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

Challenges to the European democracy were discussed in Yerevan


The 6th session of the Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy was held from 19th up to 21st of October in Yerevan (Armenia). The Forum was established by the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in Warsaw in May 2005 with the aim “to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizens’ participation”. It is open to all member states and civil society, and is aimed at enabling the exchange of ideas, information and examples of best practices, as well as discussions on possible future action in the field of democracy. Forum is organized in close cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Regional and Local Authorities, Venice Commission and other bodies of the Council of Europe.
This time the topic was “Perspectives 2020. Democracy in Europe - Principles and Challenges”. More than 200 representatives of governments, parliaments, regional and local authorities from all the Council of Europe member and observer States, as well as representatives of civil society and academic community, took part in the discussions.
The Forum’s work was divided into three sub-themes: “Law and democracy”, “Institutions and Democratic governance” and “Live Democracy”. Besides, as a complement to the plenary and working sessions, a “Democracy Fair” was organized, at which the Forum participants presented their materials and publications.

Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minister of Canada, in her speech at the Forum plenary session formulated three basic modern challenges to democracy in Europe and in the world: complacency, corruption and lack of capacity (especially in “young” democracies).
Among other threats discussed by participants there were such as the loss of public trust by politicians and governmental institutions, use of democratic mechanisms for pursuing private and corporate interests of individuals and increase of public support to anti-democratic ideologies and movements.
Issues of correlation between the instruments of “participatory” democracy (including both the long-standing, such as referendums, and the new ones, the appearance of which is associated with the development of modern information technologies) and “traditional” representative democracy, as well as the concept of the “right to democracy” and opportunity to consolidate it in one of the Council of Europe conventions also raised provoked a lively discussion.

Youth Human Rights Movement was represented at the Forum by member of the Coordinating Council Dmitri Makarov and YHRM participant Konstantin Baranov, who presented inter alia the article “Council of Europe: to Save It or to Let It Perish?” written by the Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Lyudmila Alexeyeva and the YHRM Honorary President Andrey Yurov. In the document the need for reform of this international organisation in order to restore its influence on the situation in the region and strengthen it as “a European bridge” between the East and West is proved from the standpoint of civil leaders. The following possible main directions of the reform are named: return to the original three priorities of the organisation: promoting human rights, the rule of law and pluralist democracy, pro-active position of the Council of Europe in cooperation with other European organisations (EU, OSCE, etc.) and enhancing the role of civil society organisations and ordinary citizens in its work.

In my opinion, this Forum clearly demonstrated that the Council of Europe in its current state is hardly able to deal with modern challenges. Thus, the very fact of holding the Forum in Armenia, in the state, the acting leadership of which has organized a violent crackdown on peaceful protests in March 2008, and quite a soft position of the official the Council of Europe representatives on the investigation of these events, have been criticized by the local human rights defenders and political opposition. On the eve of the event several Armenian human rights defenders had published an appeal to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Torbjørn Jagland with the demand to facilitate the release of political prisoners. Also, before the Government Guest House, which hosted the forum, a picket in support of political prisoners and democracy in the country was organized. “Council of Europe, do not support dictators! Do not betray democracy!” – the slogans said. Despite this, the topic of investigation of the events in March 2008 and the existence of political prisoners in Armenia attracted the attention of only a few Forum delegates. The protests themselves gave cause for some speakers to talk about the fact that it is a direct proof of the observance of the freedom of assembly in the country, and for the others – that the country had systemic human rights problems which make people to go to the streets”, Konstantin Baranov says.

Torbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in his speech at the closing session said that in his view, the main challenge for the organisation is the need to change the mind-setting of the Europeans, so that they learn to benefit from multiculturalism and diversity. For this to be achieved it is important to work on building relations between the different groups of people. Jagland called this approach “deep security”. He also drew attention to the growing trend of internationalism and the need for limitations on national sovereignty, without which effective human rights protection is impossible.Since the moment he was elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe in late 2009 Torbjørn Jagland called for a radical reform of the organisation, which should help it to adapt to contemporary conditions and challenges.
Conclusions of the discussions in the framework of the Forum will be published for commenting and discussion on its web-site, and then, after finalization, will be taken into account in determining the agenda of the Council of Europe in the sphere of developing and consolidating democracy.

YHRM team for interaction with the Council of Europe: