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OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 100/2021 issued on 1 May 2021

OSCE - Sat, 05/01/2021 - 17:51
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 95 ceasefire violations, including 47 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 82 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 66 ceasefire violations, including ten explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 36 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It spotted people inside the disengagement area near Zolote during day time.
  • The SMM observed anti-tank mines near government-controlled Marinka and non-government-controlled Verkhnoshyrokivske, Khreshchatytske, Syhnalne (assessed as recently laid), and Oleksandrivka, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and four corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk region.
  • The SMM visited two border crossing points outside government control and monitored areas close to the border with the Russian Federation in Donetsk region.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted. The SMM’s long-range UAV again experienced dual GPS signal interference at its base in government-controlled Stepanivka on 30 April. On 1 May, the UAV was able to complete its planned flight*.
Categories: Central Europe

Calls between OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Linde and Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

OSCE - Sat, 05/01/2021 - 14:24

STOCKHOLM, 1 May 2021 — OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, held phone conversations with Ruslan Kazakbaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan and Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan. CiO Linde raised the latest developments on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border and expressed concern about the escalation of violence. She expressed her condolences for the loss of lives on both sides and concern for those injured.

Recalling her recent visit to the region, she underlined the importance of regional co-operation and stability in Central Asia and encouraged a renewed political effort to reach sustainable solutions.

“I welcomed the agreement of a ceasefire between the parties, and the political will to resolve the issue with peaceful and diplomatic means respecting for international law” CiO Linde said.

“I call on Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to do their outmost to de-escalate and stabilize the situation and to refrain from further violence”, she also said.

Going forward, CiO Linde underlined the importance of rebuilding trust. This includes preventing spread of hate speech and divisive interethnic rhetoric, efforts to rebuild trust and guaranteeing the protection and safety civilians. She underlined the need for respect for international law.

CiO Linde reiterated the readiness of the OSCE to support the two parties’ efforts to maintain a ceasefire and stabilize the situation in the border region and to work for long-term recovery, in the interests of people on both sides of the border.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 99/2021 issued on 30 April 2021

OSCE - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 18:38
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 82 ceasefire violations, including 27 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 15 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 36 ceasefire violations, including six explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 22 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as directed at an SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near Oleksandrivka, Donetsk region.
  • A man was injured due to an explosion while on a tractor near government-controlled Hnutove, Donetsk region.
  • The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The SMM observed anti-tank mines, some seen for the first time and assessed as not recently laid, near government-controlled Shyrokyne and non-government-controlled Sakhanka, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at three entry-exit checkpoints and the corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Luhansk region.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including in non-government-controlled Oleksandrivka, Donetsk region. Its mini-UAVs again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
  • The SMM monitored the security situation in south-east Kherson region.
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Media Freedom Representative meets with representatives of the Belarusian Association of Journalists and editors of independent media

OSCE - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 17:53
Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ton van den Brandt

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM), Teresa Ribeiro, met online today with representatives of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and editors of several independent media outlets to discuss the current state of freedom of expression and media freedom in Belarus.

Ribeiro met with BAJ members Andrei Bastunets (Chairperson), Oleg Ageev, Boris Goretskiy and Olga Khvoin. She also met with Marina Zolotova from the media portal Tut.by; Irina Levshina from BelaPAN news agency; Aleksy Dzikawicki with Belsat TV channel; Irina Novik from the news portal, Hrodna.life; Vladimir Yanukevich with Intex-Press newspaper; and Alexey Kozliuk from Human Constanta, a human rights organization.

The Representative expressed her serious concern regarding the negative implications of the ongoing political developments in the country on the work of media outlets and the continued persecutions and harassment of media actors and professionals. She also noted the worrisome legal developments in the country and their potential to negatively affect freedom of expression and free flow of information, both offline and online.

Ribeiro thanked the participants for their courage and continued dedication to media freedom principles, despite the various challenges to journalists’ safety in Belarus in recent months.

