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Commission on security and cooperation in Europe

U. S. Helsinki Commission

Mission

We are a US government agency that promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Nine Commissioners are members of the Senate, nine are members of the House of Representatives, and three are executive branch officials.

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Chairman

Senator Roger F. Wicker

Co-Chairman

Representative Christopher H. Smith

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  • Human Rights in Putin's Russia

    Since President Putin assumed office in 2000, human rights activists have charged that civil liberties and democratic development in Russia have been sacrificed to a "managed democracy" under the influence of both active and former officials of the security services.  Putin’s tenure in office has been characterized by the demise of independent national broadcast media, election manipulations and a "spy mania" that has led to espionage charges against several Russian scientists and environment activists.  Nevertheless, Putin has rejected parliamentary initiatives that would have further restricted freedom of the press and assembly.

  • Fulfilling our Promises: The United States and the Helsinki Final Act (1)

    The Commission has three main purposes in preparing this report. First, it hopes to demonstrate the good faith of the U.S. in assessing its Helsinki implementation record in light of criticisms from other CSCE countries and domestic critics. Second, the Commission hopes to stimulate honest implementation evaluations by other CSCE states and thus to lay the groundwork for real progress prior to the next review meeting at Madrid in 1980. Finally, the Commission hopes to encourage improved compliance by the United States. Although the Commission agrees with President Carter that the U.S. record is very good, additional discussion and interaction between responsible government agencies and interested private organizations in a necessary prerequisite to greater progress. This report follows the structures of the Final Act by discussing, in order, each major section or "basket" of the Act. Basket I deals with questions relating to security in Europe which includes Human Rights; Basket II, economic and scientific cooperation; Basket III, cooperation in humanitarian and other fields.

  • HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD BRIEFING ON UKRAINE

    WASHINGTON —Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following briefing: Assessing Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections Friday, November 16, 2012 10 am – 11:30 am Room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building The OSCE and United States assessed Ukraine’s October 28 parliamentary elections as representing a step backwards compared with recent national elections and lacking a level playing field. Voters had a choice between distinct parties and the voting and counting were largely positively assessed, but the counts and tabulation in some closely contested single-mandate districts were problematic. While the ruling party along with Communist allies retains a majority, opposition parties displayed a strong showing, winning the party-list vote in Ukraine’s hybrid system. Experts from three key organizations working on the ground will examine the conduct and results of the election and their implications for Ukraine’s democratic future.  The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Olha Ajvazovska, Board Chair, Ukrainian citizen network OPORA Katie Fox, Deputy Director-Eurasia, National Democratic Institute (NDI) Stephen Nix, Regional Director, Eurasia, International Republican Institute (IRI)

  • Co-Chairman Smith Urges President to Raise Belarus Human Rights Concerns at G-8 Summit

