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Gender-sensitive and victim-centred approaches to media reporting on gender-based violence at the heart of OSCE round tables in South-Eastern Europe

OSCE - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 17:25
563490 Communication and Media Relations Section David Dadge

Between December 2023 and February 2024, the OSCE organized five national round tables in South-Eastern Europe bringing together media, law enforcement government and civil society representatives to discuss how to foster gender-sensitive and victim-centred approaches to media reporting on gender-based violence (GBV).

These events sparked dialogue and insights on how to reshape reporting norms and ensure the necessary mechanisms are in place to support victims. The series of round tables brought together 470 participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia who discussed current practices and identified areas for improvement by underscoring the need for consideration of ethics, sensitivity and accuracy. Participants acknowledged the need to portray GBV cases with empathy while upholding journalistic standards. They also recognized the need for collaborative efforts to amplify the voices of victims and dismantle barriers to justice and support services.

Participants highlighted the need to increase understanding among law enforcement officers and media professionals about the importance of sensitive reporting on GBV and to recognize the role the media plays in shaping societal perceptions and responses to GBV cases.

The discussions also underscored the importance of collaborative efforts across sectors to combat GBV effectively. By fostering dialogue, sharing expertise and promoting empathy-driven reporting practices, the round tables marked a step towards creating safer, more supportive environments for victims of GBV, while challenging the societal norms that perpetuate violence.

The first round table took place in Belgrade on 4 December 2023 and was followed by roundtable discussions in Podgorica on 7 December 2023, Sarajevo on 12 December 2023, Skopje on 15 December 2023 and Tirana on 27 February 2024. The round tables brought together a diverse array of participants, including police officers and cadets, prosecutors, judicial professionals, journalists, editors, legal experts, gender advocates, NGO representatives, academics, researchers and university students.

The events were organized by the OSCE's Transnational Threats Department, in co-ordination with national law enforcement authorities and the respective OSCE Field Operations in each participating State. The round tables were organized as part of the OSCE project "Enhancing Criminal Justice Capacities for Combating Gender-based Violence in South-Eastern Europe", funded by Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Norway.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE strengthens crypto-crime investigations in Moldova through targeted training

OSCE - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 16:58

Alongside many opportunities, cryptocurrencies and other virtual assets bring about a plethora of risks, such as money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud and more. To strengthen Moldova’s crypto-related crime investigations, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA), in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), gathered 15 law enforcement representatives in Chisinau to foster their expertise in this area.

From 26 to 28 February, the training equipped participants with cutting-edge techniques and practical tools, including advanced methods for tracing criminal transactions across different blockchains, case studies highlighting real-world scenarios, best practices, and orientation with specialized analytics software as well as open-source tools.

“As we navigate the evolving landscape of financial technology, it becomes crucial for Moldova to prioritize the development of national law enforcement capacities, particularly in enhancing investigative and tracing capabilities related to crypto-assets,” said Maksym Mishalov Dragunov, Assistant Project Officer at OCEEA.

“This is the third training on investigation of virtual assets for Moldovan authorities, and the OSCE will continue to support Moldova’s efforts to combat money laundering, particularly through virtual assets and cryptocurrencies,” he added.

The course is part of an OSCE-led extra-budgetary project on “Innovative policy solutions to mitigate money-laundering risks of virtual assets”, funded by Germany, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States. The project supports OSCE participating States in building national capacities to mitigate criminal risks related to virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.

Categories: Central Europe

Joint OSCE-EU-US-UK-OHR statement: We call on authorities in BiH to act to prevent the collapse of PBS system

OSCE - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 16:04
Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 27 February 2024 - We urgently call on authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to act immediately to prevent the collapse of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

The PBS should play a critical role in upholding democratic principles, fostering informed citizenship, and promoting the free flow of information. However, years of political interference and financial mismanagement have pushed the PBS to the brink of insolvency, jeopardizing its ability to serve the public interest. This poses a grave threat to media pluralism and democratic discourse.

Failure to implement the BiH Law on the PBS has allowed political pressure, partisan, and ethnonationalist agendas to compromise the editorial independence of the PBS, further eroding trust in its ability to provide unbiased and impartial information.

Finding a sustainable solution for financing the PBS is a key priority on the EU path, is embedded in the relevant OSCE commitments, but is also one of the prerequisites for the integration and functioning of the system as a whole and as such needs to be urgently addressed. In parallel, authorities in BiH must support efforts to make the PBS fit for purpose in a modern digital environment. The proper functioning of the PBS is not only a matter of media freedom but also proof of Bosnia and Herzegovina's commitment to democratic values and the rule of law.

