Latest news on human rights achievements, collaborations, events and activities.

“The Government is in Full Control of Citizens’ Lives”


On the 11th of October President Lukashenka will run for a 5th term in office. Civil Rights Defenders spoke to several Belarusian human rights defenders to hear what they have to say about the election. One of them says that “the presidential election in Belarus does not differ much from the previous ones”. The majority of the human rights defenders have chosen to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals.

Vietnam: Restrictions on Freedom of Movement Violate Domestic and International Law

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Authorities in Vietnam have blocked at least 33 human rights defenders and activists from freely travelling abroad or internally in the last six months, despite legal protection of the right to freedom of movement. Civil Rights Defenders considers these restrictions arbitrary and in violation of Vietnam’s obligations under its own Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Lao Government Must Investigate Sombath’s Disappearance


The 11th of September 2015 marks 1000 days since prominent Lao civil society leader, Sombath Somphone, “disappeared” at a police checkpoint on a busy street in Vientiane. Civil Rights Defenders joins 10 regional and international organisations in reiterating our call for the Lao government to intensify its efforts to conduct a investigation into Sombath’s apparent enforced disappearance. The full statement can be read here.

Azerbaijan: Dismay as Investigative Journalist Khadiya Ismayilova is Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

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Civil Rights Defenders condemns the politically motivated sentencing of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadiya Ismayilova to 7.5 years in prison. Today, the 01st September Khadiya was convicted by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. She was acquitted on an earlier charge of inciting someone to commit suicide.

Capacity Building in Moldova: Advocating, Lobbying and Navigating the EU Bubble


On the 27th of August Civil Rights Defenders ran a two-day empowerment workshop focusing on “Lobbying and Advocacy for Human Rights at EU Level”. As Moldova moves closer to full EU significant human rights issues still persist; lack of fair trials, inadequate conditions in prisons, hate speech, violence against women, people trafficking, the marginalisation of the Roma community and harassment of LGBT people.

CAMBODIA: Open Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UNHRC

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Members of the UN Human Rights Council should address the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia during the upcoming council session. They should also extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, a coalition of International, regional and domestic human rights groups including Civil Rights Defenders writes in an open letter today.

Alarming Deterioration in the Human Rights Landscape in Azerbaijan


The human rights situation continues to deteriorate in Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the European Games. On August 08th, the journalist Rasim Aliyev was brutally attacked and severely beaten by a group of people. He subsequently died on August 09th in a Baku hospital while human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were handed down lengthy prison sentences yesterday on politically motivated charges.

Fourth Viet Pride Promotes Diversity in Common Spaces in Vietnam


Despite a rainy weekend, hundreds turned out to attend the 4th annual Viet Pride in Hanoi, that included a bike rally through the streets of the capital city on August 02nd . As part of its work to combat non-discrimination worldwide, Civil Rights Defenders supports Viet Pride and has participated in this year’s events along with a growing coalition of local and international supporting organisations, including civil society groups, businesses, and foreign embassies.

Civil Rights Defenders Proud to be Part of Stockholm Pride Parade 2015

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The Swedish summer has been a veritable downpour, raining almost every day. However the clouds cleared on the 01st August 2015 as hundreds of thousands lined the street to welcome the endless themed floats and participants from all over the world attending the Stockholm Pride Parade 2015. Civil Rights Defenders was delighted to welcome visitors from Russia, Moldova, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo who danced through the liberal streets of Stockholm.

International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society in Belarus – August 04th

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August 04th is celebrated as the International Day of Solidarity with Civil Society in Belarus. It is all the more important as the human rights landscape in Belarus has not improved, having been overshadowed by events in Russia and Ukraine. This was underpinned by Miklós Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus in his report to the Human Rights Council at the end of June where he noted no real improvements in the human rights situation in the country.

Published in the Irrawaddy: Human Rights Defenders Continue to Suffer in Burma


Min Min* has been actively promoting land rights issues for over two decades. In the late 1990s she was arrested and imprisoned for her political activities, and during her detention she was subjected to torture and severe abuse at the hands of authorities. After languishing in prison for years, she was finally released. Undeterred by her experience, she continued to pursue her rights activism.

