Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly: «musketeers - 20 years after»


The 20 years Anniversary Meeting on 20 years of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HCA) was held from October 1 to 3 in Istanbul (Turkey). The event called together 80 participants from more than 15 countries.

This meeting was the first HCA conference since the conference in 2000 in Baku, when the representatives of the Youth Human Rights Movement learned about the Assembly for the first time and cooperate closely with this organization till present days.

The Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly is the unique international network founded by dissidents and intellectuals from East and West Europe, these people wished to break dividing lines and to avoid the menace of war.

The network creation history is connected with Pan-European movement “for the Europe free from nuclear weapons – from Poland to Portugal” that was founded in 1980 on the base of public appeal against nuclear weapons of few British activists and intellectuals – European Nuclear Disarmament (END) appeal. This appeal was unique, because hardly for the first time in the history of “cold war” its authors refused to take part of one of hostile sides. They made an appeal to disarmament of the whole system of military alliances that divided the Europe in two parts in 1945. “We must act as if united, neutral and peaceful Europe already exists. We must learn to be loyal not to “East” or “West”, but to each other, and we should ignore prohibitions and restrictions forced by any national government…Our main goals should be to free Europe from confrontation, to détente the relationships between United States and Soviet Union, and finally – the dissolution of both powerful alliances” – the text of appeal says.
This movement won the widespread support among intellectuals and politicians from many countries. In 1982 – 1991 the participants of the movement managed to hold few “European anti-nuclear convents” in different cities – from Brussels to Moscow. After signing the agreement on withdrawal of intermediate-range nuclear weapons from Europe in 1987, the European nuclear disarmament movement having reached its goals came to an end. However, the participants of the movement used an idea of direct cooperation of citizens from different countries as well as their developed relations and experience in order to create a new international network.

In 1990 in Prague the participants of the movement adopted a declaration of Helsinki Citizens Assembly foundation: “Helsinki process is very important and we can’t rely just on government and politicians who are concerned with national priorities; the process should develop and strengthen constantly by participation of signatory country citizens…Overcoming of Europe division – first of all is a work of civil society, of citizens acting together…across national borders. It means that the creation of new social relationships, new forms of dialogue allowing citizens to communicate with government and with each other, to press on political institutes and to solve many issues not involving governments…Helsinki process should be completed from “up” as well as from “down”. Let’s create the Helsinki Civil Assembly as a constant public forum where peace-making and civil groups, as well as individuals and institutions representing wide range of views, can exchange of experience, discuss common problems and where possible to develop joint campaigns and strategies”.

Like many “Helsinki groups”, created in many European countries and in the USA, founders of HCA were inspired by the spirit and letter of Helsinki Final Act of the CSCE (1975), where for the first time in recent history were fixed mutual commitments of states of “Greater Europe” (including the USSR and other states of “Eastern bloc”) on peace maintenance and human rights observance. However, unlike other international NGOs, such as “International Amnesty”, Helsinki International Federation and others, the HCA adopted an approach combining peace-making and human rights defense, that focuses not on monitoring and expert analysis, but on real activism and work on site (including trouble spots). Among its founders were also Soviet dissidents, including Galina Starovoitova and Marina Pavlova-Silvanskaya.

Within 20 years of Helsinki Citizen Assembly existence its members from more than 30 countries of Europe were working actively on national and international level: participating in solution to conflicts in former Yugoslavia and in the former Soviet Union, holding international conferences on peace and dialogue between nations, youth schools on intercultural dialogue and understanding (SIDU), publishing international magazine “Collage”…the HCA became one of the first international NGOs who received consultative status under the Council of Europe. The HCA activists took part in development of World and European Social Forum. In 2001 the Middle East Citizens’ Assembly, MECA has been also established with direct involvement of HCA.

In Murat Belge’s words, one of founders of international HCA and head of HCA – Turkey, the HCA Anniversary Meeting participants reminded “musketeers 20 years after”. Indeed, time had no mercy for young idealists of late 1980s – early 1990s: some of HCA founders couldn’t come to the Anniversary Meeting because of health problems, others are no longer alive. As for the Assembly, de jure it ceased to exist as an international organization 10 years ago, it exists as informal network of activists and civic groups. However, the HCA founders along with musketeers are still active (almost all of them continue to work actively in different civic organizations, research centers and etc.) as well as their brainchild continue its existence in many countries ( France, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bosnia, Montenegro etc.), former Assembly offices keep its authority and influence as civic organizations, they stay in touch and realize joint projects.

Three days of Anniversary Meeting passed in discussions on issues and challenges faced by European civil society today, including: globalization, erosion of citizenship, modern militarism, nationalism and xenophobia, balance between religion and politics and etc. Heated discussions were revealed by the question of European integration that went completely in the wrong direction different from the expectations of idealists of 1980 -1990s. In the 2000s European integration almost completely reduced to European Union consolidation and enlargement, the civic organizations in their turn are constantly criticizing the EU domestic and foreign policy (particularly migration issues, human rights and conflict resolution), as well as the building of new “Berlin wall” in the form of the Schengen area. As a result, the conference participants decided to discuss the modern crisis of European values in the beginning of 2011 within the bounds of special round-table conference “How far the end of Europe?” (on the analogy of international discussion “Where the frontiers of Europe?” held by HCA in 1994).

The future of Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly in new conditions was a special subject on the agenda. What are the current challenges facing by the network? Are the today HCA activists and groups able to face challenges of modern world? How to change and consolidate the network structure? All these questions were discussed by the Assembly members many times – but this time with the participation of “veterans”. All in all, only time will show the ways of network development. In the meantime, the network co-chairmen Bernard Dreano(France) and Arzu Abdulaeva (Azerbaijan), who had been elected to this post 10 years ago, announced their decision to delegate authority to the new generation of leaders. “quartet” of 4 new leaders: Florent Schaeffert (France), Siegfried Weber (Austria), Emel Kurma (Turkey) and Isabella Sargsyan (Armenia) who should undertake a mission of network coordination and development.

The HCA Anniversary celebration was preceded by the annual International Youth School on intercultural dialogue and understanding (SIDU), this time the subject was “Multiculturalism, identity and democracy”. Traditionally the School was attended by several journalists and YHRM members from Russia, Ukraine and Armenia.

The YHRM International Service