The Representative previously expressed her concern about the deterioration of media freedom in Belarus on 16 February and 18 February 2021.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan supports seminars on countering cybercrimes in Kazakhstan

OSCE - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 13:49
Richard Wheeler

Two back-to-back online training seminars on criminal law and criminological characteristics of computer crimes, methodology for detecting and investigating criminal offenses committed using information and communication technologies (ICT) concluded on 30 April 2021 in Nur-Sultan.

The OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan organized the events in co-operation with the Law Enforcement Academy under the Prosecutor General’s office/Hub to Counter Global Threats.

Some 25 law enforcement officials from across Kazakhstan took part in the seminars. International experts from Belarus familiarized participants with computer crimes concept, their causes and conditions, international legal regulation on combating these crimes, criminological characteristics of a high-tech criminal, and the main features of the criminological characteristics of the personality of a hacker. They also covered criminological characteristics of computer crimes committed using ICTs, their criminal and legal qualification, and international legal classification of these crimes.

These training events are part of the Programme Office’s multi-year efforts to build the law enforcement officers’ capacity to counter cybercrimes in Kazakhstan.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 98/2021 issued on 29 April 2021

OSCE - Thu, 04/29/2021 - 18:09
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 15 ceasefire violations, all explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 217 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 22 ceasefire violations, including eight explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 148 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The SMM observed anti-tank mines, most seen for the first time and assessed as not recently laid, in non-government-controlled Yasne and government-controlled Nevelske and Avdiivka, all in Donetsk region.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable repairs, maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at three entry-exit checkpoints and the corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Luhansk region.
  • The Mission visited two border crossing points outside government control in Donetsk region and monitored areas close to the border in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at a checkpoint of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in government-controlled Taramchuk in Donetsk region and at a railway station in non-government-controlled Voznesenivka in Luhansk region. Its mini- and mid-range unmanned aerial vehicles again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports the first national cyberdrill in Kyrgyzstan

OSCE - Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:20

On 28 and 29 April 2021, the first national cyber drill exercise “Digital Kyrgyzstan 2021” was held in Bishkek. The event was organized by the Coordination Center for Cybersecurity of the State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic (CCCS SCNS) with support of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek and the International Telecommunication Union. 

The purpose of this exercise was to provide participants with practical skills to carry out activities in identifying cyber threats, responding to cyber incidents, and strengthening the capacity of responsible authorities in safe data exchange. International experts working in the field of cybersecurity were invited to conduct practical exercises. The International Telecommunication Union, Group-IB company, and Kaspersky Lab provided cyber platforms, a virtual environment used for cyber training exercises.

Participants  were welcomed by Zhanybek Zhorobaev, Director of the CCCS SCNS, who noted the importance of the first national cyber drill exercise which is in line with strategic priorities laid out in the national Concept of Digital Transformation “Digital Kyrgyzstan 2019–2023” (“Sanarip Kyrgyzstan 2019–2023”) and Cybersecurity Strategy of the Kyrgyz Repu blic for 2019–2023.

Pierre von Arx, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek, welcomed participants, highlighting the OSCE’s role in supporting participating States in addressing new threats and challenges in view of  the COVID-19 pandemic with many aspects of life moving online, from teleworking to the provision of state and educational services.

Noting that this new reality revealed the necessity to address new challenges and needs related to cybersecurity, von Arx said: “The international community has the duty to respond to these new dynamics and address the most pressing threats stemming from cyberspace to secure the stability of our societies. The OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek remains committed to further supporting Kyrgyzstan in this area.”

The cyber drill aims to raise awareness about existing cyber threats and create pre-requisites for co-ordinated efforts of responsible ICT specialists across state bodies, banks, universities, and other stakeholders operating in the field of information security. The drill also provided a platform for discussing and developing practical mechanisms for interactions with the CCC SCNS. The event contributes to creating a favorable environment for further implementation of projects on digitalization and strengthening the public-private partnership in developing and shaping inclusive and safe Internet policy in Kyrgyzstan.  