Categories: Central Europe

Training course on the international standards of human rights and freedoms

OSCE - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 13:33

On 26 and 27 February, 2024, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz), together with the Chamber of Advocates of Uzbekistan, carried out in Nukus (Karakalpakstan) a two-day training course on the international standards of human rights and freedoms.

The event gathered 20 defence lawyers from Karakalpakstan, and covered a number of topics, including the theory of human rights, international mechanisms for human rights protection, and practical application of international human rights standards in the activities of defence lawyers.

The event was delivered by trainers who had successfully completed the “Training of Trainers” course organized by the PCUz in November-December 2021. Similar events will continue in 2024 and are planned to be held in all regions of the country.

This training course is a part of the PCUz UB project “Support to the Implementation of Judicial and Legal Reforms”. 

Categories: Central Europe

Spain early parliamentary elections 2023: ODIHR election expert team final report

OSCE - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 21:56
563430 Public Affairs Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Katya Andrusz

The 2023 early parliamentary elections in Spain took place in a competitive and pluralistic environment, with fundamental freedoms respected. The elections were managed effectively and the election management bodies enjoyed stakeholders’ trust. Nevertheless, a number of the technical aspects assessed by an expert team from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) merit revision. This includes the transparency of decision-making by the election administration, the legal framework for postal voting, and enhanced access for persons with disabilities to the electoral process. Voters were offered ample opportunities to make an informed choice, but disinformation negatively featured in the vibrant campaign, despite commendable efforts undertaken by the authorities to counter its spread.

These are some of the main conclusions of the final report on the 23 July elections published by ODIHR on 23 February 2024. The ODIHR expert team specifically focused on the practical implementation of the amended electoral legal framework, the conduct of electoral operations, in particular postal voting, and the conduct of the campaign, including on social networks. The report does not offer an overall assessment of the electoral process.

The report offers 10 recommendations to support efforts to bring them in line with OSCE commitments, as well as other international obligations and standards for democratic elections.

Recommendations include:

  • Ensuring effectiveness and consistency in the implementation of polling procedures by providing mandatory training;
  • Making gender-disaggregated data about the election administration and process available;
  • Holding open election commissions meetings and making decisions publicly available to increase transparency;  
  • Enhancing accessibility of the entire electoral process for persons with different types of disabilities;
  • Providing for legal certainty by introducing changes that are foreseen in the law;
  • Enhancing the transparency and integrity of the electoral process, including by publishing disaggregated election results;
  • Reinforcing the secrecy of the vote, including by amending the layout of the polling stations;
  • Strengthening efforts to pre-emptively address potential misuse of administrative resources;
  • Continuing ongoing efforts to counter disinformation.

The ODIHR expert team also assessed the country’s efforts to implement previous recommendations through changes in legislation, procedures and practices. The observers evaluated the follow-up to recommendations from the 2019 and the 2015 parliamentary elections, and concluded that two recommendations had been fully implemented, another five mostly implemented and three partially addressed, while others are still outstanding.

ODIHR deployed an Election Expert Team for these elections from 12 to 28 July. All 57 countries across the OSCE region have formally committed to follow up promptly on ODIHR’s election assessments and recommendations.

Categories: Central Europe

International Conference on the protection of human rights

OSCE - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 06:39
563391 International Conference on the protection of human rights

The OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan along with other international partners like UN Agencies, USAID, and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation, supported the organization of the Ombudsperson’s Conference "Human Rights – an important factor of the sustainable development of states" in Tashkent, commemorating the 29th Anniversary of the Ombudsperson Institute in Uzbekistan.

The Conference was opened by Ombudsperson Ms. Feruza Eshmatova, followed by high-level speakers including Mr. Akmal Saidov, First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, Mr. Narimon Umarov, Chairman of the Senate Committee of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Judicial and Legal issues and anti-corruption, Mr. Chris Field PSM,  President of the International Ombudsperson Institute and Mr. Sergei Sizov, Senior Project Officer, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan. During their opening remarks, the speakers highlighted the crucial role of the Ombudsperson in protecting the country’s democratic progress and human rights of Uzbekistan’s citizens.                    