    WASHINGTON - United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today released a letter written to President George W. Bush urging him to raise concerns about the dire human rights situation in Belarus. Smith released the letter during a press conference outside the United States House of Representatives alongside the four wives and widows of killed, imprisoned or missing journalist and political opposition leaders. Attending today’s press conference were: Ludmilla Karpenko, wife of 13th Supreme Soviet Vice-Chairman Gennady Karpenko, of what medical authorities said was a brain hemorrhage on April 6, 1999. The autopsy report has never been released to the family. Irina Krasovska, wife of businessman Andrei Krasovsky, who was a friend of 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Viktor Gonchar. Both disappeared on September 16, 1999. Tatiana Klimova, wife of 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Andrei Klimov, imprisoned. Svetlana Zavadska, wife of Dmitry Zavadsky, cameraman for Russian Public Television (ORT) who disappeared on July 7, 2000. Also attending the press conference was Cathy Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the International League for Human Rights. The text of Co-Chairman Smith’s letter to President Bush follows: July 18, 2001 The President The White House Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: In your upcoming meetings at the G-8 summit and especially in your meeting with Russian President Putin, we urge you to raise concerns about the critical state of human rights and democracy in Belarus. Under the regime of Aleksandr Lukashenka, human rights have deteriorated significantly. One of the most stark manifestations of this degeneration has been the disappearance of several opposition politicians and journalists. Last month, two former Belarusian investigators made detailed accusations against leading Belarusian officials of organizing a death squad to liquidate opponents of the regime. According to the former investigators, such a death squad was responsible for the disappearances of Russian ORT Television cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Victor Gonchar and his associate Anatoly Krasovsky, and former Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Zakharenka. Moreover, we remain concerned about the continued incarceration of political prisoners Andrei Klimov and Valery Shchukin, both members of the democratically elected 13th Supreme Soviet. Belarusian presidential elections are scheduled to be held on September 9. Judging by the continuing actions of Mr. Lukashenka’s regime, the prospects of free, fair, and transparent elections – consistent with Belarus’ freely undertaken OSCE commitments – remain dim. We urge you to convey our strong interest in a democratic presidential election in which the Belarusian authorities will take concrete steps to meet criteria set forth by the OSCE last year. These criteria include an end to the climate of fear, equal access to the state media for all candidates, respect for freedom of assembly, as well as transparency and fairness in registration of candidates and functioning of electoral commissions. We urge you to convey to President Putin the importance of Russian support and participation in any election monitoring effort of the OSCE. Mr. President, the Belarusian authorities must end the climate of fear that so endangers the trust necessary for free and fair elections. We call upon you to encourage our G-8 partners, including President Putin, to press the Belarusian authorities to conduct a complete and transparent investigation of the disappearances, to release political prisoners, and to take the steps necessary to ensure free, fair and transparent presidential elections. Only by ending the current climate of fear can Belarus end its self-imposed isolation which would be in the interest of the people of Belarus, the Russian Federation, the United States and those committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Sincerely, CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, M.C. Co-Chairman

  • Urging the Obama Administration to Support Efforts to Bring About a Resolution of the Cyprus Conflict

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to call on the Obama administration to support efforts to bring about a negotiated resolution of the Cyprus conflict and reunification of the country as a federal bi-zonal, bi-communal, with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship. This formula is based on several UN Security Council resolutions and serves as the basis for ongoing talks between Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Talat. As my colleagues know, the road to a final settlement over the past few decades has been fraught with difficulty. Numerous earlier diplomatic initiatives were launched, but in the end failed. Ultimately, a negotiated resolution of the conflict must be by the Cypriots, for the Cypriots and one that enjoys the support of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike. There is a strong desire by younger generations from both communities to experience the rebirth of a Cyprus where the rights of all are respected and all can participate in the national life of their country.  As a member of both the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans, I am gratified that the leaders of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have stated their mutual commitment to work towards a final settlement, and have continued their discussions accordingly. While the administration is currently observing developments and has offered its support if called upon by both communities. It is my hope that it will seize this opportunity to offer and make the resolution of the Cyprus issue a priority. At a time when so many of the world's disputes seem intractable, I believe the Cyprus dispute is one area where, working together, we can truly bring hope and change to a place and people that have longed for it for decades.  Madam Speaker, I hope the United States can play a supportive and active role in making a final settlement possible and encourage others to do likewise. Meanwhile, as President Christofias and Mr. Talat and their teams grapple with an array of tough issues it is my hope they seek to overcome the legacy of the past 35 years and build a brighter future for all Cypriots.

