For Immediate Release December 9, 2008
Contact: Leonid Stonov (847) 579-3070; email@example.com
UCSJ EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP
Washington, DC--UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union today sent an open letter to Ludmilla Alexeeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group's (MHG) and UCSJ's long-time partner in the struggle for democracy and human rights in Russia. The letter was motivated by MHG's refusal to participate in the 3rd Eastern European Regional Congress of NGOs that took place in Penza, Russia, on December 5-7. The Congress was run under the aegis of the Council of Europe, together with the Federation Council (the upper chamber of the Russian parliament) and was characterized by non-transparent procedures seemingly designed to not allow many independent NGOs to participate. Incredibly, the organizers of the Congress refused to include several local NGOS in Penza. Instead, government-controlled NGOs (also known as GONGOs) dominated the proceedings, along with a few genuinely independent NGOs like the Soldiers' Mothers group.
"Regretfully, the Department of NGOs of the Council of Europe submitted to new rules that were proposed to them by Russian officials and the GONGOs they control, rather than insisting on running the Congress under initially approved procedures that were drawn up with the input of independent Russian NGOs," said Leonid Stonov, UCSJ's international director of human rights bureaus. "We are indignant at the Council of Europe's capitulation to the government's demands, which were unprecedented and turned what could have been a useful forum for discussing crucially important human rights issues into yet another ersatz event so characteristic of the era of 'sovereign democracy.'"
In the letter, UCSJ also expressed its support of the MHG and other independent NGOs in Russia that are currently facing a vicious media slander campaign.
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