Ethiopian Authorities Release Two Zone 9 Bloggers and Four Journalists


Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the release of two Zone 9 Bloggers who were arrested along with four other bloggers and three journalists in April 2014 on incitement and terrorism charges. In what is seen as an unprecedented move by the Ethiopian authorities the three journalists were also released with all charges against the journalists and bloggers dropped. Another journalist who had spent more than four years in prison has also been released.

Russia’s Upper House Approves First List of 12 ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organisations


In less than a month since the passing of a controversial law on “Undesirable Foreign and International Organisations” the Russian authorities have now taken steps towards banning 12 overseas organisations. Many of the organisations contained on the list consist of prominent US based organisations. Under the law they are deemed “to pose a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state”.

Remembering the Victims at the 20th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide

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On the 11th July Civil Rights Defenders will join the ceremonies to commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia & Herzegovina which represents the largest genocide in Europe since World War II.The Srebrenica genocide took place in July 1995 led by members of the Army of Republika Srpska, under General Ratko Mladic, now on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Crackdown on Civil Society in Cuba Continues to Worsen Despite Warnings


Civil Rights Defenders is shocked to have learned that Antonio Rodilles Project Director of the independent State of Sats has been severely beaten by state security officials and that 80 human rights activists were arrested on Sunday 05th July. This is despite the stark warnings from Cuban civil society and international organisations such as Civil Rights Defenders to the EU and USA regarding the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Cuba.

Fourth “FUTURA” Competition to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 3-5 of July, Civil Rights Defenders will organise the fourth “FUTURA” competition at the Municipal Court in Travnik (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The competition is a qualifying event for prospective participants of the Regional Moot Court Competition Before the European Court Of Human Rights. “It is much more than just a qualifying stage for the Moot Court Competition before the ECtHR, it is also another chance to gain experience, knowledge and establish contacts amongst fellow law students”, said Ena Bavcic at Civil Rights Defenders.

Meydan TV Director Emin Milli Threatened for Critical Reporting on European Games


Civil Rights Defenders together with several other civil society organisations who are members of “Sport for Rights” has issued a statement calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to put an end to their ongoing attempts to silence critical reporting. The statement follows after Meydan TV Director Emin Milli reported that he had received a threat from the Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, in connection with his critical reporting on the European Games.

End of Sentence for Lawyer a Reminder of On-going Detention of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam

Le Quoc Quan, a prominent human rights lawyer and blogger, left An Diem prison in Quang Nam province last Saturday after completing his 30-month sentence. Civil Rights Defenders considers the 2013 “tax evasion” charges against Quan reprisal against his writings on human rights abuses and democratic reforms, topics usually not reported by State-controlled media in Vietnam.

Proposed Bill will Restrict the Activities of NGO’s in Uganda

Maina Kiai

Civil Rights Defenders is concerned over the trajectory of a bill that aims to regulate Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in Uganda. The NGO bill introduced in April 2015 is due to be debated by Ugandan legislators and contains several provisions aimed at curtailing Freedom of Association. It seeks to repeal and replace the current Non-Governmental Organisation Registration Act Cap 113 regulating NGO activities in Uganda.

First Judgement for Wartime Sexual Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina


On the 24th of June, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued the first judgement on reparations for survivors of wartime sexual violence in the Western Balkans. Two former members of the Army of Republika Srpska have been sentenced to ten years of imprisonment each for rape committed against a minor in 1992. The claimant will also be compensated an amount of approximately EUR 13.550.

Azerbaijan : The Repressive Side of the European Olympic Games.


Azerbaijan’s human rights record will once again be in the spotlight on the 16th June 2015 when Civil Rights Defenders will co-sponsor an event at the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled Azerbaijan: The Repressive Side of the European Olympic Games and organised by Human Rights House Network, International Media Support and People in Need, the event will shine a light on the severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms and the imprisonment of civil society.

