Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights


15 December 1999
Warsaw, Poland


The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is the principal institution of the OSCE responsible for the human dimension. According to its mandate, the ODIHR is tasked to help OSCE participating States "to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to abide by the rule of law, to promote principles of democracy and ... to build, strengthen and protect democratic institutions, as well as promote tolerance throughout society" (1992 Helsinki Document).

The ODIHR, based in Warsaw, Poland, has been growing steadily since its creation as the Office for Free Elections under the Charter of Paris in 1990. In 1992 the name of the office was changed to reflect the expansion of its mandate to include human rights and democratization. Today it employs over 50 staff members and is active throughout Eastern and South Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Based on its mandate, the ODIHR

  • promotes democratic elections through a cycle of in-depth observations of national elections and assistance projects aimed at strengthening democracy and good governance, and enhancing stability;

  • provides technical support in consolidating democratic institutions and the respect for human rights as well as strengthening civil society and the rule of law through targeted projects; it also co-operates with OSCE missions in developing human dimension activities;

  • serves as the OSCE Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues;

  • contributes to early warning and conflict prevention by monitoring the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments by participating States.

Guided by the conviction that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law represent an essential precondition for stability and security in each participating State as well as in the OSCE area as a whole, a principle that has been reaffirmed in the recently adopted OSCE Charter for European Security, the ODIHR has continued to increase its activities aimed at assisting participating States in their efforts to implement their OSCE human dimension commitments. During the second half of 1999, the ODIHR has faced a number of unprecedented challenges:

  1. Kosovo

    Following the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo, the ODIHR carried out a comprehensive analysis of the human rights material that was collected by the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission between October 1998 and June 1999. The 450-page report, entitled "Kosovo/Kosova - As Seen, As Told: An analysis of the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission", was produced in only five months by a team of 12 human rights experts and launched in Pristina on 6 December. The report breaks new ground for the OSCE, being the first time that human rights data gathered by an OSCE mission has been systematically analysed and consolidated into comprehensive reporting that has then been made public.

  2. Elections

    In the field of elections, the autumn of 1999 saw one of the busiest election schedules ever. At one point the ODIHR had six observation missions in operation simultaneously. Throughout the second half of the year, the ODIHR deployed long-term observation missions, and developed further post-election missions and follow-up through an increasing number of technical assistance projects. In this context, the decision of the OSCE Istanbul Summit (18-19 November) to reinforce the mandate of the ODIHR in the field of elections is of particular importance.

  3. Trafficking

    Another highlight of the Istanbul Summit from an ODIHR perspective was the side meeting on trafficking in human beings on 18 November. During the meeting, which was addressed by a number of Heads of State or Government and by the First Lady of the United States, Mrs Hillary Clinton, the ODIHR presented an Action Plan to combat trafficking in human beings. The Action Plan includes concrete recommendations to the participating States and the OSCE institutions at all levels.

  4. Review Conference/NGOs

    Preceding the Summit, an OSCE Review Conference - the first in three years - was convened in Vienna (20 September-1 October) and Istanbul (8-10 November) to assess the implementation of OSCE commitments by participating States. During both parts of the conference, the ODIHR assisted with providing facilities for the participating NGOs which were widely assessed as a substantial progress from past practices.

  5. Montenegro

    In July, the ODIHR was able to re-open its office in Montenegro, which had been temporarily closed in February 1999 due to the security situation in the region. With an enhanced staff of four internationals, the ODIHR Office has been able to expand considerably its assistance to the Montenegrin authorities in consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and raising awareness of the situation in Montenegro among the international community.

  6. Memoranda of Understanding

    Another priority for the ODIHR during the second half of 1999 was the implementation of the projects included in the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Governments of participating States in Central Asia and the Caucasus. In Central Asia, Memoranda of Understanding now provide the framework for ODIHR projects aimed at promoting rule of law, democratic institutions, democratic elections, civil society, and human rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and, most recently, Tajikistan, with which an MoU was signed on 30 September.

  7. Roma and Sinti

    Since spring 1999, the ODIHR has increasingly been at the forefront of international efforts aimed at improving the situation of Roma in the OSCE area, including within the framework of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. This development has been facilitated through the strengthening of the ODIHR Roma and Sinti Contact Point, which now consists of two staff solely devoted to issues relating to Roma and Sinti. The Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Roma and Sinti Issues, which took place in Vienna on 6 September, led to a number of recommendations for concrete action. The success of the meeting was due not least to a remarkably high number of NGO participants.


The ODIHR deploys election observation missions to OSCE participating States to assess the implementation of OSCE commitments relating to elections. Its carefully developed methodology provides a unique, in-depth insight into all elements of an electoral process. To do this, the ODIHR fields extensive teams of experts to observe the entire electoral process before, during and after election day.

The 1990 Copenhagen Document commits OSCE participating States to invite other States to observe their elections, and the ODIHR provides a co-ordination framework for such observation. Long-term observers, seconded by participating States, are deployed throughout the country for a period of six to eight weeks, to assess the legal and regulatory framework, the election administration, the media environment, and conditions surrounding the election campaign. Short-term observers arrive to monitor the end of the campaign, and the voting and counting process. Shortly after election day, a preliminary statement is issued, often jointly with other international organizations present for the observation. The ODIHR publishes a final election report within 30 days after the election. The 1999 OSCE Charter for European Security commits the States concerned to follow-up ODIHR's recommendations on elections. The ODIHR can provide assistance to implement the recommendations made in the final reports. In its election-related activities, the ODIHR co-operates closely with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as well as with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In 1999, the ODIHR deployed more than 1,900 observers to monitor elections in 11 OSCE participating States. For elections that could not meet the OSCE standards, the ODIHR deployed limited assessment missions. The ODIHR also provided support to OSCE field missions to evaluate elections when an observation or assessment was not possible. Moreover, the ODIHR undertook an increasing number of technical assistance projects, in preparation for elections, following recommendations made in observation final reports, or in the framework of MoU's signed with Governments of participating States (see Chapter "Assistance to Democratization").

Constitutional referendum and presidential election in Tajikistan (26 Sept. and 6 Nov.)

For the constitutional referendum on 26 September, the ODIHR supported the OSCE Mission with three experts, and for the 6 November presidential election, one ODIHR expert was deployed in Dushanbe. The ODIHR declined to deploy an observation or assessment mission for the presidential election as a result of the authorities' failure to ensure a competitive election.

A joint OSCE-UN assessment mission was conducted to Tajikistan from 24 July to 7 August 1999. The mission was part of the preparations for the parliamentary elections expected to be held on 27 February 2000.

Parliamentary election in Kazakhstan (10 and 24 Oct.)

An election observation mission, headed by Linda Edgeworth, was established in Kazakhstan on 2 September to observe the 10 October parliamentary elections. The election was the first under a new election system introducing a proportional element by having ten seats out of 77 elected on party lists. In its post-election statement after the second round held on 24 October, the ODIHR election observation mission stated that the elections, while constituting a tentative step towards international standards, fell short of the OSCE commitments formulated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. The electoral process was severely marred by widespread, pervasive and illegal interference by executive authorities in the electoral process and a lack of transparency.

Parliamentary election in Georgia (31 Oct. and 14 Nov.)

An ODIHR election observation mission, headed by Nikolai Vulchanov, was established in Georgia on 23 September to observe the first round of the Georgian parliamentary election on 31 October and the second round on 14 November. The mission found the elections to be a step towards compliance with OSCE commitments, although during the second round they were marred by irregularities in some districts.

Presidential election in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (31 Oct. and 14 Nov.)

An ODIHR election observation mission was established in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the end of September for the two rounds of the presidential elections that took place on 31 October and 14 November. The mission was headed by Mark Stevens, seconded by the Government of the United Kingdom. Based on the overall findings from the two rounds, the ODIHR election observation mission concluded that the electoral process was generally carried out satisfactorily, and in general accordance with OSCE commitments. However, the observation mission urged the authorities to investigate a high voter turnout in some districts.

Presidential election in Ukraine (31 Oct. and 14 Nov.)

