Human Rights updates 6


Turkey prepares for elections with wave of repression against critics

Ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections, Turkey is introducing stricter censorship and conducting fabricated trials of the opposition, human rights activists and journalists. The country has long failed to respect the human rights obligations arising from its membership of the Council of Europe. As a result, it faces criticism. Most recently, a court in Istanbul ruled on the punishment of Ekrem Imamoğlu, an opponent of Erdoğan who is also the mayor of Istanbul. The reason was supposed to be his comments regarding the regional elections. Imamoğlu was given a prison sentence and also stripped of his position as major. If his case fails on appeal, he will be permanently prevented from continuing his political career.

Russian court orders dissolution of Moscow Helsinki Group

Russia’s oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, ends its activities in Russia. The court made the decision on the basis of a proposal by the Ministry of Justice. It had already said last December that the group’s registration focused only on the human rights of people living in Moscow and not on the rights of the population throughout the country. The Moscow Helsinki Group called this statement absurd. The organization was established in 1976 to monitor the Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Accords and to report to Western countries on human rights violations in the USSR. Its activities were suspended in the 1980s and were resumed again in 1989.

First they were rescuing drowning migrants, now they face absurd charges

In early January 2023, the trial of Sarah Mardini, Seán Binder and 22 other rescuers began on the Greek island of Lesvos. Sarah and Seán were arrested back in 2018. They subsequently spent a hundred days in detention and were released on bail. Today, they face charges of alleged espionage and smuggling, among others, for which they face up to eight years in prison. However, the Court of Appeal itself sent the indictment back to the prosecutor’s office because of procedural flaws, including the lack of a translation of the indictment. Amnesty International is therefore calling on the Greek authorities to stop this absurd trial, which is being conducted on the basis of unfair and unfounded charges, and to allow Sarah and Seán to return to their former lives.

Canada imposes sanctions on two former Sri Lankan presidents

The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on brothers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa and two former soldiers for violating international laws of war and serious human rights violations. The violations were allegedly committed during the civil war that took place in Sri Lanka between 1983-2009. Both brothers were prominent state officials at the time. Mahinda was even President towards the end of the war. They have been accused, for example, of bombing hospitals or special zones where bombing was prohibited, the death of thousands of Tamils or even journalists and activists. The sanctions imposed include travel bans and the freezing of assets.

China continues to violate human rights after mass protests

At the end of last year, huge protests erupted across China. The symbols of these protests became white, unsigned sheets of paper. During the protests, slogans such as ‘We want human rights’ or ‘Down with the Communist Party’ were often heard. Such ideas were not pleasing to the Chinese authorities, who ordered the censorship of any content related to the ‘white paper’ protests. In addition, the police have arrested a large number of people, many of whom have disappeared without a trace, and further information about their current situation remains unknown. The police are threatening the families and friends of those arrested, as well as lawyers who are willing to offer legal assistance to the arrested protesters.


How do high school students perceive topics related to democracy and human rights

As a part of the Helsinki Committee for Youth project, a survey was conducted on the perception of high school students on democracy and human rights as well as their knowledge in these areas. Despite considerable interest in the political behaviour of young people in Slovakia, we found that we have surprisingly little knowledge about it based on previous research. Among the main findings are that young people do not question democracy per se, but have a shallow knowledge of its basic principles. In practice, this means that although formally the vast majority of respondents describe democracy as the best system, when asked additional questions about aspects of it, they are seemingly not so convinced.

The Slovak National Centre for Human Rights has published a report on how the media speak about discrimination

The Slovak National Centre for Human Rights recently issued a report on how the media portrayed discrimination. The report focuses on a period when discrimination was quite often mentioned in the public debate as a result of the anti-pandemic measures taken. The report concludes, for example, that there was a lack of visibility of male/female experts in the stories, the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the discussion of discrimination issues, and other cases were in the background. Only a quarter of the papers dealt with the negative impact on discriminated persons. Furthermore, the Slovak National Centre found that discrimination is mostly discussed vaguely and without context, and therefore urges people to talk about discrimination in a fair and clear way so that it is easier to recognise discriminatory behaviour in everyday life.

Slovakia celebrated 30 years of independence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the independent Slovak Republic. At the same time, 30 years ago, we began our independent journey to fight for human rights. Although today we live in a democracy, we must not relent in our efforts to improve it. Only in this way can we continue our independent and free history. Today, many organisations are working to promote the ideas and values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. One of them is the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia.