Russia

  • Joint NGO Statement on the human rights situation in Russia

    Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint NGO Statement under item 4 on the human rights situation in Russia

    Delivered by Dave Elseroad, Human Rights House Foundation 

    I make this joint statement on behalf of Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights.

    A year after last year’s joint statement on the situation in Russia, authorities there have further intensified the already unprecedented crackdown. A fully-fledged witch hunt against independent groups, media outlets and journalists, and political opposition, is decimating civil society and forcing many into exile.

    In a shocking development, the authorities moved to shut down “Memorial,” one of the country’s most authoritative human rights organisations. At the end of December, courts ruled to “liquidate” the group’s key legal entities, International Memorial Society and Human Rights Center Memorial over alleged persistent noncompliance with the repressive legislation on “foreign agents.”  

    The rulings came at the end of a particularly terrible year for human rights, during which authorities threw top opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison, banned three organisations affiliated with him as “extremist,” launched criminal proceedings against several of his close associates, doubled down on Internet censorship, and designated more than 100 journalists and activists as "media-foreign agents."

    Recent months also saw a dramatic escalation of repression in Chechnya, where Russian law and international human rights obligations have been emptied of meaning. With the Kremlin’s blessing, the local governor, Ramzan Kadyrov has been eviscerating all forms of dissent in Chechnya, often using collective punishment. In December 2021, Kadyrov opened a brutal offensive against his critics in the Chechen diaspora, by having the police  arbitrarily detain dozens of their Chechnya-based relatives. It continued in January with the abduction and arbitrary detention on fabricated charges of Zarema Musaeva, mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbaev, and death threats issued against the Yangulbaevs family and some prominent human rights defenders and journalists.

    It is crucial the High Commissioner and members of this Council press the Russian authorities to reverse the course of the unprecedented human rights crackdown, and appoint a dedicated Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Russia.


      Civic space in Russia is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

  • Russia: Stop smear campaigns, persecution of civil society

    The ongoing violations of the right to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and particularly the labelling of civil society groups as “foreign agents,” is intended to force associations to close operations or self-censor, said CIVICUS, global alliance of civil society organisations. Russia is experiencing the most severe restrictions on civic space in decades as the authorities use legislation on “foreign agents” or “undesirable organisations” to restrict the activities of civil society organisations and subject their leaders and members to judicial persecution.

    On 29 September 2021, the Ministry of Justice listed the Media Human Rights Project OVD-Info as one of the organisations designated as a “foreign agent.” The inclusion of OVD-Info on the list of organisations accused of functioning as a foreign agent is a direct response to OVD-Info’s civil society campaign against legislation used by the authorities to smear and stigmatise civil society groups. More than 229 organisations and over 154,000 people across Russia joined the campaign. OVD-Info is an independent media project focusing on human rights and political persecutions, which also tracks and monitors persecution of protesters in Russia. It depends on volunteers and donations to do its work and calls on the Russian authorities to respect the Constitution and other European Conventions on human rights.

    Russia has often been known for targeting civil society organisations, opposition figures and human rights defenders. However, human rights violations have reached unprecedented levels as the authorities routinely use legislation to stigmatise civil society organisations and prosecute their leaders and members. The international community must intervene now to prevent a total dismantling of civil society, said Sylvia Mbataru, civic space researcher at CIVICUS.

    Those included on the list on 29 September are members of the civil society group Golos that monitors elections and journalists from the media rights body Mediazoma. Organisations listed as foreign agents are required to undergo cumbersome administrative procedures and indicate their status as “foreign agents” in all official correspondence and materials. Media organisations designated as foreign face challenges collaborating with advertisers and partners and are hindered from doing interviews as few people would want to be associated with “foreign agents.” Several associations have been forced to close down while many more now self-censor as representatives of civil society are also subjected to judicial persecution.


    Background

    Over the last several months, the Russian authorities have increased restrictions on civic space and targeted human rights defenders and protesters. Several civil society organisations and media groups have been added to a list of organisations accused of performing the functions of a foreign agent. The implications have been the closure of civil society and media groups, loss of income of many others, and the judicial persecution of leaders of these groups. Early in 2021, OVD-Info reported that more than 17600 were detained in response to large-scale protests calling for an end to the judicial persecution of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Due to the spiraling decline in fundamental rights and freedoms in the country, in February 2021, Russia was added to a watchlist of countries that have seen a rapid deterioration of fundamental democratic freedoms.

    Civic space in Russia is rated 'repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor. 

  • 5 countries on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    This Council has identified restrictions on fundamental freedoms as a warning sign of an impending human rights crisis. Five countries were highlighted in the latest CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which puts a spotlight on a group of countries where there has been a rapid decline in respect for civic space. 

    These include Myanmar, where a military coup has led to deaths of at least 50 protesters, and the arbitrary detention of more than a thousand activists, protesters and politicians, while journalists are targeted daily. 

    In Nicaragua, there has been systematic repression of demonstrations. Human rights defenders, journalists and perceived political opponents face criminalisation and harassment, and a recent onslaught of repressive laws hinders civic space still further.

    In Poland, months of ongoing protests sparked by a near-total ban on abortion have been met with excessive force by authorities and far-right groups. Laws and reforms which undermine judicial independence and the rule of law have been passed since 2015 and media freedom is under threat. 