In Ukraine, the ODIHR established an election observation mission headed by Simon Osborn, seconded by the Government of the United Kingdom, on 15 September 1999. The mission observed both rounds of the presidential elections held on 31 October and 14 November. In post-election statements, the ODIHR election observation mission concluded that the election failed to meet a number of OSCE commitments. In particular, the electronic and State-owned media comprehensively failed to live up to their legal obligation to provide balanced and unbiased reporting on the candidates and the campaign in the news coverage of both rounds. More significantly, the observation mission uncovered evidence that State institutions systematically campaigned for the incumbent during the second round.

Parliamentary election in Uzbekistan (5 Dec.)

In Uzbekistan, the ODIHR deployed a limited assessment mission, headed by Ambassador Madelaine Stroje-Wilkens, for the 5 December parliamentary elections. This decision not to undertake a full observation was based on concerns that the broad electoral framework in Uzbekistan does not permit a truly pluralist, competitive election.

Parliamentary election in Turkmenistan (12 Dec.)

The ODIHR did not observe the parliamentary election in Turkmenistan scheduled for 12 December. The decision was based on serious concerns that the election process under the existing legal framework and political atmosphere could not comply with any OSCE commitments.

Parliamentary election in the Russian Federation (19 Dec.)

The ODIHR election observation for the 19 December parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation, headed by Ambassador Edouard Brunner, was officially launched on 10 November. The mission has opened more than a dozen regional offices across the Russian Federation to monitor the election campaign and process. The observation mission's conclusions were not available at the time of this publication.


The ODIHR runs programmes of assistance to develop democratic structures and to promote rule of law, civil society, democratic election processes and equality between women and men. ODIHR human rights programmes focus on such priorities as freedom of movement, freedom from torture, religious freedom, and trafficking in persons. Panels of prominent independent experts help shape the ODIHR's work on combating torture and promoting religious freedom.

In 1999, the ODIHR implemented more than 50 projects in 20 countries in close co-operation with OSCE missions and field offices, other OSCE institutions, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. In seven Central Asian and Caucasian countries, the projects are carried out within the framework of formal Memoranda of Understanding - co-operation agreements - signed with the governments. In all countries, the ODIHR co-operates closely with the OSCE mission or field office on the ground. In order to increase OSCE activities within the human dimension, the ODIHR has launched a grassroots initiative to encourage the development of small-scale democratization projects, which are implemented directly by the OSCE missions and field offices. Such projects are often developed in co-operation with local NGOs, and cost less than 5000 USD.

New ODIHR publication: "
Preventing Torture - A Handbook for OSCE Field Staff"

The ODIHR prepared a handbook for field mission personnel on the prevention of torture. The new ODIHR publication, funded by a voluntary contribution from the UK, was presented at a side meeting of the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna on 27 September. The handbook should enable field mission members to identify torture as a central issue of their mandate. It explains international standards and mechanisms and gives guidance on monitoring and reporting on this issue. The handbook has been distributed to the OSCE field missions.

Participants of the side meeting welcomed the preparation of the handbook and emphasized the importance of training of field personnel and awareness raising in the field of torture prevention. It was also pointed out that networking between individuals, NGOs and IGOs in the field is vital to strengthen efforts to combat torture.

In preparation: "Human Rights in Daily Border Guards Practices - The Example of Poland"

The ODIHR is also preparing a handbook on human rights in daily border guards practices. The handbook, sponsored through a voluntary contribution from the UK, is developed jointly by the ODIHR and an expert of the Polish Border Guards Academy in Ketrzyn. It illustrates how international human rights standards are applied in Polish internal legislation. In a very comprehensive and representative manner, the publication explains how border guards' duties include respect for international human rights standards. An English translation of the original Russian version of the handbook is also in preparation. The handbook will be used in ODIHR projects in several countries.

ODIHR presents Action Plan to combat trafficking in human beings

On the margins of the OSCE Istanbul Summit, the ODIHR presented an Action Plan to combat trafficking in human beings. A special side meeting was devoted to this issue on 18 November. The meeting was moderated by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebk. It was addressed by a number of Heads of State or Government and by the First Lady of the United States, Mrs Hillary Clinton.

The ODIHR Action Plan includes concrete recommendations to the participating States and the OSCE institutions at all levels, and proposes actions to enhance prevention, prosecution of trafficking perpetrators, and protection of the rights of trafficked persons. Specific priorities include the strengthening of the legal framework in order to better protect the rights of women and girls and to punish the traffickers, increasing public awareness, including training officials on the human rights implications of trafficking, and assisting Governments and NGOs to provide greater protection and assistance to victims of trafficking.

The proposed Action Plan builds on the preliminary recommendations contained in the ODIHR background paper "Trafficking in Human Beings: Implications for the OSCE", which was prepared for the 1999 OSCE Review Conference in Vienna in order to provide general background information about the problem of trafficking and to begin exploring the role of the OSCE. Both documents are also available on the ODIHR website (

Review Conference side meeting on combating trafficking in women in post-conflict areas

In conjunction with the OSCE Review Conference, the ODIHR organized a side meeting on 29 September to discuss "Combating Trafficking in Women in Post-Conflict Areas". The meeting was opened by the Director of the ODIHR, Ambassador Grard Stoudmann, and included presentations by Madeleine Rees, head of the Sarajevo office of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Brankica Grupkovic, a women's rights activist from the FR of Yugoslavia, and Jill Thompson, the ODIHR Adviser on Trafficking Issues. Participants in the side meeting discussed the emergence of trafficking in women in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the post-conflict period, and its recent appearance in Kosovo; lessons learned from the Bosnia experience and actions taken by the OHCHR and the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address trafficking in Bosnia; the need for concerted and co-ordinated action to combat trafficking in Kosovo and throughout the Balkans region, including as part of the OSCE contribution to the Stability Pact; and recommendations for addressing the problem of trafficking within the OSCE framework. Participants included Government delegations, representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the Council of Europe, and the European Commission, and several interested NGOs.

Meeting of ODIHR Advisory Panel for the Prevention of Torture

The ODIHR Advisory Panel for the Prevention of Torture had its third meeting on the margins of the OSCE Review Conference in Istanbul on 10 November. The panel members reviewed the implementation of current ODIHR projects relating to the prevention of torture, and provided guidance and advice to improve the effectiveness of the ODIHR's approach. The experts also discussed projects planned for the year 2000. It was agreed that the panel should meet once every year. In the future the meeting will be extended by half a day to give more time for the discussion of strategic issues. The meeting proved to be very valuable for the ODIHR in order to ensure that its activities do not duplicate the work of others and to verify and reflect its approach from different perspectives. The activities of the Advisory Panel are supported by a voluntary contribution from the Government of the United Kingdom.

ODIHR International Elections Standards Programme

The adjudication of election-related grievances is among the most fundamental issues in the electoral process of any country. However, ensuring that complaints and appeals are handled in a professional way is particularly challenging where the legal systems and election administration are still developing. Therefore, the ODIHR has launched the "International Elections Standards Programme", a pioneer project which has no equivalent among the activities carried out by other international organizations. Although centred on the electoral process, the programme is closely linked to the consolidation of the rule of law. It focused on Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The programme's objectives are interrelated:

  1. To develop and conduct training activities aimed at outlining "good practices" in the field and increasing the level of understanding by judges and election officials of election appeals procedures and methods in the light of international standards;

  2. To make recommendations on possible improvements in the legislation and the judicial practice so as to ensure that electoral complaints and appeals be handled in a consistent, fair, impartial and timely manner;

  3. To encourage the establishment by the relevant authorities of an evaluation process of the performance of the judiciary and election commissions in the enforcement of election appeal provisions and rules.

In Ukraine, following an expert review of the legal framework relating to election disputes carried out in November 1998, the ODIHR held, in co-operation with the Supreme Court, a workshop on "Resolving Elections Disputes" in Kyiv on 23-24 June. The workshop was attended by members of the Supreme Court, judges from regional courts, members of the Central Election Committee and representatives of local and international NGOs. A number of issues were identified as matters of priority within a comprehensive reform process. These concerns are reflected in a set of specific recommendations addressed to the Ukrainian authorities pointing out possible improvements in the provisions relating to elections disputes procedures and standards as well as the judicial and administrative practice in this regard.

