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Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.
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! ”
Freedom of Information Development Institute
Timur Tskhovrebov, YHRM correspondent and civil society activist from South Ossetia, was attacked and beaten on July 24 in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), because of his participation in the Georgian-Ossetian Civic Forum that was held on July 17, 2010 in Leiden (Netherlands). The Forum activists signed an appeal to participants of the Geneva talks, this appeal calls for assistance in solving problems of Georgian and South Ossetian civilian population. The activists insisted on top priority of humanitarian needs over political issues, this idea contradicts the official position of the Republic of South Ossetia authorities.
Timur Tskhovrebov recognized three attackers – the South Ossetian parliament deputies who are protected from prosecution by parliamentary immunity, that is why it seems particularly important to ensure effective and impartial investigation. Life and health of Timur Tskhovrebov are still at risk.
We ask You to lend support to Timur Tskhovrebov and to appeal the South Ossetia authorities calling for an effective investigation of this incident, as well as to the Russian Federation authorities in order to provide support for the investigation (Timur holds Russian passport as well as South Ossetian).
Please send appeals to:
Authorities of South Ossetia
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Please send appeals to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of South Ossetia, as well as copies of these to the President and the Attorney General. It is also necessary to send appeals to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and a copy to the Commissioner for Human Rights.
But be careful! When you send letters to South Ossetia, please make sure that you write the addresses exactly as we wrote them. Letters addressed to Tskhinvali go through Vladikavkaz, that is why it is important to write the exact address.
We ask you to inform us about the letters you have sent in order to know the number of appeals. Contact us: email@example.com, indicating in the subject line - “Appeal on Tskhovrebov”.
The programme "Solidarity" of YHRM International
Timur Tskhovrebov (born in 1958) – journalist, civil society activist in South Ossetia, one of the founders of the “Iron” party, editor-in-chief of the only independent South Ossetian newspaper “21Seculare ”, Chairman of the Union of ex-combatants in South Ossetia, one of the founders of the Georgian-Ossetian Civic Forum, that was established for the improvement of the socio-economic situation on the conflict territory, protection of human rights such as the freedom of speech and movement, settlement of family and other links destroyed because of severe travel restrictions and the return of refugees.
August 8th, 1998 - 12 years ago a group of young Human Rights protectors and civil activists announced the founding of Youth Human Rights Movement. They considered the education of a new generation of Human Rights protectors which would advocate Human Rights and dignity a very important issue. Today, YHRM is a community that is united in an international network and ready to help and show solidarity. YHRM is an original university when education is based on the principles of non-violence and experience. More over, it is an organization which aims at making some positive changes in the world.
Happy Birthday to all of you and ourselves! We hope there will always be enough aspiration to make this World much better!
On behalf of the International Secretariat of YHRM
The fourth annual conference of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum “FINROSFORUM 2010” (http://finrosforum.fi/) was held on July 21-22, 2010 at the cultural center “Sofia” in Helsinki. This platform united a group of experts from Russia, Finland and other countries in the fields of politics, economics and human rights. More than 100 representatives of the civil society of the two countries and guests from other European countries took part in the discussion. The event coincided with the visit of the President of the Russian Federation in Finland.
Forum participants authored an appeal to the presidents of the two countries – Dmitry Medvedev and Tarja Halonen, where they expressed their hope that in the field of modernization there will be included the construction of independent judiciary, the guarantee of law primacy as well as the development of strong democratic institutes in Russian-Finnish co-operation. Otherwise, “any technologic modernization efforts will fail”, as it was stated in the open letter of the forum's participants. The authors of this letter are concerned about the initiative to empower the FSB to issue official warnings to physical persons; to the discrimination of human rights defenders, political movements' members, trade unionists and journalists; to an “unjust judicial system and a lack of procedural guarantees”; what is more they are concerned by the fact that “Russian society is still deprived of freedom of assembly”. For the full version of the document, please visit the FinRosForum website: http://finrosforum.fi/finrosforum-2010-6.
