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OSCE-supported Youth Camp for national minorities opens today in Armenia

TSAKHKADZOR, Kotayq region of Armenia, 20 October 2014 – A one-week Youth Camp for national minorities, supported by the OSCE Office, opens today, 20 October 2014, in Tsakhkadzor, Kotayq region of Armenia.

The Youth Camp is implemented by the World Independent Youth Union. The Camp will bring together 35 young people, aged 10 to 19 years old, with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“The camp will offer young people from different national minority communities residing in Armenia the chance to learn about human rights, increase their participation in volunteer programs and develop networking skills for the benefit of their communities residing in Armenia”, said Radka Rubilina, Human Rights Programme Officer, OSCE Office in Yerevan.

The participants will learn about different cultures through the prism of human rights. The Camp will offer a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences on using the internet as a tool for human rights education as well as teaching how to implement an effective media campaign.

Tatev Margaryan, Project Manager at the World Independent Youth Union NGO, added: ”The camp stands for equality, dignity, human rights and diversity. It promotes intercultural dialogue and co-operation between young people which crosses ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and national divides in Armenia”.

The camp is based on the principle and practice of non-formal education and will include workshops, familiarization with cultures of participant communities and thematic film evenings. 

20 October 2014
TSAKHKADZOR, Kotayq region of Armenia, 20 October 2014 – A one-week Youth Camp for national minorities, supported by the OSCE Office, opens today, 20 October 2014, in Tsakhkadzor, Kotayq region of Armenia...
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Participants during an OSCE-supported Youth Camp for national minorities, Tsakhkadzor, 22 October 2014.
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Spravedlivost receives Max van der Stoel Award 2014 for improving position of national minorities in OSCE area

THE HAGUE, 2 October 2014 – Spravedlivost, a Kyrgyzstan-based NGO, was today presented with the Max van der Stoel Award for its work to improve the position of national minorities in the OCSE area.

“In its 20 years of existence, Spravedlivost, working in the city and region of Jalal-Abad, has earned a strong reputation for its work in advocating and defending human rights in southern Kyrgyzstan,” said OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors.

“With its commitment to working with vulnerable groups and individuals, Spravedlivost, which means ‘justice’ in Russian, has demonstrated time and again its dedication to the pursuit of justice, fairness and truth. The organization has lived up to its name.”

Presenting the prize, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Frans Timmermans, recalled his own experience in working for the High Commissioner on National Minorities. “I know about the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes to protect minorities. I know from my own experience in the office of the High Commissioner that it is better to speak quietly. I know from personal experience that the High Commissioner cannot do this job all by herself. It is important to have local individuals and organizations working in support of her objectives. My country set up the Max van der Stoel Award to recognize and support their contributions.”

“Spravedlivost has made an impressive contribution, and it knows from experience that such work is not without risks and setbacks,” he added.

On receiving the Award, Valentina Gritsenko, Spravedlivost’s Director, thanked the OSCE for its support. “We are very grateful to the countries of the OSCE, which give us all possible assistance in implementing our projects with the aim of facilitating the construction of a democratic society in Kyrgyzstan and strengthening the rule of law.”

2 October 2014
THE HAGUE, 2 October 2014 – Spravedlivost, a Kyrgyzstan-based NGO, was today presented with the Max van der Stoel Award for its work to improve the position of national minorities in the OCSE area...
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OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors presents the Max van der Stoel Award to Valentina Gritsenko, Director of human rights NGO Spravedlivost, and Utkir Dhzabbarov, Senior Lawyer of Spravedlivost, The Hague, 2 October 2014.
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OSCE Mission to Serbia supports preparations for upcoming Minority Council elections

BELGRADE, 10 September 2014 – The OSCE Mission to Serbia, at the request of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government and the Republican Electoral Commission, supported the translation into several minority languages of  legislation related to the upcoming elections to the National Councils of National Minorities (NMCs).

As of today, relevant legislation and instructions for elections to the NMCs will be available in eleven minority languages which are in official use in at least one local self-government unit. The languages are: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Slovak, Romanian and Ruthenian.

“We believe that a better understanding of the legislation in the pre-election phase will increase the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in electing their respective Councils,” said the Acting Head of Mission, Michael Uyehara. “The OSCE Mission to Serbia remains committed to the expanded participation of members of Serbia’s national minorities in political processes and national discourse.”

