NHC at the 2017 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
During this year’s HDIM the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) co-organised two side events and, jointly with other member organisations of the CSP, advocated for a stronger response by the OSCE to the crackdown on human rights and on those who defend them in a number of member states in the eastern part of the OSCE region.
On September 11, jointly with Fair Trials, the NHC co-hosted a panel discussion on reforms needed in international police and prosecutorial cooperation. Panellists presented challenges to human rights in international law enforcement cooperation. In particular, the ways in which the INTERPOL system has been abused for repression of legitimate human rights and political activists were highlighted, as well as how INTERPOL is trying to rectify this. Furthermore, the lack of mechanisms in the professional community of prosecutors to uphold standards on human rights was underlined. The discussion focused on how civil society organisations can work together to stop the misuse of international cooperation mechanisms.
On September 12, the NHC organised a second side event in collaboration with the Human Rights Information Center and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. The subject of this event was the situation of human rights defenders in Ukraine, where multiple cases occur of legal and physical harassment of human rights defenders and activists striving to protect public interest, including in the territories of Ukraine controlled by the government in Kyiv. The side event featured the presentation of a comprehensive report on this issue. A call was made to withdraw legislative initiatives that aim to disproportionally increase financial reporting obligations of NGOs.
As part of its joint advocacy work with members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, the NHC director Pepijn Gerrits, along with 10 other representatives of human rights groups, attended a meeting with ODIHR director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir to share concerns regarding the shrinking of civil society space across the OSCE region.
The NHC director stressed the need to continue to monitor the breaking down of stringent checks in state institutions and emphasised the negative impact this has on the independence of a judicial system, in particular in countries such as: Turkey, Poland and Hungary. The meeting also focused on the lack of respect for fundamental freedoms, such as the right of assembly and freedom of the media, in states such as: Azerbaijan and Russia, along with several other Central Asian countries. The devastating impact of the repressive policies on the position and safety of Human Rights Defenders was brought to the attention of Ms. Sólrún Gísladóttir.
Pepijn Gerrits concluded by inviting ODIHR to continue its monitoring work through the OSCE as well as increasing the cooperation with the CSP. He congratulated ODIHR on the recent report on “The Responsibility of States: Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the OSCE Region (2014–2016)”. This report built upon various recommendations given by the CSP members during previous Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM) and OSCE ministerial councils, in Basel and Dublin.