December 8, 2008
Mrs. Ludmilla Alexeeva
Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, the Moscow Helsinki Group's (MHG) long-time partner in the struggle for democracy and human rights in Russia, expresses its strong support for your refusal to participate in the 3rd Eastern European Regional Congress of NGOs that took place in Penza, Russia, on December 5-7, 2008. This Congress was run under the aegis of the Council of Europe, together with the Federation Council's (the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament) Committee on Developing Institutions of Civil Society.
We support your decision to leave the organizing committee of this Congress because its format and the non-transparency of its procedures did not allow many independent NGOs, including local NGOS in Penza, to participate. Instead, many government-controlled NGOs (so-called GONGOs) participated and used the event to disseminate government propaganda. The way this Congress went forward violated the main principals of the human rights policy of the Council of Europe, which prioritizes rule of law, democracy, and fundamental freedoms. Substantive discussions of human rights problems were substituted by an imitation of dialogue with the authorities. The key decisions of the Organizing Committee were developed behind the scenes and adopted by structures of the Federation Council and Council of Europe without open discussion. Regretfully, the Department of NGOs of the Council of Europe submitted to the new rules that were proposed to them by Russian officials and the GONGOs they control, rather than insisting on running the Congress under its initially approved rules.
Finally, UCSJ shares your indignation at the campaign being waged against MHG and other truly independent human rights NGOs in the Russian media. We are confident that the MHG will overcome all these difficulties as it has many times in its history.
Int. Director of the HR Bureaus
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