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports 6th Meeting of Permanent Conference of Organized Crime Prosecutors

OSCE - Thu, 04/29/2021 - 11:40
484808

Over 30 participants took part in the sixth meeting of the Permanent Conference of Organized Crime Prosecutors (PCOCP) organized online by the OSCE Secretariat in collaboration with the OSCE Mission to Serbia on 27 April 2021. The event highlighted PCOCP achievements over the last 5 years and the use of the Permanent Conference for addressing cross-border co-operation and best practices in investigations and prosecutions of organized crime in the OSCE region. Participants also welcomed Austria’s intention to become the PCOCP’s 13th member.

“With the dramatic changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we see even more of a need to enhance co-operation at the regional and international level, and initiatives such as the Permanent Conference go along way in addressing these issues,” said Anita Ramasastry, Special Representative to the Swedish Chairperson-in-Office at the OSCE on Combating Corruption. “The need to better understand the impact of organized crime on our legal economies is even more urgent now, as the measures that participating States will undertake to mitigate the recession and boost economic development will also offer new opportunities for criminal groups through corruption and infiltration.”

Participants included chief prosecutors, representatives from PCOCP, and high-level OSCE representatives, as well as prosecutors from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. Representatives of Austria also announced the country’s intention to join the PCOCP as its 13th member.

Over the course of the meeting, participants exchanged information on complex criminal cases and new issues related to addressing organized crime, including a rise in organized crime activity in the legal economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also detailed good practices for ensuring parallel financial investigations during the prosecution of criminal cases, as well as the importance of sharing operational information in specific cross-border money laundering and asset recovery cases.

Participants also agreed that asset seizure and confiscation remains a key component of an efficient and sustainable strategy for breaking down criminal business models and preventing and repressing organized crime. They recognized that a lack of harmonization in law and practice affects international co-operation in this area.

Jan Braathu, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, presented an overview on the implementation of the PCOCP Belgrade Declaration of Intent. The Declaration was signed by 10 OSCE participating States in 2016 to strengthen their mutual co-operation in combating organized crime.

The PCOCP was established in 2016 through an initiative supported by the OSCE Mission to Serbia. It is currently supported through a regional extra-budgetary project on asset recovery jointly implemented by the OSCE Transnational Threats Department and the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, with financial support from the United States, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Categories: Central Europe

Press Statement of Special Representative Grau after the regular Meeting of Trilateral Contact Group on 28 April 2021

OSCE - Thu, 04/29/2021 - 09:13

KYIV, 29 April 2021 – The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), Ambassador Heidi Grau, made the following statement to the press after the regular meetings of the TCG ‎and its Working Groups held through video conferencing:

“The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) continues to record a high level of ceasefire violations.

At the same time, the growing number of restrictions and impediments to the freedom of movement of the OSCE SMM is negatively affecting the implementation of the Mission's mandate. The SMM's UAVs are targeted daily by small arms fire as well as by jamming.

The requirement for compliance with the ceasefire was in the focus of the discussions of the Security Working Group and the TCG. Participants in the meeting reiterated their commitment to it. However – regrettably – no agreement was reached upon a TCG statement on responding to ceasefire violations and their elimination in the future.

With the onset of the warm season and the approaching Easter holidays, I call on the sides to take urgent action as regards demining. According to the SMM, the majority of civilian casualties this year have been caused by mines and unexploded ordnance.

Procedural issues continued to dominate the discussions of the participants in the Political Working Group meeting, preventing progress on developing an action plan in full compliance with the Minsk agreements as tasked by the TCG.

The Humanitarian Working Group focused on removing obstacles to the simultaneous opening of new crossing points near Zolote and Shchastia of the Luhansk region.

Certain aspects related to the mutual release and exchange of conflict-related detainees were also duly considered.

