Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe: U.S. Helsinki Commission
Ireland’s Leadership of the OSCE
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Republic of Ireland
The Hearing Was Held From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in B-318, Rayburn House
Office Building, Washington, D.C., Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ),
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Good morning. And we know that some
members of the commission are en route, so I don’t want to delay you, Mr.
Foreign Minister, so we will start but they will be here shortly.
I want to welcome everyone joining us this morning, especially Minister Gilmore
and foreign minister – the foreign minister of Ireland and chair-in-office for
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It is a privilege to have you testify before the Helsinki Commission today, Mr.
Minister, on Ireland’s leadership of the OSCE. You are continuing a tradition
that we have followed for more than a decade of hearing directly from the
country holding the chairmanship of the OSCE.
While today many countries in Europe are inwardly focused on economic crises –
and that goes for the U.S. as well – the world still cries out for global
leadership, and Ireland has stepped up to the plate, accepting the 2012
chairmanship of Europe’s largest regional security organization, the OSCE,
which does its best work in promoting human rights, democracy, the rule of law
and free elections.
Ireland has, for a long time, been one of the most constructive countries
within the OSCE, enhancing the credibility of the organization it now leads.
Mr. Minister, I thank you and your government for taking on the responsibility
– and it’s a huge responsibility – to lead the OSCE.
Mr. Minister, the Helsinki Commission has a long history of engaging with the
OSCE, both through and in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, and
independently. And, as chairman, I am very happy with the priorities you have
set for the Irish chairmanship, particularly the emphasis on Internet freedom
and your plans to hold a meeting this year on that issue.
I’ve recently introduced and am preparing to mark up a bill in my subcommittee,
the Global Health, Global – Human Rights, Africa Subcommittee, known as the
Global Online Freedom Act, which counteracts the efforts of many governments,
including some in the OSCE, to purchase U.S. technology to transform the
Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance.
Earlier versions of this legislation were also introduced in the European
parliament, so I look forward to working with you on this issue, and I think we
now have the best draft ever, that really and very incisively goes after this
witting or unwitting cooperation with dictatorships in finding, apprehending
and putting into prison dissidents and people who are seeking democracy.
Your ideas for drawing on Ireland’s experience in Northern Ireland’s peace
process in reference to protracted conflicts elsewhere in the OSCE region also
connects a long-standing commission priority.
Since the mid-1990s we have held, either in this commission or in my
subcommittee – I chaired those hearings – 13 hearings on Northern Ireland and
the peace process, keeping a special focus on the police reform. And the
problem of policing, if it went unaddressed, would have probably unraveled the
entire peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
Perhaps the key issue the commission will be pursuing in the OSCE this year is
international parental child abduction. Last year the Parliamentary Assembly
passed a resolution urging the OSCE to take up the issue of international
parental child abduction, and urging a ministerial decision on that issue.
I believe the U.S. government agrees that this is an issue which could benefit
from a ministerial decision this year. That is, the benefit would go to the
children, who suffer greatly. “Parental alienation” is the term of art given
to us by the experts in psychology. It is a very real and a very significant
form of child abuse. And governments and national courts need to do more to
live up to their obligations under The Hague Convention.
Another important issue will continue to be the fight against anti-Semitism,
which, following a commission hearing in May of 2002, we worked to get the
issue of anti-Semitism as a front-burner issue, resulting in a series of
high-level ministerial conferences on anti-Semitism and a ministerial
declaration on combating anti-Semitism, the implementation of which has been
sadly lacking. Many countries have been very, very infirm in terms of their
response, even to the chronicling of this horrific millenniums-old abuse.
The work of battling anti-Semitism is now being led by the Personal
Representative Rabbi Andy Baker, and I can’t emphasize too strongly how
important it is to support his work, and I know you do, and the work of the
other personal representatives to do – and to do otherwise by any of us would
be a tragic step backwards.
I know Rabbi Baker personally. I’ve known him for many years. He was
instrumental in helping us craft the Berlin language. I remember when certain
impasses were being reached as to what the actual text ought to look like.
Now, he was, you know, brilliant in coming up with the language that really
made all the difference in bringing that consensus to bear on combating
anti-Semitism, which is only getting worse, as we all know.
I plan on chairing a hearing on UNRWA very shortly, and the textbook issue.
I’ve done it before. We’ll be doing it again, which, sadly, in the Palestinian
refugee camps where the textbooks are rife with anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli and
anti-American rhetoric. And even when Fatah was in charge of the PLO, they too
allowed Hamas – or Hamas had control of education, and he trained kids to hate.
Remember that famous song in “South Pacific”? You must be taught about hatred
being passed on generation to generation. I’ve read the textbooks, of course
the English translations, and they are true and authentic. We even had a
witness right here, standing where Minister – Mr. Glynn is standing, who
brought textbooks with him and read from them, and they were rife with
And if you tell 12-year-olds and 8-year-olds and hold press – pep rallies about
how blowing oneself up is in the interest of the Palestinians and the interest
of Islam, you will get radical child soldiers, as we’ve seen with Joseph Kony’s
group in Uganda and elsewhere, the Lord’s Resistance Army. They get
So we will be focusing on that further in our commission with a hearing that –
Mark (sp), do we have a date for that?
