On Wednesday 21 June Emanuelis Zingeris (Lithuania, EPP/CD) was appointed as General Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Whistleblowers by the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“Human rights defenders and whistleblowers are key to the protection of fundamental values in Europe today. Lawyers, journalists, and activists who stand up for the rights of others are protecting the rights of us all. Sadly, there are many cases where they face repression as a result of their bravery. This includes prosecution, imprisonment, and even threats to physical safety,” Mr Zingeris said.
“We can see this happening sometimes in a number of different Europe states, even democratic ones. However, special mention at this time must go to the actions of totalitarian regimes such as those of the Russian Federation and Belarus. Their repression of human rights defenders has been ongoing for many years, including prosecutions of lawyers and journalists, as well as the silencing of activists standing up for minorities. For example, since 2014 leaders of the Tatars in illegally occupied Crimea have been subjected massively to enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill-treatment in custody.”
“The full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has been accompanied by a new level of repression. It cannot be a coincidence that the most important human rights organisations in Russia, Memorial International and Memorial Human Rights Centre, were liquidated by the Russian government at the start of 2022. Since the intensification of the conflict, many human rights defenders have been forced to flee Russia – and even then, they can face the threat of transnational repression. Those that remain in Russia live in constant fear.”
“During my mandate as General Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Whistleblowers, I will shine a spotlight on the repression they face in Russia, Belarus and across Europe. Human rights defenders and whistleblowers are taking risks for the values that we hold most dear – and they deserve our support.”