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Spot Report by OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM): SMM unmanned aerial vehicle downed near Horlivka

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 21:28

At 09:28, the SMM lost all communication with its long-range unmanned aerial vehicle flying over “DPR”-controlled Ozerianivka (35km north-east of Donetsk), on the south-western outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Horlivka [1] (39km north-east of Donetsk). Emergency procedures were activated but the UAV did not respond. Shortly before communications were lost, the UAV had spotted a multi-purpose tracked vehicle (MTLB) with a surface-to-air missile system (9K35 Strela-10, 120mm) mounted on top.

An SMM patrol based in nearby Horlivka, heard - at approximately the same time - an explosion 4-5km south-west (in the area where contact was lost with the UAV). An SMM patrol went to Ozerianivka, where residents told the SMM that they heard an explosion to the north-west of the village at the approximate time communication was lost with the UAV. The SMM could not reach the presumed crash site as both the Ukrainian Armed Forces and “DPR” members told the SMM that the area was mined. 

[1] More detail can be found in the annex.

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Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30, 26 May 2016

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 21:08

This report is for media and the general public.

The SMM observed more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and fewer in Luhansk region compared to the previous day. The Mission followed up on reports of shelling and civilian casualties. It continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, and noted armoured combat vehicles and an anti-aircraft weapon in the security zone. The SMM observed the presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO), monitored the situation of civilians at checkpoints, and observed border areas not controlled by the Government. The Mission’s freedom of movement was restricted on seven occasions.* The SMM monitored the situation of demobilized veterans in Chernivtsi and Lviv regions.

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations[1] in Donetsk region, compared to previous days.

The majority of ceasefire violations were noted to the north and north-east of Donetsk city. From its position at the Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard more than 190 undetermined explosions and recorded 37 airbursts 2-5km north and north-north-east in the morning and early afternoon of 26 May. Positioned just south of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard approximately 180 undetermined explosions, over 100 explosions assessed as impacts of mainly 82mm but also 120mm mortar rounds, six impacts of 122mm artillery and one impact of 152mm artillery, 7-9km south-east of its position over the course of the day. While in Avdiivka, the SMM observed a military ambulance pick up three Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers, one of whom was severely injured, as confirmed to the SMM over the phone by the head doctor at a hospital in Avdiivka. Over the same time period, positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard approximately 180 undetermined explosions 1-4km west and south-west, and 13 undetermined explosions 3-4km west-north-west. The explosions were accompanied by bursts of heavy-machine-gun, anti-aircraft and small-arms fire throughout the day.

The SMM also noted isolated, but intense instances of fighting in the Horlivka-Debaltseve area. Whilst in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 30 undetermined explosions 2-3km west over a four-minute period, late in the morning of 26 May. Shortly after noon, from its position in Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 12 undetermined explosions over a one minute period, 2-3km south-west.

The SMM observed fewer ceasefire violations in Luhansk region compared to the previous day. Whilst in Stanytsia Luhanska (government-controlled, 16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM heard 89 undetermined explosions assessed as caused by automatic grenade launchers and saw 24 outgoing tracers, moving from east to west, 2-4km south-west of its position.

The SMM followed up on reports of shelling on both sides of the contact line. The SMM analysed four craters in “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk) and found 120mm mortar tailfins in each of the craters, fuses were found in two of the craters. The SMM assessed the craters to be fresh and the projectiles to have been fired from a south-westerly direction. No civilian casualties were reported. An above-ground gas pipeline approximately 15-20 meters west of one of the craters had a hole in it. A Russian Federation representative of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) and two “DPR” members were also present at the site. Approximately 2-3km south-east of government-controlled Krymske (42km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM analysed a crater which it assessed as caused by an anti-tank guided missile fired from a southerly direction. According to a JCCC Ukrainian Armed Forces representative, the missile had been fired on 24 May, targeting a military truck driving in the area.

The SMM followed up on media reports of civilian casualties in Kirovskyi district of Donetsk city on 23 May. An armed “DPR” member told the SMM that one civilian woman had been injured in shelling and brought to a hospital in Donetsk city. Two personnel on duty at the hospital were unable to confirm any casualties from 23 to 25 May and contacted a second hospital in the city which also was unable to confirm the casualty.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines, and noted that four anti-tank guns (D-44, 85mm) were missing.

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed a towed howitzer (D-30, 122mm) near government-controlled Yantarne (48km west of Donetsk) and an SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted three mortars (PM-38, 120mm) in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM also observed additional weapons.

Beyond the withdrawal lines and outside storage sites, the SMM observed five tanks (T-72) being transported west near government-controlled Iskra (90km west of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons as foreseen in the Minsk Package of Measures.