Among the Russian participants of the Forum were human rights defenders like Yuri Dzhibladze, Tatyana Kasatkina, Lev Ponomarev, as well as the YHRM members – Viktoria Gromova and Konstantin Baranov. Among the speakers were the well-known Russian politicians – Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Ponomarev, Oleg Kozlovsky, Marina Litvinovich, as well as the political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, and others.
This year's main subject of the meeting was the modernization of the Russian society, proposed by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. This subject was assumed to be a basis for the new program of co-operation between Russia and the EU - “Partnership for modernization”.
The second day of the conference was entirely dedicated to the project discussion aiming at creating new forms of co-operation between the EU and Russian non-governmental organizations. The focus lay on the question of the creation of a so-called EU-Russia Civic Forum.
“The YHRM, as one of the initiators of the idea of a EU-Russia Civic Forum, was very interested in the discussion of this project. At present, in different associations there are lots of discussions on aims, structures and formats of this new platform for the interaction between EU and Russian civil societies. Naturally, the participants of this process have different approaches to these problems. Russian Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations formulated their point of view in the special document – “Russian NGO Position on the establishment of the EU – Russia Civic Forum”, the document was presented to the Forum's participants in Helsinki by Yuri Dzhibladze, the President of the Democracy and Human Rights Development Center and the YHRM honorary member. The other points of view were read out by Fraser Cameron, the EU – Russia Center director in Brussel, and Heidi Hautala, the Chairman of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights and head of Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. As a result, the discussion's participants generally supported the idea of the establishment of a Civic Forum and agreed to continue the discussion of these issues remotely. The next landmark in the project development should be the meeting of Non-Governmental Organizations – the Forum's initiators from different countries, scheduled on September 2010”, - commented Konstantin Baranov, the YHRM working group coordinator on interaction with EU institutions.
The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum was founded in January 2007 by a group of people who engage in democracy development and the Human Rights situation in Russia.
More information in Russian: http://kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/171888/
A meeting of the Global Civil Initiative for the OSCE was held on July 11-12, 2010 in Almaty. The Initiative is a coalition of leading human rights and civil organizations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, aiming at strengthening the role of the civil society within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The meeting was dedicated to the situation in Kyrgyzstan, to working out possible topics for the agenda of the Summit in October 2010, compiling recommendations addressed to Kazakhstan, as well as to the question of future development of the Initiative. It will draw attention to the fact that, for the first time the OSCE is headed by a former Soviet Union republic – Kazakhstan, 2010 is the year of the Kazakhstan OSCE Chairmanship. The OSCE is a unique organization, combining the Council of Europe countries and the European Union Member States on one hand, and Central Asia, Belarus, the USA and Canada on the other. The OSCE is also unique in the promotion of comprehensive security concepts that include not only military and military-political dimensions of security, but economical and human dimensions as well – human rights questions, primacy of the law and democracy.
It is no coincidence, that the OSCE with all its special focus on human dimensions is standing out against a background of a number of international intergovernmental organizations by its great opportunities of participation in the field. At one time, the participation of the Helsinki Movement, headed by the Moscow Helsinki Group, in the OSCE standards promotion in the field of human dimension, had seriously changed the international relations’ nature, emphasizing that Human Rights is a subject of direct and legitimate interest of all the Organization member states and civil society.
The goal of the Initiative that was created during a number of civil organization summits in the region (including the participation of the International Youth Human Right Movement (YHRM)) in Almaty in March 2010 and then in Kiev in April 2010, was set up to continue the traditions of the Helsinki Movement, and includes the working on the common position of the civil organizations, promoting new international norms and standards as well as enforcing mutual support in these areas.
During the press conference in the Interfax-Kazakhstan building on July 12 the International Civil Initiative was presented to journalists and representatives of the civil society. (See http://www.interfax.ru/society/txt.asp?id=144909). Sardar Bagishbekov (Voice of freedom, Kyrgyzstan), Vladimir Shkolnikov (ex-director of the Democratization Division of the ODIHR, the OSCE, the YHRM honorary member), Dmitry Makarov (The YHRM Coordinating Council Member, the YHRM team coordinator on the work with the OSCE) were the speakers at the press-conference. Andrei Yurov, the YHRM Honorary President, the Moscow Helsinki Group strategic development director read out the Initiative’s main goals and plans, highlighting the history of its establishment.
