Human Rights – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:23:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 AEGEE / European Students’ Forum expresses solidarity with Armenian young people defending their fundamental rights /solidarity-armenia-electricity/ Thu, 25 Jun 2015 12:04:02 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1334 From June 19 AEGEE has attentively followed the recent stand-off and major public discontent over the increase of the electricity price in Armenia.

AEGEE strongly condemns excessive use of force by the Police aimed at dispersing the crowd on the morning of June 23, resulting in arrest of more than 250 civic activists. We are, furthermore, extremely troubled with the use of force against journalists and representatives of different international media channels.

The freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are fundamental democratic values which shall be respected and accordingly not restricted.

Simultaneously, AEGEE expresses its support and solidarity to representatives of Armenian civil society and urge all sides to set a ground for constructive dialogue, with the aim of overcoming non-grounded and unpopular economic decision. As pan-European organization which empowers students and young people in Europe to take active role in society, we call on young people in Armenia effectively exercise their human rights and freedoms to peaceful and non-violent assembly.

1896899_723551454457802_831791733778853287_n #ElectricYerevan  #Baghramyan

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“If we don’t cry out, who will?” /if-we-dont-cry-out-who-will/ Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:28:31 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1076 Commeorating 25 years of the Tianammen Square massacre

As a European students’ organisation, we do not often look beyond Europe in these days while so many conflicts are happening in our continent. But today we do. We want to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown of one of the biggest students’ protests in history, the Tianammen Protests in China, with a million of students demanding for reforms towards freedom and opening of the communist regime. “People were disappointed in the government. They thought, If we don’t cry out, who will?” says Kenneth Lam, who was 20 then. When the Chinese government decided to send the army to stop the protests, hundreds (or thousands) of civilians were killed, and a strong secrecy was imposed. Even today, the Chinese government is obstructing those who want to commemorate or investigate what happened, as International Amnesty denounces.

In spite of the efforts of the Chinese government, the massacre hit the news all over the world. The iconic picture of the man stopping the column of tanks became a symbol of peaceful struggle for democracy. This was a  turning point in history in many levels, and is very relevant this year, when students’ have demonstrated all over our continent demanding more democracy. The Tianammen square can be these days in the Gezi Park in Istanbul, in the Maidan Square in Kyiv, at the streets of Tuzla; it can happen at any time, in any other European city. AEGEE-Europe calls for the European governments to refrain from any violence and to respect the democratic rights of the protestors, to take into consideration the demands of their citizens: in most cases, they just want a more democratic society, more opportunities to participate in the decision process and a better future.

We want to remember all the people who died fighting for their rights in China in 1989, and all those citizens (and specially the students) who faced hard repression from police, got gassed, beaten, severely injured and even killed in the last 12 months in Europe. We are proud of you and we support your demand for democracy anywhere you are.

You can read more in this complete article in Time Magazine.

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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How AEGEE is helping at the Turkey mining tragedy and the Balkan floods. /turkey-mining-soma-balkan-floods-bosnia-serbia-croatia-aegee/ Tue, 20 May 2014 16:28:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1047 In the past days, two different tragedies have shaken our continent with too little impact on the news in many of the EU countries, which are focused into their national problems, the European Parliament elections, and in some superficial events such as the end of the football championships.

In Turkey, 300 people died trapped in a mine in Soma, in the worst accident in a mine in the region in the last decades. The mourning for the victims has been mixed with outrage for the feeling that this accident could have been prevented. (1)

Photo from http://www.firstpost.com/

In the Balkan peninsula, a great area – comprising most of Bosnia Herzegovina, and parts of Serbia and Croatia- was hit by the worst floods since the records started 120 years ago. The catastrophe has affected more than 100.000 people and caused more than 25 deaths.

In both cases, the AEGEE-Europe locals in the area reacted swiftly and activated the AEGEE Network, proving that a Europe without borders can be reality if you make it happen. In Turkey, our members broke the news and spread the information about what was really happening, explaining to their fellow Europeans the reasons behind the tragedy; this helped to raise fast awareness on the critical situation of labour rights in one of the candidate countries to access the EU. As a result, the Human Rights Working Group has started to look for ways how to help. In the Balkan case, the reaction of our local groups consists in raising awareness and launching a call for financial support among other local groups, and also getting in contact with their alumni for raising funds. At the same time, their members have joined the volunteer teams and are working in the field to alleviate the situation of those that were most affected by the floods.

