Title

Title

Press Releases

Browse and search Helsinki Commission press releases, from 1994 to the present day.

  • Related content
  • Related content
Filter Topics Open Close
  • Chairman Hastings Appoints Alex T. Johnson Helsinki Commission Chief of Staff

    WASHINGTON—Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), today announced the appointment of Alex T. Johnson as Helsinki Commission Chief of Staff. Johnson will be the commission’s first African-American chief of staff since it was established in 1976. “I am pleased to welcome Alex Johnson back to the Helsinki Commission,” said Chairman Hastings. “His broad range of experience—including several years at the U.S. Mission to the OSCE in Vienna—and deep understanding of issues related to fundamental freedoms and human security in North America, Europe, and Central Asia will keep the commission at the vanguard of regional policymaking.” “I have learned from Chairman Hastings over the years that transatlantic security is contingent on advancing human rights and human dignity, including for the most marginalized populations in the OSCE region,” said Johnson. “I am honored to once again empower our commissioners' legacy as the moral compass for transatlantic cooperation.” Johnson, a former policy advisor at the Helsinki Commission, returns to the organization after serving as the senior policy advisor for Europe and Eurasia at the Open Society Foundations, where he led U.S.-focused advocacy for 12 national foundations and regional programs ranging from Central Asia to Western Europe. An expert on European human rights and transatlantic security, he served as an Obama Administration official at the Pentagon, where he focused on furthering security cooperation with Eurasia and the Western Balkans. Johnson is also known for his research and leadership of advocacy coalitions of diverse foreign policy professionals and is recognized as a leader in advancing inclusion for the U.S. national security workforce. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Truman National Security Project Defense Council. Johnson’s first day as chief of staff of the Helsinki Commission will be February 14, 2019.

  • Wicker, Cardin Condemn Detention of Russian Activist Nastya Shevchenko

    WASHINGTON—Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) today issued the following statements on the detention of Anastasia (Nastya) Shevchenko, a human rights activist with the Open Russia organization, who was placed under house arrest on January 23: “No one should face jail time for peaceful advocacy,” said Sen. Wicker. “The callous and cruel treatment of Nastya Shevchenko by Russian authorities is a disturbing tactic to silence a citizen-activist.” “The Russian authorities must release Nastya Shevchenko,” said Sen. Cardin. “It should not be a crime to advocate for the best interests of one’s country and fellow citizens.” Shevchenko is the first Russian to face criminal charges under Russia’s 2015 “undesirable organizations” law, which is intended to prevent NGOs based outside of Russia from operating within the country. A single mother, she was prevented from visiting her critically-ill special needs daughter until shortly before her daughter’s death at the end of January. Open Russia is a Russian-led, Russia-based organization that advocates for greater government transparency and accountability. Amnesty International has declared Shevchenko a prisoner of conscience.

  • Representative Alcee L. Hastings to Helm Helsinki Commission

    WASHINGTON—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has appointed Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) to chair the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, during the 116th Congress. “For more than four decades, the Helsinki Commission has championed human rights and democracy across North America, Europe, and Central Asia,” said Chairman Hastings. “While we have worked to keep these concerns on the U.S. agenda, much remains to be accomplished. Rogue actors are challenging the integrity of elections at home and abroad; Russia’s internal repression threatens its citizens while its external aggression imperils its neighbors; and members of vulnerable communities are targets of bigotry, discrimination, and violence. All of these challenges undermine comprehensive security in the region and place our societies at risk. “I’m honored to once again chair the Helsinki Commission, and look forward to continuing the bipartisan, bicameral cooperation that is vital to promoting human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in the 57 countries of the OSCE.” Chairman Hastings has served on the Helsinki Commission since 2001, and in 2007, he became the first African American to chair the commission. Hastings is also the only American to have ever served as President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and is the former Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs of the PA.

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Focus on Asset Recovery In Eurasia

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: ASSET RECOVERY IN EURASIA Repatriation or Repay the Patron? Wednesday, February 13, 2019 10:00 a.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Asset recovery—the process of repatriating funds previously stolen by corrupt officials—remains one of the most contentious points in the fight against transnational corruption. Though only a small percentage of stolen funds are ever recovered, major questions exist about the best ways to ensure that repatriated funds don’t simply reenter the same patronage cycle from which they came. Is it possible to ensure that recovered assets actually serve the people from whom they have been stolen? This briefing will explore approaches to repatriation in Armenia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Panelists will discuss best practices and challenges in asset recovery as well as appropriate policy responses, both by the state in question and the international community, and compare the respective approaches of the three countries. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Sona Ayvazyan, Executive Director, Transparency International Armenia Bryan Earl, Retired Supervisory Special Agent/Assistant General Counsel, Federal Bureau of Investigation Karen Greenaway, Retired Supervisory Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation Kristian Lasslett, Professor of Criminology and Head of School, Ulster University

