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Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.
Armenian journalists and editors have united in defense of their imprisoned colleague, Editor – in- Chief of “Haykakan Zhamanak” (Armenian Times) newspaper, political prisoner Nikol Pashinyan.
Editors and journalists of major Armenian newspapers and websites organized a protest action in Yerevan urging theArmenian authorities to stop the assaults against Nikol Pashinyan in prison and release him immediately. On November 23, a number of Armenian newspapers were published with the “Free Nikol” slogan on their front-page.
Nikol Pashinyan, 35, is a journalist and activist of oppositional Armenian National Congress movement and has been persecuted for his political views since March 2008. Pashinyan was imprisoned in June 2009 in connection with the dramatic events of March 1, 2008 in Yerevan that followed the February 19, 2008 rigged Presidential elections. The journalist is accused of inciting violence against the authorities and organization of mass disorders in breach of the law. The court trial was racked with innumerable abuses of the law, not least of which was the consistent violation of the principle of equality between the prosecution and the defense.
Despite the solid criticism the Armenian authorities received from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, European Union, United States Government and many other international organizations and foreign governments with regards to the trial and imprisonment of Pashinyan, the issue remains unsolved and Nikol Pashinyan is presently serving his three year and eleven month sentence in Kosh prison.
Recently, he has been subjected to physical and psychological abuses while in prison for his refusal to cease writing articles for his newspaper from the prison and for his continued criticism of the government. Pashinyan has been attacked 4 times in the last two months the most recent on the journalist took place on November 17. Two masked individuals assaulted him while he was asleep. Prior to any investigation of the case, prison authorities issued a statement proclaiming that nothings had happened and Nikol ‘has seen it in a dream.’ Only after the journalist presented them with evidence - his bed sheet with footprints of military boots and traces of blood - an investigation was actually launched. The threat to Pashinyan's health and life remains very high.
“We call upon our colleagues, journalists and human rights defenders worldwide to support us in our struggle for freedom and justice. We believe that actions of international solidarity will sober the Armenian authorities and empower Armenian civil society in its fight for Armenia without political prisoners,” says Isabella Sargsyan from Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Armenian Committee.
5 November Russian human rights defenders and journalists have a meeting with top-managment of "Microsoft" corporation in New York. The meeting was organized by Human Rights First, a well-known American human rights NGO and international Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM). The Russian delegation included - Anastasia Denisova, director of Youth Group for Tolerance "ETHnICS" (Krasnodar), Lyudmila Kotova, an editor-in-cheif of VOLGAinform news agency (Samara), Galina Kulebyakina, co-executive of Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk) and Ramil Akhmetgaliev, laywer, legal analyst of Interregional human rights association "AGORA", which protected these activists and journalists from unlawful criminal persecution for an allegedly pirated Microsoft software.
The parties discussed the licensing conditions of the software for non-governmental organization and minor media outlets. After the publication in the New York Times in September 2010, the company announced that it would lauch the new license for 12 countries, including Russia.
Ramil Akhmetgaliev: "In my opinion the meeting was successful. Microsoft listened to our recommendations. We believe it is necessary for Microsoft not only to launch the new licensing program, but as well to change substantially the way company attorneys take part in criminal cases in the regions of Russia".
Luidmila Kotova: "I am glad, that Microsoft turned its attention to the problems of Russia journalists and hope that we will have positive results of our trip. I hope at least that selective persecution of journalists and human rights activists by means of the company's attorneys will be stopped".
Anastasia Denisova: "It was important for us to establish trustworthy relationship with representatives of Microsoft Corporation. The impression is that it did happen".
The international project “Are we ready for Peace” took place from 4 to 24th of September, 2010. SCI Germany was the main organizer. Representatives of SCI Germany, the UK, Switzerland and partnership organizations from Russia, namely “Sodrujestvo” (Cheboksary) and YHRM took part in this project.
The main aim of this meeting was marking out the main ideas of “peace work” in different countries and different organizations, analyzing the key concepts and definitions which are connected with this activity. The main question of this meeting was “What is the meaning of Peace for us?”, “Are there any differences in understanding of Peace?”. And as a result, marking out a common platform for working together in this sphere.
