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North Caucasus report in PACE:
Ahead of the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Amnesty International, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Center “Memorial” and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have written to the members of the Assembly to urge them to participate in the Plenary debate on the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on “Human Rights in the North Caucasus” and to support the adoption of the very important resolution and recommendations raised by the report.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow have today sent a letter to the presidents of FIFA and UEFA, urging them to initiate investigation into allegations of the use of North Korean slave labour during the construction of the football stadium Zenit Arena in St. Petersburg. While there are still numerous violations of human rights with respect to workers and migrants in Russia, it is vital that well-known and respected international bodies such as FIFA, do not become complicit in such practices, and act upon the human rights commitments underlined in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Sustainability Strategy and FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future.
Demonstrations and arrests:
This last weekend, 25. – 26. March, peaceful protest actions took place across Russia, Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan, which were met with heavy police forces, mass arrests and violence from the authorities. Although they did not seem to have been coordinated in any way, the protests have in common that they were supported by citizens fed up with corruption and oppression. Governments of the three countries seem to know only one way of reacting: Interdiction, violence and detentions. Still, citizens for the first time in a very long time, defied fears and participated. The participation across Russia, not limited to big cities, had not been seen for years.
On occasion of the International Women’s Day the Norwegian Helsinki Committee issued a statement calling on the government of Uzbekistan to immediately and unconditionally free five woman political prisoners. These women languish in prison in for no other reason than their legitimate and peaceful activities, and the charges against them are trumped-up and must be dropped, the NHC said.
Human Rights Education:
Journalists in North West Russia and Norwegian journalists across the border experience some of the same challenges in their daily work. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the journalist association Barents Press are pleased that we are able to continue our cooperation and organise sessions where Norwegian and Russian journalists meet to exchange experiences and discuss human rights in journalism.
Awards to journalism:
NHC congratulates the laureates of the Fritt Ord/ZEIT-Stiftungs «Free Media Awards» which were awarded in a ceremony in Tbilisi
last week. Imprisoned journalist Seymur Hazi from Azerbaijan and the Ukrainian TV program Nashi Groshi were both nominated
by NHC. The third laureate is the prominent Russian journalist Elena Milashina.
Jury member Martin Paulsen highlighted three virtues in his speech at the ceremony: "When it comes to your work, and the reasons why we chose you for this honour, I would like to emphasise the importance of three concepts: COURAGE, SOLIDARITY and COMPETENCE."
Human rights education:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee organised 13-17 November 2016 a Human Rights School for 27 high school students from Murmansk and Kirkenes.
NHCs Enver Djuliman is currently in Odessa, Ukraine, where Russian and Ukrainian youth are together for dialogues for reconciliation between Russian and Ukrainian youth. Symbolically, the participants planted trees of peace.
Yesterday the Norwegian Helsinki Committee arranged our annual Anna Politkovskaya-seminar, to honour our dear friend and colleague who was brutally murdered just outside her apartment in Moscow ten years ago today.
“The low turnout at 47.8% in the Duma elections on 18 September may be seen as an expression by Russians of discontent with the Government and the ruling United Russia party. There may also be widespread lack of trust in the electoral process among many Russians”, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). – “Even if these elections represented progress in transparency and the Central Election Commission (CEC) played a professional role in reacting to some of the reported irregularities, a range of serious problems remain.”
In a statement published today, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, condemn the recent sentencing of Mr. Zhalaudi Geriev, a journalist of the Russian independent news portal Caucasian Knot on September 5, 2016 and demand his unconditional release. We are deeply concerned about a string of attacks against the freedom of expression in the region, which for years has been marred by violence and threaths agains journalists.
Report from the seminar:
On 17 September 2016 Russia organizes elections to the 450 seats of the Federal Duma. Unfortunately, restrictions on election observation and candidate registration are already being put in place. Despite the bleak picture normally presented regarding elections in Russia, there exist however many independent voices in politics, academia and civil society that speak out for democratic values and procedures. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee invited some of them to Oslo to debate new perspectives on Russia’s elections.
The Boris Nemtsov Foundation presents an annual award to a person who is particularly committed to fighting for the freedom of expression and helping those who are persecuted on political, racial or religious grounds in Russia. The first prize is given to the opposition politician Lev Shlosberg for his fight for democratic values in the Russian Federation.
