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Corruption: A Problem that Spans the OSCE Region and Dimensions
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

By Troy C. Ware, with contributions from Shelly Han

In July 2008, Members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and other Members of Congress traveled to Astana, Kazakhstan for the seventeenth Annual Session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). The session’s theme was “Transparency in the OSCE.” At the outset of the trip, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, then Chairman of the Commission, remarked that while he supported the candidacy of Kazakhstan for the Chairmanship of the OSCE it was “imperative that the government undertake concrete reforms on human rights and democratization.”1 A number of nongovernmental organizations have cited the high level of corruption in Kazakhstan as one impediment to democratic reform.

Kazakhstan is by no means alone. Recognizing the existence of corruption throughout the OSCE region, Helsinki Commissioners have consistently addressed the problem by raising it through hearings, legislation, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Hearings in 2006 identified corruption as a hindrance to fulfilling human rights commitments and economic development in South-Central Europe (Helsinki Commission June 2006 Hearing). The role of corruption as a force in restricting freedom of the media in Azerbaijan was highlighted in a 2007 hearing (Helsinki Commission August 2007 Hearing). This report will draw attention to recent initiatives undertaken by the Helsinki Commission that have shown corruption undermines human rights, fundamental freedoms and overall security.

Wherever found, corruption not only stunts democratic reform, but also weakens the security and economic condition of states. Although corruption manifests itself in various ways, this report can practically only discuss a few. For example, prominent manifestations within the three OSCE dimensions discussed include parliamentary corruption, diversion of funding from infrastructure and human trafficking. Understandably, countries will not solve a widespread and pervasive problem with a singular approach. Additionally, this report will discuss the importance of capacity building initiatives that focus on prevention as a critical element in an anti-corruption campaign. This is an element that must be included alongside the high profile anti-corruption prosecutions governments may be inclined to conduct.

A number of international governmental and nongovernmental organizations produce regular surveys or reports on corruption. The 2008 survey of corruption by Transparency International (TI), an international nongovernmental organization that promotes anti-corruption policies worldwide, ranked twelve OSCE participating States in the bottom half of 180 countries surveyed. The least corrupt countries were assigned the highest ranking. Kazakhstan ranked 145, which was still ahead of the OSCE countries of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.2 Experts point out that since TI uses a survey, its findings may lag behind reality, reflecting only perceptions based on increased reporting resulting from government enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Others point out that surveys place too much emphasis on bribery although forms of corruption vary greatly from country to country.3 Nonetheless, other barometers, such as evaluations of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which measures anti-corruption policy reform and capacity through a multi-year expert evaluation process, suggest that some OSCE participating States are only partially implementing standards set by the group. Corruption, which was explicitly highlighted in the Parliamentary Assembly’s concluding document, the Astana Declaration,4 is a multidimensional blight that undermines human, economic, environmental, and security dimension policy goals throughout the OSCE region.

Human Dimension

Genuine democracy and rule of law cannot exist if the passage, implementation and judgment of the law favor the highest bidder. Moreover, the rule of law requires more than elections and a neutral and impartial judiciary; it requires that individuals receive the unbiased and dispassionate benefits of the law from all public servants. Larry Diamond wrote in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs that, “[f]or a country to be a democracy, it must have more than regular, multiparty elections under a civilian constitutional order.” He points out that when regular elections are accompanied by corrupt police and bureaucracies, many people are “citizens only in name” and in their disillusionment gravitate toward authoritarian leadership.5

Observers frequently focus attention on removing graft from courts and elections. However, corruption in other spheres of society, such as among lower level public servants, contributes to the notion of corruption as an acceptable behavior often having the most immediate adverse effect on the average person. Government employees of modest rank are capable of denying basic fundamental freedoms such as equal protection of the law, enjoyment of property, the right of minorities to exercise human rights and freedoms, and the independence of legal practitioners.6 Those who advocate for the victims of corruption, even within the judicial systems, often cannot do so without repercussions. Furthermore, when parliaments become sanctuaries for persons engaged in corruption the protection conveys a message that corruption will be tolerated elsewhere in society.

Parliamentary Immunity

In a 2006 brief, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defined parliamentary immunity as “a system in which members of a legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution from civil and/or criminal offenses.” USAID further states that parliamentary immunity’s purpose is to “reduce the possibility of pressuring a member to change his or her official behavior [with] the threat of prosecution.”7 Unrestrained parliamentary immunity impedes the investigation and prosecution of corruption, makes parliamentary acquiescence and perpetuation of corruption possible, fosters a culture of corruption among other government officials and security officials, and disproportionately affects minority populations. According to Development Alternative Incorporated (DAI), a development consulting company, developing democracies tend to favor the broadest scope of immunity which allows corrupt activities almost with impunity. Although rare, a parliament may vote to lift immunity from one of its members, as was the case in Armenia in 2006 when immunity was removed for a parliament member who allegedly failed to pay taxes and instigated a gun fight.8

While parliamentary immunity can protect the independence of legislatures, frequently it is a shield for illicit activity. A 2007 USAID report, Corruption Assessment: Ukraine, found that “legislators have amassed fortunes through business interests and other means . . . with little transparency or accountability.” Moreover the report found that broad immunity created a powerful incentive to seek public office and introduced “illicit funding” into the political process.9 Even if prosecuting agencies investigate the activities of legislators, the individuals are rarely prosecuted because the parliament will not lift immunity. ArmeniaNow, an NGO publication, found that in the first fifteen years of Armenian independence, immunity was waived in only five instances.10 Although democratic attributes exist ostensibly in most OSCE participating States, features such as elections may ironically serve to conceal the self-serving rule that results from corruption.

Parliamentary corruption can lead to a cycle in which the parliament cannot effectively exercise an oversight role because its members have a personal stake in the illicit activity. The Bulgarian parliament’s resistance to closing duty-free vendors along its borders is an example of the controlling power of corruption according to Bulgaria’s Center for the Study of Democracy. Since 1992, duty-free fuel, cigarette and alcohol vendors have operated at Bulgaria’s borders.11 These operations, allegedly tied to organized crime, deprived the state of significant tax revenue and could undercut prices of competitors subject to duties. As a condition of joining the European Union, Bulgaria was required to raise excise duties up to a standard set by the EU. Furthermore, in 2003 the Minister of Finance signed a letter of intent with the International Monetary Fund to close all duty-free shops.12 In response to the increased tax, the illegal trade in duty-free goods increased. In 2004, the Finance Minister extended a license for the shops to continue until 2009 despite international commitments to the contrary. In 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament, instead of closing the shops, passed a law that allowed the shops to shift to the non-EU borders with Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.13 Finally, in early 2008, the Parliament passed a law to close the duty-free shops.14 Previously, the Center for the Study of Democracy asserted that “national level illegal proceeds from duty-free trade [had] been deployed to capture the state” and the vendors had used “political corruption to secure perpetual monopoly business positions.”15

Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin has raised the issue of unbridled parliamentary immunity on many occasions. In a hearing in June 2006 on Human Rights, Democracy, and Integration in South Central Europe, Senator Cardin made a commitment to push the Parliamentary Assembly to adopt initiatives calling for changes to parliamentary immunity laws. At the July 2006 OSCE Annual Session Cardin authored a resolution on parliamentary immunity, which passed, urging the OSCE participating States to “[p]rovide clear, balanced, transparent, and enforceable procedures for waiving parliamentary immunities in cases of criminal acts or ethical violations.” In 2007, Cardin raised the issue of how parliamentary immunity can serve as cover for corruption in a Helsinki Commission hearing on Energy and Democracy (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing). He has also urged nations such as Ukraine to consider changing their parliamentary immunity laws.16

Petty Corruption

Like water flowing downhill, if corruption exists at the higher levels of government and society, it will permeate the performance of public servants at every level. During a 2008 Helsinki Commission hearing on Kazakhstan’s accession to the OSCE Chairmanship, Martha Olcott of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace identified corruption that is “rampant in daily life” in Kazakhstan and present at all levels of government (Helsinki Commission July 2008 Hearing).17 Endemic corruption within the government bureaucracy has an immediate effect in terms of confidence in government and cost to the people of any country. A 2009 report stated that among European Union countries, 17 percent of Greeks and thirty percent of Lithuanians had admitted to paying a bribe to obtain service from a public administrative body.18 In many countries, widespread corruption has led to a level of acceptance. GfK Research, an international marketing and research company, conducted a study in 2006 which reported that 61 percent of Romanians, 58 percent of Bosnians, and 56 percent of Czechs regarded bribes as a normal part of life.19

Frequently, national health care service is provided only to those willing to pay extra to medical personnel. In Romania, $225 paid by Alina Lungu to her doctor was apparently not enough to prevent him from leaving the pregnant women alone for an hour during labor and her baby from being born blind, deaf, and with brain damage due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around him.20 Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization that monitors governance and corruption worldwide, provides an account of a Latvian girl experiencing stomach pain who was allowed to sit in a hospital for several days without pain-killers or treatment until her father paid money to the doctor.21 A survey in Bulgaria showed that the amount of Bulgarians identifying the health sector as the most corrupt in comparison to others such as customs, police, and judiciary increased from 20 percent in 2002 to 39 percent in 2007.22 According to 2007 reporting, Bulgarians experienced corruption in almost every type of health service including referrals, surgery, birth delivery, and emergency care. The problem is very widespread in hospital care.23 Some conclude that health workers take extra payments from patients for services already covered by health insurance and administrators overstate costs in hospital care due to insufficient hospital financing and financing regulations that encourage overspending.24

fficials regularly abuse their authority in the enforcement of traffic laws and in the area of travel. Vladimir Voinovich, a prominent Russian author, points out that to become a public official or policeman you must pay off your boss and that payment is financed through taking bribes.25 Even when officials wish to behave honestly, providing “a stream of payments to patrons” becomes a matter of survival.26 In Uzbekistan, permission from the local government is required to move to another city and according to the 2008 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Uzbekistan, local authorities commonly issue the required documents only in return for a bribe. The report also states that police “arbitrarily detained people to extort bribes” on a regular basis.27 The 2008 report on Human Rights Practices in Azerbaijan noted that police officers regularly impose arbitrary fines on citizens and seek protection money.28 The report on Poland recognized that corruption among police was widespread.29 In many countries, drinking and driving has become commonplace because police can be bribed to look the other way.

The Effect of Corruption on Minorities

More often than not, police corruption disproportionally affects minority groups. In a Helsinki Commission briefing in 2004, Leonid Raihman of the Open Society Institute described the plight of Roma in Russia who are trapped in a cycle of poverty exacerbated by bribes extracted by the Russian police (Helsinki Commission September 2004 Briefing). Often detained on charges of not possessing proper personal documents or a false accusation of committing a crime, Roma will hire an attorney whose sole function is to negotiate the price of the bribe for their release. According to Raihman, the situation is analogous to that of a hostage whose freedom is being negotiated. This can sometimes lead to families selling their car, life savings or home. He noted that the worst case scenario results in homelessness.30

Regulations that require people to register their official place of residence or obtain an internal passport provide fertile soil for minority exploitation through corruption. According to the 2007 Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices in Russia, “darker skinned persons from the Caucasus or Central Asia” were regularly singled out to see if they possessed an internal passport and had registered with local authorities.31 Typically, if allowed to register, a person must pay a bribe. 

