Eastern Europe

The overall human rights climate in Eastern Europe remains very negative. In Russia, officials and politicians continue to suppress freedom of speech and media. Discrimination of minorities remains a vast problem, especially for ethnic minorities and the LGBT community. Moldova lacks a free press and was ranked 148th out of 195, according to Freedom House in May 2009. In Belarus, civil and political rights are heavily restricted and freedom of assembly is constantly violated.

Select archive for specific country: Azerbaijan | Belarus | Moldova | Russia | Ukraine

24 Oct: 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.

A voice in exile for arrested Azerbaijani human rights defenders

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The writer Emin Milli published critical articles about Azerbaijan’s government – an act that was punished with imprisonment for two and a half years. Today, he lives in exile determined to show the true colours of the regime in Azerbaijan to the world. We invite you to a seminar with Emin focusing on the crack down against human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.

Human Rights in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country, with civil and political rights severely restricted and violated. The political power is completely concentrated in the hands of the president Ilham Aliyev and ruling party directly affiliated with him. The human rights record, poor to begin with, has been on a slide in the last two years and became especially apparent with Azerbaijan in international spotlight for hosting 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Most notable are violations of freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Little respect for rule of law in unrecognized territories

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In the breakaway region on Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine, the socio-political environment in the Transnistria region remains highly repressive. In this unrecognized territory authorities act with impunity. There is little respect for the rule of law, and fundamental human rights are routinely violated. 12 March the Executive Director of Promo-LEX Association, Ion Manole, will present an assessment of the current human rights situation in Transnistria and address these grave violations.

Little respect for rule of law in unrecognized territories

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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: http://bambuser.com/v/4434424

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

Russia ahead of Sochi – behind the charm offensive

Riot police hold brutal grip of protester at Bolotnaya square 6 May 2012, Photo Itar-Tass

As a response to criticism on Russia’s deteriorating human rights record, president Vladimir Putin recently signed an amnesty releasing the country’s most famous political prisoners, among them Mikhail Chodorokovsky and two Pussy Riot members. But others stay behind bars. Welcome to Civil Rights Defenders seminar to hear the story about Russia behind the Sochi charm offensive.

First LGBT activists sentenced under federal propaganda law

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A court in Arkhangelsk, Northern Russia has found two LGBT activists in breach of a law against “propaganda” promoting “non-traditional” relationships to minors. Nikolai Alexeyev co-founder of the Moscow Gay Pride Movement and a fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko were arrested and put on trial for picketing in front of the Children’s Library and fined 4,000 rubles (90 EUR).

Seminar: LGBT activist fighting oppression

Siarhei Androsenka became a police target when 71 activists from all over Belarus signed a application in the attempt to register the organisation Gay Belarus with the authorities. It didn’t take long until the regime responded. Activists were called in for questioning and police conducted raids on gay clubs in Minsk and Vitebsk. Others were stopped at the border and had their belongings searched. In at least one case, a member of the organisation was beaten in a police station. Hear Siarhei talk about the situation for LGBT people in Belarus and how it feels being forced into exile.

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.

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 http://vs.chn.sudrf.ru

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.

Civil society suffocating under Putin’s rule

Over the past several years, Russia has adopted a series of laws that has impeded the work of NGO’s and severely worsened the overall human rights climate in the country. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association are constantly under threat and the increasing discrimination and aggression towards ethnic minorities, migrants, and the LGBT community is a real and serious on-going problem. Racism, homophobia and xenophobia are widespread among ordinary people and instigated in most cases by the Russian state.

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.

Harassment of investigative journalist must be effectively investigated

Khadija Ismayilova (humanrightshouse.org)

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.

No sweet songs for human rights defenders

Vugar Goyajev

A year ago Swedish TV viewers’ attention was directed towards Azerbaijan; and wile the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Baku, the regime’s human rights violations continued in the backyard. Today, the lights have gone out but the repression of civil society has reached new lows. On 14 May, Civil Rights Defenders will release a report on the situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Listen to Vugar Goyajev’s presentation of the findings of the report.

Seminar: The path to democracy

Benedicte Berner

Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all come a long way from the time when communism was overthrown. But the path from transition to consolidation of democracy is long and difficult. Where do we stand today, in the three countries? What can we learn from the past? Four panellists will share their analysis and thoughts: Borka Pavicevic and Tanja Petovar from Serbia, Jan Urban from the Czech Republic and Miklos Haraszti from Hungary.

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.

Human rights in the new Putin era

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In May 2012, Vladimir Putin became President of Russia again. Since then, a series of laws that impede the work of human rights defenders have been adopted and in the North Caucasus the human rights violations continue. Civil Rights Defenders have gathered some of the most prominent experts on the North Caucasus to talk about how human rights are affected by Vladimir Putin’s return to Presidency.

Sapiyat Magomedova

Sapiyat Magomedova

The North Caucasian republic of Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places for lawyers in Russia today. In this region, Sapiyat Magomedova defends victims of grave human rights violations; like enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings and torture. She has taken on cases that many lawyers would reject due to security reasons, and althought it is considered almost impossible, she has won several of them.

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.

Seminar: Propaganda laws strangles gay activism

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A new law prohibiting ”propaganda” for homosexuality was recently passed in St Petersburg’s local parliament. Similar laws have already been passed in Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma, and there is a ongoing discussion about introducing propaganda laws on a federal level. Listen to Anastasia Smirnova and Alexandra Semenova about how the laws came about and how they affect the work for human rights, on Friday May 25.

Svetlana Isayeva

Svetlana Isaeva Photo: Tina Axelsson

Five years have passed since Svetlana Isayeva’s, at that time, 25-year old son ”disappeared”. In Dagestan, where the war against terrorism affects an increasing number of civilians, Svetlana, together with at group of others who have also lost someone dear, founded Mothers of Dagestan for human rights; an organisation that is on the victim’s side in the armed conflict between the Russian government forces and the separatists.

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.

Support our emergency operations in the North Caucasus

Oleg Orlov. Photo: Pakhomenko

Human rights defenders in the North Caucasus live in constant danger. In 2009 Natalia Estemirova was murdered because of her work. Her collegue Oleg Orlov risked prison because he accused the Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov of being responsible for her murder. Kadyrov had threathened Estemirova earlier. Through our Emergency fund will we be able to offer support in specifically vulnerable and urgent situations.

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.

Discussion about Sweden’s and the EU’s politics regarding Russia

Oksana Tjelysjeva är verksam inom Rysk-tjetjenska vänskapsförbundet och kolumnist för den oberoende tidningen Novaja Gazeta. Usam Bajsajev arbetar för den ryska människorättsorganisationen Memorial, som i år tilldelats det prestigefulla Sacharovpriset. Ingmar Oldberg är Rysslandsexpert och associerad forskare vid Utrikespolitiska institutet. Robert Hårdh är chef för Civil Rights Defenders. Martin Uggla är ordförande i Östgruppen för […]

Human Rights Defenders are Silenced in North Caucasus

This month’s seminar is temporarily moved to the afternoon and The Royal Coin Cabinett (Myntkabinettet)! Since this summer the human rights situation in North Caucasus has deteriorated dramatically. After the murder of the prominent human rights defender Natalja Estemirova in July, harrasments of human rights defenders have increased and several people have been murdered. Who […]