human rights organisation Mothers of Dagestan celebrates five year as an organisation. This organisation places itself on the victim’s side in the armed conflict between the Russian government forces and the separatists and has been a partner of Civil Rights Defenders for several years.
In cooperation with Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Tortured Victims (KRCT), Civil Rights Defenders is conducting a comprehensive monitoring of institutions for persons with mental disabilities in Kosovo. Small improvements of the living conditions have been observed during the year but large structural problems still remain.
Civil Rights Defenders expresses support for Minsk Gay Pride that will be held 5-11 October. “Minsk Gay Pride is a positive signal in a time of negative developments for the LGBT-movements in Eastern Europe”, says Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director.
Tanya Lokshina, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Moscow, has received a number of text messages to her mobile phone, which contained direct and indirect threats against her. The messages, received in the period September 28-30, included references to very personal details known only to Tanya and a few persons around her. The purpose was evidently to obstruct her work.
Due to alleged threats from extremist right-wing groups, the Ministry of Interior decided to ban the Pride parade in Belgrade again in 2012. Civil Rights Defenders consider this a failure by the Government to protect one of the country’s vulnerable groups.
In the beginning of October 2012, Civil Rights Defenders launched an upgraded version of the web tool CAPTCHA – which can detect human empathy. The Captcha has become world news, with more than 300 published articles and thousands of tweets.
The Ukrainian parliament has in the first reading approved a bill to ban the positive depiction of homosexuality, permitting charges of up to 5 years in prison and hefty fines. “Unfortunately, this is a recent, growing tendency in the region, which shows no respect for basic human rights from the authorities and further promotes social exclusion and stigmatisation of the LGBT community.” said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
On Sunday, 30 September, Pride week opened in Serbia, a week full of seminars, debates and art exhibitions, in support of the countrys LGBT community. For the second year in a row, the authorities are now banning the parade, claiming that national security is endangered, The Parade is not only a symbol for LGBT people’s rights; it is also a demonstration of every citizen’s right to freedom of expression and assembly.
The Cambodian human rights defender, and monk, Venerable Luon Sovath has been awarded this year’s prestigious Martin Ennals Award. He is also known as the “multimedia monk” for his innovative methods in the fight against forced evictions.
On 1 October, the journalist and human rights defender Mam Sonando was sentenced to a 20-year prison term on spurious charges. The verdict followed a three-day trial last month, which failed to present any credible evidence in support of the allegations against him. The Court sentenced another 13 suspects in the case. Three of them were tried in absentia and received between 15 and 30 years in prison.
A court in Belgrade has delivered a judgment requiring Serbia to pay RSD 360,000 to Sead Rovčanin for the torture inflicted on him in 1993 by members of the Interior Ministry. This is a great result of Civil Rights Defenders work together with Humanitarian Law Centre on providing legal representation to victims of grave human rights violations in the 1990s.
The information that the Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski was placed in solitary confinement turned out to be false. It is difficult to verify information from closed countries such as Belarus, since human rights defenders take a risk already by contacting somebody abroad. Civil Rights Defenders always try to double-check information like this, but sometimes that is not enough.
Last week, the Russian parliament voted for amendments to existing legislation that widens the legal definition of treason, equating it to espionage, and adds international organisations to the list of those that can be charged with high treason. If introduced, international organisations and foreign citizens can be charged with up to 20 years in prison for high treason.
Drastic deviations from European standards on freedom of expression and media exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A new report by Civil Rights Defenders, and local partners Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina and BH Journalists’ Association, reveals. The report is the first comprehensive analysis of the media scene in the country.
Ahead of Cambodia’s Government-Donor Coordination Committee meeting on 26 September, Civil Rights Defenders and seven other human rights groups sent a letter to Cambodia’s donors, including Sweden, urging them to make a coordinated and public condemnation of the government’s increasing human rights abuses.
Three Vietnamese bloggers were convicted to long prison sentences on Monday, 24 September, because of their peaceful activism. The most renowned, Nguyen Van Hai, got 12 years in prison. His crime: he criticized the authorities and demanded increased freedom of expression. Civil Rights Defenders urges the international community to increase the pressure on Vietnam to release Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phuong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai.
On 21 September, the opening of House of Equality in Murmansk marked another stage of Civil Rights Defenders´ work for LGBT rights in Russia. House of Equality is a project made possible due to a newly established cooperation between the LGBT organisation Maximum in Murmansk and Civil Rights Defenders.
On Sunday 23 September Parliamentary elections are taking place in Belarus. In this Op-Ed, published in Swedish svd.se, Civil Rights Defenders urges the EU to adhere to its principles and insist on greater respect for human rights in order to stay on track.
Civil Rights Defenders and other human rights organisations today urge that Thai magazine editor and human rights defender Somyot Prueksakasemsuk be immediately released. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison for two articles deemed insulting to the monarchy.
20 September opens the fourth Queer culture festival that Civil Rights Defenders organises together with Coming out.“Queerfest increases positive visibility and contributes to overcoming negative stigma of LGBT people. This is crucial in a society where the public debate is permeated by homophobic statements and discussions.” says Cecilia Rosing at Civil Rights Defenders.
The months after the Eurovision Song Contest have been marked by harassment of independent journalists. “The Azeri authorities’ unabashed threats against journalists and dissidents show not only that the regime lacks all respect for freedom of expression, but also suggest that they do not feel any pressure from abroad on this issue.” said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
Only weeks before the Parliamentary election on 23 September, the Belarusian Police conducted a countrywide crackdown on online dissent – arresting several opposition social media activists. Two young Internet activists were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to prison.
In reaction to the poor human rights situation in the penal-correctional institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Civil Rights Defenders and the Bosnian Helsinki Committee have conducted eight monitoring missions in the country. Their findings show a lack of basic hygiene conditions to detainees being subjected to ill treatment.
The three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred on Friday, and sentenced to two years in prison. At the same time, outside the Khamovnichesky district court many protesters, both for and against Pussy Riot, had gathered. Some of the protesters were singled out by the Police and arrested, according to several media reports.
On 17 August the Moscow court will hand down its verdict against three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot. The prosecution has called for three-year prison sentences on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. Civil Rights Defenders is critical of the legal process and believes that the reaction from the authorities is a disproportionate response to Pussy Riot’s protest.
The diplomatic crisis that has evolved between Belarus and Sweden during the last couple of days will affect the Belarusian civil society: ”Regardless of what happens next, the Belarusian civil society will suffer”, says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director Civil Rights Defenders.
During Stockholm Pride we invited Anastasia Smirnova from our partner the Russian LGBT Network in St Petersburg. Anastasia Smirnova was interviewed in Swedish media about the negative development för lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender peoples rights in Russia and she also raised the topic in a seminar.
Only 4 of the European Council’s 27 principles for press freedom have been fully implemented in Serbia, the first comprehensive report on the media situation in the country: Serbian Media Scene VS European Standards, suggests. Free press is a cornerstone for democratic development; in this report the challenges lying ahead of the Serbian media scene become evident. This report is a result of a yearlong cooperation between Civil Rights Defenders and local partners.
On 4 August the Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski has been in prison for one year. Civil Rights Defenders have no doubt that he was jailed for his human rights work, with the the aim also to intimidate other critics into silence. Civil Rights Defenders continues to demand the immediate release of Ales Bialiatski.
On 23 July 2012, in Nizhny Novgorod, local police detained human rights defender Stanislav Dmitrievsky and two other activists, for participating in a peaceful protest against the demolition of an historical building. Civil Rights Defenders urges the authorities to immediately release him and the two other activists.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial bill that brands NGOs that receive funding from abroad as “foreign agents”. Just before the summer holidays, the Russian State Duma has adopted a number of bills restricting freedom of expression and obstructing the work of the civil society. Civil Rights Defenders is very concerned by these negative developments.
In a joint letter, Civil Rights Defenders and five other human rights organisations call on The Upper House of the Parliament to reject the State Duma bill, amending the law “on the protection of children from information detrimental to their health and development”. The clauses are so vague that they might restrict freedom of expression on the Internet.
Mesfin Negash, Ehiopian journalist and human rights defender, living in Sweden, was recently found guilty of supporting terrorism by an Ethiopian court. On 13 July the sentence was delivered – eight years in prison. Negash is not surprised and not really angry either. However, his contact with family and friends might be problematic for a period of time.
Just before the summer holidays, the Russian State Duma has adopted a number of bills, at a furious pace, restricting freedom of expression and obstructing the work of the civil society. Civil Rights Defenders is very concerned by these negative developments and call on the Russian President not to sign the bills.
After a concert in Belarus, Eurovision Song Contest winner Loreen met Natalia Pintjuk, the wife of imprisoned Ales Bialiatski, and several of the country’s prominent human rights defenders. Loreen heard testimony about abuses and restrictions on freedom of expression.
In a letter sent to the Acting Minister of interior Vladimir Kolokoltsev and Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Civil Rights Defenders and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee express their deepest concern about the security situation of Igor Kalyapin, the chairman of Committee Against Torture and urge the authorities to respect right to physical integrity.
11 July is the 17th Anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, when around 8 000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian-Serb forces. Together with Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Civil Rights Defenders has created Srebrenica Mapping Genocide, that aims at increase the awareness and foster conditions for further dealing with the past.
Igor Kalyapin, chairman of Civil Rights Defender’s partner CAT, has been accused of disclosing state secrets. It is the third time that criminal proceedings are instigated against him. “It is obvious that the Russian authorities in Chechnya have a lot to hide when they attack human rights defenders that investigate serous human rights abuses in the republic”, said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
On 9 July, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) continued the trial against Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Serb former military leader accused of committing murder, deportation and terror almost 17 years ago. Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders, comments the trial on Swedish television. (In Swedish)
Six Russian LGBT-activists were detained during a peaceful demonstration in St. Petersburg on 7 July. “This is yet another discouraging indication of the persistent discrimination and violation of the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression of LGBT persons in Russia”, said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
In an open letter, on 6 July, Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations called on the Russian State Duma to reject the proposed legislative amendments branding NGOs funded from abroad “foreign agents” if they engage in broadly defined political activities.
Civil Rights Defenders is greatly concerned by the proposed amendments to the law on NGOs in Russia. “This proposal is another step in the wrong direction. Russia should support civil society rather than further obstruct the important work that NGOs are doing to advance democracy and human rights in the country”, says Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the lawsuit against Sweden that Civil Rights Defenders submitted along with the family of 22-year-old Daniel Franklert Murne. Daniel was shot dead by police in his parents’ home in Lindesberg in 2005. Civil Rights Defenders is considering the options for moving forward.
On 4 August, Ales Bialiatski has been detained for a year. In our video report from Belarus Ales’ wife, Natalia Pinchuk, and his colleagues speak about their concern over political prisoners’ health. According to Valiantsin Stefanovich, vice president of the human rights organisation Viasna, prisoners are being subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the KGB prisons.
The pressure on alternative voices in Belarus has increased in recent time. According to the popular Belarusian broadcaster Euroradio there have been several cases where journalists have been targeted. On 22 June, Euroradio’s accredited journalist Pavel Sviardlou was detained and sentenced to 15 days of arrest for “disorderly conduct”.
The Ethiopian human rights defender and journalist Mesfin Negash was found guilty of supporting terrorism by an Ethiopian court on Wednesday. The verdict is just another evidence of how politicized the Ethiopian justice system is, and a sign of the ever growing repression in the country.
