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Minister Koenders meeting with human rights defenders ahead of OSCE Ministerial Council

04 December 2014

On the eve of the Ministerial Council meeting of the OSCE in Basel, Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders met with civil society human rights activists from a.o. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. NHC director Harry Hummel also presented him with the outcome documents of the Parallel Civil Society Conference that took place ahead of the Ministerial Council meeting.

With regard to Turkmenistan, the Minister was informed about the Prove They Are Alive campaign, aimed at clarifying the fate of dozens of prisoners that have been arrested for political reasons and have not been heard of for over ten years. The Azerbaijani civil society representative spoke about the unprecedented crackdown on civil society groups, including the arrest of several prominent human rights defenders and the emigration of many others.

On Ukraine, it was emphasized that continued encouragement is required from the part of the EU and EU member states for carrying through the profound reforms needed in the justice and law enforcement sector. Assistance needs to be conditioned on the implementation of these reforms. The situation in Crimea was given special attention, where the human rights climate has become much harsher after the Russian annexation, and all civil society human rights defense groups have left for mainland Ukraine.