  • Resolute in Russia

    WASHINGTON - A month after delivering his visionary inaugural address on the commitment of the United States to foster freedom and democracy, President Bush sat down yesterday at the Bratislava summit in Slovakia with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the architect of post-Soviet "managed" democracy. The Bush-Putin summit comes at a time when the Kremlin is on the offensive. It is moving to contain the burgeoning democracy in the former Soviet Union and to cement Russia's ties with those among the former Soviet republics which have the poorest human rights records. Russia is attempting to distance the United States from those countries. Of particular interest to us as chairman and co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Russian rhetoric assailing the democracy-promoting activities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has intensified. Moscow is now threatening to paralyze the OSCE by holding its budget hostage. Russia reportedly will not give consent to the budget unless a committee is created to review the electoral commitments of the OSCE. The committee would attempt to revisit and water down the longstanding commitments using the pretext of setting "minimum standards" for judging whether elections are indeed free and fair. Russia appears determined to undermine the democratic commitments that are at the very heart of the OSCE, the power of the ideals behind OSCE commitments Russia has agreed to support, including that the will of the people is the basis of legitimate government. Russia and its allies -- particularly the outpost of tyranny, Belarus -- have responded to the pro-democracy developments in Georgia and Ukraine by attacking the commitments of the OSCE. Russia, the other former Soviet states and all OSCE countries have formally agreed that a democracy based on the will of the people and expressed regularly through free and fair elections, is the only acceptable form of government for our nations. While claiming to observe the voluntary commitments accepted when their countries joined the OSCE in 1992, most leaders within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have remained in control by rigging elections and excluding potential rivals, sometimes using criminal means, which is in contradiction to the commitments. Since the late 1990s, Russian-led observer delegations from the CIS routinely approved of elections in CIS countries, which OSCE-led observers overtly criticized or damned with quiet condemnation. We understand that some members of the OSCE in Vienna are inclined to pursue a policy of engaging Russia on the issue, in the hopes of finding some common ground. While we are not adverse to engagement with the Russians, the fundamentals of democratization and elections must not be fodder for appeasement or used as bargaining chips. Indeed, we have already found common ground: the considerable body of existing OSCE commitments on democracy that our countries have signed and that Mr. Putin and his shrinking circle of allies seem intent on scuttling. We must not ignore the fact that human rights, civil and religious liberties and media freedom have been gravely undermined on Mr. Putin's watch. The deteriorating human-rights trends give cause for serious concern. As Mr. Bush directly declared in his inaugural address, "we will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people." The Bratislava summit will provide a timely opportunity for the president to underscore this point face to face with his Russian counterpart. It is also essential that Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice respond resolutely to this challenge, insisting that there be no retreat from OSCE commitments and principles to placate Mr. Putin. Moscow may be intent on precipitating a crisis in the OSCE, or even threatening its very existence. Nevertheless, having stood firm against rigged elections in Ukraine, the United States must not be bullied into concessions. Watering down the democratic content of the OSCE would not only undermine the organization's reason for being, but would undercut the very people struggling to be free.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Troubled by Russia's Move to Strengthen Ties with Separatists Regions of Georgia

    WASHINGTON- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), expressed deep concern over the Russian Federation’s decision to strengthen ties with Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to a decree issued earlier this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow intends to deepen its ties in such areas as trade, agriculture, education, and diplomacy, while not extending full diplomatic recognition. “Moscow’s latest move clearly undermines Georgia’s sovereignty,” said Chairman Hastings. “Although Moscow claims to still recognize Georgia’s sovereignty, such actions raise serious doubts about these facile declarations. I urge Moscow to disavow its decision and cease its bullying behavior in the Caucasus.” Co-Chairman Cardin noted, “I am extremely troubled by Moscow’s decision to strengthen ties in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This move is clearly intended to punish Georgia for its desire to join NATO. Whatever one may think of that prospect, I can certainly understand Georgia’s desire to deepen its relations with the West, especially if its neighbor to the north is determined to further exacerbate an already tense situation.” The Foreign Minister of Georgia has called Russia’s policy one of “creeping annexation,” and announced his government will seek a special session of the United Nations to deal with the issue.  

  • Democracy in Albania: the Pace of Progress

    Prior to 1991, Albania was ruled by one of the communist world’s most repressive regimes and was the only country in Europe refusing to participate in the Helsinki process.  In the two decades following, the country made enormous strides to become a democratic state where human rights are respected and to become an active participant in European affairs, and became a member of the NATO Alliance in 2009. Despite this progress, Albania continues to struggle in building its democratic institutions and practices, including respect for the rule of law.  As Albania prepared for parliamentary elections in June 2013, this hearing assessed the degree to which progress has begun to fall short of expectations at home and abroad, and what could be done to accelerate the pace of further reforms related to good governance.

  • Did the OSCE Actually Begin in 1724?