Thirteen human rights defenders in Cambodia were released today following an appeal court decision on June 27, in Phnom Penh. The judges decided to uphold the verdict from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, claiming the women were still found guilty of “occupying state land and obstructing public officials in aggravating circumstances “.
Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations demand ambassadors in Cambodia to send observers to the appeal hearing for 13 land and housing rights activists on June 27. The organisations also call for the case to be dismissed and the activists to be immediately and unconditionally released.
In the beginning of May, Civil Rights Defenders brought two members of the Swedish Parliament, Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin and Björn von Sydow, to North Caucasus. Via the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly they have now asked about Russia’s responsibilites for people who have disappeared and the lack of protection of human rights defenders.
Ales Bialiatski has received reprimands in prison as well as being subjected to restrictive measures. Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned for Ales Bialiatski’s situation and urges the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka to immediately and unconditionally release the Belarusian human rights defender, in an open letter sent on Thursday.
Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the Ugandan police’s raid of a workshop for LGBT activists in Kampala on 18 June, and the harassment and intimidation of LGBT activists in general, and urge the Ugandan government to fulfil its responsibility to protect human rights defenders against intimidation because of their human rights work.
Civil Rights Defenders is greatly concerned about the security situation of Mr. Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the human rights organisation MASHR, and his colleagues. The Russian government must fulfill its responsibility to protect human rights defenders against any violence, retaliation and intimidation as a consequence of their work.
Five Russian journalists were imprisoned on 13 June, when they tried to demonstrate against threats directed to a colleague. The arrests are a direct result of a new law that obstructs freedom of assembly in Russia. “The international community must urge the Russian government to put an end to this negative trend”, says Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
In a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, we protest against the arrest of photographer Mehman Huseynov, and the charges of hooliganism that were brought against him. If convicted, Huseynov risks a prison sentence of up to five years. We urge the authorities to ensure a safe working environment for the country’s human rights defenders.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Moldova violated the right to freedom of assembly and the prohibition of discrimination when a demonstration for LGBT people’s rights was banned in 2005. “We are very satisfied with this court ruling. It is a historic moment for the work for equal rights in Moldova”, said Åsa Bergqvist, Programme Officer at Civil Rights Defenders.
Three human rights lawyers from our partner the Joint Mobile Group were verbally abused by the Chechen authorities on June 1. In a letter sent to the Acting Minister of Interior and Prosecutor General in Russia, Civil Rights Defenders and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, express serious concern over the safety of human rights defenders in Chechnya who are working in a culture of fear.
In a letter to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation we express our concern over the threats that were directed at Mr. Rustam Matsev in Kabardino-Balkaria on May 31. We urge the Russian authorities to ensure that violence or intimidation against human rights defenders in Russia are fully and impartially investigated.
Between 30th September and 6th October a Pride festival will be organised in the Serbian capital Belgrade. Swedish Minister for EU-affairs Birgitta Ohlsson is one of the opening speakers. Her participation is an important gesture of solidarity, at a time when it is difficult or even impossible to organise Pride festivals in many parts of Europe.
On May 31, a court in St Petersburg found the ban of the peaceful LGBT rallies on the Day of Silence and the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in contradiction with the law. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the court ruling but point to the fact that this does not guarantee future rallies would not be banned.
1 June 2011 three men were convicted by the Vienna Landesgericht to long prison sentences for the killing of Chechen exile Umar Israilov, who was shot on the streets of Vienna in January 2009. Civil Rights Defenders urges the Austrian authorities to demand extradition of the murder suspect who remains a fugitive of justice.
On May 31 children wearing pictures of relatives gathered outside the Ministry of Justice to protest against the imprisonment of their mothers. The 13 women human rights defenders are seen as informal leaders for the protests against expropriation and forced evictions held in the Boeung Kak Lake area in central Phnom Penh and were convicted to prison terms in an unjust trial. Another two community leaders are facing trial.
On 30 May the Bangkok Criminal Court delivered its verdict in the case against news editor Chiranuch Premchaiporn. After a lengthy trial, she was found guilty of crimes under the Lèse Majesté law and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Read Civil Rights Defenders’ interview with the Thai human rights defender.
Thirteen women human rights defenders in Cambodia have been sentenced to prison terms. They have played a leading role in peaceful protesting against expropriation and forced evictions in the Boeung Kak Lake area in central Phnom Penh. Civil Rights Defenders urges the authorities vacate the conviction and unconditionally release the women.
After her meetings with human rights activists in Azerbaijan, Swedish ESC winner Loreen has decided to become a member of Civil Rights Defenders to further support the work for human rights.
Om May 24, the Cambodian monk and human rights defender, Luon Sovath, was detained after documenting protests outside the Phnom Penh municipal court. Luon Sovath was released in the evening the same day but 13 other human rights defenders were sentenced to prison.
Civil Rights Defenders has sent a letter to the Russian Prosecutor General to urge him call for a thorough and impartial investigation into the beating of Dagestani human rights lawyer Sapiyat Magomedova.
On her initiative, Loreen and Civil Rights Defenders will meet some of the brave people fighting for human rights in Azerbaijan on Monday, May 21. A reality differing substantially from the image the authorities wants to show of the country.
The International Ice Hockey Federation is currently holding its annual congress. We urge the Federation not to let Belarus’ ice hockey loving President Alexander Lukashenka arrange the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus in 2014, due to the unacceptable human rights situation in the country.
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Moldova we urge the government to adopt an anti-discrimination law in compliance with obligations under international human rights law. Civil Rights Defenders also support all the changes required by the Civic Group for Equality in their Public Appeal sent on May 15.
In a few weeks time, Moldova will adopt an anti-discrimination law as an important step towards EU integration. Last week the bill was changed and sexual orientation was removed from the list of grounds protected from discrimination in the first article of the draft law.
We are deeply concerned about the poor conditions of 30 Roma families in Albania. In a letter to the local authorities we request that they make sure the families get access to running water, electricity and proper housing.
Two members of the Swedish Parliament, Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin and Björn von Sydow, accompany us on a monitoring trip to the North Caucasus. By meeting human rights defenders they will be briefed on the human rights violations in the region.
Civil Rights Defenders has together with 13 other international human rights organisations, urged AICHR to immediately publicize the draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.
In recognition of outstanding efforts made by individuals, organizations, institutions, companies and media in combating discrimination against minorities and in supporting equality in Serbia, the Coalition Against Discrimination has presented it’s annual awards on 4th May.The Coalition Against Discrimination was initiated by Civil Rights Defenders and Centre for Advanced Legal Studies.
At a May 1 demonstration, 17 LGBT activits were targeted and arrested by the police in S:t Petersburg. They have now been released but this event once more raises concern. We call on the S:t Petersburg and Russian federal authorities to respect LGBT activists’ right to peaceful protest.
After two days of oral pleadings before a demanding panel of judges, the team “Vladimir Bayer” from the University of Zagreb, was declared winner of our regional Moot Court competition for the Western Balkans.
In a letter we urge the president of Kosovo not to sign the changes in the criminal code. The new amendments are a threat against freedom of expression in Kosovo and could limit the work of our partners.
Buddhist monk Venerable Luon Sovath is one of three finalists for the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders, announced on 24 April in Geneva. Venerable Sovath was nominated by Civil Rights Defenders, WITNESS and Freedom House.
Together with our partners we have sent a letter to the President of Serbia and institutions within the EU urging them to immediately release Hasan Abazi. Hasan Abazi has for the past two weeks been detained in Vranje without access to a lawyer.
On April 20-22, we are organising the sixth moot court competition for law students in the Western Balkans. Since 2007, about 460 law students have gained practical knowledge on cases, rules and procedures of the European Court on Human Rights.
Hear the radio interview with Chiranuch Premchaiporn, human rights defender and editor of the news platform Prachatai. She is accused of crimes under lèse majesté, for not deleting comments on her news site quickly enough. If convicted she risks 20 years in prison.
Our college Goran Miletic has been selected as the International Grand Marshal (IGM) for the Toronto Pride festival 2012. “We look forward to having Goran in Toronto during Pride Week”, said Frank Folino, Pride Toronto’s International Grand Marshal Team Lead.
In March 2005, 22-year-old Daniel Franklert Murne was shot dead by police in his parents’ home in Lindesberg, Sweden. The subsequent police investigation was defective and, with reference to self-defense, no one was held responsible. Daniel’s parents and sister are now suing Sweden before the European Court with our assistance.
Several Roma families have recently been evicted and denied alternative accommodation. In a letter to the Albanian authorities we demanded them to protect the families from forced evictions. Read the answer from the Office of Prime Minister.
We are concerned about the new ordinance violating the right to access to information and substantially limiting the right to a fair and just trial. In a letter to the court of Bosnia and Herzegovina we urge the repeal of the ordinance.
On 5 April 2012 two human rights defenders were attacked in Moscow on their way home shortly after midnight. We urge the authorities to investigete the attacks and do everything in their power to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders.
We are concerned about the public debate in regard to the LGBT community and condemn the comments made by the representative of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees and the religious communities.
We have signed the joint statement on strengthening the protection of human rights in Europe. This initiative is a reaction to some of the proposed changes of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to reduce the case burden of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
The situation of press in Moldova has improved in the past year, as a positive effect of a general improvement of the legal and political situation in the country. That is the conclusion of the media report that we are publishing together with Independent Journalism Centre.
Late evening on March 24 the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society was attacked by two unknown persons who tried to set their office in Nizhny Novgorod on fire. Overall the situation for human rights defenders in the city has aggravated since the Duma elections in December 2011.
Civil Rights Defenders is concerned about the discmrinaion against LGBT people in the public debate in Albanina. We condemn the statements made by politicians and call on the authorities to put an end to the hate speech endorsing violence against LGBT persons.
Civil Rights Defenders has since the fall of 2009 been active in the fundraising market. We are now looking for a fundraiser for our Stockholm office. The position requires, among other things, good communication skills in English and Swedish. Read more about the position (in swedish) here.
Kavalyou and Kanavalau were recently executed, after having been denied reprieve by the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. “Death penalty is an inhumane punishment that should not be applied in any country”, says Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
Percy Bratt, Chair of Civil Rights Defenders, will today announce at a press conference that yet another Habeas Corpus in the case of Dawit Isaak has been submitted to the High Court of Eritrea. “It is an important step forward that both the EU and Sweden support our initiative”, says Percy Bratt.
Within our collaboration with the Albanian organisation Aleanca we are launching a campaign against homophobia. Together with them we have produced a video clip to highlight the wide spread discrimination, that will be followed by several events connected to the International Day againt Homophobia on May 17.
In the past week, several Belarusian human rights defenders were stopped at the border and denied departure from Belarus. A total of almost ten journalists and human rights activists had to turn back from the border with the words “denied exit” in their passports.
Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned about the statements by the Montenegrin government, discrediting the work of our partner MANS. “It is absolutely crucial to every democratic country to respect human rights including freedom of assembly and association”, said Goran Miletic, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
The local parliament in St. Petersburg has voted for a law prohibiting “propaganda” for homosexuality. Civil Rights Defenders has over the years arranged a LGBT conference with some 100 participants and seen our partner became the first registered LGBT organisation in the country. We have also arranged Queer Culture Festivals and other events in Russia. The new law is a setback in the work for LGBT people’s rights.