In violation of the withdrawal lines, the SMM observed one surface-to-air missile system (9K35 Strela‑10) near government-controlled Nyzhnie (56km north-west of Luhansk), which the SMM had last seen at this location on 22 May 2016 (see SMM Daily Report 23 May).

The SMM has yet to receive the full information requested in the 16 October 2015 notification. The SMM revisited locations known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even though they do not comply with the specific criteria set out for permanent storage sites in the notification.

In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 23 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS; BM-21 Grad, 122mm) and 12 self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm). The SMM noted that one MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) was missing (first observed missing on 23 February 2016). The SMM was denied access to another site at which three surface-to-air missile systems (two SA-8 Osa, 120mm and one SA-13 Strela-10, 120mm) had previously been recorded as present. The SMM noted that two sites were abandoned, one since 1 May and the other was found to be abandoned for the first time. The SMM noted that in total, 17 self-propelled howitzers (six 2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm and 11 2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) were missing from these two sites.

On 26 May, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of a significant number of weapons near “LPR”-controlled Miusynsk (62km south-west of Luhansk): in violation of the respective withdrawal lines - 16 MLRS; beyond the respective withdrawal lines - 31 artillery weapons (20 self-propelled and 11 towed) and 14 tanks beyond the withdrawal lines and outside of storage sites; as well as 64 armoured combat vehicles.

The SMM observed the presence of armoured combat vehicles and an anti-aircraft weapon in the security zone. The SMM observed two armoured personnel carriers (APCs) travelling north in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city. In “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk) the SMM observed an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2). In government-controlled areas, the SMM observed an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) in Krymske, three armoured reconnaissance vehicles (BRMD-2) in Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk), one APC (BTR-60) near Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), one APC (BTR-70) near Trokhizbenka (32km north-west of Luhansk) and one APC (BTR-4) near Nyzhnie. In addition, an SMM long-range UAV spotted two APCs in government-controlled Novhorodske (35km north of Donetsk), 21 APCs in Horlivka, 19 APCs in Debaltseve and one APC (BTR) in “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to observe the presence and effects of UXO. The head surgeon of the trauma department and the deputy chief doctor at the hospital in “DPR”-controlled Yenakiieve (41km north-east of Donetsk) confirmed media reports that three children had been injured while playing with UXO. The doctors stated that a 14-year-old boy, who was in stable condition, had suffered shrapnel wounds which resulted in injuries to his liver and eyes. The two other children (an 11-year-old boy and 14 year-old girl) had suffered superficial injuries. The parents of one of the children told the SMM that their child had found the fuse of a phosphorous anti-tank round in a house and the children had been throwing the fuse back and forth when it exploded in the air. At the location where the incident allegedly occurred, the SMM observed numerous piles of old artillery shells, most within 75 meters of civilian housing. According to local residents present at the location, the remnants date to heavy fighting in February 2015. The SMM informed the JCCC of the situation.

The SMM continued to monitor queues at crossing routes near the contact line. At the government checkpoint north of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, border guards told the SMM that the opening hours of the crossing-point had been extended to 06:00-20:00 as of 26 May. In the morning, the SMM observed approximately 300 pedestrians waiting to enter government-controlled areas and ten pedestrians waiting to walk in the opposite direction. The SMM observed an elderly man being carried on a stretcher on the bridge by Ukrainian emergency services personnel. A member of the emergency services told the SMM that they had assisted three people that morning already: two had received treatment on the spot and one had to be taken to a hospital. The queue had decreased significantly by the afternoon.

The SMM monitored four areas alongside the border with the Russian Federation outside government control. Upon arrival at the Marynivka (“DPR”-controlled, 78km east of Donetsk) border crossing point, the SMM observed four civilian trucks waiting to cross toward the Russian Federation. One civilian truck, two civilian cars (one with a Russian licence plate), and three motorcycles passed in this direction during the approximately one hour that the SMM was present. At the “DPR”-controlled Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk) border crossing point, the SMM observed 37 civilian trucks waiting to leave Ukraine. One truck driver told the SMM that he had been waiting for six hours. Several truck drivers at the two crossing points told the SMM that they would use Ukrainian passports to cross. Two women (24 and 60 years old) told the SMM that they had come to Ukraine to do shopping. While monitoring  the “LPR“-controlled pedestrian border crossing point in Novoborovytsi (79km south of Luhansk), the SMM observed, during approximately 30 minutes, one woman passing the crossing point to Novoborovytsi on foot. At the “LPR”-controlled Dovzhanskyi (84km south-east of Luhansk) border crossing point, the SMM observed a line of six cars and two buses waiting to exit Ukraine. While present for approximately 40 minutes at the border, the SMM observed four trucks crossing into Ukraine, all covered with canvas tarpaulins concealing the cargo inside from view. All vehicles had Ukrainian licence plates, with the exception of one civilian car with a Russian Federation licence plate as indicated above.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation of veterans of the Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) in Donbas. The mayor of Kuznetsovsk (211km north-east of Lviv) in Rivne region, told the SMM that there were 200 demobilized ATO veterans in the city and the authorities faced difficulties with the allotment of land plots. According to him, the city has been able to provide 50 plots for garages and 87 agrarian plots would become available in a nearby village, while local authorities also have planned to provide another 100 plots in nearby villages. A member of the village council in Bohdashiv (174km north-east of Lviv) told the SMM that of 33 residents who are ATO veterans, only eight have been allotted land plots and no other plots were available. Government officials in Busk (44km east of Lviv) and Zastavna (27km north of Chernivtsi), told the SMM that there were technical obstacles in providing land plots to veterans. These included lack of available land, changing the designation of available land (for example from “agriculture” to “construction”), and a lack of co-ordination between relevant government bodies. Difficulties in receiving land plots have been confirmed by veterans and civil society activists in Chernivtsi.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and Kyiv.

