Violence Against Women in the North Caucasus and Russia as a Whole >>


5th Forum's Anniversary: It's Just the Beginning >>
"Europe Lab" in Croatia: Deadline for Applications is 1 May 2016 >>
"Different Wars" Exhibition Has Started Its Tour in Russia >>
Legal Dialogue 2.0: Call for Contributions to the Programme 2016 >>

Statement "Stop Attacks on Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in the North Caucasus, Conduct Effective Investigation, and Bring Perpetrators to Justice" >>

Alessio Scandurra (Antigone Association, Rome, Italy): 'In Prisons, Foreigners Enjoy Being Legitimate Members of the Community' >>

Civil Consent (Novosibirsk, Russia): European Alternative and Russian Realities >>
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland): Attacks on Polish NGOs >>
Regional Press Institute (St. Petersburg, Russia): Return of the Fine for Refusal to Register as a "Foreign Agent" >>


Violence Against Women in the North Caucasus and Russia as a Whole

On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Sandra Takács, Regional Manager for the Balkans and Northern Caucasus at the AMICA Association (Freiburg, Germany), wrote an essay on the occasion of International Women's Day, which was marked on 8 March:

Women's rights in Russia are key priority. Usually, the Women's Day receives much attention in post-socialist countries. Women, whether politically motivated or not, take this day as an opportunity to appear visible in the public. The day itself is a public holiday, but not merely a reason for joy, which the topic violence against women clearly illustrates.

Women in Russia experience a great deal of domestic violence. As studies show, 70 % of women report about domestic violence. However, services for women who have experienced violence in Russia are more than miserable. According to ANNA, the National Centre for the Prevention of Violence, there is one single toll-free helpline serving 12 hours daily. Across the country, there are 42 women's shelters with a capacity of 400 beds. 19 of these shelters provide assistance to women, who experienced violence; only one single shelter provides support for victims of sexual violence. These 43 shelters cover 3 % of the shelter places that are needed. This leaves 97 % of abused women unanswered in their need of a shelter, let alone the punishment of the perpetrators.

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5th Forum's Anniversary: It's Just the Beginning

Although the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum marks its 5th anniversary on 29 March 2016, the Forum's Secretariat used an opportunity to start the celebrations on 16-17 March already, when representatives of the Forum's member organisations - winners of the Open Call Mechanism for support of the EU-Russia projects - came to Berlin.

Associates of such NGOs as "Antigone" (Rome, Italy),  Antikomplex (Prague, Czech Republic),  BELLONA (St. Petersburg, Russia), German-Russian Exchange (Berlin, Germany and a partner organisation in St. Petersburg, Russia), Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (Berlin, Germany), INTERRA (Krasnoyarsk, Russia), Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague, Netherlands), Plotina.Net (Krasnoyarsk, Russia), Polish Forum of Young Diplomats (Warsaw, Poland),  Szubjektiv (Budapest, Hungary), UNITED for Intercultural Action (Amsterdam, Netherlands) took part in a project management workshop and site visits. Some of the guests were also interviewed by journalists of "Deutsche Welle" and "Die Tageszeitung".

In the evening of 17 March, the colleagues were invited to join the reception at the Schankhalle Pfefferberg, which was also attended by other Forum members, partners, and donors as well as representatives of foundations
and authorities.

Marking an important milestone in history of the network, Anna Sevortian, Forum's Executive Director, couldn't leave recent warning developments in the civil society field unmentioned. 'While preparing this reception, we heard about an attack on Igor Kaliapin, Chairman of the Committee for Prevention of Torture, on 16 March. All of you are also aware of the latest wins for far-right parties in Slovakia and German lands or of disturbing situations with NGOs and media in Hungary and Poland,' she said. 'We have no other choice than to react to such challenges and to make a civil society beyond borders stronger to tackle them. We know that the darkest hour is just before the dawn - and we wish to all of us to meet together in five years under more auspicious circumstances.'

The celebrations in Berlin were just the beginning in a series of events dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the Forum throughout the year. On 19 March 2016, the torch was passed to Novosibirsk, while on 21 March 2016 the "Different Wars" Exhibition was opened in Moscow. More interesting discussions, exchanges, and events are still to come.


"Europe Lab" in Croatia: Deadline for Applications is 1 May 2016

Only until 1 May 2016, young professionals aged between 25 and 35 from the EU, Russia, and other European states are welcome to apply for the "Europe Lab" Forum, a successor format of the "Pilorama Lab" Project held at the Memorial Centre of the History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" (Russia) .

In 2015, the Forum was revived in Vilnius and Raseiniai, Lithuania. This year, “Europe Lab” will take place on 21–24 July 2016 in Croatia – Zagreb and Vukovar – with an excursion to the local Memorial Centre of the Homeland War, which keeps memory of all the victims of the Homeland War in former Yugoslavia (1991-1995) and of the Battle of Vukovar (1991) – as a place of mourning and warning for future generations not to repeat fatal faults and atrocities of the past.

