The Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Annual Report for 2018 is completed. It is full of stories about brave individuals fighting for justice and elemental human rights in Europe, the United States of America and Central Asia.
“We can look back at a comprehensive year for human rights. In addition to achieving great results in Armenia and progress in Uzbekistan, we have also been able to focus on human rights violations in Russia and Azerbaijan”, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Amongst other issues that happened last year, we were able to get international attention on the human rights violations being committed in Russia during the World Cup. This also applies to the case of the leading human rights activist, Oyub Titiev. He sentenced to four years in imprisonment because of his work with human rights in in Chechnya.
You may also read about our work with civil society actors in Azerbaijan who are fighting against all odds. 2018 will in fact be remembered as the year where battles were won against authoritarian governments who imprison individuals who stands up against them without any legitimate cause.
This report is a great way to get to know the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and our employees. Senior Adviser Ivar Dale participates in activities that stretches from Dushanbe to Geneva to get a breakthrough in the UN. At the same time, Senior Adviser Lene Wetteland has acted as an observer in the Armenian election, which practically became a peaceful revolution. A severely corrupt government was replaced it with leaders who was chosen in democratic and free elections.
You may also learn about the peace and reconciliation in the post-war-torn Balkans. Senior Adviser Enver Djuliman facilitates school trips to Bosnia and Serbia, and in 2018 he invited 19 students from Drammen High School to travel with him and learn about the history of the countries.
Concerning Developments in Europe.
We had several reasons to celebrate in 2018, but at the same time 2019 started in a dark and gloomy state. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that annually measures levels of freedom and democracy in several countries. It did not come as a surprise, but it still saddened us when they declared Hungary as a no longer free and democratic country, due to corrupt rule of law and violations against human rights.
“Hungary’s status declined from Free to Partly Free due to sustained attacks on the country’s democratic institutions by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party”. Freedom House
It was against this background that a resolution on development in Europe was adapted at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. It is especially weighted on Hungary, Poland and Romania, and urges the Norwegian Government to strengthen their efforts to secure democracy and elemental rights in the nearby areas and countries.
“We got two choices in 2019: We either settle with the fact that human rights violations will continue to be committed and authoritarian forces will gain a greater foothold. Or, we stand together as human rights defenders against these forces”, says Engesland.
A New Addition to the Council
During the 2018 Annual Meeting, Government Representative Åsmund Aukrust (Labour Party), was elected as a council member in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. He is a former Deputy of the Youth Labour Party (AUF) and he has also been Vice President in the International Union of Socialist Youth. Aukrust is elected as a Government Representative for Akershus from 2017 to 2021 and is currently in the Energy and Environment Committee.
“We are pleased that Aukrust is joining the Council. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strives to have a wide range of representatives from the different parties and the civil society, and Åsmund Aukrust is contributing to this, says Engesland.