Global Magnitsky Sanctions – Effective tool to address gross violations of human rights against human rights defenders and
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), a long term partner of the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), has the pleasure of inviting you to a side event on Global Magnitsky Sanctions at the OFF 2016. The event is arranged in co-operation with the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Campaign, with the participation of its leader, Bill Browder.
On 16 March, another attack on the human rights organisation Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) took place in Chechnya. The head of the organization, Igor Kalyapin, was attacked outside the Grozny City hotel and forced to leave the republic.
On 9 March, unknown assailants attacked a minibus with lawyers and human rights activists from the Joint Mobile Group and international journalists on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Among those attacked were a Norwegian and a Swedish journalist.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Rafto Foundation have sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende in connection with the court liquidation of the human rights organization Agora last week.
Agora, a 2014 Rafto Prize laureate and a member of the Russian President’s Human Rights Council became the first nongovernmental organization to be liquidated by a regional Supreme Court on 10 February. – The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns this decision, which violates the human rights of an important organization, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. Agora's chair Pavel Chikov met Prime Minister Erna Solberg when he visited Oslo in October 2015. Photo: Prime minister's Office
No political prisoners:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has launched a webpage with information and updates about the situation for the political prisoners in Europe.
A new list of political prisoners in Russia has just been published by Memorial Human Rights Centre. The list now comprises 50 names, as compared to the 46 which were included in the list published in October last year. 10 people have been released, but 14 have been arrested. None of the political prisoners were acquitted, amnestied or pardoned during this time.
The presentation of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards 2015, honouring nine prominent politicians, lawyers, and journalists for their support of the Magnitsky campaign, took place in London on 16 November, six years after the death of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
In Ingushetia on 6 November, armed security servicemen carried out a raid in the offices of the human rights organization MASHR and in the private home of the organization’s head Magomed Mutsolgov. The masked men removed large amounts of documents, office computers and even the children’s iPad.
”The Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcomes the decision by Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on October 8 to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC to open an investigation of core international crimes during the war in Georgia in 2008,” says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2015:
During the opening of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly autumn session today, prominent Russian human rights defender Ludmilla Alexeeva was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. The award honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights, and it includes a €60 000 prize. - NHC warmly congratulates Ludmilla, she is one of the founders of the Russian human rights movement. To award the prize to her this year in particular, while we are celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the Helsinki Declaration, carries a lot of symbolic weight, Secretary general Bjørn Engesland says at the news of the prize.
Policy Paper 2/2015:
A new policy paper from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee presented today argues that Norway and other democratic countries should establish mechanisms to freeze the assets of persons who commit gross violations of human rights with impunity and prohibit their entry into the country – the victims of these violations being human rights defenders or whistle-blowers.
On the 2nd anniversary of the murder of independent Russian journalist, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee signed a joint letter with 27 other NGOs calling for the investigation into his case to be urgently raised to the federal level.
The office of the Joint Mobile Group in Grozny, Chechnya, was earlier today on 3 June attacked by a group of masked men.
Golos victim of repressive NGO-legislation in Russia:
On April 25, Golos was convicted for failing to comply with NGO-legislation and failing to register as foreign agents. NHC was a witness during the trial where we refuted claims that Golos has accepted prize money from us. The legislation is itself in violation of international law, and we condemn the court decision as unlawful. Golos must pay a fine of 300 000 roubles, approx. 9 500 USD. On 9 April Golos, a renowned human rights NGO conducting election monitoring in Russia, and Golos director Lilia Shibanova, was informed by the Ministry of Justice that a case is initiated against them for being in breach of the 2012 "foreign agents law”. – To initiate legal actions against a human rights organizations for not having registered as a “foreign agent”, is a violation by Russian authorities of international standards, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. The 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders clearly states the rights of human rights defenders to receive funding from abroad.