  • Whitehouse, Wicker, Jackson Lee, Burgess Introduce Rodchenkov Act

    WASHINGTON—One week after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) failed to suspend the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) for missing a crucial December 31, 2018, deadline, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Roger Wicker (MS) and Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Michael Burgess (TX-26) today introduced in the Senate and the House the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. The legislation, originally introduced in the 115th Congress, would criminalize international doping fraud conspiracies. “We know from experience that we must meet the bad behavior of Russia’s corrupt government with strength. Anything less they take as encouragement,” said Senator Whitehouse. “That’s why the responses of WADA and the International Olympic Committee to the Russian doping scandal fall woefully short. Now is the time to create stiff penalties for Russia’s cheating and send a signal that Russia and other sponsors of state-directed fraud can’t use corruption as a tool of foreign policy.” “Without Dr. Rodchenkov’s courage, we would still be in the dark about the extent of Russia’s doping fraud. He is now in hiding, fearing that Russian thugs may one day come for him as they did Sergei Skripal in London. Whistleblowers should not be forced to live this way. Dr. Rodchenkov and those other brave individuals who reveal the crimes of authoritarian regimes deserve better,” said Senator Wicker. “Russia’s full-throated defiance of international norms and standards undermines the rule of law and demands the strongest of responses. The Putin regime uses strategic corruption to destabilize peaceful civil society, democratic institutions, and the alliances that have been the foundation of transatlantic peace and prosperity for the past 70-plus years. This long overdue bill would define doping for what it is: fraud.  Never again should Russia or any other authoritarian state believe that there will be no legal consequences for committing doping fraud conspiracies,” said Representative Jackson Lee. “WADA’s most recent decision to give Russia a free pass clearly conveys that leaders of international sport governance refuse to uphold the integrity of sport. The current framework has proven ineffective and fundamentally unfit to defend clean athletes and prevent doping fraud. Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal not only caused damages to clean international athletes, but also resulted in harm to its own athletes.  It is time to restore a level playing field by ensuring that the rights of U.S. and all clean athletes are respected. RADA will keep fraud away from competitions that touch the U.S. market and interests, and protect our athletes,” said Representative Burgess. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act will: Establish criminal penalties for participating in a scheme in commerce to influence a major international sport competition through prohibited substances or methods.  This section applies to all major international sport competitions in which U.S. athletes participate, and where organizing entities receive sponsorship from companies doing business in the United States or are compensated for the right to broadcast their competition there, so that international fraud against Americans will not go unpunished. Penalties will include fines of up to $1,000,000, or imprisonment of up to ten years, depending on the offense. Provide restitution to victims of such conspiracies.  Athletes and other persons who are victims of major international doping fraud conspiracies shall be entitled to mandatory restitution for losses inflicted upon them by fraudsters and conspirators. Protect whistleblowers from retaliation.  By criminalizing participation in a major international doping fraud conspiracy, whistleblowers will be included under existing witness and informant protection laws. Establish coordination and sharing of information with the United States Anti-Doping Agency.  Federal agencies involved in the fight against doping shall coordinate and share information with USADA, whose mission is to preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport, and protect the rights of athletes, to enhance their collective efforts to curb doping fraud. Senators Ben Cardin (MD) and Marco Rubio (FL) are original cosponsors of the bill in the Senate.  Original cosponsors in the House include Representatives Steve Cohen (TN-09), Richard Hudson (NC-08), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Peter King (NY-03), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Billy Long (MO-07), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Bobby Rush (IL-01), and Paul Tonko (NY-20). In 2016, Dr. Rodchenkov exposed the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  By deceiving international anti-doping authorities and swapping athletes’ samples, Russian officials cheated U.S. athletes out of Olympic glory and U.S. corporations out of honest sponsorships.  These corrupt officials used bribes and illicit payments, sometimes through U.S. financial institutions, to commit this fraud.  Unfortunately, the masterminds behind the Russian sports doping operation escaped punishment for their actions because there was no U.S. legal mechanism to bring them to justice. In February 2018, the Helsinki Commission held a briefing featuring Dr. Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden, on combating fraud in sports and the role of whistleblowers in safeguarding the integrity of international competitions.  In March, Commissioners Senators Cardin and Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Representative Jackson Lee met with Dr. Rodchenkov to discuss the threat posed by Russia to the United States, corruption in international sports bodies, and how the United States can contribute to the international effort to counter doping fraud. In July, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing that explored the interplay between doping fraud and globalized corruption and U.S. policy responses, including the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven individuals for involvement in a Russian-operated military intelligence program in which GRU officers are alleged to have conducted sophisticated hacking of U.S. and international anti-doping agencies who investigated and publicly condemned Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.  The hacking victims also included 230 athletes from approximately 30 countries.  The operation was part of a disinformation campaign in which victims’ personal email communications and individual medical and drug testing information, sometimes modified from its original form, was used to actively promote media coverage to further a narrative favorable to the Russian government.

  • Hastings Recognizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day

    Fort Lauderdale, FL—Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) released the following statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day: “Today, I join the international community in reflecting on the murder of six million Jews during one of the darkest periods in human history. Between 1940 and 1945, two out of every three Jews in Europe perished in ghettos, mass shootings, forced labor camps, and extermination camps under the Nazi Regime, forever changing the face of Europe and the world. “The world’s Jewish population has yet to recover to its numbers prior to the Holocaust, yet global Jewry has witnessed a resurgence. Today, the Jewish State of Israel thrives and Jewish life has strengthened. Yet, we must always remain vigilant against the forces of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, each of which have risen sharply in our country and across the globe. We must never allow hatred to go unchallenged, and it is incumbent upon all of us to stand with the Jewish community and others working to confront injustice. “As we mark an international day of remembrance, we must commit to supporting Holocaust education across the globe and ensure survivors in our nation, many of whom live at or below the poverty line, have access to the lifesaving services they rely on. As a representative of South Florida, which possesses one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors in the world, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure this community may live with dignity.”

  • Cardin on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

    WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, made the following statement on International Holocaust Commemoration Day, which is Sunday, January 27: “The anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland is a day set aside by the international community for the remembrance of the Holocaust. Faced with the deadly consequences of ignorance, hatred, and conspiracy theories from Pittsburgh and Kentucky to Gdansk, it is critical to advance knowledge, tolerance, and reason.  This is not a one-day-of-the-year task, but an undertaking that requires commitment, action, and resources 365 days a year. “Last year, I was honored to join the United States Holocaust Memorial Council as one of the 10 members from the Congress – five from the United States Senate and five from the House of Representatives – who serve on this governing board.  The Museum is the United States’ official memorial to victims of the Holocaust; it is the U.S. Government’s preeminent voice to ensure that we never forget those who perished; and it is our collective conscience in the fight against apathy and ignorance.  As a leader of the Helsinki Commission, I have long worked with to support the mission of the Museum, including preserving irreplaceable archives and testimonies and protecting sensitive sites of remembrance.  Now more than ever, we must apply lessons from the past to the challenges we face today.” In 2015, Sen. Cardin was named as the Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the 57-nation Organization Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. In the U.S. Senate and, through the U.S. Helsinki Commission (CSCE), Senator Cardin has worked to raise awareness of the escalation of global anti-Semitic violence, anti-Muslim laws, and other forms of intolerance while working to promote peace, tolerance and equality. Senator Cardin is the author of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure that the U.S. government works in a coordinated manner using its full range of tools to help prevent mass atrocities. He is the author of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which have set the global standard for ensuring justice for rights defenders in the fight against impunity.