Discussions of the Economic Working Group focused exclusively on water supply issues on both sides of the contact line, particularly in the Donetsk region.”

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 97/2021 issued on 28 April 2021

OSCE - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 21:26
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 217 ceasefire violations, including 79 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 205 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 148 ceasefire violations, including 47 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded no ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at three entry-exit checkpoints and their corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Luhansk region.
  • The Mission visited a border crossing point outside government control in Donetsk region.
  • The SMM monitored various checkpoints in south-east Kherson region.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted. Its mini-unmanned aerial vehicles again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

Technology-facilitated trafficking, focus of e-Roundtable discussion on Central Asia and OSCE Asian Partners

OSCE - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 20:09

VIENNA, 28 April 2021 - The OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Valiant Richey concluded today the International "e-Roundtable Discussion on Combating Technology-facilitated Trafficking in Human Beings in Central Asia and across the OSCE Asian Partners for Co-operation."

The two-day virtual gathering hosted more than 160 participants on behalf of governments, international organizations, academia and NGOs. Participants outlined the increasing role that the misuse of technology plays in facilitating human trafficking, with a specific focus on those regions.

Human trafficking generates $150 billion in profit every year. The Internet provides traffickers with an environment in which they can operate with increased safety and anonymity and advertise their victims to a broad audience on thousands of platforms at minimal cost. Consequently, technology has become one of the single greatest facilitators of human trafficking globally, particularly for sexual exploitation. One of the primary objectives of the roundtable discussion was to discuss websites that provide avenues for traffickers to increase exploitation of vulnerable victims.

"I encourage all OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation to update their laws and policies to address tech-facilitated human trafficking. While we see common problems, we also see common solutions,” said Richey. “Co-operation is of great importance, and I commend the existing approach to partnerships, which has demonstrated its effectiveness in numerous operations.”  

Concrete examples of practices and policies adopted by countries and stakeholders addressing technology-facilitated human trafficking were showcased. 

Richey stressed the need to involve the private sector in the conversation at the national level but emphasized that the problem requires urgent attention. "Those who turn a blind eye to exploitation must be held accountable for their role in allowing or facilitating trafficking. I encourage countries to work collaboratively with the private sector while ensuring that substantive action is taken." 

The OSCE enjoys a long-standing relationship with the Asian Partners for Co-operation. Over the past decades, the Asian Partners for Co-operation have contributed substantially to the OSCE's dialogue on various aspects of comprehensive security while providing ideas for future and closer co-operation.

Categories: Central Europe

International humanitarian law and state compliance in focus at OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation meeting under Armenian Chairmanship

OSCE - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 19:24

VIENNA, 28 April 2021 — How states comply with international humanitarian law and the challenges they face in its implementation was the focus of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) meeting held online today under the Armenian FSC Chairmanship.

The meeting was the first Security Dialogue organized by the Armenian FSC Chairmanship and featured three speakers who addressed the representatives of the OSCE’s 57 participating States. They explored how international humanitarian law protects people and alleviates human suffering and key challenges faced by states when applying the law. They also discussed the international community’s role in ensuring respect for the principles of international humanitarian law, as well as how to address non-compliance.

“When following the unfolding situation in the world, one cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that there is an unacceptable gap between what international humanitarian law prescribes and the practical reality,” said Colonel Gevorg Martirosyan, Head of the Human Rights and Integrity Building Centre of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense. Describing the human suffering characterizing the gap, he emphasized how States “should act in line with their legal and moral obligations” to fill the gap, highlighting principles and treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions and their protocols, that form the basis of international humanitarian law.

Cordula Droege, Legal Officer and Head of the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross, outlined concrete legal and practical measures States can implement to comply with international humanitarian law, and how more should be done to highlight the benefits of compliance. Referring to protective measures under international humanitarian law, she said they should apply to parties to a conflict “with no exceptions”.