Ethnic tensions have escalated since 28 February this year, when an ethnic-Macedonian police officer out of service shot two young ethnic Albanians, Imran Mehmet and Besnik Shehapi, in the town of Gostivar. The police has reported more than 30 ethnically motivated attacks since, said Robert Hårdh in an article on Newsmill.
Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned over a series of ethnically motivated attacks in Macedonia and urges authorities to take immediate action for a prompt and proper investigation of the violent incidents.
Between 2010 and 2011 Olivera Lakic, Zeljk Ivanovic and other journalists at Vijesti received threats. In this letter to the Montenegro authorities we urge them to take immediate actions, and to ensure that the attacks and threats against Olivera Lakic and other journalists at Vijesti are properly investigated.
Together with our partners in Serbia we are appealing to the members of the Serbian National Assembly to adopt the drafted amendments to the Law on Non-Contentious Proceedings. Any further delay on this issue would be unfair to legally invisible persons.
In the week prior to the Russian presidential election, a number of human rights defenders in the North Caucasus were subjected to harassment, threats and violence. “They struggle to put an end to the prevailing impunity at the same time as they are persecuted by the authorities”, said Ninke Liebert at Civil Rights Defenders.
Several Roma families have recently been evicted and denied alternative accommodation, according to our partner Albanian Helsinki Committee. Civil Rights Defenders has sent a letter to the Albanian authorities demanding them to protect families from forced eviction and to respect the right to housing of Roma families.
After two and a half years in prison, the Kazakhstani human rights defender, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, was released on February 17. “The release of Yevgeniy Zhovtis is very positive and welcome. However, the authorities of Kazakhstan have still not recognized the human rights violations he was subjected to”, said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
We welcome our new colleague Cecilia Tengroth, specialist in international law. With Cecilia on board, we will enhance our monitoring of human rights in Sweden. “Human rights can be violated, even in Sweden, and that is why it is so important to keep an eye on our decision-makers and increase people’s awareness about their rights.”
The quality of new laws in Moldova is unsatisfying and at the same time the legislative inflation is rising. Lack of transparency in the legislative process is another great problem, according to the corruption risk analysis by Civil Rights Defenders and Centre for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption.
We urge the Thai Government to drop charges against Chiranuch Premchaiporn. Chiranuch faces trial this month following charges of the lèse majesté law, a law that seriously infringes on fundamental freedoms and is used in dubious ways against human rights defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders is concerned about the recent threats and attacks against the Helsinki Committee in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We call upon the authorities to condemn the attacks and ensure the protection of human rights defenders.
On 8 February, the regional parliament in St. Petersburg voted for a law banning “homosexual propaganda” in a second round. Civil Rights Defenders protests against the discriminatory law, which is one step from being introduced.
Issues related to the rights of LGBT people are rarely a research subject in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The LGBT community seems to have ‘disappeared’ from the public discourse since the violent attacks against the organisers of the Queer festival in 2008.
“Ales just did his job, and when human right activists in Belarus today do their job they will end up in prison” said Joanna Kurosz from Civil Rights Defenders when speaking during a manifestation in support of Ales Bialiatski, in Stockholm on January 31 2011.
On January 24, the Minsk city court upheld the 4.5-year verdict against Ales Bialiatski, Chair of Human Rights Centre Viasna. ”The Belarusian regime is using the process against Ales Bialiatski to silence human rights defenders in the country, said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
On January 20, the criminal proceeding for libel against Oleg Orlov, Chairman of our partner Memorial, was discontinued. “We welcome the fact that libel has been decriminalised in Russia, which prevents similar proceedings against human rights defenders in the future”, said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
Igor Kalyapin, chairman of our Russian partner Committee against Torture, has been accused of disclosing state secrets and risks several years in prison if he will be trialed. “Igor Kalyapin is among the most courageous human rights defenders in Russia today, said Joanna Kurosz at Civil Rights Defenders.
According to a new amendment Belarusians can be fined EUR 100 for visiting a banned website, among them the site of Viasna. -This is another step taken by Alexander Lukashenka’s regime to suppress freedom of speech on the internet, said Joanna Kurosz, at Civil Rights Defenders.
The Cambodian government should abandon the fourth draft law on NGOs. Read the statement we signed together with a group of international human rights organisations.
On December 20, Cambodians from the country’s 24 provinces carried a 230 meter long “kramar”, a traditional scarf, with over 10,000 signatures requesting the Parliament to stop the bill that restricts civil rights and freedoms.
Civil Rights Defenders condemns the conviction of the Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson. The terrorist legislation that was used during the trial was turned into a tool to prevent free speech in Ethiopia.
In December, Civil Rights Defenders organised a workshop on the new freedom of expression law for judges in Moldova. The aim was to improve understanding of how the new legislation should be interpreted and applied by magistrates who work with these types of cases. “Strengthening the legal system is central, because that’s where the rights are protected”, commented Percy Bratt, chairman of Civil Rights Defenders board and one of the trainers, afterwards.
On December 15th the founder of the Dagestani independent newspaper Chernovik, Gadzhimurad Kamalov, was shot to death by a masked gunman. The murder represents yet another serious blow to independent journalism and freedom of speech in the violent republic of Dagestan.
On November 29 Ales Bialiatski, Chair of Viasna, appealed the verdict of the Pershamaiski District Court in Minsk, sentencing him to four and a half years in prison and confiscation of property for tax evasion. Civil Rights Defenders believes that the decision is a pretext for the regime to silence human rights defenders.
The legislative assembly of St. Petersburg has decided to postpone the hearing of the anti-gay bill for the second time. “Protesters all over the world have shown that this is not a bill that belongs in a European country in 2011″, said Ninke Liebert, at Civil Rights Defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders condemn the hate speech and threats which were caused by a videoclip about rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. We urge the Montenegrin authorities to properly investigate these crimes.
A court in Chisinau has convicted a website for hate speech against LGBT people. The case is an important step forward in the work for equal rights in Moldova, and demonstrates that incitement to discrimination and violence will not be tolerated.
Civil Rights Defenders and Östgruppen condemn the verdict against Ales Bialiatski, Chairperson of Human Rights Centre Viasna. A protest letter was submitted to the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm on November 25.
The right to a fair hearing and access to court are the most frequent problems regarding the right to fair trial in Serbia, according to a report published by Civil Rights Defenders in collaboration with Youth Initiative for Human Rights.
Ales Bialiatski, Chariman of the human rights organisation Viasna, was sentenced for tax evasion to four and a half years in prison and confiscation of property. An unacceptable verdict according to Civil Rights Defenders.
We urge the Cambodian authorities to immediately withdraw the drafted NGO law. The law violates the rights to freedom of association and expression, Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organsiations say in a joint statement.
We are looking for someone who will work operationally with human rights issues in Russia and the North Caucasus. You will be responsible for managing and developing our long-term collaborations with human rights organisations in Russia.
A new anti-gay bill was accepted at a first reading in the regional parliament of Saint Petersburg. We protest against the bill since it severely limits the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. You can do that too, by signing a petition.
In the North Caucasus impunity for grave human rights violations, committed by law enforcement agents on the pretext of combating terrorism, is widespread and requires prompt and independent investigations. Together with the Interregional Committee Against Torture we support the Joint Mobile Group, whose members travel to Chechnya to monitor and investigate the most serious human rights violations.
Dragan Markovic Palma, Mayor of Jagodina and President of the parlamentary party United Serbia has been convicted of hate speech. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the verdict but worries about the fact that the Mayor’s reaction to is was new hate speech.
The North Caucasus has remained the most troubled region in Russia in regard to human rights. The long-term goal for our cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) is to combat impunity for human rights abuses in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, and to promote respect for rights enshrined in the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
At the first day of the trial against human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, the Belarusian authorities used extraordinary precautions to prevent people from attending the hearing at the Maskouski district court. Journalists without ID’s were not allowed entrance to the court hall. Two persons, wearing T-shirts with the inscription “Freedom to Ales Bialiatski!”, were removed [...]
Representatives from human rights organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, have been denied visa for travel to Belarus and cannot attend the trial of Ales Bialiatski. The fact that Belarus is closing the borders for international observers reinforces our concern that Ales Bialiatski will not get a fair and just trial.
The investigation of Natalia Estemirova’s murder continues along a false path, according to an independent report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Memorial and Novaya Gazeta.
Gerald Nagler, founder of the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, was presented the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art by the Republic of Austria on October 18.
Our colleagues in the North Caucasus risk their lives to defend the rights of others. One of our most important tasks is to improve their security situation, as well as the security of other human rights defenders around the world.
This year, the Swedish Government and the Living History Forum have awarded their prize in memory of Per Anger to Iranian human rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi. This is in recognition of her fight for human rights and women’s freedom, with personal courage and despite repeated serious infringements of her freedom.
The Executive Committee of Minsk City banned the Pride parade, despite the fact that President Alexander Lukashenko had said that he is not against a parade, if it is organised in the outskirts of the city.
In a joint statement, we urge the upper chamber of the Belarusian Parliament to quash the recent legislative amendments that impose limitations on freedom of assembly and association and severely restrict the work of Belarusian civil society groups.
The EU has demanded from the Cambodian Government to ensure that a law on NGOs encourages, rather than restricts, the growth of civil society, says Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
In 2009-2010 Moldova saw improvements in terms of human rights. However, several grave problems remain. Moldova has no law against discrimination and persons with disabilities, sexual minorities, elderly, women and ethnic and religious minorities often face discrimination.
Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the attack on the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its staff. We urge the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take immediate action to ensure the safety and well being of those threatened.
On October 11, the International Day of Coming Out, Pride was opening in Minsk. “A provocation for those who do not want to recognize the political rights of LGBT people”, said Siarhei Androsenka, from Minsk Gay Pride.
Despite months of planning and intense dialogue with state authorities the Belgrade Pride parade 2011 was banned. The ban, however, may bring some positive effects. Listen to an interview with two of the organisers: Boban Stojanovic, from the organisation Queeria and Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.
On October 7 it has been five years since the murder of Anna Politkovskaja and no one has been convicted. “The Russian authorities send very clear signals that you should not dig into irregularities if you don’t want to get in trouble”, said Robert Hårdh, in an interview with Göteborgsposten.
Personal characteristics such as national or ethnic origin, religious or political beliefs, medical condition, sexual orientation, sex and age are bases for daily discrimination in Serbia. Together with Centre for Advanced Legal Studies we address these issues in a systematic way.
The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the enforced disappearance of a Chechen man in October 2004. The judgment is an important result of our cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative.
On September 30 the Serbian authorities decided to cancel the Belgrade Pride parade, due to threats from extremist right-wing groups. “There was no political will to support Pride”, said Goran Miletic, Civil Rights Defenders.
The National Security Council of the Serbian Parliament (Savet za nacionalnu bezbednost) has banned all public manifestations during the weekend, including Pride, on the grounds of national security. The Pride organisers have gathered to discuss what should be the next step.
September 15, the Third International Queer Culture Festival opened in St. Petersburg. The ceremony attracted many visitors, despite protests from religious youth groups.
Uladzimir Labkovich, legal adviser at Human Rights Center Viasna, was detained in Minsk in connection to a manifestation in support of Ales Bialiatski, on September 25. The arrest is yet another example of the harassment of Viasna employees.
The Arkhangelsk Oblast Council of Deputies has passed amendments and additions to the regional law, stating that public actions aimed at promotion of homosexuality among minors are not allowed. We consider the law to be discriminatory and violating the fundamental principle of equality of rights of all people.