  • Rep. Smith Authors New Comprehensive American Law to Combat Trafficking

    WASHINGTON—On Tuesday, President Trump signed into law Rep. Chris Smith’s (NJ-04) bill authorizing $430 million over four years for a whole-of-government effort to fight sex and labor trafficking at home and abroad—Smith’s fifth comprehensive law to fight human trafficking.   “My Frederick Douglass law authorizes over $430 million over 4 years to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, and beef up prosecution of those involved in this nefarious trade both at home and abroad,” Smith said. His Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act is his fifth comprehensive anti-human trafficking bill to become law. “In the fight to end modern day slavery, my law honors the extraordinary legacy of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived,” Smith said of Frederick Douglass, of whom the bill is named. Douglass, born a slave in 1818, escaped slavery at the age of 20 and became a leader in the fight to abolish slavery and, later, to ending Jim Crow laws. “A gifted orator, author, editor, statesman (and Republican), he died in 1895.” Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and President of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, stated that “If my great ancestor were here today, I believe he would be driven to lead the struggle against contemporary forms of slavery.  My family sends a special thanks to Representative Christopher Smith from New Jersey, the entire U.S. Congress and the President for permitting the Douglass legacy to do just that.” Smith serves as the U.S. Congress Special Representative on combatting human trafficking to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), an international organization of leading lawmakers from 57 countries representing over one billion people worldwide. The assembly focuses on security-related concerns including human rights, policing strategies, and democratization. At the OSCEPA, Smith has sponsored 13 successful resolutions on trafficking, including the very first resolution in 1999 in St. Petersburg, Russia. As Special Representative, he also writes an annual report on human trafficking for the assembly. His 2016 and 2017 resolutions were the basis for an OSCE ministerial decision on combatting child trafficking in 2017, which provided practical steps for member countries to protect children from traveling sex offenders and from misuse of the internet for child trafficking and sexual exploitation. Smith has previously authored four major U.S. laws to fight trafficking: the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (P.L. 106-386), the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-193), the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-164) and the International Megan’s Law (P.L. 114-119). International Megan’s Law, funded in Smith’s new law, established country-to-country notification to protect children from convicted pedophiles who may seek to travel for the purposes of sex trafficking of children and other forms of child sexual exploitation; since the law’s enactment in February, 2016, it has resulted in 3,442 denials of entry of convicted pedophiles seeking to enter a country. This whole-of-government effort to fight trafficking in Smith’s new law includes: Age-appropriate prevention education for children; Shelter, therapy, and reintegration for trafficking victims; Facilitation of trafficking-free supply chains in U.S. commerce; Training of U.S. government officials and airline industry employees to better identify and prevent possible cases of trafficking, and; Oversight to ensure that U.S. government purchases are not employing traffickers. The Frederick Douglass legislation authorizes funding for the following: $18 million over three years to DHS and DOJ and State to fund the International Megan’s Law   $78 million over four years to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to: Ensure that children in the U.S. are educated in an age appropriate manner on how to avoid becoming victims of sex and labor trafficking Provide U.S. Citizen and Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and foreign victims with 24/7 access to rescue and assistance through the National Human Trafficking Hotline $20 million over four years to the Department of Labor (DOL) to: Facilitate trafficking-free supply chains in private businesses and U.S. government purchases Inform DHS of imports that may contain trafficked products, to prevent their entry into the United States $315 million over four years to the Department of State (DOS) for their work to: Support the training of U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials to better combat human trafficking Write the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report and encourage credible and effective use of the Report to hold countries accountable in the fight against human trafficking Engage diplomatically with countries to help them improve their trafficking laws and implementation Help countries develop better referral and assistance programs for rescued sex and labor trafficking victims Improve coordination of government and civil society efforts abroad to fight child trafficking Convene the President’s Interagency Task Force and coordinate the efforts of various U.S. government agencies to fight human trafficking at home and abroad Create a special complaint mechanism in embassies whereby the U.S. is warned of traffickers exploiting the U.S. entry system Prevent abuse of domestic servants in embassies and diplomatic homes in the U.S. Encourage USAID to integrate human trafficking prevention into disaster relief Assist foreign countries in meeting the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking Assist foreign victims of human trafficking $1 million over four years to train airport personnel, flight attendants, and pilots to recognize and report to law enforcement potential trafficking victims in transit Smith’s landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which he has reauthorized and/or enhanced through his subsequent legislation, created a bold new strategy both domestically and internationally that included sheltering, asylum and other protections for the victims, long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers, and tough sanctions for governments that failed to meet minimum standards.  Smith’s legislation has served as a model for new laws in countries throughout the world.  The new Frederick Douglass legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), originally passed the House with full reauthorization for all agencies that were originally funded through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations.  The legislation has been endorsed by a consortium of faith-based and non-profit groups including the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), Free the Slaves, Futures Without Violence, International Justice Mission (IJM), National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Network for Youth (NN4Y), Polaris, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, Verité, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Rights4Girls, Shared Hope International, Amb. Swanee Hunt, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Equality Now, and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The bipartisan legislation has been cosponsored by Members from both parties, including original cosponsors Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Ed Royce (CA-39), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Susan Brooks (IN-05), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Ann Wagner (MO-02), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Ted Poe (TX-02), and Ryan Costello (PA-06).

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Welcome Sanctions on Goran Radosavljevic

    WASHINGTON—Following this week's announcement by the U.S. State Department that it is placing sanctions on Goran “Guri” Radosavljevic of Serbia due to credible allegations of his involvement in the 1999 murders of brothers Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi, Helsinki Commission leaders issued the following statements: “I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to sanction Goran Radosavljevic and bar him and his immediate family from the United States,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS). “Congress has given the executive branch the tools to impose serious consequences on those implicated in corruption or serious human rights abuses abroad, and I am encouraged by the administration’s use of these tools to defend and advance U.S. interests.” “I have met the surviving members of the Bytyqi family and have long encouraged senior Serbian officials to thoroughly investigate and vigorously prosecute those responsible for the murder of the three brothers to justice,” said Ranking Commissioner Sen. Ben Cardin (MD).  “The announced sanctions on Radosavljevic reinforce our desire to see justice in this case, and I encourage the administration to continue to press Belgrade to take action.” Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi, all U.S. citizens, were apprehended by Serbian police in July 1999 when they accidently crossed from Kosovo into Serbian-controlled territory while escorting a Romani family to safety.  After serving a two-week sentence for illegal entry, the brothers were not released but placed instead in the custody of a special operations unit of the Serbian Interior Ministry, which transported them to a training facility commanded by Radosavljevic, where they were murdered execution-style. Their bodies were subsequently found in a mass grave with ethnic Albanian victims of the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo.  To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime, despite repeated urgings by U.S. officials and promises by Serbia’s most senior leaders.   Section 7031(c) of the FY 2018 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or a serious violation of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. Radosavljevic is reportedly a security consultant in Belgrade and prominent member of the governing political party in Serbia.

  • Senators Whitehouse and Hatch Introduce Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act

    WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commissioner Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) today introduced the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. Named for Russian whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the bipartisan legislation establishes criminal penalties on individuals involved in doping fraud conspiracies affecting major international competitions. Earlier this year, Helsinki Commissioners Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26) introduced the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act in the House of Representatives. “To remain a ‘city on a hill,’ America must hold the crooked and corrupt accountable whenever we can. That means forcefully confronting Russia’s use of corruption as a tool of foreign policy,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “In the face of certain retaliation, Dr. Rodchenkov revealed sweeping Russian state-sponsored doping. This bill would create consequences for Russia’s cheating, and send a strong signal that Russia and other sponsors of state-directed fraud and corruption no longer enjoy impunity.” “For too long, internationally agreed upon anti-doping rules have been broken with impunity. Athletes have been defrauded by coordinated, and in some cases state-sponsored, doping fraud schemes that call into question the integrity and fairness central to all competitions,” said Senator Hatch. “This bill is a long overdue step to deter and punish individuals and state actors who would attempt to defraud international competitions through doping.” In 2016, Dr. Rodchenkov exposed the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. By deceiving international anti-doping authorities and swapping athletes’ samples, Russian officials cheated U.S. athletes out of Olympic glory and U.S. corporations out of honest sponsorships. These corrupt officials used bribes and illicit payments, sometimes through U.S. financial institutions, to commit this fraud. Unfortunately, the masterminds behind the Russian sports doping operation escaped punishment for their actions because there was no U.S. legal mechanism to bring them to justice. With the recent decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the matter now appears closed at the international level with no meaningful consequences for the Russian regime or the officials who perpetrated the scheme. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act will: Establish criminal penalties for participating in a scheme in commerce to influence a major international sport competition through prohibited substances or methods. This section applies to all major international sport competitions in which U.S. athletes participate, and where organizing entities receive sponsorship from companies doing business in the United States or are compensated for the right to broadcast their competition there, so that international fraud against Americans will not go unpunished. Penalties will include fines of up to $1,000,000, or imprisonment of up to ten years, depending on the offense. Provide restitution to victims of such conspiracies. Athletes and other persons who are victims of major international doping fraud conspiracies shall be entitled to mandatory restitution for losses inflicted upon them by fraudsters and conspirators. Protect whistleblowers from retaliation. By criminalizing participation in a major international doping fraud conspiracy, whistleblowers will be included under existing witness and informant protection laws. Establish coordination and sharing of information with the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Federal agencies involved in the fight against doping shall coordinate and share information with USADA, whose mission is to preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport, and protect the rights of athletes, to enhance their collective efforts to curb doping fraud. “I am humbled and honored to see the introduction of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act in the Senate today,” said Dr. Rodchenkov. “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. Hatch, and the Helsinki Commission for their courage and leadership in the protection of whistleblowers who come forward to speak the truth. I believe that this legislation holds the promise to finally protect athletes and international competitions from and corruption and interference that we see continues today. This broad support from Congress is vital to our fight for justice and fairness in the international arena of sport.” In February 2018, the Helsinki Commission held a briefing featuring Dr. Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden, on combating fraud in sports and the role of whistleblowers in safeguarding the integrity of international competitions. In March, Commissioners Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), and Rep. Jackson Lee met with Dr. Rodchenkov to discuss the threat posed by Russia to the United States, corruption in international sports bodies, and how the United States can contribute to the international effort to counter doping fraud. In July, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing that explored the interplay between doping fraud and globalized corruption and U.S. policy responses, including the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act. In October, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven individuals for involvement in a Russian-operated military intelligence program in which GRU officers are alleged to have conducted sophisticated hacking of U.S. and international anti-doping agencies who investigated and publicly condemned Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. The hacking victims also included 230 athletes from approximately 30 countries. The operation was part of a disinformation campaign in which victims’ personal email communications and individual medical and drug testing information, sometimes modified from its original form, was used to actively promote media coverage to further a narrative favorable to the Russian government.

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Examine Relationship Between Mosque and State in Central Asia

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: MOSQUE AND STATE IN CENTRAL ASIA Can Religious Freedom Coexist with Government Regulation of Islam? Monday, December 17, 2018 3:00 p.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission From 2016 to early 2018, the U.S. government designated three of Central Asia’s five nations— Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—as countries of particular concern (CPC) for engaging in or tolerating “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” like torture, abduction, and clandestine or prolonged detention without charges. In these countries, people of all faiths, or no faith at all, have endured onerous government-mandated harassment, fines, and imprisonment for even minor breaches of state regulations of religious belief and practice. To ensure regime stability and counter violent extremism, the governments of some Central Asian Muslim-majority countries impose strict and invasive violations of religious liberty on adherents of the Islamic faith. Islamic religious institutions and leaders are fully incorporated into the state bureaucracy. Exploring the faith outside the bounds of “official Islam” is forbidden and illegal. The Helsinki Commission will convene an expert panel of regional and Islamic scholars to explain the different approaches to state regulation of Islam in Central Asia and the consequences of these policies for religious freedom, radicalization, and long-term political stability and social development. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Kathleen Collins, Associate Professor, Political Science, and Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Minnesota Edward Lemon, DMGS-Kennan Institute Fellow at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security Emil Nasrutdinov, Associate Professor of Anthropology, American University of Central Asia Peter Mandaville, Professor of International Affairs, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University On December 11, 2018, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo re-designated Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as CPCs. He upgraded Uzbekistan to the Special Watch List—it had been previously designated as a CPC—based on recent progress. In June 2018, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) urged Secretary of State Pompeo to consider inviting Uzbekistan to the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom because of significant steps taken by President Mirziyoyev to bring Uzbekistan into compliance with its international commitments to respect religious freedom. Later that month, he introduced the bipartisan Senate Resolution 539 calling on President Trump to combat religious freedom violations in Eurasia with a mix of CPC and Special Watch List designations, individual and broader sanctions, and development of a strategy specifically for the region. In early July, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe passed Chairman Wicker’s amendments recognizing the ongoing reforms of the government of Uzbekistan. A few weeks later Chairman Wicker met with Uzbekistan’s delegation to the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom—the only CPC invited—and highlighted the opportunity for Uzbekistan to be a model to other countries if the government follows through with essential reforms

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Explore Best Practices for Keeping Families Safely Together

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD Best Practices for Keeping Families Safely Together Friday, December 14, 2018 10:30 a.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room G-11 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission While foster families can offer critical and timely emergency care for children in need, study after study shows that children who stay in foster care without permanent parents suffer lifelong emotional harm and life-skills underdevelopment.  The extreme challenges faced by these children put them at risk for homelessness, human trafficking, unemployment, and even incarceration.  More than 20,000 young people aged-out of foster care in the United States in 2016—deprived of the support of their own or adoptive permanent families.  In some countries in Europe, children, especially those of immigrant parents, are removed from their families because the parents “lack parenting skills.”  These children in the United States and Europe are perhaps saved from an immediate emergency by government officials seeking to act in their best interest, but then exposed to the lifelong harm of not belonging to a functioning forever family.  What if these youths and their families of origin had been given the support they needed to stay together, such as mental health services, substance use treatment, in-home parenting skill training, and supportive community?   At this Helsinki Commission briefing, child protection policy experts will discuss the social isolation factors that can make families vulnerable to crises, intervention strategies to prevent or shorten a child’s removal from the family, and the key features of the new Family First Prevention Services Act (P.L. 115-123), which is anticipated to prevent unnecessary removals of children from their parents when families can be kept safely together.  Expert panelists scheduled to participate include: Jessica Foster, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships, Youth Villages Christine Calpin, Managing Director for Public Policy, Casey Family Programs Maridel Sandberg, President and Executive Director, Together for Good

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing to Examine Religious Freedom in Eurasia

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN EURASIA Are Governments Keeping Their Commitments? Tuesday, December 11, 2018 10:45 a.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 106 Live Webcast: http://www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission WITNESSES: Sam Brownback, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom In his first Congressional hearing since his confirmation, Ambassador Brownback will testify on religious freedom in participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation. OSCE commitments on human rights and freedoms are the strongest, most comprehensive of any security organization in the world. Yet some of its participating States chronically have been among the worst violators of religious freedom–often in the name of countering terrorism or extremism–and designated by the United States as Countries of Particular Concern. The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, Public Law 114-281, requires the President to release Country of Particular Concern designations–required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998–no later than 90 days after releasing the annual International Religious Freedom Report. The State Department issued the latest report, covering 2017, on May 27, 2018. Designations will hopefully be released by this hearing and will reveal whether: Uzbekistan will be designated for the Special Watch List, given the government’s reforms, or re-designated as a Country of Particular Concern Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been re-designated as Countries of Particular Concern Russia has been designated for the Special Watch List or as a Country of Particular Concern Government of Russia-controlled separatist authorities and forces in eastern Ukraine have been designated as Entities of Particular Concern Kazakhstan has been designated for the Special Watch List because of its draft religion law Even if designations have not been released by December 11, the Helsinki Commission will still explore these and other subjects, including religious freedom in Western Europe, like potentially restrictive amendments to the religion law in Bulgaria; restrictions on religious animal slaughter; restrictions on construction of houses of worship; and conscience rights.