MR.: We have early March.
REP. SMITH: Early March for that hearing. So it’s something I think we all
need to be looking at.
Anti-Semitism is an aspect of larger problems of religious freedom in the OSCE
region today. A recent example of intolerance took place in Macedonia. I met
with a number of parliamentarians from Macedonia just last week, where a local
Muslim set fire to a local church, reportedly in response to the mocking of
their own faith by other locals.
We’re all against the mocking of anyone’s faith, but setting fire to a church,
that is outrageous. It takes the evil to a whole new level, and I note with
sadness how few political leaders outside of Macedonia responded by condemning
this violence against a Christian church.
I’m particularly concerned about the Coptic minority in Egypt. As the largest
and one of the oldest minorities, they’re suffering portends suffering
throughout the region. And make no mistake about it, they are suffering.
Coptic women and girls, some as young as adolescents, are being systematically
lured from their families or kidnapped off the street corners and forced to
change their religion and forced to marry outside of their community.
They frequently suffer physical and psychological abuse, including rape,
beatings, forced isolation, and lack of personal freedom, both before and after
their so-called marriage/conversion. The drugging of victims appears to be
Michele Clark, who is well-known in OSCE circles for the great work she did at
ODIHR, working on human trafficking – she is an internationally recognized
anti-trafficking expert and advocate on behalf of vulnerable women – estimates
that this happens to thousands – thousands of Coptic women and girls each year.
And we believe it is getting worse with the rise of Islamist groups,
particularly now after the elections in Egypt.
We know of no instance where the government has prosecuted anyone connected
with disappearances. And of course Egypt is part of our Mediterranean
partnership and hopefully a real focus will be placed there.
Impunitive tax on Copts was commonplace under Mubarak, and I and many
colleagues have raised that with Mubarak both in Cairo, on trips there, and
every year when he made his trip here, but now it’s becoming the hallmark of
the new regime. We had hoped for better. We still hope. And we have tied
Egypt’s 1.3 billion (dollars) in aid to its treatment of religious minorities.
There are a number of conditionality clauses in the most recently enacted
foreign ops bill. One of them is that there be no abrogation of the
Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Another is religious freedom and especially the
focus on religious minorities. We expect attacks to be prosecuted and
attackers to spend significant time in jail.
Mr. Minister, one of the reasons the United States so values the OSCE is that
its work touches on so many human rights issues. And I believe it’s why you
and the Irish government, which certainly values human rights just as highly as
the U.S. government – you are truly a beacon – will find your work this year
rewarding. And I look forward to your presentation.
I would like to note, in the audience – I’m very pleased to note that the
minister is joined here today by David Donoghue, political director of
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs; Brian Glynn, the deputy head of
Ireland’s OSCE task force.
And we are also joined by Ian Kelly, Ambassador Kelly, the head of the U.S.
mission to the OSCE. Ambassador Kelly, thank you for the good work you are
doing on behalf of the United States. And, as always, you are welcome and
considered a great friend of this commission.
Foreign Minister Gilmore, please proceed.
EAMON GILMORE: Chairman Smith, commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, first of
all – do I have it on? I think I do. Yeah, I’ve got it on. OK, thank you.
Thank you, Chairman, and thank you for your introduction and for your opening
I’m delighted to be here today as chairperson-in-office of the OSCE. The
Helsinki Commission has made a hugely important contribution to the work of the
OSCE throughout the years, and I wish to pay tribute to the dedication of the
commission and all of its staff who have participated in these efforts.
The United States is a crucial player within the OSCE, and I know I can rely on
its support during our chairmanship. It is of course always a pleasure for me
to visit Washington, given the special ties which link our two countries. And
I will particularly like to thank you, Chairman Smith, long-time friend of
Ireland, champion of human rights in Northern Ireland and around the globe, for
your kind invitation to me to join you today.
This is Ireland’s first time to chair the OSCE. We view the task as a unique
opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the promotion of European peace
In 1975, the Helsinki Final Act heralded a new vision in European Security,
pledging to end East-West divisions and to build a more secure Europe. I think
we can all agree that that vision has largely been realized. The cooperative
and inclusive nature of the OSCE is its best asset, and it continues to play a
significant role in conflict resolution and in the promotion of peace, security
and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
That being said, there is no room for complacency. The need for effective
multilateralism is as compelling today as it was all those decades ago,
particularly now as we faced the most challenging political and economic crisis
of recent times.
As we look towards the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015, we
have an opportunity to reflect on the contribution which the OSCE can make in
tackling these global challenges and in ensuring its continuing effectiveness.
Mr. Chairman, I want to turn to some of the priorities of the Irish
chairmanship. We will be ambitious in progressing work across all three
dimensions, and we will strive to achieve concrete results and to deliver
tangible benefits through a small and balanced package of decisions and
declarations for adoption at the Dublin Ministerial Council in December.
Ireland has always attached a particular importance to the human dimension, and
we will aim to make progress in this field. Of course, the Helsinki Commission
has made a hugely important contribution in this area.