In the run-up to the 31 October presidential election in Ukraine, the ODIHR election observation mission put in place a data collection and processing mechanism within the framework of the election observation mission, to evaluate the performance of the judiciary and election entities in implementing election appeal rules and procedures. This phase is underway and will come up with further recommendations, including a recommendation for a standard election disputes monitoring system.

In Kazakhstan, the ODIHR plans to present the conclusions of a detailed review of all provisions relating to election disputes resolution to the Kazakh Government in conjunction with the final report of the election observation mission. These conclusions will draw upon the data collected and processed by the election observation mission; they will pave the way for further activities designed to improve the performance of the judiciary in adjudicating election related complaints and appeals.

In Kyrgyzstan, a workshop on election disputes was organized in co-ordination with IFES in Bishkek on 22-23 October. The workshop was attended by the Chairman of the Supreme Court, his Deputy and three judges of the Court, the President of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the Head of the CEC Legal Department as well as 50 rayon, city and oblast judges. The gathering was a unique opportunity for judges and election officials to familiarize themselves with mechanisms and practices as developed in western and eastern European democracies. Among the recommendations arising out of the discussion, was the need to develop specialized training for judges on election disputes.

The International Election Standards Programme, which is supported by financial contributions from the European Commission and the Governments of Switzerland, Denmark, and the UK, is due to be completed by the end of 1999.

Grass Roots Democracy projects

In addition to projects designed by the ODIHR, the Office has established a practice of supporting small scale human dimension activities implemented directly by OSCE missions and field offices. A number of such initiatives were successfully carried out during the second half of 1999, for instance a very productive conference on challenges facing rural women in Albania; an educational seminar for women in Kazakhstan; a workshop aimed at re-establishing the dialogue between Moldova and Transdniestria on historical textbooks; and a training workshop for young journalists in Kazakhstan on the role of the media in an electoral campaign.

Central Asia

Signing of MoU with Tajikistan

During his visit to Dushanbe on 30 September 1999, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister of Norway Knut Vollebk, signed a MoU with the Government of Tajikistan. The MoU envisages the implementation of six projects in the field of elections, civil society, rule of law and gender equality in the course of 2000. In implementing these projects, the ODIHR will work in close co-operation with the OSCE Mission to Tajikistan.

ODIHR co-operation with the European Commission in Central Asia

During the second half of 1999, the ODIHR continued the implementation of the "Joint Programme for Advancing of Human Rights and Democratisation in Central Asia", which is co-financed by the European Commission. The programme includes 10 projects designed to promote the rule of law, civil society and respect for human rights in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan under the MoU's between the ODIHR and the respective Governments.

The programme includes technical assistance projects specifically designed to meet acute needs in response to requests from the Governments of the respective countries. In the area of rule of law, two primary fields of activities were identified: A review of legislation in the light of the recent ratification of a number of international human rights instruments in order to ensure the domestic legislation's compliance with international treaty obligations, and the establishment and improvement of judicial mechanisms to resolve potential election-related disputes.

In the field of civil society and human rights, the focus is on promoting an environment conducive to the development of civil society and fostering dialogue between Governments and NGOs on human rights issues, as well as on assistance to creating or strengthening of human rights institutions.

The implementation of the programme began in early 1999 and will conclude in June 2000. A conference in April 2000 will provide an opportunity to review the whole programme and its implementation.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan election legislation assistance

An ODIHR delegation met with Kazakh authorities on 13 July to discuss improvements to the election legislation. The meeting, held in Astana, was part of an on-going dialogue between Kazakhstan and the ODIHR on election-related issues. Prior to the meeting, ODIHR had submitted a report to the Central Election Commission (CEC) containing a review of the election law, including a number of recommendations. Some of ODIHR's recommendations were incorporated in the election legislation and others were included in regulations and instructions issued by the CEC.

An expert level meeting took place in Tashkent on 15 and 16 July between Uzbek officials and ODIHR election experts. The aim of the meeting was to present suggestions for improvements to the Uzbek election laws. In advance of the meeting, ODIHR had submitted a detailed report to the CEC containing a review of the newly adopted election laws, which was an improvement over the previous law, though still far from meeting OSCE requirements. There was an agreement to continue the dialogue in the future.

Voter education in Kazakhstan

As part of the MoU between Kazakhstan and ODIHR, a project on voter education through electronic media was completed. With financial support from the Government of the United States, the ODIHR developed and presented to the Central Election Commission a series of eleven TV spots, produced in conjunction with the BBC and designed to enhance voter awareness of the election process. The spots were broadcast on Kazakh television during the parliamentary election campaign. In addition, the ODIHR participated in a seminar in Kazakhstan on the role of electronic media in the election campaign.

Civil society assistance programme in Kazakhstan

The ODIHR, in co-operation with the OSCE Centre in Almaty, the Kazakh Ministry of the Interior and the Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, has organized three meetings between Government officials and representatives of NGOs to discuss the prevention of torture. The first meeting took place in Almaty in July, the second and third were organized in the Atyrau and Karaganda regions in November. The project forms part of the MoU signed with Government of Kazakhstan, which is to be commended for its open approach to discussing potentially sensitive issues.

The first meeting was attended by the Adviser to the President of Kazakhstan, the Deputy Minister of Interior and representatives from the Kazakh Prosecutor's Office, the National Security Committee, Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as numerous NGOs. Presentations were given by ODIHR experts Mr. Alan Walker and Mr. Bill Bowring on common problems which exist in prison systems and how they are tackled by Governments and NGOs in various countries, and international instruments protecting detainees and prisoners. Participants discussed ways of improving the penitentiary system in Kazakhstan and made a number of concrete proposals including creating clear guidelines on access to prisoners, and improving the rehabilitation of prisoners.

The meeting introduced a new form of dialogue between the Government and civil society in Kazakhstan, and resulted in a unanimous call for further meetings bringing together the Government and NGOs and for further discussion on torture prevention in Kazakhstan. This initiative was followed up in November, when two meetings were organized on torture, ill-treatment and prison reform in regions outside Almaty. These meetings offered an opportunity for a wider selection of NGOs to enter into a dialogue on this important issue with local officials.

The meetings in Atyran and Karaganda brought together about 50 participants each, including prison governors, NGO representatives and officials from the Ministry of Interior. Senior experts on prison reform and rehabilitation of torture victims, from the United Kingdom and Estonia respectively, moderated both meetings. The participants discussed the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the establishment of a prison service training centre, and ideas for re-organizing the prison system. The fact that participants for the first time were invited to discuss in working groups rather than simply listen to lectures, prompted a lively meeting with a very high volume of questions addressed to the international experts.

The last meeting of the 1999 civil society assistance programme, which was funded by voluntary contributions from the European Commission and the United Kingdom, took place in Almaty on 10 December 1999. Responding to a suggestion by the OSCE Centre in Almaty, it was devoted to the issue of freedom of religion. The meeting was moderated by Dr. Bahia Tahzib-Lie of the Netherlands, a highly respected expert on freedom of religion.

Review of Kazakh legislation

Within the context of the Legislative Reform Assistance Project, the ODIHR expert, Mr. Bill Bowring also prepared a report on compliance of Kazakh domestic legislation with the UN Convention Against Torture. The report is based on an analysis of the most pertinent Kazakh legislation relating to the prevention of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and on information gathered by the expert during a working group meeting, which was organized by the OSCE Centre in Astana in mid-August. The report was officially submitted to members of the working group, including the Secretary of the Human Rights Commission, on 16 November 1999. It was also send to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The report sets out a number of recommendations on legislative reform in Kazakhstan. The expert concluded, inter alia, that the Kazakh criminal code does not contain a definition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment that covers the full scope of the Convention. In addition he pointed to inconsistencies on the scope of the prohibition in different legal texts such as the code of criminal procedure that should be rectified. The expert also addressed the lack of sufficient preventive safeguards under Kazakh law. His recommendations relate to the question of access to legal counsel at all stages and to the question of judicial control of detention.

The Legislative Reform Assistance Project is part of the ODIHR-European Commission Joint Programme for Advancing Human Rights and Democratization in Central Asia and is co-funded by the Government of the UK.