*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate

The SMM’s monitoring is restrained by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and by restrictions of its freedom of movement and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM’s mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations.

Denial of access:

  • A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not allow the SMM to inspect the serial numbers of weapons at a heavy weapons holding area. The SMM informed the JCCC.
  • Since 20 May, armed “DPR” members continue to keep the power supply to SMM’s repeater in Donetsk city disconnected. As a result, SMM remote monitoring equipment at “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr mine and in government-controlled Avdiivka cannot operate (see SMM Daily Report 21 May 2016).


  • Two armed men standing in the middle of the road stopped the SMM near “DPR”-controlled Khreshchatytske (formerly Krasnoarmiiske, 32km north-east of Mariupol) and stated that the SMM could not continue due to mine clearance activity ahead. The SMM was allowed to pass after an approximately 50 minute delay and did not observe any mine clearance activity. The SMM informed the JCCC.
  • A Ukrainian Armed Forces commander stopped the SMM from entering a compound west of Andriivka (41km north-east of Mariupol) and demanded that the SMM inform him if any of the patrol members were Russian Federation citizens. After a 23-minute delay the SMM was allowed to enter the compound without providing the requested information.

Other impediments:

  • While flying an SMM UAV near the Stanytsia Luhanska railway bridge, the SMM observed that Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel were using smoke flares at their position near the bridge. The SMM received a call from a Ukrainian Armed Forces JCCC representative approximately 26 minutes after the launch of the UAV, stating that the SMM should land the UAV because the Ukrainian Armed forces had failed to co-ordinate with their personnel on the ground. The UAV’s Global Positioning System was jammed while flying near the bridge and was consequently recalled.
  • While flying over government-controlled areas near Bohoiavlenka (46km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard five single shots and one burst of small-arms fire at the location over which the UAV was flying, 1-1.3km west. Initial analysis of the UAV footage revealed the presence of trucks loaded with ammunition boxes hidden in a nearby forest and an object which appeared to be a towed artillery piece at the location where the shooting had occurred, within the 25km withdrawal lines. The UAV was not damaged and the SMM informed the JCCC.
  • The Global Position System of an unmanned aerial vehicle was jammed while flying between Debaltseve and Horlivka.

[1] Please see the annexed table for a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report.

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OSCE Chief Monitor to Ukraine condemns violence against Special Monitoring Mission in the east

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 19:38

KYIV, 27 May 2016 – The Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Ertugrul Apakan today expressed his dismay at two violent incidents putting SMM members in danger and preventing the Mission from effectively monitoring the situation in the conflict-affected east of Ukraine. An SMM patrol came under small-arms fire during a foot patrol in Avdiivka-Yasynuvata area in Donetsk region on 27 May; none of the patrol members was injured. Also today, the SMM’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicle was downed while flying near “DPR”-controlled Horlivka.

The Chief Monitor Apakan said: “I strongly condemn violence against our people and assets, serving to provide objective and impartial information on the situation in Ukraine. The SMM’s freedom of movement is guaranteed by its mandate and reiterated by the Minsk Package of Measures, and interference with the work of the Mission constitutes a gross violation of both.”

Apakan called on the sides to follow-up on both incidents and hold those responsible to account.

“This violence against the SMM is unacceptable. Impunity for people who threaten, violently mistreat or attack the SMM, or who violate its freedom of movement, must end,” said the Chief Monitor.

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Statement by OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Steinmeier on latest incidents targeting the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 19:15

BERLIN, 27 May 2016 – Following two recent incidents targeting the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) in the country’s east, OSCE Chairperson-in Office and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement: 

“It is with great concern I have learnt that shots were fired in the direction of an SMM patrol near the contact line today, and that an SMM long-range monitoring Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was shot down near Horlivka. Such assaults against the civilian, unarmed OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine are completely unacceptable. They add to a number of serious impediments to the work of the Mission, including the disabling of SMM monitoring cameras in the Donetsk airport area. Such actions undermine our joint efforts to sustainably consolidate the ceasefire.