The event, organized in a blended format, brought together more than 140 participants, including representatives of the national human rights institutions from a number of OSCE participating States (Azerbaijan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey) and three OSCE Partners for Co-operation (Australia, Morocco and Thailand). In the framework of the conference, plenary discussions focused on four major topics: cooperation of Ombudsperson’s institution with the state bodies and civil society organizations; ensuring gender equality and the rights of persons with disabilities within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; the relevance of human rights protection in the context of digitalization; expanding employment opportunities and decent work for young people, women and vulnerable groups of population. As a result, the Tashkent Resolution was adopted highlighting relevant proposals and statements agreed by the participants.

Mr. Sergei Sizov, Senior Project Officer of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, emphasized the importance of the Ombudsperson institution in the promotion and protection of human rights. Mr. Sizov, underscoring the fruitful co-operation with the Ombudsperson highlighted the significant achievements and assured that the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan will continue to provide expert and technical assistance to improve the protection of human rights in the country, and looks forward to strengthening co-operation in this field.

This roundtable was organised within the framework of the PCUz UB project “Support to the Implementation of Judicial and Legal Reforms”.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE leaders demand immediate end to Russia’s war against Ukraine

OSCE - Fri, 02/23/2024 - 16:51

VIENNA, 24 February – Today, as we mark the second year of Russia’s full scale war against Ukraine, the OSCE Troika - Chair-in-Office of the OSCE and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Elina Valtonen - and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid call on Russia to immediately stop its war against Ukraine and to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

“Throughout Malta’s Chairpersonship of the OSCE, Ukraine will remain a priority” said Chair-in-Office Minister Ian Borg, adding that “Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has not only undermined peace and stability across the OSCE region, but also set a concerning precedent for global security and the international rules-based order.” Minister Borg reiterated his pledge to maintain the OSCE’s support to Ukraine in addressing and mitigating the fallout of the aggression. Highlighting this commitment, Minister Borg’s recent visit to Kyiv conveyed a resolute message of enduring determination and willingness to further deepen cooperation between Ukraine and the OSCE.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani added “This war is not waged only on the battlefield. Ukrainians are its immediate victims but the consequences go beyond; they are widespread and complex. Today, the very essence of human dignity and freedom has been challenged. Here, at the OSCE, we must continue exposing Russia and condemning its illegal and unjustified aggression, to request for its immediate cessation and to hold those responsible to account. We have a duty to join and effectively support the struggle of all those defending freedom, democracy and justice.”

In her remarks, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Elina Valtonen reiterated Finland’s respect for and admiration of the courage, resistance and perseverance of Ukraine and its people, adding that Ukraine will remain at the centre of the work in the OSCE also during the Finnish Chairpersonship in 2025. “Finland is dedicated to ensuring full accountability for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” stated Minister Valtonen, recalling that three Moscow Mechanisms have so far been invoked to investigate the impact of the war. Minister Valtonen also added that Finland will work in the International Coalition, convened by Ukraine and Canada, for the return of Ukrainian children who have been unlawfully deported or forcefully transferred by Russia in violation of their rights, and of international law.

Secretary General Schmid said “these have been two years of death and tragedy which have caused unbearable suffering to so many innocent civilians. Among them are three OSCE colleagues who have been detained in Donetsk and Luhansk for almost 700 days now. I reiterate our call for their immediate return to their families and will continue to use every channel and every opportunity to secure their release”.

The OSCE continues to support the people, government, and civil society of Ukraine, through the Support Programme for Ukraine, financed by extrabudgetary funding from the participating States. The Programme implements 20 projects with Ukrainian partners to mitigate the impact of the war. 

The OSCE Troika was established at the Helsinki Summit in 1992 to bring continuity to the Organization's leadership. It is a format of co-operation between the present, previous and incoming Chairpersonships.

Categories: Central Europe

After two years of war, continuing violence inflicted on civilians in Ukraine is of grave concern, says international human rights office ODIHR

OSCE - Fri, 02/23/2024 - 13:05

WARSAW, 23 February 2024 – As the war in Ukraine following Russia’s military attack enters its third year, the suffering of Ukrainian civilians is worsening as indiscriminate military strikes continue together with cases of torture, arbitrary detention, and other serious human rights violations, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement today.

“The terrible consequences of this war for civilians and particularly children cannot be overestimated,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “As the  situation deteriorates, people are increasingly left with no choice but to flee their homes or stay and live in fear.”

ODIHR has been monitoring violations of international law in Ukraine and their impact on civilians and prisoners of war since 24 February 2022. Interviews with more than 330 survivors and witnesses of violations, both in Ukraine and outside the country, bear testimony to the continued disregard shown by the Russian Federation for the basic principles set out in international humanitarian and human rights law. The ultimate aim of this work is to help ensure accountability for violations of international law.

