Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Oslo this morning for an official state visit and is booked into the same hotel as a gathering of more than one hundred human rights leaders from across the world.
The Oslo Freedom Forum began today at Oslo’s Grand Hotel. At a press conference this morning, Forum president Thor Halvorssen invited President Medvedev to dialogue with conference participants: “Surely the Russian president has a packed schedule but given the odd coincidence that we are in the same city, both hosted by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, in the same hotel, and given his comments on ‘freedom being better than non-freedom’ we hope he will meet us in the lobby for a few minutes to discuss the troubling human rights record of Russia and that of his predecessor Vladimir Putin.”
Participants at the gathering include Russian democracy activist and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, Soviet-era dissident and Putin critic Vladimir Bukovsky, as well as Chechen lawyer Lidia Yusupova, hailed as the bravest woman in Europe. Other leaders at the conference include former Estonian prime minister Mart Laar, former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, Nobel laureate and former Polish President Lech Walesa, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, North Korean author and dissenter Kang Chol-hwan, Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“We hope that President Medvedev recognizes the importance of dialogue with human rights defenders and that he will take the opportunity to meet with and discuss the concerns of these remarkable individuals who care about freedom in Russia,” said Halvorssen.
The 2009 Oslo Freedom Forum was a conference created to put human rights on center stage. The New York-based Human Rights Foundation is producing the Oslo Freedom Forum. The conference is funded by the Norwegian government’s Foreign Ministry, the City of Oslo, Color Line, Fritt Ord, the Thiel Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Civita, Amnesty International Norway, Human Rights House Foundation Oslo, KIC Sweden, the Pan American Development Foundation, and Fredskorpset are also sponsoring the three-day event.