  • Corruption in Sport Focus of Upcoming Helsinki Commission Briefing

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: ALL BETS ARE OFF Gambling, Match-Fixing, and Corruption in Sport Tuesday, December 4, 2018 11:30 a.m. Russell Senate Office Building Room 188 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Corruption—including bribery, doping fraud, and match-fixing—permeates international sport. Despite a 2015 FBI investigation into the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) that indicted more than twenty-five top FIFA officials and associates for alleged decades-long racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, international sport governance bodies remain compromised and U.S. athletes remain vulnerable. Corruption in sport has become an even more pressing concern following the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 14 decision declaring the Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional, unleashing a sports gambling industry in the United States potentially valued at $400 billion. This lucrative and unregulated market may now be susceptible to the same globalized corruption that has come to define international sport. Panelists will provide their insights into the structure of international sport, the globalization of sports gambling, and how to protect American sport from the corruption that has swept over the rest of the world. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Declan Hill, Professor of Investigations, University of New Haven David Larkin, U.S. lawyer; co-founder of ChangeFIFA Marko Stanovic, Balkan-based former match-fixer Alexandra Wrage, President and CEO, TRACE International; former member of FIFA’s failed Independent Governance Committee

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Explore Transatlantic Counterterrorism Cooperation

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: FIGHTING TERROR Comparing Notes Across the Atlantic Tuesday, December 4, 2018 4:00 p.m. Cannon House Office Building Room 340 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission As terrorist threats have multiplied in their scope and scale, the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe plays an increasingly central role in facilitating international efforts to prevent and combat terrorism, including addressing conditions that create fertile ground for terrorist groups to recruit. At this U.S. Helsinki Commission briefing, leading American and European experts will discuss where OSCE participating States converge and diverge on policies to counter terrorism and violent extremism. It will also highlight the positive work of the OSCE and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in this area, as well as the role of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism. Participants will discuss the state of transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation and recommend policy responses and best practices.  Congressman Richard Hudson, Vice-Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, will make introductory remarks. Panelists scheduled to participate include: Makis Voridis, Member of the Greek Parliament and Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism Leanne Erdberg, Director, Countering Violent Extremism, United States Institute of Peace Bruce Hoffman, Visiting Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, Council on Foreign Relations

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Regret Closure of Central European University in Budapest

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of the impending December 1 closure of Central European University in Hungary, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Ranking Senate Commissioner Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement: “We regret that Central European University (CEU) in Budapest will cease its operations in Hungary because of restrictions imposed by the Government of Hungary. Since its founding after the fall of communism, CEU has symbolized the renewal of academic freedom, Hungary's robust intellectual traditions, and the ties between Hungary and the rest of the world. With CEU’s closure, the Government of Hungary is shuttering a highly successful economic enterprise and an institution of higher learning that has earned respect around the world. “We commend Ambassador Cornstein for his efforts to foster a successful outcome. Although CEU met every condition demanded of it, the Hungarian Government was resolved not to take ‘yes’ for an answer.  At a time when this administration has worked to forge closer ties with Hungary, the Government of Hungary is taking an isolationist step, and Hungarians will lose this U.S.-accredited institution.” In 2017, the Hungarian legislature adopted a higher education law known as “Lex CEU,” which established criteria for universities operating in Hungary that award foreign-accredited degrees. In practice, the law affected only CEU. At the 2017 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) in Minsk, Belarus, parliamentarians from OSCE participating States expressed concern about the legislation, which “risk[s] undermining academic freedom, inhibiting research and development, and impeding scientific advancement.”

  • Chairman Wicker on Events in the Black Sea and Ukraine

    WASHINGTON—Following recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea, the subsequent capture of Ukrainian sailors, and the introduction of martial law in areas of Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: “I strongly condemn Russia’s recent violence against Ukrainians, including the seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea and Azov Sea regions.  Russia must release the Ukrainians it has illegally detained.  I also urge the government of Ukraine to respond to these incidents in a manner consistent with the preservation of the rights and freedoms of its citizens.  To jeopardize these principles in the name of national security is to play into the hands of Vladimir Putin’s propaganda. “To facilitate U.S. policy responses, I hope the State Department and Department of Defense will clarify the international status of the Azov Sea, which has important implications for freedom of navigation worldwide.  It is clear that Russia has repeatedly violated the 2003 agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the sea as shared waters.” In May 2018, Russia completed the Kerch Bridge, connecting Russia with occupied Crimea and allowing Russia to control the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black and Azov seas.  Since then, Russian ships have systematically harassed Ukrainian vessels and sailors, subjecting them to costly delays and taking a severe toll on the Ukrainian economy. A 2003 agreement between Russia and Ukraine states that the Azov Sea is shared waters.

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Examine Computational Propaganda

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing:   LIES, BOTS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA What is Computational Propaganda and How Do We Defeat It? Thursday, November 29, 2018 10:30 a.m. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 562 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission From the latest revelations about Facebook to ongoing concerns over the integrity of online information, the U.S. public has never been more vulnerable or exposed to computational propaganda: the threat posed by sophisticated botnets able to post, comment on, and influence social media and other web outlets to generate a desired outcome or simply sow distrust and disorder.  What can be done to confront and defeat these malevolent actors before they dominate civil discourse on the Internet? One possibility is the use of algorithmic signal reading which displays for users the geographic origin of a given post. Another answer may lie in improving how websites like Facebook curate their content, so the user can make more informed choices.  At this Helsinki Commission briefing, distinguished experts will examine the implications of computational propaganda on national and international politics and explore options available to Congress and the private sector to confront and negate its pernicious influence. Expert panelists scheduled to participate include: Matt Chessen, Acting Deputy Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow and Director, Technology Policy Program, The German Marshall Fund of the United States Nina Jankowicz, Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Kennan Institute

  • Wicker, Shaheen, Coons, & Rubio Warn Against Russian Leadership of Interpol Ahead of General Assembly Vote