Retaliation against Lawyers

The legal profession, in addition to an independent judiciary, is an essential part of a functioning democracy. Still, government officials have used retaliatory criminal prosecution and coercive measures to discourage lawyers from representing clients in cases that expose corruption. An example from Russia is that of the attorneys representing Hermitage Capital and its executives.32 Lawyers from four independent law firms representing Hermitage have apparently been subject to unlawful office searches, illegal summonses demanding that they testify as witnesses in the same cases where they are representing clients, and that they falsify testimony against clients. Lawyers who failed to comply were subjected to criminal charges. Several of the lawyers have fled Russia.33 Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer with Firestone Duncan, a firm which represented Hermitage Capital, was arrested in November 2008 in connection with his investigation of government corruption. Magnitsky died in custody this November in a case that highlighted the difficulty of standing up to corruption and poor Russian prison conditions. As the dismissal of the head of the tax agency which Magnitsky was investigating suggests, the death is still reverberating at the Kremlin.34 However, it remains to be seen if long-term actions to protect lawyers exposing corruption will be undertaken. Persons familiar with the Russian legal system say little importance is placed on the attorney-client privilege.35 Allegedly, companies like the 2X2 television network, charged with committing crimes against the state by broadcasting content including the Simpsons and South Park encounter difficulties finding legal representation.36

Government attacks on lawyers and their clients who expose corruption represent a serious threat to the rule of law. When lawyers are intimidated and afraid to represent clients, citizens are defenseless against corruption. A primary reason for this is that courts present many complexities that non-attorneys may find difficult to overcome. The U. S. Supreme Court in Powell v. Alabama explained the challenge faced by a non-attorney representing himself in saying that the non-attorney often cannot recognize if the “indictment is good or bad,” is “unfamiliar with the rules of evidence,” and “lacks the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense.”37 It is imperative that lawyers are protected from government interference and political persecution so that they may effectively represent and protect their clients’ interests.

The Economic Dimension

Studies suggest corruption retards economic development and generally results in a lower standard of living. The OSCE Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, asserts that “corruption is clearly a major indicator of the health of a business and investment climate” and that the “wealthiest OSCE countries are generally the countries judged to be least corrupt by international observers.”38 Corruption adversely affects economic growth by slowing infrastructure development, increasing costs for businesses, and preventing competitive business outcomes. Moreover, the responsibility of wealthier OSCE participating States cannot be disregarded. Multinational corporations from developed nations, largely through acquiescent behavior, may promote corruption in countries where it is most prevalent.

Cost to Business and the Overall Economy

Bribes pose a significant cost for businesses in many OSCE countries. The Best Practice Guide notes that in former Soviet countries a higher percentage of business revenue is dedicated to paying bribes than in Western Europe.39 The guide reported that in some countries businesses pay up to four percent of their total costs in bribes.40 Whether through customs, licenses, or permits, the opportunity for graft exists where there are excessive bureaucracies or regulations. The CATO Institute’s report, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe, identifies building permits as “an especially attractive source of extra income.”41 According to a World Bank report, building a general storage two-story warehouse in Moscow requires 54 procedures and 704 days.42 This interaction with numerous agencies and government officials increases the opportunity for bribes.

Bribes ultimately distort market outcomes because the most competitive companies are not rewarded for their efforts and therefore some companies choose not to compete at all. For example, government contracting is one area where bribes undermine competition and the public good. J. Welby Leaman, an advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department wrote in the Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal, “public officials’ solicitation of their ‘cut’ impoverish government programs.”43 The CATO Institute report cites the case of Dell Corporation losing a computer contract with the Czech parliament. Dell’s bid reportedly met all technical specifications, was the lowest cost and offered to pay a penalty fee for late delivery. Nonetheless, the contract was awarded to a Czech firm that asked for twice as much as Dell.44 Leaman also notes that if a firm cannot pass on a bribe’s cost to the customer, that firm may choose not to compete, which robs the economy of “additional investment and competition.”45

Diversion of Wealth from Natural Resources

While a number of OSCE participating States are fortunate to possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, in many instances the wealth produced by these resources does not benefit the citizens of the states, but only the few who control the resources. The Helsinki Commission held hearings in 2007 spotlighting this misappropriation and betrayal of public trust. Simon Taylor of Global Witness identified the problem’s crux in many countries noting that in Turkmenistan, a country of approximately five million people, “[60] percent of [the] population lives below the poverty line despite two billion dollars in annual gas revenues.”46 Remarkably, in Kazakhstan, the economy grew only 0.3 percent between 2000 and 2005 despite its exportation of 1.2 million barrels of oil a day. Taylor also framed the diversion of profits for personal use as a matter of energy security resulting in unreliable supply and higher prices (Helsinki Commission July 2007 Hearing).47

Following the hearings, then-Commission Chairman Alcee L. Hastings introduced an amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 3221), which became law, making it U.S. policy to support the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and for the U.S. Secretary of State to report annually on U.S. efforts to promote transparency in extractive industry payments.48 The 2009 report notes United States contributions to the EITI Multi-Donor Trust Fund, senior level State Department encouragement to developing economies to join EITI, embassy officer engagement with government officials in developing economies, and U.S. Treasury Department collaboration with development banks.49 In 2008, then-Co-Chairman Cardin sponsored an amendment to the Statement of the July 2008 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session that among other things, “encourages governments from oil and gas producing countries to introduce regulations that require all companies operating in their territories to make public information relevant to revenue transparency.” The amendment was approved by the OSCE parliamentarians and adopted as part of the Astana Declaration.50 If the economies of oil and natural gas rich OSCE participating States are to reach their full potential, transparency and accountability must exist between extractive industries and national government.

Infrastructure

In addition to the price of bribes, a business is disadvantaged to compete in a market with less infrastructure due to corruption. Ukraine exemplifies an OSCE country that stands to gain from economic growth if road projects are funded, efficient and transparent. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report on Ukraine notes that the poor state of Ukraine’s roads is hindered by road construction processes that provide many opportunities for corruption.51 This situation impedes not only new road construction, but also repair of existing roads and bridge construction. The State Motor Road Service of Ukraine reported that Ukraine loses the equivalent of one billion U.S. dollars annually due to poor road conditions.52 While new road projects are underway, including a new ring road around Kyiv, current legislation does not allow for a competitive private bidding process, without which the road system will continue to rank 120th out of 134 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum in quality of roads. Ukraine is not alone, Moldova ranked 133rd out of 134 countries.53 Not surprisingly, business leaders in Moldova ranked corruption as the second most problematic business obstacle in that country behind access to financing.54

Fraudulent Appropriation of Private Property

A pattern of takeovers of private companies and the government-directed persecution of their executives and lawyers is reportedly becoming the norm in Russia. A prime example was the illegal takeover of companies belonging to the Hermitage Fund, a joint venture between Hermitage Capital Management and HSBC Bank. The takeover was allegedly achieved through brazen abuses of power by law enforcement authorities and interference by government officials with Russian courts. William Browder, the founder of Hermitage, and Jamison Firestone, his attorney, recently met with Helsinki Commission staff to discuss their case. Browder’s visa was revoked in 2005 for what he believes was his work in exposing corruption in state controlled companies with close links to the Kremlin. He then appealed to high-level Russian officials, Browder said, including an impromptu conversation with then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Davos annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. After these appeals, Browder alleges he received a phone call from a senior law enforcement officer apparently offering to restore his visa for a price. When this offer was rejected, the Russian Interior Ministry raided the offices of Hermitage and Firestone (see Human Dimension – Retaliation against Lawyers). Corporate seals, charters, and certificates of registration for the Hermitage Fund companies as well as documents belonging to numerous other clients were confiscated during the raids.

Following the raids, the corporate documents taken by the Interior Ministry in the office raids were used to wipe HSBC off the share registry of the Hermitage Fund companies. The same documents were used to forge back dated contracts and to file lawsuits against the Hermitage companies alleging significant liabilities. Although Hermitage and HSBC were not aware of these cases, various judges awarded $973 million in damages in legal proceedings that were concluded in a matter of minutes. These same fraudulent liabilities were used by the perpetrators to seek a retroactive tax refund of $230 million in profit taxes that Hermitage had paid to the Russian government in 2006. At the time of the refund, HSBC and Hermitage had already filed six criminal complaints with the heads of Russian law enforcement authorities documenting the involvement of senior government officials in this fraud. Despite these detailed complaints, the fraudulent tax refund was promptly approved and paid to the perpetrators in a matter of days in sharp contrast to the lengthy process normally associated with such a refund.

In response to the complaints Russian authorities created an investigative committee staffed by the very officials implicated in the complaints. Moreover, a number of spurious retaliatory criminal cases have been lodged against Browder, his colleagues, and four lawyers from four separate law firms. In the meantime, Mr. Browder and a senior colleague, Ivan Cherkasov, have been placed on the Russian Federal Search List and face the possibility of becoming the subjects of an Interpol Red Notice. Because of the coordinated nature of actions taken by state officials in this scheme together with the official reaction to the Hermitage complaints, Browder suspects high level political interference.55 A country where property can be seized without due process is one where investment is likely to be depressed for fear of arbitrary loss.

Regulation of Multinationals

While the OSCE participating States of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union often receive the most criticism for failing to curtail corruption, West European countries also face problems with corruption. One notable case is the recent investigation of defense contractor BAE Systems, a British firm, for alleged bribery in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and separate probes into wrongdoing in arms transactions with Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Qatar. The British newspaper, The Telegraph, reported that an alleged six billion pounds (approximately nine billion dollars) were paid to various Saudi officials. Citing a threat to cease intelligence sharing by Saudi Arabia, the British government terminated the investigation.56

In response to the termination of the investigation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), issued a report criticizing the British government for not considering alternatives to discontinuing the investigation. Moreover, the report criticized the U.K. for not enacting legislation to meet the country’s obligation under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.57 While other companies are under investigation, and some like Siemens A.G. have paid record-setting fines, the case of BAE systems stands out because of the record of the U.K. in holding its multinationals to account for overseas bribery. Writing in Foreign Affairs in 2006, Ben Heinemann and Fritz Heimann argue that an area of “emphasis must be the implementation of enforcement and prevention measures by developed nations, where bribery of foreign officials can be more readily exposed and prosecuted.” Unfortunately, their article points out that as of 2006, only France, South Korea, Spain and the United States have brought more than one prosecution.58 In July 2008, the House of Lords upheld the decision of the British government to end the investigation of BAE systems and the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has taken no steps to reopen the case.

It should be noted that under the pioneer Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which predates the OECD Convention, the United States has steadily increased investigations and prosecutions.59 The FCPA has three major provisions. Its best known provision prohibits U.S. Corporations and individuals from using an instrumentality of interstate commerce to bribe a foreign official, political party or candidate.60The two other primary provisions require corporations to maintain records which accurately reflect transactions and to maintain “internal accounting controls” to provide assurance transactions61 are executed with management’s authorization.62

Observers note that U.S. courts are limiting exceptions to the law and extending its scope while the Department of Justice is joining FCPA charges with charges under other federal laws.63 Reportedly, as of May 2009, the Department of Justice was pursuing 120 investigations of possible FCPA violations.64Recent prosecutions have resulted in favorable court decisions for authorities. In 2004, in a broad interpretation of the law’s application, a Fifth Circuit Court ruling rejected the claim that Congress meant to limit the FCPA only to bribes relating to contracts. The court held that the legislative history implies that the law applies broadly even to payments that indirectly assist in obtaining or retaining business.65 A recent lower court narrowed an exception for lawful payments under the laws of the foreign country. In a situation where a person was relieved of liability after reporting the bribe, the court wrote there “is no immunity from prosecution under the FCPA . . . because a provision in the foreign law “relieves” a person of criminal responsibility.”66 The aggressive enforcement environment and the government’s willingness to consider company-implemented compliance programs in deciding whether to prosecute has a positive consequence of incentivizing other companies to establish such programs.