The case against Ales Bialiatski is directly connected to the human rights work of Viasna, the most prominent human rights organisation in Belarus. Viasna has been denied registration by the authorities on several occasions but continues to work for the rights of the people. According to Belarusian legislation it is illegal to work for an [...]
On September 23 it was ten years since the Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak was arrested in Eritrea. Today we don’t even know if he is alive. -We have to intensify the diplomatic efforts, , said Percy Bratt during a manifestation.
We are deeply concerned about the widespread human rights violations in the aftermath of the presidential elections, said Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations in a statement to the Human Rights Council today.
Together with our partner, Coming Out, we arrange the third international Queer Culture Festival, September 15-25. The festival takes place in St Petersburg with the goal to support the right to self-expression, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
On September 13 Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat is visiting Sweden. Civil Rights Defenders urges the Swedish Government to bring up the proposed Law against discrimination to discussion.
The Serbian media sector is characterized by political and economic influence on media and controversial regulatory practices. Together with our long-term partner ANEM, we strive to respond to existing challenges facing the media sector and to contribute to its development.
We urge the Serbian president to fully support the Belgrade Pride on October 2. A vulnerable group such as the LGBT population in Serbia cannot exercise their freedom of assembly without public support and recognition, Civil Rights Defenders said in a letter to the serbian President Tadic, the Prime Minister Cvetkovic and the Mayor of Belgrade, Djilas.
A month has passed since the arrest of Ales Bialiatski, president of the Human Rights Centre Viasna. Bialiatski was arrested in Minsk on August 4, and remains in detention on charges of tax evasion.
The fact that Sweden has so far refused to support a UN-led Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in Burma is absolutely staggering for a country that claims to stand up for human rights worldwide, said Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations in SvD.
In an open letter we urge Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt to increase the pressure on the Cambodian government to abandon plans for a repressive law on NGO:s. We have previously warned that the law’s real purpose is to give the government a tool to silence inconvenient voices.
In collaboration with Memorial Human Rights Center, Civil Rights Defenders monitor human rights violations and provide legal aid to victims and their family members in order to end impunity and strengthen the rule of law in the North Caucasus.
On August 2 the authorities closed down Sahmakum Teang Tnaut that works on land and housing rights. About a hundred protesting farmers were interrogated by the police, and on TV a smearing campaign was launched against NGO:s. Simultaneously a new law is prepared that will give the government a tool to silence inconvenient voices.
On the 12th of August Ales Bialiatski, chair of the Human Rights Center Viasna, was officially charged with “Concealment of profits on an especially large scale” (Paragraph 2, Article 243 of the Belarusian Criminal Code) and his detention has been prolonged by two months.
Civil Rights Defenders in a coalition of international human rights organisations, are deeply concerned about the arrest of Ales Bialiatski on allegations of large-scale tax evasion. We sent a petition to the Belarusian prosecutor’s office asking to release Ales pending the investigation against him.
We welcome the news that Ahmed Agiza has been released from Egyptian prison after 10 years, and hope that Sweden will take its responsibility and offer both Agiza and Mohammed Alzery full redress for the violations that the two men have suffered.
Albania aims at joining the EU, but much remains to be done before that can happen. In cooperation with the Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (AHC) Civil Rights Defenders monitor and assess dismissals of public employees in local and central administration.
On 4 August 2011, Ales Bialiatski, Chair of the Human Rights Center Viasna in Belarus, was detained in Minsk. We call upon the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ales Bialiatski and to stop the criminal persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and activists in Belarus.
Ales Bialiatski, chair of the human rights organisation Viasna, was arrested on August 4th by the Belarus Department of Financial Investigations, suspected of gross tax evasion. According to Belarusian law he risks up to seven years imprisonment.
Ales Bialiatski, chair of the human rights organisation Viasna, was arrested today. Very little is known at the moment about where he is held and the reasons for his arrest.
On July 31, sixteen peaceful protesters were arrested at a rally for freedom of assembly in Nizhny Novgorod. The same day several dozen people were also arrested in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. We call for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters.
Serbian authorities are urged to react against the assault on the Islamic Center in Novi Sad, and to find those responsible and prosecute them.
The number of threats and attacks on journalists have increased in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past years. In 2009 Civil Rights Defenders and the Association of Journalists established a Free Media Help Line, which provides legal aid and counselling to people working in media organisations.
In Russia, LGBT persons are being discriminated in daily life and in law. Together with the Russian organisation Coming Out, Civil Rights Defenders organises an annual Queer Culture Festival in St. Petersburg.
Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organizations call for a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the murder of Natalia Estemirova. July 15 is the second anniversary of her death and Russian authorities have not brought anyone to justice for the murder.
Several human rights organizations including Civil Rights Defenders condemn the recent arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Belarus. We call upon the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all detained protesters and respect the right to freedom of assembly to all its citizens.
In 2009 Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted an anti-discrimination law. Civil Rights Defenders cooperate with the Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI) in Sarajevo to to facilitate better enforcement of the law, and to improve the understanding about discrimination among students and different stakeholders.
Widespread lack of respect for human rights, in particular discrimination against vulnerable groups, remains of great concern in Albania. Civil Rights Defenders believe that the media can play an important role in raising awareness about human rights and mobilizing civic engagement. A cooperation with Independent Local Media Association (ILMA), to engage citizens in debates on radio about the most important human rights issues, has therefore been established.
Kosovo 2.0 is a web portal and a magazine available in English, Albanian and Serbian. Since the launch in July 2010, it has had around 257,760 unique visitors and more that 1,000 unique visits a day. Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Kosovo Glocal aims at building up Kosovo 2.0, a comprehensive and vibrant media platform, offering interesting and current news, commentary and information that will contribute to an overall respect of freedom of expression in Kosovo.
For the third time Civil Rights Defenders will, at the end of 2011, organise a conference for human rights defenders in the North Caucasus in Stockholm. With the purpose of organising the conference we will employ a Project Coordinator for a period of 5 – 6 months, starting from the end of August 2011.
In Albania a Law on Legal Aid was adopted in December 2008 and entered into force in April 2009. At the moment, however, access to justice is not equal for all citizens. Together with Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) Civil Rights Defenders provide legal services for individuals belonging to marginalized groups through court and administrative procedures. This gives people better access to their legal rights and welfare benefits.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Press Council Kosovo (PCK) concerns the quality of the media. By promoting a Code of Conduct for the press, and making sure that it is applied, we strive to improve the professionalism in media.
The overall objective of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Mediacentar in Sarajevo is to support the development of efficient mechanisms against discrimination. This will be done through education and information to raise public awareness of discrimination issues. We also train journalists to report on discrimination in society and follow the implementation of the Law against discrimination.
Together with Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Serbia Civil Rights Defenders provide work to raise public awareness on the importance of confronting the past, by compiling and disseminating a comprehensive record of human losses in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro in the wars of the 1990s. The “Interactive Online Map of Human Losses” provides user-friendly information and access to relevant documents on human losses in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia.
Weak professional standards in journalism and increased pressure on the media are two core issues in regard to freedom of expression in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Press Council aims at empowering people to claim their rights and to improve ethical standards in journalism.
LGBT issues are generally silenced in Albania, and the lives of LGBT persons are marked by isolation and lack of support. In order to terminate their isolation we work actively to promote and empower the LGBT community in cooperation with the organisation Aleanca.
despread impunity in Kosovo, people often do not report violence in prison. Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT) refers to prevent torture or any other form of ill-treatment in places of detention and contribute to the respect of human rights in Kosovo. The target group consists of persons deprived of their liberty and relevant authorities.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina LGBT people are often attacked. The aim of Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Sarajevo Open Society is to break the silence around LGBT issues, in order to reduce prejudices and discrimination against LGBT community.
Civil Rights Defenders believe that strengthening investigative journalism in Kosovo will contribute to greater respect for human rights in general and to freedom of expression in particular. The collaboration with Kosovo Center for Investigative Journalism (KCIJ) aims to develop, improve and support investigative journalism in Kosovo.
Civil Rights Defenders is concerned about the threats against Olga Sadovskaya at the Committee Against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. In a letter sent to Swedish and European policymakers we ask them to raise the threats against human rights defenders in all discussions with Russia.
A major problem in Kosovo today is the lack of lawyers who can represent victims of human rights violations in court. In collaboration with Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Kosovo (YIHR KS), Civil Rights Defenders are establishing a pool of lawyers who will identify cases of discrimination for proceeding to the court.
Together with Humanitarian Law Centre in Kosovo, Civil Rights Defenders is compiling the Kosovo Memory Book, a comprehensive record of killed and missing persons during the 1998-2000 armed conflict in Kosovo. The aim is to build a historical memory about the conflict that will assist the Kosovar society to deal with the recent past.
Civil Rights Defenders and Human Rights Watch call on Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to investigate the deportation of Keymir Berdiyev to Turkmenistan. In a joint letter they urge Sweden to allow him return for his asylum application to be reconsidered.
Civil Rights Defenders and Nondiscrimination Coalition urge the Government and the Parliament of Moldova to adopt an anti-discrimination law. In a joint letter, we require the Moldovan Prime Minister to put an end to homophobic statements in public debate.
On June 14 a Russian court acquitted Oleg Orlov, Chairperson of Memorial Human Rights Centre, on charges of libel against Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
Four new rulings by the European Court of Human Rights confirm Russia’s reluctance to effectively investigate serious human rights violations in Chechnya. The cases have been brought before the court by Civil Rights Defenders together with Russian Justice Initiative.
Civil Rights Defenders calls on the senior EU officials participating at the EU-Russia summit in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, to address the pressing situation for human rights defenders working in Russia.
We are concerned about the police interrogation of the Executive Director of MANS after a video of national security agents mingling with criminals was published on the organization’s web. This puts pressure on human rights defenders and is directly assisting criminals in silencing those who dare to speak about corruption.
Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organizations condemn the prosecution of Belgzim Kamberi, Chairman of the Human Rights Board in Bujanovac in Serbia, and urge the prosecutor to shut down the case.
Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned about the recent attack on the human rights defender Bakhrom Khamroev, staff member of the well known human rights organisation Memorial in Russia. Bakhrom Khamroev was seriously beaten by unidentified men outside his apartment in Moscow on June 6th.
The radio show Pescanik (the Hourglass) is one of very few independent voices in the public domain in Serbia. Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Pescanik aims to increase the public’s access to diverse and balanced information and to offer a platform for news and analysis that differs from the mainstream.
On June 1 the Criminal Court in Vienna sentenced three men for murder of the Chechen refugee Umar Israilov who was assassinated in Vienna on January 13 in 2009.The trial highlights the prevalence of violence and the arbitrariness in the Chechen judiciary.
Within Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Local Press Association we work to raise the level of professionalism among journalists and media in Serbia. The local media has experienced much pressure during a challenging period, with a media landscape that is characterized by unfinished legal reforms, chaotic market conditions and weak professional ethics.
In collaboration with the organisation LABRIS, Civil Rights Defenders address discrimination of LGBT people in institutional settings through education. In a long term perspective, hoping to contribute to a better environment for the LGBT community.
Together with Veliki Mali, Civil Rights Defenders empower parents to take an active role in defending their children’s rights, and to improve the legislative framework for the protection of rights of children with disabilities.
In order to improve professional standards in the media and promote ethically responsible journalism, Civil Rights Defenders assist in building a Code of Conduct for journalists and media outlets.