The four monitoring reports published to date provide details of violations on the ground, including deliberate attacks against civilians, arbitrary detention, torture, wilful killing and enforced disappearances. Many survivors told ODIHR that their arbitrary arrest and fear of subsequent persecution were the main reasons for leaving their hometowns. They also talked about their anxiety for family and friends left behind, following reports of increased pressure to acquire Russian citizenship and forced mobilization. At the same time, credible reports of forcible transfers and deportations of Ukrainian children continue, both within occupied areas of Ukraine and from there to the Russian Federation and Belarus.

ODIHR’s support to Ukraine has continued this year in many areas, from contributing to better lawmaking, through combating human trafficking, to increasing the involvement of the Ukrainian diaspora in post-conflict reconstruction and development. Helping to strengthen the rule of law has been a key element of the Office’s support, for example by assisting some two hundred judges in their efforts to adjudicate war crimes cases in line with national and international law. Over the last year, ODIHR has also collected hate crime data that demonstrates the impact of the war beyond Ukraine, with cases of people being targeted for speaking Russian or Ukrainian and attacks on property.

International humanitarian law, or the law of war, prohibits all parties to the conflict from carrying out indiscriminate attacks or those deliberately targeting civilians, and protects the civilian population at all times from violence and inhumane treatment. The many violations that have characterised the war in Ukraine run contrary to the OSCE’s founding principle of respect for human rights as a precondition for the security of the entire region.

Categories: Central Europe

Training-of-trainers course in Vienna fosters strategies for disrupting financing of terrorism

OSCE - Fri, 02/23/2024 - 10:09

Obstructing terrorists’ access to financing channels, funds and property is key to diminish their activities. To help foster effective strategies for this goal, a training-of-trainers course to improve experts’ skills in disrupting terrorist groups through financial tools concluded on 22 February in Vienna. The course was organized by the OSCE’s Transnational Threats Department (TNTD), in co-operation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and with the support of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

Using realistic scenarios based on current threats, the three-day course offered participants a chance to learn about and practice methods to plan operations that can effectively intercept terrorists’ financial operations. Inter-agency teams studied the ‘business model’ of terrorist networks and learned how to apply techniques, including auditing and vulnerability analyses.

“We want to give the participants an opportunity to establish and maintain a network of experts who will have a specialist understanding of how to disrupt terrorist networks by targeting their financial infrastructure,” said Irfan Saeed, Head of TNTD’s Action against Terrorism Unit, as part of his opening remarks.

Experts taking part in the initiative, jointly with the lead trainers, will go on to deliver this course to peers from competent agencies involved in countering terrorist financing.

The course capitalizes on learnings from previous modules of a comprehensive training programme on this topic, organized with the financial support of the United States. The aim of the programme is to further improve the operational counter-terrorism financing framework and to enhance capacities to prevent terrorists from moving, using, and raising funds for illicit purposes, in line with international commitments and standards.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE welcomes the adoption of the Law on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

OSCE - Fri, 02/23/2024 - 09:01
561556 Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 16 February 2024 - The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomes the adoption of the Law on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, a piece of legislation vital for the ability of authorities and institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to more effectively fight organized crime, corruption and terrorism.

Over the course of the past several years, the Mission has been providing extensive support to the Council of Ministers working groups tasked with developing key policy and legal documents in the field of combatting money laundering and terrorist financing. A number of these key policies have since been adopted, including an updated National Risk Assessment on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing and its Action Plan and the new Strategy for Preventing and Combating Terrorism, the Risk Assessment on Organized Crime, and the Strategy for Combating Organized Crime. These documents were developed with a commendable degree of professionalism and commitment by representatives from competent institutions from all levels of government - and with exemplary leadership from the BiH Ministry of Security.

The Working Group for the Law on Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing was effective and constructive in finding solutions that have now materialized in a Law which is largely aligned with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. This positive outcome benefits the political and economic prospects of Bosnia and Herzegovina - for citizens and businesses alike.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Presence, Albanian Directorate of Free Legal Aid sign memorandum of understanding to increase justice access for all

OSCE - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 17:52

Acting Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania Clarisse Pasztory and Free Legal Aid Director Ergys Qirici signed a memorandum of understanding, on 22 February 2024, aimed at outlining areas of mutual interest and strengthening co-operation between the two institutions.

The mission of the Free Legal Aid Directorate is to guarantee equal access to justice to all people. The memorandum is an expression of the Presence’s full support for the very important work of this agency established in 2020.