What remains to be seen is to what extent nations with mature economies will hold multinational corporations to account during times of economic hardship. Although only a handful of countries have brought prosecutions, it should be noted that many investigations result in settlements which require fines. In the case of Siemens A.G., the company settled to pay more than $1.6 billion in fines to both German and U.S. authorities.67 If mature economies do not hold multinational corporations accountable, they are in effect promoting corrupt behavior and being duplicitous in criticizing corrupt practices elsewhere.

The Security Dimension

One account from the book The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade is the story of Stefa from Moldova who traveled to Romania looking for work. Stefa met a man who introduced himself as an agent marketing positions as maids. Regrettably, nothing could have been further from the truth. This man placed Stefa and other girls in a crowded apartment where they were paraded naked and auctioned like cattle. Natasha was eventually sold and smuggled to Italy where she was sexually assaulted and forced to work as a prostitute.68 Stefa’s story is a common one that is usually facilitated by corruption. Heinemann and Heimann write “one ignores corrupt states that are failed or failing at one’s peril, because they are incubators of terrorism, the narcotics trade, money laundering, human trafficking, and other global crime.”69 In addition to these illicit activities, many recent reports tie corruption to the proliferation of small arms trafficking and sales.

Terrorism

Many observers believe that terrorists appear to have taken advantage of corruption to conduct attacks. It was reported that one of two female suicide bombers from Chechnya who brought down two Russian passenger aircrafts in August 2004 paid a $34 bribe to board a plane for which she did not have a ticket. Shortly after, flight 1047 and another flight boarded by the second suicide bomber, flight 1303, blew up in mid-air after departing Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. Prominent Russian author Vladimir Voinovich, wrote on the Pakistani online newspaper The Daily Times that the terrorists who took control of the Dubrovka theatre in Moscow in 2002 were reportedly stopped fifty times by authorities while traveling to Moscow, but solely for the purpose of soliciting a bribe.70 An article inCrime & Justice International alleged that officials identified 100 Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) police personnel who were complicit in the travel of the Chechen fighters to Moscow.71

Corruption facilitates terrorism by decreasing border security and increasing money laundering. Kimberley Thachuk writes in the SAIS Review that “[c]riminal and terrorist groups depend on unimpeded cross-border movements, and so border guards, customs officers, and immigration personnel are notable targets of corruption.”72 In the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, corruption among border guards was identified as a risk in the OSCE region, particularly Albania, Armenia, Kosovo, and Moldova.73 The targeting of border guards by criminal elements extends even to the United States. Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reestablished its internal affairs unit amid increased corruption investigations. It had been disbanded in 2003. In the spring of 2008, there were 200 open cases against U.S. law enforcement officers on the border. This corruption has involved smuggling of guns, drugs, and people.74 Corruption ultimately undermines the effectiveness of security forces to fight terrorism. Kimberly Thachuk notes that “such corruption spreads, as does an attendant loss of morale and respect for the command structure.”75 This deterioration in professionalism and morale could not come at a worse time. A July 2008 article in Forbes magazine on European crime claimed a 24 percent increase in terrorist attacks from 2006 to 2007.76

Arms Sales 

As evidenced by prior testimony before the Helsinki Commission, corruption is a factor in many illicit arms sales worldwide. In June 2003, Roman Kupchinsky, then a Senior Analyst with Crime and Corruption Watch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, pointed out that sales from former Soviet states frequently involve a marriage of security forces and organized crime (Helsinki Commission June 2003 Hearing).77 This means individuals, not the government, are making the sales. Moreover, although OSCE participating States have agreed through the Forum for Security Cooperation to not issue export licenses for arms without an authenticated end-user certificate, these certificates are often forged. Accordingly, the buyer may not be the actual recipient of the weapons.

United Nations arms embargoes notwithstanding, individuals and companies from numerous countries are involved in the manufacture, transit, diversion from legal use, and fraudulent company registration for illicit arms trafficking to countries or non-state actor groups under embargo according to Control Arms, a group of concerned non-governmental organizations. The list of countries included Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.78 These illegal sales, which fuel conflict in the developing world, are estimated to be worth one billion dollars a year according to Rachel Stohl, an analyst at the World Security Institute’s Center for Defense Information. She noted in an article published for the SAIS Review that “[a]rms brokers are able to operate because they can circumvent national arms controls and international embargoes” frequently through corrupt practices.79

Human Trafficking

The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by [involuntary means] for the purpose of exploitation.”80 Victor Malarek, author of The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade, makes clear that corruption is the lynchpin of the trade in women and girls. Even when countries enact laws and policies to prevent trafficking, corruption threatens to render them ineffective. Mohamed Mattar writes in the Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review that there are indications that exit requirements such as exit visas for trafficked victims are being obtained through bribes.81 Furthermore, Malarek asserts that besides former Soviet states corruption also exists in destination countries in which officials are complicit in allowing the illicit trade. Specifically, the book draws attention to corruption among border guards and police in Greece that enables the trafficking.82

Human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation has wreaked havoc on Moldova. Moldova is an extremely susceptible source country because of poverty and associated corruption. The breadth of the problem is detailed in an article by William Finnegan in the May 2008 issue of The New Yorker. In large measure due to its economic plight, over 25 percent of Moldova’s workforce has migrated out of the country. A third of all children are missing a parent due to migration. Much of the population views emigration as the only hope to living a better life. Such conditions create a setting abundant with potential victims for traffickers. Finnegan asserts local authorities are generally not helpful unless you are a trafficker. He quotes a local prosecutor as saying “[t]he most powerful pimps in Moldova are all former cops.”83

In 2008 the U.S. Department of State initially ranked Moldova as a Tier 3 country meaning that it had failed to comply with minimum standards and failed to make significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking as outlined in U.S. law.84 In October 2008, the President upgraded Moldova to Tier 2 status because it had reopened investigations into official complicity and drafted a code of conduct for public officials.85 Although less reporting occurs on the breakaway republic of Transnistria than Moldova, the situation there appears alarming. Finnegan discovered that law enforcement officials are uncooperative with NGOs working on behalf of trafficked victims and corruption deters relatives of trafficked victims from contacting the police.86

Finnegan’s article makes clear that destination countries share a significant responsibility for human trafficking.87 Whether through deliberate corruption or turning a blind eye, doctors, police, border guards, accountants, lawyers, travel agencies or hotels in destination countries enable trafficking and exacerbate the problem in source countries. Every Western European country and the United States and Canada are destinations for trafficked persons. In its report, the Department of State claims that more than half of commercial sex workers in France were trafficking victims. The Department also recognizes Turkey as a significant destination country. Trafficked women and girls from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan find themselves in Turkey. The report notes that many police in Turkey are complicit in trafficking. The United States is not immune, the recent increase in corruption investigations against Customs and Border Protection officers are in part for taking bribes to allow the passage of human beings.88

OSCE Field Missions and Prevention Efforts89

While it is necessary to sound the alarm and call attention to corruption’s presence across the three OSCE dimensions, it is equally necessary to assess OSCE and non-OSCE efforts in the region to counter corruption. The last two decades have seen a consensus at the international level concerning norms and necessary anti-corruption action at the national level. This consensus is manifested in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Despite international achievements, some would say that national level progress in decreasing corruption is at a standstill or being rolled back in some OSCE participating States. Broadly conceived, implementation is stalling. To understand why it is helpful to think of implementation occurring in two phases. The first phase consists of the passing of national laws implementing international commitments. The second phase, which is just as important, consists of institutions with independent and trained persons complying with and impartially executing the anti-corruption laws. This second phase has proven most problematic for many countries because the actions required to build capacity require a long term commitment and the dedication of resources and do not often attract media attention. Additionally, the notion that the nature of corruption differs from country to country should be embraced.90

The Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) leads OSCE efforts in combating corruption. Through field missions, handbooks, and coordination with other international organizations, the OCEEA has promoted implementation of international anti-corruption agreements, efficient management of public resources and implementation of the Arhus Convention allowing greater access to information on the environment. Work to implement the UNCAC has paid off, with only thirteen OSCE participating States not having ratified the convention; and of those thirteen, only six have not yet signed the convention. However, this underscores the reality that ratification does not equate to true implementation of and compliance with the convention. This report cites corrupt activities within many OSCE participating States that have ratified the convention. With respect to this corrupt activity, OSCE field missions can be effective institutions for promoting substantive compliance with the convention.

An official with one international organization stressed that the hard part in decreasing corruption is the taking of preventative measures. OSCE field missions routinely undertake and promote some of these measures which include identifying and resolving conflicts, training government officials, and engaging civil society. OSCE field missions commonly provide anti-corruption assistance to local governments. However, in a manner befitting the nature of the problem, field missions conduct distinctive work appropriate to their assigned country. For example, in Georgia the mission assisted, before being closed down this year, in establishing an Inspector General’s office to review the finances of government ministries. Advocacy and legal advice centers are operated by the mission in Azerbaijan to provide legal advice on complaints and to educate the public and government authorities. In 2008, the centers in Azerbaijan provided assistance in response to 2,500 complaints. Additionally, mobile workshops reached 2,360 people with awareness campaigns and frequently provided on the spot legal advice.91 Similar centers provide aid in Armenia. The use of existing advocacy and legal advice centers is not high among people in Kazakhstan. This lower use may exemplify the benefit of an approach that carefully addresses the needs of people and nature of corruption in a given country.

Centers that target audiences other than the general public have been successful. In Tajikistan, Resource Centers for Small and Agribusiness and Centers for Promotion of Cross-Border Trade reportedly draw many patrons. It has also been reported that due to these centers, businesspeople have resisted illegal government inspections. Good Governance Centers in Georgia that assisted municipalities received high marks, and in addition to the government, were sometimes used by the general public. Prevention efforts directed at government employees at all levels are essential. Second round GRECO evaluation reports released in 2007 and 2008 identified a number of countries - some with field missions, such as Azerbaijan, and others without, such as Greece - that had not taken appropriate steps to protect government employees who are whistleblowers. In the case of Greece, sufficient protections for career advancement were not in place and employees typically could only report corruption to their immediate supervisor.92 Because the follow-on Addendum to the Compliance Reports are not public, it is unclear if adequate protections and measures to assist reporting has improved. Education coupled with preventative programs that build upon training are initiatives that field missions are well suited to provide through the various types of centers.

The OSCE mission in Ukraine has initiated a public-private dialogue that addresses accountability in local government. Fostering a dialogue between government, private sector, and civil society is important because in many countries these groups mistrust one another. In Georgia, the OSCE is supporting the efforts of Transparency International to ensure that a broad range of voices from civil society and the business community are heard by the Task Force on Fighting Corruption as it develops a new Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. These initiatives recognize that not only will implementation vary from country to country, but that implementation measures will differ at different levels of government and require input from all facets of society. Field missions are conducting varying efforts to promote a similar dialogue between government and civil society in Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan.

Recent meetings between Helsinki Commission staff and members of civil society and officials from international organizations suggest it may be misguided to keep a primary focus on national level authorities prosecuting alleged corrupt acts. One NGO member recently remarked that there are enough national level laws and that what is needed is impartial enforcement and an unbiased judiciary. In Curbing Corruption: Toward a Model for Building National Integrity, Daniel Kaufmann referred to this as the “Tackling-the-symptom bias” which “instead of identifying the root cause, involves thinking that the solution is to catch and jail a target number of criminals . . . or to pass another anti-corruption law in the country.”93 Kaufmann describes what may be the best case scenario. The worst case scenario expressed by both members of the NGO community and international organizations to the Helsinki Commission is that prosecution is used to target political opposition and journalists.