This project had 3 parts. Firstly, participants visited some SCI projects in Moers( Germany). During the second part all of them were separated in some groups and were distributed to different SCI branches in Belgium and France. They visited the International Secretariat in Antwerp (Belgium), the office VIA in Brussels and some others organizations. The third part was devoted for visits to the Russian organizations and making conclusion of this project. During this part participants discussed questions about volunteering, NGO and Human Rights in Russia, the main difficulties of cooperation between organizations both in Russia and in other countries. The expert Elizoveta Zhirikova (“Compassion”) was invited, who describe the situation with Alternative Civil Service in Russia.
One participant Svetlana Ivolgina, YHRM correspondent said: “The main result of this meeting was opening new horizons of possible partnerships between Russian and European organizations. During this project some ideas of possible cooperation were created and we hope they will be work out successfully.”
YHRM Inform Service
We invite you to join the international week of the educational actions "Crystal Night – NEVER AGAIN!"
For some years, the week during November 9-16 is filled with the events connected with personal and social counteraction to racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Special events and picketing, movie screenings and exhibitions, flash mobs and performances, seminars and conferences are held these days by individuals or social groups, members of non-governmental organizations, social movements and local communities, teachers, artists, researchers and journalists. Despite differences in occupations, opinions, beliefs and way of life, citizens of many countries do not spare time and efforts to save humanity, love and peace, to protect them from the ideologies of hatred, hostility and terror.
They know that fascism and totalitarianism were not the only possible options for the European people neither in the first half of the XX-th century nor today. We always have alternatives but we should not forget about them and make them visible and significant in our past, as well as in our present and future.
The organizers believe that "If we do not promote alternatives to fascism (xenophobia, militarization, totalitarian thinking) literally everywhere, it is fascism that remains the only possible future scenario."
IN WHAT WAY CAN WE COOPERATE?
The organizers of "Crystal Night - Never Again" campaign are committed to collecting information about both individual and collective, educational and eventful public non-violent acts performed by you in Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia or in the illimitable space of the Internet. Please mail the information about such acts to:
Anyone can become one of the campaign’s sponsors and seek support (informative, expert, advisory and most unexpected) or offer it to other participants, both as an individual or society member. To achieve this end, you should send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also get or share/post additional information about the campaign in various social networks and blogs:
Live Journal Campaign Community - http://community.livejournal.com/nikogda_snova/profile
Twitter - https://twitter.com/#!/NIKOGDA_SNOVA
FACEBOOK - http://on.fb.me/diJILx
Looking forward to hearing your responses!
Among the organizers of the “Crystal Night – Never Again” are by now
Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance (YNRI) www.ynri.yhrm.org and и International Network of Human Rights Education and Civil Enlightenment (HRECE) www.hrece.yhrm.org
European network UNITED for intercultural action www.unitedagainstracism.org
International network «Young Europe» www.youngeurope.org
Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) www.yhrm.org
with the participation of Humanitarian Project "Epigraph" and Scythia National Congress
The team of the English Internet project Rights in Russia has invited the members of the Youth Human Rights Movement Andrey Yurov, Dmitry Makarov and Anastasia Nikitina to join their Advisory Committee. The project has been working for almost one year, collecting unique first-hand information about the situation of human rights in Russia, primarily by taking opinions and viewpoints of human rights defenders into account.
In his interview on the website HRO.org the editor of the project, Simon Cosgrove, who also shares the goals of this unique project, suggested Russian human rights organizations to participate by sending information about problems of human rights issues to this e-mail adress email@example.com (in Russian!).
Cosgrove says, that on the one hand it was simply a personal wish to gather together in one place as much information or at least links about human rights in Russia in English language as possible. On the other hand, and of course this reason is more serious, there is a real interest in human rights in Russia abroad, but there is a lack of knowledge about these issues, because of a deficit of easily accessible and trustworthy resources in English.
Thirdly, the voices of Russian civil society activists are outside Russia often heard less loudly and clearly than they deserve it. I think their views and opinions are often known, but little outside Russia. It is true, that non-Russian media often interpret the opinions and statements of Russian human rights defenders, and NGOs also transmit and interpret the opinions and statements of civil society activists from Russia. And of course, it is a very positive thing that they do this. But nevertheless in this process of interpretation and transmission, to a significant extent, the voices of Russian human rights defenders themselves get lost.
As a matter of fact, most materials in the website HRO.org are available in English. Besides, readers can subscribe to these English-language materials by sending a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find our materials on Blogger, Facebook, Google Reader, Live Journal and Twitter.