    By Douglas Davidson, Senior State Department Advisor “The OSCE’s founding father was born in 1724.” So stated Miklos Haraszti as he began a speech to a group of diplomats assembled in the Ratsaal of Vienna’s Hofburg conference center in late October. His opening sentence startled many of the dozy denizens of this room into something approaching wakefulness, for this was scarcely the usual thing said about an organization whose formal foundations were laid down barely thirty years ago in the Helsinki Final Act. Clearly, this was not going to be your typical diplomatic intervention. Mr. Haraszti, who is nearing the end of his distinguished tenure as the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, was referring, to Immanuel Kant. His talk, however, was not about German philosophy. Instead he was tackling the topic of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its “Corfu Process.” How he intended to make the link between an 18th century man who never ventured more than a hundred kilometers from his home in Konigsberg and the world’s largest regional security organization was not immediately evident. Believe it or not, such a link exists. To find it, however, probably requires a brief explanation of the Corfu Process itself. Last June, meeting informally on the island of Corfu under the aegis of the Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE, the organization’s foreign ministers “agreed on the need for an open, sustained, wide-ranging and inclusive dialogue on security and concurred that the OSCE is a natural forum to anchor this dialogue, because it is the only regional Organization bringing together all States from Vancouver to Vladivostok on an equal basis.” This, in the manner of the OSCE, then led inevitably, and perhaps inexorably, to a “process,” which by the autumn of this year had taken the form of a weekly series of meetings devoted to discussing the different aspects of European security. These discussions then led to a declaration and a decision during the organization’s annual ministerial meeting in Athens on December 1 and 2 that among other things confirmed the intention of the organization’s participating States to continue these discussions and this process into 2010 and perhaps beyond. The Corfu Process, as this perhaps suggests, is nothing if not ambitious. In introducing the concept earlier this year, the then-Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said, “The purpose of the meeting is to consider the future of European security. Through what we call the Corfu process, we will begin a dialogue that will enable us to build a more secure, more stable and stronger Europe.” Such a dialogue seems to enjoy support from many quarters, including the United States, if only as a means to revitalize the OSCE and its once-central role in European security. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, told the Helsinki Commission in a recent hearing that, “The Corfu process inaugurated by the Greek OSCE chair in office to take a fresh look at the OSCE itself and European security more generally is at the center of the revitalization effort. We hope OSCE participating states will not only renew their commitment to the OSCE’s core values at Athens but also begin to chart its future in engaging new and old security challenges.” It is in fact precisely the OSCE’s core values and especially its comprehensive concept of European security that distinguish it from the myriad of other acronymical organizations that span the European continent. In practical terms, this concept means that the OSCE seeks to mesh the political-military, the economic and environmental, and the human aspects of security into a seamless whole. In recent years, however, some widening tears have begun to appear in that fragile fabric. Mr. Haraszti was speaking on a day devoted to “Common Challenges in the Human Dimension.” (The OSCE, whose parlance sometimes resembles that of science fiction, uses the term “dimension” to denote what at Helsinki were called, more humbly, “baskets.”) More specifically, the topics of the day were: “human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic institutions and the rule of law, and tolerance and non-discrimination.” These issues have not been subject to universal agreement in recent years. As Mr. Haraszti himself noted, a certain “disillusionment” with the OSCE’s human rights commitments has manifested itself in some of the organization’s participating States as time has passed. But, Mr. Haraszti argued, there is “no security without human rights.” He framed his argument and his intervention around Kant’s essay “Perpetual Peace.” In this essay Kant puts forward three “Definitive Articles of Perpetual Peace,” the second of which states: “The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states.” Kant then amplifies: “Every state, for the sake of its own security, may—and ought to—demand that its neighbor should submit itself to conditions similar to those of the civil society where the right of every individual is guaranteed.” The OSCE is thus the embodiment of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” It stands against the notion that human rights are purely internal matters. Instead, as Mr. Haraszti noted, with the OSCE basic human rights are both internalized and internationalized. Of course, as he also noted, a perpetual peace is not a perfect peace. We do not, after all, live in a friction-free world. But security grounded in Kant’s vision of a federation of free constitutional republics in which each individual enjoys the same rights as any other certainly seems a sound basis for a European peace that, if not perpetual, is at least likely to endure for a long time to come.

  • The Dog Barks, but the Caravan Moves On: Highs and Lows in U.S.-Russia Relations

    This briefing addressed the state of the relationship between the United States and Russia and the need for continued cooperation across a range of vital interests. A number of questions were posed, including the following: Is the chill in relations deja vu all over again or a new and different break? Are bilateral relations doomed to perpetual confrontation? What are reasonable expectations for the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship? Witnesses testifying at the briefing – including James W. Warhola, Chairman of University of Maine’s Department of Political Science and Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center for International Scholars – sought to provide answers to these questions. Some suggestions for improving relations between the two countries given the relevant circumstances included maintaining open lines of communication, defining mutual interests, and responding to Russian action in Crimea through economic means.