We as AEGEE-Europe would like to express our support to the citizens affected by these two tragedies, and to share our pride for the exemplary reaction of our members in both cases. Their acts are an inspiration to other young Europeans!

(1) The privatisation of the mining industry in Turkey has led to a decrease in the prevention and safety investments, in a situation which has been denounced by trade unions in the past months in several occasions, but been ignored by the government. The reaction of the Turkish government after the tragedy has aggravated the violent protests, since they tried to ignore the real focus of the discontent of the people. The recent detention of several executives of the mining sector is a belated attempt to move in the right direction, and it is still perceived as insufficient.

(2) you can read more about the reaction of our local groups here, and find ways how to collaborate.

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AEGEE-Europe condemns the new Ukrainian freedom-limiting legislation /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/ /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:05:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=871 The members of AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum are deeply concerned with the recent adoption by the Ukrainian Parliament (Verhovna Rada) of a new draft law that would severe multiple basic freedoms in the country. The law was approved on January 16th during a very irregular Parliamentary session, and is now waiting to be signed by President Viktor Yanukovych.

 

Photo: Reuters

AEGEE, as a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation, has proclaimed in its statement of principles that freedom and human rights are essential elements of a European society. Through respecting these values, we strive and stand for an inclusive society where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and rights. In this context, we oppose and deeply condemn any law which in any sense could limit the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian citizens, impede their freedom of assembly and speech, and put under the state control the activities of rightful civil society actors such as independent NGOs and think tanks.

We would like to express our strong support to all representatives of the Ukrainian civil society, and specially the members of our branches in the Ukrainian territory. We are convinced that the signature of this draft law, which contradicts the current Constitution of Ukraine and through a process that violates the existing national parliamentary procedures, is against the interest of the Ukrainian citizens.

At the same time, we fear that this anti-democratic law, which directly contradicts to the European commitments of Ukraine such as the European Convention of Human Rights, may lead to an aggravation of the stagnation of the EU-Ukraine relations. Even though the door to Ukraine’s integration with the European Union remains open (as most of the EU high ranked officials commented, see for instance the speech of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament), we consider that in case of adoption of this law the negotiations may remain closed for an uncertain period of time.

Moreover, AEGEE-Europe would like to denounce the spread of similar laws in other countries of Europe, even inside the EU, as the case of the Spanish ‘Citizens Safety Law’ proposal, which also was signaled by Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights. At a time when citizens are demanding more democracy, these laws against fundamental rights just go in the opposite direction.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

 

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Croatian referendum to introduce discrimination in their constitution /croatian-referendum-to-introduce-discrimination-in-their-constitution/ /croatian-referendum-to-introduce-discrimination-in-their-constitution/#comments Sun, 01 Dec 2013 09:10:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=817 Croatia, the newest member of the EU, is today having a referendum that aims to modify their constitution for the first time in 22 years. The change in constitution is to include a sentence that specifies that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. and it is a clear attack to the movement for equal marriage that has been gaining battles all over Europe.

This referendum is the last step of a whole campaign launched by an NGO created ad hoc by a woman called Zeljka Markic, which is the visible face of this initiative. In fact she is the only visible face, while the rest is as obscure as they can. After some research, it has been revealed that the most reactionary groups of the Catholic church are behind this initiative.

Zeljka Markic speaking in front of cameras

The movement called themselves “in the name of the family”, mirroring similar groups that tried to block equal marriage in countries like Spain and France, and managed to gather a small army of volunteers to collect 740.000 signatures to force the government to call for this referendum.

The question that is asked in the referendum is:

Are you in favor of implementing into the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia a regulation that marriage is a life community between man and a woman?

The referendum takes place today, Dec 1st, and the campaign preceding the voting has been really harsh, using manipulative messages to convince people to vote in favour. Moreover, the opposition parties are using this issue to erode the government, which is against this reform. Public personalities from fields such as sports, culture or arts, have also positioned themselves.

The expected result of the referendum will be in favour, therefore including the sentence in the Constitution and blocking the possibility of equal marriage in Croatia. This could be changed if the traditional lack of participation of young people is reverted. If you are Croatian, I would like to quote Zeljka Markic, since she finishes every of her speeches with: “Join us on Sunday to celebrate together the festival of democracy!”: So move your ass, go and vote! You can still avoid staining your constitution with such a discriminatory sentence!