The declaration of the Initiative, its analytic materials and recommendations are available on the MHG website: http://www.mhg.ru/heldv.
For information you can also write to the MHG team's OSCE address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new website of the Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance that was under construction, is working now – www.ynri.yhrm.org. It offers more opportunities for the development and realization of new ideas. We also hope, that it has become more convenient for users.
On the new website you can learn more about the history of the Youth Network’s establishment, about its basic principles, its actual life, i.e. about main directions and problems of the Youth Network, and a little about the people it consists of. There is also a section for announcements and news on the website, concerning not only the life of the Youth Network, but also friends, partners and events that we are interested in.
So, we invite everybody to join us in filling our new website with fresh and important news, as well as to join the Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance itself. For further information about these topics, please visit the section How to join us.
The new website of the Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance – www.ynri.yhrm.org.
The Youth Network against Racism and Intolerance – is a thematic network and is part of the International Youth Human Rights Movement that unites people, civil groups and organizations engaged in non-violent racism and intolerance counteraction.
Network Press Service – email@example.com
We have already informed you about Boris Destin Missamou, the student from Congo, who was unlawfully expelled from Moscow State University of Food Production.
On 9 July 2010 an appeal on behalf of Inter-regional Free Students' Union and a number of other student, antifascist and human rights organizations was sent to the university administration. The appeal urged the administration to look into Boris Destin case more attentively, because the expel brought the foreign student, who had been injured in the attack against him, to the brink of survival. Till present time there is no reply from university administration, which speaks volumes for the attitude of university towards requests from students' and other civil organizations.
The foreign student filed the case and on 22 July 2010 the court hearing took place, but university administration did not show up. This proves the fact that authorities of the higher institution do not consider the situation serious enough. We would like to remind you that university dormitory guard does not allow Boris Destin even to get hold of his personal belongings!
Foreign students are some of the vulnerable groups in Russia, but even without this conspicuous factor, such a treatment to a student is impossible and it characterizes this university rather unfavorably.
We would like Boris Destin to be reinstated at university, and we would like this university to change its attitude towards the students.
Taking into account the attitude of university towards the student, we announce the launch of public solidarity campaign with Boris Destin.
We ask you to send the letter to the rector of MSUFP by fax +7 (499) 158–03–71 (examples of letter below).
Please, send the copy of the fax to Inter-regional Free Students' Union as well at +7 (4732) 54-55-30.
If fax is not available, please send the letter by regular mail to Moscow State University of Food Production, Moscow, 125080, Volokolamskoye Shosse, 11.
Please send the copy of the letter to Inter-regional Free Students' Union as well – 394000, Voronezh-center, post office box 237 or by е-mail.
If you have the opportunity to send the letter both via fax and regular mail, that would be most effective!
International Network of Students' Rights
Letter from an organization (in french)
Early on the morning July 23 the camp of Khimki forest defenders was subjected by double attack. Bandits acted as the vanguard of attackers, while riot police (called OMON in Russia) played the role of the chief forces.
A new felling was found in the wood recently. And work on destroying the wood was going there. The staff wasn’t numerous: it consisted of 8 persons, including both woodcutters and security guards. All of them were drunken and aggressive. So on July 22 forest defenders set up a new camp in the close vicinity of this felling, but not on the felling itself. About 15 environmentalists stayed in this new camp for the night. But they had very little time for sleep.
It wasn’t yet 5 o’clock at the morning, when forest defenders were waked up. A strange gang of unknown people in white masques came to their camp and began to threaten and scare the environmentalists. They even cried: ‘We would stab you to death!’ The bandit-looking young men were numerous. They number 40 to 50 in comparison with 15 forest defenders. Evgenia Chirikova, the leader of Eco-defense of Moscow Region, saw no other way out but to call the police. And the police arrived. However, the policemen found nothing breaking public order in the activities of men in white masques. There was no corpse yet. So the policemen intended to leave the place immediately.