A coalition of human rights organisations, among them Civil Rights Defenders, regrets Russia’s lack of cooperation with the Austrian judiciary, in the case against the alleged murderers of Chechen refugee Umar Israilov. A verdict is expected June 1st.
Violations committed against Roma people in Moldova are seldom properly investigated nor are the persons responsible prosecuted. Together with the Roma National Center, Civil Rights Defenders provides free legal assistance, identifies and document victims of human rights infringements, monitor trials with the aim to contribute to reducing discrimination against Roma and to increase their access to justice.
Former presidential candidates Mikalai Statkevich and Dmitzry Us have been sentenced to six and five and a half years of imprisonment respectively for organising mass riots. The political opposition is being effectively dismantled by the Belarusian regime.
In order to contribute to a higher observance of the European Convention in Moldova, Civil Rights Defenders cooperate with Lawyers for Human Rights in translating the jurisprudence of the European Court concerning Moldova into Romanian language.
On May 18, 2011, Civil Rights Defenders held a conference in Skopje together with Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation. The main purpose of the event was to instigate a discussion among civil society actors about the recently passed Law against discrimination.
Colorful balloons rose to the sky during the flashmob, held at the same spot where a bus with Pride participants was attacked three years ago.
On World Press Freedom Day we want to draw attention to Dieu Cay, who was Vietnam’s most influential bloggers when he was arrested in April 2008. His voice for democracy in Vietnam and against widespread corruption was silenced. Today, nobody knows where he is being held.
In 2009 Civil Rights Defenders and Regional Centre for Minorities arranged the first LGBT conference “Justice in Balkans: Equality for sexual minorities” in Podgorica, Montenegro. It provoked a fierce discussion and for the first time brought the LGBT matter into the public debate.
In collaboration with the Organisation for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity – ÇOHU! Civil Rights Defenders provide a tool for preventing cases that contain features of corruption or organized crime from being closed because of passing the deadline set in the law.
Together with Macedonian Young Lawyers Association’s, Civil Rights Defenders work to improve anti-discrimination policies, practices and standards in the judicial system in Macedonia. This is conducted through strategic litigation and by educating young lawyers.
To improve the rule of law in Albania we provide a legal clinic, in collaboration with the Albanian Helsinki Committee, where we offer free legal aid to arrested, pre-trial detained and convicted persons, Roma and Egyptians. In 2010 approximately 500 complaints and more than 1000 free legal aid services were treated within the legal clinic.
Civil Rights Defender’s collaboration with Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia aims to improve the extent to which human rights are respected and known about in Serbia. The short term objectives are to strengthen the mechanisms for protecting human rights and to inform the public about the implementation of transitional laws.
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Stockholm on April 27. We urge Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to discuss with him the difficult situation that human rights defenders in Russia are facing. During the 2009 EU summit Reinfeldt raised this issue with President Medvedev and there is cause for a follow-up.
On April 15th to 17th, we are organising the fifth Moot court competition for law students from the Western Balkans. The students are trained in the procedures of the European Court. Five judges from the European Court will sit on the jury.
Civil Rights Defenders is concerned about the continued harrassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Russia. Igor Kalyapin, head of our Russian partner organisation Committee Against Torture, along with nearly forty others, were arbitrarily arrested on March 31, 2011.
Every year Civil Rights Defenders organise trainings for our partners. This year our partners in Albania and Kosovo received training in public speech.
Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned over the latest developments connected to the proposed anti-discrimination law in Moldova. The Moldovan government has now withdrawn the bill from the parliament.
The Russian Constitutional Court has ruled that the State cannot institutionalise a person with disabilities if there is no one who can become their guardian in the community. The two cases behind this decision were lodged in cooperation between MDAC, IPAR and Civil Rights Defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders is positive toward the idea of establishing a National Human Rights Commission. But the way the Commission is modelled, in the current proposal, it will not contribute to a more effective protection of human rights.
In an open letter to Moldovan MP’s we call for a swift adoption of the anti-discrimination law.
Poverty and oppression in combination with unresolved tensions and widespread impunity contributes to an unstable situation in many African states. The question is how long it takes before the open struggle for democracy and human rights we now are witnessing in North Africa and the Middle East spreads to sub-Saharan countries. Blog post by Robert Hårdh from March 14th, 2011.
Civil Rights Defenders has signed a petition together with other NGOs to urge the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on Belarus. We think it is of outmost importance that the Council unequivocally condemns the human rights violations that took place after the Belarusian Presidential election in December 2010.
The world must pay attention to the brave Burmese women whose struggle for human rights places their lives and health at risk. On the International women’s day we urge the international community not to reconsider its stance against the Burmese government too soon.
Russian authorities need to investigate a case of disappearance and torture in Chechnya and punish those responsible, Human Rights Watch, Front Line, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Civil Rights Defenders said today.
Through information campaigns and legal assistance related to discrimination cases Civil Rights Defenders strive to combat the widespread intolerance that exists in regard to specific groups. Our cooperation with National Youth Council of Moldova on behalf of the Anti-Discrimination Coalition aims at fostering tolerance and equality.
In an open letter to the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko we urge the authorities to repeal the warning against Ales Bialiatski and to refrain from further pressure on human rights defenders.
Ales Bialiatski, President of the human rights organisation “Viasna”, was officially warned by the General Prosecutor’s Office for alleged violation of Article 193.1. The General Prosecutor’s Office also made clear that continued activities could lead to prosecution.
The European Court has found Russia responsible for the deaths of two Chechen men and the disappearance of one. These two latest verdicts mean that Russia has been convicted of serious human rights violations in 100 cases, as a result of our cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative.
If the Belarusian dictator regime is going to land in democratic reforms, Sweden and the EU must keep the pressure on Lukashenka and not bargain with him with something that does not belong to him – the rights of his citizens, writes Robert Hårdh, executive director at Civil Rights Defenders, in a op-ed on Dagens Arena.
By monitoring mental health facilities in Kosovo and lobby for legislative changes, Civil Rights Defenders, together with Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, work to promote human dignity and make end to violence and discrimination in institutions.
On Monday the 17th of January the Committee for State Security, KGB, searched the Human Rights Centre Viasna for the third time in just one month. Events related to the Belarusian election on the 19th of December 2010 were stated as reasons in the search warrant. Ales Bialiatski, President of Human Rights Centre Viasna, was taken by the KGB but released the same day.
Together with a group of leading human rights organisations we urged the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and the European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger to include a discussion on respect for human rights in their meeting with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan.
The trial against the Roma minor in the village Jabuka in Serbia has started, We were again denied access to the court. We request that the boy is held in detention with other minors, and not with adults
We appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Participating States to condemn the human rights violations in Belarus that have followed the presidential elections of December 19, 2010. Read more and sign the appeal.
Together with our partners we urge the Serbian authorities to make sure that the trial against the Roma boy B.J. be concluded as soon as possible, as the legal maximum of detention of minors has already been exceeded. We also insist to be allowed presence at the hearing.
Our Human Rights Lawyer Goran Miletic calls for Serbian authorities to react upon the violations of basic human rights in Belarus, in a blog published in Pescanik on 23 December 2010.
The harassment of human rights organisations, independent media and political opposition continued during the Christmas holidays. Several raids were conducted by KGB of both offices and apartments belonging to civil and political activists.
Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned about the recent attacks on Branko Zivkovic, human rights defender and journalist in Serbia. We urge the responsible authorities in Serbia to use all mechanisms available to adequately protect human rights defenders.
Together with a number of organisations, we strongly condemn the crackdown on demonstrators, arrests and beatings of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition candidates, which happened in the aftermath of the Presidential elections on 19 December 2010 in Belarus.
Vladimir Nyaklyaeu, Lukashenko’s biggest challenger, was severely beaten, and taken to hospital with a concussion on Sunday night. Later that night, a group of men stormed into his hospital room, wrapped him in a blanket and abducted him. We follow the developments in Belarus with great concern.
On Sunday December 19, a presidential election is held in Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship. On the surface this election is more democratic than the previous ones. But appearances are deceptive – the improvements achieved are only cosmetic. Read our op-ed article in Svenska Dagbladet on 19 December.
Four Roma families were left without a roof over their heads at temperatures below zero when their barracks were demolished.Together with our partners in the coalition against discrimination we condemn in the strongest terms the authorities´ treatment of these people.
Between 2001 and 2007 Zivota Milanovic from Jagodina, Seriba, member of Hindu Vaishnava religious community, was attacked five times because of his religious beliefs. We have been working actively on the case together with our partner.
Support our petition to the President of Belarus. We urge the President to fulfil the country’s obligations i regard to the respect of human rights.
Together with a group of human rights organisations we urge the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to follow-up on the human rights situation in the North Caucasus.
On the occasion of the Human Rights Day on December 10, and in view of the upcoming Kosovo parliamentary elections on December 12, Youth Initiative for Human Rights and Civil Rights Defenders call upon all political parties in Kosovo to increase their efforts in promoting the respect for human rights.
Civil Rights Defenders and its partners Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and Regional Center for Minorities were yesterday denied access to a court session in Pancevo, when demanding to monitor a case of principal importance. The case involves a Roma juvenile boy who is accused of having killed his Serbian friend.
In the 2009 municipal elections Kosovo Serbs surprised everybody with their high turnout, and won in three municipalities where they were in majority. In the wake of the elections on December 12, we have initiated a cooperation with Kosovo Media Association aimed at trying to repeat this positive trend.
On December 12, 2010, parliamentary elections will take place in Kosovo, after a turbulent autumn. We have intensified our efforts to increase the participation of three specific groups that previously had a very low election turnout; the youth, the Serbian community and the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.
On 25th of November the TV station A1 in Skopje was raided by the police. We urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, and the political parties to stop abusing their position for their own political promotion.
The purpose of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with BETA News Agency is to offer minority media outlets objective, timely and quality information from Serbia and the region in their own languages. The project provides high-quality news programs in 3 minority languages (Albanian, Roma and Hungarian) and represents minority media in itself.
The objective of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Mediacentar Sarajevo this year is to sustain and extend public discussion about the problem of hate speech in Bosnia-Herzegovina public space. We will publish five multimedia educational texts, which will treat different aspects of hate speech in Bosnia-Herzegovina media and its consequences.
In order to strengthen Belarusian citizens access to justice Civil Rights Defenders want to raise awareness of Belarusian Lawyers and activists on human rights and International Standards. To do this, a series of seminars on various rights is conducted within the framework of the project.
The project aims to contribute the promotion of the BIH Law against Discrimination, through specialized trainings for law students as well as through street actions and public advocacy.
KJIC used to be an integrated part of ÇOHU! but will from now on be an independent organization. Its main objective is to boost investigative journalism in Kosovo.
Baring in mind that freedom of expression and information in the media is an essential requirement of democracy, Civil Rights Defenders will cooperate UNEM to produce a report on limitations of freedom of expression in Montenegro based on the “Indicators for media in a democracy” developed by Council of Europe and presented in the Resolution 1636 (2008).
This project has two major goals: to provide legal protection to independent media, thereby diminishing the power of groups which try to misuse the media to achieve their political ends or advance other interests; and to promote ethical and professional standards in journalism.
Efforts are made for the Belgrade Pride Parade to be carried out as planned, whereas it was banned last year.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (AHC) in this specific project aims at improving the situation regarding protection against discrimination in Albania. We do this by raising capacities of our legal aid partners and the Institution of the Commissioner against Discrimination in handling cases of discrimination as well as increase the capacities of lawyers, people from public structures and civil society to understand and follow cases of discrimination.
