First formulated in his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture of 1975, Andrei Sakharov promoted the principle of the indivisibility of human rights and international security, now universally recognized as the Sakharov Doctrine. He lived to witness the end of Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the beginning of what seemed like a new world order where human rights would be respected. These hopes were soon dashed, however, as much of the post-Soviet world reverted to authoritarian methods and suppression of fundamental human rights and progressively to suffocating and criminalizing dissent.
This negative dynamic on the European continent is cause for serious concern as it undermines international stability and security and threatens the peaceful development of humanity. The respect for, and observance of human rights in the post-Soviet space deserve the attention of the international community and constructive measures to protect these rights by the signatories of the Helsinki Accords. Across the entire post-Soviet space, the curtailment of fundamental freedoms, and the rapid shrinking of space for civil society is an alarming development that calls for international attention.
The Sakharov Hearings provide a direct and unbiased forum for first-hand testimonies of victims of human rights violations which are made available to the public, media, politicians, and international organizations without any restrictions or editing. As such, the event would serve as a platform for experts from different international human rights organizations and mechanisms. The resulting report will be an effective tool to raise public awareness and strengthen international efforts in effectively addressing human rights violations and support for the cause highlighted by the Hearings. The report would include recommendations for seeking accountability.
Our goal is to raise international attention to human rights abuses by providing a forum for first-hand witnesses to report on human rights abuses. We plan to deliver these testimonies to the international media, complete a report based on these testimonies with conclusions and recommendations by the panel, compliment data gathered by international human rights monitoring mechanisms, and mobilize political support.
In essence the format will follow the one used in the 1970s and 1980s, however with a number of important modifications. While the 1975-1985 Hearings were mainly used to draw the attention to human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, Central and Eastern Europe, the new series of Hearings will be much more a forum where experts will present their views on the current state of affairs in Europe and how the downward political spiral can be reversed, while using the principles of the Helsinki Accords as a benchmark. The starting point will be the 2020 Sixth International Sakharov Hearings in Vilnius, while the Eighth International Sakharov Hearings is planned to take place in Helsinki, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Helsinki Accords. A Seventh International Sakharov Hearings is to take place in 2023.
During a period of two days, expert witnesses will be called to testify to a panel of eminent statesmen, international experts and lawyers, who will draw up a concluding report based on the testimonies received. The panel will consist of a balanced group of experts (e.g. by profession, gender, religion, ethnicity, region), which will give added weight to their conclusions and recommendations. The panel is global in composition, thereby providing the possibility to take a view from a distance without involving those who are too directly affected by the current situation.
Reviving the Helsinki Spirit
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Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development
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