Translations of the Law on National Councils of National Minorities and other legislation regulating the council elections are available at:

 

 

 

 

 

10 September 2014
BELGRADE, 10 September 2014 – The OSCE Mission to Serbia, at the request of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government and the Republican Electoral Commission, supported the translation into several minority languages of legislation related to the upcoming elections to the National Councils of National Minorities (NMCs)...
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OSCE Mission to Serbia supports Government's call for minorities to register for council elections

BELGRADE, 7 August 2014 -  The Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Peter Burkhard, welcomed the announcement made by the Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Kori Udovicki regarding the upcoming elections to the National Minority Councils.

“The Mission calls on all interested members of national minorities who have not yet registered in the Special Voters Registry to do so in a timely manner,” said Burkhard. “A high turnout would show the resolve of minorities to fully exercise their rights and take an active part in the public life of their country.”

“The OSCE Mission has been supporting Serbia’s efforts in improving its minority legislation with a view to promote and protect minority rights, while ensuring cohesion and inclusion. We stand ready to continue providing our assistance to the country in this endeavour,” stated the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia.

The registration can be done through the Government’s webpage at: http://www.mduls.gov.rs/latinica/upis-u-poseban-biracki-spisak.php

7 August 2014
BELGRADE, 7 August 2014 - The Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Peter Burkhard, welcomed the announcement made by the Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Kori Udovicki regarding the upcoming elections to the National Minority Councils...
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Kyrgyzstan-based NGO Spravedlivost named winner of 2014 Max van der Stoel Award

THE HAGUE, 10 July 2014 – Spravedlivost, a non-governmental organization based in Jalal-Abad in southern Kyrgyzstan, has been named as the 2014 winner of the Max van der Stoel Award, for its outstanding work in improving the position of national minorities in the OSCE area.

The international jury, led by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors, said: “Spravedlivost is widely respected for its activities to promote human rights in Kyrgyzstan. It has worked for many years on issues related to the protection of the most vulnerable groups, including national minorities.

“The organization has developed a network of like-minded NGOs to monitor serious human rights violations and provide legal support for victims of torture. It has for many years proved to be making a considerable contribution to the protection of ethnic Uzbek and other communities, and to reconciliation between communities in Kyrgyzstan.

“During the 2010 events in Osh and in the region, and their aftermath, it took a vocal and active lead in supporting the victims, and provided free legal assistance to ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks accused of involvement in inter-ethnic violence. Its multi-ethnic staff has proved to be courageous, especially when facing threats and harassment due to the NGO’s efforts to promote impartial justice in the tense environment of southern Kyrgyzstan.”

Spravedlivost, which was established in 1994, has also worked to monitor conditions and counter torture and ill-treatment in places of detention – police custody, pre-trial detention facilities and prisons – in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken, supported by the Centre in Bishkek through its Osh Field Office. Through its network, it provides medical doctors who assist detainees and detect torture at an early stage.

The Max van der Stoel Award will be presented to the winner on 2 October during a ceremony in The Hague by the Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.

10 July 2014
THE HAGUE, 10 July 2014 – Spravedlivost, a non-governmental organization based in Jalal-Abad in southern Kyrgyzstan, has been named as the 2014 winner of the Max van der Stoel Award, for its outstanding work in improving the position of national minorities in the OSCE area...
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The first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel (seen here in Vukovar, Croatia), is often referred to as the "silent diplomat" for his work to resolve ethnic conflicts.
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OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities calls on political leaders in Skopje to unite and act to preserve stability

THE HAGUE, 17 June 2014 - On a visit to Skopje, Kumanovo and Tetovo from 10-13 June 2014, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors expressed serious concern with regard to recurring outbreaks of inter-ethnic incidents in the country. She noted that of immediate concern is the verdict in the 2012 Smiljkovci Lake murder case, which is expected to be delivered tomorrow, 18 June, and pointed out that it could lead to intensified inter-ethnic tensions.

“I continue to urge the political leadership to make a joint call for restraint and calm to avoid any disturbances,” Thors said. “ Unfortunately, the public discussion so far around the criminal proceedings has increased the risk of tensions.”