Amplifying the problem are enforcement agencies that may lack the capacity to conduct an even-handed investigation. An official from Bosnia-Herzegovnia recently said that the country “has adopted three strategic plans and ratified numerous international conventions on corruption,” but there is no implementation and the commitments go unmet.94 Public GRECO compliance reports from its second round of evaluations conclude that Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Romania have only partially implemented measures to fully train investigators, prosecutors and judges to handle corruption cases.95Again, because the follow-on addendum to the reports are not public it is unclear if training has improved in these participating States. In 2005, the President of Kyrgyzstan signed a decree establishing the National Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic for Preventing Corruption. Reportedly, in that first year, the agency opted not to put into practice a number of recommendations of an outside expert sponsored by an international organization to provide support. Later, the agency disagreed with international organizations on the use of funds offered by those organizations. Reportedly, $300,000 were made available for capacity building, but the leadership of the agency was adamant that the money be used to increase salaries. Today the agency has seven computers for 49 staff and no Internet access, Helsinki Commission staff was told.

Concerns also exist that a strong parliamentary immunity is a necessity when many governments are focused on prosecution of political opponents. The NGO member added that this prosecution is often targeted at politicians in a minority party highlighting the continued need for parliamentary immunity laws even if they allow some offenders and wrongdoers to evade prosecution. This view of targeted prosecutions has been echoed by workers with international organizations that have communicated with the Helsinki Commission on this subject. With the above in mind, it should be noted that the resolution authored by Chairman Cardin, and adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly in 2006, incorporates preventative measures by calling for the publishing of “rigorous standards of ethics and official conduct” and establishing “efficient mechanisms for public disclosure of financial information and potential conflicts of interest.”96 The goals set out in that resolution constitute a starting point that must be reinforced with other measures that over time build a common ethos of public integrity and service throughout government.

It should also be noted that the OSCE has worked in tandem with the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) in participating States such as Kyrgyzstan to train parliamentarians in roles of oversight and budget control. Finally, Chairman Cardin’s resolution recommending that the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) develop best practices for parliamentarians to use echoed the 2005 OSCE PA’s Washington Declaration. That document praised the work of GOPAC and recommended that the OSCE “with other parliamentary associations and [GOPAC develop] a programme of peer support, education and anti-corruption initiatives.”97 The OSCE has also worked with GOPAC in running workshops and supporting local GOPAC chapters particularly in Southeast Europe. This is an effort that should receive continued support. The importance of capacity building within parliaments cannot be forgotten when confronting corruption.

Conclusion: The Related Nature of Corruption Across the OSCE Dimensions

No account of corruption in any dimension can be viewed in isolation. If corruption thwarts a competitive business environment or is endemic among public servants then the conditions are set for an underworld of crime to flourish. Once seedlings of graft take root, they grow rapidly. Soon the institutions of democracy that require the nutrients of transparency and accountability are choked by what people may have once considered the harmless taking of small amounts of money or property. In the aggregate, petty corruption emboldens grand corruption and vice versa. Eventually, a government cannot perform the basic tasks expected of it. It cannot defend individual rights enshrined in national law, protect the engagement of commerce, or provide for the security of its people. In many instances, elites restrict political access and limit economic competition. This is what Larry Diamond refers to as a “predatory state.” Moreover, Diamond asserts when people no longer advance “through productive activity and honest risk taking” but only through operating outside the law, the predatory state becomes a “predatory society.”98 While observers may disagree whether some OSCE participating States have reached such an extreme point, all states are always somewhere on the continuum between a functional electoral democracy and a predatory society.

To combat corruption the OSCE, through existing field mission mandates, should continue to focus adequate attention to building capacity to identify and address corruption and promotion of a culture of integrity and anti-corruption among civil servants and civil society. All participating States should implement commitments under international treaties such as the UNCAC. However, ratifying the UNCAC and passing national laws targeting corruption is not enough. While prosecutions serve a deterrence function, they must be balanced by relatively low profile well-planned prevention programs that are sustained by sufficient resources. In order to identify and address the circumstances that foster corruption, collaboration must increase between governments, NGOs, corporations and small and medium size enterprises to develop specific strategies. OSCE countries should consider supporting neighbors by building upon the model of field missions. Corruption is a problem not likely to end soon, but is an area where progress may be made if small successes are reinforced with adequate resources.

Work is needed to live up to the ideals recorded in the Parliamentary Assembly’s Astana Declaration and the earlier Istanbul Declaration of the 1999 OSCE Summit, in which OSCE participating States recognized corruption as a threat to “shared values” and pledged “to strengthen their efforts to combat corruption and the conditions that foster it.” The OSCE countries need to muster the political will, individually and collectively, to conduct a smarter fight against corruption – a threat to security, property, and fundamental freedoms throughout the expansive OSCE region.

Footnotes

1 Joanna Lillis, “Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Hints that Democratization will Take Back Seat on OSCE Agenda,” Eurasia Insight, July 9, 2008,http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav070908.shtml (accessed June 1, 2009)

2 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index: Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster” (Berlin: Transparency International, 2008).

3 Michael Johnston, Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge, 2005), 19-21.

4 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Seventeenth Annual Session, 2008, 7, 28, and 45.

5 Larry Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State,” Foreign Affairs87, no. 2 (2008): 39, and 42-44.

6 The participating States committed to support and advance these rights and freedoms, in addition to others, in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. “Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE,” June 29, 1990.

7 United States Agency for International Development, Parliamentary Immunity Brief: A Summary of Case Studies of Armenia, Ukraine and Guatemala, August 2006, 1-2.

8 Carmen Lane, Parliamentary Immunity and Democracy Development (Washington D.C.: DAI, 2007) 1-3.

9 United States Agency for International Development, Corruption Assessment Ukraine, Final Report February, 2006, 49

10 Gayane Mkrtchyan, “Not Above the Law?: Parliament Lifts Immunity, MP Hakobyan Must Face Prosecution,” ArmeniaNow.com, October 13, 2006, http://www.armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=1768

11 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption – Organized crime Nexus in Bulgaria: Closing Down Duty-Free Outlets, Brief, December 2007, 3.

12 Ibid., 5.

13 Ibid., 3.

14 Elena Koinova, “Changes to Duty-Free Trade Act passed in Parliament,” The Sofia Echo, March 28, 2008, http://sofiaecho.com/2008/03/21/659426_changes-to-duty-free-trade-act-passed-in-parliament

15 Center for the Study of Democracy, Effective Policies targeting the Corruption, 3.

16 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Energy and Democracy: Oil and Water?, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/energy-and-democracy-oil-and-water (accessed June 22, 2009)

17 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Promises to Keep: Kazakhstan’s 2010 OSCE Chairmanship, 110th Cong., 2nd sess., 2008, (Prepared statement of Martha Olcott not unofficial transcript), https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/promises-keep-kazakhstan-s-2010-osce-chairmanship (accessed June 8, 2009).

18 Transparency International, 2009 Global Corruption Barometer Report, (Berlin: May, 2007) 32.

19 GfK Research, Corruption Climate in Europe, August 9, 2006, available athttp://www.gfk.hr/press1_en/corruption2.htm (accessed June 17, 2009).

20 Dan Bilefsky, “Medical Care in Romania Comes at an Extra Cost,” The New York Times, March 9, 2009.

21 Global Integrity, Global Integrity Scorecard: Latvia, 2007, 1-2.

22 Konstantin Pashev, Center for the Study of Democracy, Corruption in the Healthcare Sector in Bulgaria (Sofia, Bulgaria: 2007) 17.

23 Ibid, 17.

24 Ibid, 35.

25 Vladimir Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption,” Daily Times, January 3, 2003,http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_3-1-2003_pg3_4 (accessed June 18, 2009).

26 Michael Johnston, “Poverty and Corruption,” Forbes, January 22, 2009.

27 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Uzbekistan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/sca/119143.htm.

28 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Azerbaijan, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119068.htm.

29 U.S. Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Poland, February 25, 2009,http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119098.htm.

30 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, The Romani Minority in Russia, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2004, 8 (Prepared statement of Leonid Raihman found in official transcript).

31 U.S. Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Russia, March 11, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100581.htm.

32 The account of how Hermitage Capital was seized corruptly through a series of non-transparent proceedings is told in the section addressing the Economic Dimension.

33 Jamison Firestone, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009.

34 Carl Mortished, “Kremlin sacking linked to Sergei Magnitsky case,” TimesOnline, December 16, 2009,http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6957931.ece (accessed December 22, 2009).

35 Lynda Edwards, “Russia Claws at the Rule of Law,” ABA Journal 95 (2009): 41.

36 Ibid., 42.

37 Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 69 (1932).

38 The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Best-Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, 2006, 30.

39 Ibid.

40 OSCE, Best-Practice Guide 30-31.

41 Marian L. Tupy, CATO Institute, The Rise of Populist Parties in Central Europe: Big Government, Corruption, and the Threat to Liberalism, November 8, 2006, 14.

42 The World Bank, Doing Business 2009: Country Profile for Russian Federation, 2008, 12.

43 J. Welby Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice: Collusion, Competition, and Development,”Pacific McGeorge Global Business and Development Law Journal 20, no. 2 (2007): 291.

44 Tupy, Rise of Populist Parties, 9.

45 Leaman, “It’s Not Always Nice to Play Nice,” 291.

46 CSCE, Energy and Democracy, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., 2007 (Prepared statement of Simon Taylor not unofficial transcript) (accessed June 12, 2009).

47 Ibid. 

48 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Public Law 110-140, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (December 19, 2007).

49 .S. Department of State, Report on Progress Made in Promoting Transparency in Extractive Industries Resource Payments, June 24, 2009. On file with United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs,

50 Parliamentary Assembly, Astana Declaration, 28.

51 Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz and Thierry Geiger, eds., World Economic Forum, The Ukraine Competitiveness Report: Towards Sustained Growth and Prosperity, 2008, 56.

52 Hanouz and Geiger, eds., The Ukraine Competitiveness Report, 56.

53 Michael Porter and Klaus Schwab eds., World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009, 385.

54 Ibid., 242.

55 William Browder, conversation with Helsinki Commission staff, April 14, 2009. William Browder did testify at a Helsinki Commission hearing just as this report was being completed in June 2009. During his testimony he provided a website (http://www.compromat.ru/main/vragi/raderykak.htm) that provided a price list for a range of activities attacking a corporate entity in Russia from erasing a company’s registration data to a complete takeover.

56 Jon Swaine, “BAE Systems executive ‘questioned over alleged bribery,’” The Telegraph, October 23, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/badot/3245563/BAE-Systems-executive-questioned-over-alleged-European-bribery.html (accessed June 15, 2009).

57 Organizations for Economic Co-operating and Development, United Kingdom: Report on the Application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the 1997 Recommendation on Combating Bribery in International business Transactions, October 17 2008, 4.

58 Ben W. Heineman, Jr., and Fritz Heimann, “The Long War Against Corruption,” Foreign Affairs 85, no. 3 (May/June 2006), 77, 82.

59 Control Risks, Corruption, Compliance and Change: Responding to Greater Scrutiny in Challenging Times (London: 2009) 3.

60 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1.

61 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(A).

62 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(B).

63 Gail P. Granoff and Brian Mich, 2008 FCPA Review, January 28, 2009 (Presentation at International Quality & Productivity Center FCPA Conference).

64 Dionne Searcey, “U.S. Cracks Down on Corporate Bribes,” The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2009.

65 United States v. Kay, 359 F.3d 738, 755 (5th Cir. 2004).

66 United States v. Kozeny, 582 F. Supp 2d 535, 539 (S.D.N.Y 2008).

67 Cary O’Reilly and Karin Matussek, “Siemens to Pay $1.6 Billion to Settle Bribery Cases,” The Washington Post, December 16, 2008.