Written by Miguel Gallardo, Project Director of AEGEE-Europe

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#FreeTheArctic30 /freethearctic30/ Sun, 06 Oct 2013 06:56:10 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=746 Company wrecks climate. Climate melts ice. Company prepares to drill even more oil. NGO protests drills. Coast guard attacks NGO’s boat. Crew are called pirates. Pirates are locked up. The end.

Or is it?

Today, October 5, in 160+ cities around the world citizens stood together with the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues. #FreeTheArctic30 became a global cry for justice, as those 28 Greenpeace activists, along with 2 freelancers are in a Russian jail, facing piracy charges. Criminal charges which even Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed.


Following a successful protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in 2012, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the rig again on September 18. Their mission: to stop Gazprom from producing the world’s first Arctic oil. Oil which Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say is neither wanted nor safe, given the extreme circumstances and remote location of Arctic drilling.

The activists barely began their climb up the side of the platform though, as they are hosed down with icy water by Gazprom employees, with 2 of them being captured at gunpoint and taken aboard a vessel of the Russian coast guard. Less than 24h later, while in international waters, their support ship the Arctic Sunrise is boarded and taken over by armed FSB forces, and towed to Murmansk, Russia.

According to several international law experts, this armed boarding and capture of a foreign (Dutch) ship in international waters constitutes a breach of international maritime law (UNCLOS). Ironically, after days of legal uncertainty, the Arctic 30 have now themselves been charged with piracy under Russian law, thereby creating a post factum pretext for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise.

While people gathered in peaceful protest from Seattle to Sydney and from Cape Town to Moscow, adding their presence to the more than 1 million emails sent to Russian ambassadors the world over, the Arctic 30 remain imprisoned in Murmansk. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 15 years of jail. They are being treated as criminals, though their only crime consists of peaceful protest against practices which are putting the health of the fragile Arctic at serious risk.

As an organisation which above all values respect for human rights, in particular freedom of speech, AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned about the situation of the Arctic 30. Each one of us should be given the liberty to peacefully express their views on the society they live in, without fear of political or criminal persecution. The Arctic simply is not a playground for ill-prepared mining companies, a topic AEGEE’s own Environmental Working Group will take up in its upcoming meeting.

AEGEE-Europe therefore wholeheartedly supports the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues in these difficult times. We further applaud the Dutch government for its decision to take legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew, activists, and freelancers. Adding our voices to those of Amnesty International, WWF, and 1 million others, AEGEE-Europe calls upon the Russian authorities to immediately #FreeTheArctic30.

Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

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Let’s give peace an opportunity /lets-give-peace-an-opportunity/ Sat, 21 Sep 2013 09:47:25 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=733 Have you heard of World Peace Day? Today we celebrate the annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence. 21 September become the official International Day of Peace in 2001, before it was changing dates.

But the United Nations count for this day with an incredible ally, the Peace One Day organization which works to make this day a real success and to have a bigger impact than just a red mark in your calendars. The guy who started the initiative, Jeremy Gilley, has mobilised in the last 15 years thousands of people to really make this day an opportunity for peace in many conflict areas of the world. Together with them, the impact has reached 280 millions of people last year through 6000 events, including concerts, sport matches and workshops.

Here you can see some more about the project: www.peaceoneday.org

Click on the image to see the video

 

We in AEGEE support peace but we do not have many opportunities to contribute. This year, however, we start on the same Peace Day something big. We are joining the University of Youth and Development (UJyD) in Mollina (Malaga, Spain) where we will host a Peace Bilding training focused on the Caucasus region. The multicultural environment of the UJyD will serve as a great framework where we can build up bridges among the youth of the Caucasus region and foster mutual understanding. We hope the outcome of this training course are positive and we will build up a bigger strategy in the next months. In the end we would like to give Peace not only a day in the calendar, but a home everywhere in Europe.

The University of Youth and Development is an initiative of  the North South Center of the Council of Europe, with the support of the European Youth Forum (YFJ), the Spanish Youth Council (CJE), the Latin American Youth Forum (FLAJ) and the Spanish Youth Institute (INJUVE).

