OSCE CiO Warsaw Human Dimension Conference Warsaw, 26 September – 7 October 2022

EU statement – Plenary session 2 Fundamental Freedoms I

1. The European Union attaches high priority to the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as well as to the freedom of movement. The EU recognizes the important role of Human Rights defenders in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and supports them worldwide.
2. These rights and freedoms are being particularly curtailed by the Russian Federation, however. During its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, Russia distorts the freedom of movement, including through so-called “filtration camps” where Ukrainian families are separated, and those who are deemed “unreliable” disappear.
3. We are also witnessing an unprecedented crackdown on Russian civil society, intended to silence domestic opposition. Over 16,000 arrests of protesters –documented by observers from civil society since 24 February – underscore how rigorously Russia restricts the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression. The recent report of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism confirms this assessment.
4. The EU continues to condemn the Russian policy curtailing activities of independent civil society, especially the use of laws on so-called “foreign agents” and “extremist organisations”, such as in the case of the closing and liquidation of Memorial International and the Memorial Human Rights Center. These laws run counter to Russia’s international human rights law obligations. The "Extremism Law" also severely affects the exercise of the freedom of religion or belief, for instance, in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses. Other religious communities also suffer: Clergymen of various denominations have been pressured by the Russian state or prosecuted for statements because of their stance on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. For instance, the Archbishop of the Russian Evangelical Lutheran Church left Russia, so did the Chief Rabbi of Moscow. They both stated that the Russian state put pressure on religious leaders to support the war in public statements.
5. The EU strongly condemns the continued, flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms both within Belarus, as well as through the Lukashenka’s regime support for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Extremism charges are a common tool used by the regime to curb any civil society activism. The most recent court verdicts against a number of human rights defenders, including Maria Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk, is a further grave testimony to the increasing repression of civil society in Belarus. Close to one thousand of CSOs and opposition parties have been liquidated or forced to close since 2020, according to civil society sources. Authorities stop nowhere short of raids on private houses and offices of human rights, educational and political groups and organisations, charities and think-tanks. Political prisoners now number over 1.300. We strongly condemn this escalation of violations of human rights law, including the reprisals against civil society and human rights defenders.
6. The EU will continue to oppose unjustified restrictions to freedom of religion or belief, of movement, of peaceful assembly and association, including confinement of civil society's space and attempts to hinder the work of civil society. The EU remains committed to exchange, cooperate and support within the framework of the OSCE and beyond.

The Candidate Countries REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENEGRO*, ALBANIA*, and UKRAINE, the EFTA countries ICELAND and LIECHTENSTEIN, members of the European Economic Area, as well as ANDORRA and SAN MARINO align themselves with this statement.
* Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.