The continuing threat to fundamental freedoms and human rights in a number of
OSCE participating states is a cause of real concern. You have mentioned some
of the issues of greatest concern. I can assure you that the Irish
chairmanship is committed to addressing specific instances where OSCE human
dimension commitments are not being met, working closely with the relevant OSCE
As you know, in Astana, participating states reaffirmed categorically the human
dimension commitments are of direct and legitimate concern to all participating
states and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of states.
Our key priority in this dimension will be Internet freedom. As in other parts
of the world, the threat to freedom of expression online is ever-present in the
OSCE region and regrettably appears to be growing.
Our intention is to highlight the simple fact that human rights and fundamental
freedoms do not change with new technologies but extend into the digital age.
We will work to ensure that existing OSCE commitments in relation to freedom of
expression and freedom of the media apply to all forms and means through which
they are exercised.
As part of these efforts, we intend to organize a human dimension meeting in
Dublin in June, with involvement of key stakeholders such as civil society and
ICT companies. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that many
governments, including my own, are still grappling with the implications of
rampant technological change. We can all benefit from an in-depth discussion
of this kind.
Human dimension meetings are also planned on a range of other topics. I
believe that there will be particular interest in our proposal to focus on
racism, discrimination and intolerance in sport, in view of the European soccer
championships in Poland and Ukraine this year, and the Olympic Games in London.
We are all too familiar with the manifestations of racism and other forms of
discrimination and intolerance against sportsmen and women. The risk that
younger sports fans may inherit prejudices or have them reinforced by their
role models is all too evident.
Nor is this problem restricted to the sports field. We should work harder to
address racism, intolerance and discrimination in coaching, management and
other areas in the sporting world. Happily, sport lends itself to bringing
forward good practices, and we aim to highlight some of these practices.
We don’t need to look very far for good examples. A very good one is the work
of Dan Rooney, the United States ambassador to Ireland, who, in introducing the
Rooney Rule in the NFL helped to achieve a large increase in the number of
As chairmanship, we will also continue to prioritize the OSCE’s efforts to
fight intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, a subject
which you addressed comprehensively in your opening remarks.
One of the first decisions I made in January was to appoint three personal
representatives to deal inter alia with intolerance and discrimination against
Jews, Muslims, Christians and members of other religions.
I am very pleased that Rabbi Andrew Baker of the United States agreed to
continue his excellent work in combating anti-Semitism alongside Senator
Akhmetov of Afghanistan – of Kazakhstan, and Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness,
a retired judge of the Irish Supreme Court.
I was also delighted to appoint a special representative on gender issues, Ms.
June Zeitlin. Ms. Zeitlin, who currently works at the Leadership Conference on
Civil and Human Rights here in Washington, D.C., has been a leader on women’s
issues for more than 30 years, with extensive public policy experience in the
United States and globally.
We look forward to her work in the year ahead to promote women’s rights and
gender equality in the OSCE region, working together with the Gender Section in
the OSCE Secretariat and the gender advisor in ODIHR.
Our other human dimension priorities include trafficking in human beings,
freedom of association and assembly, professional and ethical standards in
democratic life, and freedom of religion or belief. It is my hope that an
early agreement can be reached on the package of meetings so that detailed
planning for the individual events can begin as soon as possible.
Ireland is also committed to taking forward, in parallel, the process of review
of human dimension meetings, which was begun under the Lithuanian chairmanship.
We will provide a space for discussion of all proposals aimed at improving the
functioning of human dimension meetings, with a view to concluding these
discussions in the second half of 2012.
The chairmanship is conscious that hard choices may have to be made and that
delegations will be called upon to show flexibility and a spirit of compromise.
We hope that you will put your trust in the chairmanship.
I should like to mention just one more area of work in this dimension that is
so crucial to the OSCE’s work as a community of states committed to respect for
human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Ireland will strive to provide
all necessary support to ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in
the crucial area of election observation.
As has been the case to date, we hope that states holding elections in 2012
will issue timely invitations to ODIHR to organize election missions. Of
course, the United States itself holds elections later this year, and we trust
that the U.S. authorities will meet their OSCE commitments in this regard. We
will also work to ensure appropriate follow up to recommendations made in
election observation mission reports.
Mr. Chairman, the confidence and security-building measures adopted within the
political-military dimension remain central to the enhancement of security in
the OSCE region. Our collective goal, as agreed in Astana, is to work towards
a genuine security community.
To help us to reach that goal, we will call on participating states to reflect
on the building blocks available to us in the areas of arms control, conflict
prevention and resolution, and transnational threats. This will be the theme
for the Annual Security Review Conference in June.
We will also continue the good work carried out last year in updating the
Vienna Document, and we’ll work with the 2012 FSC chairs in this regard. We
will take forward work on tackling transnational threats such as organized
crime, cyber threats, drugs, terrorism and trafficking, challenges which we
face in all of our societies.
The economic and environmental dimension has a particular resonance today,
given the global economic and environmental challenges with which we are all
confronted. Our central theme for the economic and environmental forum will be
the promotion of security and stability through good governance. There will be
a particular focus on measures to counter corruption, money laundering and
The first preparatory conference took place in Vienna earlier this week,
entitled “Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism.”