Albania has adopted an all-inclusive anti-discrimination law and we raise need to awareness on the new law particularily among faculty students and professors as well as teachers and pupils from high schools for it to be effective in protecting against discrimination.
The cooperation between Russian Justice Initiative and Civil Rights Defenders aims at highlighting the failure of the rule of law in Russia by taking legal approaches to secure legal remedies and reparations for victims of serious human rights abuses committed during the conflict in Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics, such as extraordinary killings, torture and enforced disappearances.
Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the release of the Burmese Nobel Peace laureate and opposition’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday. She was released when her house arrest expired, just days after Burma’s first election in over 20 years, a process that lacked a democratic foundation.
The right to liberty and security was violated when 72 persons were unlawfully held in detention, says the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in a case submitted by our partner, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee in co-operation with Civil Rights Defenders.
Jelena Urlajeva (Elena Urlaeva) from Uzbekistan is awarded the Per Anger Price of 2010, for her peaceful and unselfish struggle for Human Rights in Uzbekistan. Risking her life for human rights. The ceremony will take place at Human Rights Forum (MR-dagarna) in Örebro the 15th of November.
Human Rights Watch appeals to European states to stop sending Roma back to Kosovo. In a report they point out that Roma who left for Western Europe but were sent back face serious human rights problems. We recently wrote an Op-Ed with the exact same message.
On Thursday the 21st of October, EU diplomats agreed on a continuation of EU sanctions against Belarusian authorities. The sanctions were introduced in 2006, after violence and election-rigging in relation to the presidential elections, and included a travel ban to the EU for leading Belarusian officials.
Human rights defenders in the North Caucasus live under constant threat. They fear for their lives and the lives and health of their families. Civil Rights Defenders has initiated the Stockholm Process so that they can continue their important work.
Civil Rights Defenders has adopted a resolution on the establishment of the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center together with a group of nine leading Russian and international human rights organizations.
The 19th of December the presidential elections will take place in Belarus. Together with our Belarusian colleagues we will monitor the situation extra carefully during the remaining two months.
The life of Turkmen human rights defender Farid Tukhbatullin is in danger. Farid Tukhbatullin has received threats from the Turkmen authorities at several occasions during the previous years, and his relatives in Turkmenistan have been harassed.
A Pride parade was held today, for the first time ever in Serbia. Great efforts where required from the police in order to guarantee security for the participants. The Serbian authorities have sent a clear signal that the rights of LGBT persons are taken seriously.
In an Op-Ed article in the daily Svenska Dagbladet we urge the Swedish government to take action to protect human rights defenders at risk – both directly and through the agency of international bodies such as the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
On Sunday October 10th a new attempt will be made to carry out a Pride parade in Belgrade. Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders, will be in the Serbian capital to participate in the parade.
Civil Rights Defenders, together with other NGOs, demand that the situation of the human rights defenders in Central Asia becomes a priority issue at the upcoming OSCE Summit in Astana.
A series of coordinated inspections of around 40 NGOs, unprecedented in its scale and intensity, were carried out in Russia between the 13th and 16th of September.
Sweden and other EU countries are deporting Roma to Kosovo in full knowledge that these people face abject poverty and systematic discrimination. We are calling for an immediate halt to the deportation and we urge the government to make every effort to get other EU Member States to follow suit.
In September our colleagues at the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) are celebrating their 15th anniversary. The organisation is open not only for journalist but also for other people who contribute to journalistic activity and free distribution of information.
Our partner the Network of Committees for Human Rights in Serbia (CHRIS) was founded in 2000 in order to provide free legal aid to citizens whose human rights had been violated.
The trial against Oleg Orlov, chairperson of our partner organization Memorial in Russia, started with serious violations. Civil Rights Defenders considers this to be another sign that the courts in Russia are politically controlled.
Despite all the obstacles, the International Festival of Queer Culture opened successfully on September 16. In the last minute, the organisers had been forced to find a new location for the opening ceremony and the photo exhibition.
On October the 10th there will be a new attempt to organize a Pride Parade in Belgrade, Serbia.
On September 3rd Aleh Byabenin was found dead in his country house. The first investigation considers suicide even though Aleh’s family and friends suggest that there was nothing in his behavior or in his life that points towards a suicide.
A law on the prohibition on discrimination has adopted in Montenegro, much because of the work of Civil Rights Defenders and our partners Youth Initiative for Human Rights and Center for Democracy and Human Rights.
LGBT persons face daily discrimination in Russia, both in daily life as well as by legislation. Civil Rights Defenders cooperate with the St Petersburg based organisation Coming Out to increase the understanding for LGBT persons. One activity this year is to organise an an international Queer Culture Festival in St Petersburg in September.
In mid September the second international queer culture festival takes place in St Petersburg. The aim is to put focus on the right to be who you are, and to encourage people to think outside the box. Our support to the LGBT movement in Russia is showing results.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Veliki Mali aims at making education more accessible to children with disabilities, by enhancing parents’ participation in the decision-making processes concerning their children and the quality of education that they receive.
Through Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with ANEM, Association of Independent Electronic Media, we aim to assist the organisation and its stations to increase their capacities and influence. Our work also contributes to helping the entire media sector to improve media regulations.
Through Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Macedonian Young Lawyers’ Association, we want contribute to the adoption of the best anti-discrimination policies, practices and standards possible within the judicial system in Macedonia. This will be done through strategic litigation.
The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia responsible for the disappearance and torture of a Chechen man detained at his home by Russian federal troops in year 2000. The victims family was awarded 106,000 EUR in respect of material and moral damages.
Together with Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Civil Rights Defenders attempt to increase the awareness about the crime of genocide among the general public of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and also to foster conditions for further dealing with the recent past in the region of the former Yugoslavia. We do so by making “Srebrenica – Map of Genocide”.
On Sunday July 11th it is the 15th remembrance day of the genocide in Srebrenica. Together with our partners we have created an educational material that describes the crime.
A free media help line is envisaged to provide legal aid and counsel to media practitioners whose rights are violated or endangered. In addition, Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with BH Journalist Association aims to improve the knowledge on skilful and ethical reporting of journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thereby promote the highest professional standards in journalism.
On June 25 two human rights defenders in Montenegro where brought in for interrogation by the Police without legal basis for the action. Civil Rights Defenders believe that the action represents pressure against those who express critical opinions about the fight against corruption and organised crime in Montenegro. Read our letter to the Prime Minister [...]
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina is all about a continuous improvement of self regulation in print media. Our efforts are aimed at enhancing the ethical standards and the usage of the two defamation laws, in order to reduce the number of media outlets and journalists charged for compensation damages in defamation trials.
In cooperation with more than 50 Belarusian and international organisations Civil Rights Defenders regularly compile reports regarding the human rights situation in Belarus. The reports are sent to EU parliamentarians and other decision makers in the wake of their discussions about the relations between EU and Belarus.
During 2009 the human rights situation in North Caucasus worsened significantly and in order to maintain presence on the ground, a group of human rights NGOs decided to organize mobile visits to the region, especially Chechnya, monitoring and reporting on human rights violations. Human rights defenders will be offered training in security awareness when going on missions to North Caucasus.
Our partner Youth Initiative for Human Rights received a threatening letter, calling them pro-fascist and saying that everyone who took part in a march marking the 15th anniversary of murdered youth in Tuzla, should move to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Within the Russian society people with mental disabilities are marginalised and excluded from almost every aspect of life. In cooperation with Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, Civil Rights Defenders lobby towards the Russian authorities to prompt them to comply with national and international legislation.
The daily Express tries to blot our report on freedom of expression by drawing parallels between the life of the author of the report and the report itself. Together with a number of organisations we demand an end to the attempts to silence free speech in Kosovo.
Seven Belarusian LGBT-activists were recently fined for participating in a demonstration for the rights of sexual minorities. It is unacceptable that these people’s basic rights are not respected, says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked among the most underdeveloped and corrupt countries in the world where reforms are slowly implemented (the same level with Zambia, Jamaica, Senegal and Dominican Republic). Citizens’ participation is a crucial component to a culture of tackling corruption, since integrity, accountability and transparency must take hold societal and systemically if it is to uproot corruption practices.
In the near future a trial will be held in Vienna against two of the Chechen President’s employees, suspected of the murder of refugee Umar Israilov. Civil Rights Defenders and several other human rights organisations call on the Russian authorities to closely follow the trial.
On April 20 the European Court of Human Rights condemned Albania for having violated the right to a fair trial and the prohibition against torture in the case Lika and Laska vs Albania.
Civil Rights Defenders continue the cooperation with the radio show Pescanik (hourglass) in order to help stimulate the public debate on vital issues in the Serbian society. The show attracts 400.000 listeners every week and covers issues such as; transitional justice, corruption, and many more topics related to civil and political rights.
Together with CHRIS Civil Rights Defenders provide free legal assistance to citizens, as well as free legal aid before the courts to victims of serious human rights violations. Every year we agree on a number of strategic cases for litigation before the courts.
The aim of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with MANS in 2010 is to monitor and report on trials regarding corruption and organized crime. We do this to investigate how effective the proclaimed fight against corruption is.
For the past three years Civil Rights Defenders has assisted the Macedonian Institute for Media, MIM, a training centre for journalists and media professionals, in educating a considerable number of journalists through their One Year Diploma Program in Journalism.
Together with Regional Centre for Minorities, RCM, Civil Rights Defenders are strengthening the capacities of minority and human rights NGOs, local authorities, the judiciary and members of central and regional authorities that are dealing with different minority groups.
On May 4, in a joint statement, a number of human rights and media organisations – among these, Civil Rights Defenders – urge the provisional government in Kyrgyzstan to implement several measures to strengthen freedom of press and speech in Kyrgyzstan.
From April 29th until May 2nd Gay Pride is arranged in Moldova. A demonstration on Sunday May 2nd has been forbidden with reference to protests from religious and other groups. The event will be an important test for the new coalition government Alliance for European Integration.
Team Prima Iustiniana from the law faculty at the University of Skopje in Macedonia was the winning team of this year’s moot court competition. Team Radomir Lukic from Novi Sad in Serbia was ranked second in the competition.
In April 23-25 Civil Rights Defenders will arrange the fourth moot court competition in Rijeka, Croatia. The involvement of Law schools from five countries, professors, highly experienced judges from the region, makes the Moot Court competition a unique opportunity for education.
In March, two prisoners were executed in Belarus, despite ongoing negotiations with the Council of Europe on the introduction of a moratorium. According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee Belarus is acting in breach of its international obligations, Viasna says.
On March 23, 2010 the Albanian Constitutional Court decided to abolish the controversial Lustration Law (targeting former officials of the communist regime) as incompatible with the Albanian constitution. The abolition is a success for our partner Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC).
Civil Rights Defenders, together with over 50 other human rights organisations, condemn the Belarus execution of Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk.
The court in Podgorica has sentenced the Montenegrin government to pay 20 000 Euros in damages to Saban and Arif Rizvanović, who were tortured by Yugoslav soldiers in 1993. The case is a great success for our partner HLC.
Nine people from our partner organisation, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, were arrested by the police while protesting against the content of the Srebrenica Declaration. They were detained for several hours without getting information of what they were suspected of.