Assistance to the establishment of Ombudsman office in Kazakhstan

In the framework of the MoU between the Government of Kazakhstan and the ODIHR, a two-day seminar dedicated to the development of an Ombudsman office in Kazakhstan was organized on 2-4 September by the ODIHR in co-operation with the OSCE Centre in Almaty, the UNDP and the Office of the UNHCHR. The seminar clarified the role and function of an Ombudsman institution in a democratic State, based on the rule of law. It was attended by some 80 participants from the Government, NGOs and international organizations.

It was commonly acknowledged that Kazakhstan would benefit from the creation of such institution, which can deal with human rights related complaints on an informal and flexible basis and is cost-free and accessible to everyone. The key question, whether the independence of an Ombudsman institution can be guaranteed in law and in practice, was discussed intensively. The seminar concluded with a joint declaration, which calls for the creation of an Ombudsman office and outlines necessary steps to achieve this goal.

Following the seminar, the ODIHR and other organizations involved (UNHCHR and UNDP) provided expert advice to the ad hoc working group on Ombudsman legislation on 12-15 November. The ODIHR consultant, Mr. Dean Gottehrer, and the consultants of the other organizations addressed in particular the conceptual questions of the independence of such an institution, the transparency of the appointment process and the question of pluralism in its composition. Following the discussions, the working group presented a working draft to the UNDP Conference on Ombudsman in Almaty on 18 November.

As a next step the ODIHR expert will provide written comments on the present draft law to the working group. The ODIHR stands ready to assist Kazakhstan with the further elaboration and public discussion of a draft law. The project is part of the ODIHR-European Commission Joint Programme for Advancing Human Rights and Democratization in Central Asia and is co-funded by the Government of Denmark.

Support for NGO participation in UNDP Ombudsman Conference in Kazakhstan

The ODIHR supported and facilitated the participation of NGOs at the UNDP Regional Conference on Ombudsman and National Human Rights Institution in Almaty on 15-17 November and sent representatives from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The Conference dealt with the question of establishing benchmarks to judge the success of such institutions, their role in multi-ethnic societies and their relationship with NGOs and the media.

Training of domestic election observers in Kyrgyzstan

Within the framework of an MoU between the Government of Kyrgyzstan and the ODIHR, a domestic observer training project was implemented. As part of the project, which was sponsored by a voluntary contribution from the Government of the United States, a one-day seminar for NGOs interested in taking part in the observation of the 20 February 2000 parliamentary elections was held in Bishkek on 5 November. The seminar provided an overview of ODIHR's election observation methodology. In addition, a two-day training course conducted by the ODIHR for six core-trainers was held on 6-7 November in Bishkek. The core-trainers then travelled throughout the country (five regions) to offer two-day regional training programmes for NGO representatives. The ODIHR developed and printed two manuals for trainers and observers.

Women in Politics Project in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan

Phase One of the Kyrgyzstan 'Women in Politics' training of trainers programme was carried out in Bishkek from 26 June to 2 July. Twenty-five participants, including NGO and Government representatives from across the country participated in the one-week training, which was arranged in co-operation with the OSCE Centre in Bishkek and the UNDP's Gender in Development Bureau. The workshop provided the participants with skills in leadership and knowledge on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Each participant organized local follow-up workshops in different regions in October on women's involvement in political life and decision-making processes, gender equality and CEDAW. In November, the final phase of the project, training for women candidates, took place. Twelve candidates for parliamentary elections in 2000 underwent a five-day training course together with their campaign managers. The course equipped the participants with lobbying, issue-identification and campaign skills and was also organized in co-operation with the OSCE Centre in Bishkek with assistance from the office of the National Democratic Institute in Bishkek. Training for the first and final stages of the project was conducted by the Active Learning Center.

In Kazakhstan, the second phase of the 'Women in Politics' project took place from June to August. The participants in the initial workshop, which was held in May, organized follow-up workshops on women's human rights, women's employment, women in elections, gender discrimination and CEDAW.

Both projects are part of the ODIHR-European Commission Joint Programme for Advancing Human Rights and Democratization in Central Asia and are co-funded by the Government of the UK.

Workshop on registration of permanent residents in Kyrgyzstan

A workshop on registration of permanent residents in Kyrgyzstan was organized by the ODIHR in Bishkek on 14-15 October. The discussions focused on ideas for reforming the previous Soviet-era registration system. In view of the lack of information on international experiences which hinders the on-going reform, ODIHR experts explained to the participants how the reform of internal registration systems in other CIS countries has been structured and how existing systems in Denmark and the Netherlands are functioning.

Other issues discussed during the workshop included contradictions among various laws and regulations relating to internal registration in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the lack of implementation of some of these legal provisions. It was stressed that the new system of registration should not contradict international standards on the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence. Follow-up steps to the workshop will include the analysis of current laws and regulations in Kyrgyzstan as well as the creation of a working group to deal with the issue. The workshop was supported by voluntary contributions from the Governments of the UK and the United States.

Civil society assistance programme in Kyrgyzstan

The third NGO-Government meeting under the MoU between the ODIHR and the Government of the Kyrgyzstan took place in Bishkek on 6 September. The meeting was devoted to human rights advocacy, civil society and Ombudsman issues, and was organized together with the International Helsinki Federation, the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, and the European Commission.

A major purpose of the meeting was to explain the role and responsibilities of Ombudsman institutions, how such an institution could be created in a Kyrgyz context and how it would work with the existing Human Rights Commission under the President. Experts from the OSCE and the Office of the UNHCHR also outlined the requirements for an Ombudsman institution to meet international standards. The meeting prompted a lively discussion between NGO representatives and State officials about the need to create such institution in Kyrgyzstan, how its independence could be guaranteed, and the nature of its mandate. As a result of the meeting, the authorities invited NGOs to participate in a consultative group to the official working group tasked with drafting the new law on Ombudsman.

The last NGO-Government meeting in Kyrgyzstan in 1999 focused on the relationship between law enforcement bodies and domestic NGOs. The meeting took place in Bishkek on 14 December and consisted of three sessions. The first was devoted to the new NGO law, the second to access to information and the responsibility of law enforcement agencies, and the last session centred on establishing constructive interaction between law enforcement agencies and NGOs within the framework of the existing legislation.

In addition to the civil society assistance programme, the ODIHR reviewed the Decree on NGOs and made recommendations to the Government of Kyrgyzstan. The review was requested by local NGOs through the OSCE Centre in Bishkek. The civil society assistance programme forms part of the ODIHR-European Commission Joint Programme for Advancing Human Rights and Democratization in Central Asia and is co-funded by the Government of the UK.

Assistance to the Consultative Group on Ombudsman legislation in Kyrgyzstan

On 19-20 November, the ODIHR together with consultants from other organizations (UNDP, UNHCHR) provided expert advice to the consultative group on Ombudsman legislation. The two-day meeting addressed various issues including the transparency of the appointment process, the scope of the mandate of an Ombudsman institution and its composition. The ODIHR expert, Mr. Dean Gottehrer, will provide further written advice on the present draft law and stands ready to comment on following draft versions. The project is co-funded by contributions from the Government of Denmark and the European Commission.

Research project on trafficking in persons in Kyrgyzstan

The ODIHR and the OSCE Centre in Bishkek have initiated a joint project with the International Organization for Migration to study the problem of trafficking in Kyrgyzstan, with particular emphasis on trafficking in women and children. The primary goal of the project is to assess the approximate incidence and potential for trafficking to, through, and from Kyrgyzstan and to evaluate the existing policy, legislation and other mechanisms in place to prevent and combat trafficking. The research and evaluation will then be used to formulate recommendations for national policies, regional co-operation, and future programming initiatives.

NGO meetings in Uzbekistan

As part of the civil society programme in Uzbekistan, the ODIHR organized an NGO meeting in Samarkand on 12 October in co-operation with the OSCE Liaison Office in Central Asia and the National Centre for Human Rights. Twenty-three NGOs from Samarkand participated in the meeting. The NGOs, representing some of the most developed and experienced in Uzbekistan, discussed problems they face in their relation with local authorities and suggested possible ways to improve this co-operation in the future. As a result of the meeting, a letter with concrete recommendations to local authorities was prepared by the participants. In this letter, the NGOs suggested organizing more roundtables, seminars and training with Government representatives and requested to be invited by local authorities to meetings within Government structures related to their particular work in order to be able to provide input. Several participants called for the creation of a working group consisting of NGO and Government representatives which should consider issues of common concern on a regular basis.