As envisaged in the document, the Presence will help increase the Directorate’s capacities through targeted training on communication with vulnerable persons for civil society organizations licensed to offer free legal aid, and will support the Directorate develop resource materials for visually impaired people and foreign citizens. The Presence will also support the full establishment of a new university legal clinic at the University of Elbasan. Both initiatives aim at increasing the public access to justice.

During the signing event, the OSCE Presence provided the Directorate with a manual commissioned by the Presence containing methods and techniques to be applied by free legal aid providers when communicating and receiving vulnerable groups.

In 2022, the Presence developed a guideline on communication and reception of citizens from such groups, including minors, victims of domestic violence, minority populations (particularly Roma and Egyptian), and people with disabilities. The guide served as a resource material for a training for about 30 Free Legal Aid staff from across Albania that the Presence organized in November 2023.

The signing event took place in the framework of the Week for the Protection of Crime Victims organized by Albania’s Ministry of Justice from 15 to 22 February 2024.

Categories: Central Europe

Fostering Georgia’s virtual asset supervision: officials expand their skills during OSCE-led study visit

OSCE - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 15:51

To foster Georgia’s regulatory framework against the increasing security risks revolving around virtual assets, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities organized a study visit for officials from the National Bank of Georgia and the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia to Riga, Latvia, for an exchange with regulators, supervisors, and representatives from non-profit organizations and the private sector from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

From 19 to 23 February, more than 15 facilitators and 10 participants from Georgia and the Baltic countries discussed Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP) licensing processes, risk assessment, monitoring and supervision of these types of entities, practical cases, regulatory frameworks, and innovative strategies for combating illicit activities within the virtual asset and cryptocurrency space.

The exchange offered a platform for in-depth discussions on how Georgian supervisory authorities can learn from their Baltic counterparts to effectively oversee VASPs and mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. Supporting Georgia and other Participating States on this goal through such initiatives is an ongoing commitment of the OSCE.

"With the increasing number of Virtual Assets Service Providers, national supervisory and legislative authorities should have the available information to best decide on their path for regulation. The OSCE stands ready to provide continued technical support to Georgia in its decision to regulate the sector, and we will continue to provide expertise in the area of VASP supervision to the National Bank of Georgia and other relevant authorities," highlighted Vera Strobachova-Budway, Acting Senior Economic Officer at the OSCE.

The study visit also identified current challenges and opportunities in the crypto-regulatory landscape and will serve to improve and strengthen the Georgian VASP supervision framework, as well as enhance compliance with FATF and other international standards.

Georgian participants highlighted that the study visit paved the way for a more effective and collaborative approach to VASP supervision and regulation in Georgia, and added that learning from the experiences of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would allow their country to avoid mistakes and shape a better plan of action when it comes to virtual assets.

During the interactive sessions, facilitators from the Financial Crime Investigation Service of Lithuania, Financial Intelligence Unit of Estonia, Bank of Latvia, Lithuanian Center of Excellence in Anti-Money Laundering, Latvia's Blockchain Association, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau of Latvia, Economic Crime Police of Latvia, Cybercrime Police of Latvia, and the Finance Association of Latvia shared their experiences regarding the regulatory framework related to crypto-assets and the supervision of VASP. The Financial Intelligence Unit of Latvia provided the venue for the working sessions.

The study visit is part of the OSCE extra-budgetary project on “Innovative policy solutions to mitigate money-laundering risks of virtual assets”, funded by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Romania. The project is designed to support the OSCE participating States in building national authorities’ capacities to mitigate criminal risks related to virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR presents recommendations from 2023 election observation findings in Estonia

OSCE - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 15:34
Public Affairs Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Katya Andrusz

Experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) presented the final report of the Election Expert Team deployed to Estonia for the March 2023 parliamentary elections from 19 to 22 February in Tallinn.

During the visit, the experts met with representatives from the state authorities and civil society organizations to discuss the ODIHR’s findings and recommendations on bringing election legislation and practice further into line with OSCE commitments and other international standards. The experts also discussed how ODIHR could support the implementation of the report’s recommendations if requested by the Estonian authorities.

The report’s recommendations focus on internet voting, including the transparency of processing of the internet vote, as well as issues related to campaign spending limits, transparency requirements for advertisers, comprehensive regulation of third-party campaigning, and increasing the capacity for campaign finance oversight. The report also recommends taking measures to reduce divisive rhetoric that has a negative impact on national minorities and ensure full political rights for long-term residents with undetermined citizenship.