On behalf of YHRM we invite all its members to report about their work and human rights issues by using the website RightsinRussia.info
Dear Youth Human Rights Movement correspondents and participants,
Gradually our Movement is mastering modern technologies. Besides our Twitter and Facebook accounts, we have also added an online questionnaire for Youth Human Rights Movement correspondents. You won't longer have to download the questionnaire and send it to email@example.com.
Everyone willing to join the YHRM can spend only 10-15 minutes to fill out the online questionnaire. Therefore, you can share the news with any of your friends who want to become our subscribers but have not had time to do the subscription formalities.
For us, YHRM International Secretariat, the launch of the online questionnaire is a first step to create an opportunity for YHRM correspondents and participants to find like-minded people in their regions, develop mutual programs, projects, and support one another on the platform of the web-site www.yhrm.org .
We hope that in the nearest future we will be able to share the news about new opportunities on YHRM website. Follow the news.
YHRM International Secretariat
At the meeting on the new law “On Police”, on 23-th of September 2010, the president of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev proposed to introduce some amendments into the bill text. The president proposed to introduce identity discs for future police officers, to create a single call-center for receiving complaints against the police and furthermore to discuss the possibility of granting to detainees the right to call.
We remember that all three amendments are part of the proposals of Russian branches of Transparency International-R and Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) within the public campaign “Five Simple Amendments for the Police”. These amendments gained the most votes in the discussion of the Police Act on the website zakonoproekt2010.ru.
Medvedev has not mentioned two other amendments from the winning bloc of proposals: a ban on preemptive recordings on camera of the police officers actions, and the commitment of the lawyers to take down a transcript on administrative violations on the spot, without resorting to "delivery" at the police station.
“Identity discs should be made and be carried at a well visible place; that is important for district staff and patrol officers”, - said Medvedev at the meeting. According to him, sometimes a police officer doesn’t introduce himself or does it in his own way. Within “5P”, the package of amendments, a compulsory element of police uniforms should be a stripe or badge with a photograph, not just ones with name, surname, position of the police officer and the name of the department in which he works. If president Medvedev also meant that remained unclear.
“It is clear that president Dmitry Medvedev has sent the law back for revision and pointed out that certain amendments to it must be made. In what form they will be included in the final bill is not clear yet. This can be considered as an indication that the voice of civil society activists was heard, but it can not be considered as a victory. This is an intermediate result, about which, we are glad, of course,but it isn't the expected final result of our campaign. In this sense, we are onward planing and are still insisting on that, that the amendments would be introduced into the bill, as well as on the fact that they would be implemented. We're going to continue to collect signatures and send these proposals to the group, which is working on the bill. And after the introduction of a bill into the State Duma we’re going to insist on, that these amendments would be adopted.” - has commented Dmitry Makarov, member of the Coordinating Council of the Youth Human Rights Movement (one of the initiators of the public campaign “Five Simple Amendments for the Police”) this statement of the president of the Russian Federation.
YHRM Information Service
From 9 to 13 of November the anti-racism and anti-discrimination exchange, as well as the exchange of alternative social projects, took place in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Initiators of the on-the-spot visit for young Russian activists were European Network against racism UNITED for Intercultural Actions, Youth Human Rights Movement and Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance.
The main goal of the visit was the review of new techniques, tactics and strategies of the anti-fascism and anti-racism work, as well as the comparison of Russian and Dutch experience of civil works. .
During four days the participants of exchange (activists, developing various anti-fascism and anti-racism initiatives in Russia, correspondents and the YHRM members from Murmansk, Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh) got together and communicated with Dutch NGO (Amsterdam anti-discrimination office and Youth center), networks (UNITED), action teams (anti-fascist Alert! magazine), alternative and social spaces (communes in squats) who are occupied with education, victim assistance, support of migrants and minorities and etc. in Amsterdam and all over the country.