“We need to keep stressing the point that those ‘on the other side’ — whether the military, non-State armed actors or even those accused of ‘terrorism’ — are human,” Droege said. “Codes of conduct such as that of the OSCE code on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, which strongly affirms the commitment to the principles of international humanitarian law, provide a framework which can guide the armed forces and civil authorities in their commitment and effort to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.”

Arman Tatoyan, Human Rights Defender of Armenia, explained the connection between human rights and international humanitarian law, underscoring that human rights are universal for all people and their protection without a distinction made for political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory. He emphasized how the international community and national bodies can further support states' compliance, highlighting the work of Armenia's Office of the Human Rights Defender in recording, reporting and presenting on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict-affected areas.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to Montenegro supports Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms in conducting an analysis on decisions made by selected courts in cases of domestic and gender-based violence

OSCE - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 16:20
484901 Marina Živaljević

The findings of the “Analysis of verdicts of misdemeanour courts in Montenegro in the field of domestic violence and gender-based violence with reference to the practice of the Ombudsman and the European Court of Human Rights” were presented at an online event on 27 April 2021. The authors of the analysis are Nebojša Vučinić, human rights professor; Siniša Bjeković, Ombudsperson of Montenegro and his advisers Dina Knežević and Nemanja Dujović.

The OSCE Mission to Montenegro agreed to support the Office of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms in preparing an analysis of outcomes of cases of domestic violence and gender-based violence in misdemeanour courts.  

Siv-Katrine Leirtroe, Acting Head of Mission, said that in the months following the outbreak of COVID-19, data showed that there was an increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases, both in Montenegro and globally. “Data collection and analysis is at the basis of any further assistance to shape and enhance effective policies and responses for the benefit of potential victims and survivors. For this reason, I am convinced that this work represents a good basis to integrate the principles of gender equality into courts’ procedures and practices in cases of domestic violence and violence against women,” said Leirtroe.

The authors chose to examine decisions from various misdemeanour courts, as they have the highest volume of violent crimes. “From this analysis of decisions from these courts, we can understand better the key elements and actors of violence, determining their origin and status, and other circumstances of the cases. This will helpful in developing policies to address some of the underlying issues of violence. We hope for inspiration based on the issues that are open here,” said Bjeković.

The OSCE Mission stands ready to support institutions and civil society organizations in promoting gender equal in society with zero tolerance towards gender-based violence.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 96/2021 issued on 27 April 2021

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 21:44
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 205 ceasefire violations, including 123 explosions. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded 125 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded no ceasefire violations. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded four ceasefire violations in the region.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as directed at SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) near Donetsk city’s Petrovskyi district, Syhnalne and Krasnohorivka, Donetsk region.
  • Members of the armed formations again denied the Mission passage at a checkpoint near Olenivka, Donetsk region.
  • The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and four checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including again at a checkpoint of the armed formations near Olenivka, Donetsk region. Its UAVs again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

99th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting takes place in Ergneti

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 16:44

ERGNETI, 27 April 2021 - The 99th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) was held today in Ergneti, co-facilitated by Ambassador Marek Szczygieł, Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) and Ambassador Annika Söder, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ergneti IPRM was accompanied by all necessary precautionary health measures.

The EUMM and OSCE representatives commended the commitment of the participants to the IPRM and stressed the importance of continuing the effective use of the EUMM-managed Hotline, in particular with a view to the upcoming Easter festivities. Ambassador Szczygieł called for a humanitarian approach during these days and special attention to the corresponding needs of the local population. Ambassador Söder encouraged all stakeholders to find solutions to decrease the challenges faced by the conflict-affected population and emphasized the value of dialogue and pragmatism.

The two co-facilitators took note of recent changes concerning freedom of movement and related pandemic measures, and called on participants to implement further solutions to improve the socio-economic situation stemming from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing closure of the crossing points along the administrative boundary line (ABL).

