A new project launched by non-governmental organizations from the Czech Republic and Belarus aims to fight against dangerously rising statistics of persecuted activists. The website stop-persecution.org collects untold stories of oppression and violence from all Europe and post-soviet countries. The victims or the witnesses can share their cases. The issue of persecutions will be discussed next week at the international conference – Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Montenegro.
“In a way, we got used to hear about political persecutions, ethnic or religion motivated hatred, but attacking defenders of the environment is a trend which has been increasing recently,” Martin Skalsky of the Czech NGO Arnika explains. “Speaking about the issue publicly is an essential step in the effort to keep our societies open and democratic. It is especially important when facing serious environmental challenges,” he adds reminding that in the last year two hundreds of defenders of the environment got murdered across the globe (3), thousands were abducted, beaten or threatened.
The stop-persecution.org focuses on Europe and former Soviet Union where the situation is mostly not lethal but nevertheless disturbing. According to Marina Dubina of Ecohome, her homeland of Belarus is considered to be the last dictatorship in Europe. “But there is number of countries where the citizens live under even harsher conditions,” she believes. “Speaking about a pollution of the environment, plundering the natural resources, corruption or enforcement of the interests of local communities is really dangerous there and we want to help those stories to be heard,” Dubina proclaims.
International agreement partially ignored
All governments in the watched region except Russia have signed international Aarhus Convention “on environmental democracy” and thus obliged themselves to provide a public access to environmental information, participation in decision making, and right for independent judicial review. But the reality is often far from that.
Instead a various forms of oppression can be witnessed in those countries. Blackmailing, threats, dismissal or expulsion from the job or the study, administrative and criminal prosecution, psychological pressure or even physical violence, detentions and arrests are the used methods told in already published stories.
Bosnia, Ukraine and Belarus for starter
Like when the mayor of Ukrainian village Yasnozirya gets been beaten up in his office, or the special police units physically attacks the protesting residents of Kruscica, Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Belarus an anti-nuclear activists gets restrained and imprisoned multiple times. Those are just the first three cases already delivered and published.
From now on everyone can submit information on their case through the on-line form. The more details the whistle-blowers will provide the better. All given information will of course be absolutely secret and may be published also anonymously. “The privacy protection of all victims as well as of every whistle-blower is our priority,” Skalsky ensures.
Arnika – Martin Holzknecht, International PR: +420 602 850 912, firstname.lastname@example.org
An annual report published by an international human rights overseeing NGO Global Witness has named the 2016 “the deadliest year in record” regarding the activists killing and received a huge media attention worldwide. Full report