Prisoners of Conscience
Every year hundreds of people in Europe are jailed for no other reason than being critical of those in power and/or exposing government wrongdoing. In countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia, human rights advocates, opposition leaders, journalists, have been targets of persecution.
To commemorate the Human Rights Day on 10th December- the day in 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - we decided to shed light on the plight of political prisoners in East and Southeast Europe by profiling six current and former political prisoners: Ahmet Altan, Turkey; Nazli Ilicak, Turkey; Afgan Mukhtarli, Azerbaijan; Gozel Bayramli, Azerbaijan; Anastasia Shevchenko, Russia; Roman Sushchenko, Ukraine.
It is a worrisome trend that four out of six political prisoners profiled in this series are journalists, who have been found guilty of nothing more than doing their job.
During the course of our research, some of the above prisoners have been freed, extraordinary given the limited recognition of human rights.
“A person deprived of his or her personal liberty is to be regarded as a ‘political prisoner’:
a. if the detention has been imposed in violation of one of the fundamental guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols (ECHR), in particular freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly and association;
b. if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons without connection to any offence;
c. if, for political motives, the length of the detention or its conditions are clearly out of proportion to the offence the person has been found guilty of or is suspected of;
d. if, for political motives, he or she is detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons; or,
e. if the detention is the result of proceedings which were clearly unfair and this appears to be connected with political motives of the authorities.” (SG/Inf(2001)34, paragraph 10).