I, therefore, call on all sides to respect what was agreed. All sides have to fully guarantee the security and safety of SMM monitors and ensure their unfettered access to the whole conflict area. Those responsible for the attacks on the Mission have to be held accountable.

A sustainable ceasefire is a matter of urgency, and essential to ensure progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

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Border Management Staff Course for Women Leaders concludes at OSCE Border Management Staff College

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 17:05

DUSHANBE, 27 May 2016 – A one-month Border Management Staff Course for Women Leaders concluded today at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe, which trained 25 female border officials representing ten OSCE participating States - Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Mongolia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, and Ukraine - and one OSCE Partner for Co-operation, Algeria.

The course focused on promoting border security and management through effective development of a national strategy, forms of inter-agency and international co-operation, cyber security techniques, customs procedures, information sharing and the role of risk management as well as human rights and gender equality. Participants also improved their skills of communication, leadership and management.

“One way of knowledge delivery of the Staff Course is the group research assignments that reflect and apply accumulated knowledge in a research paper. Today we have identified and awarded authors of the best research project that focuses on countering the use of Internet for terrorist purposes,” said Dita Nowicka, Director of the OSCE Border Management Staff College.

Liana Gasser, Customs Officer at Swiss Customs Administration’s Federal Department of Finance, said: “I arrived to Dushanbe with an aim of enhancing my professional knowledge, in particular in the area of effective border control systems and the world’s best practices related to import, export, and transit process management. My goals are achieved now as I enhanced my knowledge, obtained practical experience, and most importantly established contacts with specialists from various countries. The Staff Course is an excellent platform for information, ideas and experience exchange.”

Olga Basarab, Senior Instructor at the National Academy of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, added: “All the sessions delivered during the course were topical. That is why they triggered a large number of dynamic discussions, information exchange and development of new approaches to resolving the existing problems. The knowledge that was received throughout the course will be applied.”

During the course participants had an opportunity to visit checkpoints at the nearby borders with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and attend a roundtable discussion on the situation in and around Afghanistan. This discussion brought together national and international experts, diplomats as well as representatives from government agencies and international organizations to exchange ideas and experiences concerning the recent developments. Specific panel discussions focused on the dynamics of radicalization and violent extremism, as well as the humanitarian and migration situation in Afghanistan.

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OSCE facilitates consolidation workshop on Regulatory Reform Roadmap for Armenia

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 14:45
Assessment of the Legislative Process in the Repulic of Armenia

The finalization of a Regulatory Reform Roadmap for Armenia was the focus of a workshop co-organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the Ministry of Justice of Armenia and the OSCE Office in Yerevan on 27 and 28 May 2016 in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia.

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants from the executive branch, the legislature, civil society and international organizations to exchange views on how to improve the overall process of lawmaking in the country. Topics discussed included policy-making and legislative planning, public consultations and regulatory impact assessment, as well as monitoring and evaluation of legislation.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss recommendations for reform from previous thematic lawmaking workshops, conducted in Armenia in 2015, and from OSCE/ODIHR’s 2014 report on the “Comprehensive Assessment of the Legislative Procedure in Armenia”. These recommendations were consolidated in a draft Regulatory Reform Roadmap with concrete action points in early 2016, and this draft provided a basis for workshop discussions.

"The recommendations in the draft Regulatory Reform Roadmap focus on identifying workable solutions and were developed by key Armenian stakeholders during a series of discussions," said Alice Thomas, Chief of ODIHR’s Legislative Support Unit. "The draft Roadmap thus constitutes a home-grown plan for action to address weaknesses identified in the Armenian lawmaking system during discussions at our 2015 workshops."

Arsen Mkrtchyan, First Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, said: "We have already begun initiating reforms as indicated in the draft Roadmap. This workshop will help us finalize this document, which will be very useful in helping us plan and implement additional reform processes to make our legislative process less burdensome and more planned, transparent, and participatory."

The consolidating workshop begins the final stage of the process of drafting a Regulatory Reform Roadmap for Armenia, as envisaged by the Memorandum of Understanding signed between OSCE/ODIHR and the Ministry of Justice in 2014. Once ready, the Roadmap will form the basis for future reforms of the legislative process in the country.

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Judges and prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at OSCE meeting, learn about videoconferencing to reach remote witnesses

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 13:50

ISTOČNO SARAJEVO / BRČKO DISTRICT, 27 May 2016 – The use of videoconferencing for interviewing witnesses at remote locations was the focus of a two-day peer-to-peer meeting the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina organized for judges and prosecutors who are working on war crimes cases in courts and prosecutors' offices at the entity level and Brčko District.

