On Guantanamo visit, OSCE PA human rights leaders call for support to close facility, express concern regarding legal context
COPENHAGEN, 29 January 2015 – The leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions has completed a visit to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and today called on OSCE countries to proactively assist the United States in efforts to close it as soon as possible, including through the resettlement of detainees.
“The continued detention of well over 100 people at Guantanamo year after year remains a dark spot on the United States’ reputation in the spheres of human rights and rule of law. While progress has been made in relocating detainees from Guantanamo, much remains to be done. We applaud the commitment of the U.S. government to close the facility, but the United States cannot achieve this alone. It requires the support of all OSCE countries,” said Committee Chair Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal) and Vice-Chair Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu (MP, Turkey) in a joint statement.
Santos and Kulkuloglu traveled to Guantanamo on 27 January to tour the facilities and meet with personnel of the Joint Task Force to discuss the status and treatment of remaining detainees. The delegation was not authorized to speak to inmates.
COPENHAGEN, 29 January 2015 – The Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today issued the following statement on the Russian Supreme Court’s rejection of a request by the Justice Ministry to close the human rights group Memorial:
"The decision of the Supreme Court to not shut down one of the country’s most prestigious and important human rights organizations is a rare bit of good news for Russian civil society. I fully welcome this development, while at the same time I reiterate my regret that draconian legislation made all of this necessary at all. Civil society organizations must be able to work free from fear of harassment or persecution and without unnecessary administrative burdens – all of which the Russian government is obligated to ensure. It is also my hope that Memorial will not be falsely branded a 'foreign agent' in the country which it has served for so many years.”
In November 2014 Santos called on Russian authorities to rescind restrictive regulations on the activities of Memorial and other NGOs. She noted that Memorial was compelled to change its charter in an effort to avoid forced closure.
COPENHAGEN, 27 January 2015 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) today called on Russia to close its international border with Ukraine to help counter the alarming increase in violence in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.
"Russian leaders have spoken of their support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. In keeping with that pledge, I call on Russia to close the border to halt the flow of any weapons or fighters – whether volunteers or not – which may be entering eastern Ukraine. The advanced weaponry that is being employed by the illegal separatists in Ukraine is not appearing out of thin air," Kanerva said.
"Of course, in closing the border, there is also the need to consider the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilian populations affected by the fighting. However, I note the assessment by the UN that the appalling attack on Mariupol, which emanated from rebel-held territory, deliberately targeted civilian populations. Closing the border, then, may be a major form of humanitarian assistance in itself," the OSCE PA President added.
Kanerva also described the expansion of the conflict into the Mariupol area as a "grave escalation" and welcomed the recent Declaration by representatives of the OSCE's 57 participating States that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
The situation in and around Ukraine will be on the agenda at the OSCE PA's Winter Meeting next month in Vienna.
COPENHAGEN, 23 January 2015 – The Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today expressed concern about the sentencing of prominent Tajikistani lawyer and opposition figure Shukhrat Kudratov and the state of civil and political liberties in the country.
She also noted the new charges brought against Zayd Saidov, the leader of an unregistered political party.
"On the eve of parliamentary elections, at a time when Tajikistan should be engaged in an open debate on what's best for the country, these legal measures cast doubt on political freedom, judicial independence and rule of law," Santos said.