But Evgenia Chirikova had another opinion. She didn’t want to wait until there would be corpses. So she lay down on the way of police car and prevented it to drive away. She kept lying on the ground for nearly two hours, between 6 and 8 a.m. So the two policemen had to stay in the wood. It’s probable that only due to Evgenia’s action the environmentalists have avoided a brutal use of force from the gang of men in white masques.
By 8 a.m. situation began to change. On one hand, several TV and radio journalists came to the camp. And this was the reason for Evgenia to get up and stop blocking police’ departure. But on the other hand, the woodcutting firm sent to the felling new machines accompanied not only by workers but also by numerous security guards. The machines began to fell trees, while the security guards pushed way forest defenders.
About 8.30 OMON (riot police) arrived to the wood. Its attack upon forest defenders was surprising and cruel. Several men were beaten and pushed in police minibus. But the worst hit were the two young women. Journalist Yelena Kostyuchenko from newspaper Novaya Gazeta received an injury of neck with a possible displacement of two neck vertebra. And Margarita Popova, who joined the environmental camp activist for the first night, was seized by her hair and dragged to the minibus. She wept from pain.
In the whole OMON arrested 7 activists and 2 journalists. The environmentalists’ camp was totally destroyed. The small group of activists, who avoided arrest, had to leave the camp’s remnants. The forest was surrounded by police: apparently they received a definite order to help the woodcutters. And the woodcutters used a new Japanese machine, which didn’t only fell trees, but also tear off the bark as well.
The group of nine arrested was transported to Khimki police department. However, according to Russian law all people accused in administrative infringement should be brought to the judge of peace the same day. So in the midday they were transported once again to Khimki court of peace. By this time several supporters of Khimki forest defense, who weren’t in the camp this unlucky morning, also came to the court. And their number was growing. The journalists also arrived, though their number was small.
The group of the arrested looked very tired. They practically didn’t sleep at night. But they didn’t yield. Evgenia Chirikova from time to time told the journalists, what had really happened in the wood. She tried to sleep in the intervals. Other members of the group, including Andrey Margulev, Yaroslav Nikitenko and Vladimir Morozov, also talked to journalists.
The first process began only at 14.30 or even slightly later. The courtroom was a rather small room with a rather dirty Russian state flag in it. The secretary of the court, a young woman called Luiza, promised to wash the flag in the near future. Except for the judge, the secretary and the accused, only 5 to 7 persons could place in this room. Of course, most of them were Khimki forest defenders, who organized video and audio recording of their own. The remaining people in the courtroom were journalists.
The first case was the case of Yelena Kostyuchenko. The judge Arkady Khalatov first read loudly the police version. According to it, Yelena allegedly prevented moving of police car. Then he let her speak. Yelena told the judge and the public that police version was a lie. When Evgenia was lying before the car, Yelena just squatted nearby to talk to her. Nobody of policemen asked her to leave. As for her arrest, it happened an hour later and was rather cruel. Yelena had an old injury of neck vertebra and now this injury was apparently worsened. She claimed that she received no medical aid spending several hours in police department. Yelena didn’t only feel pain in the neck but also a strong sickness. Only recently in the court she took a tablet and felt somewhat better.
With an intention to develop co-operation between the civil society and the European Union in their common goal of enforcing their support to human rights and democracy in the world, the European Commission has held the Regional Seminar on the implementation of human rights and democracy instruments for the countries of Eastern (Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Asia) and Southern (Mediterranean Region, Near East) neighborhood regions in Amman (Jordan) on June 29 –July 1, 2010. The Seminar was organized by the External Cooperation Programs Agency (EuropeAid) and the Directorate-General for the External Relations (DG RELEX) of the European Commission within the bounds of the Democracy and Human Rights Support Initiative of the Structured Dialogue on the Involvement of the Civil Society and Local Authorities in the EU external cooperation (so-called “Palermo II Process”).
The European Neighborhood was selected as location of the seminar due to the fact that the most part of the democracy and human rights projects financed by the EU is realized in our region.