On 8 October 2013, Mikhail Kosenko, one of the defendants in the so-called Bolotnaya square case was found guilty of taking part in mass disorder (article 212 of the Russian Criminal Code) during the “March of the Millions” on 6 May 2012. The Zamoskvoretsky Regional court also found him guilty of physically assaulting police officers (article 318 of the Criminal Code) . - The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is critical of the trial, which did not comply with fair trial standards, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. - The conclusions of the court were not backed by solid evidence. Two police witnesses were unable to identify Kosenko as a person who had been involved in any violence. In the photo, Aleksandra Dukhanina, another of the victims from Bolotnaya awaiting trial is arrested. Photo: Rustam Adagamov
The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), of which NHC is a foundig member, has issued a statement today strongly protesting severe harrassment and intimidation of election observers from the Russian election observer organisation GOLOS.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is saddened and shocked by the news of the murder of Russia’s prominent opposition politician
Boris Nemtsov, shot dead the in the heart of Moscow in the late evening of 27 February.
– The murder of Boris Nemtsov must be independently and transparently investigated and the people responsible be brought to justice, whether they pulled the trigger or ordered the killing, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – We express our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Boris Nemtsov.
Together with 46 other international organisations, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has signed a letter sent yesterday to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Yury Ya. Chaika, where we appeal to take all necessary measures to free environmental defender Evgeny G. Vitishko (born July 3, 1973) immediately and unconditionally; to initiate legal proceedings regarding the wrongful conviction of Evgeny Vitishko; hold those responsible for his conviction legally accountable; and clarify the withdrawal by the Office of Prosecutor General of the request to vacate the decision of the Tuapse city court of Krasnodar Krai from December 12, 2013 to revoke the suspended sentence and transfer Evgeny Vitishko to a penal settlement colony. We also ask you to investigate the facts of the violation of water and forest laws in Bzhid township (Tuapse District, Krasnodar Krai).
The Memorial lawyer Murad Magomedov was attacked yesterday, February 4, and beaten by five men outside the Dagestan Supreme Court building in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He sustained severe head injuries and is in critical condition in hospital, unable to explain the details of what happened to him. Murad Magomadov had been defending villagers of the Vremennyi village in Dagestan who were lost everything during a so-called counter terrorism operation autumn 2014.
Together with 30 other international human rights organisation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent a letter to Aleksandr
Head of the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation, calling for progress in the investigation into the murder of the journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev.
Sous couvert de la guerre en Ukraine, la Russie et ses Etats voisins attaquent les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme et les médias. Les Etats démocratiques doivent oeuvrer pour protéger les défenseurs en danger.
Side event OFF:
Together with the London based organisation Fair Trials International, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee organized a breakfast seminar tuesday at the Hotel Bristol as a side event to the Oslo Freedom Forum, discussing how INTERPOL is being abused by dictatorships.
Pussy Riot visits NHC event:
Don’t forget about the political prisoners in Russia, it can prevent them from being killed! This was the message from Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, the two Pussy Riot/Zona Prava members that participated at the packed Norwegian Helsinki Committee seminar Safeguarding international institutions against authoritarian abuse on 13 May.
OSCE meeting in Warzaw:
NHC is active at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2014 which is currently taking place in Warsaw.
Moscow City Court:
A decision by the Moscow City Court published on 8 September 2014 concludes that the Association Golos, an election watchdog, and its former executive director Lilia Shibanova, have not violated the law on “foreign agents”. Golos had refused to register as a “foreign agent”, which is required by the law for organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined political activities. – This is an important decision and indeed good news for Golos, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Lower courts found Golos in breach of the law because of receiving our Sakharov Freedom Award in 2012. The Moscow City Court, however, said that since Golos did not receive the 10 000 US Dollar prize money, it was not obliged to register. The ruling is a serious defeat for the Ministry of Justice.
During a conference on Strengthening Human Rights in Russia organized by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in cooperation with Amnesty International Norway in Oslo on September 19-22 this year, a resolution on establishing the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Center was adopted by a group of nine leading Russian and international human rights organizations.
Policy Paper 6/2014:
The NHC presents our sixth policy paper of 2014. The so-called Foreign Agents Law has already hit hundreds of non-governmental organizations unwilling to register, and its chilling effect is no longer a prediction but a reality. The paper argues that the Foreign Agents Law has dire consequences for Russian civil society, violates human rights and should be repealed.
Policy Paper 5/2014:
The NHC presents our fifth policy paper of 2014. The policy paper shows how a Russian sponsored initiative at the UN Human Rights Council has been targeting core tenets of international human rights. The proponents of the initiative have camouflaged it as laying out new ways of promoting human rights. Traditional values of humankind are a tool to strengthen and underpin human rights at the local level, they claim. In reality, the initiative threatens to destroy consensus among the states of the world on how they should honor their human rights obligations.