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., issued the following joint statement, urging the Trump Administration and members of Interpol’s General Assembly to oppose the candidacy of Alexander Prokopchuk of Russia to serve as the President of Interpol. A vote to elect the next President of Interpol will be held at the Interpol General Assembly in Dubai on Wednesday.  “Interpol electing Major General Alexander Prokopchuk as its new President is akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse,” said the Senators. “Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists. Alexander Prokopchuk has been personally involved in this intimidation strategy which ultimately seeks to weaken democratic institutions and embolden Putin’s authoritarian regime. If elected as President by the members of Interpol’s General Assembly on Wednesday, we have no doubt that Mr. Prokopchuk will further institutionalize the abuse of Interpol red notices and block ongoing efforts at meaningful reform. Further, the potential access he would gain to sensitive law enforcement data will bolster the Kremlin’s ability to harass critics living outside of Russia and aid other authoritarian regimes seeking to do the same. For these reasons, we urge all 192 members to stand for the integrity of Interpol as a legitimate international law enforcement mechanism and vote against Mr. Prokopchuk. We continue to call on our administration to use its voice, vote and influence to ensure that Interpol can no longer be co-opted by Putin and other dictators for their own nefarious purposes. ” The Russian Federation is one of the main countries to exploit Interpol’s red notice system, whereby notices of arrest are sent to all member countries. Russia has used the red notice system to harass Russia dissidents, critical Americans, and other individuals opposed to the Kremlin’s aggression around the globe. Russia’s candidate for the President of Interpol, Major General Alexander Prokopchuk has been particularly involved in the Kremlin’s continued harassment campaign since he served as the head of Russia’s National Central Bureau since 2011. The vote for President of Interpol will take place in Dubai on Wednesday, November 21.

  • Chairman Wicker on Illegitimate Elections Scheduled for November 11 in Eastern Ukraine

    WASHINGTON—Ahead of the sham elections scheduled to be held in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic on November 11, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: "These so-called elections do not offer a credible way forward for the people of war-torn eastern Ukraine, nor do they support the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Instead, they seek to legitimize the current unelected leadership and parliaments of the proxy authorities in these regions and delay the return to Ukraine of control over its sovereign territory. "The Minsk agreements call for local elections in the Donbas to be held in accordance with Ukrainian law and to be monitored by the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Elections conducted according to these standards would calm the situation in Donbas and provide a path towards peace and reconciliation. Russia must stop stoking a conflict that has already taken over 10,000 lives and displaced a million and a half more.  Until the Government of Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements and ends its illegal occupation of Crimea, U.S. sanctions must remain in place.”

  • Chairman Wicker Welcomes Nomination of James Gilmore as U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE

    WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s nomination of Gov. Jim Gilmore to serve as Representative of the United States to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: “I applaud the Trump Administration’s decision to appoint Gov. Jim Gilmore to this important post. Nominating someone of Gov. Gilmore’s stature sends a firm message to Vienna about America’s engagement in OSCE initiatives. I urge my Senate colleagues to move swiftly on this nomination.” Gov. Gilmore currently serves as President and CEO of American Opportunity Foundation. Previously, he served as Governor of Virginia, Attorney General of Virginia, and as Chairman of the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, a national panel established by Congress to assess federal, state, and local government capabilities to respond to a terrorist attack. Gov. Gilmore served in the United States Army for three years, where he was assigned to United States Army Intelligence in West Germany. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia School of Law. Gov. Gilmore is the recipient of the Air Force Exceptional Service Award and the Joint Service Commendation Medal for Service to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  If confirmed, Gov. Gilmore will have the rank of Ambassador. With 57 participating States in North America, Europe, and Central Asia, the OSCE is the world's largest regional security organization. Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, 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 preventive diplomacy initiatives designed to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict within and among the participating States.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Disturbed by Death of Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Activist

    WASHINGTON—Following the recent news of the death of Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: I am disturbed by the death of 33-year-old Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner Kateryna Handzyuk, who succumbed to injuries received in an acid attack. This young woman worked tirelessly to curb the corruption plaguing her country with the hope that Ukraine would one day realize the rule of law. Her torturous death reminds us that many Ukrainian officials have not yet lived up to the hopes of their citizens. Ukraine’s vibrant civil society remains its best hope for real reform, and it deserves the greatest possible protection. I hope Ms. Handzyuk's killers will be quickly brought to justice.” Attacks on civil society activists in Ukraine have escalated in 2018, accompanied by a disturbing lack of investigations. In October, Transparency International issued a press release calling on Ukrainian authorities to bring those behind the attacks to justice as quickly as possible. This was preceded by a September 26, 2018, open statement from a broad coalition of Ukrainian civil society representatives, recounting recent attacks and demanding investigations. These attacks follow a broader crackdown on civil society in Ukraine. Last April, Ukraine implemented an invasive NGO law, requiring civil society activists to declare assets down to the individual level. The United States and the European Union criticized this action.

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Welcome Invocation of Moscow Mechanism to Investigate Alleged Human Rights Abuses in Chechnya

    WASHINGTON—Following today’s announcement that 16 of the 57 OSCE participating States have invoked the Moscow Mechanism to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Ranking Senate Commissioner Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement: “It is long past time for a credible, independent investigation into the allegations of human rights abuses in Chechnya. The OSCE can no longer ignore reports of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross violations of human rights, and should hold the perpetrators of such vicious crimes accountable. Impunity for such crimes creates an increasingly unsafe and unstable environment in an area already fraught with violence, terrorism, and fear. “We encourage the Government of Russia to cooperate fully with the fact-finding mission and look forward to the mission’s report.” At a human rights meeting convened in Moscow in 1991, the OSCE participating States established a mechanism to establish short-term, fact-finding missions in response to specific human rights concerns. To date, the Moscow Mechanism has been invoked only seven times: in the cases of Russia (2018), Belarus (2011), Turkmenistan (2003), Serbia and Montenegro (1993), Moldova (1993), Estonia (1992), and Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992). The 16 OSCE participating States that today invoked the mechanism are the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In June 2018, Sen. Wicker and Sen. Cardin urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to invoke the Moscow Mechanism to investigate events in Chechnya. In April 2017, a Helsinki Commission hearing examined escalating human rights abuses in Russia, including roundups of hundreds of men accused of being homosexual by Chechen authorities. Some of the men were tortured and killed; others fled the country or remain in hiding. In 2017, Sen. Cardin asked President Trump to investigate the perpetrators of abuses against gay men in Chechnya for possible Global Magnitsky sanctions. On December 20, 2017, the U.S. administration imposed sanctions on Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya.

