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DUBLIN: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday issued a sharp warning to European and central Asian nations that some countries were backsliding on democratic values and human rights.
“I see a growing concern for the future of this organization and the values it has always championed,” Clinton told the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the work of creating a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace remains unfinished.”
Before addressing the OSCE ministerial meeting in Dublin, Clinton met with 11 civil society activists from seven countries to hear their concerns about repression in their nations.
“My country Turkmenistan is world famous for two things: one of the largest gas supplies and gross human rights violations,” said Andrey Aranbaev, an environmentalist and human rights defender, speaking through an interpreter.
“Almost all international actors are talking about Turkmenistan’s gas. But almost no one is talking about the gross human rights violations.” Olga Zakharova, of Freedom Files, a Russian non-governmental rights organisation, said she has worked for 20 years as a journalist and has seen her country “go from bad to worse.”
“Even social media space is now shrinking,” she said, citing in particular new restrictive laws on the use of the Internet.
Clinton told the activists she agreed “the space for civil society and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is shrinking, and governments are becoming much more aggressive in trying to stifle dissent.” She warned that many countries were trying to cut off US aid to rights groups, condemning Moscow’s decision earlier this year to kick out the main US assistance organisation, USAID.