The Netherlands has a rich and complicated history in discrimination counteraction, especially during the World War Two Period. This is proved by the exposition of the Museum of Resistance, that shows the history of Dutch people in the 30-50es: how it turned out that thousands of citizens (first of all - Jews and homosexuals) were removed from the country and died in “death camps”, about the choices made by people who wasn’t directly affected by Nazi regime – to assist occupiers, to take refuge in silence or to resist. The Dutch Theatre, where Nazis herded Jews before sending them to “death camps”, reminds about that time, it is the place where the music and human laughter will never be heard again. The memorial “Never again, Auschwitz” also reminds about the time of concentration camps, its broken mirror reflects the contemporary Dutch sky that never will be the same after this experience…
Another witness of gloomy past is the story written by Jewish girl Anne Frank in her diary, hiding for a long time with her family from Nazis, she was betrayed by someone of her acquaintances and her short life closed in concentration camp. But for the founders of Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is not enough just to tell their visitors “the story that happened in this house”, it is important for them to talk also about today’s world. Can we really say that the terrible events of early 40’s in Europe are in the past and will never come back? Researches and educational programs of Anne Frank House are aimed at work with the memory of past events, in order to build the future without killing and repressions based on discrimination of any kind. There are the plans to revive educational work in Russia since this year: to hold exhibitions and screenings.
The Netherlands have also the Present that is very complicated and ambiguous. Like all over the Europe, the nationalist parties are gaining more influence, anti-emigrant slogans are coming not only from leaders and members of far right groups, but also from ordinary people. Detention centers for refugees and migrants thrive, the conditions in these centers don’t correspond the conception of Human Rights and Human Dignity.
But in Netherlands there are people who don’t accept the fact, they are looking for alternatives; squatting in abandoned property intended for demolition; they are building their communes and communities, where people live under other rules and appreciate other values than all over the Europe; they are protesting against repressive laws and measures; joining in initiative groups and extensive networks (such as UNITED or YHRM), in order to defend their ideals, to look for justice jointly and to prove the possibility of another world by everyday actions.
Besides the acquaintance with the experience of local initiatives and organizations, the participants of exchange gave an open lecture in The Hague University on discrimination and xenophobia situation in Russia. Students who study politics, economics and social aspects in modern Europe, showed their interest in the subject, they were asking a lot of questions to speakers, discussing.
The exchange gave a rise to the series of study-visits, planned jointly by the YHRM and UNITED. All follow-up visits, as well as the visits that took place in October, are planned within the bounds of 3-years project “Civic organizations on Society service: youth action - against racism, nationalism, xenophobia and for – human rights and intercultural dialogue”, the project began in November, 2009 supported by the “MATRA” program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands.
The info on the opportunity of participation in following exchanges will be provided later by the regular YHRM broadcast, it will be available also on website.
The YHRM Information Service
A workshop dedicated to international non-governmental organizations and coalitions in defense of human right activists took place in Oslo (Norway) on September, 3 -5.
The workshop was organized by "FrontLine Defenders", the Irish Non-Governmental Organization specializing in assistance and defense of human right activists in different regions of the World.
The purpose of this meeting was to gather the representatives of different networks and coalitions such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights House Network, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, etc.
Apart from these networks the International YHRM was presented at the workshop as a network of organizations which are engaged in defense of human right activists and give support to the activists in difficult situations.
At the workshop Anna Dobrovolskaya, a member of Coordination Council of YHRM and a participant of the team on Human Rights activists defense, presented the accomplishments of YHRM in this field, and also reported about the problems concerning the work of human right activists and human right organizations in Russia and in NIS region in general.
"Our main purpose was to share the experience on urgent measures in rendering mutual assistance and solidarity and discuss all feasible system actions that could be carried out to improve the human right activists' status throughout the world. Unfortunately I was the only participant from Eastern Europe and although I tried to describe the challenges specific for our region, but in general the discussion was focused on global, international issues. It was interesting but at the same time it was difficult to plan any further mutual actions, said Anna.
Special attention was paid to the support of the universal mechanisms which are effective all over the world, such as UN special rapporteur for human right activists defense, UN Guidelines for human right activists defense, etc.
One of the main topics was joining efforts on urgent reaction in cases of any pressure and threat occurrence. For instance, last year Coalition for female human right activists defense was formed with the exact same purpose.
Another hot topic of this meeting was the idea of consolidation efforts of different regulatory agencies in reaction to such cases. The workshop participants will continue to co-operate in this matter.
Russian NGOs may sign the statement here.
Between 13 and 16 September 2010 prosecutor's offices in Moscow and in a number of other cities carried out a series of coordinated inspections of NGOs unprecedented in its scale and intensity. Prosecutors’ representatives simultaneously entered the offices of several dozen leading Russian organisations working in the areas of human rights, public interest and social and economic issues, including Moscow Helsinki Group, Moscow Memorial Society, the voters' rights organisation ‘Voice’, Public Verdict Foundation, Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Transparency International Russia (Centre for Anti-Corruption Investigations and initiatives), Committee Against Torture, Centre for Social and Labour Rights, Social Information Agency and Institute of Urban Economics. The list of organisations inspected included about 40 NGOs.