Discussions in the IPRM furthermore focused on issues pertaining to stabilization and normalization, including ‘borderisation’ processes along the ABL, detention cases and the wider effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As previously, deliberations were held in a constructive atmosphere, and facilitators pointed to the specific security needs of women, men, elderly, children and other vulnerable groups in the area.

All participants agreed that the upcoming agricultural season necessitated an increased dialogue through the IPRM format and the EUMM-managed Hotline.

Participants decided to hold the next meeting in the week starting from 14 June 2021.

Categories: Central Europe

Head of OSCE Mission to BiH Kavalec visits Mostar, reiterates Mission’s support to new city administration

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 16:38

SARAJEVO, 27 April 2021 - Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina visited Mostar today and met with city officials, the Mayor and City Council Speaker, Chairs of Mostar City Council caucuses and representatives of political parties, to congratulate them on their mandates, to learn about the priorities of the new city administration, and to offer OSCE Mission support in key areas.

Kavalec met with Mostar Mayor Mario Kordić and Salem Marić, Speaker of Mostar City Council to discuss the needs of the citizens and possibilities to strengthen transparency and communication. They also discussed the longstanding proposal for renovation and unification of Mostar's music schools and re-confirmed the Mission’s support for this project, which has the potential to improve musical education and raise the city's cultural profile.  

Kavalec enquired about the possibilities of improving city regulations in regards to fundamental freedoms. She also discussed possibilities for joint, inclusive initiatives aimed to foster a culture of remembrance.

“I am glad to see that after many years, a fully functioning city administration has been established. I hope that new city officials will engage quickly to resolve pressing municipal issues and to move the city forward”, said Kavalec. “Transparency and accountability, and education are all areas of great importance. The Mission remains engaged and at the disposal to the new city administration in addressing all these issues,” she said.

Kavalec also met with the Chairs of Mostar City Council caucuses, Miroslav Grubišić, Chair of Croat Caucus, Zlatko Guzin, Chair of Bosniak Caucus and Velibor Milivojević, Chair of Serb Caucus. They discussed the functioning of the City Council and the Mission’s support to strengthening good governance, transparency and accountability of the city administration.

“The proposal to renovate and unify the Mostar music schools has been pending for some time now, despite the availability of donor funds and the support of the international community,” said Kavalec. “Earlier obstacles that hampered the functioning of the city administration are now gone and we hope to see an early decision to move forward for the benefit of all children in Mostar and the Canton.”

During the visit Kavalec met with Josip Merdžo, Secretary General of the Croat National Assembly. They discussed the current status of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton government establishment, as well as resolution of issues related to the unification of Mostar music schools.

Ambassador Kavalec concluded her visit to Mostar by meeting with Jozo Pavković, Editor in Chief of Večernji list where she discussed the challenges media face in time of pandemic and reiterated Mission dedication to strengthening media freedom in BiH.

Categories: Central Europe

Respect for constitution and judicial independence are key for democracy, OSCE human rights head says

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 14:34

WARSAW, 27 April 2021 – Following a parliamentary move against a number of constitutional court judges in Moldova last week after an earlier court decision found the conditions had been met for the president to dissolve parliament, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) called for the country’s parliament to respect the independence of the judiciary.

“An independent justice system is at the very core of our democracies,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Passing a vote of no confidence in judges and deciding not to recognize a decision of the constitutional court is entirely at odds with the rule of law. With this in mind, I am watching developments in Moldova with concern.”

Guaranteed tenure for judges is key to the principle of judicial independence, which all countries of the OSCE have committed to uphold. In addition, respect for court decisions is central to the concepts of legality and legal certainty, an essential element of the rule of law that lies at the heart of the democratic system.

Categories: Central Europe

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 27 April 2021

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 13:10

SUMMARY

Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). The overall number of border crossings by persons decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week. 