The next will be held in Dublin in April. We will also initiate a review of
the 2003 Maastricht Strategy Document to ascertain whether it needs to be
adopted, and to take into account evolving economic and environmental
Conflict resolution remains at the core of the OSCE’s mandate, a fact which was
highlighted by the agreement of the conflict cycle decision in Vilnius. We
will take forward the implementation of this decision, which will assist the
OSCE to deepen its involvement in all phases of the conflict cycle, and to
strengthen its capacity to tackle conflict, from prevention to resolution.
As chairperson-in-office, I will seek to make progress towards lasting
settlements of a number of conflicts in the OSCE area. I have nominated two
special representatives, Ambassador Pádraig Murphy and Ambassador Erwan Fouéré,
to assist and advise me on these issues. They are cooperating with
international actors on the ground, as well as maintaining close contact with
the parties. The chairmanship will seek in particular to promote
confidence-building measures and to address humanitarian needs.
As regards Moldova and Transdniestria, we look forward to welcoming the
participants in the 5-plus-2 talks to Dublin later this month. We stand ready
to build on the momentum created following the successful resumption of
official talks at the end of last year.
Ireland strongly supports the Geneva discussions as the best forum for
facilitating engagement and providing a way forward in relation to the
situation in Georgia. The first discussion under our chairmanship will take
place next month.
We also commend the continuing work of the Minsk Group co-chairs in addressing
the long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. I look forward to working
closely with Ambassador Bob Bradtke and the other co-chairs and members of
Minsk Group throughout my term in office.
Mr. Chairman, as you well know, we in Ireland can empathize only too well with
those who are engaged in seemingly intractable conflicts. In Northern Ireland,
the courage of leaders on both sides to negotiate and make compromises in the
interests of peace, together with the perseverance of the Irish and British
governments, as well as international support, in particular from the United
States, has resulted in a lasting settlement.
While each conflict situation is different, I believe that sharing this
experience can support and encourage efforts to resolve conflicts in the OSCE
region. With this in mind, I will host a conference in Dublin the 27th of
April, which would present aspects of the Northern Ireland example as a case
study. I will be joined at the conference by the deputy first ministers of
Northern Ireland, and I am pleased that Senator George Mitchell will also share
his experience with us.
Mr. Chairman, I will now turn to some current issues within the OSCE region.
As I stated earlier, I am committed to addressing specific instances where OSCE
commitments are not being met, and we will work closely with all participating
states to ensure that their commitments are being fulfilled.
I would like to mention briefly the situation in Belarus. Continuing erosion
of human rights in Belarus is a cause for concern. By prosecuting human rights
defenders and limiting freedom of association, Belarus is regrettably falling
short of its OSCE commitments.
There is no doubt that a reinstatement of an OSCE presence in Belarus in some
form will be an important step in the right direction and will send a positive
signal to the international community. I will maintain an open channel to the
Belarus authorities throughout our chairmanship.
Turning to our wider neighborhood, we can see the changes that are underway in
the Southern Mediterranean. The OSCE stands ready to share its experience with
democratic transitions, where sought, and through a partnership approach. I
welcome the positive Ministerial Council decision on Mongolia’s application to
become a participating state, and we will aim to move this forward during our
As we approach 2014, the OSCE will have an increasing role to play in providing
assistance to Afghanistan, building on the work achieved to date. We will work
to implement the decision on expanding the OSCE’s engagement with Afghanistan
through concrete projects across all three dimensions, and in close cooperation
with other international actors and organizations in the region.
As I said at the beginning, the cooperative and inclusive nature of the OSCE
means that it is uniquely positioned to play a significant role in building a
comprehensive security community. A busy year lies in store, both for the OSCE
and the chairmanship, and I will be in New York tomorrow to present our program
to the United Nations Security Council.
I am confident that through effective cooperation with all relevant actors, we
can achieve good progress during 2012. Thank you for your attention.
REP. SMITH: Chairman Gilmore, thank you very much for your excellent statement
– very comprehensive. And I know my colleagues and I are all looking forward
to your leadership. We know it will be robust and very effective. Just a
couple of questions, if I could, on some specific issues.
You mentioned Belarus, and Belarus has been the subject of not only hearings
but trips on our behalf. I and some 11 other members were in Belarus a couple
of years ago – met with Lukashenko. It was a very disappointing, to say the
least, meeting. It was more of a he spoke, he expected us just to listen. And
it was more of a diatribe rather than a discussion.
But, that said, you know, last year 14 OSCE states invoked the Moscow
Mechanism. And I’m wondering if there’s any indication that Belarusian
authorities have acted upon any of the reports, recommendations.
And, secondly, just good news. On January 3rd, the Belarus Democracy Act – and
I am the sponsor of that legislation – was signed into law by President Obama.
It reiterates, strengthens a number of provisions of our original law that we
passed in 2004.
And the fact that both the Europeans and the United States have lists of
abusers that are denied visas, I think it makes it very clear that we’re not
kidding, that Lukashenko increasingly is isolated. And obviously many of your
friends and mine today are languishing in Lukashenko’s prisons.
We had a hearing a few months ago, and one of the presidential candidates
testified, and he talked about how he was stripped virtually every day,
humiliated and degraded by the KGB, and talked about the – just the awful
treatment that he and other political dissidents – candidates, men and women
who just simply sought to leave their country because of that – found
themselves in prison.