The last meeting of the 1999 civil society assistance programme in Uzbekistan was organized as a training workshop for domestic NGOs on 11-13 December in Tashkent. About 20 NGO and community leaders from different regions of Uzbekistan participated in the training. The ODIHR invited two well-known NGO activists from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Ivan Cicak and Mr. Mladen Majetic, to act as facilitators. The meeting was set up as a group-building exercise, aiming at defining strategies to improve the co-operation among NGOs in Uzbekistan in the future. How NGOs can maximize the impact of their work and influence the promotion of democracy and human rights in Uzbekistan were issues at the centre of the discussions. This training was the first of its kind in Uzbekistan and helped the participants think in broader terms about their work and participation in society. As a result of its success, similar training will be organized for 2000 with a view to creating a network of domestic NGOs, if the organizations themselves would be committed to such a project. The civil society programme in Uzbekistan is sponsored by voluntary contributions from the Government of the UK.

Civic and legal education for women in Uzbekistan

A 'train the trainer' course on human rights and women in political life was held in Tashkent from 22 to 26 August. The project was designed by the OSCE Central Asia Liaison Office, and co-funded by the Governments of Norway and the UK, with training by the Moscow-based FALTA women's organization. Thirty women from different women's organizations in Uzbekistan participated in the training. The main goals of the course were to provide participants with information on human rights of women and the role of women in political life, and to encourage the participants and their organizations to concretize their role in working on women's issues. The fact that so many women's organizations were brought together was seen as a significant achievement in facilitating a network of women's NGOs in Uzbekistan. Participants organized at least five follow-up workshops each, mainly for rural women on basic concepts of women's rights, and women's role in society and elections. The final stage of the programme was providing participants with training in leadership and political skills.

Workshop for journalists in Tajikistan

In co-operation with the BBC World Service and with assistance from the OSCE Mission to Tajikistan, the ODIHR organized a workshop for Tajik journalists in Dushanbe on 13-18 September, in the run-up to the constitutional referendum on 26 September. The workshop allowed news editors, journalists and reporters to come together to explore how to give a balanced coverage of referendums and elections. The five-day programme was run by three experienced trainers from the BBC, and concentrated on how journalists can maintain fairness, accuracy and balance in their coverage under difficult conditions. The workshop provided training for about 45 professionals from all media, and brought together journalists from both the State-controlled and the nascent independent media. As a result, the training facilitated a common platform for implementing the acquired skills during the coverage of the constitutional referendum.


Planning for implementation of projects in Azerbaijan

On 1-3 September in Baku, the Director of the ODIHR, Ambassador Grard Stoudmann, discussed the implementation of current projects under the MoU between the ODIHR and the Government of Azerbaijan, as well as projects for the year 2000. A series of meetings with President Heydar Aliev, the Head of the President's Office and focal point for MoU projects, Mr. Ramiz Mekhdiyev, and several Government representatives centred on advancing implementation of ODIHR democratization projects in Azerbaijan. Election assistance was also discussed, in the context of ODIHR recommendations for improvements in the election legislation and practice, as set out following the 1998 elections. A final decision was made on convening a roundtable with all political parties and factions of Azerbaijan to discuss benchmarks for future elections.

Roundtable on Law on the Central Election Commission in Azerbaijan

High level representatives from the Government, the Office of the President, the Parliament, the Central Election Commission (CEC), opposition parties (Popular Front, Musavat and ANIP), and NGOs participated in a roundtable on the CEC Law, organized by the ODIHR in Baku on 16 November and co-chaired by Mr. Murtuz Aleskerov, Speaker of Parliament, and the ODIHR Director, Ambassador Grard Stoudmann. The purpose of the roundtable, an initiative by the ODIHR following the 1998 presidential elections, was to re-establish a political dialogue on election issues among opposition and ruling parties following the last elections.

On the agenda was a discussion on the draft CEC Law, due to be presented for a second reading in late November. The ODIHR had presented comments to this law in early November, recommending that the selection mechanism for CEC members should guarantee representation by the main political interests. Although no concrete proposal for modifying the selection mechanism for CEC members reached consensus, the roundtable discussions again emphasized the problem, and provided some ideas for its resolution. All participants evaluated the round table as an important and constructive development in the relations between the opposition and the authorities.

Public awareness project on human rights in Azerbaijan

In October, the ODIHR and the BBC World Service started planning for a series of 20-minute long radio magazines on human rights, to be broadcast once a week in the Azerbaijan language between December 1999 and March 2000. This initiative is a part of the MoU signed between the Government of Azerbaijan and the ODIHR.

Each "magazine" will focus on a particular human rights theme, with a variety of elements illustrating it, and is intended to raise people's awareness of their fundamental rights in accordance with Azerbaijan's constitution and international laws, and to give them practical information on how to exercise these rights. Reports from many different locations - factories, universities, refugee camps, prisons, police stations, traffic jams, hospitals, offices, etc. - will look at people's attitude to their civil rights and responsibilities, and how these relate to their daily lives.

Technical election assistance in Georgia and Azerbaijan

In Georgia, the ODIHR conducted two technical assistance projects in preparation for the 31 October parliamentary elections. The ODIHR technical assistance team prepared a training manual for election officials. The team also conducted training for law enforcement agency officers focusing on the role of security forces on election day.

In preparation for the municipal elections scheduled for 12 December in Azerbaijan, the ODIHR presented to the Central Election Commission (CEC) recommendations for the issuance of instructions to improve the transparency and efficiency of the process. The CEC expressed its commitment to fully incorporate these recommendations. An ODIHR election expert travelled to Baku to further assist the CEC in the implementation of the recommendations.

Workshops on registration of permanent residents in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan

During the second half of 1999, the ODIHR organized workshops on the registration of permanent residents in all three countries of the Caucasus. The projects are part of the MoU's signed with the Governments of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The workshop in Georgia, funded by a voluntary contribution from the Government of the United States, brought together representatives of the Georgian Ministry of the Interior, the Central Election Commission, the President's Office, the Minist of Justice, various political parties, and international organizations and NGOs to discuss the implementation of the Law on Registration of Permanent Residents in advance of the parliamentary elections in autumn. The workshop concluded that the registration system in Georgia contains a number of weaknesses, particularly concerning the de-registration of internal migrants at their previous places of residence, and that there is a lack of public awareness of registration procedures. The public needs to be better informed on how the new registration system differs from the old propiska system. The ODIHR recommended that the cost of obtaining new identity papers for citizens of Georgia should be reduced, that penalties be increased for registration officials demanding bribes and that local human rights NGOs should monitor and report on the implementation of the registration law.

A similar workshop took place in Yerevan, Armenia, on 8-9 July, funded through a voluntary contribution by the Government of Norway. This workshop, organized under the MoU between the Government of Armenia and the ODIHR, was seen as a first step in assisting the Armenian Government in developing a concept and legislative basis for an effective system of registration of permanent residents. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Armenian Government as well as international organizations and NGOs, and was widely covered by Armenian press and television.

A third workshop was held in Azerbaijan on 4-5 November. It was organized by the ODIHR in close co-operation with the Human Rights Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan and co-funded by the Governments of Norway and the United States. The workshop was attended by representatives of a number of governmental agencies, international organizations and NGOs. ODIHR experts explained the incompatibility of the Soviet-style propiska system with international standards on freedom of movement and informed on relevant reform efforts in other countries. The current practices of registration of permanent residents were presented by the Head of the Passport and Registration Department of the Ministry of Interior of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's parliament passed a Law on Registration which attempted to abolish many negative aspects of the propiska system in 1996. However, some restrictions on choice of residence still exist in the present law. One of the aspects that hampers the practical work of registration officials is the absence of bylaws and regulations on the implementation of the Registration Law.

Based on the discussions, the ODIHR experts recommended, inter alia, to review the Registration Law and the relevant provisions of other laws with a view to eliminate all restrictions on opportunities to register, to establish mechanisms for inter-ministerial consultations on registration issues, and to raise awareness among the population of the benefits of registration.