Documentation of human rights violations is crucial in the struggle to put an end to impunity and to strengthen the rule of law. In cooperation with Memorial we now seeks to establish an archive of human rights violations, consisting of all of their collected materials in North Caucasus.
Our cooperation with COHU!, the Organisation for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity, aims at influencing the law-making process in the field of anti-corruption. The fight against political corruption is carried out by identifying structures that make mismanagement and abuse of public office and funds possible.
The main objective of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the organisation ARKA is to register, and provide identification documents, to around 300 Roma individuals in Skopje, Kumanovo, Kratovo, and Kriva Palanka regions. The registration will give them access to basic human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia aims to bring to the public eye violations of human and minority rights. The Annual Report on human rights in Serbia presents the most pressing needs, constraints and priorities regarding the human rights situation in Serbia.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with Centre for Legal and Civil Initiatives, CLCI, aims at increasing women’s access to justice. This is done by providing free legal assistance, monitoring the implementation of the Law on domestic violence, and organising awareness raising activities in regard to women’s rights among the general population.
Together with Youth Initiative for Human Rights Civil Rights Defenders have organised trainings on the burning issue of dealing with the past for Bosnian youth activists and high school students for the past three years.
2009 was an important year for the LGBT movement in Serbia. For the first time cooperation between LGBT organisations and other human rights organisations was established to integrate LGBT issues in all human rights work, Civil Rights Defenders partner, Gay Straight Alliance, says in its Annual Report.
Civil Rights Defenders and three other human rights organisations urge Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenka to stop harassment of those defending human rights in Belarus.
Four leading human rights defenders in Belarus were arrested on Tuesday afternoon following a demonstration against the death penalty. The protest was a response to the unexpected execution of two men on death row last week.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia must pay a record compensation to a man with mental disabilities who has been illegally detained. This is a great victory for us and our partner Mental Disability Advocacy Center.
Together with Labris, Civil Rights Defenders struggle to decrease the level of homophobia and ignorance about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Our main activities are lobbying, advocacy, education and networking, but we are also providing legal counseling for LGBT people.
The purpose of our cooperation with Civil Rights Program/Kosovo is to provide free legal aid to vulnerable residents either from the majority community or one of the minorities, either living in Kosovo or as refugees in one of the neighbouring countries. The main target group however is individuals that lack personal identification documents.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperates with European Radio for Belarus to support access to information for the Belarusian people. Our cooperation also aims at assisting a new generation of journalists, who will be able to work professionally in Belarus in the future.
In January 2010 the human rights organization Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee launched the campaign “Human rights defenders against death penalty.” The campaign aims to disseminate objective information and in the long term work for abolition of the death penalty.
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Macedonia Civil Rights Defenders call on the Macedonian government to withdraw the current Anti-discrimination bill, which does not include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Together with Humanitarian Law Centre, HLC, Civil Rights Defenders identify victims of human rights violations and secure relevant evidence. We are also providing legal support and representing the victims of war crimes and serious human rights violations in civil proceedings for reparation.
With the aim to improve Albanian media’s ethical conduct, and contribute to an increased self-regulation of media, Civil Rights Defenders organise in-house training courses on ethics and self-regulation for media outlets together with our partner Albanian Media Institute. These trainings are a supplement to the efforts of establishing and implementing a formalised self-regulation mechanism in the country.
Public administration has the power to deprive people of their liberty following procedures clearly established by the law. But when detention takes place outside the public scrutiny it opens the door to violations of rights of the inmates, as well as to torture and ill-treatment. Civil Rights Defenders initiated cooperation with Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims in 2007, with the aim to monitor detention facilities and prisons.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperate with the Kosovo office of Humanitarian Law Centre in documenting facts about the conflicts in the recent past. Our aim is to build a comprehensive record of the killed and missing during the 1998-1999 armed conflict and the period of revenge killings against non-Albanians and suspected collaborators with the Serbian authorities in Kosovo between June 1999 and the end of 2000.
Civil Rights Defenders have cooperated with the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for more than a decade, with the main focus to enhance awareness and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Macedonia. By providing free legal aid we not only improve people’s access to justice but also monitor the respect of human rights by authorities, and put pressure on authorities to comply with international and national human rights standards.
Since 2006 Civil Rights Defenders has cooperated with Tirana Legal Aid Society, TLAS, in assisting Roma families to register their children, but also other members of the families, in order to help them get access to some of the most fundamental human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections. Hundreds of families have been assisted through our joint efforts so far.
The situation in Chechnya has been characterised by grave human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture. Together with RJI, Civil Rights Defenders launch legal proceedings before Russian institutions and the European Court of Human Rights and provide direct legal consultations for victims and their relatives on ways of defending their rights.
Albanias new all-inclusive anti-discrimination law bans discrimination on the grounds of various characteristics, such as political, religious or philosophical beliefs, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Our partner Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Montenegro is demanding an independent investigation of alleged ill-treatment of prisoners in the Institution for Enforcement of Criminal Sanctions (ZIKS). Civil Rights Defenders previously sent a letter on this subject to the Prime Minister of Montenegro.
In the end of 2009 there was a break in the trend as the authorities initiated a reform process of Moldovan media. 2010 is however predicted to be a year of trials, according to a report that we have published in cooperation with Independent Journalism Centre.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Russia to pay EUR 120,000 in damages to the families of two Chechen men, Zurab Iriskhanov and Abu Aliyev, who were arrested in their homes in Samashki and Grozny in 2002 and have not returned since.
By supporting the Press Council, Civil Rights Defenders contribute to ensuring the quality of media and to strengthening freedom of expression in Kosovo. Furthermore, our focus is to make the Kosovo public better aware of the Press Council’s existence and role, and to ensure the future sustainability of the Press Council.
In cooperation with Centre for Advanced Legal Studies, Civil Rights Defenders established the Coalition Against Discrimination to lobby for an inclusive Law against discrimination. In 2009 it was finally adopted by the Serbian government. We now continue lobbying for other laws in the human rights field.
The overall aim of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Coalition for All Fair Trials is to strengthen the independency, efficiency and impartiality of the judiciary in Macedonia. The Coalition will measure whether there is an improvement in the implementation of the existing laws and how efficient the legal procedure in the judiciary is.
In cooperation with Albanian Disability Rights Foundation, Civil Rights Defenders provide legal aid to persons with disabilities, and to their families. Our efforts include raising awareness and recognition of human rights by spreading information to stakeholders that are one way or the other involved in disability issues, but also to the general public.
In Kosovo the situation for media and individual journalists has worsened. In cooperation with YIHR, Civil Rights Defenders decided to produce a comprehensive report on Freedom of Expression, with a particular focus on media freedom and on documented statements from journalists who have been subjected to threats and pressure.
The address to a shelter for victims of domestic violence was revealed on TV, endangering the safety of the victims as well as the staff of the shelter. In a letter we urge the Minister of Justice to protect victims of domestic violence as well as human rights defenders in Albania.
Civil Rights Defenders cooperate with Kosovo Media Association to provide professional, balanced and unbiased news primarily to the Serbian population in Kosovo. The network reaches almost the entire Serbian community, as well as the Albanian population, in Kosovo.
Together with our partner we have monitored and reported about torture and degrading treatment, in Montenegrin prisons among other. Read our letter to the Montenegrin Prime Minister.
The Russian authorities should investigate the arbitrary detention of three human rights advocates in Chechnya and hold those responsible accountable, Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Front Line, and Human Rights Watch said today.
On January 7, 2010, a new law on legal aid came into force in Macedonia. The adopted law represents a major step forward in improving access to justice for vulnerable social groups.
The purpose of Civil Rights Defenders support to the Human Rights House in Vilnius is to provide Belarusian human rights defenders a safe place to plan and carry out activities. In the house in exile they can have seminars, meetings and other activities that cannot be conducted inside Belarus due to the difficult political situation.
Civil Rights Defenders partner Albanian Disability Rights Foundation (ADRF), has received the “Albanian Leadership Award 2009″ for its efforts within civil society. The prize is awarded to highlight positive role models and innovations that strengthen ethical standards in Albanian society.
In cooperation with Young Lawyers of Serbia, Civil Rights Defenders are organising the fourth regional Moot Court competition for law students from the Western Balkans, with the aim to increase practical knowledge on cases, rules and procedures of the European Court on Human Rights, both among students at Law faculties and among existing legal professionals.
In cooperation with the Russian LGBT Network, Civil Rights Defenders support LGBT groups and organisations all over Russia with capacity building, legal counselling and organisational development. Although Russia has taken some very important steps in the right direction, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is widely spread in the society.
Together with Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Civil Rights Defenders work to increase awareness on human rights concerns in Montenegro. We do so by monitoring crucial human rights issues and reacting on serious human rights violations.
Through Civil Rights Defenders partnership with the Helsinki Committee we monitor and report on fair trial standards in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last couple of years we have also worked intensively on lobbying for an all inclusive Law against discrimination, in addition to the regular long-term activities of providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) expresses concern over the media situation in Belarus before the local elections in April. It will be very difficult for the few independent media that exists in the country to provide objective information after threats to close down media from the Media Ministry.
Russia has ratified protocol 14 of the European Convention, which aims at making the work of the court more effective. This is an important step which, in the long run, will shorten processing times for the hundreds of thousands that have turned to the court asking for justice.
Belarusian Ministry of Justice accuses the independent Association of Journalists, BAJ, of breaking the laws. One can only speculate if this is a consequence of BAJ’s increasingly successful lobbying, says Erik Esbjörnson at Civil Rights Defenders.
The European Court for Human Rights has ruled that Bosnia and Herzegovina discriminated against Jews and Roma by forbidding them to stand for key elected posts, including parliament and the presidency.
One of the most significant achievements for Civil Rights Defenders in 2009 is our contribution to resolving the housing situation for one of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in the region of Gjakova, Kosovo.
The Moldovan newspaper Ziarul de Garda (ZdG) and its employees have been subjected to several threats after publishing reports on corruption. We, and several media and human rights organisations, call on the Moldovan authorities to investigate the alleged threats.
People in Chechnya must not be left without access to justice. In a joint statement with several other human rights organisations we underline our obligation to continue to act against human rights violations in the North Caucasus and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
A truth commission in the Western Balkans would contribute to the democratisation process and to strengthening of the rule of law. This was the expressed opinion of the participants at a recently arranged conference in Brussels by, among others, the Humanitarian Law Centre, our cooperation partner.
Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the attacks on authors of the TV show ‘Insider’ and requests immediate action in bringing those responsible to justice.
According to the European Court of Human Rights Russia bears responsibility for six forced disappearances in Chechnya in 2003. All six men were detained illegally and must be presumed dead.
A new law on free legal aid is in process in the Macedonian parliament. But the law lacks crucial components that would guarantee access to justice for all groups in the society. Together with our partner we are now working on having some amendments adopted to the law.
The first conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered person’s rights in Montenegro resulted in the Minister for Human Rights saying in a tv-interview that the existence of homosexuals in Montenegro is “not good news”.
The journalist Bakir Hadziomerovic has received a death threat for his reporting on corruption and organised crime. We urge the authorities to investigate the case and bring those responsible to justice
-We welcome the accreditation of European Radio for Belarus. We hope this will mark a breach in the Belarusian authorities policy of clamping down on independent media and that they will take further steps towards ensuring freedom of expression in Belarus, said Robert Hårdh, executive director at Civil Rights Defenders.
