States participating Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should work to ensure that crack-downs legitimate human rights concerns come to an end, participants agreed at an OSCE conference concluded July 13.

“Governments must open their eyes to human rights violations, deal with them and learn from past mistakes,” said Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

“The growing trend in some parts of the OSCE region not to offer proper mechanisms for redress to victims of those violations is not only unjust and unfair and a violation of OSCE commitments – it is also a dangerous development.”

The conference, which ended today, was organized by the OSCE Spanish Chairmanship and the ODIHR, focused on responsibilities and remedies in protecting human rights.

“If individuals and groups start viewing the State system as incapable of dealing with their complaints, they will try to find other ways,” Strohal said.

“Ignoring legitimate human rights concerns will not make them go away. The consequences of a failure to listen to, and act on, human rights violations can be devastating, as history has shown again and again.”

Some 300 experts, human rights defenders and government officials attended the meeting. They made several recommendations calling on states to stop interfering in trials and in the work of non-governmental organizations. They also stressed that OSCE participating States should allow diplomats, magistrates and other interested parties to freely observe trials.

NGOs participating in the conference presented several cases they have won on behalf of victims in international courts.

“Rights are belatedly recognized, policies are belatedly changed and those who have committed violations of human rights, or were responsible for them, are belatedly punished,” Strohal said. “It may be late, and it is often too little, but it is something, and it helps to prevent much worse.
The OSCE human rights commitments are not merely high-sounding principles; they were written to prevent us from closing our eyes to legitimate grievances, and suffer the destabilization and threats to our security which this inevitably entails.”

Source: OSCE, Warsaw/Vienna