(Washington) - Members of the United States Helsinki Commission returned to Washington last week after successfully promoting measures to improve the conditions of human rights, security and economic development throughout Europe. The Helsinki Commission Members were among a congressional delegation attending the tenth annual Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held at the French National Assembly in Paris.
Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) sponsored a resolution calling for lawmakers abroad to enact specific legislation designed to combat international crime and corruption. The resolution also urged the OSCE Ministerial Council, expected to meet in the Romanian capital of Bucharest this November, to consider practical means of promoting cooperation among the participating States in combating corruption and international crime.
Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) sponsored the two resolutions at the Parliamentary Assembly. Smith’s anti-torture resolution called on participating States to exclude in courts of law or legal proceedings evidence obtained through the use of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Smith also worked with the French delegation to promote a measure against human trafficking in the OSCE region.
The Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) which called on all OSCE states to ensure freedom of speech and freedom of the press in their societies. Hoyer said an open, vibrant and pluralistic media is the cornerstone of democracy. He noted that free press is under attack in some OSCE countries.
Commission Member Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) sponsored a resolution promoting greater stability in Southeast Europe. Senator Voinovich’s resolution pushed for a political solution to the violence and instability which has engrossed southeastern Europe.
Commission Member Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) successfully sought measures toward protecting religious liberties and recognizing the importance of property restitution. Mrs. Slaughter’s amendment noted that OSCE participating States have committed to respecting fundamental religious freedoms. Another amendment recognized that attempts to secure compensation and restitution for losses perpetrated by the Nazis can only deliver a measure of justice to victims and their heirs.
Commission Member Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) sponsored a resolution on the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation which denounced the excessive force used by Russian military personnel against civilians in Chechnya. The resolution condemns all forms of terrorism committed by the Russian military and Chechen fighters. One of Cardin’s amendments addressed the restitution of property seized by the Nazis and Communists during and after World War II.
The newest Member of the Helsinki Commission, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), was elected to a three-year term as one of nine Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly. Mr. Hastings most recently served as Chairman of the Assembly’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security.
Helsinki Commission Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) played an active role in debate over the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Commission Members Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) and Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) were also a part of the United States delegation to the OSCE PA.
During the Parliamentary Assembly, members of the U.S. delegation held a series of meetings, including bilateral sessions with representatives from the Russian Federation, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Kazakhstan. The delegation also met with the president of the French National Assembly.
The central theme of the tenth annual OSCE PA was “European Security and Conflict Prevention: Challenges to the OSCE in the 21st Century.” Nearly 300 parliamentarians from 52 nations participated in the session. The Paris declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is available on the Internet at http://www.osce.org/pa.
En route to the Parliamentary Assembly, the U.S. delegation stopped in Normandy, France to pay their respect to Americans killed in D-Day operations. Maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the cemetery at Normandy’s Omaha Beach is the final resting place for 9,386 American service men and women and honors the memory of the 1,557 missing.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce. Additional information about the Commission is available on the Internet at http://www.csce.gov.