Addressing the Issue of Political Prisoners and Endangered Lawyers in the OSCE Participating States

Political repressions against dissent, suppression of freedom of the press, persecution of outspoken journalists and lawyers, and the existence of many political prisoners are a sad reality for several OSCE participating states. Thousands of political prisoners are behind bars, and the number is growing. OSCE HDIC event arranged by the NHC together with People in Need (PIN) and Justice for Journalist Foundation (JFJ).

In April 2023, the Russian authorities handed down a monstrous sentence to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a human rights activist — a 25-year prison sentence on trumped-up charges. In Azerbaijan, authorities arrested a prominent opposition leader and scholar, Gubad Ibadoghlu, on bogus criminal charges, in response to his criticism against the government. Since his arrest in July, he faces difficulties in accessing necessary medications to treat his frail health. Over a thousand activists, including members of prominent rights group Viasna in Belarus, face harassment from prison authorities, restrictions on visits and correspondence, solitary confinement, and inadequate healthcare. Political prisoners languish behind bars in all five Central Asian republics, especially in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Russian authorities in Crimea persecute Crimean Tatars for their vocal opposition to Russia’s occupation since it began in 2014, and arrested and forced many to exile, ensuring that those who choose to stay never feel safe to speak their mind. Some governments’ concerted efforts have gotten rid of many independent lawyers in the OSCE region, making it increasingly difficult for the political prisoners to access any kind of legal defense.

The event will feature remarks from experts, lawyers, and the family members of those imprisoned for speaking out the truth. Recent research findings on political imprisonments in Tajikistan will be presented. The event will also highlight the arbitrary circumstances that undermine defense lawyers’ independence such as licensing, disciplinary, civil, and criminal procedure, and how those are used by the authorities to punish defense lawyers in the OSCE region.

The speakers will also focus on proposing measures and ideas on how the OSCE and its participating states can deal with these problems and break the cycle of political prosecutions.


  • Maryia Kolesava-Hudzilina, President of Belarusian association of human rights lawyers
  • Marius Fossum – Norwegian Helsinki Commitee, Regional Representative in Central Asia
  • Yegor Skovoroda – editor at Mediazona, Russian independent media outlet
  • Ibad Bayramov – Son of political prisoner Gubad Ibadoghlu, a renowned academic and civil rights activist in Azerbaijan
  • Nemet Karimli, defence lawyer
  • Anton Naumlyuk – former editor-in-chief, Graty, a Ukrainian media outlet

ModeratorAnna Zamejc, International Advocacy officer, People in Need.

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Marius Fossum

Representative in Central AsiaEmail: [email protected]Phone: +7-771-506-4955Twitter: @Marius_Fossum
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