Congressional Record Statements
|PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 106th CONGRESS, 2nd SESSION
||Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2000
25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HELSINKI FINAL ACT
Thursday, July 27, 2000
25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HELSINKI FINAL ACT
Mr. Speaker, next Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final
Act, which organized what has become known as the Helsinki or OSCE process, a critical venue in which the United
States has sought to advance human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With its language on human rights, the
Helsinki Final Act granted human rights of a fundamental principle in regulating international relations. The Final Act's
emphasis on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is rooted in the recognition that the declaration of such
rights affirms the inherent dignity of men and women and are not privileges bestowed at the whim of the state. The
commitments are worth reading again. Among the many pages, allow me to quote from several of the documents:
In the Helsinki Final Act, the participating States commit to `respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including
the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.'
In the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the participating states declared, `Human rights and fundamental
freedoms are the birthright of all human beings, are inalienable and are guaranteed by law. Their protection and
promotion is the first responsibility of government.'
In the 1991 Document of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, the
participating States `categorically and irrevocably declare[d] that the commitments undertaken in the field of the human
dimension of the CSCE are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong
exclusively to the internal affairs of the States concerned.'
In the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the participating States committed themselves `to build, consolidate and
strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations.'
The 1999 Istanbul Charter for European Security and Istanbul Summit Declaration notes the particular challenges of
ending violence against women and children as well as sexual exploitation and all forms of trafficking in human beings,
strengthening efforts to combat corruption, eradicating torture, reinforcing efforts to end discrimination against Roma and
Sinti, and promoting democracy and respect for human rights in Serbia.
Equally important, the standards of Helsinki, which served as a valuable lever in pressing human rights issues also
provided encouragement and sustenance to courageous individuals who dared to challenge repressive communist
regimes. Many of these brave men and women--members of the Helsinki Monitoring and affiliated Groups in Russia,
Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia, Armenia, and similar groups in Poland and Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, Soviet Jewish
emigration activists, members of repressed Christian denominations and others--paid a high price in the loss of personal
freedom and, in some instances, their lives, for their active support of principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act.
Pressure by governments through the Helsinki process at various Helsinki fora, thoroughly reviewing compliance with
Helsinki commitments and raising issues with Helsinki signatory governments which violated their freely undertaken
human rights commitments, helped make it possible for the people of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union to regain their freedom and independence.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the OSCE region has changed dramatically. In many of the
States, we have witnesses widespread and significant transformations and a consolidation of the core OSCE values of
democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Unfortunately, in others, there has been little if any progress, and in some,
armed conflicts have resulted in hundreds of thousands having been killed and in the grotesque violation of human rights.
Mr. Speaker, this milestone anniversary presents the President an appropriate opportunity to issue a proclamation in
recognition of the obligations we and the other OSCE States have committed to uphold. It is important to keep in mind
that all of the agreements of the Helsinki process have been adopted by consensus and consequently, each participating
State is equally bound by each document. In addition to committing ourselves of the faithful implementation of the OSCE
principles, the President should encourage other OSCE signatories as all of us have recognized that respect for human
rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic principles, economic liberty, and the implementation of related
commitments continue to be vital elements in promoting a new era of democracy and genuine security and cooperation in
the OSCE region. Each participating State of the OSCE bears primary responsibility for raising violations of the Helsinki
Final Act and the other OSCE documents.
In the twenty-five years since this historic process was initiated in Helsinki, there have been many successes, but the task
is far from complete. Mr. Speaker, we can look at OSCE's past with pride and its future with hope, keeping in mind
President Ford's concluding comments at the signing of the Helsinki Final Act: `History will judge this conference not by
what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow--not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.'
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
of New Jersey
Citizenship and Political Rights
Equality of Opportunity for Men and Women
Freedom of Association
Freedom of Movement
Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of the Media
Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion or Belief
Rule of Law/Independence of Judiciary