Thors was on her second visit to the country as High Commissioner, and during her trip examined both the short- and long-term stability in the country as well as structural measures to be taken to further integrate society and improve inter-ethnic relations.

The implementation of the integrated education strategy, which the High Commissioner has assisted with, was one of the main topics discussed. In Kumanovo, she visited schools, and in Tetovo, she paid a visit to the South East European University.Thors welcomed the government’s plans to prioritize education, emphasizing that the growing separation between the two main communities also needs to be addressed in the educational system and at all levels of governance.  The High Commissioner said she was inspired by the results achieved by the Nansen Dialogue Center Skopje, a previous winner of the Max van der Stoel award. “This experience demonstrates that there is a great deal of interest among teachers, parents and pupils to learn each other’s languages by using modern innovative methods of teaching. This is very encouraging, and such efforts should be supported by the government as well,” Thors said.

During her visit, the High Commissioner met with President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister-elect Nikola Gruevski, other key ministers and leaders of political parties, as well as civil society and ethnic community representatives.

17 June 2014
THE HAGUE, 17 June 2014 - On a visit to Skopje, Kumanovo and Tetovo from 10-13 June 2014, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors expressed serious concern with regard to recurring outbreaks of inter-ethnic incidents in the country. She noted that of immediate concern is the verdict in the 2012 Smiljkovci Lake murder case, which is expected to be delivered tomorrow, 18 June, and pointed out that it could lead to intensified inter-ethnic tensions...
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OSCE/ODIHR and HCNM release report by Human Rights Assessment Mission in Ukraine

WARSAW / THE HAGUE, 12 May 2014 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) today released the report from the joint Human Rights Assessment Mission the two institutions sent to Ukraine in early March 2014.

The assessment and recommendations are presented in two separate sections in the report, with those in the first part based on the information gathered by 19 human rights experts deployed by ODIHR from 6 March to 1 April, and the second on information from several HCNM delegations of minority rights experts who visited Ukraine between 8 March and 17 April.

The ODIHR section of the report identifies a significant number of serious human rights violations, including murder and physical assaults, as well as cases of intimidation and enforced disappearances. The victims of these were primarily pro-Maidan activists and journalists, and those in Crimea also included Ukrainian military personnel and members of the Crimean Tatar community.

The HCNM found that the events in Ukraine are having a serious effect on the situation of national minorities, especially in Crimea. In Crimea, the Crimean Tatars are in a particularly precarious position, and ethnic Ukrainians have become a new focus of concern. The HCNM also found that hasty decisions on sensitive issues, such as language and other matters of direct concern to national minorities, without consultations with them, are creating an atmosphere in which inter-community relations and trust in the authorities are strained and tensions are heightened.

The Human Rights Assessment Mission was deployed following a request by the Government of Ukraine on 3 March.

12 May 2014
WARSAW / THE HAGUE, 12 May 2014 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) today released the report from the joint Human Rights Assessment Mission the two institutions sent to Ukraine in early March 2014...
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OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities visits Bosnia and Herzegovina

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from 5 to 7 May 2014. She met key actors to gain a more comprehensive picture of the situation of persons belonging to national minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Among others, Thors had meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Ana Trišić-Babić and key members of the international community.

She also held discussions with representatives of the State Council for National Minorities and the Republika Srpska’s Council on National Minorities. She encouraged the Councils for National Minorities to continue their involvement in the drafting of the Minority Rights Strategy. Thors commended the efforts made and the results achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Decade for Roma Inclusion. “I hope a similar positive outcome will be reached with the preparation and implementation of the Minority Rights Strategy,” Thors said.

She stated that it was important for Bosnia and Herzegovina to have a legal framework ensuring equal rights and opportunities, as well as effective participation, for all citizens. Thors added that an agreement to implement the Sejdić and Finci ruling must be reached as soon as possible and that the census data should not be politicized once released.  

9 May 2014
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from 5 to 7 May 2014. She met key actors to gain a more comprehensive picture of the situation of persons belonging to national minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina...
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Statement by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on her recent visits to Ukraine

The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities has been closely following developments in Ukraine since the office was established in 1993 to act as an instrument of conflict prevention at the earliest stage. The successive High Commissioners have paid particular attention to the inter-ethnic situation in Crimea, legislation regulating minority rights and language use, and the education of national minorities.