The seminar gave the opportunity to exchange experience and views for more than 140 representatives of non-governmental (first of all human rights) organizations from the 20 EU Neighborhood countries, the largest European NGO networks and platforms, representatives of the European Commission and the EU delegations of neighborhood countries, as well as the representatives of the EU Member States and the European Parliament. The goal of the seminar was to define the role and the importance of involvement of the civil organizations of the different categories in the democracy promotion and the human rights defense; to consider the ways of increasing complementarity of the EU democracy and human rights programs; to define the role of stakeholders in creating an enabling environment for the civil society; to exchange experience and to collect the best democracy and human rights practices within the bounds of the EU international cooperation.
The work of the seminar was mainly focused on the three following aspects:
1) current state of democratic structures' support, freedom of associations and human rights activists’ protection; 2) realisation problems of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); 3) development of the civil organizations’ potential and cooperation with the Media. The participants have also discussed gender equality, involvement of the Youth and trade unions in the democracy and human rights activity. After each discussion there were formulated the main problems/challenges of the sphere under discussion, the best practices of cooperation between stakeholders and key recommendations for the EU Institutions and civil organisations on the improvement of their joint work in this field.
“It’s worthy of note that, the representatives of the civil organisations from such different countries as Palestine, Belarus, Lebanon, Georgia, Russia, Morocco have discussed mainly the same problems and challenges: insufficient (if to compare to projects financing) political actions from the EU side to provide the support to human rights and democracy in the neighborhood countries; priorities and approaches of the European structures to promote democracy and human rights do not always correspond to the local situation; bureaucracy in funding and managing the projects. NGOs urged the EU to flexibility of the procedures and financial risks management, especially in human rights defenders support working in difficult environment. The NGOs representatives, in their turn, were advised to use more “opportunities for the maneuver” in existing programs and increase the stability of their work. The equal participation in the seminar of human rights activists, representatives of the European Commission and the EU delegations, frank critique and lively discussions give us a hope that problems and challenges will be solved jointly. A number of NGO representatives from different countries showed their interest in the monitoring organisation that will show the use of recommendations, and we’ll make our best to make sure, that this recommendations are not in vain,” commented Konstantin Baranov, YHRM member, employee of the YHRM International Service, YHRM Network representative on the seminar.
After the conference the Best EU Practices With The Civil Society Guide will be published, as well as research on complementarity of all EU instruments in human rights and democracy in neighborhood countries.
Moreover, the seminar is just a part of a long and versatile discussion process within the bounds of the Structured Dialogue, which was preceded by a preparatory meeting in Brussels on May 27, 2010 with the representatives of the European NGOs Networks, the EU Member States and the Europarliament deputies, and it will be concluded by the final conference in May 2011 in Budapest. The recommendations, formulated on the seminar, will contribute to the design of the EU financial support beyond 2013 as well as the definition of the future EU policy on human rights and democratization.
A meeting between the representatives of the Russian NGOs with the representatives of the Delegation of the European Union in Russia on the analysis and evaluation of the human rights consultations between Russia and the EU took place on June 29, 2010 in Moscow. Consultations were held at the end of March this year, simultaneously with the conference on the analysis of human rights activists’ situation and measures for their protection in modern Russia. The members and the honorary members of the YHRM International have taken an active part in these conferences during the last few years, since 2008.
The consultations with the human rights and civic organizations on the human rights situation in Russia are traditionally the subject of much controversy; primarily, because the format is not quite clear and that the tripartite dialogue with the Russian authorities and the representatives of the European Union is not possible, as well as the actual, effective interaction with the EU officials for the change of the human rights situation in Russia.
The event on June 29 was the final meeting on the consultations’ evaluation; its results would be the basis for the EU representatives’ report on the analysis of the consultations and the Dialog on the human rights in general. The participants voiced their recommendations on the consultations format changes. Anna Dobrovolskaya, the member of the consultations and the participant of the meeting, summed up the event:"Although the dialogue with human rights activists is a regular event in the process of the interaction between Russia and the EU, it's quite a "hidden" event at the same time, neither public nor legitimized. We try to advance our position in the way of that the Russian state will have to respect the opinion and position of the European Union. Human rights activists may help to build an interaction most constructively." It is not a secret that the political relations between Russia and the European Union are very complicated and human rights very often become a bargaining chip and an argument in a dispute, rather than a basis for cooperation.