    In Russia, there have been large scale attacks on peaceful assembly and journalists during the massive nationwide peaceful protests. Over 10,000 protesters have been detained.

    In Togo, where civic space has been backsliding since 2017, the detention of a journalist and trade unionists and the suspension of a newspaper are recent examples highlighting the deterioration in the respect of civic freedoms.

    The Council cannot fulfill its protection or prevention mandates unless it is prepared to take meaningful action in situations which show such warning signs. We call for stronger scrutiny on Myanmar and Nicaragua to be brought by the Council this session, and for due attention on Poland, Russia and Togo to prevent deteriorating situations on the ground. 

    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed

     

  • 5 países de la lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS se presentan al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

     

    Declaración en el 46º período de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

    Este Consejo ha identificado las restricciones a las libertades fundamentales como una señal de alarma de una inminente crisis de derechos humanos. Cinco países han sido destacados en la última lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS Monitor, la cual pone el punto de mira un grupo de países en los que se ha producido un rápido declive del respeto al espacio cívico.

    Entre ellos se encuentra Myanmar, donde un golpe militar ha provocado la muerte de al menos 50 manifestantes y la detención arbitraria de más de mil activistas, manifestantes y políticos, mientras que los periodistas son objeto de ataques diarios.

    En Nicaragua se ha producido una represión sistemática de las manifestaciones. Los defensores de derechos humanos, los periodistas y los presuntos opositores políticos sufren criminalización y acoso. Además, una reciente oleada de leyes represivas obstaculiza aún más el espacio cívico.

    En Polonia, las autoridades y los grupos de extrema derecha han respondido con una fuerza excesiva a los meses de protestas desencadenadas por la prohibición casi total del aborto. Desde 2015 se han aprobado leyes y reformas que socavan la independencia judicial y el Estado de derecho. Asimismo, la libertad de los medios de comunicación está amenazada.

    En Rusia se han producido agresiones a gran escala contra las reuniones pacíficas y los periodistas durante las masivas protestas pacíficas a nivel nacional. Más de 10.000 manifestantes han sido detenidos.

    En Togo, donde el espacio cívico se ha visto limitado desde 2017, la detención de un periodista y de sindicalistas y la suspensión de un periódico son ejemplos recientes que ponen de manifiesto el deterioro del respeto a las libertades cívicas.

    El Consejo no puede cumplir sus mandatos de protección o prevención a menos que esté preparado para tomar medidas significativas en situaciones que muestren tales señales de alerta. Pedimos que el Consejo lleve a cabo un examen más riguroso de Myanmar y Nicaragua en este periodo de sesiones, y que preste la debida atención a Polonia, Rusia y Togo para evitar el deterioro de la situación sobre el terreno.

    Calificaciónes de espacio cívico - CIVICUS Monitor
    Abierto Estrecho Obstruido  Represivo Cerrado

     

  • A joint call to the UN to Address human rights situation in the Russian Federation

    This statement is made on behalf of 8 organisations, who together call on the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in the Russian Federation.

  • Arrêtez la guerre: Déclaration de solidarité

    Nous, groupes de la société civile des cinq continents, qui travaillons ensemble pour un monde juste, pacifique, durable et prospère, appelons conjointement à une solution négociée pour mettre fin à la guerre en Ukraine aussi rapidement que possible. Cela doit inclure une cessation immédiate des hostilités contre les civils et le retrait des forces militaires et des armes russes d’Ukraine, associées à une déclaration commune et à la fourniture de garanties de sécurité par et pour toutes les parties.

    Dans un monde déjà ravagé par de multiples crises, telles que la pandémie de COVID-19 et l’escalade du changement climatique, ce conflit déchire des communautés déjà fragiles et des millions d’individus sont confrontés à la guerre, au déplacement, à la perte de leurs maisons et de leurs moyens de subsistance.

    Un mois s’est déjà écoulé, mais plus ce conflit dure, plus il est susceptible d’être dévastateur pour les personnes vivant en Ukraine, en Russie et partout dans le monde. Il faut l’arrêter maintenant.

    1) Arrêtez la guerre

    L’attaque contre l’Ukraine par l’armée russe et la guerre contre un pays souverain marquent une violation inacceptable du droit international. Nous appelons à la fin immédiate de la guerre en Ukraine, à un cessez-le-feu et au retrait des forces russes, ainsi qu’à la suppression progressive de toutes les sanctions selon un calendrier convenu. La dévastation de nombreuses villes et le meurtre de civils innocents et d’infrastructures civiles ne peuvent être justifiés.

    Nous demandons aux tierces parties d’empêcher une nouvelle escalade militaire du conflit et d’aider à faciliter les négociations de paix.

    En outre, il est inacceptable et insuffisant que jusqu’à présent seule une poignée d’hommes ait été impliquée dans les négociations de paix.

    Nous appelons à ce que les négociations de paix incluent la société civile et les représentants de ceux qui sont directement concernés, en particulier les femmes, notamment d’Ukraine et de Russie.

