Greece-Poland: NGO Walkout from Warsaw Human Rights Conference


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From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 21:20:03 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Greece-Poland: NGO Walkout from Warsaw Human Rights Conference

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor <helsinki@compulink.gr>

Greece-Poland: NGO Walkout from Warsaw Human Rights
Conference


GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR
P.O. Box 51393, GR-14510 Kifisia, Greece tel. 30-1-620.01.20; Fax:
30-1-807.57.67;
E-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr  web site: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr
 
PRESS RELEASE
 
20/10/1998
 
SUBJECT: NGO WALKOUT FROM A WARSAW HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE TO PROTEST
NON-DEMOCRATIC PROCEDURES
 
Greek Helsinki Monitor regrets to inform international public opinion
of repeated use of non-democratic procedures which forced its members,
for the first time ever, to walk out from a human rights conference.
During the conference: unanimity was set as the condition for the
adoption of resolutions; a NGO was arbitrarily not allowed by the
organizers to address the plenary session and present its position;
the veto by a parliamentarian delegation was admitted as a legitimate
argument against the decision of all other participants in order to
prevent the adoption of a resolution.
 
On 16 October 1998, the concluding day of the "Third International
Human Rights Conference" held in Warsaw, a series of resolutions were
proposed. Most seemed to be unanimously approved by the participants
in the respective Group sessions. Those which encountered some
difficulties were referred for debate to the concluding plenary
session where they were approved after a unanimous decision. That
happened with all but one draft resolution. The exception concerned a
resolution - proposed by Eric Chenoweth of the US-based Institute for
Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) and Panayote Dimitras of Greek
Helsinki Monitor (GHM) - on the harassment of NGOs throughout the
Balkans (see text below). The text mentioned Turkey - alongside
Croatia, Romania, and Greece - in a phrase that delimited the region
where such problems exist. This led the Turkish delegation, made up of
a parliamentary Human Rights Commission, to object to the text.
"Turkey is a democratic country and no such problems exist there,
except the problem of separatism and terrorism" was stated when
examples of harassed Turkish NGOs (Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
and Human Rights Association) were given. At that point, the
Chairwoman of the Group stopped the debate and announced that the
matter will be dealt with in the plenary session.
 
During the latter, all other pending Group resolutions were debated
and finally adopted. However, the presiding Chairman of the Organizing
Committee, Senator Zbigniew Romaniszewski, did not allow even a
reference to the Balkans resolution. The Groupís Chairwoman, moreover,
misleadingly informed the participants that there was an on-going
negotiation "between a Turkish deputy and the authors of the
resolution," which was not the case. Then, Senator Romaniszewski made
matters worse: warned of the problem in writing by our members, who
added that they would leave the conference if he insisted on this
attitude, he refused to allow them to address the plenary. He thus
confirmed that he was determined not to let the matter be discussed.
Our members naturally walked out of the Conference.
 
GHM protests against the non-democratic procedures used in this
conference which are characteristic of an authoritarian party congress
rather than a human rights conference. Only in non-democratic
meetings, the chair can impose the rule of unanimity as a prerequisite
for a resolution to be adopted; can refuse to give the floor to some
participants; or can mislead the assembly about a pending matter to
prevent its discussion. Unfortunately, that was not the only incident
that gave the impression that the Warsaw meeting was not meant to be a
genuine human rights conference, but a meeting where unprincipled
instrumentalization of human rights was used to further political
ambitions. Several participants were wondering why, in a human rights
conference, the organizer, who is the Chairman of the Human Rights
Commission of the Polish Senate, invited six Human Rights Commission
members from only one other parliament, the Turkish one. Turkey is a
country known for its widespread disrespect for human rights: why then
invite so many parliamentarians and not secure the participation of
NGO representatives? This "paradox," along with the way the Balkan
resolution was handled, could only strengthen the veracity of the
rumors in Warsaw that the meeting was used, among other things, to
help Poland woo Turkey in the formerís bid to join NATO, over which
Turkey has veto power.
 
This was not the only incident indicating that the meeting was meant
to also serve purposes other than a celebration of human rights.
Noticeable was the absence among the speakers of Polandís most well
known critical intellectuals. The organizers, from the first day,
imposed without any discussion and without any vote (let alone the
supposedly existing rule of unanimous consent) a totally inappropriate
congratulatory message to the Pope in which he was also hailed for his
human rights record [sic]. There was no debate in the appropriate
Group on human rights problems in Poland and in other Central European
countries. Attempts to introduce problems of the wider Balkans by one
of our members and of the Roma by another participant were also met
with the Group Chairwomanís determined opposition. More than 80% of
the time was spent to discuss human rights problems in countries that
are either communist or (pro-)Russian, as if they were the only ones
with serious human rights violations.
 
The Rejected Draft "Resolution on Restrictions and Repression of
Non-Governmental Organizations in Southeastern Europe"
 
The 3rd International Human Rights Conference acknowledges that,
regretfully, restrictions to the functioning of human rights and
ethnic or religious minority organizations are widespread in the
countries of Southeastern Europe, from Croatia and Romania to Greece
and Turkey. Undemocratic legislation and arbitrary abuse of otherwise
fair legal procedures has been used to refuse registration or dissolve
many such NGOs. Sometimes, their members have been prosecuted if not
jailed. The 3rd International Human Rights Conference, therefore,
calls on all governments of the region to honor their signature of all
relevant international documents and stop such practices of harassment
of NGOs. It also calls on the U.N. the OSCE, and the Council of Europe
to intensify their efforts to induce their Southeastern European
members to cease their undemocratic practices impeding on the
operation of NGOs.
 
_______________________________________
 
Greek Helsinki Monitor &
Minority Rights Group - Greece
P.O. Box 51393
GR-14510 Kifisia
Greece
Tel. +30-1-620.01.20
Fax +30-1-807.57.67
e-mail: office@greekhelsinki.gr
http://www.greekhelsinki.gr
________________________________________

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