The Week in Review: October 2nd to 6th
Protection of Stateless Persons, the Role of Women in Peace Processes
On Monday, October 2, the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees hosted a seminar on the protection of stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness. The seminar outlined the actions OSCE participating States have taken to identify and protect stateless persons, and to prevent and reduce statelessness in the OSCE region.
Peace processes have more chance of success when women play a role in supporting and mediating them, experts told a joint meeting of the Human Dimension and Security Committees on Tuesday, October 3.
Also at the meeting, the OSCE’s Conflict Prevention Center said the OSCE’s Mediation Support Service was examining the role of women in peace processes and expects to produce strategies on gender-sensitive mediation, while Italy announced it would launch a Mediterranean network of women mediators this month.
This Week at the Permanent Council: #HDIM2017, the Unified Budget, and the Conflict Prevention Center
On Thursday, October 5, the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, made her first official address to the Permanent Council since taking over as head of the OSCE’s main human rights body in July.
Reporting on last month’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Gísladóttir spoke out about the shrinking space for civil society in the OSCE region. According to Gísladóttir, a pattern is emerging where human rights defenders face intimidation, are targeted by unnecessarily burdensome administrative procedures, and become victims of smear campaigns in an effort to obstruct their work.
The United States has long expressed its concern about the shrinking space for civil society. Responding to Gísladóttir, we called on all OSCE countries to uphold our human rights obligations and ensure that the NGO members and advocates who enrich our HDIM discussions are able to do so without reprisal. This follows reports that family members of some NGO representatives were detained or harassed in advance of this year’s HDIM, in an apparent effort to prevent these individuals from taking part.
We also repeated our continued opposition to shortening the HDIM, to hollowing-out its agenda, and to any changes that reduce civil society access and participation.
OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger launched discussions about the OSCE’s financial requirements in the coming year with his 2018 Unified Budget Proposal. In our response, we expressed our readiness to work constructively to reach consensus on a timely budget that supports the mandate of the OSCE to promote comprehensive security across the entire OSCE region, and urged OSCE States not to politicize the budget discussions, as has happened in the past. We also voiced our regret that the Border Management Staff College (BMSC) was again not included in this year’s proposal. Based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the BMSC instructs senior border security and management officials and, as a long-term contributor to stability and security in Central Asia, should be supported by all OSCE participating States.
The head of the OSCE’s Conflict Prevention Center (CPC), Ambassador Marcel Peško, gave his annual overview of the CPC’s activities. In our response, we voiced our appreciation for the CPC’s efforts in responding to our shared security challenges, Russia’s disregard for international law and its ongoing aggression against Ukraine foremost among these. We also made specific proposals for improving the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine’s decision making, safety, and effectiveness, and emphasized the importance of autonomy for the OSCE’s field operations — including in their work with civil society — and called for a greater OSCE presence on the ground in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Current Issues at the Permanent Council: Russia’s Violations in Ukraine, LGBTI in Azerbaijan, the Arrest and Sentencing of Alexei Navalny
Under this week’s Permanent Council Current Issues, we spoke out on Russia’s ongoing violations in Ukraine, about alleged police abuse of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan, and about the arrest in Russia of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In our statement on Russia’s ongoing violations in Ukraine, we voiced concerns about the continued presence of proscribed weapons along the line of contact, and about Russia-led forces denying SMM monitors access throughout the area. These denials of access — six separate incidents during the past week alone — were imposed without explanation. We also condemned the September 27 sentencing of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov, who was found guilty of “separatism” by a court in Russia-occupied Crimea after peacefully opposing Russia’s purported annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Umerov, who has Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and heart problems, received a two-year prison sentence after a sham process reminiscent of Soviet show-trials. This sentencing is yet another part of Russia’s campaign to intimidate and silence voices who wish to speak out against Russia’s occupation of the peninsula.
We also raised our concerns over reports that law enforcement officials in Azerbaijan had detained dozens of gay and transgender people in recent weeks, and over allegations of their abuse and mistreatment in custody. Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry denied that police had targeted or discriminated against members of “sexual minorities,” insisting the arrests were part of a crackdown on prostitution. Civil society activists dispute these claims, however, noting that not one individual was charged with prostitution.
Following Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s arrest and sentencing to twenty days’ detention on dubious charges, we also expressed our deep concern about the shrinking space for independent media, civil society, and the political opposition in Russia. As the country prepares for a presidential election in March next year, we called on the government to safeguard the freedom of peaceful assembly and to protect those who express dissenting views, consistent with OSCE commitments, international law, and the rights enshrined in Russia’s own constitution.