The Misuse of Anti-Terrorism Laws in Africa with Civil Rights Defenders at the UN Human Rights Council

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During the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council which will be held in Geneva on June 16th, 2015 Civil Rights Defenders will co-sponsor an event entitled “The Misuse of Anti-Terrorism Laws in Africa”.This event will discuss and analyse anti-terrorist legislation trends across the African continent and how they are often used as a smokescreen to stifle dissenting voices instead of addressing genuine national security concerns.

Human Rights Organisations Propose Amendments to Ensure Adequate Regulation of Hate Crime

Ena Bavcic

As a member of the Coalition for Combat Against Hate Speech and Hate Crime, Civil Rights Defenders supports the Coalition’s proposed amendments to the Criminal Code of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which aims to ensure adequate regulation of hate crime. We also ask the House of Commons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to organize a session on the topic of adequate regulation of hate crime.

UN Report Highlights Gross Human Rights Violations in Eritrea

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On June 08th The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea issued a damning report and subsequent statement finding the Government of Eritrea “responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled, a large proportion of the population is subjected to forced labour and imprisonment, and hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled the country”

Serbian Media Landscape: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


On the 26th of May, Civil Rights Defenders organized a hearing event about the Serbian media landscape at the European Parliament. Although officials talk of progress in the Western Balkans media, there are numerous problems. “Last year, three important media laws were adopted, all of them drafted in cooperation with Civil Rights Defenders’ partners. Still, each Government sees the media, and especially the Public Broadcasting Service, as something to control.” said Goran Miletic at Civil Rights Defenders.

We are seeking an intern for the East and Horn of Africa Department

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We are seeking an intern for the East and Horn of Africa Department for the autumn semester. The internship consists of assisting the Program Director in his daily work. The tasks are varied and include writing articles, conducting research and monitoring of regional developments, drafting reports, some administrative work and assisting with the preparation of various activities and events in Sweden and abroad. Please send your application no later than the 30th of June.

Joint Statement Calling for the Release of Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience

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Several human rights organizations call on the Vietnamese government to abide by their international and domestic obligations and immediately release Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Vietnamese ICT entrepreneur and blogger. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was arrested under the initial charge of “promoting anti-government propaganda” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Published in The Nation: Myanmar, Thailand abandoned Rohingya in their time OF NEED

Published in The Nation May 22, 2015: In the past three years, more than 100,000 Rohingya have fled sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where they have been subjected to a systemic, state-sponsored campaign of violence, abuse and discrimination, leading to a humanitarian crisis. The international community must awaken now, grasp the urgency of the Rohingya’s plight and do more. How many more mass graves need to be uncovered before we ensure accountability from the government of Myanmar, and put an end to systemic abuses against a recognised vulnerable population?

Media Indicators Report Launched on World Press Freedom Day

Media Indicators Report launched on World Press Freedom Day

On World Press Freedom Day, Civil Rights Defenders and its partners in Kosovo presented the first Media Indicators report on Kosovo. It focuses on journalists’ perception of key media issues, based on indicators of the European Council. “Although a majority of journalists think that the legal framework guarantees freedom of expression, they believe that it is not implemented.”, said Sarah Maliqi at Civil Rights Defenders.

Two Organisations at Risk of being Labeled as ‘Terrorist Entities’ in Kenya


Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), The National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K), the Eastern Horn of Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and Civil Rights Defenders has learned of the intention of the Inspector General of Police of Kenya to freeze the bank accounts of two highly respected Kenyan human rights organisations following the recent terrorist attack at the University in Garissa.

Governments in Latin America Should Open the Doors to all Cubans


9 to 11 April US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will participate at the Summit of the Americas, the first time both countries have met at this summit in decades. The report that Civil Rights Defenders will publish today demonstrates, however, that any willingness to cooperate with Cuba is solely reserved for the Cuban government. The interest to invite Cuban human rights defenders is wholly limited.

