Human rights within states are crucial to security among states. Prioritizing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, defending the principles of liberty, and encouraging tolerance within societies must be at the forefront of America's foreign policy agenda. Peace, security, and prosperity cannot be sustained if national governments repress their citizens, stifle their media, or imprison members of the political opposition. Authoritarian regimes become increasingly unstable as citizens chafe under the bonds of persecution and violence, and pose a danger not only to their citizens, but also to neighboring nations. The Helsinki Commission strives to ensure that the protection of human rights and defense of democratic values are central to U.S. foreign policy; that they are applied consistently in U.S. relations with other countries; that violations of Helsinki provisions are given full consideration in U.S. policymaking; and that the United States holds those who repress their citizens accountable for their actions. This includes battling corruption; protecting the fundamental freedoms of all people, especially those who historically have been persecuted and marginalized; promoting the sustainable management of resources; and balancing national security interests with respect for human rights to achieve long-term positive outcomes rather than short-term gains.
The Helsinki Commission has a long history of engagement in Central Europe, recognizing the importance of the individual countries of the region even at a time when many policymakers focused only on Moscow as the center of the Warsaw Pact alliance.
During the communist period, Helsinki Commissioners met in Czechoslovakia with leading figures from the Charter 77 Movement, the Committee to Protect the Unjustly Persecuted, and underground churches and published two volumes of Charter 77 documents.
In 1992, Czechoslovakia chaired the OSCE, with Jiri Dienstbier representing the country for the first six months, followed by Josef Moravcik for the remainder of the year. The Czechoslovak Federation dissolved on January 1, 1993, and the Czech and Slovak Republics became independent states. In subsequent years, Commissioners have engaged on discrimination against American citizens in the Czech Republic’s laws on property compensation and restitution, denial of citizenship to Roma after the Czech Republic became independent, and addressing past sterilization of Romani women without informed consent.
Staff Contact: Jordan Warlick, policy advisor