International Day against Homophobia:
17th of May is not only a celebration of the Norwegian national day; it is also the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). While blue-copies of the Russian legislation banning so-called propaganda of non-traditional relations is on the rise all over Eastern Europe, while LGBTI persons are beaten and killed, public events are banned, peaceful activists are arrested and homo- and transphobia flourish; IDAHO is a reminder that the international community bears responsibility for securing the human rights of sexual and gender minorities all over.
Russian officials suspected of torturing and killing whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky are named in the formal application now under consideration by the Chief Public Prosecutor of Norway Siri Frigaard. The application refers to Oleg Silchenko, Russian Interior Ministry officer in charge of Magnitsky’s arrest and detention, and others, including Mr Dmitry Markov and Mr Oleg Kuznetsov - two senior officers of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center, where Magnitsky was killed after rubber batons and handcuffs were used on him by prison guards. The application has been submitted by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Ukraine, Russia crisis:
NHC is proud to present our new publication format, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee's policy paper. Our first policy paper is a Q&A on the Ukraine, Russia crisis, where we want to point to some of the main legal and human rights issues in the current situation. You can read and download the policy paper below.
- The judgments by a Moscow court of eight Bolotnaya protesters to prison terms from two and half to four years must be seen in the context of Kremlin efforts to stifle opposition, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. - The judgments send a chilling message to ordinary Russians that they should refrain from taking part in protests against President Vladimir Putin and his rule. If not they may face serious consequences. The judgments target Russian civic activism and basic freedoms.
The NHC is deeply concerned about today’s verdict concerning the environmental activist Evgeny Vitishko, who in a Krasnodar court has been sentenced to three years in penal colony. Photo: Oleg Kozirov
NGO Forum for Human Rights:
Norwegian Helsinki Committee, of behalf of the Norwegian NGO Forum for Human Rights, has submitted the annual recommendations to the Government of Norway on human rights at United Nations. The recommendations are particularly directed towards Norway's efforts before the UN Human Rights Council, but are relevant also to other UN bodies.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has produced a manual for journalists travelling to the Olympics in Sochi. The manual covers the political, human rights and environmental context of the winter games, which are taking place in a city on the Black Sea which has around 350,000 inhabitants. The manual is part of a major partnership to draw attention to the problematic aspects of the winter games in Sochi and developments in Russia regarding human rights and respect for human dignity, which is a central value of the Olympic Movement. The manual also includes an extensive list of useful contacts.
During the Winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today, an overwhelming majority voted for the adoption of the report "Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky"
A new book edited by Russian-French journalist Elena Servettaz, arguing for Europe to enact a Magnitsky law similar to the US Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act was launched in the UK on 5 November. -The book presents powerful arguments that Europe should deny visa and freeze assets of those who killed Sergei Magnitsky and other human rights violators, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General.
– The guilty verdicts of lawyer and world known whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky and the man he represented, William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Management Capital, by a Moscow court on 11 July 2013 represents a new low point in Russia’s efforts to distort facts and cover-up the real wrongdoing in the case, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – The Magnitsky case implicates Russian authorities in a series of human rights violations, including illegal arrest, torture, and failure to provide medical treatment. Now they have added new violations to the list; exposing the legal nihilism and lack of rule of law in the country.
– The killing of journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev on Tuesday 9 July should be promptly investigated and those responsible should be prosecuted, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – The attempted murder on Akhmednabiev in January 2013 was ignored by the Prosecutor’s office, in spite of a Dagestan Supreme Court decision that it should be investigated. This culture of impunity for those attacking and even murdering journalists and human rights defenders in North Caucasus must end. If not, authorities will remain complicit in these killings.