He was one of the lucky ones who got out. There were many others who have been
– who received long prison sentences. So maybe if you could spend a little
time on the mechanism, the report, and what you think we can do even further to
promote democracy and respect for human rights in Belarus.
And I’d just say, parenthetically, I have applied for a visa. I’ve been
denied. I would love to go and meet with Lukashenko again – I’ll give him a
copy of our bill – and bring some focus, if you will, on Congress’ angst to his
ongoing persecutions of people simply because they disagree with his
MR. GILMORE: Thank you. I thank the chairman.
I want to address first of all an issue which you raised in your opening
statement, and that is the issue of international parental child abductions.
As a party to The Hague Convention, Ireland shares concerns about international
parental child abduction, and we are keen to use the chairmanship to raise
awareness of The Hague Convention and to highlight the importance of
ratification and implementation of the convention by all OSCE participating
Regarding the possibility of us seeking a Ministerial Council decision in
Dublin, we need to assess whether it will be possible to build the necessary
consensus. Obviously, to move forward without the strong possibility of
securing agreement could be counterproductive, and we’re encouraging
participating states who wish to see ministerial decisions on specific topics
adopted at Dublin to work closely with other member states – participating
states in the year ahead to build support.
With regard to Belarus, there is no doubt that the situation with regard to
human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus has continued to deteriorate
since the presidential election in 2010. The Moscow Mechanism, as you have
said, has been invoked, but the Belarus authorities have not acted on the
recommendations that have been made.
The election observation mission, which is organized by the OSCE’s office,
ODIHR, was extremely critical of the presidential election, which was
characterized by fraudulent activities. Many opposition figures and human
rights activists were arrested after the election.
Since then, the environment for the opposition has become more difficult, with
legislation adopted on the legal requirements for gatherings and the
prohibition on political parties and NGOs from keeping assets abroad. This has
been accompanied by increased harassment of human rights defenders.
I recently issued a statement expressing concern about the case of the human
rights defender, Ales Bialiaski, whose appeal against his conviction for tax
evasion on charges that were almost certainly politically motivated was
rejected. Bialiaski is now serving a sentence of four-and-a-half years in a
Ireland condemns the harassment of opposition and human rights organizations in
Belarus. I regret that the situation in Belarus has deteriorated.
Nevertheless, as OSCE chair-in-office, I have to keep a channel open to the
And I might add that the situation in Belarus is discussed regularly at the
European Union Foreign Affairs Council, of which obviously I’m a member state,
and sanctions have been considered there; indeed, decisions made in relation to
And, obviously, in our capacity as a member state of the European Union, we
identify and support with those. But in my capacity as chair-in-office of the
OSCE, I think it’s important that we keep the channel open to Belarus, maintain
that communication and hope that we can use our good offices – because at the
end of the day, what we are talking about, our standards which have been agreed
by all participating – including Belarus.
The OSCE – what has been agreed by the OSCE, agreed by consensus – it’s right
across the board – and the obligation is on Belarus to comply with those
REP. SMITH: Thank you for that excellent answer.
Let me ask you, with regards to – and I thank you for your comment on
international child abduction. In 2000 I actually wrote a law on international
child abduction. I and many members of Congress thought that, you know, with
The Hague convention it was largely taken care of, that the issue, you know,
had a mechanism – while not enforceable, it binded countries that signed it.
And I got my big education on a case that arose out of New Jersey. A man by
the name of David Goldman was not even allowed to see his own abducted son.
His wife had passed away. A man, not the father, had custody. And an expert
on The Hague Convention in Rio actually used his knowledge of The Hague
Convention to the detriment of all attempts to get his son back – David Goldman.
I traveled with him several times. I met with members of the supreme court.
There were some very good jurists in both Brasilia and in the supreme court and
in Rio de Janeiro. But at the end of the day, where there was a determined
abducting party, they were able to use – and this happens all over the world,
as you know – appeal after appeal until the child ages out and then there’s
almost no chance, other than a voluntary reuniting, to get that son or daughter
or siblings back.
I found, to my shock and dismay, that we had very few tools in the U.S.
government to – other than jawboning and pretty much pleading, to say please
send our kids back – we’ve got about 2,500 children – Japan never sends anybody
back. There was a recent case but it was filled with extenuating
circumstances. But once those kids get there, they don’t come back. And Japan
obviously is not a signatory.
In two weeks I’m marking up a bill – maybe it will be three – again,
International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2012. It was my lessons
learned and my staff’s lessons learned from what we can’t do as a government to
try to effectuate the return of these children.
And as I said earlier, it is under-appreciated just how bad parental alienation
is, the poisoning of that child’s mind vis-à-vis the left-behind parent. And
so it’s been a wakeup call to me and I think many of my colleagues.
Our embassy did a great job with welfare and whereabouts. They’re totally
empathetic to the left-behind parent. The bottom line is I know that – and,
you know, Ambassador Kelly is working hard. It would be very important if that
could be a ministerial decision, because we need to relook at this.