  • Helsinki Commission Leadership Secures Passage of Religious Freedom Amendments at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

    WASHINGTON - This morning, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) successfully offered two amendments concerning religious freedom to the draft declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Washington Annual Session.  “I am very pleased that these amendments passed,” said Co-Chairman Smith, Co-Head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA.  “However, the fact that the first amendment passed by only 10 votes underscores the continuing challenge in the fight for religious liberties in the OSCE region.  The fact that parliamentarians are willing to discriminate against minority religious communities is sobering.”  The first Smith amendment reads, “Commits to ensure and facilitate the freedom of the individual to profess and practice religion or belief, alone or in community with others, through transparent and non-discriminatory laws, regulations, practices and policies, and to remove any registration or recognition policies that discriminate against a religious community and hinders their ability to operate freely and equally with other faiths.”  It passed with 33 votes in favor, 23 against, and 7 abstentions. “The amendment is a basic statement of faith that all persons have the right to profess or practice, either alone or in community with others, the religion of their choice,” said U.S. delegation member Senator George Voinovich (R-OH).  “All OSCE religious freedom commitments are founded upon this bedrock principle.” “The passage of these amendments reaffirms the Parliamentary Assembly’s commitment to the principle of religious freedom for all,” said Commissioner Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA).  “It’s unfortunate that some parliamentarians felt the need to debate whether or not the Assembly should endorse these values.  The close vote on this amendment shows much work remains.” The second Smith amendment was adopted by a wider margin.  It reads, “Welcomes the involvement and expertise of the OSCE/ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief with technical assistance to ensure current or draft legislation fulfills all OSCE commitments on religious freedom, as well as encourages all parliaments to utilize the Guidelines for Legislative Reviews of Laws Affecting Religion or Belief drafted by the OSCE/ODIHR Panel when crafting laws or regulations affecting religious practice.”  The 317-member Assembly is the parliamentary dimension of the OSCE, whose primary task is “to facilitate inter-parliamentary dialogue, an important aspect of the overall effort to meet the challenges of democracy throughout the OSCE area.”

  • Helsinki Commission Chair Calls for Huseynov’s Safe Passage Out of Azerbaijan

    WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s disclosure that Azerbaijani press freedom advocate Emin Huseynov has spent the past six months sheltering in the Swiss Embassy in Baku, Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04) issued the following statement:  “Through the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Emin Huseynov has worked tirelessly to defend journalists and promote media freedom in Azerbaijan. I appeal to President Aliyev to immediately allow Mr. Huseynov to leave the Swiss Embassy and give him safe passage out of Azerbaijan. Sadly, the persecution of Mr. Huseynov is part of a larger crackdown on human rights activists – I have met some of their family members and friends, and join my voice to those calling for their release.” Mr. Huseynov heads the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), an independent NGO that has provided training and legal support to journalists under threat in Azerbaijan since 2006. Approximately eight months ago, the Azerbaijani authorities froze IRFS’ bank account and seized the organization’s computers and other work materials. Mr. Huseynov was forbidden to leave the country and sought asylum in the Swiss Embassy after learning that he was likely to be arrested.

  • HEARING: THE STATE OF DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN TURKMENISTAN

    This hearing reviewed the democratization process, human rights, and religious liberty in Turkmenistan. This was one in a series that the Helsinki Commission has held on Central Asia. Turkmenistan has become a worse-case scenario of post-Soviet development. Human Rights Watch Helsinki did not yield from calling Turkmenistan one of the most repressive countries in the world. As a post-Soviet bloc country, Turkmenistan remains a one-party state, but even that party is only a mere shadow of the former ruling Communist Party. All the real power resides in the country’s dictator, who savagely crushes any opposition or criticism. The witnesses gave testimony surrounding the legal obstacles in the constitution of Turkmenistan and other obstacles that the authoritarian voices in the government use to suppress opposition.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Kazakhstan’s Bid to Chair OSCE in 2009