    2) Respectez les droits humains internationaux

    Nous sommes solidaires du peuple ukrainien. Les droits des civils doivent être respectés. Après un mois de conflit, les impacts humanitaires entraînent des déplacements massifs de personnes, des pertes de vies et de moyens de subsistance. Nous sommes très inquiets que cette grave violation du droit international ait un impact extrêmement négatif sur la sécurité et la démocratie en Europe et dans le monde.

    Nous appelons également au respect des droits de l’homme en Russie, de nombreux Russes se sont levés pour condamner la violence et leurs voix doivent être entendues. La protestation pacifique doit être reconnue comme une forme d’expression légitime.

    Nous appelons au respect des droits de l’homme et de l’État de droit.

    3) Arrêtez le militarisme et l’agression dans le monde

    Tragiquement, ce n’est pas la première fois que de tels conflits et guerres se produisent, loin de là  – il est donc crucial de réduire la militarisation et l’autoritarisme partout dans le monde.

    La situation actuelle en Ukraine intervient dans un contexte humain où les conflits armés, la violence sous toutes ses formes, l’autoritarisme, la corruption et la répression aveugle affectent la vie de millions de personnes dans le monde et violent les droits humains des personnes jeunes et âgées dans des pays tels que : Myanmar, Yémen, Palestine, Syrie, Soudan du Sud, République centrafricaine, Éthiopie, Colombie, Brésil, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Guatemala, El Salvador et autres.

    Tous les conflits doivent être traités avec le même niveau de préoccupation, toutes les vies affectées par un conflit ont la même valeur.

    Nous appelons au même niveau de soutien pour mettre fin aux conflits et assurer un soutien financier aux personnes déplacées et aux réfugiés d’autres conflits.

    4) Réorienter les fonds militaires vers un avenir juste et durable

    La guerre en Ukraine a déjà eu un impact dévastateur sur l’économie mondiale, en particulier sur les pays du Sud. Il y aura probablement des perturbations majeures et des augmentations significatives du coût de l’énergie et de la production, une augmentation des coûts alimentaires et, en même temps, les budgets seront réorientés vers les dépenses militaires.

    Le militarisme de la Russie est alimenté par les combustibles fossiles et il est donc essentiel d’arrêter les investissements dans les combustibles fossiles et de passer immédiatement à des formes d’énergie propres. Il est d’une importance cruciale que nous réduisions la consommation de pétrole et de gaz et augmentions rapidement les investissements dans les énergies renouvelables afin de lutter contre la crise climatique qui commence maintenant.

    Nous appelons à un engagement spécifique de l’ONU pour réduire les dépenses consacrées aux conflits militaires et réinvestir ces dépenses dans la protection sociale et l’énergie propre.

    5) Établir un fonds mondial pour la paix

    Nous appelons les États membres à se souvenir de la vision fondatrice de l’ONU et de son Conseil de sécurité, à respecter la principale raison pour laquelle cet organisme international  a été créé : éviter toute forme de guerre et la souffrance de l’humanité.

    L’Agenda 2030 trace la voie vers un monde pacifique, juste, durable et prospère ; et des étapes et des actions beaucoup plus ambitieuses doivent être entreprises pour s’assurer que les cibles et les objectifs sont atteints.

    Nous appelons les États membres à créer un fonds mondial pour la paix afin de renforcer le rôle des médiateurs internationaux et des forces de maintien de la paix, l’ONU doit agir !

    Les 191 signataires: (Signez cette déclaration)
    Global

    • Action for Sustainable Development
    • CIVICUS
    • GCAP
    • SDG Watch Europe
    • SHERPA Institute
    • Vivat International
    • Academics Stand Against Poverty
    • Gaia U International, Global Ecovillage Network US
    • VIVAT International
    • International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana, Asia Pacific.
    • Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs

    Asie

    • Farmers’ Voice (Krisoker Sor), Bangladesh
    • Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights(BIHR), Bangladesh
    • JusticeMakers Bangladesh, Bangladesh
    • Circular Economy Alliance India, India
    • Kethoseno Peseyie, India
    • CHIKKA FEDERATION OF INDIA, India
    • Independent Individual freelancer named Hitesh BHATT & MS JALPA PATEL-INDIA., India
    • Sikshasandhan, India
    • Sustainable Development Council, India
    • Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India
    • Peace in Education, India
    • THE CATALYSTS CO, India
    • SOCIETY FOR ORPHAN, NEGLECTED AND YOUTHS (SONY), India
    • FAUDAR RURAL EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY FOR HARIJANS, India
    • GIRL UP CHIKKA, India
    • International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, Indonesia
    • Sustainable agriculture and environment, Iran
    • Japan Youth Platform for Sustainability(JYPS), Japan
    • UNISC International, Japan
    • Silambam Asia, Malaysia
    • World Yoga Association, Malaysia
    • World Silambam Association (WSA), Malaysia
    • Climate Change Working Group, Myanmar
    • COMMUNITY SUPPORT ASSOCIATION OF NEPAL, Nepal
    • Sheni legal Service and Research Center, Nepal
    • SATHI SAMUHA (Friends Group), Nepal
    • Youth Advocacy Nepal (YAN), Nepal
    • Restructuring Nepal, Nepal
    • Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), Pakistan
    • Haakro Welfare Association, Pakistan
    • SSpS, Philippines
    • Lanka Fundamental Rights Organization, Sri Lanka
    • Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, Viet Nam
    • AwazCDS, Pakistan
    • Korean Advocates for Global Health, Korea
    • National Campaign For Sustainable Development (NACASUD-Nepal), Nepal
    • Tarayana Foundation, Bhutan
    • General Secretary Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Pakistan
    • Think Centre Singapore, Singapore