68 Victor Malarek, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), 112-113.

69 Heineman and Heimann, “The Long War,” 79.

70 Voinovich, “Drunk on Corruption”.

71 Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., “Corruption, Crime and Murder Undermine Counter-terrorist Efforts,”Crime & Justice International 21, no. 87 (July/August 2005), 8.

72 Kimberly Thachuk, “Corruption and International Security,” SAIS Review XXV, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 2005), 147.

73 U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2008, Europe and Eurasia Overview, April 2009.

74 Randal Archibold and Andrew Becker, “Border Agents, Lured by the Other Side,” The New York Times, May 27, 2008.

75 Thachuk, “Corruption,” 147.

76 Parmy Olson, “Europe’s Crime Capitals,” Forbes, July 15, 2008,http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/15/europe-capitals-crime-forbeslife-cx_po_0715crime.html

77 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Arming Rogue Regimes: The Role of OSCE Participating States, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 2003, 40 (Prepared statement of Roman Kupchinsky found in official transcript).

78 Control Arms, UN Arms Embargoes: An Overview of the Last Ten Years, Briefing Note, March 16, 2006, 2.

79 Rachel Stohl, “Fighting the Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms,” SAIS Review (Winter-Spring 2005), 64.

80 “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime,” Article 3 (a), United Nations, (2000).

81 Mohamed Y. Mattar, “State Responsibilities in Combating Trafficking in Persons in Central Asia,”Loyola and Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review 27 (Spring 2005), 161 (see footnote 76).

82 Malarek, The Natashas, 140-141.

83 William Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers: Rescuing Victims of the Global Sex Trade,” The New Yorker, 2, 6, 7-8, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/05/080505fa_fact_finnegan (accessed June 8, 2009).

84 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2008, 184.

85 U.S. Department of State Senior Coordinator for Public Outreach, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, email to author, December 10, 2008; Embassy of the United States, Moldova, “Moldova Moved up to Tier 2 in Trafficking in Persons,” press release, October 10, 2008,http://moldova.usembassy.gov/pr102908.html.

86 Finnegan, “The Counter Traffickers,” 10.

87 Ibid., 9, 11.

88 Rick Jervis, “Arrests of Border Agents on The Rise,” USA Today, April 23, 2009.

89 This section of report is based upon meetings and discussions with a variety of international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations who to the extent possible are not identified. Any opinions expressed or conclusions drawn do not necessarily reflect the official views of any of these organizations.

90 Johnson, Syndromes of Corruption, 186.

91 Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, March 25, 2009, email to author providing numbers of complaints and people contacted.

92 Group of States against Corruption, Second Evaluation Round: Compliance Report on Greece, February 15, 2008, 9.

93 Daniel Kaufmann, “Anticorruption Strategies: Starting Afresh? Unconventional Lessons from Comparative Analysis,” in Curbing Corruption: Towards a Model for Building National Integrity, ed. Rick Stapenhurst and Sahr J. Kpundeh (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 1999), 37.

94 Miroslav Ajder, “Corruption Claims Hold Back Bosnia: Allegations of Fraud in Government Contracts and Privatization are Pitting the Government Against Monitors and Scaring off Foreign Investors,” BusinessWeek, March 17, 2009.

95 These compliance reports may be found at the GRECO web page,http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/evaluations/round2/reports(round2)_en.asp (accessed June 15, 2009).

96 Resolution on Limiting Immunity for Parliamentarians in order to Strengthen Good Governance, Public Integrity and Rule of Law in the OSCE Region, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, 15th sess., Brussels Declaration (July 7, 2006).

97 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Washington, DC Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Resolutions Adopted at the Fourteenth Annual Session, 2005, 35.

98 Diamond, “The Democratic Rollback,” 43. 

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    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following online hearing: ALBANIA’S CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE OSCE Responding to the Multiple Challenges of 2020 Thursday, September 17, 2020 1:00 p.m. Watch Live: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission In 2020, Albania holds the chairmanship of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—with a multi-dimensional mandate and a 57-country membership stretching from North America, across Europe, and to Central Asia and Mongolia. This year, the OSCE has faced the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic and the clear urgency of action against racism, while maintaining its necessary focus on other longtime concerns often impacted by these developments.  These concerns include Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and threats to other nearby or neighboring countries; protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh; and political leaders in Belarus as well as in Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other OSCE countries seeking to undermine democratic institutions and stifle dissent in every sector.  Many countries are struggling—or failing—to live up to their OSCE commitments in the areas of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Vulnerable communities, including migrants, are targets of discrimination and violence.  Uncertainties in the Western Balkans and Central Asia remain.  The recent decision of some countries to block reappointments of senior officers at key OSCE institutions undermines the organization at a time when effective contributions to security and cooperation across the region are so deeply needed. The Helsinki Commission regularly holds a hearing allowing the annually rotating OSCE chairmanship to present its priorities for the year and to exchange views on current issues. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who holds his country’s foreign affairs portfolio, will appear at this hearing to discuss the performance of the OSCE thus far in 2020 and to share his views in advance of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting scheduled for early December.

  • Hastings and Wicker Condemn Apparent Poisoning of Alexei Navalny

    WASHINGTON—Following today’s apparent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) and Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following joint statement: “Sadly, Alexei Navalny is the latest in a long line of Russians to be targeted for supporting freedom and democracy in their country. These attacks are intended to silence dissent, but instead they highlight the cruelty, intolerance, and lawlessness of the Putin regime. We hope there will be consequences for those who carried out this crime and for those who approved it. We join many from around the world in praying for Alexei as he now fights for his life.” Navalny fell suddenly and seriously ill on a flight from Tomsk, Russia, to Moscow on the morning of August 20, 2020. The flight made an emergency landing and paramedics rushed Navalny to the hospital. He remains unconscious and on a ventilator, in stable but serious condition. Navalny has been the subject of numerous attacks and arrests connected to his anti-corruption work. In July 2019, Chairman Hastings and Co-Chairman Wicker expressed concern about Navalny’s hospitalization for an unknown “allergic reaction” following his arrest by Russian authorities ahead of pro-democracy protests. Navalny is the latest in a series of political activists who have been poisoned after opposing the Putin regime.  Former Russian military intelligence officer and British double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were almost killed in Salisbury, England by exposure to the nerve agent Novichok in 2018. Russian democracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned in 2015 and 2017. Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko died from radiation poisoning in London in 2006. In 2004, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was sickened on a flight; she survived only to be shot two years later.  These and similar instances are widely considered to be organized and sanctioned by the highest levels of the Russian Government.

  • The OSCE: A Bulwark Against Authoritarianism

    As we mark the 45th anniversary of the 1975 signing of the Helsinki Final Act, the founding document of today’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the ideals of democracy that had been advanced by that pact—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and civil liberties—are under threat. In 1975, Soviet totalitarianism was the great threat to human rights and fundamental freedoms; today, authoritarianism poses a growing threat to human dignity and rights in the region. Authoritarianism is a fact of life in much of Eurasia, a reflection of the actual worldwide tension between countries defending universal human rights obligations and countries attempting to undermine trust in democratic institutions and promote an authoritarian model. This is true not only in repressive nations like Russia; even among some U.S. partner countries, there are warning signs. Some nations have also taken it upon themselves to block vital leadership roles in international institutions during a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in a century. The ultimate outcome of this conflict is up to us. Liberty and human rights will prevail, but only if freedom-loving people everywhere join together to defend and preserve human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. Many international institutions dedicated to freedom and human rights were founded with U.S. support in the wake of World War II, in which more than a million U.S. citizens were either killed or wounded and trillions of dollars spent on the effort to defeat fascism. Democratic ideals are ingrained in the founding charters that established those organizations. For nearly 75 years, such institutions have consistently served as a bulwark against totalitarianism, communism, terrorism, and other forms of tyranny; limited conflict among nations; helped raise millions out of poverty; and spread democratic values throughout the world. The OSCE grew out of the Helsinki Final Act, a 1975 political agreement among the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, and other European nations. Signed by both democratic and communist regimes, the Final Act acknowledged openly that respect for human rights within states is crucial to security among states, and that human rights concerns could legitimately be raised among signatories. Today, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization, encompassing 57 countries in Europe, as well as the United States and Canada.  It includes Russia, Ukraine, and many other successors of the former Soviet Union, reaching as far east as Central Asia and Mongolia, and north beyond the Arctic Circle. The phrase “Vancouver to Vladivostok” accurately describes the organization’s reach. With its “comprehensive concept of security,” the OSCE addresses military security, economic and environmental cooperation, and human rights and takes steps to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict within and among its members. The OSCE also supports the democratic development of nations that gained or regained independence in the post-Cold War period and are still finding their footing, often torn between corruption and the promise of a democratic future. Thirteen OSCE field missions operate in member countries seeking assistance in developing their democratic institutions. The OSCE recognizes and supports the important role played by civil society and the media in holding governments to account for blatant human rights violations and abuses of power. Unprecedented Gap in OSCE Leadership OSCE institutions—including its assembly of national legislators—foster an essential defense against the spread of authoritarianism. However, despite its comprehensive vision, we are now faced with an unprecedented gap in leadership at the OSCE due to the block on the extension of mandates for four senior leaders, including the Secretary General. Each week, the OSCE Permanent Council—comprising ambassadors to the OSCE from each participating State—meets in Vienna, Austria. In this forum, the United States seeks to shine a light on contraventions of States’ OSCE tenets and violations of international law. The OSCE independent institutions, like the field missions, carry those messages forward.  In addition to the organization’s other work defending human rights and fundamental freedoms, its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) manages the OSCE’s election observation missions, internationally recognized as the “gold standard” for their methodology. Other independent offices lead the OSCE’s work on Freedom of the Media and rights of national minorities. Unfortunately, in July, these vital institutions were deprived of strong and consistent leadership by countries—including Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkey—that seem intent on attempting to weaken the OSCE’s ability to hold countries accountable for their actions and undermining the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. The executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government are partners in bringing American leadership to support the OSCE’s work. Several times each year,  members of Congress—including lawmakers serving on the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which monitors implementation of the Helsinki Accords  —gather at meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, where they secure political commitments and build mutually beneficial relationships among legislators from the OSCE’s participating States to help push back against anti-democratic actions by national governments. Unfortunately, several OSCE participating States—countries that have repeatedly committed to upholding the principles and values enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act— are exhibiting a troubling slide toward authoritarianism. The United States and our democratic allies have criticized efforts to restrict and persecute journalists, human rights defenders, civil society, members of the political opposition, and members of ethnic and religious minorities. We also have jointly criticized efforts to stifle media freedom and limit political pluralism in Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as raised concerns about media consolidation in Hungary, and limitations on freedom of speech and freedom of the press elsewhere. Russia’s Destabilizing Actions No OSCE participating State bears more responsibility for fomenting mistrust, insecurity, corruption, and human rights violations and abuses in this region than the Russian Federation. Russia’s destabilizing actions contravene all 10 Helsinki Final Act principles, ranging from respect for human rights to the prohibition of military incursions into neighboring countries. Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including its purported annexation of Crimea. The proxy forces Russia arms, trains, leads, and fights alongside in eastern Ukraine make it dangerous for the unarmed OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine to fulfill its Permanent Council-approved mandate to monitor the conflict. Russia uses its resources—economic, political, informational, and military—to defeat freedom and democracy. Russia does not rely on military force alone to threaten democratic governance; it also uses hybrid tactics daily, ranging from cyber intrusions to influence campaigns — aimed at undermining democratic elections. We hope that someday, authoritarian countries like Russia will start behaving again according to the rules of international law. Unfortunately, these countries currently reject the values of democracy, liberty, and human rights. The authoritarian regimes view democracy as an existential threat—hence the actions some of them have taken to restrict the OSCE’s ability to do its work.  The struggle today is between those who believe authoritarianism is the right way forward and those of us who still believe that Thomas Jefferson was right in his declaration that the desire for freedom exists within the heart of every human being. In a hyper-connected modern world in which disinformation becomes an ever more powerful weapon and the divisions within free societies are exploited by malign actors, U.S. membership in organizations like the OSCE emphasizes clearly, openly, and emphatically that America will not cede the field to the authoritarian regimes. We will not allow them to be the ones to dictate what is truth and what is fiction. Human Rights and Ideals Just as Valid in 2020 Through the OSCE, the United States directly confronts the deceit of Russia and other authoritarian powers. By raising our voices, through our participation and leadership, we reassure our friends that the United States stands with them and supports our shared values against the growing tide of autocracy. By raising our voices, we remind allies and adversaries alike that the United States remains engaged and committed to what is fair, what is right, and what is true. Together, our U.S. Mission to the OSCE and the U.S. Helsinki Commission remind allies and adversaries alike that America will not ignore regimes that are actively hostile to our values and see our liberty as an existential threat. We will always prioritize respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, defend the principles of liberty, and encourage tolerance within societies, because such efforts are vital to the promotion of democracy and to U.S. national security. We reject the authoritarian notion that our fundamental freedoms are a weakness. They are our greatest strength. The United States and other like-minded countries use the power of the OSCE to show that human rights and ideals are just as valid in 2020 as they were in 1975, when the Helsinki Accords were signed. These rights not only ensure the physical, economic, and mental wellbeing of all our populations, they make the countries’ governments stronger by building legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens. America’s unwavering support of these values through multilateral organizations like the OSCE remains vital. As noted in the Trump administration’s U.S. National Security Strategy, “Authoritarian actors have long recognized the power of multilateral bodies and have used them to advance their interests and limit the freedom of their own citizens.  If the United States cedes leadership of these bodies to adversaries, opportunities to shape developments that are positive for the United States will be lost.” The OSCE deserves to be recognized by the people of both the United States and our allies and partners as a valuable tool in the fight against autocracy. We must not abandon it by leaving its most important institutions without leadership beyond its 45th anniversary. Instead, through our efforts, and those of our allies and partners in the OSCE, we must continue to defend liberty and human rights in our region and provide a beacon of hope for citizens everywhere who aspire to a free and democratic future.

