Human rights activists disappointed

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Human rights activists from around the world have gathered in Oslo this week for a conference that’s partially financed by Norway’s Foreign Ministry. No high-ranking ministry officials turned up for the opening, however, and that disappointed participants and organizers.

Medvedev's visit to Norway continues

The Oslo Freedom Forum conference, organized by Human Rights Foundation and conservative think tank Civita, collided with the state visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a long series of meetings (photo) and a large Russian-Norwegian business conference. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and many on his staff were busy all day and well into the night as hosts for the gala affair, which resulted in an historic border agreement between Russia and Norway on Tuesday.

Freedom Forum staffers and participants still weren’t happy. Among them were such well-known names as Nobel Peace Prize candidate Rebiya Kadeer, who has fought for human rights in China for years, and Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader who has been imprisoned in his homeland.

“Norway does a lot to promote human rights,” Rebiya Kadeer told newspaper Aftenposten, but added that it “would have been nice” if some Norwegian government officials had been present at the conference.

Anwar Ibrahim, who claimed human rights issues are being overshadowed by economic issues, told Aftenposten he gets a lot of support from organizations and media but not from leading international politicians. He also wished there’d been more official Norwegian presence at the conference, “but it may be some of the guests present sensitive political situations.”

Bjørn Svenungsen of the Foreign Ministry confirmed the ministry “had no role” in the conference, but said State Secretary Gry Larsen hoped to make an appearance.. She just returned from a trip to Burma, where Norway continues to urge the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Conference organizers and Amnesty International earlier had called on Norway’s Foreign Ministry to take a harder line with Russia on human rights issues. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Støre said human rights came up in discussions, and Medvedev was confronted with human rights demonstrations outside his hotel Tuesday morning.

He later told reporters, though, that Russia is aware human rights are being violated and prefers to deal with the problem itself. “We have the resources in Russia to handle this, without interference from other countries,” Medvedev said. “We are, of course, also open to that others can work with the same themes and problems.”

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