TV programmes to increase public awareness of human rights in Armenia

The remaining four TV programmes on human rights were produced and broadcast in the second half of 1999 on Armenian State television. The programmes, focusing on the rights of refugees, the rights of women, the rights of prisoners, and the rights of soldiers according to national and international law, are part of a human rights awareness project being implemented by the ODIHR under the MoU with the Government of Armenia. The project consists of the production and broadcasting of TV programmes on various human rights topics, prepared in the Armenian language by a local television crew, in co-operation with local and international NGOs working in Armenia.

The films feature interviews with public officials, human rights activists, representatives of the international community, and explain precisely how the law deals with the concerns and issues raised. After completion of the 1999 project, which also covers the rights of the disabled and the rights of detainees, all six films will be copied on one cassette and offered to independent TV stations in Armenia to repeat the broadcast. The public awareness project in Armenia is funded by a voluntary contribution from the Government of Norway.

ODIHR assistance to Public Defender's Office in Georgia

In July and August, ODIHR expert Dr. Andrzej Malanowski of the Office of the Polish Ombudsman conducted a two-month mission to Georgia where he assisted the Public Defender in creating a series of mechanisms for reviewing and processing individual human rights cases. The expert also focused on supporting the Public Defender's Office in establishing good relations with State authorities, which are crucial for the protection of human and civil rights in Georgia. In his final report, Dr. Malanowski recommended a number of measures to increase the effectiveness and credibility of the Public Defender's Office. These recommendations include the recruitment of qualified and motivated personnel and the modification of the present internal organizational structure so that it better reflects the incoming complaints. The project was supported by a voluntary contribution from the Government of Norway.

Workshop for Abkhazian, Georgian and South-Ossetian Journalists

As part of ODIHR's civic diplomacy project, 21 journalists from Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia met in Warsaw from 26 to 28 August to attend a workshop organized by the ODIHR in co-operation with the OSCE Mission to Georgia. The workshop, moderated by Andrei Ostalsky from the BBC World Service Training Trust and funded through a voluntary contribution from the United States, focused on the exchange of information on the current state of the mass media, as well as on the relevance of journalistic ethics and the promotion of freedom of the media in the region.

In the course of the working group and plenary discussions, the journalists from the three entities entered into a constructive dialogue, which was characterized by increasing sensitivity on all sides with regard to the concerns of the other delegations. There was a common understanding among the participating journalists that, in order to promote better mutual understanding and trust, it was necessary to work together more closely and to increase the exchange of information. To this end, the participants agreed to endeavour to establish a Journalistic Association of the Caucasus Region - open to journalists from other neighbouring countries and committed to the principles of freedom of speech and free flow of information. It was also suggested to establish a joint internet site and to organize training courses for Abkhazian, Georgian and South-Ossetian journalists.

As a follow-up to the workshop, the OSCE Mission to Georgia organized a tripartite meeting in Sochi, Russian Federation, from 30 November to 3 December. The purpose of the follow-up meeting was to concretize the plans for an increasing exchange of information between all sides in 2000.

Radio programmes on human rights issues in Georgia

In order to raise awareness of fundamental human rights in Georgia, the ODIHR, together with a local radio station and the OSCE Mission to Georgia, is producing and broadcasting a series of short radio programmes explaining voters rights and the human rights of vulnerable groups such as refugees, prisoners, soldiers, children and non-Orthodox citizens. The programme on voters rights was broadcast in mid-October, two weeks before the parliamentary elections, the programme on rights of refugees and IDPs was broadcast in November, while the production on rights of prisoners was aired in December. All programmes have a Georgian and Russian language version and are broadcast throughout the entire territory of Georgia.

South Eastern Europe

ODIHR report on the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission

On 6 December in Pristina, Kosovo, the ODIHR launched a major report on human rights in Kosovo from October 1998 to June 1999, derived from the data gathered by the former OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (OSCE-KVM). A companion report, on human rights in Kosovo since June 1999, was launched simultaneously by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OSCE-MiK).

The 450-page ODIHR report is entitled "Kosovo/Kosova - As Seen, As Told: An analysis of the human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission". It presents a comprehensive survey of the human rights situation in Kosovo up to 9 June 1999. The report reveals how all parts of Kosovo society were affected by the conflict then ongoing, but how human rights violations were perpetrated particularly against the Kosovo Albanian population on a massive scale. Much of what was described to the OSCE directly by victims and witnesses is extreme and appalling. The analysis of the mass of available data points to Yugoslav/Serbian perpetrators having a well-rehearsed strategy which they implemented in a highly organized and systematic way.

The ODIHR report, and the companion report by the OSCE-MiK, together break new ground for the OSCE, being the first time that human rights data collected by an OSCE mission has been systematically analysed and consolidated into comprehensive reporting that has then been placed in the public arena. The scale of the ODIHR report, and the speed with which it was produced, also make it exceptional. While deployed inside Kosovo, up to 20 March 1999, the OSCE-KVM Human Rights Division had compiled hundreds of reports in a variety of formats (incident reports, trial monitoring reports, daily and weekly reports etc). After evacuation from Kosovo, OSCE-KVM human rights officers had conducted 2,764 interviews with Kosovo refugees in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, until the mission was formally stood down on 9 June. All of these reports and interview records were analysed by a project team working at the ODIHR.

The ODIHR took custody of the OSCE-KVM human rights data and undertook the preparation of this analytical report by request of the mission. This was done after it became clear that political and military developments which would affect the future of the mission made it a pressing priority to find a permanent repository for safeguarding the information of the OSCE-KVM Human Rights Division. A project team was formed in Warsaw in early June with two full-time analysts and the Deputy Director of the OSCE-KVM Human Rights Division. In the following two months it expanded to 12 members, consisting of former OSCE-KVM human rights officers and independent human rights analysts. The team was led by the Head of the ODIHR Monitoring Unit, Ian Gorvin, with the former Director of the OSCE-KVM Human Rights Division, Sandra Mitchell (now with the OSCE-MiK) acting as a consultant.

The work of the project team was undertaken in close consultation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). A foreword to the report was contributed by Justice Louise Arbour, the former Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY. The ODIHR project team, and the publication of the report, were supported by technical, logistical and financial contributions from the Governments of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.

ODIHR Office in Montenegro re-opened

The ODIHR Office in Podgorica, which had been established in the aftermath of the 1997 presidential elections and temporarily closed in February 1999 due to the security situation, was re-opened on 18 July. The Office, established at the request of the Government of Montenegro, has concentrated on supporting the development of civil society in the region and on assisting the Montenegrin authorities in bringing their legislation up to OSCE and European standards.

During the visit of the ODIHR Director on the occasion of the Office's re-opening, talks were held with various Government officials, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Montenegrin authorities showed their determination to proceed along a democratic path and to build-up a market economy so as to eventually integrate into European and transatlantic structures. Montenegro needs strong international support to achieve this aim. The ODIHR delegation also visited Roma refugees from Kosovo, as well as Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ODIHR Office is headed by Ambassador Julian Peel-Yates (UK) and includes international personnel from Austria, Norway and Sweden. The Governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States have provided funding for the Office.

Roundtable on the role of the media in the former Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo Crisis

A roundtable on the role of the media in Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo during 1999 was organized on 10-12 September in Montenegro by the ODIHR in co-operation with the Humanitarian Law Center, a Belgrade-based NGO. The ODIHR Office in Montenegro played a key role in organizing the roundtable. Some 20 journalists and editors from Serbia representing the alternative media participated in the two-day discussions, nine from Montenegro and three from Kosovo. Four international journalists with long years of experience in the region moderated the discussions and ten representatives of various OSCE institutions and offices participated as observers.

Against the backdrop of the fundamental changes in the media sector in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo during 1999, the roundtable focused on analysing the root-causes of the conduct of media and the content of media reporting in the FRY in 1999, on exchanging views about the role and responsibilities of the media during a crisis as well as on possible conclusions for future media conduct and reporting.

It was noted that while the media in Serbia was severely restricted by censorship and repression during the period under discussion, the far more liberal political conditions in Montenegro allowed a broader coverage of developments, although censorship rules were also applied and enforced there. In Serbia, most editors and journalists abided by the censorship rules, only a few violated the rules, facing severe consequences. However, most of those journalists who violated the censorship requirements did not do so to cover developments in Kosovo. The majority of journalists believed they had only two choices, to abide by the censorship rules or close down. A third option, to challenge the regime, was chosen by a few, whereas the fourth option, to resort to underground publication, was never used. The question of whether the Serb media also were responsible for the crimes committed by the regime was a controversial issue of discussion. The participants agreed that the discussions were useful, albeit very difficult, and requested ODIHR to convene additional roundtables to focus on specific issues.