All OSCE participating States have committed to promptly follow up on ODIHR’s election assessments and recommendations.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE presented results of public survey and concept of reformed community police in Armenia

OSCE - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 13:23
563130 Communication and Media Relations Section David Dadge

On 20 February, the OSCE’s Transnational Threats Department presented the concept of the reformed community policing and the results of the Public Survey on Perceptions of the Police and Police Reforms in Yerevan, Armenia. The high-level meeting was attended by the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, and the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defense and Security.

The Concept Paper and the Action Plan on Community Policing, developed by the OSCE in close co-operation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Armenia are aimed at presenting the vision, purpose, priorities and policy directions for improving community policing within the broader police reforms underway in the country.

In his remarks, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Vahe Ghazaryan emphasized the importance of building the Community Police as a specialized structure to redefine the service and increase public trust.

The results of the Public Survey on Perceptions of the Police and Police Reforms in Armenia, commissioned by the OSCE to R-Insights Research Company, were also presented during the event. The findings provided insights into the public perception of the main internal safety and security threats, public trust and attitudes towards the police, perceptions and level of satisfaction with the performance of the Police in tackling certain internal security issues, public attitudes towards the ongoing police reform efforts, as well as the opinions on the engagement of women in the police.

In her speech, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Arpine Sargsyan underlined the importance of ensuring inclusiveness and transparency in the course of the reforms.

Both the Concept Paper and the Action Plan on Community Policing and the Public Survey on Perceptions of the Police and Police Reforms in the Republic of Armenia were developed within the framework of the project "Accountable Institutions and Human Rights Protection in Armenia" funded by the European Union, and implemented jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund, and the United Nations Population Fund.

Categories: Central Europe

On the Search for Weapons: Introducing the First Woman Police Dog Handler

OSCE - Thu, 02/22/2024 - 11:54
563106 Annie Engstroem

Alongside her eager K9 partner, the 5-month-old Belgian Shepherd (Malinois) named Ada, Kristina Shikova will be out in the field on detection duties by this summer. Kristina is training to become a police dog handler, making her the first woman in North Macedonia to hold this role.

While Ada knows how to follow Kristina’s commands with a ball, she is currently in the process of learning how to sniff cars for detection purposes. In just a few months, Ada will be able to perform her sniffer dog duties with utmost precision, particularly in detecting firearms and ammunition.

The OSCE Mission to Skopje’s efforts to enhance the Police Dog Unit's detection capacities is part of the endeavor to strengthen weapons control in South-Eastern Europe. Strengthening the detection capacities contributes significantly to the broader goal of enhancing security and reducing the proliferation of weapons in the region.

Kristina has been serving in the police force for six years, but she has wanted to work in the Police Dog Unit since she joined. When a vacancy became available, she immediately applied. "It still seems unbelievable to me, but I see it more as satisfaction rather than a job. I have always wanted to work around animals," Kristina said, reflecting on when she received the good news about her new appointment this January.

Her current training includes socialization, obedience, contact with her assigned police dog, theoretical and practical components, as well as physical tasks.  Kristina anticipates learning a lot on the job and aims to excel as a handler, progressing to the next level of becoming an instructor, actively assisting newcomers, and acting as a role model.

Drawing on her achievements, Kristina advocates for increased diversity in law enforcement and the need for more women in the police force, recognizing their role in building community trust. She encourages more women to apply to work in the Police Dog Unit, as she knows many who have the necessary drive and commitment.

The Mission actively promotes gender equality through initiatives supporting women in law enforcement, providing training and support, and advocating for the inclusion of women in the police force. Since 2018, the Mission has collaborated closely with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) of North Macedonia to implement gender-sensitive policing through a comprehensive gender mentoring programme.

Kristina’s journey, together with her K9 partner Ada, serves as an inspiration for women considering a career in law enforcement and the Police Dog Unit—a cause that the OSCE Mission to Skopje proudly supports.

About the Efforts to Enhance SALW Detection Capacities

Enhancing detection capacities falls under the Mission’s extra-budgetary project, "Assisting the National Authorities of the Republic of North Macedonia to Decrease the Risk of Weapon Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)." Funded by Belgium, the EU, France, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, and the US, the project has led to substantial progress in enhancing the Police Dog Unit's detection capabilities in the country.

Find out more about the SALW Project here.

