The 8th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum happening these days in Sofia, Bulgaria has been marked by two concrete actions already – a call for support for the Bulgarian civil society and a demand to release Oyub Titiev, the imprisoned Head of “Memorial” in Grozny.
‘Our colleague has been arrested without any plausible proof of his guilt. It is literally the question of life and death,’ says Elena Zhemkova, Executive Director at Memorial International (Russia). ‘We have three minimal demands. Firstly, a full and objective investigation into Oyub Titiev’s complaint about a crime on the part of police officers is needed, who allegedly put drugs into his car themselves. Secondly, the investigation into the case should be transferred from the regional to the federal level, as there is no hope for a just investigation on the spot, in today’s Chechnya. Thirdly, we call for an ultimate release of Oyub – there are no legal grounds for his detention in custody.’
The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum joined an international #SaveOyub/#SaveMemorial campaign. Many participants of the meeting were wearing T-shirts or holding a picture of Oyub behind the bars with both action hashtags.
Another remarkable panel discussion of the GA open day (16 May) was devoted to the first ten years of Bulgaria in the European Union – with Toma Belev of the “For the Nature” Coalition, Jordan Karabinov of the Anticorruption Fund, Mariana Katzarova of the Society for Justice Foundation / RAW in WAR and Irina Nedeva, Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria. An address in support for the Bulgarian civil society has been circulated among the attendants of the event.
The highlight of the day was an inspiring keynote speech by Marcelina Zawisza from Poland, civic activist, Co-Founder of the “Razem“ Party, Co-Organiser of the “Black Protest”.
‘“Black Protest“ is not only about gender or women’s rights, it is about the human rights and democracy as such,’ told she. ‘We were pleased to see that people in Poland were ready to fight for their rights and succeeded in getting the Draconic bill on virtually the ban of abortion to have been rejected. What makes us even happier is that the citizens’ activities are not limited to the “Black Protest“ only. They also continue to defend constitutional law in the country, basics of the judicial system, and much more.’
‘It is true that civil society is under pressure in Russia as well as in parts of the EU – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland…’ concludes Ralph du Long, Board Co-Chair at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. ‘A good thing is that so many young people are ready to counter these challenging trends. We at the Forum see support to civil society initiatives with our expertise and knowledge as one of our priorities.’
The GA in Sofia will continue with internal sessions until tomorrow afternoon. The next public event is scheduled for today, 17 May 2018. At 8pm, the presentation of the brandnew Report on the State of Civil Society featuring Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Russia will be presented at +tova. The link to the Facebook event.