Strasbourg, 26.08.2014 – B'Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Rights (Israel), the Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta) and Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan) are the three candidates shortlisted, in alphabetical order, in Prague today for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2014.
The selection panel, comprising six independent experts and chaired by Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), drew up its shortlist from 56 candidatures who fulfilled the criteria for the Prize.
B'Tselem is the leading Israeli organisation with both Israeli and Palestinian members promoting human rights in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It has endeavoured to document and educate the public and policymakers about all human rights violations, irrespective of who has committed them. B'Tselem sends hundreds of cases to the military and civil authorities demanding criminal investigations, monitoring all stages of the investigation and submitting legal appeals where possible. Each year it takes testimonies from victims and eye-witnesses of human rights violations. Recently it has pioneered an innovative video strategy, distributing video cameras in high conflict areas and training volunteers to use them to document incidents of violence.
The Jesuit Refugee Service Malta is the Maltese branch of the global Jesuit Refugee Service, a non governmental organisation working to protect the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, through legal advice, psychosocial support and humanitarian assistance and through strategic litigation and advocacy. Much of its work is focused on detention centres, where staff and volunteers identify individual protection needs of detainees, provide them with information about asylum and immigration procedures, assess social, psychosocial and medical needs, and obtain the release of children, pregnant women and vulnerable persons.
Anar Mammadli is a prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender who has made an extensive contribution towards defending the right to free elections. (more...)
Strasbourg, 19.08.2014 - On Tuesday morning, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland sent a letter to Council of Europe foreign ministers drawing attention to the worsening situation of displaced persons and made the following statement:
“The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine is worsening day by day. Innocent people are being killed and wounded. The number of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees is rising dramatically. It is my responsibility as Secretary General of the Council of Europe to undertake every effort to assist our member States in ensuring that the rights guaranteed by the European Convention for Human Rights are effectively implemented, and to protect all displaced persons, regardless of who they are and where they live. That is why in my letter to Council of Europe foreign ministers today, I urge all member states to step up humanitarian aid in the region, in particular through the UNHCR and the International Red Cross and in co-ordination with the relevant national authorities”.
With reference to last Sunday’s meeting of foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Berlin, Mr Jagland said: “I call on all parties to continue the dialogue towards finding a political solution to this crisis.”
Ukraine and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 11.08.2014 - Statement by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland:
“In a telephone conversation with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan this morning, I expressed my deep concerns about the arrests of prominent human rights defenders in recent days.
We agreed that the joint Committee between the Presidential Administration and the representatives of civil society, established in 2005, and which worked until December 2008, will be re-convened and that a representative of the Council of Europe will be present in this Committee.
This meeting will take place as soon as possible and will be a good opportunity to go through the charges brought against the human rights defenders and to re-launch dialogue between the authorities and civil society”.
Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 08.08.2014 - In a letter sent to the members of the Assembly, marking the 65th anniversary of the Assembly which met for the first time on 10 August 1949, PACE President Anne Brasseur today paid tribute to the past members and Presidents. She thanked them for “not giving up on the European dream, for keeping it inclusive and open to new member states and for having transcended their national and political differences to defend the values that are common to us”.
Referring to the bloodshed and sorrow that affect today some members states, she stressed that the Council of Europe was first of all a platform to achieve peace. “This anniversary should serve as a reminder of our duty to stand strong and united against intolerance, xenophobia and hatred,” Ms Brasseur concluded.
Letter by PACE President
Strasbourg, 01.08.2014 - I am deeply concerned about the reports relating to the detention of Leyla Yunus and the opening of a prosecution case against her husband, Arif Yunus, who are both well-known human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
I conveyed my concerns and asked for further information and clarification of this case in a telephone conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Mr Elnur Mammadyarov.
I expect that the ongoing enquiry by the judicial authorities into the alleged actions of these two prominent civil society representatives will meet the required Council of Europe standards.
Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 20.08.2014 - Statement of Secretary General Jagland on recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, USA: “The recent violent events in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of an unarmed teenager raise concern. I am particularly concerned by the reported use of excessive force by the police against peaceful protesters and their arrest, including journalists covering the events, as this undermines the full exercise of human rights, starting with the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. These rights are cornerstones of democracy and any restriction should be lawful and proportionate. Both public authorities and protesters should show restraint and responsibility. I trust that a proper investigation will be carried out into the killing. When the USA became an observer State to the Council of Europe, it accepted to uphold the principles and values of our Organisation. I call upon US authorities to look into the socio-economic background for the reasons why so many peaceful protesters went to the streets”.
See also :
The United States and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 11.08.2014 – Three candidates, representing different political positions, were generally able to campaign freely, and freedoms of assembly and association were respected in the 10 August presidential election in Turkey, international election observers said in a statement issued today. However, the Prime Minister’s use of his official position, along with biased media coverage, gave him a distinct advantage over the other candidates. (more...)
Turkey and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 10.08.2014 - In a statement today the Secretary General called on both sides to deescalate the violence:
"I welcome the meeting held today in Sochi between President Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Sargsyan of Armenia and President Putin of the Russian Federation. Following the latest armed incidents along the Line of Contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani State border, this meeting marks a positive step towards the resuming of dialogue between the two countries.
I call on both sides to undertake all possible efforts to put an end to the escalation of violence which caused numerous victims in both countries in the recent days.
I would also like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. There should be no place for violence between Member States parties to the ECHR which guarantees the right to life to all Europeans".
Armenia and the Council of Europe
Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 07.08.2014 - "Universal access to health care has been undermined by austerity measures and the economic crisis. Cuts in health services and difficult economic and social conditions are beginning to have a measurable impact on the health of the population in many countries. Yet the right to health is guaranteed by international and European human rights instruments. Everyone’s access to health care without discrimination belongs to the core content of this right", says Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Human Rights Comment published today. (more...)
Strasbourg, 01.08.2014 - Even in 2014 many people have never heard of the Roma genocide or porrajmos in which at least half a million Roma died. A new handbook, launched on August 2 – Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day – is designed to change that.
The handbook, Right to Remember, provides historical background, information on human rights and activities to help trainers and teachers work with young people to ensure they understand what happened and why. In particular, it helps learners explore the prevailing attitudes which made the genocide possible and to consider the extent to which the same attitudes persist today.
The book is being launched at the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative (30 July to 4 August) in Krakow, Poland, organised by the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Ternype/Roma Youth Network and the Roma Educational Association „Harangos“.
1,000 young people are taking part from across Europe. The event includes a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on 2 August, where almost 3,000 men, women and children were killed in the Birkenau gas chambers 70 years ago, in 1944.
The Council of Europe’s Roma Youth Action Plan – http://enter.coe.int/roma – is tackling discrimination and supporting the democratic participation of Roma young people.
Roma Holocaust survivor (video)