The inspections were carried out in extreme haste, with violations of the law. In some cases representatives of the procurator's office arrived accompanied by police; sometimes posing as couriers. In some cases they did not allow the NGO staff who answered the door to return to the office and inform management of the visit. They failed to provide a reasonable explanation as to the purpose of the inspection, and letters giving the grounds for the visit were faxed only following repeated demands by the organisations under inspection. However, the faxes stated only that the inspections were being carried out on the orders of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office of the city of Moscow or the Prosecutor’s Office of Moscow’s Central Administrative District in order to ascertain “whether the organisations' activities were in compliance with the legislation regulating non-commercial organisations”. The inspecting officials demanded a vast quantity of photocopied and legally verified documentation, in an unrealistically short space of time, including not only the statute of the organisation and its registration documents, but also minutes of meetings, accounts, tax and reporting documents and so on. In some cases the NGOs were given until the following morning to supply the required documents, in other cases the authorities demanded that the documents be provided on the spot.
The manner in which the inspections were carried out was reminiscent of the seizure of documents in cases of alleged legal violations or criminal offences and was completely inappropriate in terms of the purported purpose of “checking compliance with legislation”. The officials carrying out the inspections stated that their superiors had instructed them that the action was of an urgent nature, referring to it as a “special inspection”. They further mentioned being under strict orders from their superiors and expected punishment if they did not promptly supply their superiors with the required documents. They also said they did not understand themselves what was happening. Some of the officials said they “were obliged to uncover some kind of violation”.
The true purpose of this unprecedented campaign of inspections can only be guessed at. The official justification does not stand up to any scrutiny. The usual inspections of an NGO's compliance with legislation are not conducted in such extreme haste and simultaneously in dozens of organisations. Overall, the actions carried out by the prosecutor's office give the impression of an operation designed to intimidate, even if this was not in fact their purpose.
Under the legislation governing NGOs, the agency endowed with supervisory functions is the Ministry of Justice. The provisions of the law “On Non-Commercial Organisations” establish procedures and rules for inspections conducted by the Ministry of Justice. In particular, the Ministry is obliged to give several days' notice of an inspection and to present a list of specific documents required within a certain period of time; an inspection must be conducted with regard to a specific time period; and so on. There is no legislation regulating the procedures for inspections carried out by prosecutor's offices. The formal requests presented by the prosecutor's office officials in the course of the inspections did not contain a specific list of required documents, or a clarification of the right to appeal against this kind of action. Nor did they specify to what period of the NGO's activities the inspection related. The inspections carried out by the prosecutor's offices clearly duplicated the supervisory functions of the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Tax Office.
Article 22 of the Federal Law on the procuracy, cited by the representatives of the prosecutor's office in support of their formal requests, gives them the authority to carry out inspections only on the basis of specific information about legal violations. Yet in this case the formal requests presented by the prosecutor’s offices contained no references to any legal violations. It is hard to imagine that on a single day some 40 leading organisations could suddenly have fallen under the suspicion of breaking the law. It is clear that the prosecutor's offices have violated the constitutional right to freedom of association, the law regulating non-commercial organisations and the protection of the rights of legal entities subjected to state supervision.
On August 7-10, Danyil Meshcheryakov, the Moscow Helsinki Group program director, and Andrey Yurov, the Youth Human Rights Honorary President visited Kyrgyzstan.
The main purpose of this visit was the consolidation of contacts with Kyrgyz human rights and civic organizations, getting an overview of the situation in Kyrgyzstan with its massive human rights violations (especially in the Osh region), as well as the discussion with Kyrgyz colleagues about actions to be taken by human rights and civic organizations of other countries to improve the situation in the region.
At the moment, local human rights and civic organizations are not able to resist all the emerging challenges they come across. A serious change of the situation would require a political decision, that may only be taken jointly at an international level.
That is why international attention concerning this situation is so important, and the coverage of the situation at the level of organizations such as the OSCE, UN or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) seems so necessary.
During the visit, suggestions were made to the Kyrgyz authorities, the authorities of other countries, intergovernmental organizations and international institutions about actions that can be taken to change the situation.