    Europe

    • Missionsprokur St. Gabriel International, Austria
    • Greenskills, Austria
    • Mikel Díez Sarasola, España
    • Circular Initiatives Roadmap (CIR), Estonia
    • Pekka Kuusi Ecofoundation, Finland
    • World Family Organization, France
    • ONG (Nouveau Point de vue ), France outre-mer
    • Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD, Georgia
    • Global Ecovillage Network, Germany
    • Forum on Environment and Development, Germany
    • IAHV, Germany
    • Patrick Paul Walsh, Ireland
    • International Presentation Association, Ireland
    • DMDA, Ireland
    • Jan Martin Bang, Norway
    • Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment, Norway
    • Moray Carshare, Scotland
    • Salisbury centre Edinburgh, Scotland UK
    • Drustvo Soncni gric, Slovenija
    • Alfonso Flaquer, Spain
    • Centro de Transformacion del Conflicto Humano, Spain
    • Findhorn Foundation Fellows, Sweden
    • Justice for Prosperity Foundation, The Netherlands
    • British Autism Advocates, U.K.
    • Integral City Meshworks Inc., UK
    • BPWUK, Uk
    • Findhorn Fellows, UK
    • Emerson College, Forest Row, East Sussex, UK., UK
    • Barnaby Green, United Kingdom
    • Dr. Colin Thomas Barnes, United Kingdom
    • Development Alternatives, United Kingdom
    • NAWO and the Judith Trust, United Kingdom
    • Victor S Ient, United Kingdom
    • Findhorn Foundation & Park Ecovillage Trust, United Kingdom
    • InnerLinks, United Kingdom
    • Alan Watson Featherstone, United Kingdom
    • Open Circle Consulting Ltd, United Kingdom
    • Poems for Parliament, United Kingdom
    • Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform, United Kingdom
    • Ecologia Youth Trust, United Kingdom
    • Soroptimist International, United Kingdom
    • Commonwealth Medical Trust, United Kingdom
    • Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD), United Kingdom
    • SecurityWomen, United Kingdom

    Moyen-Orient et Afrique du Nord

    • Gatef, Egypt
    • Junior enterprise, Tunisia

    Océanie

    • Plowright Studios, Australia
    • Aaron Owen, Australia
    • PIANGO, Fiji
    • Deepti Karan Weiss, Fiji
    • The New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women, New Zealand
    • GENOA, Oceania and Asia

    Afrique subsaharienne

    • RESEAU SOS FEMMES EN DETRESSE – SOS FED, BURUNDI
    • YUNIBF (Youth United for a Brighter Future), Cameroon
    • Action pour le Développement (A4D), Cameroun
    • Centre Oecuménique pour la Promotion du Monde Rural, Congo-Kinshasa
    • AGIR POUR LA SÉCURITÉ ET LA SOUVERAINETÉ ALIMENTAIRE ASSA, Congo-Kinshasa( RDCONGO)
    • Save the Climat, Democratic Republic of Congo
    • Locate software, Ethiopia
    • Michael Girimay Gebremedhine, Ethiopia
    • New English private school, Ethiopia
    • Taminnova, Ethiopian
    • Apostolic Ministerial International Network, Ghana
    • Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, Ghana
    • Abundant Grace Female Foundation, Ghana
    • Elizka Relief Foundation, Ghana
    • Parlement des Jeunes Leaders de la Société Civile Guinéenne, Guinée
    • BASO, Kenya
    • The Social Justice Centers Working Group, Kenya
    • New Generation Outreach, Kenya
    • Thomas Kaydor,  Jr., LIBERIA
    • Innovations for change, Malawi
    • Action for Environmental Sustainability, Malawi
    • Peoples Federation for National Peace and Development (PEFENAP), Malawi
    • Association du Développement et de la Promotion de Droits de l’Homme, Mauritanie
    • Dieumax Ventures, Nigeria
    • Leadership Watch, Nigeria
    • Initiative For Peace And Stability ( IPAS), Nigeria
    • HETAVED SKILLS ACADEMY AND NETWORKS INTERNATIONAL, Nigeria
    • Environment and Development Advocates (EDA), Nigeria
    • ASSOCIATION COMMUNAUTAIRE POUR LE BIEN ETRE ET LA PROTECTION ENVIRONNEMENTALE /ACOBEPE ONGD, REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO
    • Nouveaux Droits de l’homme Congo Brazzaville, République du Congo
    • GCAP-SENGAL, Senegal
    • EARTH REGENERATIVE PROJECT SIERRA LEONE-NGO, SIERRA LEONE
    • Volunteers Involving Organisations Network, Sierra Leone
    • Mahawa Foundation, Sierra Leone
    • Waste For Change NPC, South Africa
    • Kadesh International, South Africa
    • African Monitor Trust, South Africa
    • Community Health Organization(CH), Tanzania
    • VEILLE CITOYENNE TOGO, TOGO
    • Espace Vie et Action-Togo (EVA-T), Togo
    • Sugur Development Agency (SDA), Uganda
    • Vision Centre Africa, Uganda
    • Human Nature Projets Uganda, Uganda
    • Step Up Youth Initiative, Uganda
    • Development Education Community Project, Zambia

