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NGOs call for more OSCE efforts in realizing human dimension commitments

05 December 2011

Independent civil society organizing for the defence of human rights is becoming increasingly difficult in many OSCE participating states. The OSCE should do more to promote freedom of association, to protect human rights defenders and to improve freedom of movement. It should allow for more civil society input in the development of its policies and activities. These calls were issued by a conference of representatives from NGOs from over twenty-five countries, held in Vilnius on the eve of the OSCE Ministerial Council, meeting in that city on 6 and 7 December. The conference said the OSCE should continue to expand its valuable work in promoting freedom of assembly, the rule of law and media freedom. The conference today presented its demands and recommendations to OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius A┼żubalis.

The conference condemned unjust imprisonment for political reasons. “Our colleagues, human rights defenders Ales Bialiatsky (Belarus), Evgeniy Zhovtis (Kazakhstan), Vidadi Isqenderov (Azerbaijan), Azimzhan Askarov (Kyrgyzstan), Dilmurod Saidov and Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov (both from Uzbekistan), who have all been promoting OSCE values in their work, should be released immediately and unconditionally”, the conference said in its final statement.

The conference expressed extreme concern over the “full-scale human dimension crisis” in Belarus. All international cooperation that provides for the transfer of funds to the Belarussian authorities, either directly or through companies they control, should cease. United Nations human rights mechanisms should be more fully employed to influence the crisis in Belarus. Not only should all political prisoners be released and rehabilitated, systemic changes should be made y the Belarussian authorities in the field of human rights and the rule of law.

The conference welcomed the proposals by the Lithuanian OSCE-chairmanship and the OSCE Special Representative on Freedom of the Media on prioritizing safety of journalists, who continue to face physical violence, harassment, threats and legal persecution. Freedom of access to the Internet, and freedom to publish information on the Internet should be protected. The conference urged the OSCE Ministerial Council to endorse the Declaration on Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age, as proposed by the Lithuanian Chairmanship.

Serious concern was expressed at the limitations imposed on independent election monitors in a number of countries, most recently in the parliamentary elections of 4 December in Russia. Unhindered participation of independent observers of the electoral process should be made a mandatory condition of recognising elections as legitimate.

The conference expressed grave disappointment on the ability of the OSCE in promoting compliance by participating States with the human dimension commitments they have agreed to. The human dimension affects the ability to realize comprehensive security and is as important as the military and economic dimensions in the work of the organization. Specialized mechanisms for human dimension implementation should be strengthened, and the human dimension should be given a more central role in the work of the organization.

The conference welcomed the establishment of the international cooperation platform Civic Solidarity, aimed at coordinating and strengthening continuous human rights advocacy in the region covered by the OSCE.

For more information see: outcome document