The Siberian newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny, and Yelena Kostyuchenko, journalist of Novaya Gazeta, were among the laureates of this year’s Press Freedom Award, issued by Fritt Ord and Zeit Stiftung. – The prize jury has come to an important and appropriate decision, drawing attention to the deteriorating conditions for freedom of speech and the difficult situation for journalists in today’s Russia, said Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the legislation waved through this week by the Russian State Duma; prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”. The restrictive legislation is part of a wider trend of worsening human rights situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
Russian Civic Assistance Committee will soon present a book,- a collection of memories of eyewitnesses of and participants in the Chechen wars. The title of the book, published in Russian, is ‘Stories of one war’ / Каждый молчит о своем: истории одной войны,
One of Russia’s most respected human rights defenders, Svetlana Gannushkina, is prosecuted for “failure to comply with legal requirements by the Prosecutor” and is to stand trial on 4 June. Gannushkina, the head of the Civic Assistance Committee (CAC), suspended cooperation with the Moscow Prosecutors' office in April 2013 because unreasonable requirements were imposed on her organization. In 2007, Svetlana received the Sakharov Freedom Award from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. She has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize by Erna Solberg, the head of the Conservative Party in Norway.
-Norwegian authorities should contribute to Europe enacting Magnitsky type legislation, said Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – There is need for new ways of addressing the very serious human rights violations that take place in Russia from the part of European governments and institutions. Magnitsky legislation may prove to be an efficient supplement to regional and international human rights mechanisms. Norway should signal support of the EU enacting Magnitsky type legislation.
Today, Golos was convicted for failing to comply with NGO-legislation and failing to register as foreign agents.NHC was a witness during the trial where we refuted claims that Golos has accepted prize money from us. The legislation is itself in violation of international law, and we condemn the court decision as unlawful. Golos must pay a fine of 300 000 roubles, approx. 9 500 USD. Follow updates on our Facebook-page and on Twitter nhc_no.
Russia, mass inspections of NGOs:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about recent developments in Russia related to freedom of association and the rights of human rights defenders to conduct their work, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. – Large numbers of non-government organizations were today subject to inspections from authorities, including Memorial and other well-known human rights organisations. The inspections are follow-up on recently adopted restrictive legislation that violates freedom of association and aims at obstructing human rights work in the country. European institutions and governments should react strongly.
Sakharov Freedom Award:
Russian Association 'Golos' was presented the Sakharov Freedom Award at a ceremony which also marked Norwegian Helsinki Committee 35 years' anniversary on 23 October. Lilya Shibanova accepted the award on behalf of the organisation she leads. - It is a great honor to receive the Sakharov Freedom award. The recognition comes at a very important and suitable time for us, were Russian democracy is dwindling and organisatons like ours are under fierce attack from the authorities. The anniversary was also celebrated by a well attended seminar opened by Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.
On 6 February 2013, the regional court in Nizhny Novgorod ruled that the city administration had violated human rights when refusing to provide time and place for a March of millions demonstration. – The court’s recognition that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights should prevail is a promising development, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, NHC Deputy Secretary General. – It should set precedence for other courts handling similar cases of protesters being denied their rights under Russian and international law to freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
In a statement today the Civic Society Platform, which includes the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, condemned the December 19 raid on the premises of the Human Rights House in Voronezh by Russian police. The statement calls on the international community to speak out against this and other cases of harassment against civil society in Russia.
The Moscow City Court today decided to exclude the Russian Justice Initiative from the list of international organisations allowed to function in Russia. – The court decision sets an alarming precedence, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. It means that one of the biggest international human rights organisations in Russia is prohibited from doing its important work. It opens up for more similar cases against other international organisations.
A draft law criminalizing “promotion of homosexuality among minors” is to be considered by the Russian Parliament on 19 December. The draft violates the right to freedom of expression and association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
In an article in Foreign Policy, Tanya Lokshina, senior researcher and deputy director at the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch and longtime NHC cooperator, looks at the current political crackdown sweeping Russia following Vladimir Putin’s May 7 presidential inauguration.
NHC report 3/2012:
Tblisi,10 November 2012: Grave crimes were committed during the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. The NHC documented war crimes and crimes against humanity during and after the cessation of hostilities. In the years since, the NHC has investigated in Georgia and Russia, trying to assess whether domestic investigations are on-going and effective.
NHC interventions at OSCE HDIM in Warsaw:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is represented also at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on the importance of independent judiciary drawing upon the examples of the Sergey Magnitsky case in Russia and the case against several oppositionals in Western Kazakhstan, and also drawing attention to governments' obligation to facilitate human rights eduaction, including by refraining from hindering participation by visa denial.
The Association Golos is awarded the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award 2012 for its outstanding efforts to promote democratic values through free and fair elections in Russia, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says in a statement today.