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Closing our eyes in Azerbaijan? No, thank you! /election-observers-azerbaijan-european-parliament/ Wed, 04 Sep 2013 06:45:57 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=711 The European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group decided last July 13th that the European Union will not send a delegation of observers for the presidential elections in Azerbaijan next October. This controversial decision contrasts with the presence of the EU as observer in the last Presidential elections in the country, lacked a proper explanation and therefore left the door open for different interpretations.

On one side, the Azerbaijan authorities celebrated the decision and presented it as an endorsement to the good health of democracy in the country. On the other hand, Human Rights organizations protested since they were seriously concerned that this decision was motivated by the wish of pleasing the Azerbaijan government since the EU has strategical investments in the country.

AEGEE has been involved in the Caucasus region since 2004 and we cannot find a coherent explanation to the decision of the European Parliament. The status of the Azerbaijan democracy is constantly questioned by Civil Society Organizations inside and outside the country, the results of the previous EOMs were not concluding unanimously the absence of abnormalities, and even the Council of Europe has a divided position sometimes in the situation in Azerbaijan regarding sensible topics such as the situation of political prisoners.

For these reasons, we motion the European Parliament to reconsider their decision during the meeting of the Conference of Presidents, next September 5th.We have sent a letter to the president of the European Parliament to voice our concern and we hope they revert the decision.

We believe it is in the interest of the Republic of Azerbaijan to receive a big delegation of EU observers in the presidential elections in October. Azerbaijan should multiply the effort to guarantee free and democratic elections, to obtain a positive report from the Observers. Without a unanimous positive report, the elected president will start the mandate contested internally and questioned externally. And this will not be in the benefit of the stability of Azerbaijan and the region.

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Deportation of a French student in Turkey as a consequence of the #Gezi protests /deportation-elise-couvert-turkey-gezi/ Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:53:38 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=658 Turkey is not in the news anymore. The focus of the media shifted to more pressing events in other parts of the world, like Brazil (first because of the massive protests there, later because of a football championship). Even the new massive protests in Egypt are not on the first page of the newspapers anymore; after one month of people in the street, tear gas and messages against their government, attention is focused now in where in the world is hidden Mr. Snowden.

However, in Turkey normality has not come back. There are still groups of citizens which non-violent protest on the streets, while most of the people recover from their injuries at home. Citizens try to forget the nightmares of running in front of the police or being detained, and some live with fear that their government may find that they were active on the protests in Facebook or twitter, and will go after them. Something has however changed among the Turkish youth, and as one of them voiced out, the difference is that now they “hope that things will change”.

There is one face of the conflict that has not received enough attention. Let me tell you the case of Elisa Couvert: a French student who, after being Erasmus in Istanbul last year, decided to stay and study a postgraduate course there. She also was volunteering for the Human Rights Association. When the protests started, she joined the crowd claiming for more freedom and more democracy in the country where she had decided to spend several years of her life. She ended up searching refuge from tear gas in the office of a political party, where police entered and detained several people. She was kept in detention for too long without any charge, and finally freed just to see, some days later, how her residence permit had been revoked. She was therefore deported last week back to France.

News report that during the whole process, she was denied the right to information, the right for an interpreter, she was kept way too long in detention without charges… Not to mention that the conditions of the detention center were quite poor and she was treated with little respect. This happened to a foreigner, to a citizen of the European Union, therefore we can assume that their own citizens have suffered the same fate, or even worse. Special concern has been raised among Human Rights NGOs for the treatment of the minorities which were so active in the Turkish protests.

It is sad that Turkey has decided to deport a Human Rights activist, but this can be seen as part of the whole strategy of blaming external agents for the protests. Instead of reflecting on the real causes of the discontent, the government of RT Erdogan tried to find a scapegoat abroad. The crisis management of the protests by the authorities, instead of calming down the situation, dragged more and more people to the streets with inflammatory messages and outrageous treatment in the mass media. People answered with humour and turned then to Social Media for getting the information, which caused Twitter to be accused of being “the worst menace for society”.

National TV showed penguin documentaries instead of protest news

The case of Elise Couvert has had almost no impact on European news. This lack of attention in media and the lack of reaction of the French Government (and the European institutions) to this violation of the rights of one of its citizens is very worrying. The Turkish government has failed to provide a justification to the deportation, there was no solid evidence against Elisa Couvert, but she has seen herself expelled from Turkey in another authoritarian decision of the Turkish government. AEGEE-Europe calls for a reaction on this matter, we want the European Union to stand with this girl who just wanted to pursue her studies in a more democratic Turkey.

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