COPENHAGEN, 23 September 2014 – As the international community supports a diplomatic solution in Ukraine, the humanitarian impact of the crisis must not be overlooked, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu told a gathering of international human rights experts in Warsaw.
Kulkuloglu, a member of the Turkish Parliament, serves as the Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. He is representing the Parliamentary Assembly this week at the OSCE's 2014 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference.
"With thousands dead from the ongoing fighting, and more than a million now displaced, the human tragedy of this crisis cannot be ignored," Kulkuloglu said during the meeting's opening session on 22 September.
"The OSCE's important role is recognized by all parties to the conflict, but we need to step up our peace-building measures and other actions to ensure immediate impact on the ground. We need to address the humanitarian disaster unfolding -- especially now, when the winter season is not far away," he added.
The OSCE PA's human rights vice-chair also recounted key pledges and recommendations made by parliamentarians from across the OSCE area at the PA's Annual Session this summer. He urged government officials in attendance to heed parliamentarians' calls to prioritize the protection of migrants' rights; candidly address the issue of political prisoners in the OSCE area; and boost efforts to combat human trafficking and other forms of torture.
Kulkuloglu also underscored the Parliamentary Assembly's repeated recommendations that the OSCE reinvest in its field operations and organize frequent, public meetings on human rights and implementation of commitments.
During the event's session on freedom of expression on 23 September, Kulkuloglu went on to call for the immediate release of journalists in the OSCE area "who have been imprisoned for having done nothing more than carry out their profession." He decried attempts by governments to stifle the media in the name of "security" or as a means to combat "foreign influence":
"Such behavior is entirely without merit. In times of tension it is especially vital that we abide by our commitments and principles. If we cannot do so when it is most difficult, we undermine their foundation and open the door to their arbitrary application – a slippery slope toward the persecution of minority opinions and ideas," Kulkuloglu said.
The OSCE PA's human rights vice-chair also voiced alarm about continuing attacks on journalists and restrictions on the media in the context of the Ukraine crisis.
For the full text of Kulkuloglu's remarks, click here.