Recommitting to human rights with actions — not words


Today, for only the fourth time since its foundation in 1949, the heads of state of the Council of Europe (CoE) will come together in Reykjavik, Iceland, note Amnesty International’s Nils Muižnieks and Rita Patricio. And with Europe in the middle of a human rights crisis, and large-scale war raging on the Continent, this meeting of Europe’s top human rights organization is vital, they write for POLITICO:

With hindsight, we now see the bloc was guilty of complacency with Moscow, failing to take action to stop backsliding on human rights when Russia engaged in a brutal war in Chechnya, fought with Georgia and occupied Crimea — all while stifling civil society and muzzling dissent at home. Yet, its more robust recent response — promptly excluding Russia after its attack on Ukraine — provided some hope for Europe’s recommitment to human rights in the founding spirit of the CoE.

“At a certain point, the arc of history, which bends toward liberalism,” argues political scientist Pippa Norris, “which is eventually reflected in progressive changes in the public policy agenda evident in many postindustrial societies during the late 20th century, from the spread of reproductive rights, equal pay for women and men, anti-sex-discrimination laws, support for the international rules-based world order based on liberal democracy, free trade and human rights and concern about protection against environmental and climate change….” (HT: CFR’s Gideon Rose).

For the first time ever, the Geneva Summit will be live on Instagram during this year’s summit, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights reports.

This year’s speakers’ line-up includes inspiring human rights champions from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The RWCHR has advocated for the freedom of many of these individuals over the years, and we continue to champion their causes.

Evgenia Kara-Murza (right), the wife of jailed Russian prisoner of conscience, opposition politician, and RWCHR Senior Fellow Vladimir Kara-Murza, will deliver the conference’s Opening Address.

“If Vladimir survives and the regime in Russia collapses, I know 100% that Vladimir will want to be a part of a new and democratic system in our country,” Evgenia told TIME’s Yasmeen Sherhan at the Geneva Summit. “I know that he will be one of those willing to undertake the impossible task of rebuilding a country from scratch and making it into a democracy.”

The complete program features human rights defenders, including partners of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), from Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and more.

Throughout the conference, organizers will be going live with speakers to ask them the questions you want answered. To submit questions, follow the Conference on Instagram or click here. Follow on Twitter for updates from the conference floor, shared through the eyes of Simone Hanchet, Director of Communications, and Brandon Silver, Director of Policy and Projects. You can also follow the Summit on Twitter.

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