The Hague Convention reads beautifully, but how do you enforce it? We’re going
to take some of our penalties that we learned work on religious freedom in the
area of trafficking – and I wrote the trafficking laws for the U.S., and I know
they’re working – to try to get states to realize it’s a
government-to-government fight. Otherwise if it’s left-behind parent versus
government indifference or complicity, they lose. They lose almost every time.
So I would ask you and appeal to you – and I know you’re empathetic – do
everything you can to get that on the docket because these kids are being hurt.
It is child abuse in plain sight. That if we do more in the OSCE – who better
than the OSCE to do so? So that’s pretty much an appeal as well as a question.
Internet freedom, if I could. I know that you’re very strong on that issue. I
know Russia blocked the ministerial decision on this subject in Vilnius last
December. If you might want to speak to that further because obviously we have
a global online freedom act that we will mark up in a few weeks as well.
I’m the one who chaired the hearings that had Google, Microsoft, Cisco and
Yahoo all taking the oath. And most of it was focused on China, but we know
that Belarus – we know that many countries are using the Internet increasingly
to completely stop dissidents and human rights activists, and to find and put
them into prison as a result of what they post online or what their emails
So that’s a very important issue, and I would hope that at the meeting that
will be held on the Internet, there will be a focus on anti-Semitic hate and
some of the other issues that continue to exacerbate that problem. If you just
want to comment or –
MR. GILMORE: Well, thank you, Chairman.
First of all, in relation to the issue of child abduction – and you have, I
think, described very well what can happen and what is happening in practice
and how courts are used in different countries. The time elapses and the child
grows up and alienation from parents is exacerbated.
I have some experience of this as foreign minister of my country where our
consular services are called upon. And this is something of course – we’re
dealing with this in, I suppose, a more modern and sometimes more complex set
of circumstances where people’s parentage of children of different countries –
parents from different countries, family arrangements, are somewhat more
complex; in some cases perhaps sometimes less stable than had traditionally
been the case. Very, very complex sets of circumstances arising and ending up
in the courts, and very real human problems associated with it.
Can we get a decision in relation to child abduction issues through the OSCE
again? We operate on the basis of consensus, and if there’s a willingness
obviously on the part of participating states to work towards a decision on
this, then certainly as chair-in-office I will be happy to work with that and
to facilitate that. So it is an area that we have to keep under review.
You raised the wider issue of human trafficking, and I referred to that in my
contribution. I know that all of our OSCE partners are unanimous in the view
that it is vital that the public is made aware, first of all, of the existence
of this terrible crime, and that national authorities take the necessary step,
legislatively and operationally, to deal with the perpetrators.
Ireland has made significant progress in fighting this crime, which knows no
boundaries. Our intention would be to organize a human dimension meeting
during 2012, focused on labor trafficking, which is really a modern-day form of
And in this regard, it’s vitally important to highlight that perpetrators are
not limited to those involved in the physical transfer of victims from one
country to another, but includes those who recruit them, those who employ them,
and those who exploit them in many other ways.
In relation to the issue of Internet freedom and our intention to hold a
conference on Internet freedom, I’m sure you regret that it wasn’t possible to
get agreement on this issue in Vilnius. The conference on Internet freedom
which we planned to hold is scheduled to take place in Dublin in June.
Our intention is to bring together experts from OSCE states from industry, from
civil society, and to look at how the OSCE commitments, in relation to freedom
of expression and freedom of the media, are being applied to the online world.
Now, we’re not seeking to agree to new commitments, but to ensure that the
existing commitments apply seamlessly between offline and online worlds. The
intention is to shine a spotlight on particular issues which might need more
attention, such as the need for greater transparency by states in their request
to – the various requests that they make to Internet companies for data.
But I think the general principles that we’ve got to apply here are the
principles in relation to freedom of expression or freedom of the media, which
have already been agreed and accepted by the OSCE, and to look at how that can
be applied to online media.
REP. SMITH: OK. Part of what we’re going to be doing in our global online
freedom act is to focus on the censorship issue, but even more so on the
selling of those capabilities by U.S. companies, and what due diligence or lack
of it those who list on the U.S. Stock Exchange are doing relative to
surveillance capabilities, to dictatorships and countries that really are using
that capability just as they would use any other weapon to undermine or arrest
and jail people who are just calling out for freedom of religion and democracy.
On trafficking, if I could share a best practice which I’m sure you’re familiar
with but ask you if, during you chair in office, you could put some additional
push behind it. At the parliamentary assemblies I’ve raised the issue
repeatedly, as the OSCE special rep for trafficking, of what is a low-impact –
high-impact, low-cost effort to train flight attendants and others as to how to
spot, whether it be labor or sex trafficking, while it’s happening.
And some outstanding flight attendants have actually saved people en route.
One case was from Moscow to New York, where they noticed six women who were
with one man, and it just looked awful and suspicious. En route, while the
ladies were using the restroom, struck up a conversation, was sufficiently
suspicious that they had the pilot call upon offloading. They interviewed and
found out that all six were being trafficked.
That has morphed into a very, very robust effort of training by Delta Airlines.
Carlson, Hilton Global Exchange Tours, others are all doing it. We’ve had
some hearings here where we’ve heard just how – you know, situational
awareness, how well it is working.