In a letter addressed to Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre today, NHC express concern with recent developments in the Russian Federation related to the on-going crackdown against opposition leaders and human rights activists, as well as the adoption of restrictive legislation on public rallies. - President Putin pledged to inspire “greater participation of citizens in public affairs” and to have “more consultations with different sectors of society about legal reforms” on the day of his inauguration, Secretary Bjørn Engelsnad says. Recent developments stand in sharp contrast to these words.
In a letter sent today to the Federal Minister of Justice in Austria Dr. Beatrix Karl, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, together with Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders, Austrian Helsinki Association, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), urges the Austrian government to request the extradition of Lecha Bogatyrov from the Russian Federation. Lecha Bogatyrov is the man who allegedly fired the fatal shots that killed the Chechen exile Umar Israilov on the streets of Vienna in January 2009. Three men were convicted 1 June 2011 by the Vienna Landesgericht to long prison sentences for the killing of Israilov, but the current current impunity for Mr. Israilov’s alleged killer should be treated as a political issue by the Austrian government.
(22/06-2010) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has sent a letter to the Czech Commissioner on Human Rights, in support of initiatives to strengthen protection of Chechen asylum seekers.
(26/08-2010) Lev Ponomarev, the Russian human rights activist and the leader of the movement “For Human Rights” was arrested yesterday and got three days administrative punishment under article 19.3 Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation (charged with “insubordination to legal order of a policeman”). On August 22, Lev Ponomarev, together with the representatives of the movement “Soilidarity” Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Shnayder carried Russian flag at Novy Arbat on the Russian Flag Day. All three were arrested right after and charged with unauthorized demonstration and insubordination to policemen. The Moscow Presnenskij court refused to arrest Nemtsov and ordered the case to be further investigated, as the judge didn’t find the facts of “insubordination to policemen”. Mikhail Shnayder’s case was planned to be proceeded today, August 26.
(24/09-2010) - With the ascension of Dmitry Medvedev to the Russian presidency, a new kind of political rhetoric entered the Kremlin. Medvedev says he wants to combat legal nihilism, and has pledged reform and modernization. Do the modernization plans offer possibilities for Russian human rights groups, asked Secretary General Bjørn Engesland in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in his introduction at a public seminar organised by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on 22 September.
A Just Russia party candidate in the 4 March 2012 mayor elections in Astrakhan, Oleg Shein, ended his 40 days hunger strike on 24 April after receiving access to webcam videos from polling stations in Astrakhan. Shein and his supporters had filed a law suit claiming that massive fraud had taken place during the elections. – The Central Election Commission should give full access to videos in order to help investigation of all substantiated cases of fraud, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General.
Three days ahead of the 4 March 2012 Presidential elections in Russia there is little doubt about the outcome. Despite increasing public protests against prime minister Vladimir Putin, all indications suggest that he will declare victory, probably after the first ballot. This will happen in an environment where free and fair elections are not possible. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) will be present in Moscow during the elections.
- Putin will not survive the next presidential term. He will off course win the upcoming elections, he is in reality the only candidate, but he will be replaced within two years. The Russian political elites will ensure this, together with the protesters in the streets. This was one of the conclusions of Nicolay Petrov, who participated at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s seminar Presidential Elections in Russia – a New Spring?, at the House of Literature in Oslo on 15 February.
(24/09-2010) With the ascension of Dmitry Medvedev to the Russian presidency, a new kind of political rhetoric entered the Kremlin. Medvedev says he wants to combat legal nihilism, and has pledged reform and modernization. Do the modernization plans offer possibilities for Russian human rights groups, asked Secretary General Bjørn Engesland in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in his introduction at a public seminar organised by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on 22 September.
The credibility of the upcoming Presidential Elections in Russia, already marred by the claims of widespread violations in Parliamentary polls in December last year, is waning after Central Elections Commission’s refusal to register the liberal opposition leader, Grigory Yavlinsky for the Presidential race. At the same time, renewed pressure against the respected election monitor organization and NHC partner Golos is disquieting, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General.
Invitation to the seminar::
Associate Professor of Law Mr. Jeffrey Khan has recently submitted a report to President Medvedev’s Human Rights Council analyzing the second verdict against the imprisoned former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
- Russian authorities should accept peaceful demonstrations against unfair elections, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. - Norway and EU countries should publicly urge Russian authorities to investigate violations of election legislation and respect freedom of expression and assembly.