    Amérique

    • AidWatch Canada, Canada
    • Vision GRAM-International, Canada and  D R Congo
    • Gloria Rodríguez, Colombia
    • Movimiento Nacional Cimarrón, Colombia
    • Alianza ONG, Dominican Republic
    • Christian Acosta, Ecuador
    • CECADE, El Salvador
    • Union des Amis Socio Culturels d’Action en Developpement (UNASCAD), Haiti
    • Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council, Jamaica
    • Uso Inteligente ASV AC, México
    • MY World México, México
    • Humberto Soto, México
    • Coordinadora por los Derechos de la Infancia y la Adolescencia de Paraguay, Paraguay
    • Consorcio Agroecológico Peruano, Perú
    • Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc, Saint Lucia
    • UNANIMA International, United States
    • Congregation of the Mission, United States
    • World Union for Progressive Judaism, United States
    • Transdiaspora Network, United States
    • Sustainably Wise, United States
    • Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights, United States
    • The GOOD Group, United States
    • Let There Be Light International, United States
    • ALICIA STAMMER, United States
    • Andrea Ruiz, United States
    • TRIPPINZ CARE INC, United States
    • Pleading for the Widows International Foundation, United States
    • Missionary Oblates of Immaculate, United States
    • Oblate Ecological Initiative, United States
    • United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, United States
    • New Future Foundation, United States
    • World Roma Federation, US
    • Kosmos Journal; Unity Earth, USA
    • NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY, USA
    • Volunteer Groups Alliance, USA
    • Findhorn Foundation, USA
    • TAP Network, USA
    • Global Choices, USA/ UK
    • REDHNNA, Venezuela
    • OMEP World Organization for Early Childhood Education, Argentina
    • Fundación para la Democracia Internacional, Argentina
    • Fundacion para Estudio e investigacion de la Mujer, Argentina
    • Reaccion Climatica, Bolivia
    • Viviane Weingärtner, Brazil
  • As NGOs speak out, expect clampdowns to grow

    By David Kode

    Across the globe, from East Africa to eastern Europe, there is a trend of increasing attacks on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that support reforms governments are opposed to.

    Read on: Open Global Rights

     

  • BELARUS: ‘There is a pro-democracy civil society that opposes the war and advocates for democratic reforms’

    AnastasiyaVasilchukCIVICUS speaks with Anastasiya Vasilchuk of Viasna about the escalatingrepression and criminalisation of civil society in Belarus.

    Founded in 1996, Viasna (‘Spring’ in Belarusian) is a human rights civil society organisation (CSO) based in Minsk, the capital, with regional organisations in most Belarusian cities and around 200 members throughout the country. Its main goal is to promote respect for human rights and contribute to the development of civic society in Belarus.

    What is the current situation of civil society activists and organisations in Belarus?

    At the moment, the work of activists and CSOs in Belarus is practically paralysed. Those activists who remain in Belarus and try to remain active are at great risk. Volunteer activists who are not members of any CSO are being detained and charged administratively and even criminally for any form of activity, including sending parcels to political prisoners and organising solidarity meetings, and are tried under phony charges such as reposting ‘extremist materials’ found on their phones or ‘disobeying’ police officers.

    Members of CSOs who have remained in Belarus are being persecuted on the basis of article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits activities on behalf of organisations that are unregistered or have been deprived of registration. Since 2021, about 1,180 CSOS have been liquidated or are in the process of liquidation. All human rights organisations have already been deprived of registration, so it is impossible for them to work legally inside Belarus.

    In order to keep functioning, most human rights CSOs, Viasna included, have been forced to leave Belarus and continue their work from abroad. Almost all meetings and legal consultations with people who have been subjected to repression are now taking place online. The regional branches of our organisation have also only been able to continue working from abroad, collecting information on repression in their regions through local volunteers who put themselves in harm’s way every day, as well as through open-source investigation techniques, which employees had to learn fast after being forcibly relocated.

    Generally speaking, displacement has brought many challenges for civil society. We’ve had to search for extra funding, in light of the usually higher costs of living in host countries. We’ve had to rethink our work processes, which were previously based mainly on direct personal communication with victims of human rights violations, and shift them online. And we’ve had to focus on maintaining the visibility and significance of our activities in the eyes of victims of human rights violations in Belarus.

    Despite the ongoing crackdown on dissent, Viasna and other human rights CSOs continue to document human rights violations, which are occurring on a huge scale and on a daily basis in Belarus, to make them visible and try to elicit a reaction from the international community.

    How are Belarusian CSOs supporting activists under threat?