Now the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has come up with a very fine
training package which should be shared, I think, with all the OSCE countries,
every country in the world. In talking to our friends in the Netherlands, some
of our Parliamentary Assembly friends have brought that. And KLM is now doing
it, or have made commitments to do so, as have a few other countries.
So, you know, it’s something our linguists, all of us should be doing. And I
think, you know, just perhaps having something – we’ll give you all the
information, as well as the new initiative by the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, which is outstanding. And it works. Eyes and ears – you know, close
out the number of places. And they’ve got to transport them.
And I would just – and you mentioned the labor trafficking, which is equally
covered by U.S. legislation and parliamentary protocol as well. When Rabbi
Baker and I and Ambassador Kelly were in Prague for a very important hearing –
summit on public discourse and anti-Semitism, I learned while I was there that
there were a number of Vietnamese laborers of questionable origin in terms of
how they got there.
And I would note I’ve had two hearings on human rights in Vietnam. And
Vietnam, like China, is now becoming one of the worst violators of labor
trafficking and are sending people all over the world – mostly in Asia, mostly
in Taiwan, but also, we believe, to Europe.
And when I learned that – you know, I have a bill up in two hours called the
Human Rights in Vietnam Act, and it focuses on trafficking and the fact that we
need to do much more to find out who these people are, how they got there.
And we think there’s a suspicion – we haven’t been able to prove it – that many
of those people in Prague – in and around – obviously in the Czech Republic may
have been trafficked, because labor trafficking has become an extremely
lucrative endeavor for the Vietnamese government.
They’re selling their people all over the world. And the first case prosecuted
my law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, was a case involving
Vietnam and American Samoa – labor trafficking, ultra-big sweatshop. So we
know they’re doing it, and they have not abated. They’re getting worse.
So if you could look into that, I’d appreciate that. But the airlines issue,
it’s like – it’s camera-ready. It’s all ready to be just rolled out, and that
training can be extremely useful to everyone.
MR. GILMORE: Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
And, first of all, can I agree with you about the fine work that the
Parliamentary Assembly is doing. And I think this is a very important
dimension of the OSCE’s work that the Parliamentary Assembly – which elected
representatives of the people like you and I touch the concerns that people
have. And that brings a particular perspective and a refocus to the work of
It certainly is my intention to work closely with the Parliamentary Assembly
during this year. And only last week we had president – director general of
the Parliamentary Assembly with us in Dublin and had very good discussions with
I think in particular, and I think in relation to human trafficking, I think it
is important that we use the best practice which is available, and I very much
welcome the initiatives that are being taken on airlines, in training of flight
attendants and so on to be on the lookout for the trafficking of people.
Of course, not all of the trafficking is by air. You know, it may not be as
easily detected. But it is difficult to travel from one end of a continent to
another – one end of a land mass to another, however one does it, by road or
rail or air, without somebody being aware that something is going on. And I
think you’re absolutely right that we do need to develop a best practice sense
in that area.
On the labor trafficking area, that is – as I’ve indicated, this is an area
where we intend to hold an event or a meeting on labor trafficking
particularly. And, again, I think it’s important that we look here at – that
there is the trafficking, the actual trafficking aspect of the problem, where
those who are directly involved in the trafficking per se. But I think there
are issues here which we can address about the employment of people who are
People – individuals, households, companies, organizations who employ people
who they know are from overseas, whom they know are in difficult circumstances
and who employ them very often in pay and conditions which are significantly
less than applied generally in the local economy, they must know that they are
dealing with people who – I believe that they know that they are exploiting
those people, and they must have doubts as to how those people came to be in
the country in the first place.
And I think that, you know, we need to put some focus on the employment side of
labor trafficking. People, for example, who end up in domestic service in the
homes of some of the great and the good sometimes, we need to – we need to
sharpen our focus on that and to deal with that problem at source, at the point
of – at the point of employment.
So I think there are obligations on participating states of the OSCE, who in
many cases have minimum legal standards of labor protection to ensure that
those are applied in a way that people who are trafficked are not –
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
Let me just ask one final question on the Ukraine, and with regards to former
Prime Minister Tymoshenko’s arrest. And with the upcoming October elections,
can the Ukrainians meet a free and fair standard if that incarceration – or
that disqualification, if you will, from even participating is not reversed?
And, you know, your thoughts on that, because, you know, we’re very concerned
about the trend line, and I’m sure you are as well, in Ukraine. Freedom House
has downgraded Ukraine from free to partly free because of this deterioration,
and it seems to me that, you know, all of us are in favor of a free and
democratic Ukraine and don’t like the trend lines. Your thoughts?
MR. GILMORE: Well, thank you. I’m deeply concerned about the case of the
former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. And these concerns relate to
the outcome and conduct of her trial as well as the outcome of the appeal that
concluded in December. Concerns have also been widely expressed about reports
of the conditions of her detention, and I continue to encourage the Ukrainian
authorities to address and to resolve these concerns.
