Human Rights House Foundation
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October 2018
From Human Rights House Foundation and 16 Human Rights Houses in 11 countries.
Armenia (Yerevan); Azerbaijan (Baku, Nakhchivan); Belarus (in Vilnius); Crimea (exile in Kyiv); Croatia (Zagreb); Georgia (Tbilisi); Norway (Bergen, Oslo); Poland (Warsaw); Russian Federation (Grozny, Moscow, Voronezh); Serbia (Belgrade); Ukraine (Chernihiv); United Kingdom (London)
The Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Europe: Human rights defenders brief the Committee of Ministers in October 2018.

Rights of Defenders on agenda of Committee of Ministers

During a rare engagement between the Council of Europe’s decision-making body and civil society, human rights defenders put the issues they face on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers, and aimed to inspire and empower States to support defenders and civil society space.

“What is missing is not documents or papers; we are missing political will from Member States,” warned the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, during the briefing.

“We welcome this briefing, but urge the establishment of more space for civil society organisations at the Council of Europe, to ensure civil society and human rights defenders are systematically brought into the agenda and discussions,” commented Maria Dahle, Director of HRHF, following the briefing.

Miklós Haraszti, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus from 2012 to 2018.

“Stopping more brutal affronts and violations” in Belarus

Reflecting on his six years as UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, as his tenure comes to an end, Miklós Haraszti recalls “fighting an uphill battle” in the mandate, but how ultimately it has ensured international scrutiny of the human rights situation and provided a bulwark against some of the worst violations.

He also urges the new generation in Belarus to maintain hope, and to find new energy.

Presenting his final report to the UN in October, Haraszti concluded that no substantial improvements in the human rights situation have been realised in Belarus during the past decade, and warned that "true and lasting stability never comes with the complete contravention of human rights.”

Houses hold activities to mark year for human rights defenders

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights Houses and their member organisations are hosting events and activities.

As part of this, Human Rights House Foundation published resources in June to provide clear and accessible insight into 16 standards that protect and support human rights defenders. These "Rights of Defenders" standards are inspired by landmark resolutions adopted by the United Nations and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Originally published in English, we have recently made these resources available in Russian and are preparing translations into Armenian, Croatian, Georgian, Tatar, and Ukrainian.

Visit our Rights of Defenders project page to find out more about the activities and events held by Human Rights Houses, and to gain insight into them as they take place, as well as to get access to the resources.

HRH Zagreb on presumption of innocence, disability rights, and whistleblowers

Human Rights House Zagreb has completed research and undertaken advocacy work to strengthen standards on the presumption of innocence, disability rights, and protection for whistleblowers.

On presumption of innocence, the House has contributed a research report to the EU-wide project: The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are Presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in The Media”. 

Human Rights House Zagreb is also among the five human rights organisations that sent a joint letter calling for the Prime Minister of Croatia to make a clear plan to end the confinement of children and adults with disabilities in institutions.

Further, warning that whistleblower protection is not complete without psychosocial support, the House is urging changes to a draft bill on whistlblowers currently before the Parliament.

Belarus needs “true desire” to improve human rights

Following a review of Belarus in October 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that there are “many issues to address.” Human rights defenders warn that these findings need to translate to changes in the country.

“The concluding observations include the death penalty, torture, treatment of prisoners, enforced disappearance, and domestic violence – our principal matters of concern,” commented Victoria Fedorova, chairperson of Legal Initiative, member of Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House.
“Belarus should take measures to implement the recommendations made by the Committee. We are ready to assist the State in the implementation of international human rights standards. All we need is a true desire to improve the human rights situation at the legislative and law enforcement level," concluded Fedorova.

Political leaders in Georgia must stop slandering civil society organisations

Some 49 member and partner NGOs of 13 Human Rights Houses, in a joint letter, have called upon political leaders in Georgia to stop slandering non-governmental organisations with unfounded accusations and refrain from discrediting their work and legitimacy.
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Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)  protects, empowers and supports human rights defenders and their organisations. To accomplish this, HRHF brings organisations together in Human Rights Houses and unites the Houses in an international network. HRHF advocates with partner organisations to promote the freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, and the right to be a human rights defender at home and abroad, utilising its consultative status at the United Nations and participatory status at the Council of Europe.

Today, independent human rights organisations work together in 16 Human Rights Houses in 11 countries. The Houses are located in Eastern & Western Europe, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. HRHF is based in Oslo, with an office in Geneva and representation in Brussels and Tbilisi.

Contact HRHF at: 

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