Plenary speech on North Caucasus, in particular the case of Oleg Orlov

Marietje Schaake − Mr President, today President Buzek announced the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize. This prize embodies freedom of thought, an essential European freedom and right we stand for on behalf of our citizens and across the world. In response to the Nobel Peace Prize award, President Buzek called firmly on China to release Liu Xiao Bo and said: ‘Freedom is not a threat, but the threats to freedom can be many’. This also goes for the people who defend human rights in the Northern Caucasus. Last year’s Sakharov Prize awardees Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, of Memorial, have not been able to pick up their award personally as their freedom is threatened. The EU invests tremendously in EU-Russia relations, and we are joined through the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Russia has thus committed itself to protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law, but what a long way we are from that situation. Intimidation of journalists and civil society activists prevails, disappearances of human rights defenders happen systematically and there is no freedom of expression, including on the Internet. The absence of the rule of law has led to 20 000 cases pending at the European Court of Human Rights from the Russian Federation. Russia has the right to fight terrorism in the Northern Caucasus, but if the rule of law is not upheld this has a counter-productive effect on stability. There really is no excuse for Russia not to comply with its own commitment to human rights. We look forward and will see to it that the representatives of Memorial have the freedom to come to this Parliament, thereby symbolising the freedoms and rights that all citizens in the Northern Caucasus enjoy.