Categories: Central Europe

Constitutional Court, OSCE Presence in Albania launch first guide on Constitutional Court case law

OSCE - Wed, 02/21/2024 - 17:46

The Constitutional Court, in co-operation with the OSCE Presence in Albania, presented the first Guide on Constitutional Court Case Law, on 21 February 2024.

Representatives from justice institutions, advocates, academics, legal community and international partners participated in the launching event, which was opened by the Constitutional Court Chair Holta Zaçaj and Acting Head of OSCE Presence Clarisse Pasztory. 

The Guide aims to enhance the quality of individual complaints, thus contributing to an increased citizens’ access to the Court and a better protection of their fundamental rights and freedoms. It will serve the judicial staff to improve their research capacities, and help the Court standardize decisions. The Guide will also help lawyers, legal professionals, law practitioners and scholars to efficiently search the Court’s case law.

The OSCE Presence supported the drafting of the Guide as part of its project “Strengthening rule of law and promoting protection of human rights in Albania through support to the Constitutional Court”, funded by the United States of America, Italy and Greece.

The Presence will continue to support the Constitutional Court in its efforts to enhance transparency, access and efficiency of its operations and strengthening institutional capacities to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights in line with international standards and OSCE commitments.

Categories: Central Europe

Deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus of utmost concern as crackdown continues, human rights office ODIHR says

OSCE - Wed, 02/21/2024 - 16:47

WARSAW, 21 February 2024 – The human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate as those who voice dissent or stand up for the human rights of others are subject to investigation, persecution, and frequently prosecution, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement today.

“Human rights work can include criticism of the government and contributes to the wellbeing of any society. It is regrettable to see that this work has now been criminalized in Belarus,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Many human rights defenders, activists and ordinary citizens voicing their dissent have been convicted, imprisoned and harassed. We call once again on the Belarusian authorities to respect the rights of human rights defenders and of all citizens, as the health and even life of these citizens and of their families is at stake.”

Since 2020, dozens of human rights defenders including independent journalists and citizen election observers have been arbitrarily detained, some multiple times, and many remain imprisoned in deplorable conditions, without the right to a fair trial being respected.  Hundreds of civil society organizations have been ordered to shut down or decided to cease their work amid intimidation, raids or confiscation of property. 

ODIHR is gravely concerned at the continued arrests of people merely for participating in the peaceful demonstrations of 2020-2021, or for interacting with social media content critical of the official line of the national authorities. The Office reiterates its call for the release of all citizens who have been detained unjustly.

The human rights situation has resulted in the flight of thousands of Belarusians to safety abroad, including many members of civil society and the political opposition. Recent changes to Belarusian legislation mean that some may even be arbitrarily deprived of citizenship and made stateless as a punishment for poorly defined “extremist activity”, which goes against international human rights law.

ODIHR reminds the Belarusian authorities of their international obligations and OSCE commitments to respect human rights and the rule of law, and to ensure accountability for human rights violations. ODIHR has reiterated its offer on many occasions to assist in this process by monitoring the trials of human rights defenders together with the Office’s other expertise and tools to protect the rights of all citizens.

Particularly given this context, ODIHR deeply regrets the decision of the Belarusian authorities not to issue an invitation to observe this weekend’s parliamentary elections, depriving the country’s citizens and institutions from an impartial, transparent, and comprehensive assessment by an international body. ODIHR also reiterates the importance of citizen election observers and their ability to work free from intimidation or pressure. While the Office is unable to observe the elections, ODIHR continues to follow closely the events in Belarus and their consequences for democracy and human rights from all the areas covered by its mandate.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE facilitates the Delegation of Japan visit to Regional Hazards Training Centre

OSCE - Wed, 02/21/2024 - 11:06
563013 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 19 February 2024, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe had an honor to host a visit for the esteemed representatives of Japanese delegation, Ms. Hisako Ishizaki, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Austria; Ms. Tina Kapica, Advisor on International Organizations Affairs of the Embassy of Japan in Austria; Ms. Kozue Araki, Second Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Tajikistan, and Mr. Hiroshi Takizawa, Consul/Second Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Tajikistan within the framework of the Integrated Co-operation on Explosive Hazards (ICExH) Programme. 

The high-level Japanese delegation was warmly welcomed at the Regional Explosive Hazards Training Centre (REHTC) of Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defence by Jukka Tuononen, the Officer-in-Charge of the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe; Colonel Anvar Khasanzoda, Deputy Head of the Engineering Troops of General Staff of Armed Forces of Tajikistan, and Colonel Sulaimon Qodirzoda, the Head of the Regional Explosive Hazards Training Centre of Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defence. 