    Viasna is working for persecuted activists to be recognised as political prisoners and providing further assistance to them, as well as to other victims of repression. We collect information about people detained for political motives all over the country, and alongside other CSOs that are part of our human rights coalition we highlight their cases as political prisoners and provide comprehensive support to them and their families, including providing free legal advice, sending them care packages and leading advocacy campaigns for their release. Right now, we are also looking for resources and opportunities to help political prisoners who are being released and are in need of material, psychological and medical support.

    Other CSOs provide other forms of support to political prisoners and repressed activists, depending on their area of work. For example, women’s human rights organisations provide support to female political prisoners, while independent trade unions, which have also been forced to leave the country, provide assistance to their arrested colleagues. There are also specialised funds and initiatives that provide medical and psychological support to victims of repression.

    What have been the impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine on Belarusian civil society?

    In the present context we can identify several impacts. Immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine, many Belarusian CSOs jointly condemned the Russian aggression and demonstrated their solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and some CSOs provided humanitarian assistance. The outbreak of war actualised the problem of Russian political influence in Belarus and highlighted the fact that Belarus is exposed to a potential military threat from Russia, which has become a key area of concern for some CSOs.

    Particularly in the first months of the war, the attitude of some international actors towards Belarusian CSOs changed due to the pro-Russian position of the Belarusian illegitimate authorities, and the problem of the severe political repression ongoing in Belarus began to fade into the background. The ongoing war has meant that Belarusian CSOs have had to make additional efforts to make sure their voice is heard, reminding the outside world that there is more to Belarus than the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus also has a pro-democracy civil society that opposes the war and advocates for democratic reforms.

    What further support does Belarusian civil society need from theinternational community?

    Belarusian civil society, including Viasna, has continued to receive financial and informational support from international allies. However, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine some major donors, who had helped ensure stable long-term funding for civil society, reduced or completely stopped their assistance to Belarusian civil society. We are therefore in much need of long-term, stable financial assistance.

    Regarding informational support, we are currently actively working to expand the network of international actors interested in the human rights situation in Belarus. Informational support is a key element for raising awareness of systemic human rights violations in Belarus.


    Civic space in Belarus is rated ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Viasna through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@Viasna onTwitter.

  • Belarus: A Prison State in Europe

    By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief, CIVICUS

    Last October, Ales Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was one of three winners, alongside two human rights organisations: Memorial, in Russia, and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine. The Nobel Committee recognised the three’s ‘outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power’.

    But Bialiatski couldn’t travel to Oslo to collect his award. He’d been detained in July 2021 and held in jail since. This month he was found guilty on trumped-up charges of financing political protests and smuggling, and handed a 10-year sentence. His three co-defendants were also given long jail terms. There are many others besides them who’ve been thrown in prison, among them other staff and associates of Viasna, the human rights centre Bialiatski heads.

    Read on Inter Press Service 

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  • Can Democracy Stand Up to the Cult of the Strongman Leader?

    By Mandeep Tiwana and Andrew Firmin

    Donald Trump’s presidency, recent protests in Russia and South Africa and the referendum to consolidate presidential power in Turkey have reignited debate about an emerging form of macho conservative politics called ‘Putinism’. This new form of politics is shaping contemporary notions of democracy while undermining the international rules-based system and harming civil society.

    Read on: Diplomatic Courier

     

     

  • Civil society expresses solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemn Putin’s War

    We civil society organisations, including national umbrella bodies from across the world, stand united in our condemnation of Russia’s military aggression toward Ukraine in gross violation of international law. We deplore the targeting of civilian populations and infrastructures by Russian forces, which amounts to war crimes.

  • Council must heed warning signs and address rights violations in Russia, India and elsewhere

    Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 4 General Debate

    Delivered byLisa Majumdar

  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

  • Environmental Movement in Russia Once Again Under Attack

    19 April 2010, Johannesburg. CIVICUS has received information from local sources that the offices of Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) in Samara, Russia, have been raided by the police in connection with alleged criminal charges of extremism against Mr. Sergey Simak the Co-Chair of the Organization,.

    On the 13th of April, staff from the regional branches of the Department for Economic Crimes and the Center for the Combat of Extremism raided the SEU offices and seized Mr. Simak's computer and documents, which are alleged to have been used for criminal purposes.

    According to local reports, a source in the regional Police Department stated that the case was initiated on 12 April, the same day that activists from Samara, and 44 other cities in Russia, held protests over the felling of virgin Mediterranean pistachio-juniper forests, to make space for a health and sports complex. Furthermore, ecologists and activists from Samara have been actively involved in protesting the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, which reopened with the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and has grave ecological consequences for Lake Baikal and surrounding region.

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned that attacks on the environmental movement in Russia are becoming common and systematic. A member of SEU has expressed fears to CIVICUS that, as SEU is currently headquartered out of Samara, the whole organization may be jeopardized by this latest attack. CIVICUS urges President Medvedev to protect freedoms of association and expression in the country, and ensure that peaceful environmentalism is not regarded as extremism in Russia.

    Environmental groups in Russia are repeatedly stripped of their fundamental right to freedom of expression when the issues are political or economic in nature. In January 2010, police raided NGO Baikal Environmental Wave, a member of the SEU Network, and confiscated computers in response to the NGO's advocacy surrounding the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Further, in Turkmenistan, the authorities arrested Mr. Andrey Zatoka under trumped up charges, a renowned ecologist, activist and member of SEU.