State Duma elections:
The tendency in the result of the voting yesterday nevertheless shows that the Russian population is getting wary of the tightfisted rule of the Medvedev/Putin tandem, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Bjørn Engesland. -Independent national observers all over the country have registered countless violations in the election legislation, including pressure against voters to vote for the ruling party United Russia.
Russian authorities undermining trust in elections by impeding monitoring. In the run-up to Russian Duma elections taking place on Sunday 4 December, the country’s most experienced election monitoring group is being under scrutiny by prosecutors and pro-government media. –The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned that these are deliberate attempts at hindering Golos important work, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General. “By limiting monitoring of the elections, authorities are also undermining trust in elections being conducted in compliance with international standards of freeness and fairness.”
The elections process ahead of the 4 December Duma elections in the Russian Federation has not been fair”, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. “We have serious concerns on obstacles related to nomination of delegates and registration of parties, as well as lack of equal opportunities to campaign.”
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is actively and well represented at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on freedom of religion in Central Asia, rule of law in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and freedom of expression in Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia. We are organising a side-event on lack of justice after major human rights violations in Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Additionally we organise a side-event on strikers' rights in Kazakhstan and we are also co-organising a side-event with particular focus on Ales Bialiatski and the release of political prisoners in Belarus. Below you will find links to the HDIM webpage, all documents from our side-events and interventions and other relevant links.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee Deputy Secretary General, Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal and Advisor, Inna Sangadzhiyeva visited Russia from September 5 to September 9, 2011.
(07/10-2010) Today, on 7 October, it is four years since the prominent and courageous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed at the entrance of her apartment in Moscow. We remember Anna particularly for her commitment in Chechnya.
(14/12-2010) International and Russian human rights organizations have sent a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressing concern with the lack of effective implementation of its resolution 1738 (2010) on Legal remedies for human rights defenders in North Caucasus.
Elena Bonner, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov, and herself a prominent human rights activist and laureate of the Thorolf Rafto Prize, passed away on 18 June.
On Tuesday, a Moscow court ruled to acquit Oleg P. Orlov, Chair of the Memorial Human Rights Society, one of Europe’s most
respected human rights groups. Mr. Orlov was charged with defamation against Chechen President Ramzan A. Kadyrov, in connection
with statements Orlov made at the time Memorial employee and award winning human rights defender Natalya Estemirova was killed
- I welcome the ruling in our colleague Oleg Petrovich’s case as a step in the right direction for a judicial system that historically has lacked willingness to support and protect human rights defenders, says NHC Secretary General Bjørn Engesland.
Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia:
Last week, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee hosted a delegation of Azeri, Belarusian, Russian and international human rights defenders. They took part in seminars arranged by the NHC at the Norwegian parliament Stortinget and the Fritt Ord Foundation. In their recomendations to the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the PACE and Stortinget, they called for a sharpening of human rights policies towards Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia.
- The Norwegian Helsinki Committee would like to extend its sincerest congratulations to Svetlana Alekseevna Gannushkina, who yesterday became a Knight of the French Legion of Honour,” says Secretary-General Bjørn Engesland.
Russian Federation/Central Asia:
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply distraught to learn of yet another violent attack on human rights activist and employee of Human Rights Center Memorial, Bakhrom Khamroev, in Moscow on Monday June 6th 2011.
How can we combine the agenda of bilateral business relations with the active promotion and defense of human rights?
The Court in Vienna is to reach a verdict on the murder of the refugee who accused Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of torture today, on 1 June 2011. On the eve of the verdict the coalition of human rights groups monitoring the trial wants to emphasize the importance of this emblematic case and expresses its regret at the absence of cooperation of the Russian Federation with the Austrian justice.
Statement from the NHC annual meeting 2011:
At these exceptional times – when authoritarian regimes are falling or are under serious pressure by democratic forces in the Middle East and North Africa – we witness that Europe’s last authoritarian states are successful in retaining control and undermining democratic developments.
(14/12-2010) The Norwegian Helsinki Committee held its second training seminar for representatives from the Public Observation Commissions of Archangelsk, Murmansk and the Karelian Republic.
Bjørn Engesland, secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has today sent a letter to Lyudmila Alexeeva, co-founder and leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) congratulating the Russian human rights organisation on its 35 years' anniversary.