A 13-member bipartisan U.S. delegation participated in the Thirteenth Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, hosted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 5-9. At the closing plenary, the Assembly approved the Edinburgh Declaration.
The United States delegation led by Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), included Ranking Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Commissioners Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA). Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo (R-CO) and Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) were also among the delegation.
While in Edinburgh, the delegation participated fully in the work of the Standing Committee and opening plenary as well as in the Assembly’s three committees. The delegation=s active participation demonstrated the continued commitment of the U.S. Congress to U.S.-European relations, mutual interests and common threats.
Hastings and Cardin Elected to Assembly Leadership Posts
Commissioner Hastings won handily a one-year term as OSCE PA President, prevailing over candidates from France and Finland in a first-round victory. In addition to Mr. Hastings’ election as OSCE PA President, three of the Assembly’s nine Vice Presidents were elected: Panos Kammenos (Greece), Giovanni Kessler (Italy) and Nebahat Albayrak (Netherlands). Commissioner Cardin was re-elected to serve as Chair of the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment.
This year’s Assembly brought together nearly 300 parliamentarians from 52 OSCE participating States, as well as representatives from four Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation and one Partner for Cooperation. Representatives from the Council of Europe, Inter-parliamentary Union, European Parliament, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Assembly of the Western European Union, Council of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the CIS and the Nordic Council also were present. Five countries, including Germany, Georgia, the Russian Federation, and Serbia and Montenegro, were represented at the level of Speaker of Parliament or President of the Senate.
Prior to the Inaugural Plenary Session, the Standing Committee gathered to hear reports on various upcoming Assembly activities as well as reports by the Treasurer and the Secretary General. The OSCE PA Treasurer, Senator Jerry Grafstein (Canada), reported that the Assembly was operating well within its overall budget guidelines. He also reported that KPMG, the Assembly’s external auditors, had delivered a very positive assessment of the organization’s financial management, expressing complete approval of their financial procedures as applied by the International Secretariat. Additionally, he reported that the OSCE PA’s commitment to a full year of reserves was nearing realization. The Standing Committee unanimously approved the Treasurer’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2003/2004. OSCE PA Secretary General R. Spencer Oliver reported on the International Secretariat’s activities.
Chairman Smith addressed the Standing Committee as the Assembly’s Special Representative on Human Trafficking and reported on his efforts to promote laws and parliamentary oversight in the OSCE region aimed at combating human trafficking. A report was heard from the election monitoring mission to Georgia. Martha Morrison, Director, Office for Inter-Parliamentary Activities for U.S. House of Representatives, reported on preparations and planning for the OSCE PA Washington Annual Session to be held July 1-5, 2005.
The inaugural ceremony included welcoming addresses by The Right Honorable Peter Hain, MP, Leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for Wales and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. The President of the Assembly, Bruce George of the United Kingdom, presided. The theme for the Edinburgh Assembly was ACo-operation and Partnership: Coping with New Security Threats.”
Members of the U.S. Delegation were active in the work of the Assembly’s three committees and were successful in securing adoption of several supplementary items and amendments. The Edinburgh Declaration reflects considerable input based on U.S. initiatives. Leadership from the delegation resulted in adoption of ambitious language concerning the responsibility of OSCE States to combat trafficking in human beings, to fulfill their commitments regarding the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and to enhance transparency and cooperation between the OSCE and the OSCE PA.
In the wake of revelations of abuse in Abu Ghraib, Chairman Smith won unanimous approval of a measure condemning governments’ use of torture and related abuses. “The supplementary item we propose is designed to make it absolutely clear that the U.S. delegation – and this Assembly – rejects and totally condemns any and all acts of torture, abuse, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners,” Smith said at the meeting. “The revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib have shocked and dismayed the American people and people around the world,” he continued. “The acts committed are deplorable and appalling and violate both U.S. law and international law.”
Democratic Whip Rep. Hoyer, who previously served as Helsinki Commission Chairman, also spoke on behalf of the resolution, noting that the entire U.S. Congress had denounced the acts at Abu Ghraib.
The measure introduced by Smith reiterates the international standard that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as a justification for torture.” (The texts of all OSCE commitments related to torture are available at http://www.csce.gov/pdf.cfm?file=OSCE%20Materials.pdf&pdf_id=243)
The resolution also calls for cooperation with, and implementation of recommendations of the International Committee of the Red Cross and protection from reprisals for those who report instances of torture or abuse, and support for medical personnel and torture treatment centers in the identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of victims of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Last year, Chairman Smith spearheaded passage of the Torture Victim Relief Reauthorization Act, which authorized $20 million for 2004 and $25 million for 2005 for domestic treatment centers for the victims of torture; $11 million for 2004 and $12 million for 2005 for foreign treatment centers; and $6 million for 2004 and $7 million for 2005 for the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture.
Work of the Committees
The General Committee on Political Affairs and Security considered supplementary items on “Measures to Promote Commitments by Non-State Actors to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines”, “ Moldova”, “Ukraine”, and “Peace in the Middle East: The Protection of the Holy Basin of Jerusalem”. The Committee re-elected Chair Göran Lennmarker (Sweden) and elected Vice-Chair Jean-Charles Gardetto (Monaco) and Rapporteur Pieter de Crem (Belgium).
The General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment took up supplementary items on “Kosovo”, and “Economic Cooperation in the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension”. The Committee re-elected Chair Benjamin Cardin (U.S.A.) and Rapporteur Leonid Ivanchenko (Russian Federation) and elected Vice-Chair Maria Santos (Portugal).
The General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions considered supplementary items on “Combating Trafficking in Human Beings”, “Torture”, “Fulfilling OSCE Commitments Regarding the Fight Against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia”, “A Situation of National Minorities in Latvia and Estonia”, “Belarus”, and “Serious Violation of Human Rights in Libya”. The Committee elected Chair Claudia Nolte (Germany), Vice-Chair Cecilia Wigstrom (Sweden) and Rapporteur Anne-Marie Lizin (Belgium).
As the President’s Special Representative on Human Trafficking, Chairman Smith met with interested parliamentarians and staff from seven countries to discuss legislative and other initiatives to address the problem of human trafficking in the OSCE region. Particular areas of discussion included the involvement of peacekeepers in facilitating human trafficking and the continuing need for protection and assistance for victims in countries of destination.
While in Edinburgh, members of the U.S. Delegation held bilateral talks with parliamentarians from the Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, the Russian Federation, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro, and Germany. Chairman Smith was briefed by the Director of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ambassador Christian Strohal, on efforts to collect data on anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE region as follow up to the Maastricht OSCE Ministerial and the Berlin Conference on anti-Semitism. Strohal also provided information on ODIHR planning for observation of the November U.S. elections.
Specific side meetings were held during the course of the Annual Session on relations between the OSCE and a number of Mediterranean countries with a meeting on “Promoting Cooperation with the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation”, and presentations by Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Chairman of the OSCE Contact Group with the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, and OSCE PA Treasurer Jerry Grafstein of Canada, sponsor of the supplementary item on the region.
The OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues, Tone Tingsgard (Sweden), hosted an informal working breakfast to discuss gender issues. The breakfast was attended by several members of the U.S. Delegation. The Special Representative presented her plan for future actions addressing gender issues within the OSCE PA. Primary topics of discussion were the need for members of the Parliamentary Assembly who are interested in gender issues to engage more actively in the Assembly’s debates and to stand for election to positions within the Assembly.
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.