Bishop Held Liable for Spreading Homophobic and False Statements in Moldova

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Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the decision of Bălți Court of Appeal in Moldova who rejected the claim of Bishop Markel from the Moldovan Orthodox Church requesting an annulment of a previous judgment against him for hate speech. In June of 2014, the Court had ruled that Bishop Markel’s statements represented hate speech and incitement to discriminate against homosexuals and this decision was upheld at the Appeal Court in late February.

Human Rights Defenders School Launched in Serbia

Human Rights Defenders School Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

Civil Rights Defenders recently launched a capacity building Human Rights Defenders School in Serbia. The initiative kicked off in Belgrade on January 16 and is an effort to strengthen Serbian human rights defenders in their field of work. During seven months participating activists in Belgrade and Nis will receive training in human rights advocacy and be able to attend lectures and seminars led by prominent human rights experts.

Authorities Must Drop Charges Against Prominent Journalist in Azerbaijan


In August 2014, Emin Huseynov, Director of the Azerbaijani Institute for Reporter’s Freedom and Safety (IRFS), was forced into hiding in order to protect himself from Government repression. At the time Emin Huseynov was accused of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of power, charges that Civil Rights Defenders and other international human rights organisations consider politically motivated.

Media Outlet Raided – Severe Breach of Media Freedom

Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

On 28 December the Police of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina forcibly entered the premises of Klix-ba, one of the most influential web portals based out of Sarajevo. According to a police spokesperson the raid was said to have been sanctioned by Sarajevo’s Cantonal Court. The Police entered the premises in an attempt to uncover the source of a recording that is said to be that of Republika Srpska Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic.

Seminar: Meet Belarus’ most prominent human rights defender

Foto: Arkivbild Viasna ©Jura Sidun

After 1,052 days in prison Ales Bialiatski was granted an amnesty on June 21 of this year and immediately resumed his work as a human rights defender and President of Viasna. In cooperation with Östgruppen, Civil Rights Defenders invites you to meet with Ales on October 24 where you can hear about the current situation in Belarus and the country’s relationship with neighboring Russia and Ukraine.

24 September: The state of Internet freedom after the coup in Thailand

Photo: Thai Netizen Network

Since the military coup three months ago, Thailand has introduced a ban on political gatherings; politicians and activists have been arrested, and media censored. In the light of these developments, we invite Thai human rights defender and Internet activist Arthit Suriyawongkul to talk about the present state of freedom of expression and how human rights defenders can operate under these conditions.

Newsletter no 3, July-September 2014


Read about how Civil Rights Defenders focus-area has expanded in the past year and the fantastic news that Belarus’ leading human rights defender Ales Bialiatski has been released – after 1052 days behind bars. Meet some new faces in our team, and learn about how the respect for LGBT rights are increasing in Kosovo and Albania. Also, take part of our plans for Stockholm Pride 2014 and learn about our intensified focus on human rights in Sweden.

Swedish Attorney Generals’ verdict on damages awarded to Roma lacks a human rights perspective

John Stauffer Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

The Attorney General recently ruled that the Roma who were illegally registered by the Skåne Police should receive 5,000 SEK in damages from the state as a result. The Attorney Generals’ decision is based almost exclusively on the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protections conclusions regarding the legality of the registers but certain flaws have clearly been highlighted. 

Tomás Ojea Quintana on challenges in Myanmar

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Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, describes the ongoing reforms as a positive step towards democracy in Myanmar, while stressing the remaining challenges. On 20 March, he visits Civil Rights Defenders to talk about future challenges for human rights in Myanmar and the role the international community can play in addressing these challenges. Watch live on:

Little respect for rule of law in unrecognized territories


In Transnistria, the breakaway region on Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, the socio-political environment remains highly repressive. Authorities act with impunity, there is little respect for the rule of law, and fundamental human rights are routinely violated. Don’t miss an interesting breakfast seminar with Ion Manole, on the current human rights situation in Transnistria. Live on:

Anti-gay law in Uganda violates international conventions

H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

February 25, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill strengthening the punishment against homosexuals, who can now be sentenced to fourteen years up to life in prison for sexual relations with the same sex. Civil Rights Defenders, along with many other human rights organisations, have called for Uganda’s government to reverse the decision and urged them to guarantee Ugandan citizens their human rights

Testimonies from North Caucasus

Den 5 maj 2011 mördades Khava Sultygovas enda son Muslim Agiev i Grozny, Tjetjenien under så kallad "antiterroristattack". Ingen utredning om hans påstådda kopplingar till terroristorganisationer hade gjorts. Foto: Pieter ten Hoopen

The North Caucasus is situated only 70 miles from Sotji. It’s the site for Europe´s bloodiest conflict in present times and it’s a region where the local population suffer indiscriminate violence on a regular basis and where fear and uncertainty are an every day reality. From January 30 to February 23 the photo exhibition entitled, “Testimony from North Caucasus”, can be viewed at the museum Fotografiska in Stockholm

Serbia must protect the rights of asylum seekers

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Extensive and violent protests erupted in Serbia when local authorities in the cities of Obrenovac and Vracevic decided to give 200 asylum seekers temporary winter accommodation in dormitories, as a result of freezing temperatures. Aggravated citizens blocked the road leading to the accommodation facilities and one of the dormitories was set on fire. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the lack of reaction from the police and the failure to protect the asylum seekers.

Organisations call on international solidarity with the newspaper Azadliq

On 17 October, just a week after the presidential election, the sale of several daily newspapers including the newspaper Azadliq was banned in metro stations in Baku. Azadliq is one of few remaining opposition news outlets in Azerbaijan. “We urge the country’s judicial and political authorities to stop hounding it and we call on international solidarity with the daily”, said Civil Rights Defenders and several other organisations in a joint statement.

Housing Rights Activist Yorm Bopha is freed on bail

Cambodia November 22, 2013 : Photo Licadho

22 November the Supreme Court ordered the release of Cambodian Housing Rights activist Yorm Bopha, but only on bail. The Court further ruled that the Boeung Kak Lake activist should have her case returned back to the Court of Appeal for a retrial. “The fact that Bopha is released on bail is positive in the respect of her being able to go home to her family and friends. But it is at the same time disturbing that the Supreme Court does not drop the charges, but instead decides on a new trial in the Appeal Court and thereby allows a continuation of this politically motivated process.” says Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia director at Civil Rights Defenders

Gold and silver to the Civil Rights Captcha


The PR Agency Prime won gold and silver with the campaign “Civil Rights Captcha” for Civil Rights Defenders. The gold was in the category “Campaign of the year in social media”, and the silver in the category “Mass media campaign of the year”. Spinn is a Swedish competition in effective marketing PR, ie non-purchased marketing (publicity, seminars, internet etc.) in private channels (web, email, newsletters, lectures etc.).

Cambodian Supreme Court must free housing rights activist Yorm Bopha


On 22 November, the Cambodian Supreme Court is hearing the final appeal of human rights defender Yorm Bopha. Civil Rights Defenders believes she is imprisoned for her human rights activism.For more than a year, Yorm Bopha, has been in prison following an unfair trial. In 2012, the housing rights activist and mother of one was sentenced to three years for what the Phnom Penh court determined as “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” without any concrete evidence presented against her.

Convicted for homophobic attack

On 22 January, Russian LGBT activists held "We are for Traditional Values" demonstrations in protest of the federal bill to ban "propaganda of homosexuality", as a response to the authors, who cited Russian traditional values as the basis for banning "propaganda of homosexuality to minors." Photo: Maria Kozlovskaya.

An attack on a participant of a peaceful action on LGBT-rights has been met with legal consequences for the first time in Russia. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the ruling and hopes that the verdict is a step in the right direction. In the aftermath of the so called ”propaganda laws” there has been an increase of aggression and violence towards LGBT-people in Russia. Despite this the courts usually treat the cases as hooliganism instead of hate-crimes.