And I’m conscious of the fact that Ukraine will succeed Ireland as the
chair-in-office of the OSCE. I believe that Ukraine’s role in the OSCE is
important, and I hope that in preparing for this role, the authorities in Kiev
will appreciate the need to address the significant concerns that have been
There is, as you know, a proposal for an association agreement between Ukraine
and the European Union that’s currently awaiting initialing. I have long
favored bringing the EU and Ukraine closer together. I think that’s a
sentiment shared by the great majority of the Ukrainian people.
But this, however, is not an uncritical engagement, and the Ukraine-EU summit
which took place in December was the occasion for some strong messages from the
EU side, including some strong messages on the issue of Ms. Tymoshenko’s case.
It is an issue, certainly, that we’re going to give very much to the fore or
our talks and our discussions.
REP. SMITH: Again, in closing, if I could just reiterate that strongest appeal
to – and I know you will do this, so I’m talking to the choir but, to the
greatest extent, backing the three religious freedom representatives. Many of
us who follow religious freedom – and I’ve been in Congress now 32 years – I
think it is getting worse, and demonstrably worse everywhere.
You know, the number of anti-Semitic acts that are occurring in the U.S.,
particularly on our college campuses, is rising. And, you know, it’s worth
noting that – you know, sometimes people say, well, why the emphasis on
anti-Semitic hate? In the United States – and you probably know this – the FBI
tracks these acts of hate, and in their annual report, traditionally just under
75-or-so percent of all the incidence are directed against Jews, and under 10
percent directed against Christians, and under 10 percent against Muslims.
And when you look at the disproportionality of the number of Jews that actually
live in the U.S., the number far exceeds – any way you look at it, the focus is
there, and we’re seeing a rise in it. And you know as well in Europe it’s the
A few years ago we had a hearing with Natan Sharansky, the great leader,
obviously, who was finally let out – and you know this; everyone knows it – by
the KGB, did this zigzag because he just wouldn’t, you know, follow orders that
the Soviet Communists imposed upon him.
Well, he came here twice and testified, and he brought with him a soap opera
clip, two of them. And seeing is believing. I had never seen this before.
And, as a matter of fact, I actually went to Perm Camp 35 where he was in the
1980s, right after he got out, and it seemed that this man had endured the
torture and the isolation, and to see how he never once wavered in his
commitment to freedom.
Well, he showed this video that is being now broadcast throughout Europe
through satellite television, and, you know, all the modern means of
communications. And he said, this is what they feed on – “they” being many
people in the Muslim world – and this gross, grotesque caricature of Jews that
And they actually showed this little boy named Christopher having his throat
slit and the blood pouring into matzoh. And he talked about blood libel and
the other outrages committed against the Jewish people. This is Sharanksy.
And he said, then they turn it into humor and they turn it into documentaries.
And he said, this is what they feed on. And you wonder why these kids are so
filled with hatreds towards Jews.
And even Ahmadinejad’s most recent statement, and the Great Leaders website,
which I went and checked out, which talked about the justification for the
destruction of Israel because Israel is an impediment to Islam, and all of this
– you know, this hatred giving some kind of religious basis.
You know, more than ever we need to be backing – and we certainly do in the
United States – Rabbi Baker’s mission, as well as the other two, which I’m so
glad you, you know, have picked people who will really – you know, will do the
work. But this commission remains absolutely committed in a bipartisan way to
pushing these issues, because they are getting demonstrably worse.
As I said before, we will be holding a hearing in March on the textbooks and
the anti-Semitism that is rife in UNRWA camps, which, again, feeds into this
whole combustible stew of hatred that is just exploding.
So I thank you so much for your leadership. And, you know, we look forward to
working with you. Any final thoughts before we conclude?
MR. GILMORE: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Chairman. It’s been a
great privilege to have the opportunity of exchanging questions and answers –
REP. SMITH: Yeah.
MR. GILMORE: – and thoughts with you.
I think that we have to work through 2012 and beyond to ensure that the
commitments which have been entered into by the OSCE participating states are
honored by all participating states, and that we deepen those where we can and
that – I think we also, I think, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the
Helsinki Final Act, I think it is worth reflecting on the huge contribution
that the OSCE has made to peace and security in Europe and in that region, from
– as we say, from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
You think of the – when the Helsinki Final Act was concluded, the state of
tension that there was between two superpowers and all of the attendant issues
that surrounded that, and the progress that has been made over that period of
We have the continuing conflicts, the protracted nature of those conflicts. We
still have to deal with them and make a contribution to that this year. But we
also have to deal with the new issues which are emerging, some of which we
touched on today. And I think we have to work to find practical solutions to
And I think some of the talks that we’ve exchanged here today and some of the
suggestions that you have made, Chairman, I think will be extremely useful to
us in carrying that work forward. So, again, I thank you for –
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
MR. GILMORE: – the huge interest that you have taken and that you are taking,
and the work of the OSCE, and finally, in particular, the interest that you
have taken over many years in our issues and affairs in Ireland. And it’s
great to be here among friends. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: That’s great. And I would like to thank you for Michael Collins,
your ambassador. Again, I’ve been here over three decades, interfaced with
ambassadors and people representing their countries. Nobody does it with
greater professionalism and integrity than he does. He has been a joy to work
with. And I know members on both side of the aisle feel that way. So, thank
you so much for Michael Collins.
The hearing is adjourned.