The meeting was held via simultaneous live videoconferencing between the premises of the District Court of Istočno Sarajevo and the premises of the Basic Court of Brčko District. This enabled entity judges and prosecutors to put the technology to test and to discuss the procedural aspects of war crimes processing.

“More than 30% of the war crimes investigations at the local level involve witnesses that reside outside BiH” said Acting Head of the OSCE’s Rule of Law Section Francesco de Sanctis. “Videoconferencing technology will speed up the process of war crimes processing and allow for the interviewing of those individuals who are unable to travel or, due to trauma, feel more comfortable testifying by a video link.”

Direct interviewing of witnesses via video is far more cost-effective than the usual practice of acquiring statements from unavailable witnesses.

Prosecutor at the Central Bosnia Canton Prosecutor’s Office Ahmed Mesic, said: “The use of a video link during the investigation phase is, economically, the best method. The prosecutor offices are not exposed to additional costs such as travel, lodging and translation, and achieve almost identical conditions as if the interview is done in office.”

Deputy Director of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH Secretariat Hajro Poskovic, said: “Our strategic goal is to advance the effectiveness of war crimes processing before the judicial institutions in BiH. The Secretariat welcomes all efforts that aim to better acquaint judges and prosecutors with possibilities of witness interviewing through a video link.”

The peer-to-peer meeting was organized in co-operation with the Supervisory Body for the National Strategy for War Crimes Processing Implementation and the Secretariat of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH, and as a part of two OSCE’s projects: The EU funded War Crimes Monitoring Project, and the War Crimes Capacity-Building Project that is supported by the Embassies of Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States.

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OSCE-supported event trains Moldovan judges and prosecutors on investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 12:49
243176 Rachel Bending

A seminar organized by the OSCE Mission to Moldova on 25 May 2016 trained 25 judges and prosecutors on investigating and prosecuting a range of cybercrimes, including online child pornography and human trafficking over the Internet.

During the seminar, held at the National Institute of Justice in Chisinau, participants were familiarized with software and data used to investigate cybercrimes, and learned how to apply these to cases of online child pornography and human trafficking. They also studied recent amendments to Moldova’s legislation on regulating online activities, including the creation of additional investigative bodies to deal with online child pornography, and considered the impact of these amendments on their work.

“Cybercrimes, including those committed for the exploitation of children and to facilitate human trafficking, are a real threat for Moldova,” explained Dumitru Purice, a prosecutor in the cybercrime section of the General Prosecutor’s Office and a trainer at the seminar. “The authorities must ensure that the problem is appropriately tackled by specialized investigative sections, in accordance with the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime.”

The seminar is part of an OSCE Mission to Moldova project to support the capacity-building of legal professionals in combating domestic violence, human trafficking and cybercrimes. The project is implemented by the National Institute of Justice, which has received capacity-building support from the Mission since 2009, including through the training of more than 900 judges and prosecutors, and is aimed at ensuring that domestic violence and human trafficking cases are investigated effectively. 

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OSCE Programme Office in Astana supports publication of Ombudsman’s Annual Report

OSCE - Fri, 27/05/2016 - 11:52

ASTANA, 27 May 2016 – An OSCE-supported presentation of the report on the activities of Kazakhstan’s National Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) in 2015 took place today in Astana bringing together some 60 parliamentarians, government officials, legal scholars, representatives of non-governmental organizations and media.

The event was co-organized by the Ombudsman’s Office in co-operation with the OSCE Programme Office in Astana and Regional Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The participants discussed the observations on the human rights situation and policy recommendations made to governmental bodies in the Annual Report. The discussion focused on the analysis of main activities conducted by institution in the respective reporting year, including key figures, statistics and background material concerning complaints received by Ombudsman in 2015 from citizens, civil society institutions and human rights organizations.

“The Ombudsman's Office continues its work to protect the rights of different groups of the population, including children, people with disabilities, prisoners and other socially vulnerable groups,” said Kazakhstan’s Ombudsman Askar Shakirov. He noted that the issues of implementation of social, economic, cultural, labour, housing rights, the right to freedom of information, as well as prevention of torture and others remain under careful attention of the Ombudsman institution.

“The Ombudsman’s annual report is a key tool for summarizing the work, evaluation of the human rights situation in country in general and the development of recommendations for further improvement in this area,” said György Szabó, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana.

The translation and publication of the report in English, Kazakh and Russian languages was supported by the OSCE Programme Office in Astana.

The event was conducted as part of the Programme Office’s long-standing activities on enhancing capacity-building of the National Human Rights Institutions in Kazakhstan.