Unique action of a Supreme Court judge in a region of impunity

Judge Vakhid Abubakarov, photo from

A judge from the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic has ordered the withdrawal of a case after being blackmailed. This is the first time ever that a judge in Chechnya has publicly spoke out regarding the pressure upon judicial bodies. Chechnya has gained an infamous reputation when it comes to impunity for grave human rights abuses and the lack of an independent and transparent judiciary.

“Seven” on tour in the Balkans

Photo: Seven on tour

Starting on the 5th of November, the documentary play Seven will be on a tour in the Western Balkans, visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania. Seven is a documentary play about gender based violence based on interviews with seven activists from around the world. The tour is supported by the Swedish Institute and coordinated by Civil Rights Defenders in cooperation with local partners in each country.

Peaceful post-election protests in Cambodia mobilise masses

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In Cambodia, peaceful protests which took place over three days last week mobilised tens of thousands of people who came out in force to call for electoral reform and a review of the results from the parliamentary elections in July. The opposition party collected thumb prints from some two million Cambodians. The authorities responded with restraint, essentially protecting the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Percy Bratt resigns as chairperson of Civil Rights Defenders

Percy Bratt

Civil Rights Defenders Chairperson Percy Bratt has announced that he will immediately resign from his current position due to ill health. Percy Bratt has for many years contributed his invaluable knowledge of legal issues both at national and international levels to the organisation.Together with the organisation’s Executive Director, Robert Hårdh and contributions from board and staff members he has been instrumental in pushing the organisation forward.

Second Albanian LGBT activist included in the Natalia Project

Xheni Karaj. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

“I was once spat at by a man on the street while at a demonstration. Albanian men get very threatened by lesbians so I challenged him. I grabbed his hand and told him I would not let go until the police arrived” said Xheni Karaj, LGBT activist from Albania who is now included in the Natalia Project security system. The Natalia bracelet represents an important physical, moral and psychological support to human rights activists.

New media and art as tools for human rights advocacy

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Civil Rights Defenders is organising a five-day working conference in Przno, Montenegro, from the 22 to the 27 October. The conference is entitled “Empowering people – ideas worth spreading“ and will gather human rights activists from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The goal of the conference is to increase the participants’ capacities in using new media and technology as well as art in their advocacy work.

Opinion: Police records about the Roma community in Sweden is institutionalised racism


Police records regarding the Roma community in Sweden have deeply upset both the Roma and many in mainstream society. It revealed a sinister practice intent on flagrantly violating the values that are fundamental to a democracy. Respect for human integrity , dignity and rights of the citizen have obviously got lost some where in the police force’ skewed philosophy in combatting crime.

Election will not be credible unless people can criticise the government

Photo: Aziz Elkhanoglu, Art for Democracy

In a joint call issued on the eve of the Presidential election, 22 human rights organisations and press freedom campaigners warn that the failure of the government of Azerbaijan to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government. Azerbaijan should take immediate action to ensure fundamental rights are protected ahead of the election.

Swedish comedians stand up for freedom of speech

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Tickets for this year’s most important comedy show have been released. 16 December, some of Sweden’s top comedians will fill Södra Teatern in Stockholm in a charity show called “Stand up for freedom of speech.” In many places in the world freedom of speech is silenced and to speak critically about injustices can have terrible consequences. For the comedian agency Roa’s comedians it was therefore important to stand up for freedome of speech while supporting Civil Rights Defenders with the profit from the show.

Belgrade Pride in Swedish media

For the third year in a row Serbian authorities banned the Pride Parade in Belgrade. The frustration and disappointment within the LGBT community was unmistakable and Civil Rights Defenders immediately condemned the decision. The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet interviewed Civil Rights Defenders Program Director for the Western Balkans, Goran Miletic, and wrote; “Now, he and the others must continue to battle against the wind”

Natalia braclet protects LGBT-activist in the Balkans

Kristi Pinderi, LGBT activist from Albania, is one of the human rights defenders included in the Natalia Project.