  • Hastings and Wicker Mark World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

    WASHINGTON—To mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) and Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following joint statement: “Human trafficking is the modern equivalent of slavery, an abhorrent crime that affects up to 25 million people worldwide. Traffickers lure victims—mostly women and children—by force, fraud, or coercion into situations of sex or labor exploitation. “The United States has been a leader internationally in the fight against human trafficking, including through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Recently, OSCE participating State Uzbekistan has made great progress in tackling child and forced labor in the cotton harvest. However, we remain concerned that according to the State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, three other OSCE participating States—Belarus, Russia, and Turkmenistan—continue to be among the worst when it comes to human trafficking. “Potential victims have been made even more vulnerable by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced the resources and assistance available to survivors and weakened the ability of law enforcement and the judiciary to investigate and prosecute traffickers. “Quarantine measures have prompted traffickers to maximize the use of online platforms to recruit and exploit their victims. We need to step up our efforts to ensure that our investigations keep pace with the traffickers’ evolving techniques and continue to support civil society organizations that provide vital assistance to survivors.” The United States is one of the top destinations in the world for trafficked victims; U.S. citizens are also trafficked domestically. In response, Congress has passed several laws mandating stronger protection for victims, harsher prosecution for criminals, as well as measures to assist survivors and prevent human trafficking. Several federal agencies are active in combating trafficking and partner with non-profit organizations that play an important role in raising awareness within communities, rescuing victims, providing direct assistance, and conducting research on all aspects of human trafficking.

  • RUSSIAN CYBER ATTACKS ON COVID RESEARCH CENTERS

    Madam Speaker, I rise today to strongly condemn the recently reported Russian cyber attacks on United States, United Kingdom and Canadian COVID-19 research centers. As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Vladimir Putin's regime has once again lived up to its reputation for lawlessness and cynicism by targeting vaccine research and development organizations with ``the intention of stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of COVID-19 vaccines,'' as assessed by U.S., British and Canadian intelligence agencies. Sadly, neither this appalling cyber attack, nor the pitiful Kremlin denials which followed, are too surprising to those of us who watch Russia closely. As a Member of the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--the OSCE PA--and Chairman of the Committee on Political Affairs and Security, I regularly participate in difficult discussions with Russian political leaders about Moscow's geopolitical misconduct. The Kremlin's campaign across the OSCE space and beyond is aimed at destabilizing and undermining the international order by any means necessary, to include the invasion and occupation of OSCE participating States, the assassination of political opponents abroad, disinformation and more. On July 7, 2020, I communicated directly to the OSCE PA which included the presence of the Russian head of delegation how seriously the United States is taking reports of Russian monetary bounties to Taliban-linked insurgents for the killing of American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. The fact of Kremlin support to the Taliban had already surfaced in a hearing of the United States Helsinki Commission which I chaired on June 12, 2019, in open testimony by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia Michael Carpenter. Madam Speaker, I will continue to work with colleagues here at home and across the Atlantic to ensure the Kremlin's bald faced denials of its malign actions are countered, and that Vladimir Putin's regime faces the appropriate consequences for its actions. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has proven time and again its value as a forum to counter disinformation and foster cooperation to counter common threats. A result of these most recent reports, I intend to advocate for that body to prioritize results-oriented discussions on state-sponsored cyber attacks in our region in its upcoming work session. Madam Speaker, please join me in condemning the Kremlin's latest despicable actions.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Amends NDAA to Reflect Support for Open Skies Treaty

    On May 21, 2020 the Trump administration reportedly decided to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty to be effective at the end of this year. To express strong opposition, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) recently authored an amendment to H.R.6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, expressing the sense of Congress that the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies did not comply with a legal requirement to notify Congress; did not assert that any other Treaty signatory had breached the Treaty; and was made over the objections of NATO allies and regional partners.  “I am proud to have worked with Rep. Jimmy Panetta to successfully amend the House FY21 NDAA to express Congressional support for Open Skies and reiterate our commitment to the confidence and security building measures that are so vital to our NATO allies and partners,” said Chairman Hastings. “As Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I strongly disagree with the President’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, an important arms control agreement that significantly reduces the risk of armed conflict.” The measure expresses support for confidence and security building measures like the Open Skies Treaty, because they reduce the risk of conflict, increase trust among participating countries, and contribute to military transparency and remain vital to the strategic interests of our NATO allies and partners. The amendment also underlines the need to address Russian violations of treaty protocols through international engagement and robust diplomatic action. The full amendment is available below or as amendment numbered 167 printed in House Report 116-457. Chairman Hastings had previously condemned the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which is designed to increase transparency, build confidence, and encourage cooperation among the United States, Russia, and 32 other participating states (including much of Europe as well as partners like Ukraine and Georgia), by permitting unarmed observation aircraft to fly over their entire territory to observe military forces and activities. In November 2019, the Commission hosted a joint hearing with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the importance of the Open Skies Treaty, emphasizing its critical role in security and stability around the world, which still stands today. The United States has conducted nearly three times as many flights over Russia as Russia has over the United States under the treaty. The United States has also used the treaty to support partners by conducting flights over hot spots such as the Ukraine-Russian border.  Amendment At the end of subtitle D of title XII, add the following: SEC. 12__. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON THE OPEN SKIES TREATY. It is the sense of Congress that-- (1) the decision to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, done at Helsinki March 24, 1992, and entered into force January 1, 2002-- (A) did not comply with the requirement in section 1234(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (133 Stat. 1648; 22 U.S.C. 2593a note) to notify Congress not fewer than 120 days prior to any such announcement; (B) was made without asserting material breach of the Treaty by any other Treaty signatory; and (C) was made over the objections of NATO allies and regional partners; (2) confidence and security building measures that are designed to reduce the risk of conflict, increase trust among participating countries, and contribute to military transparency remain vital to the strategic interests of our NATO allies and partners and should continue to play a central role as the United States engages in the region to promote transatlantic security; and (3) while the United States must always consider the national security benefits of remaining in any treaty, responding to Russian violations of treaty protocols should be prioritized through international engagement and robust diplomatic action.

  • Hastings: Petty Parochialism Denies OSCE Vital Leadership During Global Crisis

    WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s failure of OSCE representatives to renew the mandates of four leadership positions—the OSCE Secretary General, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights—Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) issued the following statement: “We are in trouble when petty parochialism denies us vital leadership in the midst of a global crisis. Now more than ever, reliable multilateral institutions are needed to forge solutions during and after the current pandemic.  “Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and other OSCE participating States who have blocked consensus on extending dedicated public servants should be ashamed of themselves. History will show the folly of abandoning essential leadership for cooperation.” Negotiations to renew each mandate collapsed in part in response to the written objections of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkey, and the subsequent withholding of consensus by other participating States. Even efforts to devise interim extensions failed, leaving vital OSCE leadership positions vacant during an unprecedented global crisis. The failure highlights the unwillingness of some OSCE participating States to live up to their stated commitments to democratic institutions, the rule of law, media pluralism, and free and fair elections. Leaving key leadership roles unfilled drastically weakens the OSCE’s ability to hold countries accountable for their actions and undermines the principles of the Helsinki Final Act.  The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization. It spans 57 participating States reaching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The OSCE sets standards in fields including military security, economic and environmental cooperation, and human rights and humanitarian concerns. In addition, the OSCE undertakes a variety of initiatives designed to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict within and among the participating States.

  • Wicker and Cardin Commend United Kingdom Magnitsky Sanctions on Russian and Saudi Officials

    WASHINGTON—Following the recent designations under the United Kingdom’s Magnitsky sanctions framework of Russian and Saudi officials responsible for the deaths of Sergei Magnitsky and Jamal Khashoggi, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) released the following statement: “We are encouraged to see the United Kingdom applying its first-ever independent Magnitsky sanctions. These sanctions demonstrate that following Brexit, the UK remains committed to fighting human rights abuse and kleptocracy. “We hope the UK will continue to apply Magnitsky sanctions as needed and develop additional anti-corruption policies to stem the flow of illicit wealth into the country. We also encourage the European Union to move forward on plans to develop its own Magnitsky sanctions. Consequences for bad acts are most effective when imposed in concert.” The UK passed its Magnitsky sanctions law in 2018. That same year, Russia attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent who spied for the UK, in Salisbury, England. UK Magnitsky sanctions freeze the assets of designees and prevent them from entering the country, and are expected to be a powerful deterrent for kleptocrats, given the propensity of corrupt officials to steal and launder money into London as well as send their children to British boarding schools. In December 2019, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced that the EU would start preparatory work for the equivalent of a Magnitsky sanctions mechanism. However, no further progress has been reported. In May 2020, Co-Chairman Wicker and Sen. Cardin urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask High Representative Borrell to expedite the adoption of EU sanctions on human rights abusers and include provisions for sanctioning corruption.

