Human Rights Week 2018 at HSE
Higher School of Economics and Public Policy Department concluded its annual Human Rights Week on December 15th. The week-long event was filled with activities, discussions, film screenings, talks and debates, dealing with burning human rights issues in and across the world today: ranging from refugee rights to lives in conflict zones. Over the week of events, we had 20 expert speakers both from within Russia and abroad, including international human rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko and leading human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina.
The opening of the week was held with a film screening of ‘Harud' (Autumn), a film documenting the psychological journey of youth in Indian- administered Kashmir, which has seen over three decades of violent conflict. Followed with a discussion with the director of the film, Aamir Bashir, the attendees mused on the geopolitical realities of this region which is situated between three nuclear powers.
Amongst the week of talks and discussions, students from the Political Analysis and Public Policy's MA, lead by Elina Filatova and Rita Ter-Oganezova, performed their much-anticipated re-imagination of the well-known fairytale of "Cinderella". This performance of Cinderella was retold through the eyes of today's reality, focusing on how many Human Rights would be violated throughout the play. In addition to that day's performance, a Write for Rights marathon was organized by Amnesty International which highlighted the concepts of solidarity and international civil society movements. During the Write for Rights marathon, we were given the challenge of writing to the embassies of various countries where female human rights defenders have been targeted or harassed because of their work and activism.
The event on "Unpacking Economic, Social and Cultural rights' was a brilliant evening of talks from leading female activist and human rights lawyers. In attendance, we had talks from Dr. Maria Sole Continiello Neri, a lawyer specializing in human rights and humanitarian law, Marina Pisklakova founder of the ANNA Center of Prevention of Violence who spoke about the realities of the female experience in Russia, activist Ariella Katz and renowned international lawyer Karinna Moskalenko. For event organizer, Mehk Chakraborty, one of the standout talks given on that day was by Ariella Katz founder of ‘Freedom Words'. Freedom words is an organization that works with prisoners to introduce creative writing and poetry to help aid their rehabilitation. Ariella moved her audience when she shared some of the prisoner's poetry that she has helped to cultivate. That day of events was concluded by a talk from Karinna Moskalenko, an internationally leading human rights lawyer and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, who has defended, among others, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, and Alexander Litvinenko. Also most notably was the first lawyer to have won a case against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights.
On the last day of academic activities, for the table on "Civic and Political Rights", we had Ramila Gubaydullina and Axinia Novikova talk about the importance and challenges of being a public observer, within the International Observers Network. In response to this talk, Joseph Cripps, one of the event organizers said he was "surprised to find that the methods and tactics of international observation used within Russia are reflected across the world by other observation groups. It's interesting to see how observation is such a passive method of human rights defense but can have such an impact on speaking truth to power". We were also fortunate enough to have a presentation by legal director of Human Rights Center "Memorial" and a specialist in taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights. He explained the daily work he conducts by bringing in cases to the ECtHR and how overall the Court functions. That evening concluded with the illuminating lecture given by leading Russian human rights activist, winner of the "Right Livelihood Award" and founder of the Citizens Assistance NGO, Svetlana Gannushkina. Gannushkina informed the audience about the laws and practices regarding refugees and asylum seekers and the realities of their lives here in Russia. Svetlana Ganushkina has made an impressive mark on the history of human rights protection in Russia and the event was widely attended by students, university staff and members of the public.
We ended the week contemplating the words of Ludmila Alekseeva, the "godmother" of Human Rights in Russia, who unfortunately passed away in the very first day of this week. She once famously said: that the defense and promotion of Human Rights is our mission in this world if we want to save it. On reflection of the week, event organiser Inês Raquel said ‘it is now our mission to keep fighting and promoting Human Rights, so maybe in the next seventy years the future generations might finally have learned that true Peace cannot be reached through a matter of force, violence, and guns, but through dialogue and teamwork alongside an open mind.'
Lastly, the organizers wish to extend their gratitude to HSE for hosting a brilliant week of events and also to all participants and attendees of the week.
Contributors: Joseph Cripps, Dragalina Vranceanu, Mehk Chakraborty, Inês Raquel, Harshad Pujari . First-year students of Political Analysis and Public Policy