Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


UNITED STATES HELSINKI COMMISSION

An independant agency of the United States Government charged with monitoring and encouraging compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the 55 countries participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Press Releases


Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
www.csce.gov
September 20, 2001

HELSINKI COMMISSION RELEASES U.S. STATEMENT
ON TOLERANCE AND NON-DISCRIMINATION AT
OSCE HUMAN DIMENSION IMPLEMENTATION MEETING


(Warsaw, Poland) - The following statement on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination was delivered by the United States at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:

Tolerance and Non-Discrimination
Statement by Ambassador Joseph Presel
U.S. Delegation to the
OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Intolerance and discrimination persist in every one of the OSCE participating States. Every one of them, including my own. Sometimes, they manifest themselves in the form of words: expressions of hatred against Roma. Or Jews. Or Muslims. Other times, they show themselves in the form of actions, such as violent attacks by skinheads against individuals from minority groups.

In the face of manifestations of intolerance, authorities have certain responsibilities. First and foremost, they must speak out against intolerance and condemn those who discriminate in word or action. This year there was a swift, clear, and admirable response by the Romanian Government to General Mircea Chelaru’s participation in unveiling a bust of Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania's wartime dictator, convicted war criminal, and symbol of anti-Jewish and anti-Roma bigotry. I encourage the Romanian Government to give greater meaning to its stated commitment to reject ethnic hatred and intolerance by removing all statues of Antonescu from public lands, including those at the Jilava prison and in Slobozia, Piatra Neamt, and Letcani.

In Hungary, certain political figures continue to make anti-Semitic statements. Most recently, Istvan Csurka and others criticized the purchase of part of football club Ferencvaros by a company controlled by Hungarian Jews as a crime against the nation. Racist slogans were chanted and anti-Semitic posters displayed at a match involving the team shortly thereafter. It is in these instances that politicians need to speak out and issue clear, categorical condemnations of such intolerance.

In Ryazan, Russia, last September, city officials were reluctant to condemn an attack on a Jewish school. In the same city, again, this year, there was an attempt to burn down a synagogue. We encourage a full investigation and prosecution of those involved in this crime.

Police also have a special role in addressing acts of intolerance. Across Europe, vicious racially-motivated attacks by street thugs and skinheads against foreigners have become frequent. These incidents are too rarely investigated by the police.

Authorities also have a responsibility to protect individuals from the desire of some hate-filled segments of the public to do harm to others. But in the cities of Banja Luka and Trebinje in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, mobs attacked people who sought to lay foundations for new mosques on the ruins of those destroyed by the insanity of ethnic cleansing. There were indications of actual police collaboration. Concerns about intolerance in Republika Srpska are made more acute by the continued difficulties non-Serbs have in returning to their original homes, and the dismal record of that entity’s cooperation in apprehending individuals indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Tolerance and nondiscrimination have proven to be in short supply in Kosovo. In the past year, murderous attacks on Serbs, Roma, and other minorities have continued. Kosovar Albanians endured more than a decade of cruel repression and discrimination. They now need to break the cycle of violence by condemning intolerance and punishing those responsible for specific acts.

Public officials sometimes respond to hatred in a society by outlawing extremist expressions. Tempting as that may be, it violates a fundamental freedom – free speech – and can be easily abused to target those innocently expressing their identity or asserting their rights. In Turkey and Uzbekistan, such expressions are perceived as a threat to the state. Repressing free speech is not only wrong, it is also counterproductive. Indeed, the decades of communist suppression of nationalist sentiments did not eliminate extremist views but allowed them to build up and explode in fuller fury when the one-party state disintegrated. People should not be persecuted for mere expressions of national identity. Radical views should be met in the marketplace of ideas and should be countered in public debate.

I noted at the outset of my remarks that the problem of intolerance faces all of our countries. In my own country, in the aftermath of last week’s horrific terrorist attack, we are beginning to hear accounts of acts of intolerance aimed at Muslims, Arabs, and others including a shameful and cowardly act of murder. President Bush spoke out immediately and forcefully against these acts.

Let me quote his words: “In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.” “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. … They must be treated with respect.”

President Bush also said that hatred and intolerance “should not and will not stand in America.” It should not stand in any OSCE participating state, or anywhere else in the world and I urge that all of leaders stand together against it.

The United States would like to associate itself with the remarks of Ambassador Stoudmann in connection to acts of intolerance in the wake of attacks in the United States. We support his initiative.

Media Contact: Ben Anderson
202.225.1901
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