Hautala supports Sakharov winners’ proposal

Chairwoman of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights Heidi Hautala, congratulates the winners of the 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva who received the prize on behalf of the Memorial organisation and all other human rights defenders in Russia. [:]In the award ceremony in Strasbourg today the three winners presented jointly gave their recommendations on how the European Union could better help the human rights defenders in Russia. In these recommendations they stressed the importance of implementing the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders with much more vigour and hoped that the EU would insist Russian authorities to better implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The winners also asked to sharpen the EU policies towards the human rights violations in Northern Caucasus, and asked the EU to support with all available means the promotion of independence of Russian judges and prosecutors.

Chairwoman Hautala endorses the proposals fully.

” These changes in the EU policy are of fundamental importance but unfortunately long over due. Today, when we have gathered to Strasbourg to present this award and simultaneously honouring the legacy of Andrey Sakharov as well as the life-long work of these three tremendously courageous people, the EU unfortunately is in dire need of re-evaluating its values. Pragmatism has replaced principled work. Little by little we have abandoned the human rights defenders in Russia. If we do not live by our values, we do not have values, she stressed.

“As we celebrate the legacy of Andrei Sakharov and this year’s courageous laureates of the prize that carries his name, the EU remains in dire need of re-evaluating its principles. The EU has gradually allowed its human rights policy to be replaced with cold pragmatism, an approach that has little by little abandoned human rights defenders in Russia. Today the EU can take a first step towards a return to truly upholding the values of Sakharov. If we do not live by our values, we have no values” , Heidi Hautala said.

Heidi Hautala participated in the beginning of the week in a conference held in Moscow to the memory of Andrei Sakharov on the 20th anniversary of his death. She also visited a political prisoner the 25 years old Alexey Nikiforov, in Ekaterinburg, Russia, last Sunday. She expressed grave concern over the crackdown of political dissent and freedom of speech in Russia and strongly condemned the overtly broad and intensifying use of the anti-extremist laws to silence the critical voices in the society. In fact few days before the visit of Heidi Hautala the houses of some opposition activists in Moscow were under siege and subsequently raided by the notorious E-Centre, the new “anti-extremist” department of the interior ministry. Amongst other things, documents addressed to the Chairwoman of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights were confiscated by the security officials.

Chairwoman Hautala attended on Monday in Moscow the preliminary hearing of Sergei Konstantinov and Michael Krieger, two human rights defenders who were violently arrested on previous Saturday. They were peacefully demonstrating on the Constitution Day and there asking the authorities to implement the Russian constitution better. Heidi Hautala underlined that the question of better implementation of the Russian constitution is a wholly legitimate one and an issue which also the EU has continuously raised. To charge these two men would be both an alarming and unacceptable act on behalf of the authorities, she stated after the hearing.