    The Socio-Ecological Union remains to be the oldest, largest, and one of the most respected NGOs in the post-Soviet region. The compromise of the operations and existence of this organization would have grave consequences not only for the region's rich and diverse ecology, but also for the civil society in Eurasia as a whole.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) programme of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world. In 2009, CSW tracked threats in 75 countries across the globe.

    For more information, please contact:

    Devendra Tak, Media and Communications Manager, CIVICUS
    or
    Sonia Zilberman, Civil Society Watch Programme, CIVICUS
    Tel: +27 -11- 8335959

  • Es necesaria una respuesta internacional unificada y coordinada a los ataques de Rusia en Ucrania

    La alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS se solidariza con el pueblo ucraniano y pide una respuesta internacional rápida, unificada y dirigida a Rusia.

  • Firm, unified response needed to Russia’s aggression

    By Andrew Firmin, Editor in Chief, CIVICUS

    It is now clear diplomacy matters little to Vladimir Putin. Despite the efforts of a string of presidents and prime ministers to prevent conflict, on 24 February, Putin started the war he’d been itching for.

    What now seems evident is that Putin expects to maintain a Cold War-style sphere of influence around Russia’s borders. It isn’t only his treatment of Ukraine, seemingly punished for orienting a little more towards the west and entertaining a vague idea of joining NATO, that shows this.

    In the context of conflict, there’s a need to monitor and collect evidence of human rights violations – with the aim of one day holding the perpetrators and commissioners of crimes to account in the international justice system.

    Civil society can play a vital part here – not only in defending human rights and monitoring violations, but also in building peace at the local level and providing essential humanitarian help to people left bereft by conflict.

    Read more on Inter Press Service 

  • GEORGIA: ‘The foreign agents law poses a threat to the vibrancy and autonomy of civil society’

    Nino_Samkharadze.pngCIVICUS speaks with Nino Samkharadze, policy analyst at the Georgian Institute of Politics, about thecontroversial ‘foreign agents’ law just passed in Georgia.

    The Georgian Institute of Politics is a Tbilisi-based non-profit, non-partisan research and analysis organisation dedicated to fortifying the foundations of democratic institutions and effective governance in Georgia.

    What’s the purpose of Georgia’s law on foreign agents?

    According to the government, the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, which has just been passed by parliament, aims to increase the transparency of civil society’s operations by requiring civil society organisations (CSOs) to disclose their sources of funding and provide details about the nature of their activities.

    In its transition from the post-Soviet era, Georgia faces economic and political challenges. Its evolving democracy is characterised by weak institutions and it’s heavily dependent on support from international sources, including financial grants from the European Union (EU), European states and the USA. The introduction of this law may have been a response to concerns about foreign influence, but it has sparked debate in Georgian society. It poses a threat to the independence and security of CSOs. Its vague language and broad room for interpretation provide the government with opportunities to influence and control civil society, potentially stifling dissenting voices and undermining the positive contributions of CSOs to democratic governance.

    Why did the government reintroduce the bill after failing to pass it last year?

    The process began with the introduction of a first version of the bill in February 2023. It wasn’t proposed directly by the ruling Georgian Dream party but by People’s Power, a splinter political group closely linked to Georgian Dream and espousing even more radical anti-western narratives. But it was met with considerable domestic and international opposition. Protests erupted in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and criticism came from European institutions and the US government. In response, Georgian Dream announced it would vote against the bill, which ultimately led to its rejection by parliament. Following this failure, Georgian Dream underwent a period of reflection and intensified its propaganda. It softened the bill’s language and tone to make it appear less radical and reintroduced it in April 2024. Soon after, on 14 May, it was passed by parliament.

    Georgian Dream came to power in 2012 and is now in an unprecedented third term in office. Since it began its third term in 2020, it has increasingly shown anti-democratic tendencies. With a general election scheduled for October 2024, it’s under increasing pressure as polls indicate a decline in public support. If it doesn’t maintain its majority, it will have to seek cooperation from opposition parties. In this context, the government may see the passage of this law as a way to defuse opposition and strengthen its grip on power.

    How do you think the law would affect civil society?

    The impacts of the law on civil society are expected to be significant and multifaceted, affecting various dimensions of its functioning and autonomy.

    CSOs are likely to be negatively labelled as serving the interests of foreign powers, undermining public confidence in their activities and missions. This labelling could easily lead to stigmatisation and marginalisation, reducing the effectiveness of advocacy efforts and diminishing their influence in the public sphere.

    The law’s provisions for extensive monitoring also pose a threat to the autonomy of CSOs and the privacy of their staff. The government’s ability to access and publish personal data, including correspondence and communications, could hamper CSOs’ ability to operate freely and investigate cases of corruption and human rights abuses.

    Further, the ambiguity of the law leaves room for interpretation and potential abuse by the government. Similar to the situation in Russia, where laws targeting ‘foreign agents’ have been used to restrict civil society activities, the vague language of the law could allow for further restrictions on CSOs and their ability to operate independently.

    The law may also lead to a withdrawal of funding from international foundations and donors. Given the increased risks and restrictions on civil society activities, donors may be reluctant to continue supporting organisations in Georgia, further limiting the resources available for democracy and state-building efforts.

