Institutionally blind? Human rights abuses in former Soviet Union


Are the major international institutions covering the former Soviet Union meeting their human rights commitments?  A new report shows how the independence and integrity of institutions defending human rights in the region are under attack from outside and within, sometimes buckling under the pressure.

Institutionally blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union highlights the need to improve transparency and public understanding around how delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) operate, looking at the reasons why politicians overlook human rights concerns, from ideology to personal gain. It looks at ways make the delegations more attractive to ambitious politicians and better integrate their work into policy-making. It also notes how the CIS Parliamentary Assembly imitates the practices of PACE and the OSCE PA, while acting as a rubber stamp for their regimes and giving credence to flawed elections.

The independence and effectiveness of outspoken human rights bodies such as the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media are under threat by budget freezes and attempts to put their work under the political supervision of the OSCE’s consensus driven intergovernmental bodies. ODIHR’s long-term detailed work in election observations is sometimes undermined by short-term delegations from other bodies such as PACE or the OSCE PA who are less critical of electoral impropriety. Across the region, in both democracies and authoritarian states, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is under political attack for its intrusion into domestic law, while its continuing case backlog means significant delays for those desperately seeking justice.

The report assesses the shift in EU policy away from ‘values promotion’ towards a more traditional focus on economic opportunities and regional security. However, it shows that for the most part the European Parliament (EP) has pushed to keep human rights on the agenda and it has a key role to play in the ratification of EU Agreements that must not be ignored.

Institutionally blind? examines these problems in the context of the economic and strategic pressures facing the countries and institutions of Europe and the FSU. While the situation may be tough, the current economic situation in the FSU may provide new opportunities. However challenging times are no excuse for being institutionally blind.

The publication contains contributions from: Anna Chernova, formerly OSCE; Dr. Rilka Dragneva, University of Birmingham; Charles Hecker, Control Risks; Adam Hug, Foreign Policy Centre (ed.); Gubad Ibadoglu, Economic Research Center; Florian Irminger, Human Rights House; Dr. Hrant Kostanyan, CEPS; Kate Levine, EHRAC; Libby McVeigh, Fair Trials International; Dr. Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, formerly OSCE/ODIHR; Tinatin Tsertsvadze, International Partnership for Human Rights; Rebecca Vincent, Sport for Rights. It is the first publication in a major new project, kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations entitled Exporting Repression.

The publication was launched in the UK Parliament on February 9th with panellists including Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Luke Harding and some of the authors.

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