The programme of “Europe Lab” 2016 includes four workshops curated by experienced coordinators:

•    Wars After 1989 – Is There a Chance for Reconciliation? 
Coordinating Organisation: "Documenta" Centre for Dealing with the Past, Croatia
•    Brave New Media – A Jilted Generation

Coordinating Organisation: FOJO Media Institute, Sweden
•    Refugees (Un)Welcome – Caught in a Trafficking Jam
Coordinating Organisation: UNITED for Intercultural Action, Netherlands
•    Social Entrepreneurship – Rooted in Community
Coordinating Organisation: Pontis Foundation, Slovakia

Forum for Young Professionals "Europe Lab" is a unique communication and exchange platform for change makers from all over Europe working in public administration, business, NGOs, universities, think tanks, and other fields of professional engagement.

The working language of the Forum is English.

Costs for workshops, accommodation, and meals are covered by organisers. Travel costs are borne by participants themselves.

Please submit your application until 1 May 2016 here.
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.

See you in Croatia!

Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in cooperation with the "Documenta" Centre for Dealing with the Past and the Memorial Centre of the Homeland War as well as supported by the European Commission and the Oak Foundation. The ancestor of the Forum - the "Pilorama Lab" Project - was initiated and organised in 2012 and 2013 by
the Civic Engagement Institute (Perm, Russia) and its General Director Zoya Lukyanova in cooperation with the Memorial Centre of the History of Political Repressions "Perm-36" (Russia), the MitOst Association (Berlin, Germany), and the German-Russian Exchange (Berlin, Germany). 


"Different Wars" Exhibition Has Started Its Tour in Russia

On 21 March 2016, the opening of the Russian version of the Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II" took place at Memorial International in Moscow (5/10, Karetni Riad) attended by around 100 persons - historians, NGO representatives including Forum members, officials, media, and the general public.

The keynote address was prepared by Arseni Roginsky, Board Chair at Memorial International. Welcome speeches were held by Vygaudas Ušackas, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation; Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights; Hubert Knirsch, Head of the Political Department at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Russian Fedeation; Vera Dubina, Desk Officer for Civil Society and History at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Moscow.

The “Different Wars” Exhibition explores differences in perception and narration of the history of the World War II by comparing modern high school textbooks from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. It was initiated by the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in close cooperation with historians, civil society activists, history teachers, and enthusiasts from all the countries involved.

The Russian version of the exhibition was prepared in collaboration with Memorial International, where it will stay until 30 April 2016, and supported by the European Commission, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

A video report from the opening (in Russian) may be watched at the Memorial's YouTube Channel and on the "Dozhd" Channel. Further media items in English, German, Italian, and Russian may be seen in the press section on the Forum's website. In this regard, a report by the "Rossiya 24" Channel, whose journalists distorted the facts and abused them for the benefit of a scandal, was a real blot on the landscape. The official reaction of the International Memorial is available on the Forum's website. The report didn't spoil the whole positive perception of the exhibition, though.

Apart from Moscow, the "Different Wars" Exhibition is supposed to be displayed in Russia also in such cities as Kostroma, Perm, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, and Yekaterinburg. The English version instead will be shown later on in all the other countries involved.


Legal Dialogue 2.0: Call for Contributions to the Programme 2016

After a promising start in 2015, the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme comes back with new formats and initiatives.
The first big event in 2016 will be the International Symposium Domestic Law in a Global Upswing? The Strained Relationship between International and Domestic Law on 30-31 May in Berlin, Germany.   
A public expert discussion will be followed by a world café, where different aspects of this range of topics will be discussed: Is there a need for an all-European legal framework for NGOs? How to use international conventions and international courts in defending freedom of association? How to proceed with a legal framework for NGOs in disputed territories?
This is where you can contribute! We warmly invite all interested colleagues from member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum to apply for participation by sending us a short proposal for a group discussion topic at legal.dialogue(at) by 18 April 2016.

Another opportunity to join the programme is to apply for the position of an editor for the quarterly Online Journal "Civic Perspectives on Rights and Law". The deadline for submission of applications is 24 April 2016.
Additionally to the Symposium, an expert conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Moscow Helsinki Group and the OSCE German Chairmanship in 2016 will be organised in Berlin by the Forum in cooperation with the Human Rights Watch and the German-Russian Exchange. We believe that the discussion on the relationship between international and domestic law as a common topic of the Symposium and the Expert conference will give the participants a good opportunity for mutual reflections and exchange.
Finally, the programme of the Symposium also includes several workshops in the sense of trainings and offer another opportunity for share of experiences and practices as well as preparation of further activities of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue in 2016.
The working languages of the Symposium are English and Russian.
The Symposium as a part of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany and the Oak Foundation.

Should you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.