The Moldovan Supreme Court has decided that the Main Tax Inspectorate has to disclose information to the media organisation Association of Independent Press. It is a positive trend that Moldovan courts to a greater extent defend the right to information.
The two bloggers Adnan Hajizada and Emin Millis were sentenced to four and a half years in prison, in total, for huliganism at a court in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
During the last few years a number of new laws have been adopted in Sweden that are troublesome from a Human Rights perspective. Read Civil Rights Defenders’ UPR-submission here.
A well known albanian journalist was brutally attacked following a series of reports about tax evasion, unlawful privatisation and oil smuggling. We demand from the authorities to investigate the case and bring those responsible before justice.
Russia is urged by the UN Human Rights Committee to strengthen the protection for persons with disabilities. An important source of information was the shadow report that our partner Mental Disability Rights Foundation presented in October.
Human rights activist Brahim Dahane from Western Sahara is the winner of the Per Anger Prize 2009, in recognition of having demonstrated unwavering personal courage, and risked his life in the struggle for human rights. Brahim Dahane is currently incarcerated.
Some of Russia’s leading human rights defenders gathered in Stockholm to discuss the situation in North Caucasus. Read their recommendations to the EU and the Swedish Presidency.
Maksharip Aushev, former opposition leader and former owner of dissident website Ingushetia.ru, was killed today in Kabardino-Balkaria.
The Swedish Parliament has adopted the much discussed and generally criticised FRA Act. However, the question is whether there is anyone who entirely understands what it is they have decided. The proposal, which first saw the light of day in 2006 has been revised several times, postponed, investigated further, adopted and revised again. Today’s decision [...]
The pressure on russian human rights activists are increasing. On Tuesday a court in Moscow sentenced the human rights organization Memorial and it’s Director Oleg Orlov for defamation of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Memorial and Oleg Orlov will have to pay 70 000 rubles, about 18 000 SEK. – The sentence against Orlov and Memorial [...]
Today a “Citizens Response to Violence” is organized in Belgrade by several NGOs, including Civil Rights Defenders. The manifestation is a response to the severe violent attacks by extremist groups which have taken place in Belgrade the last two weeks. It is also a support action for the organizers of the planned Belgrade Pride which [...]
International Media and Press Freedom Organisations jointly call for reforms and the removal of restrictions on the media in the Republic of Belarus.
In Moscow, the first court hearing is held today against Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial. The trial against Orlov is brought by the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, who is suing Orlov for 10 million rubles (approximately 2,5 million SEK) for the statements Orlov made following the murder of Natalia Estemirova. [...]
On this day, a year ago, the first attempt to organise a Queer festival in Sarajevo ended in violence. The festival had to go underground since the security of the participants could not be guaranteed by the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. To remind about everyone’s equal rights and everyone’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and [...]
In the last minute the Ministry of Interior in Serbia stopped the Belgrade Pride planned for Sunday Sep 20. On Saturday morning the police suddenly stated that it would not be abel to guarantee security for the participants in the parade if the parade as planned was to be held in the center of Belgrade. [...]
On Sunday, September 20th, a Pride parade will be arranged in Belgrad. During the last attempt in 2001, peaceful demonstrators were attacked and beaten by nationalist groups and football hooligans. The police stood on the sidelines and watched. This time the Ministry of Interior and the police have promised to guarantee security for the participants, [...]
The Serbian ministry of Interior has promised to protect the participants of the Pride parade, which takes place on September 20th in Belgrade. We will be there to see how much force the authorities put behind their promises. In a letter to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and to Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic, Civil Rights [...]
One of Swedish Helsinki Committee’s partners in Serbia, the Gay Straight Alliance, report a rise in LGBT-related violence in recent weeks.
Belarus continues to punish the country’s human rights defenders. On July 16, the Belarusian human rights defender and lawyer Leanid Svetsik was sentenced to a huge fine. Svetsik has for several years been working with legal aid to human rights activists in the city of Vitebsk, who had received letters with threats from members of the Nazi-organization Russian National Unity.
The famous award-winning human rights defender Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped this morning in the vicinity of her residence in Chechnya’s capital Grozny. She was forced into a white car and driven away by unknown persons. Natalia Estemirova is a leading activist in the Russian human rights organization Memorial, which is a partner of the Swedish [...]
The Russian government must follow the principles of rule of law even when combating serious crimes, seven human rights organisations, including the Swedish Helsinki Committee, says in a joint statement. The organisations urge the authorities to take effective measures to prevent human rights violations after the recent unrest in the Caucasus. In June, the Interior [...]
Representatives of three independent media and the organisation MANS pleaded in an open letter to the European Commission and the Governments of the EU countries to react on the public statements against media and NGOs made by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Independent journalists are exposed to increased threats and pressure since Kosovo declared itself independent in February 2008, according to partner organisations to the Swedish Helsinki Committee in the country. The latest in a series of examples is the assault on well known journalist Jeta Xharra. It is with concern that the Swedish Helsinki Committee notices [...]
The Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna has been working in secret since 2003. After three attempts to register the activists are fed up and are now publicly announcing their activities, which are classified as illegal in Belarus. Three representatives of Viasna; Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovitj and Uladzimir Labkovitj made the risky statement on a press [...]
The Belarusian human rights organisation Nasja Viasna was on Thursday once again denied registration by the authorities. It is the third time in slightly less than two years that the foremost human rights defenders in Belarus are denied the right to work legally. The reasons for the denial are as absurd as previously. One example [...]
Biljana Srbljanovic, renowned Serbian writer and human rights defender, has been accused of disorderly conduct for her participation at the promotion of Pescanik radio show in Pancevo, Serbia. However, the members of the right-wing and nationalistic organizations who tried to disrupt the meeting were free to go. On March 1st, 2009, Biljana Srbljanovic attended the [...]
Today the EU launches its Eastern partnership aiming at creating closer bonds between the EU and six countries in east, among these the dictatorship Belarus. The project is launched at the EU summit in Prague where representatives of the Belarusian president Aljaksandr Lukasjenka will participate. At the same time it is exactly ten years since [...]
the third edition of the Moot Court competition, arranged by Civil Rights Defenders and the organisation Young Lawyers of Serbia, was won by the team from University of Rijeka, Croatia. The competition was held April 24-26 in Kotor, Montenegro and ten teams participated. This was the third time a team from Croatia won the competition.
Russia has been convicted for the hundredth time for human rights crimes committed in Chechnya. Four of five cases, decided on April 23, have been run by the Swedish Helsinki Committee in collaboration with Russian Justice Initiative or Memorial and concern disappearances or murder. On April 23 the European court for human rights announced verdicts [...]
On April 24-26 the Swedish Helsinki Committee and the organization Young Lawyers of Serbia arrange a trial game in the Western Balkans. Judges from high courts in the region and from the European Court in Strasbourg will participate in the panel of judges. In total 10 teams from Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia will participate in this year’s competition.
In the aftermath of the violence that followed the elections in Moldova on the 5th of April, the Moldovan authorities have harassed and arrested a great number of journalists from Moldovan as well as foreign media. The journalists are often and with little substance accused of having instigated and participated in the violence. In several [...]
After the forced eviction of 47 Roma families in one part of Belgrade, Serbia, the Swedish Helsinki Committee along with 42 NGOs demand urgent action from the authorities to solve the desperate situation of these 128 individuals in total. The authorities are urged to find appropriate alternative accommodation and to restrain from statements denying basic [...]
An all inclusive law against discrimination was finally adopted by the Serbian Parliament on Thursday March 26. It is a great result for the Swedish Helsinki Committee and for all the local NGOs that have been pushing for the adoption of this law for years. The whole process of adopting the law is a symbolic [...]
Voters in Azerbaijan have voted in favor of strengthening the powers of president Ilham Aliyev by approving the lift of the two term limit for the president. In a referendum that was held on March 18 almost 90 percent of the turn-out voted for the amendments of the constitution. The opposition, who had called for [...]
The organization for Democracy Anti-corruption and Dignity (COHU) in Kosovo has the past time been exposed to harassment by the Kosovo authorities, amongst others, Post Telecom Kosovo (PTK). The Swedish Helsinki Committee urges that the authorities of Kosovo investigate the intimidations. The Swedish Helsinki Committee encourages Kosovo authorities to carry out a full investigation related [...]
The Swedish Helsinki Committee is strongly critical to the decision of the Serbian government to withdraw the proposal for a law against discrimination. In this way they are giving in to pressure from among others the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is completely unacceptable that the religious communities are allowed to affect the legislation process in [...]
The LGBT organisation Coming Out, partner of the Swedish Helsinki Committee, has been officially registered by the government. This is the first case in Russian history when an organisation openly announcing as its goal advocacy for the interests of the LGBT community is registered by the government on the first try without any court intervention. [...]
The Belarusian authorities refuse to register the human rights organisation Nasja Viasna. This shows clearly that the Belarusian regime has failed an important test of their will to democratize the country, says Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of the Swedish Helsinki Committee. We believe that this is a matter of discrimination for political reasons. We are [...]
Two days before the planned press conference, the Director of Sava Centar notified the organisers that the report about the situation for LGBT persons in Serbia could not be presented in the Centre. “That kind of organisations are not welcome”, he announced. Gay-Straight Alliance, partner of the Swedish Helsinki Committee, has conducted a wide survey [...]
A group of NGOs, including four of the Swedish Helsinki Committee’s long-standing partners in Serbia, are starting a campaign for a day of remembrance for the genocide in Srebrenica. In an open letter to Serbian President Boris Tadic the organisations urge the president to support the demand for an official day of remembrance. The requirement [...]
Kosovo’s parliament has failed to appoint an Ombudsperson. This has negative consequences for citizens claiming their rights against the authorities in Kosovo, says the Swedish and Norwegian Helsinki Committees in a letter to Kosovo’s parliament. Mr Kole Berisha President of the Assembly of Kosovo Stockholm and Oslo, February 16, 2009 The Swedish and Norwegian Helsinki [...]
In an article in the evening newspaper, Aftonbladet, Swedish Helsinki Committee urges Sweden to offer asylum to Guantanamo prisoners. On the 11th December, Portugal’s foreign minister said that his country was ready to receive Guantanamo prisoners who cannot return to their own countries, and urged other countries to do likewise. Aftonbladet debatt 17 december 2008: [...]
Of the 163 cases reported up until now by The Swedish Helsinki Committee and The Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) to The European Court of Justice , 36 have been resolved, 25 of them in 2008. In all the cases, the judgement has been that Russia is guilty of gross violation of human rights in northern [...]
Belarusian human rights activists were arrested by the police while distributing flyers on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The police confiscated the flyers and registered the details of the activists’ passports before releasing them an hour later. All previous talk of the country’s democratisation seems hollow in the light of [...]
On November 27th Sweden’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers comes to an end. On the same day, the Council is expected to approve a convention concerning access to public documents.
On November 7th the popular film festival “Free zone” opens in Belgrade for the fourth year running. Civil Rights Defenders (by then, The Swedish Helsinki Committee) together with REX, has helped promote the festival and over the years it has become a significant part of Serbian culture.
Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz has ruled that Sweden must pay SEK 3 million in compensation to Ahmed Agiza who was expelled from Sweden on 18 December 2001. The decision follows conciliation talks between the Chancellor and the Swedish Helsinki Committee, which was representing Agiza.
If the so called FRA-law passes, it will result in the introduction of extensive surveillance which will not be in reasonable proportion to its purpose and the privacy protection that, according to international law, everyone is entitled to.