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Explore Shifts in U.S. Approach to Europe

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: A NEW APPROACH TO EUROPE? U.S. Interests, Nationalist Movements, and the European Union Thursday, November 1, 2018 10:00 a.m. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 562 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission President Trump has turned decades-old conventional wisdom on U.S. policy towards Europe on its head. His description of the European Union as a foe and embrace of populist leaders from Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Italy’s Giuseppe Conte have little historical precedent since World War II.  With transatlantic relations in flux, observers wonder whether the approach that has guided our policy towards Europe since World War II has run its course.  At this Helsinki Commission briefing, distinguished experts on U.S.-European relations will examine the historical context of the relationship and ask whether European integration remains in the U.S. national interest and whether populist movements in Europe should be considered a threat or an opportunity.   Expert panelists scheduled to participate include: Ted R. Bromund, Senior Research Fellow in Anglo-American Relations, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Paul Coyer, Research Professor, The Institute of World Politics Jeffrey Rathke, President, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University

  • Faith in the Public Square to Be Discussed at Helsinki Commission Briefing

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: BEYOND TOLERANCE Faith in the Public Square Monday, October 29, 2018 2:30 p.m. Russell Senate Office Building Room 188 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and laws of the United States, Canada, and many western European countries. As participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, they have repeatedly affirmed that religious freedom is a fundamental freedom and committed to respecting it. But over the past few decades, there have been shifts to language and attitudes of “tolerance” regarding faith in the public square. This briefing will examine faith in the public square as a good in and of itself, a social good, and essential for modern democracy. Panelists will discuss the interplay between public expressions of faith and law, policy, culture, society, and human flourishing in the United States, Canada, and Europe. They will also discuss philosophy underpinning original and shifting understandings of faith in the public square. The following panelists will offer brief remarks, followed by questions: Eric Treene, Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom (2013-2016); current Director, Cardus Religious Freedom Institute Dr. Sophie van Bijsterveld, Senator, Dutch Parliament, and Professor of Religion, Law and Society, Radboud University

  • Helsinki Commission Welcomes Confirmation of New Human Trafficking Ambassador-at-Large

    WASHINGTON—Following the confirmation by the U.S. Senate of John Cotton Richmond to be Ambassador for Trafficking in Persons and the Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) issued the following statements:  “Ambassador Richmond brings a wealth of expertise, commitment, and compassion to his new role leading the federal government’s domestic and global response to human trafficking,” said Chairman Wicker. “He understands how to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent future trafficking.” “Ambassador Richmond has demonstrated a strong commitment to thorough research and evidence-based action on sex and labor trafficking,” said Co-Chairman Smith, who also serves as the Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly President. “These traits will serve him well as he oversees the development of the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report—our most successful diplomatic tool to promote best practices and ensure accountability.” Most recently, Ambassador Richmond was the director of the Human Trafficking Institute, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., devoted to empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers. He also has firsthand experience as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and has served as an expert on human trafficking for the United Nations and the European Union.  Additionally, he was the director for the International Justice Mission’s anti-slavery work in India. In his new role, Ambassador Richmond will coordinate federal government agency efforts to combat human trafficking and assist victims in the United States, as well as assist other countries in meeting their commitments under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol). Ambassador Richmond will also oversee the development of the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which lays bare the record of 189 countries, summarizing a country’s progress and offering concrete recommendations for progress.  Both the report and the Ambassador-at-Large position were created by Co-Chairman Smith’s Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorizations.  

  • Chairman Wicker Welcomes Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson

    WASHINGTON—Following the court-ordered release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest in Turkey today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: “I welcome the release of Pastor Brunson from house arrest and look forward to his return to the United States. The charges against him are baseless, and he should never have served a single day in jail. Thousands of Americans have been praying for this outcome. While this is a positive step by the Government of Turkey, I again urge the administration not to lift the Global Magnitsky sanctions currently in place on Turkish officials involved in the ongoing, unjust detention of American citizens and consulate employees. There is no room in NATO for hostage-taking.” Pastor Brunson was first detained by Turkish authorities on October 7, 2016, and subsequently charged with supporting a terrorist organization and committing espionage. He was transferred to house arrest this July after more than a year in prison. Several other American citizens, including NASA scientist Serkan Gölge, and two Turkish employees of U.S. consulates have also been detained and charged with terrorism offenses with no evidence to support the claims. A third consulate employee remains under house arrest on dubious charges. In September 2018, Chairman Wicker called for U.S. sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers to continue until all wrongfully detained Americans and locally employed staff of U.S. consulates in Turkey are free. Ending these unjust detentions would be the next step in reestablishing positive relations between the United States and Turkey. In November 2017, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on the detention of American citizens and U.S. consulate employees in Turkey. A month earlier, Helsinki Commission leaders called on President Erdogan to lift the state of emergency imposed in July 2016 after the failed military coup against his government. Turkey ended its two-year-long state of emergency in July 2018, but shortly thereafter the Grand National Assembly approved legislation enshrining many of President Erdogan’s controversial emergency decrees. Ahead of the May 2017 meeting between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Helsinki Commission leaders also urged President Trump to seek guarantees that U.S. citizens and locally employed staff jailed in Turkey will have their cases promptly and fairly adjudicated.

  • Chairman Wicker Disturbed by Murder of Bulgarian Journalist Victoria Marinova

    WASHINGTON—Following the brutal rape and murder of Bulgarian journalist Victoria Marinova, whose body was discovered in Ruse, Bulgaria, on October 6, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: "I am disturbed by Victoria Marinova's death, and I join the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media in calling for a thorough investigation of this heinous attack. Over the past several months, journalists in Bulgaria routinely have been victimized because of their work. Ms. Marinova's death once again puts the spotlight on the nexus of corruption and the safety of journalists." Prior to her death, Marinova was reportedly investigating corruption and fraud related to EU structural funds. On September 13, two Bulgarian journalists were detained by Bulgarian police at gunpoint when they tried to follow up on a tip that an EU-funded company they were investigating for corruption was removing and destroying computers and archives. Bulgaria's ombudswoman Maya Manolova called the detention “unlawful and without sufficient grounds.” On May 10, Khristo Geshov, a journalist from Cherven Bryag, was severely beaten in front of his home. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 subject to a “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” intended to ensure continued improvement regarding judicial reform and combating corruption and organized crime.

  • Helsinki Commission to Explore Extradition Case of Lithuanian Judge Neringa Venckiene

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED (IN)JUSTICE? THE EXTRADITION CASE OF JUDGE VENCKIENE Thursday, September 27, 2018 2:00 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2261 Live Webcast: http://www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission Since 2008, Lithuanian judge and parliamentarian Neringa Venckiene has been seeking justice for her young niece, who was allegedly sexually molested by two Lithuanian government officials. Despite a court ruling that there was enough evidence to indict the child’s mother for facilitating the molestation, the niece was taken from Judge Venckiene and returned to the mother’s care, preventing the girl from testifying further in an ongoing trial against her alleged abusers. In 2013, Judge Venckiene fled Lithuania to seek political asylum in the United States, fearing retribution not only for her efforts to protect her niece but also for her leadership in a new anti-corruption political party. Lithuanian prosecutors have since charged Judge Venckiene with at least 35 crimes, ranging from petitioning the court on her niece’s behalf, to speaking to journalists about the case, to bruising an officer during her struggle to keep her niece. Five years after arriving in the United States, Judge Venckiene’s political asylum case has still not been heard, but U.S. authorities are moving to extradite her under the U.S.-Lithuania extradition treaty. The hearing will explore the limits of extradition among allies, especially when charges appear politically motivated. Witnesses will also discuss whether the bilateral extradition treaty would protect Judge Venckiene from additional charges and civil suits if she were extradited. Witnesses scheduled to testify include: Karolis Venckus, Son of Judge Neringa Venckiene Dr. Vytautas Matulevicius, Member of Lithuanian Parliament, Way of Courage Party (2012-2016) Abbe Jolles, Esq., International Human Rights Litigator, AJ Global Legal Professor Mary G. Leary, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law