Kristi Pinderi from Albania, is one of the first human rights defenders from the Western Balkans to be included in the Natalia Project security system. For him the bracelet represents a strong moral support in his day-to-day work: ”Behind the bracelet there is an entire system and organisation with people, institutions, and media ready and willing to act in case of an emergency. It is a way for human rights activists not to feel alone and it is definitely the best tool for empowering them”

Structural racism and hate crimes still a big problem in Sweden

Alternative report CERD

A hearing was held with the Swedish government in the UN Racial Discrimination Committee due to previous criticism from the committee. Civil Rights Defenders, along with Swedish United Nations Association, and nearly fifty other organizations presented a parallel report to the UN Racial Discrimination Committee. The report shows that structural racism, discrimination and hate crimes still are serious problems in Sweden.

Harassment of investigative journalist must be effectively investigated

Khadija Ismayilova (

In a letter to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and the Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov, several human rights organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, express their profound concern regarding the harassment and intimidation of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The organisations urge the president to ensure an effective investigation into the threats against her.

House of representatives adopted proposed definition of hate crime

Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 24 July, the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the legal amendment proposed by civil society, including a definition on hate crime. “I am very pleased that our effort to foster a coalition of organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina has yielded such a positive outcome”, says Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders.

Trans Gender Europe: Bosnia adopts trans-inclusive hate crime law

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TGEU reports that “Bosnia i Herzegovina’s House of Representatives recently adopted hate crime legislation that is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation”. The legislation reads “Whoever publicly incites or makes publicly available pamphlets, photos, texts and other materials which advocates, urges or incites hatred, discrimination or violence directed by any person or group of […]

Definition of hate crime in the Criminal Law needs to be improved

28-30 November 2012 Civil Rights Defenders organised a workshop on hate crimes and hate speech. The workshop included training in monitoring, advocacy and litigation strategies. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

The Draft of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, recently sent to the parliament, contains narrow and incomplete legal formulations of hate crimes and exclude several protected grounds. This caused Civil Rights Defenders’ partner to propose changes to the legal formulation of hate crimes. Civil Rights Defenders urges the authorities to take the needed steps in accepting the changes.

Burmese human rights lawyers inspired in Serbia

Human rights lawyers in Burma do not waste any time when trying to make use of emerging opportunities as their country is opening up. But rule of law is weak, civil society initiatives are nascent and threats against lawyers commonplace. To support them, Civil Rights Defenders has organised a two-week study tour to Serbia for ten activist lawyers, to meet with our partner organisations that work in the field of legal aid.

20th Anniversary of the massacre in Štrpci

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.

MFA’s reply on human rights defenders

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.”

Future professionals trained in freedom of speech

Photo: Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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.

The culture of silence and impunity must be broken

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.

Summoned to court for publication of human rights monograph

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.

“Foreign agents” law now in effect – NGOs’ premises vandalised

Photo: Yuliya Klimova, Memorial

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.

Stockholm process strengthens human rights defenders at risk

Map of the North Caucasus

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.

Supreme Court allows dissemination of information on LGBT issues

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.

Ukraine prohibits ‘gay propaganda’

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.

New report: Long road to press freedom ahead

Cover report Press Freedom Serbia

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.

We trained judges in freedom of speech

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.

Combating prejudices with radio debates

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 – Vibrant news in three languages

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.

Map of victims of the Yugoslav wars

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.

Improving protection against discrimination

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.

Maintaining the rule of law in cooperation with Russian Justice Initiative

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.

Fighting corruption with Transparency International

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.

Enabling Roma communities to access basic human rights

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.

Monitoring detention centres and mental health facilities

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.

Improving accountability of duty holders

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.

Empowering the most vulnerable with Tirana Legal Aid Society

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.

Monitoring trials – in cooperation with Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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.

Queer Festival in Sarajevo

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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 […]

Belgrade Pride Cancelled

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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. […]