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OSCE PA Special Representative on the South Caucasus and Human Rights Committee Chair welcome release of Azerbaijan’s Ismayilova

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 19:44

COPENHAGEN, 25 May 2016 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on the South Caucasus, Kristian Vigenin (MP, Bulgaria), and the Chair of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today welcomed the release by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

“It is great news that Khadija Ismayilova has been freed from prison and will return safely to her family. I welcome this positive development, which ultimately serves the best interests of Azerbaijan, its people and the OSCE,” said Vigenin, who will be in Baku later this week and will hold meetings on a range of issues, including human rights.

“I take note of this positive step taken by Azerbaijan toward upholding its OSCE human dimension commitments and I look forward to constructively engage with Azerbaijan’s authorities on human rights, the rule of law, and other democracy-related issues,” said Santos.

Ismayilova’s reporting focused on alleged high-level corruption in Azerbaijan. The Baku Court on Grave Crimes sentenced her to seven and a half years in prison in September 2015 after finding her guilty of tax evasion, illegal business activities, criminal libel and abuse of power. Ismayilova had been held since her arrest in December 2014. The Supreme Court reduced her sentence to a suspended term of three and a half years and upheld her convictions for illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion.

Today’s development follows a vote last week by the Azerbaijani parliament to approve a proposal to grant amnesty to thousands of prisoners.

Santos noted that at the OSCE PA’s 2015 Annual Session, the Assembly “condemn[ed] the continued persecution and imprisonment on politically motivated charges of journalists and human rights defenders in several OSCE participating States and express[ed] its concern at the continued misuse of tax and administrative legislation to justify these acts.”

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Statement by OSCE PA Human Rights Committee Chair Isabel Santos on Nadiya Savchenko’s release

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 19:41

COPENHAGEN, 25 May 2016 – Following the release of Ukrainian pilot and member of parliament Nadiya Savchenko after nearly two years in a Russian prison, reportedly in exchange for two alleged Russian servicemen Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, issued the following statement:

“It was with great relief that I heard of today’s Ukrainian-Russian prisoner exchange and particularly the news that Nadiya Savchenko is now free and back in Ukraine. With Savchenko’s health deteriorating, her imprisonment was not just a political or judicial matter, but had taken on a humanitarian urgency. It is with these concerns in mind that I had explored all possible avenues within my mandate to safeguard Savchenko’s health and wellbeing. I welcome her release, as called for repeatedly by the international community, including the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and wish her a rapid recovery.”

Santos added that the move can also be seen as a constructive step towards long-overdue implementation of the Minsk Agreements, including the commitment to release all detained persons related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“This positive development should be welcomed by anyone who wants to see peace and stability return to Ukraine. It is a rare sign of rapprochement between Moscow and Kyiv, and I urge all sides to capitalize on this moment of goodwill to bring a real and lasting resolution to the crisis in and around Ukraine,” Santos said.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, in its Helsinki Declaration last year, “Call[ed] for the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko, a Member of Parliament in Ukraine, from detention in the Russian Federation, on humanitarian grounds.” She had been imprisoned in Russia since June 2014.

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OSCE media freedom representative, human rights chief welcome release of Khadija Ismayilova

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 16:59

VIENNA / WARSAW, 25 May 2016 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović and the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Michael Georg Link, today welcomed the release of the Azerbaijani journalist and human rights defender Khadija Ismayilova.

“Her release is a very positive step, as was the recent Presidential pardon of a number of imprisoned journalists and freedom of expression advocates, including Rasul Jafarov,” Mijatović said.  “Unfortunately, Ismayilova’s sentence has only been suspended, and I call on the authorities to drop all charges against her and release the remaining imprisoned journalists.”

The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan today decided to commute Ismayilova’s imprisonment sentence to a 3.5-year suspended sentence. Ismayilova, an investigative reporter with Radio Azadliq (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on 1 September 2015 on charges of misappropriation and embezzlement, illegal business dealings, tax evasion and abuse of power.

“Already in 1994, all OSCE participating States have emphasized the need for the protection of human rights defenders, and in Astana in 2010 they stressed that they value the important role played by civil society and free media to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  Director Link said. “I thus welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to commute Ismayilova’s sentence, as she has consistently worked to raise awareness of the authorities’ responsibility to meet the country’s commitments in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The Representative encouraged the authorities to release all remaining members of the media and bloggers still in prison today in Azerbaijan, including Seymur Hazi, Nijat Aliyev, Abdul Abilov, Rashad Ramazanov and Araz Guliyev.

Both the Representative and the ODIHR Director stressed that their Offices remain ready to assist Azerbaijan, in improving media freedom and journalists’ safety, and in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, respectively, and that they will continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities. They also said that they look forward to visiting Baku in the future.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on

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ODIHR Director Link welcomes Nadiya Savchenko’s release, stresses need to respect rights of remaining prisoners

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 15:31

WARSAW, 25 May 2016 – Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, welcomed the release today of Ukrainian pilot and member of parliament, Nadiya Savchenko, who had been held in Russia since 2014.