Russian human rights defenders interact many years with various institutions of the European Union, primarily in for changing the situation with human rights in Russia, as well as for discussing the pan-European human rights context. And there is hope that the change in format of the consultations on human rights, along with the establishment of other mechanisms of interaction (such as civil society forum Russia - EU) will make cooperation in the field of human rights the cornerstone of cooperation between Russia and the European Union.
YHRM International Service
On 23-24 June, 2010 in Washington, simultaneously with the second Presidential Summit of Obama and Medvedev, American and Russian civic organizations held a meeting, called Civic Society Summit. It was dedicated to the discussion of joint efforts of NGOs from both sides to develop Russian-American cooperation and to consider new possibilities for interaction of civic representatives from both countries.
Over 40 representatives from the 3rd sector of US and Russia took part in the work of 10 sections of the summit. Moderators of the group discussion on human rights protection were Yuri Gibladze, President of the Human Rights and Democracy Development Center and Dmitri Makarov, YHRM Coordination Council Member. The group has suggested 6 priority areas in the civic society cooperation for human rights protection: penitentiary system, police reform, court system reform, prevention of hate crimes, migration, counter-terrorism security. Some theme-lines were also brought for both countries to collaborate on.
Further format and conditions of American-Russian civic society dialogue were also suggested to be defined. “It is supposed to be a continuous process in all varied shapes, not necessarily tied to the official high-level meetings. The objective is to influence mutually the agenda of those meetings and the actions of our governments concerning important issues for us,” comments Dmitri Makarov. “Moreover, the aim of the civic dialogue is not only lobbing and joint projects drafting, but also the development of the general civic agenda as far as possible, and building up strategic partnership for civic organizations of our countries’.
A lot of the summit participants supported the proposition to build a permanent Coordinating Organ that would direct the process of the civic dialogue and promote the involving of more and more different organizations from both countries. The second day of the summit was devoted to the presentations of the achieved agreements across sections and innovations technologies serving the civic society. US State Secretary Hillary Clinton held a speech in front of the summit participants. Among the active members of the summit there was also Ivan Ninenko, YHRM member and Vice-President of Transparency International-Russia, who moderated the work group on corruption counteraction. The Washington visit gave YHRM the opportunity to meet different youth and civic groups and to discuss the opportunities to promote itself in North America.
The OSCE High Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination was held in Kazakhstan on June 29-30, 2010. The leaders of state authorities, global institutions and non-governmental organizations participated in the conference. The members of the Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) took part in the conference as the representatives of the civil society.
The conference was the follow-up action within the bounds of the Kazakhstan OSCE Chairmanship in 2010. It was preceded by the preparatory summit for representatives of the civil society of the OSCE countries. During the summit the representatives of the non-governmental human rights organizations made out the recommendations addressed to governments concerning the hate speech and hate propaganda counteraction; legislative rules on the racism combating; and anti-racism education. The YHRM representatives also suggested a number of recommendations (developed in co-operation with Moscow Helsinki Group), such as: to pay attention to the volunteers’ and human rights activists’ protection, and to prevent the misuse of anti-extremism legislation in the OSCE countries.
The most heated disputes during the conference have been caused by such themes as: islamophobia, modern anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, LGBT rights discrimination. During the session dedicated to the education in the field of anti-racism, Irina Aksenova, the member of the YHRM Coordinating Council, declared appropriate recommendations, prepared by YHRM within the bounds of the last year research “Xenophobia in Youth Environment. Regional Aspect.”
“It is strange, that during the conference there were not discussed the recent events in Kirgizia, meanwhile, a number of experts consider the situation as a failure of the very idea of such an intergovernmental platform as OSCE,” commented the participants of the summit.
During the conference the YHRM representatives managed to reach an agreement with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR, Warsaw, Poland) on the organization of a number of common educational events in Russia in 2010-2011, and the coaches training on the far right violence combating as well.