  • Helsinki Commission Chair Disappointed by Response of Turkish Court to Gölge Appeal

    WASHINGTON—Following the recent court decision in Turkey to reduce Serkan Gölge’s prison sentence by two-and-a-half years—but not to free him—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: “The court’s response to Serkan Gölge’s appeal is deeply disappointing. Serkan and his family already have endured more than two years of anguish and separation, and yet the Turkish justice system has failed to produce any convincing evidence of the charges against him. This injustice must come to an end. U.S. sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers should continue until all wrongfully detained Americans and locally employed staff of U.S. consulates in Turkey are free.” U.S. citizen and NASA scientist Serkan Gölge is one of several American citizens, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, who have been caught up in the sweeping purge that followed the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Gölge, Brunson, and two Turkish employees of U.S. consulates were charged with terrorism offenses despite no involvement with violent activity—a situation faced by thousands of other Turks. A third consulate employee remains under house arrest on dubious charges.  In November 2017, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on the detention of American citizens and U.S. consulate employees in Turkey. A month earlier, Helsinki Commission leaders called on President Erdogan to lift the state of emergency imposed in July 2016 after the failed military coup against his government. Turkey ended its two-year-long state of emergency in July 2018, but shortly thereafter the Grand National Assembly approved legislation that effectively enshrines many of President Erdogan’s controversial emergency decrees. Ahead of the May 2017 meeting between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Helsinki Commission leaders also urged President Trump to seek guarantees that U.S. citizens and locally employed staff jailed in Turkey will have their cases promptly and fairly adjudicated.  

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Highlight Empowerment of Those with Intellectual Disabilities

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: A TRULY INCLUSIVE SOCIETY:  ENCOURAGING THE ABILITY IN DISABILITY Monday, September 24, 2018 3:30 p.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Fifty-seven million Americans are living with disabilities, 400,000 of them with Down Syndrome. Almost three decades ago President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides individuals with disabilities access to the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities; encourages employers to make reasonable accommodations; requires state and local governments to make all services and programs available to individuals with disabilities; prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities; and directs businesses to make reasonable modifications when serving individuals with disabilities. In so doing, the ADA has broken down many barriers blocking the full participation of individuals with disabilities in their communities and economies across the United States. While the United States has an exemplary system of integration, empowerment, and protection from discrimination, individuals with intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome have recommended numerous further improvements to U.S. law. This briefing will explore best practices developed federally and locally in the United States to empower and integrate individuals with intellectual disabilities and discuss legal changes that will enable individuals with intellectual disabilities to reach their full potential. Panelists scheduled to participate include:   Sara Hart Weir, President and CEO, National Down Syndrome Society Kayla McKeon, Manager of Grassroots Advocacy, National Down Syndrome Society; first Capitol Hill lobbyist with Down Syndrome Dr. Sheryl Lazarus, Director, The TIES Center John Cronin, Entrepreneur with Down Syndrome; co-founder of John’s Crazy Socks Mark Cronin, Co-Founder and President, John’s Crazy Socks

  • Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Race, Rights, and Politics in Europe

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: RACE, RIGHTS, AND POLITICS: BLACK AND MINORITY POPULATIONS IN EUROPE Wednesday, September 12, 2018 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2220 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Today, Europe is grappling with the complex intersection of national identity, immigration, and security concerns, as well as a rise in xenophobic violence. As a result, European states are facing increased scrutiny of their efforts to integrate minorities and migrants, with some questioning the commitment of European governments to democratic principles and human rights.   At the briefing, European political leaders will discuss the state of their democracies and recent efforts to address inclusion of Europe’s diverse populations, including findings from the European Parliament’s May 2018 People of African Descent Week and United Kingdom’s March 2018 Race Disparity Audit Report. The following speakers are scheduled to participate: MP Olivio Kocsis-Cake (Hungary)  MP Clive Lewis (United Kingdom)  MP Killion Munyama (Poland)  MP Aminata Toure (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)  Nero Ughwujabo, Special Adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, Social Justice, Young People & Opportunities (United Kingdom)  Alfiaz Vaiya, Coordinator, European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI)  Simon Woolley, Director, Operation Black Vote; Chair, Prime Minister’s Race Disparity Advisory Group (United Kingdom)

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Examine Value and Hazards of Free-Trade Zones

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: FREE-TRADE ZONES: PRODUCTIVE OR DESTRUCTIVE? Wednesday, September 12, 2018 3:00 p.m. Russell Senate Office Building Room 385 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Free-trade zones (FTZs) are duty-free areas within a country’s borders designed to encourage economic development by allowing goods to be imported and exported under less restrictive conditions than are present elsewhere in that country. In many places, these zones generate jobs and revenue; however, they also are hospitable to illicit trade and money laundering. In the worst cases, law enforcement fails and FTZs become global hubs of criminal activity. This briefing will explore the value of FTZs across the world and the potential for reform, especially in areas where laws are poorly enforced. Participants will discuss the interplay of globalized corruption, transnational criminal organizations, and authoritarianism in and around FTZs; provide data on how these factors lubricate the movement of illicit goods; and recommend policy responses. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Dr. Clay Fuller, Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow, American Enterprise Institute Jack Radisch, Senior Project Manager, OECD High Level Risk Forum Pedro Assares Rodrigues, Europol Representative, Europol Liaison Bureau  

  • Co-Chairman Smith Urges Release of Journalists Detained in Belarus

    WASHINGTON—Responding to the August 7 raids on editorial offices of Belarusian media and detentions of over a dozen journalists, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), released the following statement: “I urge the immediate release of all journalists detained in Belarus and that the government cease its raids on civil society groups. Many patriotic Belarusians continue to make heroic sacrifices for their country, working hard to secure human rights and representative government, and resisting the worst abuses of the Lukashenka dictatorship—our government should make advocacy for them the top priority in our relations with Belarus.” Co-Chairman Smith is the author of three laws promoting human rights in Belarus: the Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011, the Belarus Democracy Act of 2006, and the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004. In 2017 he raised human rights issues in Minsk, capital of Belarus, in a meeting with Alexander Lukashenka, President of Belarus.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Concerned about Recent Harassment of Independent Belarusian Media

    WASHINGTON—Following the recent raids on editorial offices of independent Belarusian media outlets and the detention of several journalists, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement: “The people of Belarus have a right to know what is really happening in their country. Journalists who risk their personal safety to challenge the state-run media narrative provide an important public service, and President Lukashenka’s deliberate targeting of independent news outlets is an affront to the rights of the whole population. The Belarusian authorities should release the journalists they have detained and cease harassing those who dedicate their lives to uncovering and sharing the truth.”  The commission has been outspoken in championing democracy and human rights in Belarus, having held the overwhelming majority of Congressional hearings, public briefings, and meetings that have taken place on Belarus. A congressional delegation (CODEL) to the 2017 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly summer meeting, hosted by Minsk, met with both President Lukashenka and the democratic opposition, and was the largest CODEL ever to visit Belarus.

Pages