“I am very happy at the news of the release of Nadiya Savchenko,” Director Link said. “I hope that the end of her ordeal can contribute to the co-operation that will be necessary, in line with the Minsk agreement, to end the conflict in and around Ukraine.”

Savchenko had been imprisoned in Rostov-on-Don, and was released there in exchange for two Russians being held in Ukraine. She was then flown back to Ukraine.

“The serious disputes over the facts surrounding Savchenko’s arrest and detention, as well as concerns about the nature of her trial and conviction, underline the importance of the commitments all OSCE participating States have made in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including rule of law guarantees, such as the right to a fair trial,” Director Link said. “We must not forget that others remain in detention, and ensuring that these rights are protected for them must play a central role in reaching any settlement.”

Savchenko, a military pilot, was captured in eastern Ukraine in June 2014. She was accused of directing artillery fire that killed two Russian journalists and, on 21 March of this year, was convicted for murder and illegally crossing the Russian border, and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

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OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine opens forward patrol base in Shchastia

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 15:19

LUHANSK, 25 May 2016 – The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine opened a new forward patrol base (FPB) in the government-controlled town of Shchastia in Luhansk region today. The FPB will increase the Mission’s ability to monitor the security situation in both government- and non-government-controlled areas.

“The newly-established FPB is located less than 500 metres from the contact line. This will bring our monitors closer to the areas where most violations take place and will help them follow up on reports about incidents faster,” said Principal Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug. “The SMM permanent presence should also encourage the sides to adhere to the ceasefire and the Minsk agreements more eagerly.”

The SMM informed the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) of the opening of a new FPB and secured support from both the Ukrainian and Russian Federation sides to the JCCC.

The FPB in Shchastia is the Mission’s ninth forward patrol base established in eastern Ukraine and the fourth in Luhansk region.

The SMM has previously opened five FPBs in Donetsk region: in government-controlled Volnovakha, Pokrovsk (formerly Krasnoarmiisk), Svitlodarsk, and non-government-controlled Horlivka and Debaltseve; and three in Luhansk region: in government-controlled Novoaidar and Stanytsia Luhanska and non-government-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov). Together with offices in Donetsk and Luhansk cities, and hubs in Mariupol, Kramatorsk and Sievierodonetsk, the addition of the new FPB brings the total number of locations where the SMM has permanent presence in the east to 14.

The Mission is looking to open more such bases on both sides of the contact line to enhance its monitoring and reporting.

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OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Steinmeier welcomes the release of Nadiya Savchenko

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 15:10

BERLIN, 25 May 2016 - OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today welcomed the release of the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.

“I am glad and relieved that the Nadiya Savchenko has been released at last and that she can now return to her family in Ukraine,” Steinmeier said. “This is good news for which we have long worked to bring about and for which we nevertheless had to wait a long time. I offer my best wishes for a speedy recovery to Ms. Savchenko. Our thoughts are with her and her family. I hope and wish that today’s exchange will help build trust between Ukraine and Russia, thus providing the Minsk process with positive momentum.”

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OSCE supports training seminar on public participation mechanisms in environmental decision-making

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 14:38
Colin McCullough, OSCE Programme Office in Astana

The OSCE Programme Office in Astana in co-operation with the Pavlodar Aarhus Centre held the first in a series of three training seminars for some 20 government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, political parties and the media on public participation mechanisms in environmental decision-making in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, on 21 May 2016.

The participants learned about the legal tools to implement the Aarhus Convention, were familiarized with practical mechanisms in environmental decision-making and discussed problems regarding access to environmental information. Event participants also reviewed current development trends in civil participation and explored co-operation opportunities among the stakeholders to implement the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention.

The second training seminar took place on 25 May in Ekibastuz, while the third will be held on 2 June in Aksu. A concluding roundtable discussion will present the project’s results and develop recommendations for involved stakeholders in Pavlodar in July.

The training seminars are part of the Programme Office’s multi-year efforts to promote the Aarhus Convention in the host country.

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Students launch exhibition against domestic violence as part of OSCE Presence in Albania campaign

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 14:17
Joana Karapataqi, OSCE Presence in Albania

An exhibition of paintings, photographs, installations, poetry and writing by students of the Petro Nini Luarasi High School in Tirana on the theme of domestic violence, was unveiled by the students and the OSCE Presence in Albania on 24 May 2016 in the capital.

The exhibition, held under the slogan #MosHesht (Don’t be silent), builds on a campaign against domestic violence first launched by the OSCE Presence in Tirana four years ago, and extended to other cities such as Korça, Elbasan and Gjirokastra, to bring together the  police, civil society, citizens and youth, to discuss and react to this phenomenon.