The High Commissioner’s mandate requires that she works behind the scenes and in confidence. She therefore issues few public statements. This statement provides an update on her most recent visits. Currently, High Commissioner Astrid Thors’ main concerns are language policy and the situation in Crimea.

Thors visited Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa from 23 to 28 March 2014, and Kyiv from 1 to 3 April. She made an earlier visit, which also included a trip to Crimea, on 4 to 6 March as part of a high-level OSCE delegation together with Ambassador Tim Guldimann, the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Her office is also contributing to a Human Rights Assessment Mission, in co-operation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

During her most recent two visits, Thors was pleased to hear that the interim Government does not intend to make any hasty decisions regarding language policy. “There can be no doubt that the 2012 Law on the ‘Principles of the State Language Policy’ remains in force, and, legally, nothing has changed regarding the status of languages,” she said. “Therefore, there is no need for the Ukrainian Parliament to rush to make any new decisions. I hope that all political forces can adhere to this opinion.”

She reiterated her comments made in her public statement of 24 February that, to avoid increasing tensions, the authorities should ensure that the concerns of all ethnic and linguistic groups are taken into account and that consultations also encompass international organizations to ensure that any new language legislation meets European standards. She added that time is also needed to evaluate the merits and shortcomings of the 2012 Language Law, as well as its implementation in practice.

The High Commissioner has been able to speak to a wide range of interlocutors to assess the situation on the ground. She expressed particular concern that she heard a lot of conflicting impressions that are contributing to a climate of fear and confusion. Contradictory information leads to an “information war”. Any measures taken to restrict access to cross-border transmission of media should strictly comply with international standards, as stated by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. In addition, many people told her they are concerned about security and the presence of militarized groups with an unclear status. Thors commended the interim Government’s efforts to address the security issues in the country, including the disarmament of armed groups that exist outside of the legal framework, in order to combat such perceptions.

Thors also remains concerned about the situation in Crimea. Following her statement on 6 March, the High Commissioner reminded the authorities in effective control of Crimea that they remain responsible for the human rights, including minority rights, of all persons residing on the peninsula. “The people in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian community, are in a precarious position. I urge the authorities in effective control to refrain from actions that exclude people from employment in the public and private sectors or force them to give up their property.”

She again drew particular attention to The Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations, which state that while a State might have an interest in supporting persons belonging to national minorities in other States, “no State may exercise jurisdiction over the population or part of the population of another State within the territory of that State without its consent” because “the respect for and protection of minority rights is primarily the responsibility of the State where the minority resides.”

Astrid Thors
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
The Hague, 4 April 2014

4 April 2014
The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities has been closely following developments in Ukraine since the office was established in 1993 to act as an instrument of conflict prevention at the earliest stage. The successive High Commissioners have paid particular attention to the inter-ethnic situation in Crimea, legislation regulating minority rights and language use, and the education of national minorities...
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Deadline for Max van der Stoel Award nominations extended

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors announced today that the deadline for making nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award will be extended to 20 April 2014. The original deadline was 1 April.

The 50,000 EUR Award recognizes extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in OSCE participating States.

Although nominations can only be formally submitted by OSCE field operations, institutions, and delegations of OSCE participating States, Thors encouraged other interested people to forward names of individuals, groups or institutions to an OSCE field operation, institution or delegation, which can subsequently choose to nominate such candidates on their behalf.            

Nominations must be submitted to the HCNM by 20 April 2014. They can be made to the office of the HCNM, by email to mvds@hcnm.org or through the online nomination form at www.maxvanderstoelaward.com/nominate. Please include the name of the candidate, relevant contact information and the reason for the nomination (100–200 words).

The Award will be presented by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans in a ceremony in The Hague on 16 October 2014.

Established in 2001 by the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, the Max van der Stoel Award honours the prominent Dutch statesman who was the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, while also highlighting issues related to national minorities.

25 March 2014
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors announced today that the deadline for making nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award will be extended to 20 April 2014. The original deadline was 1 April...
files/images/web/6/5/1908.jpg
files/images/hires/6/5/1908.jpg
The first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel (seen here in Vukovar, Croatia), is often referred to as the "silent diplomat" for his work to resolve ethnic conflicts.
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