This visit took place under the auspices of a number of international civic networks and coalitions: the Network of civil interaction in Central Asia (Eurasia IDEA Network), the Network of Freedom, Legality and Rights in Europe (FLARE Network), the International Civil Initiative for the OSCE (ICI OSCE), the International Helsinki Association as well as International Youth Human Rights Movement.
We will keep you informed about the situation in Kyrgyzstan with the latest news.
Member of the YHRM Coordinating Council
On September 1st, the International Network for Students' Rights launches the joint awareness-raising action «Student, know your rights!»
Throughout September, we invite you to tell people in your high school, city, or even the whole country about what students' rights are, in which documents they are fixed, how it can be ensured that the statutes are followed, laws and other topics related to this issue.
This initiative is a continuation of last year's action "Student, know your rights!", but this year we propose to devote a whole month to the topic of students' rights:)
In our opinion, September is the perfect time for those students who are returning to their universities, as well as for those who make their first steps, to remember/learn not only about where the lecture halls are and what a student ID looks like, but that students' rights exist and how everybody can protect them by banding together.
There are various ways to participate in the action: you might, for example, just find out something new about your own rights, and later share it with close friends, but you could also contribute by informing more and more people at your faculty, university, city, or even the entire country ...
We have the common topic — students' rights, but the ways to talk about it are very different. By combining our ideas, efforts, energy, experience and creativity, we can talk to a lot of students about their rights and protection.
Within the campaign, we suggest to focus on the following 4 directions. However, if you think that there is something missing — please, feel free to add it! The more participants, the more opportunities ... :)
Documents on the rights of students
Education laws, the statutes of single institutions - in them, the basic definitions of a student's status within the university, city and state are embodied. Therefore, everybody should know about them.
Students' freedom of association
Organizations for students' protection - do they exist? What are they doing and can they actually help? Is it possible not to join those organizations but instead to create your own - if the existing ones are not satisfying?
Memo for freshmen
Freshmen do not know where to go, whom to talk to, what to do. Various "stumbling blocks" including the violation of their rights are waiting. A guide for the enigmatic world of university seems more than nessecary!
Discussions about the rights of students
Finally, we found it would be interesting to hold discussions with large audiences about what "students' rights" are. Are the rights of students restricted by the walls of the university? Where did they come from and where do they go?
Materials are available on the website of the International Network for Students' rights
We invite all those who consider talking about the rights of students as important as we do . If you organize a short information session for your classmates or distribute leaflets, it is also enough! From our side, we are ready to help by providing advice, techniques, and ideas from various awareness-raising materials.
To join the campaign, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The group for awareness-raising actions
International Network for Students' Rights
Lada Burdatcheva and Liuba Zakharova
On August 1st, a meeting for the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Act as a most important international document, took place in the Saharov Center.
The Helsinki act had been adopted in 1975 and cleared the way for The Council of Security and Cooperation in Europe which was later transformed into the OSCE. The actions that had been taken to improve the civil control of the states in compliance with international obligations were the first step to the creation of the International Helsinki Movement. On May 12th, 1976, the Moscow Group for promoting the implementation of the Helsinki agreements was founded by Y. F. Orlov and became the first group in the whole range of Helsinki Groups Worldwide.
In the meeting, which was organized by Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM), took part not only representatives of different civil, human rights defense and youth organizations but also groups from 6 different countries. Ludmila Alexeeva, one of the founders and current Head of MHG, told young activists about the history of the Helsinki Movement, the foundation of MHG, about principals and the ideology of the Human Rights protection movement.
The second part of the discussion was about the current situation in the field of Human Rights protection within the OSCE region. The OSCE still is the most important organization promoting complex security policies (including questions of the human dimension) within the whole area of the so-called “extralarge Europe” (plus Central Asia, Belorussia, the USA and Canada). It provides important mechanisms for the political control of international obligations and the sphere of Human Rights.
“It is absolutely clear that now, after the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Act, additional efforts from the side of civil society for the strengthening of the OSCE are needed. This will be necessary, if we don’t want the tone to be set by representatives of the parliaments, by authoritarian states and advocates with a wrong understanding of “state interests”-, as it was stated by one of the organizers of the meeting, the member of the Administrative Council of YHRM, Dmitriy Makarov. “In our opinion, this will only be possible through strengthening the human dimension of security which was the most important one for the Helsinki Movement, which has changed the structure of all international organizations over the time. Now there is the same situation like 30-35 years ago, and we need to unite efforts of all civil organizations for the consolidation of the OSCE and its human dimension”.