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing on Tuesday, October 16 at 10:00 a.m. in 210 of the Cannon House Office Building. The hearing entitled, “Kazakhstan’s Bid to Chair the OSCE: A Fundamental Right or a Foolhardy Ambition?” will focus on Kazakhstan’s bid to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. Oil rich Kazakhstan’s ambition to be OSCE Chair-in-Office has been controversial ever since it was put forward in 2003. Consensus could not be reached last year because of concerns about ongoing problems with democratization and human rights in Kazakhstan. In November, the 56 member states of the OSCE are expected to decide the issue. The following witnesses will testify at the hearing: His Excellency Erlan A. Idrissov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan Mr. David Merkel, former Director for Central Asia, National Security Council Dr. Robert Herman, Director of Programs, Freedom House, representing a broad coalition of human rights groups Mr. Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Director, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

  • The Nightmare in Turkmenistan

    Mr. Speaker, November 25 will mark the one-year anniversary of events in Turkmenistan that turned that already bizarre autocracy into an even more nightmarish kingdom. According to the official version, opposition groups led by former high-ranking officials tried to assassinate Saparmurat Niyazov, the country's President-for-Life. The attempt failed, the plotters were found, tried and imprisoned, and in the eyes of Niyazov's regime, justice has been done.   What actually happened that day is unclear. There may well have been a coup attempt against Niyazov, who has turned himself into virtually a living god. Or, as some opposition activists in exile maintain, the whole affair may have been staged by Niyazov to crack down even harder. Since no outsider has had access to those arrested in connection with the events, the truth may never be known.   Whatever happened, it is easy to understand the desperate frustration among Turkmen. Niyazov has made Turkmenistan the only one-party state in the former Soviet space, where one man decides everything, no opposition is permitted, all media are totally censored and the populace is forced to study the "rukhnama"--a dictator's rantings that purport to be a one-stop religion, national history and morality lesson.   What is clear is that Niyazov's response to November 25 has trampled on civilized norms, even if his allegations are true. In the wake of the arrests, all opposition--real or imagined--has been crushed. Quick show trials of the accused were broadcast on television, after which they received long prison sentences with no access to relatives or international organizations. Some of the opposition leaders have already died in prison. One individual who was arrested, an American citizen named Leonid Komarovsky of Massachusetts was eventually released, as a result of pressure from Washington. Upon gaining his freedom, he told the world of the horrible tortures people suffered at the hands of Turkmen security forces. The stories rival any we used to hear from the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In addition, relatives of those deemed "enemies of the people" have been targeted for persecution. The luckier ones merely are fired and thrown out of their apartments onto the streets; others have been arrested and tortured in prison or forced to watch their loved ones being tortured.   In response to this crisis, the OSCE invoked the Moscow Mechanism, a rarely-used tool to investigate particularly appalling human rights violations. But Niyazov refused to cooperate with the OSCE, whose officially designated rapporteur was denied a visa. Nevertheless, he was able to compile a comprehensive dossier of horror, which documents as well as possible without access to prisons, the mistreatment and abuse of those arrested and the persecution of their relatives. The rapporteur also forwarded to the Government of Turkmenistan recommendations to move towards reform. Niyazov has dismissed them as "offensive" and "interference in internal affairs."   Niyazov has also refused U.S. officials entry to his jails. Recently, Ambassador Stephen Minikes, head of the U.S. Delegation to OSCE visited Ashgabat, but despite his explicit request, was not allowed to check on the health of one of those arrested: former Turkmen Foreign Minister and OSCE Ambassador Batyr Berdiev. There are persistent rumors he has died in prison.   One year after the events of November 25, Saparmurat Niyazov remains in power. He continues his crackdown, and the country's downward spiral accelerates. Niyazov has reintroduced exit visas, a legacy of the Soviet past we thought had been definitively overcome. Just last week, he instituted new laws harshly restricting freedom of religion, which is trampled upon daily in Turkmenistan; groups brave enough to meet risk home raids, imprisonment, deportation, internal exile, house eviction and even torture. The new provisions further empower regime agents to squash religious practice. Now, individuals caught more than once in a year acting on the behalf of an unregistered community can be fined between ten and thirty months of wages, or be sent to hard labor for up to one year. Of course, registration is in effect impossible to obtain, leaving religious communities and their members in a highly vulnerable position.   A recent Niyazov decree on NGO activity makes it punishable for most Turkmen to interact with foreigners. Representatives of non-Turkmen ethnic groups, such as Uzbeks or Russians, face discrimination in education and employment. Niyazov has not only reestablished and strengthened the environment of fear, he has deliberately isolated his country from outside influences. Under his rule, Turkmenistan has no chance of developing normally.   As November 25 approaches, we recall that when a political system centralizes all power in the hands one man, offering no possibilities for participation to anyone else, people may be tempted to change that system by any means. And we have occasion to consider the eternal validity of Lord Acton's dictum: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."   Unfortunately, the U.S. response to Turkmenistan's blatant disregard for human rights has been shamefully weak. In August, although Turkmenistan violates freedom of emigration by requiring exit visas, the Administration made the astonishing decision to exempt Turkmenistan from Jackson-Vanik requirements on the free movement of citizens.   Our leverage on this particular dictator may be weak but we have opportunities to express our outrage about these ongoing abuses and to align ourselves with the forces of freedom and democracy. In addition to ending the Jackson-Vanik waiver, the State Department should designate Turkmenistan a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The regime's well-documented record of "particularly severe violations of religious freedom" unquestionably meets the statutory threshold envisioned when we passed the Act of "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom."   The United States and the international community must condemn the actions of Niyazov's regime and continue working to bring Turkmenistan back towards civilized and democratic norms. Any other approach betrays our own principles.