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO) and a First Responder.[1] The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

Update on COVID-19 measures

Activities have been impacted by COVID-19 and measures undertaken by the OM to ensure the safety and duty of care of its Mission members and compliance with measures set by the host country authorities. The Mission is continuing to keep the situation under review, in close contact with the OSCE Secretariat and the Chairpersonship. Following the host country’s recommendations, the observers are adhering to distancing. Due to the preventive measures taken by the central and regional authorities, the OM is faced with certain difficulties, but is still able to continue to fulfil its mandate without any limitations in its observation and reporting activities. During this reporting period, the vaccination process provided by the host country medical system continues on a voluntary basis. By now, 73 per cent of OM staff have received the first jab of the vaccine, and 59 per cent have received both.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of persons crossing the border can be categorized as follows:

  1. Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage.
  2. Persons in military-style outfits.
  3. Families (often including elderly persons and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage.

The average number of entries/exits decreased from 8,378 to 8,256 per day at both BCPs compared to last week. During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to Ukraine, with an average net flow of 20 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March 2020. Among the exceptions of persons allowed to cross the border (which entered into force on 19 March) are Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons holding passports or identification documents proving permanent residence in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. In addition, reportedly, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, starting from 10 April 2020, the organized passenger transport commuting between the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was temporarily suspended and restored from 25 June.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border was 13, compared to seven last week; six persons crossed into the Russian Federation while seven persons crossed into Ukraine. These individuals crossed the border on foot.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continued to report on families, sometimes with elderly persons and/or children, crossing the border at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, seven families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while five families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and no families were observed crossing into Ukraine.

Bus connections                                         

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (355 compared to 326 observed during the previous week). There were 180 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 175 bound for Ukraine.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, while some buses did not display their route at all. The majority of long-distance buses commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed just a slight decrease in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (728 compared to 735 during the previous reporting week); 365 at the Gukovo BCP and 363 at the Donetsk BCP, 355 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 373 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, on a daily basis, the OTs also noted trucks registered in Belarus, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, and trucks with “LPR” plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the OTs observed just a slight increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (42 compared to 40 during the previous reporting week). These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks had hazard signs, indicating that they were transporting propane or a mix of propane and butane. All trucks underwent systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which could include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavorable observation position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks.

Compared to the previous week, the total number of X-ray checks at the Donetsk BCP decreased from 136 to 97. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 95 trucks (98 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, and the remaining two (two per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[2] crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly with Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, the OTs also saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (176 compared to 140 observed during the previous week); 82 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 94 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 30 occasions; the OTs assessed that 16 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining 14 trains were travelling to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections “trends and figures at a glance” below).

Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees located between the train tracks and the BCP.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. A significant number of vehicles with “LPR” plates were also observed crossing the border in both directions on a daily basis. The OTs also observed vehicles with Georgian and Lithuanian licence plates.

On 23 April at 14:40, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of nine brand-new ambulances type “GAZelle Next” with no licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. All vehicles had the inscription "Urgent Medical Help" written in Russian on the side. The group was accompanied by an ambulance type “GAZelle Next” with “LPR” plates and the inscription “Ambulance” on the side. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, including an X-ray check, the ambulances left the BCP for Ukraine at 17:12.

On 24 April at 15:35, the OT at Donetsk BCP observed a group of seven long buses, coloured white with a green strip on the side, and Russian Federation transit licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. The group was accompanied by a black SUV with “LPR” plates. The driver and one person were observed inside each vehicle. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, including an X-ray check, the vehicles left the BCP for Ukraine at 19:44. 

On 25 April at 08.30, the OT at the Gukovo BCP, observed a truck with “LPR” plates waiting for customs control procedures in the hangar building, next to the Observer Mission’s Office at the BCP. From its position, the OT could not assess from which direction the truck had arrived. The truck driver opened the tarpaulins of the truck and was waiting for a checking procedure. From its authorized position, the OT (among them the Chief Observer) had the opportunity for a visual observation from the outside. In the cargo area of the truck, the OT observed two jet engines (the main part of the engine), similar to the KLIMOV VK-1 (used in the MIG-15 Soviet-era jet) and the Rolls-Royce Nene first generation centrifugal jet engines. On the same day at 20:19, the truck left the hangar and parked at the customs control area. At the time of submitting the Weekly Update, the truck was still parked at the BCP area.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 23 March 2021 to 27 April 2021, please see the attachment here.