Forum on Montenegro: Facts and Future

The ODIHR and the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans organized a forum on the present situation of Montenegro that took place in Budva, Montenegro, on 9-11 October. The goal of the forum was to raise awareness in the international community on the specific situation of Montenegro in all its aspects, including political, legal and economic developments.

Over 50 Montenegrin and international personalities took part in the forum. It was recognized that the Montenegrin authorities are genuinely committed to democracy, the rule of law and human rights. However, progress is jeopardized by a deteriorating economic and monetary situation, this being linked to the situation in the rest of the FRY. In these difficult circumstances, movements favouring independence have become stronger. It was concluded that, for the sake of stability and democracy in Montenegro and beyond, the international community should urgently strengthen its support for Montenegro. The ODIHR Office in Podgorica will continue to assist the Montenegrin authorities in consolidating democracy and the rule of law.

Materials to combat violence against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The ODIHR is supporting the publication of training materials for a project to combat violence against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina which is co-funded by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of the UK. The project is implemented by NGO Media Zenica and the OHCHR, in co-operation with other international agencies. The project uses a multi-disciplinary approach to address violence against women and includes training of professionals and lobbying and public awareness.

Assistance to establishment of training college for prison personnel in Croatia

The Minister of Justice of Croatia formally inaugurated the training college for prison personnel in Lipovica on 22 October. The ODIHR and the British Government had supported this major step in the improvement of the training of prison personnel in Croatia. As from October 1999, newly recruited prison personnel goes through a three months training course, which includes courses on human rights of prisoners and international standards.

The ODIHR had been closely involved in the preparations for the opening of the college. The ODIHR prison expert, Mr. Alan Walker, visited Croatia from 28 to 30 June and advised the Croatian authorities on various issues related to the college and to international reporting mechanisms. In July, two trainers from the United Kingdom prison service conducted two training courses in Zagreb with the future college teachers. The training included subjects such as the purpose of a prison service, prison security, anti-suicide measures, leadership and team building, stress management and care for prisoners. The ODIHR also sponsored a working visit of Croatian prison administrators to the Wakefield prison training school in the United Kingdom. The ODIHR is considering the further development of the college with a view to offering training programmes and workshops for prison officials and Ministry of Justice staff.

Assistance to Albanian prison service

The ODIHR prison expert, Mr. Alan Walker, visited Albania from 8 to 15 October to continue providing advice to the Albanian prison administration on reform issues. Facing a hunger strike in one of the prisons at the time of his visit, he included in the work programme advice on how to properly address emergency situations occurring in prisons.

The Albanian Deputy Minister of Justice, the Director General of Prisons and a senior official of the prison administration visited Poland from 19 to 24 October. The delegation visited several prison facilities including special regime prisons and the Polish prison training college in Kalisz. The purpose of the visit, which was sponsored by the ODIHR, was to exchange experiences on cost-efficient measures aimed at improving the administration of the prison services.

Assistance to the prison service of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

As part of its efforts to assist in upgrading the operational functions of the national prison system, the ODIHR sent its prison expert, Mr. Alan Walker to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from 5 to 9 July. The expert provided operational advice on various issues including international reporting mechanisms. The development of a training college for prison staff was discussed, an initiative the ODIHR considers to support.

Central and Eastern Europe

Workshops on trafficking in Poland

The ODIHR is supporting a series of training workshops on trafficking in women organized by the Polish NGO La Strada. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness of the problem of trafficking in women among relevant groups of professionals such as social workers, policemen, border guards, prosecutors, teachers, local government representatives, and journalists. The program includes information on Poland as an important country of origin, transit and destination and takes into account the various legal, social, economic, and human rights aspects connected to trafficking. The participants will also be trained in dealing with the victims of trafficking. Preparations and training materials for six workshops was completed in October 1999, and workshops will take place in six Polish border regions from November 1999 to July 2000. The UK has provided financial support for this project.

Integration through language training in Estonia

This ODIHR project offers Estonian language training for non-Estonian women from former Soviet military base towns in Estonia. Living for years in a closed Russian speaking community, these women (mostly widows and divorcees of ex-Soviet officers) had no opportunity or wish to learn Estonian language, the key element for functioning as a full member of the society. The training helps 100 women and 50 children to learn the Estonian language and thus facilitates their integration into Estonian society. The Estonian language-training project runs from October 1999 to June 2000 and includes the official state language exam, which is obligatory for all participants. The OSCE Representative's Office in Estonia is assisting the ODIHR with the implementation of the project.

ODIHR agreement on co-operation with Russian Commissioner on Human Rights

An agreement on co-operation was signed on 30 June between the ODIHR and the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Mr. Oleg Mironov. The two institutions agreed to exchange information, to hold bilateral consultations, and to arrange joint publications and conferences and seminars on human rights. In the context of the agreement, the ODIHR requested the Commissioner to intervene in the case of Alexander Nikitin, an environmentalist charged with treason and espionage, who has been in custody or confined to St Petersburg, without a conclusive outcome to his case, since 1995. An intern from the Commissioner's office joined the ODIHR in December.

Workshops with journalists from North Caucasus

In November and early December, the ODIHR, in co-operation with the BBC World Service, organized three five-day workshops in Rostov for local journalists from the North Caucasus region aimed at promoting effective journalism and offering practical advice on how to apply ethical standards.

The first two workshops focused on how to report on inter-faith and inter-ethnic conflict. An expert on the media coverage of the conflict in Sri Lanka conducted the workshops. The third workshop was devoted to how journalists can offer a balanced coverage of elections.

National Co-ordinating Council on Action Against Trafficking in Ukraine

In June 1999, the OSCE launched a joint project with the International Organization for Migration and the Ombudswoman of Ukraine to provide technical assistance to establish and support a National Co-ordinating Council for the Prevention of Human Trafficking in Ukraine. The National Council is comprised of representatives from the relevant State ministries and committees, the Ombudswoman's office, and NGOs working on trafficking. The National Council held its inaugural meeting on 15 June and adopted terms of reference. Initial activities in 1999 included bilateral meetings with counterparts from Government and NGOs in Italy and Turkey, with the goal of facilitating long-term contacts and development of strategies for joint action to combat trafficking. The project will continue with further meetings and activities into 2000, including awareness-raising and training programmes for Government and law enforcement officials, legislative review, and further activities to promote and facilitate joint action between Ukraine and various transit and destination countries for trafficked persons.


The Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues was established at the ODIHR following a decision by the 1994 Budapest Summit. It was tasked to act as a clearing-house for the exchange of information on Roma and Sinti issues, including information on the implementation of commitments pertaining to Roma and Sinti, and to develop, maintain and facilitate contacts on Roma and Sinti issues between participating States, OSCE insitutions, other international organizations, and NGOs.

In December 1998, the OSCE Ministerial Council decided to strengthen the Contact Point and to broaden its mandate. Subsequently, an Adviser solely devoted to Roma and Sinti Issues was appointed by the ODIHR in May 1999. Within the Contact Point, the new Roma and Sinti Adviser is currently assisted by a Finnish secondment. On the basis of its broadened mandate, the Contact Point has started to develop a work programme for the year 2000 which will include projects and workshops aimed at promoting the rights of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area. It also has assumed a pro-active approach with regard to providing advice to Governments on policy-making on Roma and Sinti

As part of its function as clearing-house, the Contact Point collects information from participating States on legislative and other measures related to the situation of Roma and Sinti, and makes it available to the OSCE community and to other interested international organizations. This includes the elaboration of additional reports on the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area. The ODIHR Roma and Sinti Adviser has embarked on a series of meetings with various international organizations, Governments and NGOs engaged in policy-making on Roma and Sinti issues. The goal of these meetings is to promote better co-operation, synergies and common approaches designed to combat discrimination and promote full participation and equal opportunities of Roma and Sinti in the societies they live in.

Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Roma and Sinti Issues

The last in a series of three Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings organized in 1999 was devoted to Roma and Sinti issues. The meeting, held on 6 September in Vienna, was attended by a total of 249 participants, including participants from 98 Roma and Sinti NGOs. The high number of Roma and Sinti participants was facilitated by financial contributions from Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the Council of Europe.

The ODIHR Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues, Mr. Nicolae Georghe, opened the meeting with a presentation of a "trajectory" of Roma and Sinti issues in the OSCE, which included a description of the phases of the OSCE work on Roma and Sinti since 1990 and recommendations on how to enter a new phase of action with emphasis on the effectiveness of the policy measures adopted by participating States and by the OSCE institutions. The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Mr. Max van den Stoel, outlined in his keynote speech the main conclusions of his forthcoming study on Roma and Sinti in the OSCE, including suggestions for the future profile and activities of the ODIHR Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues.

The discussions in the working groups focused on two main topics: putting "best practices" into operation, and building a platform of action to approach new problems in emergency situations. In the course of the discussions in the working groups, the participating States and the OSCE institutions and missions were urged to give higher political profile, stronger "moral leadership" and solid resources to policy-making on Roma. This should include more refined mechanisms to combat the persisting discrimination against Roma and Sinti, and to alleviate conflicts between Roma and non-Roma communities. It was suggested that the ODIHR Contact Point be instructed to work in that direction by taking a more pro-active approach, complementary to its present clearinghouse role. The ODIHR Roma and Sinti Adviser was requested to update on a regular basis the report on the situation of Roma in Kosovo produced by the joint mission of the ODIHR and the Council of Europe in August 1999.

The meeting was generally considered a significant success. The participants expressed their hope that renewed, reinforced and effective OSCE activities would "take off" following this meeting. The summary report including a full list of recommendations was distributed among all participants and posted on the new website of the ODIHR Contact Point (

Joint ODIHR-Council of Europe field mission assessed the situation of the Roma in Kosovo

A joint ODIHR-Council of Europe field mission visited Kosovo from 27 July to 6 August to assess the situation of the Roma community. The team was composed of the ODIHR Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues and the Chair of the Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies of the Council of Europe. The mission was organized in response to alarming testimonies by Roma refugees and several reports of human rights organizations on violations of the human rights of the Roma in Kosovo during and after the war. Based on the findings of the visit, the expert team recommended a number of measures aimed at improved protection of the Roma in Kosovo, reconciliation between Roma and Kosovo Albanians, and the improvement of the situation of Roma refugees and IDPs.

Roma experts seconded to the ODIHR and the OSCE Mission in Kosovo

Following consultations between the Finnish authorities and the ODIHR, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has seconded two Roma experts to the ODIHR and the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. Mr. Helge Valama began an initial six-month term in the Pristina regional office of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and Mr. Henry Hedman took up a one-year assignment as Assistant to the ODIHR Roma and Sinti Adviser on 1 September.


Restructuring of the Monitoring Unit

During 1999, a major restructuring of the Monitoring Unit has been undertaken, reflecting new practical approaches to monitoring the implementation of the human dimension commitments by the OSCE participating States.

An enhanced early warning capacity has been put in place, which involves looking for indicators of a possible imminent deterioration in the human rights situation of OSCE participating States. Such indicators might be, for example

  • a crackdown against one or more key components of civil society or individual cases of human rights violations which may foreshadow such a crackdown;

  • moves by the executive branch to undermine certain state bodies or analogous non-state structures, particularly those which provide the "checks and balances" to the activities of the Government;

  • provocative or belligerent statements by senior state or Government figures, or a belligerent campaign waged by the state-run media against particular groups within society, such as minorities, followers of certain political tendencies, etc.

On the basis of the improved system, the Monitoring Unit continued to follow and analyse human rights developments and compliance with OSCE human dimension commitments by participating States and to alert the OSCE Chairman-in-Office to serious deteriorations in human rights. It also prepared background briefings and provided advice on human rights issues for the ODIHR Director and the Chairman-in-Office. Furthermore, the Monitoring Unit contributed to preparing and organizing the OSCE/ODIHR Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Roma and Sinti Issues in Vienna in September.

Thematic background papers on human rights issues

As in the 1998, the ODIHR produced a series of thematic reports on various human rights issues. This year the reports were prepared as background papers for the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna and Istanbul. The four reports produced in 1999 include, in most instances, assessments and recommendations concerning the implementation of OSCE commitments and other international standards by participating States. The following topics are covered:

  1. The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area

    This report gives an overview of OSCE commitments and international standards and instruments relating to capital punishment, and provides information on the use of the death penalty in participating States, covering the period from January 1998 to June 1999.

  2. Pre-Trial Detention in the OSCE Area

    This report explains international provisions related to pre-trial detention and gives concrete recommendations on how to translate them into domestic legislation and administrative practice.

  3. Trafficking in Human Beings: Implications for the OSCE

    The background report on Trafficking in Human Beings represents a first step in addressing this issue within the OSCE framework. Its purpose is to provide general background information about the problem and to begin exploring the role of the OSCE. This publication was followed by the publication of the ODIHR proposed Action Plan to combat trafficking.

  4. Freedom of Religion or Belief: Laws Affecting the Structuring of Religious Communities

    This report focuses on the bearing OSCE commitments and more general international human rights norms have for issues related to the status of religious communities. It identifies recurrent problems connected to this issue in participating States and provides a list of recommendations to address these problems.


After several years marked by steady expansion of the ODIHR's activities in the field of assistance to democratization, in the year 2000 the Office will concentrate on consolidating its democratization and election assistance and observation programmes and focus on ensuring proper follow-up. In developing new projects, the ODIHR will focus in particular on training and raising awareness of human rights provision in recently adopted national legislation.

The implementation of the projects under the MoU's signed with most of the Governments of Central Asia and the Caucasus will remain on the top of the ODIHR's agenda for the coming months. In spring 2000, the ODIHR and the European Commission will convene a regional conference to assess the implementation of all MoU projects in Central Asia. All partners on the ground - Governments, other international organizations, NGOs, and OSCE centres - will be invited to participate and to share their views on the usefulness of ODIHR and EC activities in Central Asia.

In the Caucasus, the ODIHR looks forward to work together with the new OSCE Offices in Yerevan and Baku in offering advice and assistance to promote human rights, election assistance and the rule of law in Armenia and Azerbaijan, while at the same time continue the co-operation with the OSCE Mission to Georgia in implementing the MoU projects.

While Central Asia and the Caucasus will continue to be priority regions for the ODIHR, increasing attention will also be paid to Ukraine and Belarus. In Ukraine a comprehensive review of human rights legislation will be undertaken by the ODIHR, together with the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine. In Belarus, the ODIHR and the OSCE Assistance and Monitoring Group is preparing a programme, co-financed by the European Commission, which is aimed at creating favourable conditions for democratic transformation and free and fair elections in 2000 and 2001.

In South Eastern Europe the ODIHR will continue its ongoing projects and actively contribute to the efforts of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe in the fields of election and democratization. The ODIHR Office in Montenegro will play an active role.

The election observation calendar for 2000 foresees observations in a dozen important national elections.

Thematically, the ODIHR will continue its programmes to combat torture, advance the rights of women, and protect religious freedom. A new programme to combat trafficking will be launched.

In early 2000, the ODIHR Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues will start implementing a comprehensive work programme, which will comprise a number of projects and workshops aimed at improving the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area.

Following the restructuring of the Monitoring Unit, the ODIHR will be able to make better use of an internal system put in place to fine-tune or, if necessary, readjust the design and targeting of the Office's projects carried out in the field against the backdrop of a more strategic approach based on an analysis of the human dimension situation in the countries concerned.

After the successful completion of the OSCE Summit in Istanbul with the signing of the Charter for European Security, the ODIHR plans to undertake a complete revision of the compilation of human dimension commitments, edited last time in 1995. The updated version, comprising a chronological and a thematic compilation of relevant commitments will be presented in English and Russian languages before the 25th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in August 2000.

From the year 2000 on, the ODIHR will cease issuing semi-annual reports in favour of a single report issued annually. This reflects the much greater accessibility of regular information on the ODIHR's activities from the OSCE Newsletter and from the improved ODIHR website (, as well as the focus for 2000 on consolidating activities and putting resources to optimum use.