  • Human Rights at Home: Implications for U.S. Leadership

    Recent developments in the United States—including George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police and subsequent protests—have put U.S. human rights commitments to the test in the eyes of the world. On July 2, 2020, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on “Human Rights at Home:  Implications for U.S. Leadership.” The online hearing was held in compliance with H.Res.965, which provides for official remote proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), who chaired the hearing, observed, “The United States has long been a champion of human rights and democracy in our foreign policy.  Many of the OSCE’s groundbreaking commitments were actually spearheaded by the United States, including those relating to anti-Semitism, freedom of religion, free elections, and the rule of law, to name only a few…Today, we look inward as we examine the Black Lives Matter protests and related domestic compliance issues in the context of our OSCE human dimensions commitments and implications for U.S. foreign policy.” Witnesses included Nkechi Taifa, Founding Principal & CEO of The Taifa Group, LLC, Convener of the Justice Roundtable, and Senior Fellow, Center for Justice, Columbia University; the Honorable Malcolm Momodou Jallow, Member of Parliament (Sweden) and General Rapporteur on Combating Racism and Intolerance, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); and Ambassador (ret.) Ian Kelly, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  “It’s not a moment.  It’s a movement.” Witnesses emphasized that George Floyd’s death has created a movement, not just a moment, in efforts to address systemic racism, police violence, and secure justice. Nkechi Taifa called on the United States to implement fully international human rights commitments and obligations, without legal barriers. She observed that the world is at the midpoint of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent and concluded, “What we are witnessing today is the unprecedented possibility for change.” Malcolm Momodou Jallow observed that structural, institutional, and systemic racism— including racist violence—is not confined to the United States, but is also present in Europe.  The European project includes an antidiscrimination, antiracist dimension, with a fundamental commitment to reflect the lessons of the Holocaust and eradicate past European divisions through respect for the human rights of all. Failure to do so affects entire communities, thereby eroding social cohesion, trust in public authority, the rule of law and ultimately democracy.  Mr. Jallow also drew attention to the European Parliament’s resolution, adopted on Juneteenth (June 19), on the anti-racism protests following George Floyd’s death.  The resolution also recalled Europe’s colonial past and its role in the transatlantic slave trade; draws on the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ annual hate crimes report; and calls for closer cooperation between the European Commission and the OSCE.  “The OSCE should rise to that occasion.” Ambassador Ian Kelly stated that security among states depends on respect for human rights within states. Actions clearing peaceful protesters, at the expense of their basic rights, cost the United States moral authority to call other countries to account.  Ambassador Kelly credited the OSCE for its work to shine a light on the problems of intolerance but asserted more could and should be done in the OSCE context to expose abuses against people of color in the OSCE region.  By signing the Helsinki Final Act, the United States committed to respecting human rights and protect democracy, even under the most challenging circumstances. A willingness to respond to the human rights concerns that other countries raise with the United States in the Helsinki context has been instrumental in validating the promotion of human rights and democracy advocacy as a goal of U.S. foreign policy. The Helsinki Commission has addressed the implementation of OSCE commitments in the United States in various ways, including hearings, reports, and legislation. The video of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests received wall-to-wall coverage throughout most of the OSCE participating States. Journalists from at least eight OSCE participating States—Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey—suffered violence while trying to report on demonstrations. George Floyd’s death in police custody prompted demonstrations in nearly all western OSCE participating States, including more than 25 of the 30 NATO member states, supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and protesting systemic racism. In some Central European countries, the death of George Floyd has been compared to police brutality against Roma. In other countries, demonstrators have called for changes to their own national policing practices, the removal of symbols of their colonial past, and other policy changes. There have been no BLM sympathy demonstrations in Russia, where assembly (even protests by single picketers or dolls dressed as protesters) remains highly controlled. Heads of OSCE institutions, including the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, have expressed concern about the actions of police, restrictions on freedom of assembly, and restrictions on press freedom. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli, expressed similar concerns in a press statement on June 1. On June 8, 38 NGOs from the Civic Solidarity Platform, a decentralized advocacy network of independent civic groups from across the OSCE region, issued a rare joint statement of concern regarding “the United States government’s response to widespread peaceful protests against police violence.” Related Information Witness Biographies Human Rights at Home Safe, Inclusive, and Equitable Societies Briefing: 8:46 (George Floyd) Press Release: Hastings: To Promote Human Rights Abroad, We Must Fiercely Protect Them at Home Press Release: OSCE Media Freedom Representative concerned about violence against journalists covering protests in USA, calls for protection of journalists Press Release: Statement of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President on the policing of protests in the United States Civic Solidarity Platform Statement: U.S. racism and police violence and the human dimension heritage of the OSCE Rep. Jim McGovern: To Regain Our Credibility on Human Rights, America Must Start At Home

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing to Examine Human Rights At Home

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following online hearing: HUMAN RIGHTS AT HOME Implications for U.S. Leadership Thursday, July 2, 2020 11:00 a.m. Watch Live: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission By signing the Helsinki Final Act, the United States committed to respecting human rights and the rule of law, even under the most challenging circumstances. Recent developments in the United States—including George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police and subsequent protests—have put U.S. human rights commitments to the test in the eyes of the world. During this online hearing, witnesses will discuss these events, the U.S. response, and the resulting implications for U.S. leadership in foreign policy. Witnesses scheduled to participate include: Ambassador (ret.) Ian Kelly, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Malcolm Momodou Jallow, Member of Parliament (Sweden) and General Rapporteur on Combating Racism and Intolerance, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Nkechi Taifa, Founding Principal & CEO, The Taifa Group, LLC; Convener, Justice Roundtable; and Senior Fellow, Center for Justice, Columbia University

  • Hastings: To Promote Human Rights Abroad, We Must Fiercely Protect Them at Home

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of a 57-nation OSCE meeting on freedom of expression, media, and information, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) released the following statement: “In the United States, we have witnessed a devastating series of attacks by authorities against journalists covering the nationwide protests calling for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In many cases, reporters have been injured, harassed, or arrested even after explicitly identifying themselves as members of the press. “If the United States wants to remain a credible voice in the promotion of human rights abroad, we must fiercely protect them at home. This Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on the critical topic of freedom of expression, media, and information represents an important opportunity to take an honest and critical look at America’s own record in recent weeks on protecting journalists and safeguarding press freedom.” According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, as of June 15, there have been more than 430 reported press freedom violations since the beginning of the national Black Lives Matter protests on May 26. This includes at least 59 arrests; 268 assaults (including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets and projectiles); and 57 cases of equipment/newsroom damage. OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings (SHDM) are convened three times annually on topics chosen by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. The first SHDM organized by the Albanian chairmanship,  “Addressing All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination,” took place May 25-26, 2020. The June meeting on freedom of expression, media and information includes participation by non-governmental civil society organizations, the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and representatives from OSCE participating States.

  • Chairman Hastings Demands Release of Paul Whelan

    WASHINGTON—Following the sentencing of U.S. citizen Paul Whelan to 16 years in a maximum-security prison by a Russian court, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) issued the following statement: “In clear violation of Russia’s OSCE commitments, Paul Whelan was denied his right to due process. His long and harsh pre-trial detention, and the secretive nature of Paul’s trial and the spurious ‘evidence’ against him, show that Russia’s authorities are not concerned about justice. This is nothing more than a politically-motivated stunt that has inflicted serious damage on an American citizen. Paul Whelan must be released.” Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018, where he planned to attend a wedding. FSB agents broke into his hotel room and found a flash drive that Whelan’s Russian friend had told him contained photos from a recent trip.  Authorities claimed that the flash drive contained classified information. Whelan has been detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, unable to contact his family and friends, alleging abuse from guards, and suffering from health problems.

  • OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting Examines Intolerance and Discrimination during Pandemic

    On May 25-26, 2020, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held the year’s first Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDIM).  The event, which attracted more than 950 participants from 57 countries, focused on addressing intolerance and discrimination and was the OSCE’s first public event hosted in an entirely virtual format. During the event, representatives of governments, civil society, and OSCE institutions discussed the importance of immediate, robust, and coordinated responses to acts of scapegoating, racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism, especially during times of crisis. Participants underscored the need to reject hate speech both online and off, and shared best practices to prevent its escalation into violence. Recommendations centered on the shared goals of building inclusive and resilient societies that guarantee human rights for all. In her closing remarks, Shannon Simrell, the U.S. Helsinki Commission Representative to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE in Vienna, highlighted recent commission engagement on combating intolerance and discrimination. Under the leadership of Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), the Helsinki Commission's ongoing commitment to building safe, equitable, and inclusive societies has been embodied by “On the Road to Inclusion,” a new interethnic, multicultural, inter-religious, and intergenerational initiative designed to build broad-based coalitions and crafts durable solutions, based on respect and meaningful engagement of all members of society.  In addition, Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Ben Cardin (MD), who also serves as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative for Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, has directed funding to support OSCE’s comprehensive and multi-year Words into Action project, which develops inclusion handbooks for governments and communities.  The second Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of 2020, scheduled for June 22-23, will focus on freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information.  Closing Remarks by Shannon Simrell, U.S. Helsinki Commission Representative to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE On behalf of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I wish to congratulate the Chair in Office for organizing this historic event, thank the speakers for sharing your expertise, and recognize my colleagues and civil society representatives for your thoughtful engagement on these issues. In the past two days, we have heard not only about the importance of immediate and definitive responses to acts of hate and intolerance, but also the importance of a comprehensive and long-term approach to dismantle the social, economic, legislative, and technological roots of discrimination.  Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic lay bare the significant work that still needs to be done across the OSCE region to address prejudice, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and all forms of discrimination.  Helsinki commitments must be equally realized by everyone among us. Without exception. To ODIHR colleagues, thank you for your comprehensive approach to addressing hate crimes and intolerance while recognizing also the specific and varied challenges faced by various vulnerable groups, including Roma/Sinti, people of African descent, disabled, youth, women, and migrants and refugees.  In support of ODIHR’s vital role, I note that U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, in addition to his role as OSCEPA Special Representative for Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, is proud to have directed funding to support phase two of the Words into Action project.  In addition, the Commission's commitment to building safe, equitable, and inclusive societies is further underscored by an initiative under the leadership of U.S. Helsinki Chairman Alcee Hastings, called “On the Road to Inclusion.”  This interethnic, multicultural, inter-religious, and intergenerational initiative builds broad-based coalitions and crafts durable solutions, based on respect and meaningful engagement of all members of society. I look forward to future events where we can continue not only our exploration of the hurdles, but an update on ways we are working to guarantee human rights for all.

  • Human Rights and Democracy in a Time of Pandemic

    The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic has prompted governments around the world to take extraordinary measures in the interest of public health and safety. As of early April, nearly two-thirds of the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had declared “states of emergency” or invoked similar legal measures in response to the crisis. Often such measures have enabled governments to enact large-scale social distancing policies and suspend economic activity to save lives and preserve the capacity of national public health infrastructure to respond to the spread of infections. At the same time, human rights organizations and civil society activists have expressed concern regarding the breadth of some emergency measures and recalled the long history of government abuse of emergency powers to trample civil liberties. Exactly three decades ago, OSCE participating States unanimously endorsed a set of basic principles governing the imposition of states of emergency, including the protection of fundamental freedoms in such times of crisis. In 1990 in Copenhagen, OSCE countries affirmed that states of emergency must be enacted by public law and that any curtailment of human rights and civil liberties must be “limited to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” According to the Copenhagen Document, emergency measures furthermore should never discriminate based on certain group characteristics or be used to justify torture. Building on these commitments a year later in Moscow, participating States underscored that states of emergency should not “subvert the democratic constitutional order, nor aim at the destruction of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The Moscow Document stresses the role of legislatures in imposing and lifting such declarations, the preservation of the rule of law, and the value of guaranteeing “freedom of expression and freedom of information…with a view to enabling public discussion on the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as on the lifting of the state of public emergency.” In some corners of the OSCE region, however, national authorities are violating these and other OSCE commitments in the name of combatting coronavirus. While many extraordinary responses are justified in the face of this crisis, government overreach threatens the well-being of democracy and the resilience of society at a critical time. Download the full report to learn more.

