Defend Human Rights in Russia

Statement of Heidi Hautala, Chairwoman of the European parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, to the initiative group of the seminar “Intellectuals without Borders” hosted by MEP Leonidas Donskis, Brussels, Belgium, 8.12.2009



Dear Friends,
Please let me address you via this statement as I am not able to join you today in Brussels. As you discuss today how the new information technology and communication systems have lifted the borders amongst the people around the world, at the same time enabled intellectual exchange of views across the borders and the widespread exposure of dire human rights violations on a global scale, we also face unprecedented challenges to the safety of an individual, especially that of human rights defenders and other critics. Russia is a prime example of this very complex scene, and as far as the human rights situation in that country is to go by, merits your scrutiny in this seminar today.
I am sad to acknowledge that your meeting yesterday and today takes place in grim circumstances. As we gather here our colleagues in Russia continue to suffer from rollback of freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Human rights defenders, independent civil society organizations, political opponents, independent media and ordinary citizens have all been victims of this lack of civil and political rights.
Please allow me to make few remarks purely concerning the human rights in Russia and how this relates to my work as the Chairwoman of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights. On 4-5 November the EU-Russia HR consultations took place in Stockholm. Part of the overall EU-Russia dialogue consists of these human rights consultations. These kind of human rights dialogues are meant to be one of the most important tools of EU to promote human rights and implement its own human rights policy. Human rights dialogue with the Russian federation has, however, been unsatisfactory. Russian federation does not agree to discuss the most vital human rights questions with the EU. Nor does it allow NGOs to take part in a meaningful way. The talks lead to no benchmarks or any measurable commitments. This must change. EU must step up its timid criticism of human rights violations in Russia.
EU-Russia Summit took take place 18-19 November. Sadly, freedom of expression was discussed in substance. Neither did we hear of how are the rights of association and assembly going to be strengthened. Most importantly, the names and fates of our colleagues were not mentioned. Maksharip Aushev, yet another oppositionist was brutally murdered in Ingushetia on 25 October. He is sadly only one of many.
Those responsible for his murder must be brought to justice. Impunity for murders and harassment of human rights defenders must stop. Moreover, it is the duty of the EU to demand accountability for human rights violations in the Caucasus, in particular, in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
As the Lisbon Treaty has now come into force, the joining of EU to the European Convention Human Rights comes closer. EU should demand that the Russian Federation will fully implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and ratify the all-important Protocol 14, which would enable the Court to function properly. These are of crucial importance especially as many of the judgments are of extreme severity as they concern violations to right to life.
The European parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights will continue to pay close attention to these issues and as the Chairwoman of this committee, I will keep raising especially the issue of the freedom and safety of our courageous colleagues beyond borders. To conclude, I would like to thank Mr Leonidas Donskis for organising this tremendously important venue and all the guests who contributed to it. I wish you all success in your endeavours and look forward to cooperating with you in the future.