All the materials on the preparatory summit and the OSCE Conference will be available on the ODIHR website: www.tandis.odihr.pl
On July 2, at 14.00pm in front of the Embassy of the Republic of the Congo, gathered a group of people who participated in a picket in support of Congolese students.
Formerly this situation was highlighted in Julia Bashinova’s articles “What makes Congolese students picket” and “Is the Embassy of Congo going to protect its citizens?”. To sum up, the reason of this picket was the delay of payment of scholarships that Congolese students had not been receiving for 6 months; in fact, they were left to the mercy of fate by their own State and Embassy. It must be said, however, that in the morning before the picket the requirements were met in haste and the scholarship was paid to students, some of them received it for the first time. Everything seemed to be going well, so that there would be no reason to picket. But Congolese students and supporting civil organizations not only have the objective of solving of the problem with scholarships, but also of creating systematic mechanisms in the solutions of problems faced by foreign students in Russia. That is why a group of students and young activists drew up a letter where they formulated their main problems and ways of possible solutions; they tried to give this letter to the Congolese Ambassador in person, but did not succeed in it.
At 14.00pm the Ambassador left the Embassy hurrying for a meeting. The participants of the picket decided to pass the letter with their conditions to the deputy ambassador, who said that he was not authorized to take letters addressed to the Ambassador and disappeared in the building of the Embassy. They did not succeed to register the letter in the embassy's office either, because access to the Embassy is only allowed for people within the list of appointments, with a special invitation or for citizens of Congo. So, they were obliged to leave the letter in the mailbox near the Embassy's entrance.
Lada Burdacheva, member of the Congolese students aid-team and Interregional students' Trade Union, commented: “In the picket participated a few people – Julia Bashinova (YHRM), Vanya Ninenko (Transparency International, Russia ), Venik Dmitroshkin (journalist, Grani.ru), two Congolese students and me. Unfortunately, many Congolese students who recently arrived in Russia were frightened by this morning conversation with the Ambassador. But when you stand up for your rights, there are always people who blame you for not loving your country and being a rebel. And it happens not only in Congo”.
Now the foreign students and Russian civil organizations are waiting impatiently for an official answer from the Embassy and are wondering whether they will be obliged to picket again during the next six months to obtain the payment of regular semi-annual scholarship, or if at least one problem of foreign students is solved.
Only time will tell. For now we celebrate our small victory. Hooray!
The International Network on Student Rights,
Information Service: http://students.yhrm.org
On 10-12 of June IV Regional NGO Congress of the Council of Europe was held in Vilnius. 150 participants arrived from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and also from Poland, Lithuania, South Caucasus countries to take part in the Congress. It was first event of that kind after the Congress in Penza (more info about the Congress organization and civil activities around it is available here www.nopenza.cs-nis.org)
Before the Congress started additional discussion about the consequences of Georgian-Russian conflict and possible actions of civil organizations for the peace-making (reconciliation) and post-conflict work was organized. The Congress was hosted on the site of Lithuanian Sejm and was opened with the speeches of its members, representatives of the International NGOs Conference of the Council of Europe as well as with the speech of the main organizer – president of the Foundation for civil rights protection Stasis Kausinis.
The Youth Human Rights Movement has played active role in preparation and holding this Congress: Andrey Yurov, honorary president of YHRM, became a member of Preparative Committee, over 15 YHRM correspondents, participants and honorary members participated in the Congress.
The work of the Congress was organized in 9 thematically divided groups, covering among others decision-making groups for international level work, groups for protection of civil activists, for NGO legislation, for regional cooperation, etc. The outcome of the groups work was set of recommendations addressed to different bodies of the Council of Europe. Ukrainian delegation also initiated a resolution, outlining the radical worsening of human rights situation and democracy standards in Ukraine.
