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

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

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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.

Alarming Deterioration in the Human Rights Landscape in Azerbaijan

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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.

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.

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

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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”.

Human Rights in Belarus

The Belarusian government continues to severely curtail freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, and the right to a fair trial. In 2012 new restrictive legislative amendments paved the way for even more intense governmental scrutiny of civil society organisations and human rights defenders. Harassment of human rights defenders, independent media, and defense lawyers by the authorities continues, including arbitrary bans on foreign travel. Several political prisoners remain behind the bars. Allegations of torture and mistreatment in custody persist. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus calls the restrictions on human rights “systemic and systematic”.

We are Looking for an Accountant/Administrator for Our Office in Moldova

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Civil Rights Defenders is now looking to recruit a competent and proactive Accountant/Administrator for our Moldova office, located in Chisinau. We are searching for a person with knowledge of the Moldovan accounting system and has the ability to handle all local accounting independently. A substantial part of work associated with this position will consist of administration and support to our partners, Are you that person?

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

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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.

Human Rights in Russia

Since 2000 the human rights situation worsened in Russia and has greatly deteriorated since Putin was reinstalled as President of Russia in 2012. State repression over the past few years became more sophisticated as legislation was adopted to discredit and/or attack human rights defenders. New laws restricting the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association have been introduced since Putin’s re-election. Russian authorities have made efforts to control and limit the last available channels for freedom of speech – Internet and social media through two new laws introduced in 2014.

Azerbaijan : The Repressive Side of the European Olympic Games.

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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.

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.

Human Rights in Moldova

In recent years there has been some positive developments regarding the human rights situation in Moldova. New legislation and policies have strengthened protection against discrimination and facilitated the promotion of freedom of expression. However, 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. In the breakaway territory of Transnistria, human rights abuses are grave.

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.

Authorities Must Drop Charges Against Prominent Journalist in Azerbaijan

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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.

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.

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.

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

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

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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

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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

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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 […]