During the visit, several delivered remarks, interventions, and comprehensive presentations provided valuable insights into various components of the Centre’s operations and ongoing training activities with a particular focus on the general strategy for sustainability of the Centre and the wider impact the Centre has been having on enhancing security and stability in the region of Central Asia. 

Interactive and engaging discussions underlined the importance of explosive hazard reduction and response subject matters as well as related training courses in Tajikistan and the wider Central Asian region.

Distinguished guests acknowledged and prized ongoing joint efforts and shared commitments of the ICExH and REHTC, together with the local, regional, and international partners in contributing to the wider regional security and stability.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE facilitates a US Delegation visit to Regional Hazards Training Centre

OSCE - Tue, 02/20/2024 - 10:40
562986 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 15 February 2024, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (POiD) had the immense privilege of hosting Ms. Rachel Schiller, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Programs and Operations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and Mr. Rodney A. Robideau, the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program Manager from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the Regional Explosive Hazards Training Centre (REHTC) of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Tajikistan.

During their visit, the esteemed guests were warmly welcomed by the OSCE POiD Officer-in-Charge, Jukka Tuononen, and Integrated Co-operation on Explosive Hazards Programme Officer, Sonja Stanisavljevic who provided an overview of the ongoing training and upcoming project activities, which have been supported by the U.S. Government as of mid- 2013.

Major-General Sharaf Egamzod, Tajikistan’s Deputy Minister of Defence also extended a warm welcome to the delegation and highlighted the priorities of the Ministry of Defence within the framework of the training co-operation with the United States Army Central (USARCENT).

The REHTC’s Director, Colonel Sulaimon Qodirzoda, provided a comprehensive presentation of centre’s training activities.

The high-level visit coincided with the regional Explosive Ordnance Disposal Level 3 (EOD3) training, attended by participants from Kazakhstan, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Within the framework of EOD3, the distinguished guests had the opportunity to observe and be engaged in two practical exercises, where participants showcased technical knowledge and skills obtained in hook and line techniques, as well as in the safe removal and detachment of detonators using sticky tape and ropes.

The REHTC officers also presented demining equipment, provided by the USARCENT, which is being used during the conduct of EOD training.

During the meeting, all project partners underlined the vital role of the OSCE in fostering regional co-operation and co-ordination on explosive hazards reduction in Central Asia. Such partnership has been instrumental in promoting peace, stability, and security across the region.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR experts discuss electoral recommendations in Montenegro

OSCE - Mon, 02/19/2024 - 17:55
Public Affairs Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Katya Andrusz

Election experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) presented the final reports and recommendations of the observation missions to the 2023 early parliamentary elections as well as the presidential election in Montenegro during a visit to Podgorica from 6 to 9 February 2024.

“Last year’s elections were well-run and candidates could campaign freely, but they took place in a constitutional and institutional crisis, and we unfortunately witnessed politically motivated decision-making by the State Election Commission on a number of key decisions,” said Tamás Meszerics, Head of ODIHR’s Election Observation Mission to the presidential election.

Nina Suomalainen, Head of ODIHR’s Election Observation Mission to the early parliamentary elections, underlined that “while the efforts by Parliament to reach consensus and amend electoral legislation have been largely unsuccessful in recent years, we now look forward to seeing the current Parliament take decisive steps to improve the situation.”

The report’s findings and recommendations were presented to representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Election Commission, the Speaker of Parliament and the political parties represented there, the Constitutional Court, the Ministry of Interior, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, the Montenegrin Agency for Electronic Media, the Radio and Television, civil society organizations and the international community.

ODIHR took the opportunity to reiterate that both election processes were competitive and well managed, but that some shortcomings were observed. Numerous gaps and ambiguities remain in the legal framework, undermining its effectiveness and requiring substantial review and revision. The ODIHR experts encouraged all election stakeholders to carry out comprehensive reforms following an inclusive, consultative and transparent process.

Priority recommendations in ODIHR’s observation reports included the need for electoral reforms to address the gaps and inconsistencies in election-related legislation, protecting the integrity of voter data, providing for effective oversight of media coverage of the campaign, increasing transparency in election dispute resolution, ensuring appropriate access for disabled voters to the electoral process, and making affirmative measures for women’s participation in political life more effective.

ODIHR expressed its readiness to support the authorities in providing legal and technical expertise to assist in implementing these recommendations. All OSCE participating States have committed to following up on ODIHR's election assessments and recommendations.

Categories: Central Europe


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