From the 5th to the 10th of April, 2010 the 35th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) took place in Yerevan. An international forum “Justice: new demands – the right to effective means of defense and impartial courts” was organized by FIDH together with its Armenian member organization “Institute of Civil Society”.
The FIDH unites many human rights organizations from all over the world. A congress is organized once every three years. It is the only possibility for the participants from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America to meet their colleagues working in other regions. Over 400 participants speaking different languages and many of them even wearing national dress puzzled the residents of Yerevan and attracted attention on the streets. It was obvious this meeting was a big and important event for the city and the country.
“This forum is a unique possibility for discussions, to exchange and analyze work on fighting against impunity, providing access to justice for crime victims and preventing grave crimes”, stated the president of FIDH, Souhayr Belhassen. “In our mind, it is very symbolic that the best experts will gather to discuss the issue of fighting against impunity shortly before the anniversary of the first genocide in the XXth century. It has a special meaning in context of the dialogue between Armenia and Turkey”.
Indeed, FIDH made many efforts to invite to the Congress participants from Azerbaijan and Turkey, an impossible task bearing in mind the tense relations between these countries and Armenia. The impact of the forum and a big move forward in intergovernmental dialogue were the statements made after the congress by NGOs in Turkey recognizing the Armenian genocide in 1915.
Over last few years the FIDH has become more active in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is no coincidence that Yerevan was chosen to host such a large-scale meeting of human rights activists. The FIDH expressed its concern over human rights in the Caucasus region. The congress was dedicated to the memory of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist killed in 2009. Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya from the Human Rights Center Memorial, at the opening ceremony of the Congress talked about the situation in the North Caucasus. The regional section consisting of representatives from the former Soviet republics was quite numerous – human rights activists from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan cooperated with the FIDH.
The proceedings of the forum were interesting and full of events. The forum boasted not only the presence of representatives of so many countries, but also by a very high level of competence of the participants; among them Françoise Tulkens, a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Very important questions were discussed at the plenary meetings and in the work groups – including problems of national court systems, their potential and improvement of their effectiveness, the role of international law and its potential, and human rights in struggle against terrorism.
The anti-discrimination center Memorial has cooperated with the FIDH for a long time. Several joint reports on the results of research missions were prepared. Thank to the FIDH, Russian experts participated in international meetings and conferences and spoke to the press. Since this year, cooperation with foreign colleagues has become even more active: the ADC Memorial has been accepted to the membership of the FIDH. International support of Russian human rights activists will become stronger, and the potential for campaigning for discrimination victims in Russia will grow.
Participants of the Congress planted a commemorative fir in the Memorial of the Armenian genocide in 1915