A higher number of domestic violence cases has been reported to the police since the start of the campaign, indicating increased public awareness of the problem and trust in the authorities. According to statistics, on average 15 women die every year as a result of domestic violence; domestic violence accounts for about 60% of the reported crimes against persons in Albania.

“Civic engagement is more than just identifying issues of public concern. It is about citizens working to address them in a constructive manner. It is about action,” said Deputy Head of the OSCE Presence Robert Wilton at the launch of the exhibition. “You took on the slogan of the campaign #MosHesht. You reacted through your paintings, pictures and poetry and sent a strong message to your fellow students, to us and to the society. This is a brilliant example of the kind of citizen engagement needed for a democracy to thrive.”

General Director of the Albanian State Police, Haki Çako, commended the students saying that through the exhibition they help raise the awareness of the problems that domestic violence victims face. He said that trust in the police is an important part of the overall solution.

The event is as part of the OSCE Presence in Albania’s ongoing campaign on countering domestic violence. The Presence has also extensively worked in raising the capacities of the Albanian State Police on addressing this problem through various training programmes.

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OSCE Mission to Serbia and ODIHR launch joint Report on peer elections for High Judicial Council and State Prosecutors’ Council

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 13:01
Ivana Milatovic, OSCE Mission to Serbia Report on Monitoring of Peer Elections for the High Judicial Council and State Prosecutors’ Council of the Republic of Serbia

Serbia’s legal framework for governing elections to the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutors’ Council is fairly comprehensive although there are a few minor issues with implementing the laws and regulations, partly as a result of gaps in the law. This is the conclusion of a joint Report launched on 24 May 2016 by the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The OSCE Mission and ODIHR followed the elections of judges and prosecutors to the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutors’ Council throughout Serbia in December 2015, in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), a local civil society organization. The election processes were conducted without any major irregularities observed.

The Report makes a number of recommendations, largely similar for both the judicial and prosecutorial councils, including amending and further developing the legal framework regarding the election process for the judicial and prosecutors’ councils, the candidates’ nomination process, and procedures for resolving disputes and providing effective remedies.

The findings and recommendations resulting from the election monitoring will help inform the public about the ongoing judicial reform process in Serbia. The relevant state institutions and justice stakeholders will also have an objective assessment to assist them in further strengthening the independence, accountability and efficiency of the Serbian judiciary.

The Report is available at:

The OSCE Mission to Serbia and ODIHR stand ready to continue supporting the legal reform efforts of the Serbian authorities in line with the recommendations of this report and OSCE commitments.

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OSCE supports discussion on energy efficiency at IX Astana Economic Forum

OSCE - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 11:54

ASTANA, 25 May 2016 – An OSCE-supported discussion entitled “Future Energy: Global Trends and Technologies” took place today as a special session at the IX Astana Economic Forum in Astana, Kazakhstan, bringing together some 100 parliamentarians, international experts, business leaders, government officials and civil society leaders.

Participants discussed the challenges in the transition to a low-carbon economy as well as prospects for developing a green economy in Kazakhstan.

"Kazakhstan has actively pursued the development of government policies and a low-carbon green economy that meet current global challenges,” said Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev. “We believe that EXPO-2017, focused on “Future Energy", will give a powerful impetus to the development of new energy sources and implementation of best practices in the development of renewable energy for mankind.”

Gyorgy Szabo, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, said: "Rational energy consumption makes a country less dependent on energy supplies, which strengthens their energy security and promotes sustainable development. The OSCE Programme Office in Astana supports Kazakhstan's efforts to transition to a ‘green’ economy and is ready to provide the necessary expertise and assistance in learning about the best practices of OSCE participating States in these matters."

This event is a continuation of the OSCE Programme Office’s earlier activities aimed at promoting the green economy and energy-efficiency practices in the host country. 

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OSCE Representative awarded Concordia Prize for press freedom

OSCE - Mon, 02/05/2016 - 12:17

VIENNA, 2 May 2016 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović was today awarded the Concordia Press Club Prize 2015 in the category of press freedom and freedom of information.

The Concordia Press Club decided to award Mijatović the prize given her personal dedication to press freedom issues in 2015.

“Above all she is awarded for her tireless, personal, often exhausting quest to defend basic democratic rights of press freedom and independent reporting,” the jury writes in their decision.

“This award is very dear to me and I am proud and very much honored to be awarded this prestigious press freedom prize,” Mijatović said. “It also serves as a testament of the work my Office has been carrying out on press freedom issues in 2015 and the years prior to that.”

The Concordia Prize is awarded every year by the Austrian Presseclub Concordia to an individual or organization for outstanding journalistic achievements in human rights, democracy, focusing on freedom of the press and freedom of information.

The awards ceremony will take place at Palace Epstein in Vienna, starting at 17.00 on 2 May, with Doris Bures, President of the National Council of Austria, giving the opening remarks.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on

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