  • Documents of the Helsinki Monitoring Groups in the U.S.S.R. and Lithuania (1976-1986), Vol. 3 - Ukraine

    November 9, 1986, marked the 10th anniversary of the largest and, in terms of prison sentences, the most repressed of the Soviet Helsinki Groups--the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. Founded by Ukrainian writer and World War II veteran Mykola Rudenko, the group produced extensive documentation on violations of the Helsinki Accords in Ukraine, such as persecution of individual dissent, suppression of the Ukrainian language and culture, and religious persecution. The Soviet Government was determined to deny this group any public voice. Of the 38 members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, all but one have been imprisoned at one time or another. Fourteen Ukrainian Helsinki Monitors and one Estonian human rights activist who joined the group while in a labor camp, are currently serving lengthly sentences. Since May 1984, three members have died in camps. All three men had been ill and denied adequate medical care. Oleksa Tykhy, Yuriy Lytvyn and Vasyl Stus all died for their beliefs. Prior to his death, Stus had written "Moscow has given the camp authorities complete power, and anyone harboring the illusion that our relations with /the camp authorities/ are regulated by some sort of law is sadly mistaken." His words were tragically prophetic. We are concerned that the same fate awaits others, including Lev Lukianenko, Mykola Horbal, Ivan Kandyba, Vasyl Ovsienko and Vitaly Kalynychenko. It is vital that we remember the courageous members of the Ukrainian Monitoring Group and their eloquent call for compliance with the ideals of Helsinki. In fact, the Congress recently passed a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki group and honoring the members of all the Soviet Helsinki Monitoring Groups. At the ongoing Vienna CSCE Follow-up Meeting, the United States and other Western delegations are speaking out on behalf of the imprisoned members of the Ukrainian and other Helsinki Groups. We hope that the documents contained in this volume will help to ensure that the Ukrainian Group and its message are not forgotten.

  • Lebanon: Development and Prospects

    This briefing, which CSCE Staff Advisor Chadwick R. Gore moderated, was held to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon following the withdrawal of Syrian troops. According to Sen. Sam Brownback, who was CSCE Chairman at the time of the briefing, “With the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, we have entered a whole new phase in the history of the Middle East.” The briefing’s witnesses, then, were utilized to offer unique insights on what the implications were for Lebanon’s and the region’s future. The witnesses in this briefing were Dr. Walid Phares and Joe Baini. Dr. Walid Phares was the senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, as well as a delegate of the Lebanese Diaspora (WLCU) to the United Nations. Joe Baini was the president of the World Lebanon Cultural Union. A hearing that was held the same year and addressed the Russia-Syrian connection and its effect on Lebanon predated the briefing.

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