Statement "Stop Attacks on Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in the North Caucasus, Conduct Effective Investigation, and Bring Perpetrators to Justice"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its indignation at a series of violent attacks that took place on 9 March 2016 in Chechnya and Ingushetia at independent journalists and staff of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

In the evening, a minibus with human rights defenders and independent journalists from Russia, Sweden, and Norway, participating in a press tour organised by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, experienced a shameless attack by a group of unknown persons at the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. Three cars blocked the bus on its way to Grozny, and around twenty young men in masks and with truncheons smashed the windows of the bus, forced the passengers and the driver get off the bus, brutally beat them all with truncheons and sticks, put the bus on fire with personal belongings and documents of the human rights defenders and journalists, and left. Four people among the attacked were admitted to a hospital with serious traumas.

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Alessio Scandurra (Antigone Association, Rome, Italy): 'In Prisons, Foreigners Enjoy Being Legitimate Members of the Community'

To watch the interview, please follow the link
Mr Scandurra, you have just joined the Forum with the “Antigone” Association, which was established at the end of the 1980s. In my opinion, you have a quite successful story behind you. What are the main topics you have been working at right now? And what have been achievements of these years for you?

“Antigone” was established, after some articles had been introduced to the Criminal Code to fight political terrorism. The things were getting harsher and harsher, and we had a feeling that that process should be monitored by the civil society. Afterwards, we focused more and more on the work in prisons, prisoners’ rights, and prison reforms. In the 1990s, the situation in Italian prisons was deteriorating significantly – and we worked much on these topics. Now we are in a situation of political reforms and can observe certain improvements. Due to the overcrowding of prisons, there was the declaration of the state of emergency by the Italian government in 2010. But after a decision against Italy by the European Court of Human Rights because of the overcrowding of prisons, a lot of reforms were introduced, so now the situation is improving. Even more: For the first time since I started working on prison issues, I can see the situation getting better. It is a very exciting moment for us in Italy.

There are still some issues on the agenda you are dealing with right now, for instance, the abolition of the life sentence. What are the most urgent issues you are working at right now, while the situation improved?

The situation improved mostly in numbers: There are less prisoners, so the situation is less harsh not only for detainees but also for the organisations working at prisoners’ rights. Now there is an opportunity to rethink many aspects of the prison system in Italy. At the moment, we have been working at some areas in particular. One is the introduction of the crime of torture, which has been not in the Italy’s Criminal Code so far. Hence, we face huge problems to address cases of beatings of prisoners or violence against them. We have been involved in many trials but a session usually ends up with the limitation of the length of the trial for technical reasons. So, we would really need the introduction of torturing to the Criminal Code and we have been campaigning for this for many years. Italy has had international obligations since the 1980s to reduce the number of such crimes, but in fact we have received an opportunity to get this done only recently. Now there is a bill pending in the Parliament, and we hope that Italy will have let torture into the Criminal Code by the end of 2016. There are many problematic aspects in prisons in Italy, for example, healthcare. The healthcare system is very poor at the moment. In 2008, there has been a shift in the responsibility of healthcare for prisoners from the Ministry of Justice to the national healthcare system, but this transfer of duties did not work out well. As a result, the situation is very hard at the moment, especially in some regions and parts of the country. Other issues are not considered at all by the penitentiary system, for instance, gay rights. The law is applied in the sense as if there were no gay people. There is a huge problem in the management of the sentences of gay people. Likewise, there are no facilities or legal grounds for disabled people. We see many problems but that is perhaps the right moment to address those.

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Civil Consent (Novosibirsk, Russia): European Alternative and Russian Realities

On 19 March 2016, the Discussion “European Alternative and Russian Realities” was organised by the "Civil Consent" Foundation and dedicated to the 5th  Anniversary of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

The discussants were Viktor Richter, Consul General of Germany in Novosibirsk; Marek Zieliński, Consul General of Poland in Irkutsk; Olga Butorina, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences; Alexander Lubenets, Major Advisor of the “Civil Consent” Foundation; Nadezhda Lantsova, Secretary of the Foundation’s Council; and journalist Alexei Golubkov.

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Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland): Attacks on Polish NGOs

318 Polish non-governmental organisations have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister Beata Szydło urging her to take action in response to verbal abuse and violent physical attacks on NGOs and activists, which recently took place in Warsaw.

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, a member of Human Rights House Network, reported on this occasion.

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Regional Press Institute (St. Petersburg, Russia): Return of the Fine for Refusal to Register as a "Foreign Agent"

The Regional Press Institute received back 400,000 roubles (more than EUR 5,000), which have been paid as fine for alleged political activities without  registration as a “foreign agent”. By decision of the Supreme Court, the sanction has been abolished.

Just the day before 8 March 2016, the fact that the money had arrived on the bank account came out, so Anna Sharogradskaya, Director of the Regional Press Institute. According to her, everybody, who took part in the collection of the sum for paying the fine, will get their money back. Technical details have to be discussed, said Sharogradskaya, the repayment is about to start with big amounts of money.

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