The International Academy "Vostok Forum" is a project on political education and a platform for discussion of topical social issues for young people from different countries. For the past 5 years the traditional venue of the Forum has been the region of Murmansk.
This year, 37 activists of various social, human rights and anti-fascist organizations and projects from Russia, Germany and Serbia attended the Academy; among them was Irina Aksenova, member of the YHRM Coordinating Council and other YHRM members such as Konstantin Baranov, Maxim Ivantsov and Alexander Drook.
This year's common subject of the Forum was “Freedom and security in modern society”. The main work was done within three discussion groups on the correlation of concepts of freedom and security, strategies of counteraction to radical discriminatory ideologies and on the critical analysis of discourse and extremism.
A special feature of the “Vostok Forum – 2010” was a new format of work, that was called “co-creativity”, which required both a greater degree of freedom and responsibility for the process and results from each individual member. The program, forms and methods of work were jointly determined by the participants, each of them acted as "expert" and contributed with their experience, skills and knowledge. The result of an intensive seven-day work was a collection of theses, reviews of situations in different countries, the exchange of methods of political education, as well as ideas of new common projects and campaigns.
One of the organizers of the Academy, Natalia Stepakova, commented: “the format of the fifth “Vostok Forum” was completely different. The work of the Academy was based on the principles of self-organization within the three thematic working groups. It was difficult and interesting at the same time: on one hand the participants had to spend much time on the organization of work in groups, on the other hand - the discussion and interaction process were very intense. I think the results of the “Vostok Forum” will be very interesting. In general, the most important goal of the "Vostok" for me is the checking of coordinates, meanings and goals for civic activists. It’s a unique opportunity to look at the European area and to jointly reflect on the problems and modern challenges - because the situation is constantly changing. In my opinion, one of the most important problems is whether we are a united force, or a scattered, exhausted group of activists ?..”.
“The specific results of the thematic groups are, first of all, ideas for new joint projects, such as a guide for activists in counteraction to repressions, the study of the ideas of neo-Nazism as a subculture and the political environment of Russia and Germany, a Europe-wide campaign against Nazis, the International Security Network protecting human rights activists and anti-fascists, etc. Moreover, the participants suggested various topics for future work of the Academy, such as historical memory, or utopia and models of the future” - commented Alexander Drook.
“Vostok Forum" is a partnership project of Russian and German organizations: Murmansk's regional public organization for youth "Humanistic Movement of Youth», linXXnet-Netzwerk Sachsen and the Brandenburg Youth Democratic Forum. From Germany's side “Vostok Forum” is supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, from Russian side the Committee of Cooperation with NGOs and the Youth Affairs of the region of Murmansk is contributing.
The third Summer School for Human Rights came to an end on August 1, 2010 in Moscow. Traditionally, young human rights defenders and civil activists from Russia and other countries get together for a week to see and talk to each other about Human Rights: about approaches to the overall idea, philosophy, protection mechanisms and problems faced by the human rights community.
The third School set a record on the diversity of countries the participants originated from: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Poland, France and Israel.
Looking around the audience in the training circle someone whistled: “Here we are, people from all over the world – from Bordeaux to Vladivostok”.
A lot of experts participated in this event – Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva, Chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group/MHG; Andrei Yurov, honorary President of YHRM and Chief of the International School for Human Rights and Democracy; Igor Sazhin, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission “Memorial” and chief-methodologist of the Summer School for Human Rights; Nina Tagankina, MHG executing director; Pavel Chikov, Chairman of the Interregional Human Rights Association “AGORA”; Sergei Pashin, founder of the Regional Public Association “Independent Expert Legal Council/IELC; Oksana Preobrazhenskaya, director of the Center for Global Protection as well as Dmitry Makarov, member of the YHRM Coordinating Council.
Like all the previous ones, for its participants the third Summer School became an opportunity to acquire knowledge, to see each other, to feel themselves as one community and to discuss main common subjects.
One of the School's participants commented:
“The third Summer School for Human Rights is the most extraordinary educational event I have ever participated in.
The program of the School brings in line theory and practice: interactive trainings and work in small groups. The material, offered by the School's organizers becomes part of you.
But to me the most important thing is that the School gives a fantastic opportunity to feel that you are among like-minded, wonderful, not indifferent, enthusiastic and big-hearted people, who inspire you how to live and work. And it’s great! ”
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