However those suggestions for improving along with the results of other groups discussions were excluded from the final version of resolution, developed by representatives of Secretariat of the INGO Conference. For that matter participants of the Congress refused to adopt the resolution in this version proposed by organizers. The wrap-up discussion brought in diversified views on the situation with fundamental rights in the region and ended with disagreement on which questions should be considered firstly. The participants expressed their confusion from the continuance of “Penza syndrome”: non-transparency in preparation of the Congress events and reluctance of the representatives of the INGO Conference to take into account questions raised by participants of discussion.
Those discussion are particularly important in the context of the reform of the Council of Europe (check http://www.coe.int/t/reform/default_en.asp), in which the role of NGOs and participation model of civic society institutions in organization work need to be defined. Topic text by Andrey Yurov was distributed at the Congress, emphasizing the decline of the Council of Europe and suggesting as the only way to save it - to take the responsibility for its future and for its role and influence definition.
Regional platforms are of great importance for civil organizations cooperation, for development and promotion of common suggestions and recommendations (“civil platforms”) on topics of civic society (freedom of meetings, associations, freedom of expression, human rights activists protection, regional activists protection). The shape of these platforms and correspondence of the future Congresses held under umbrella of the Council of Europe with those objectives will depend on the civil organizations from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland. It is not by chance that one of the repeated suggestions of the participants was to create a coordination section from NGO of the region that will act in intervals between the regional congresses.
YHRM International Service
On the eve of the EU – Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don we appeal to the European Union institutions to put the fate of Alexei Sokolov, human rights defender from Yekaterinburg who was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment on May 13th, 2010, on the agenda of discussions within the summit.
Alexei Sokolov is head of the Foundation “Pravovaya Osnova” (Legal Basis), member of the Public Commission for the control over places of detention in the Sverdlovsk region. He became famous as a result of his active counteraction to lawlessness in the penitentiary system.
The indictment is based exclusively on the testimony of the other accused, who are imprisoned and thus dependent on the enforcement agency, the employees of which were accused by Alexei in their abuses, and the same accused repeatedly stated that they were subjected to violence and threats. Such an approach to prove guilt does not meet the standards of fair trial set out in the practice of the European Court of Human Rights. The trial was characterized by other procedural violations, including closed court hearings, ban on the defender’s participation, rejection of all the requests to call witnesses for the defense, etc. Sokolov emphasized that even before the indictment he was repeatedly threatened by “imprisonment” on a trumped-up case.
The Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Sverdlovsk region, some members of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation made statements on the issue of Sokolov’s procedural rights. The circumstances of the case were discussed at the meetings of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights. The Public Chamber Commission for the control of the law enforcement authorities acknowledged his case “false”. International observers from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) noted numerous violations at the trial. Almost all the leading human rights organizations in Russia signed appeals in support of Sokolov. He is recognized as a potential prisoner of conscience according to Amnesty International. Particular concern about his case has been recently expressed by the chairperson of the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights Heidi Hautala. Human Rights Watch urged the Russian authorities to conduct "an independent investigation into a miscarriage of justice” in Sokolov’s case.
For Russia, where the situation with human rights defenders remains very complicated, Sokolov’s case is one of the most significant ones, since a member of the Public Commission for the control over places of detention, a new independent public institution designed to monitor the observance of human rights in places of detention, was convicted with a notorious prejudice. Sokolov’s case is a striking example of the proceedings, which are not in conformity with the standards of fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, stressing those vices of the judicial system, without correcting which the modernization of Russia, as declared by the President Medvedev, is impossible.
We know that Sokolov’s case was already mentioned before as a subject of the European Union’s concern at various discussions with the Russian side (including official consultations on Human Rights), but without any results. At the same time, the issue of defending human rights defenders is worth to be raised at the highest political level, in particular within the upcoming EU – Russia summit.
In line with the priorities declared by the Spanish Presidency of the European Union, and according to the norms laid down in the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, we call upon the European Union institutions to raise the issue of violations in Sokolov's case and his unjust condemnation before the President of the Russian Federation and other leaders of the country at the forthcoming Summit, as well as at other meetings within the cooperation between the European Union and Russia.
Chairperson of Moscow Helsinki Group,
member of the Presidential Council for Facilitating the Development
of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights
The team on defending human rights defenders
of the Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)