    Overall, the draft law poses a threat to the vibrancy and autonomy of Georgian civil society. It undermines the essential role CSOs play in promoting democratic values, defending human rights and holding the government to account. It could have far-reaching consequences for Georgia’s democratic development and its relationship with the international community.

    How has civil society reacted?

    Georgian civil society has vehemently opposed the bill, seeing it as a dangerous step towards authoritarianism. This law poses a threat to critical voices and raises fears of further concentration of power in the hands of the ruling elite, as has happened in Belarus and Russia.

    No wonder the bill is also often referred to as the ‘Russian law’ – it’s seen as a precursor to outcomes similar to those seen in Russia. It’s feared that dissenting voices will be marginalised or silenced under this law, mirroring the situation in Russia where government critics often face persecution or exile. Given the consolidation of the ruling party and the erosion of democratic principles in Russia, there are concerns in Georgia that the ruling party is also seeking to consolidate power and stifle dissent. Despite some differences between both legal texts, the broader implications for democracy and civil liberties are deeply worrying.

    Georgian society, known for its pro-European and pro-democracy stance, has taken to the streets to protest against this threat. International partners, including the EU and the USA, have also criticised the law and stressed the importance of upholding democratic values.

    How has the government responded to the protests?

    The government’s response to the mass protests has been one of dismissal, demonisation and repression.

    The government has tried to discredit the protesters, particularly younger people, by suggesting they are uninformed about the law and are being manipulated. However, this is contradicted by the fact that many of the protesters, many of whom are students, are well educated and have a clear understanding of the issues at stake.

    The government has also resorted to tactics of repression and intimidation, with reports of regular arrests, beatings and pressure on people associated with the protests. Civil servants, including teachers and academics, have been threatened with the loss of their jobs if they are found to be involved in the protests. This has a chilling effect and discourages dissent.

    CSOs have been targeted with demonisation campaigns that portray them as enemies of the country. While there has been no immediate closure or direct pressure on these organisations, the hostile rhetoric and stigmatisation contribute to an environment of fear and intimidation.

    This authoritarian approach reflects a concerted effort to stifle dissent and maintain control, even at the expense of democratic principles and human rights. It threatens to further undermine confidence in institutions and exacerbate social and political tensions.

    How can the international community best support Georgian civil society?

    The international community can play a crucial role in supporting Georgian civil society at this difficult time.

    High-level visits and engagement by representatives of the EU and the USA are essential. We hope they’ll lead to tangible measures to hold accountable those members of Georgian Dream who supported this law. This could include the introduction of targeted sanctions against people responsible for undermining democratic principles. In addition, the EU should use Georgia’s official status as a candidate for EU membership to impose conditions of adherence to democratic norms and respect for human rights. Sanctions or other forms of pressure could be imposed if these principles are violated.

    It’s also crucial that the EU and the USA continue to demonstrate their unwavering support for Georgia and its pro-European aspirations. Financial assistance and political support are essential to strengthen civil society and maintain momentum in the struggle for democracy. Without this support, civil society risks being further marginalised and weakened by the government.

    A combination of diplomatic pressure, conditionality and unwavering support from the international community is needed to support Georgian civil society in its struggle for democracy and human rights.


    Civic space in Georgia is rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Georgian Institute of Politics through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@GIP_ge and@nincavar10 on Twitter.

  • Nous sommes solidaires de l’Ukraine !

    Nous, soussignés, organisations de la société civile, pensons à vous, chers collègues, et sommes solidaires de vous et du peuple ukrainien en ces temps difficiles. Comme le reste du monde, nous avons regardé avec horreur la Russie attaquer l’Ukraine aux premières heures du 24 février. Cette attaque ne cesse pas. Nous condamnons cet acte d’agression avec la plus grande fermeté, car il constitue un crime au regard du droit international et menace l'ordre international.  

  • Now is the time for greater transparency and broader participation

    Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue onthe High Commissioner’s Annual Report

    Delivered byLisa Majumdar

    We thank the High Commissioner for her report, and for her work during her term.

    We fully agree that these are times for greater – not less - transparency and broader space for civic engagement and participation. Too many States are falling short in these respects.

    We see this in China, where civic space is closed and space for dissent is all but non-existent. Activists have been detained and indicted for speaking up, and thousands have been detained in legalised form of enforced disappearance.

    In Russia, a systematic dismantling of dissent has created an internal environment in which aggression can thrive. It has become all too clear that repression does not engender security, but rather its opposite.

    In these situations, it is even more important that the international human rights institutions, including this Council and your office, steps up in support. No country can be above effective scrutiny, regardless of the geopolitical power they wield.

    We stress again that civil society restrictions can and should be seen as early warnings for further deterioration in human rights protections. We look particularly at India, where increasing restrictions threaten the ability of civil society to carry out its work and where authorities continue to suppress peaceful protests.

    With a focus this session on the rights that protect civic space, we call on States to speak out on country situations where patterns of restrictions are evident, and to use this session to take action on the most egregious of these.

    We ask the High Commissioner, as your term draws to a close – what action should be taken by the Council and its members in these cases of systematic repression of civil society?


    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

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