Stockholm process strengthens human rights defenders at risk

The situation for citizens and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus continue to deteriorate; grave human rights violations turn everyday life into a nightmare. In November 2012, Civil Rights Defenders gathers about 20 of the key human rights defenders from the region to the North Caucasus Conference, for the fourth time. During a few intensive days in Stockholm we develop strategies to improve their security and to increase the awareness among decision makers in order to create real change.

Conversation during the North Caucasus conference Photo: Tina AxelssonHuman rights defenders meet during the North Caucasus conference Photo: Tina Axelsson

In 2009 there was an outbreak of violence toward human rights defenders in the North Caucasus. An increasing number of people were harassed, beaten and kidnapped. Five human rights defenders were killed that year. Among them were the renowned human rights activist Natalia Estemirova.

Since the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s, torture, disappearances and unlawful executions have become everyday occurrences in the region. These offenses are often committed by those who are supposed to uphold the rule of law.

By working together with human rights defenders from the North Caucasus, Civil Rights Defenders develops strategies to improve their security situation. The North Caucasus conference, held in Stockholm every autumn since 2009, is the main event within the Stockholm process. The conference is a unique opportunity for human rights defenders from the region to meet and coordinate their work in a peaceful setting. Arranging a similar event on site would not be possible.

Portrait Sapiyat Magomedova Photo: Private

Portrait Sapiyat Magomedova Photo: Private

The Stockholm Process aims to increase awareness among decision makers about the continuing human rights violations in the North Caucasus, and to empower the brave human rights defenders in the region who are under constant pressure because of their work.

Women’s rights are routinely violated in all parts of the North Caucasus, and women human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable. In 2012, with the support of PostkodStiftelsen, we started an initiative aimed at strengthening women human rights defenders and bringing their vulnerable situation into the spotlight. Sapiyat Magomedova, the Dagestani lawyer and Per Anger Laureate 2012, is one of those people who is twice subjected to risk – being both a human rights defender and a woman.

Efforts and achievements

Advocacy and awareness raising efforts are a central part of the Stockholm Process. Human rights defenders from the North Caucasus, together with Civil Rights Defenders and other international partners, succeeded in putting the human rights abuses in the North Caucasus on the agenda of the EU-Russia summit in Stockholm on 18 November 2009. Our recommendations to the EU contributed to the Russian Federation ratifying Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which makes it possible to reform the European Court of Human Rights to make its work more efficient.

Map the North CaucasusIn May 2012 we organised a monitoring trip to the North Caucasus and brought with us Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson from the Swedish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This initiated a solid cooperation with PACE to bring attention to the human rights situation in the North Caucasus among European decision makers. After the trip, the Swedish representatives raised questions to the Council of Europe, in which Russia is a member, about the country’s obligations to respect human rights, and what the Council of Europe intends to do to make Russia fulfill them.

Within the frame of this program we also continuously increase the capacities of human rights defenders from the North Caucasus through relevant trainings.

When the threat knocks on your door

We have seen an urgent and major need to be able to act quickly in life-threatening situations for human rights defenders in the region. During the autumn 2011 we created an Emergency fund that enables us to support human rights defenders who need to relocate temporarily, to protect important communication or documents and to create security solutions.

Support the Emergency Fund

Categories: News.
Tags: Natalia Estemirova, Sapiyat Magomedova, Stockholm process, and Violence against human rights defenders.
Regions: Sweden and The North Caucasus.