[1] First responders are OSCE staff or Mission members deployed for a short period of time.

[2] Cargo minivans: light commercial vehicles with a maximum authorized mass of more than 3.5 t and not more than 7.5 t; with or without a trailer with a maximum mass of less than 750 kg (small cargo vehicles that correspond to driving licence C1).

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports water quality transboundary monitoring in Chu-Talas river basin

OSCE - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 09:14

From 27 to 30 April in the Zhambyl region, the Programme Office in Nur-Sultan, in collaboration with Kazakhstan’s hydrometeorology service Kazgidromet, launched its first in a series of four surface water samples collection in the transboundary Chu and Talas river basin. The water samples taken by Kazgidromet specialists from 16 different locations will be delivered to the Kazgidromet’s local laboratory in Taraz for examining the physical and chemical composition.

Based on the water samples quality assessment, an OSCE-hired expert from Kazgidromet will prepare and present an analytical report on the state of the quality of water in the Chu and Talas river basin at the Intergovernmental Chu-Talas Water Commission meeting. A similar testing will be conducted by Kyrgyzstan’s hydrometeorology agency with the support of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek.

The Chu-Talas Water Commission promotes bilateral co-operation between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on allocating the water resources of the Chu and Talas rivers, and in maintaining the efficient use of water management facilities of intergovernmental status.

The project is part of the Office’s multi-year efforts to build the capacity of state institutions in the area of water governance and to contribute to the improved transparency and information exchange in transboundary water dialogue.

Categories: Central Europe

Spot Report 12/2021: Members of the armed formations again denied the SMM passage at the checkpoint near Olenivka, Donetsk region

OSCE - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 19:27
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

On the morning of 26 April, an SMM patrol travelling from non-government-controlled Donetsk city, consisting of two vehicles, one trailer and five mission members, arrived at the checkpoint of the armed formations near Olenivka (non-government-controlled, 23km south-west of Donetsk) to conduct an exchange of trailers with a second SMM patrol arriving from government-controlled areas.

At 10:35, while at the checkpoint, a member of the armed formations approached the first patrol and asked the SMM to open the doors and trunks of the SMM vehicles for a visual inspection. The patrol refused the request and remained stationary at the checkpoint.

At 11:05, members of the armed formations requested that each mission member fill out a “declaration of goods” indicating everything in the SMM vehicles and the trailer. The patrol refused to do so.

At 12:50, members of the armed formations handed over a document to the patrol stating that the Mission cannot cross the checkpoint.

At 13:30, the patrol left the checkpoint and returned to Donetsk city.

Since 1 March, the Mission has faced similar denials in Donetsk region six times: three times at the same checkpoint of the armed formations near Olenivka, on 1 March, 15 March, and 17 April; and three times at the checkpoint near Oleksandrivka (non-government-controlled, 20km south-west of Donetsk), on 31 March, 2 April and 8 April (see SMM Spot Reports 1/20213/20214/20215/2021, 7/2021, and 9/2021).

On all occasions, the SMM undertook efforts to facilitate the patrol’s crossing that would enable the exchange of trailers, but the vehicles were not allowed to pass.

The Mission again notes that such denials at checkpoints of the armed formations not only restrict the SMM’s freedom of movement across the contact line, but also prevent the SMM’s logistical operations, which are essential for the implementation of its tasks.

The OSCE Permanent Council Decision No. 1117 specifies that the SMM shall have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. Unrestricted and unconditional access to all areas is essential to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of the security situation, as well as other mandated tasks. The mandate also tasks the Mission to report on any restrictions of its freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate.

Categories: Central Europe

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