  • Wicker and Cardin Urge Pompeo to Work with EU High Representative to Advance EU Magnitsky Sanctions

    WASHINGTON—In a letter released today, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, to expedite the adoption of EU sanctions on human rights abusers, include provisions for sanctioning corruption, and ensure that the EU sanctions regime bears Sergei Magnitsky’s name. The letter reads in part: “In this time of global crisis, dictators and kleptocrats are only increasing their bad actions, making it more important than ever that the EU move quickly to make the EU Magnitsky Act a reality... “It has become clear that corruption and human rights abuse are inextricably linked. The lack of provisions to sanction corruption would weaken the comprehensive Magnitsky approach. It would also lead to difficulties synchronizing U.S. and EU sanctions by enabling corrupt officials barred from the United States to continue operating in the EU, thus diminishing our deterrent and increasing Europe’s vulnerability to exploitation... “It was Sergei Magnitsky who started this very effort to end impunity for human rights abusers and corrupt officials. Omitting the name of Magnitsky, who was jailed, tortured, beaten, murdered, and posthumously convicted, would indicate a lack of resolve to stand up to brutal regimes around the world.” The U.S. Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which authorizes the President to impose economic sanctions and deny entry into the United States to any foreign person he identifies as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption, has been an important asset in the U.S. diplomatic toolkit. In December 2019, High Representative Borrell announced that all Member States unanimously agreed to start preparatory work for an equivalent of Global Magnitsky, adding that such a framework would be “a tangible step reaffirming the European Union’s global lead on human rights.” The Baltic States, Canada, and the UK already have adopted similar legislation. However, the current proposal for an EU Magnitsky Act does not include sanctions for officials involved in corruption, nor does it include any reference to Sergei Magnitsky by name. The full text of the letter can be found below: Dear Mr. Secretary, As the original sponsors of the Magnitsky Act, we aim to increase the impact of the legislation worldwide by encouraging our allies to join us in sanctioning bad actors. At the moment, the European Union (EU) has agreed in principle to adopt their own sanctions similar to those provided by the Global Magnitsky Act, but certain issues remain. Therefore, we ask that you work with Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to ensure the EU adopts and implements the most thorough and effective sanctions package possible. Our first concern is that the EU seems to have stalled in putting together the details of their Magnitsky sanctions regime because of the global health crisis. In December, High Representative Borrell announced that there was political agreement to move forward on a Magnitsky-like piece of legislation, which his team would begin drafting. Since then, we fear this work has been sidelined. In this time of global crisis, dictators and kleptocrats are only increasing their bad actions, making it more important than ever that the EU move quickly to make the EU Magnitsky Act a reality. Our second concern is that the proposal for an EU Magnitsky Act does not include sanctions for officials involved in corruption. It has become clear that corruption and human rights abuse are inextricably linked. The lack of provisions to sanction corruption would weaken the comprehensive Magnitsky approach. It would also lead to difficulties synchronizing U.S. and EU sanctions by enabling corrupt officials barred from the United States to continue operating in the EU, thus diminishing our deterrent and increasing Europe’s vulnerability to exploitation. Finally, we are concerned that the EU is not planning to include Magnitsky’s name on the sanctions regime. It was Sergei Magnitsky who stood up to a ruthless, violent, and corrupt state and demanded fairness and accountability for his fellow citizens. And it was Sergei Magnitsky who started this very effort to end impunity for human rights abusers and corrupt officials. Omitting the name of Magnitsky, who was jailed, tortured, beaten, murdered, and posthumously convicted, would indicate a lack of resolve to stand up to brutal regimes around the world. Therefore, we request that you ask the High Representative Borrell to expedite the adoption of their sanctions, include provisions for sanctioning corruption, and ensure that the EU sanctions regime bears Sergei Magnitsky’s name. It is important that we do not let our guard down and continue our global leadership in this important area. Sincerely, Benjamin L. Cardin                                                       Roger F. Wicker Ranking Member                                                          Co-Chairman

  • Respecting Human Rights and Maintaining Democratic Control during States of Emergency

    Statement at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Webinar: Respecting Human Rights and Maintaining Democratic Control during States of Emergency President Tsereteli, Secretary General Montella, it is good hear from you.  I am pleased to see that this Assembly has found ways to communicate, cooperate and collaborate — in spite of the distances that keep us apart, and as an expression of our shared commitments to our roles as legislators. At last year’s annual session, I was the lead sponsor of a supplementary item on “the role of civil society — individuals and non-governmental organizations — in realizing the aims and aspirations of the OSCE.”  The resolution we adopted in Luxembourg acknowledges the critical role civil society plays in enhancing security and cooperation across all OSCE dimensions. I appreciate President Tsereteli appointing our colleague, the Honorable Pia Kauma, as the Assembly’s Special Representative to be an advocate for civil society engagement and she has done a great job so far. I am sorry, but not surprised that some governments have taken the need for emergency measures as an opportunity for repressive measures. Hungary is the only OSCE participating State that does not have a sunset clause for the expiration of its emergency measures, or requiring parliamentary approval for an extension.  Parliamentary oversight is absolutely essential, especially when governments seek to exercise extraordinary powers. I believe we must also pay particular attention to those measures that relate to freedoms of assembly, association, and expression.  I am also troubled by the heavy-handed disciplinary and punitive approach utilized in some areas, which exacerbates existing discriminatory and unconstitutional policing.  I want to thank you, Director Gisladottir, for your attention to this and speaking out against the hate crimes and scapegoating of minorities, refugees and migrants. In the next legislation that will come before the U.S. Congress, I will support provisions to address hate crimes and other forms of discrimination in our societies recently highlighted by the pandemic. The February 25 profiling murder of Ahmaud Aubrey by his neighbors in the state of Georgia demonstrates the urgency of our fight for equity and justice for all beyond our current crisis. But I would like to pause here for a moment, to reflect on violations of fundamental freedoms that some governments had already imposed even before now.  If a law or practice violated OSCE human rights and democracy norms before the pandemic, circumstances now will surely not cure that violation. Threats against journalists, restrictions on academic freedom, imprisoning people for their political views, and impeding or even criminalizing NGOs’ access to and communication within and outside their own countries — all of that is still inconsistent with OSCE commitments, and the pandemic does not change that.  Principle VII of the Helsinki Final Act still holds: individuals still have the right to know and act upon their rights. I therefore add my voice to the international calls from OSCE institutional bodies and others around the world for the release of all prisoners of conscience given this pandemic. Prison populations are particularly susceptible to community spread. To address dangerous overcrowding, governments should work first and foremost to release those imprisoned for exercising their internationally recognized rights or those wrongly imprisoned contrary to international commitments.  I regret Turkey's decision in particular to approve a plan to release 90,000 prisoners that excluded relief for any of the thousands of political prisoners, including opposition politicians, civil society activists, employees of U.S. diplomatic missions, and many more. Which brings me back to the important work of Special Representative Kauma.  Civil society is not a luxury, it is essential.  If anything, it becomes even more important during an emergency when governments may legitimately exercise powers, but those powers may not be unlimited, unchecked, or unending.  A vibrant civil society plays a critical role in holding governments to account, particularly at times of great social stress.  Those human rights groups, the parent-teacher organizations, book clubs, or food banks— all enrich our societies. Colleagues, this pandemic has upended elections across the OSCE region.  According to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s factsheet, forty OSCE participating States — including my own — have elections scheduled for this year. As we all rise to meet the challenge of conducting elections safely, we must maintain transparency regarding the entire electoral process, especially any changes to the timing of elections, methods of voting, or measures that impact campaigning.  The United States is already debating these issues in preparation for November. Even in a pandemic, international and domestic election observation remains vital.  We must find a solution to ensure that they are engaged and included even now. 

  • Chairman Hastings and Co-Chairman Wicker Commemorate World Press Freedom Day

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) and Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statements: "Given these uncertain and unprecedented times, it is more important than ever that journalists and media professionals are able to work freely and without retribution," said Chairman Hastings. "Unfortunately, journalists remain in jail throughout the OSCE region, while states like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Hungary criminalize providing essential information and transparency about the COVID-19 pandemic. Independent media continues to be assaulted under the pretense of punishing allegedly 'false,' 'misleading,' or unofficial information. This is unacceptable." Read Chairman Hastings' full Congressional Record statement. “Journalists across the globe risk their safety, and some even their lives, to report the truth," said Co-Chairman Wicker. "On World Press Freedom Day, we honor a freedom that is a cornerstone of democracy and should always be protected in any healthy society. During this pandemic, good journalism and unflinching investigative reporting are essential as we work to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus and get our economies started again. Now more than ever, I urge all OSCE states to uphold this fundamental freedom." According to the latest reports from the Committee to Protect Journalists, 250 journalists are imprisoned worldwide for their work, 64 journalists are missing, and 1,369 journalists have been killed since 1992. Additionally, Reporters Without Borders' 2020 World Press Freedom Index found that global press freedom has deteriorated by 12 percent since 2013. Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir, along with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, issued a joint declaration on freedom of expression and elections in the digital age, particularly noting challenges to press freedom during the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 17, Chairman Hastings and Co-Chairman Wicker released a statement expressing concern with the latest attacks on press freedom in Russia amid the coronavirus pandemic, including death threats to Russian journalist Yelena Milashina by Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Earlier in April, Chairman Hastings also denounced the unchecked power granted to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban following his request to rule by decree in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Statement at the Meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Bureau

    Mr. President, Secretary General Montella, thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this Bureau meeting. I commend you for your efforts to ensure that the work of the Assembly continues and that this body responds to the urgent challenges all of our countries face. I particularly welcome the information you have put online about the participating States’ responses to the covid-19 pandemic and the role of legislative bodies in formulating those responses. Parliamentary oversight is essential, not expendable, in an emergency. Since my last report in Luxembourg, I have focused on the profound threat of rising and increasingly deadly intolerance. Anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic attacks in my own country, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the targeted killings of Latin Americans in El Paso, Texas, underscore the urgency of this threat.  Obviously, the pandemic creates new and additional challenges.  But it is precisely at this moment that we cannot afford to lower our guard against discrimination and bigotry, when pandemic fears may fan the flames of intolerance. Minority and immigrant communities are already more vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic because of past inequalities. Those disparities may be compounded without appropriately targeted healthcare and economic responses. Covid-caused disruptions in education may also have long-term disproportionate consequences for those already impacted by discriminatory schooling. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to ensure that the measures we introduce and which our governments implement are consistent with OSCE standards on human rights and democracy, including the 1991 Moscow Document’s commitments regarding states of emergency. It is also vital that our parliamentary oversight extends to the use of military authorities and policing, which may have the potential to exacerbate relations with minority communities and erode public confidence in government at a time when that trust is critical for the effective implementation of responses to this virus. Disciplinary and punitive policies by national or local authorities run the risk of backfiring. As this body’s special representative on anti-Semitism and racism, I am alarmed by attacks on people who are being scapegoated for this virus. Parliamentarians should lead by example in countering disinformation, conspiracy theories, and other propaganda that stokes anti-Asian bigotry, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of racism. In the face of an extraordinary threat, people may feel that ordinary constraints on governments do not apply. But too often, temporary changes introduced for emergencies have a way of becoming permanent. I welcome the statements by my Third Committee colleagues that have called for the participating States’ responses to meet the basic tests of necessity, transparency, and proportionality. It is also crucial that they include sunset provisions and subject to periodic review. When democratic norms erode, protections against hate crimes do too. Mr. President, I will be reporting more fully on my activities later this year at a more opportune time, when we will all be able to assess the very fluid, unfolding challenges.  Covid-19 will undoubtedly lead to profound changes in all our countries for a long time to come. I thank you and my colleagues here today for the work you are doing to ensure that we meet a global crisis with global cooperation faithful to the commitments we have undertaken in the OSCE.  

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