Stop muzzling human rights groups and advocates in Russia and Azerbaijan!

Members of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), a network of human rights NGOs in Europe, North America and the former Soviet Union, condemn the current, unprecedented crackdowns on independent human rights NGOs and their members now witnessed in Russia and Azerbaijan.

These developments are chilling in their implications for freedom of association, freedom of expression and human rights defence in the two countries and set a dangerous precedent for other non-democratic and illiberal governments in the OSCE region. As already seen, rhetoric branding human rights groups and advocates as “foreign agents,” “spies” and “traitors” has increasingly been used also in other countries in this region (including in the EU member country Hungary) and draconian legislation impeding the operation and funding of NGOs enforced by the Russian and Azerbaijani governments are studied and used as inspiration elsewhere. This has given rise to fears of a growing backlash against civil society in other parts of the region.

We would like to use this opportunity to affirm our solidarity with colleagues who have been directly affected by the recent developments in Russia and Azerbaijan and to appeal to members of the OSCE community to loudly and clearly speak out about the repression taking place in these countries and to support its victims in all ways possible, including through urgent measures in individual cases. The new Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders elaborated by the OSCE Office on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights provide important direction in this regard, in accordance with the fundamental principle that human dimension issues are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States.

The full text of the statement is attached.