The Norwegian Helsinki Committee persistently works to uphold human rights. We have worked in countries such Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other former Soviet Republics, and we cooperate side by side with local civil society organizations, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists.
Our work is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, international partners of cooperation and by donations from individuals and companies.
War in Ukraine and refugees
Putin’s attack on Ukraine has caused indescribable suffering. Civilians find themselves geographically trapped by the war. Where it is possible civilians flee, and the number of Ukrainian refugees is now close to three millions. The majority of the Ukrainian population have stayed in Ukraine, many internally displaced and under challenging conditions. The NHC supports refugees and asylum seekers in need of assistance.
Naturally, the war in Ukraine puts pressure on our partner organizations in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The NHC has worked with Ukraine for more than 20 years, and has played a vital part in creating several local human rights organizations. The revolutions of 2004 and 2014 was driven by a wish to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, and was carried out and cheered on by the people. That is why Ukraine currently has such a strong and vital civil society, with who we cooperate with, also in times of war.
Human rights under pressure in Russia and Belarus
Russia has been one of the main focus areas of the NHC since the beginning. We have a broad network of human rights defenders throughout the country. They work with judicial aid, documentation and LGBT rights to mention a few. The same goes for Belarus.
Now a lot of our partners in Russia is named “foreign agents” and are being closed down. Central activists have been imprisoned. The threshold to gag people of the opposition is being lowered continuously. People without any activist profile are also being imprisoned. Many people are fleeing Russia because they are no longer safe. Media outlets get to chose whether they want to be part of Putin’s propaganda or be closed down. Demonstrations and freedom of speech is not allowed. Luckily, there are still human rights activists, journalists and lawyers fighting for freedom. The NHC continues the work in Russia and Belarus in spite of strict sanctions regimes and the increasingly tight grip on the society of the Russian and Belarusian governments.
Documenting human rights violations
The documentation of gross human rights violations (torture, disappearances, rapes etc.) and war crimes is one of our main focus areas. For many years we have worked to gather documentation, analyzing it and eventually building a database on crimes committed in Chechnya since the early 1990s. Currently, we hold the most comprehensive database of documented criminal cases and lists of disappeared people. We work in close cooperation with local groups and Russian and international organizations who are active in the area.
In 2014 we expanded our documentation work to the Crimean Peninsula and the areas controlled by separatists in Eastern Ukraine. We have a strong local partner, Truth Hound, and cooperate with the Ukrainian Attorney General of Crimea. In 2020 we started similar work in Belarus, following the mass-protests against the Lukashenko regime in the wake of the election. Due to the war in Ukraine, we are strengthening our documentation work, and deliver material to the ICC, who has opened a new investigation after the war broke out.
Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal