Title

Helsinki Commission Hearing to Examine Religious Freedom in Eurasia

Thursday, December 06, 2018

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.

Media contact: 
Name: 
Stacy Hope
Email: 
csce[dot]press[at]mail[dot]house[dot]gov
Phone: 
202.225.1901
  • Related content
  • Related content
Filter Topics Open Close
  • Europe's Largest Annual Human Dimension Meeting Closes With Appeal from NGOs

    By Erika Schlager CSCE Counsel on International Law From October 4-15, 2004, the participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Warsaw, Poland, for a Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.  Each year, the OSCE convenes a forum to discuss the participating States’ compliance with the full range of their OSCE human dimension commitments agreed on the basis of consensus. The United States Delegation was headed by Larry C. Napper, former Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Latvia.  He was joined by Ambassador Stephan M. Minikes, Head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE; Ambassador Michael G. Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Ambassador Edward O'Donnell, Department of State Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; J. Kelly Ryan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration; and Matthew Waxman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs.  Members of the staff of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe also participated in the delegation. In the tradition of engaging accomplished individuals from the private sector with human rights expertise, the U.S. Delegation included several public members:  Gavin Helf and Catherine Fitzpatrick, both experts on the countries of the former Soviet Union; Frederick M. Lawrence, Anti-Defamation League; and Mark B. Levin, Executive Director, NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. Broad Range of Issues Reviewed During the first week of the meeting, formal sessions were devoted to a review of the implementation by participating States of the full range of their human rights and fundamental freedom commitments.  During the second week, three days were devoted to topics chosen by the Chair-in-Office, in consultation with the participating States.  This year, the special topics were: the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination (following up on extra-ordinary conferences held earlier this year on anti-Semitism and on racism, xenophobia and discrimination); freedom of assembly and association; and “complementarity and co-operation between international organizations in promoting human rights.” At the meeting’s mid-way plenary session, the United States expressed particular concern about the deteriorating situation in Turkmenistan.  In 2003, ten OSCE participating States took the unusual step of invoking the "Moscow Mechanism" for the first time in a decade.  They were prompted to do so after Turkmenistan authorities reacted to an attack on President Saparmurat Niyazov's motorcade on November 25, 2002, with a widespread human rights crackdown marked by torture, disappearances, and an escalation of Stalin-era practices.  Turkmenistan refused to cooperate with the mission established under the mechanism and, in 2004, refused to renew the accreditation of the Head of the OSCE Office in Ashgabat, Parachiva Badescu.  Although Turkmenistan again declined to send representatives to participate in the HDIM, the United States argued to the participating States that sustained OSCE engagement on these matters is necessary to counter Turkmenistan’s increasing self-isolation. "Why is it that only the United States helps democracy in Belarus?  Where is Europe?" --Human rights activist from Belarus The need to protect human rights while countering terrorism was a strong theme throughout this year’s meeting.  In addition, the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in much of the former Soviet region, concern about the elections in Belarus and Ukraine, the failure to implement meaningful reforms in Uzbekistan, and the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, including Roma from Kosovo, were other issues raised.  In the second week session devoted to tolerance, the United States argued that the Chair-in-Office should appoint two personal representatives to address the problems of anti-Semitism as well as racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. As at past human dimension meetings and meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council, the United States was criticized for retaining the death penalty, contrary to the abolitionist trend among other OSCE participating States. At present, the only other OSCE countries that still officially apply the death penalty are Belarus and Uzbekistan. A U.S.-based nongovernmental organization repeatedly criticized the United States for failing to provide citizens of the District of Columbia the right to voting representation in the Congress.  Belarus issued even more sweeping criticism of U.S. electoral practices. Coming just days before Belarusian elections that the OSCE Election Observation Mission subsequently concluded “fell significantly short of OSCE commitments,” the rebuke by Belarus appeared to be a cynical move to preempt or deflect criticism of its own shortcomings. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was condemned by both governmental and non-governmental speakers.  In addition, some participants criticized the United States for the use of military commissions to try alleged terrorists and for a 2002 Department of Justice memorandum that outlined legal defenses and loopholes that might be used to evade statutory and international legal prohibition against torture. Side Events Add Substance One of the striking features of this year’s meeting was the significant increase in the quality and quantity of side events held in conjunction with the formal sessions.  Side events may be organized at the site of the meeting by non-governmental organizations, OSCE institutions or offices, other international organizations, or participating States.  They augment the implementation review by providing an opportunity to examine specific subjects or countries in greater depth.  Like the “corridor” discussions and informal meetings that are part and parcel of any OSCE meeting, side events are also a vehicle for discussing and promoting OSCE action or decisions.  In some instances, side events have presaged the deeper engagement of the OSCE participating States with a particular subject – for example, side events organized by non-governmental organizations on the problem of hate propaganda on the Internet prompted a more in-depth focus on this issue at an OSCE meeting hosted by France earlier this year.   Side events can also help fill gaps in the implementation review process. This year, in the aftermath of the Beslan tragedy, most governments were reluctant to raise the problem of human rights violations in Chechnya.  Nongovernmental groups, however, organized a side event to provide a forum to focus on these issues.  They argued that, while the problems in Chechnya may seem intractable, human rights abuses do diminish when they are raised with the Russian Government. In an effort to respond to concerns about detainee abuse, the United States organized a side event on the subject of detainee issues.  Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Waxman, head of a newly-created DOD office for detainee affairs, discussed steps taken by the United States to address the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere and to prevent such incidents from reoccurring.  The event was open to all participants in the HDIM and, following the presentation of his remarks, Waxman opened the floor for questions. Azerbaijani officials prevented one human rights defender and religious freedom activist from attending the Warsaw meeting.  On October 6, authorities at the Baku airport blocked Imam Ilgar Ibrahimoglu from boarding his Warsaw-bound flight.   Ibrahimoglu was set to attend the HDIM session on religious freedom and speak out against the forcible seizure of his congregation’s mosque earlier this year.  (Similarly, two Kazakhstani human rights activists, Amirzahan Kosanov and Ermurai Bapi, were prohibited from leaving their country last year in an apparent attempt to prevent them from participating in the HDIM.)  On a more positive note, the meeting may have contributed to a favorable decision by the Armenian Government to approve a long-standing application by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be officially registered as a religious organization.  During the meeting, the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate passed the Belarus Democracy Act (on October 4 and 7 respectively). NGOs Rebut “Astana Declaration” At the closing session of the HDIM, 106 human rights advocates from 16 countries presented a declaration countering criticism by several former Soviet states of the OSCE’s human rights work.  (On July 3, 2004, nine OSCE countries – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan – issued a statement criticizing the human dimension activities of the OSCE.  A subsequent document signed in Astana, Kazakhstan by eight of the above signatories claimed that there are double standards in fulfillment of OSCE commitments concerning democracy and human rights.)  An NGO spokesperson also urged the OSCE participating States to continue to focus on the issue of freedom of assembly. "The most important principle of international affairs ingrained in international legal documents--'respect for human rights is not an internal affair of a state'--must remain unshakable and must be defended." -- Statement signed by human rights advocates and presented at the closing session of the 2004 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting In a press release issued on October 14, 2004, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) welcomed the NGO declaration.  “While many of the men and women who signed this document engage in human rights advocacy at considerable personal sacrifice and risk, they have clearly stated – in their words – their ‘categorical disagreement with the negative evaluation of OSCE activity.’” This year’s HDIM drew record attendance by 220 nongovernmental organizations from across the region.  This is the only multinational human rights meeting in Europe where non-governmental organization representatives and government representatives may speak with equal status. As at past meetings, the United States held extensive bilateral meetings with government representatives.  In many instances, the focus and scope of those meetings reflected the presence of experts from capital cities.  Additional meetings were held with OSCE officials and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.  In the second week of the HDIM, Human Rights Directors from the OSCE countries also held a working meeting to discuss issues of mutual concern. Looking Ahead With a view to the 2005 calendar of human dimension activities, the United States suggested that there are several subjects that deserve focused attention next year.  These include: migration and integration; protection of religious freedom in the fight against terrorism; the challenges of new election technologies, such as electronic voting; and the role of defense lawyers.  The United States also welcomed the Spanish offer to host a follow-up event on tolerance next year in Cordoba and recommended that next year’s HDIM should include another special topic day on the fight against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.  The United States proposed that at least one of the Supplementary Human Dimension Implementation Meetings next year be held outside of Vienna, in order to make the meeting more dynamic and allow participants to take part who might not normally be able to travel to Vienna.  (Since 1999, three Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings have been held each year.  Existing modalities allow for them to be convened in various locations but, so far, all have been held in Vienna.) During the closing session, the Dutch Delegation, on behalf of the 25 European Union member states and four candidate countries, noted that there had been insufficient time to address the agenda items during the first week of the HDIM and, during the second week, more time than some subjects warranted.  For example, there was insufficient time to accommodate all those who wished to take the floor during the discussion of national minorities and Roma; the session on freedom of speech and expression was held to standing-room capacity.  By contrast, the session mandated to discuss the OSCE’s “project work” closed early – as it has every year since the subject first appeared on the meeting agenda – when the speakers’ list was exhausted before the end of the allotted time.  Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Director Christian Strohal agreed that "we should adapt our time management." Changes might also, conceivably, be made to the process of compiling a summary of the “recommendations” made at the meeting, a process that grew out of a desire to have a more substantive record of the meeting (in addition to the little-known but publicly available Journals of the Day).  In fact, these summaries have generally turned out to be an unsatisfactory product, notwithstanding the considerable effort of those tasked with producing them.  By definition, summaries must leave a great deal out, and both governments and nongovernmental organizations have complained when their particular recommendations are among those omitted.  Moreover, the summary of recommendations is usually scrubbed of any country-specific recommendations, leaving only anodyne boilerplate language.  In its opening statement at this year’s HDIM, the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union and four candidate countries, argued that the process of compiling ever longer recommendations had become “non-productive and counter-productive.” At this year’s meeting, the ODIHR launched a highly effective new documents distribution system.  Through a bank of computers on site, participants were able to print copies of any document submitted for circulation.  (This replaced a paper system of distributing all copies of all statements to all participants.)  Moreover, this system allowed participants to email any document, making targeted distribution much more efficient and environmentally friendly.  With the full texts of interventions and additional written material so easily available, the rationale for creating a written summary of recommendations for the benefit of those who were not able to attend the meeting is less compelling. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords.  The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

  • Briefing Surveys Human Rights of Russia's Roma Population

    By Erika Schlager CSCE Counsel on International Law On September 23, 2004, the United States Helsinki Commission held a briefing on “The Roma in Russia.”  Panelists included Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director, European Roma Rights Center; Alexander Torokhov, Director, Roma Ural; and Leonid Raihman, a consultant for the Open Society Institute specializing in minority issues in the former Soviet Union. Elizabeth Pryor, Senior Advisor to the Helsinki Commission, moderated the briefing.  She noted the Commission’s long engagement regarding the human rights problems faced by Roma as well as the overall human rights situation in Russia.  Highlighting the need to examine the particular situation of Roma in Russia, she observed that since Roma “constitute a relatively small part of the Russian population, their plight is often overlooked.” Dr. Petrova noted that, for the 2002 Russian census, approximately 182,000 individuals identified themselves as Romani.  Unofficial estimates, however, suggest that the number of Roma in Russia is much higher; a figure often cited is 1.2 million.  She argued that the fate of Roma in Russia is emblematic of the racism, xenophobia, and discrimination faced by other ethnic minorities in Russia, particularly Jews and people from the Caucasus region. In a comprehensive statement, Dr. Petrova outlined nine key areas of concern:  historical and social discrimination against Roma; the legal and institutional context of anti-discrimination legislation; the current political and ideological climate in Russia; the abuse of Roma rights by state actors (primarily the police); the abuse of Roma rights by non-state actors; discrimination in the criminal justice system; the portrayal of Roma in the Russian media; the lack of personal documents; and access to housing and education. The main focus of Dr. Petrova’s statement concerned abuse by both state and non-state actors.  The main impetus of anti-Roma abuse in Russia is related directly to the ideological “war on drugs.”  People of Roma descent are targeted through racial profiling and various media outlets as illegal drug dealers and are subject to frequent police raids.  The “war on drugs” has also become an excuse for police brutality and racial targeting in which police plant drugs on the Roma or in their homes and then arrest them for the possession of illegal substances. Dr. Petrova ended her statement with a call for the United States Government “to play a leadership role and use its economic and political weight to help improve the position of Roma in Russia and address the human rights problems of Roma in Russia as a matter of urgency and as a primary concern in combating racial discrimination.”  She asked human rights monitoring agencies both in the United States and in Europe to prioritize Roma rights in Russia and to draw the Russian Government’s attention to Roma issues that are currently not being addressed. Dr. Torkohov, representing the Ekaterinburg-based Roma Ural, presented his organization’s efforts to monitor media coverage of Roma, examine factors contributing to lower levels of education among Roma, and assist Romani Holocaust survivors obtain compensation through existing programs. Torkohov offered a number of recommendations to improve the current situation.  With respect to education, he suggested creating preschool programs for Roma children to improve literacy, working with both children and parents to understand the value of education, and facilitating cooperation between parents and schools.  Given the pronounced bigotry against Roma that characterizes portrayals of Roma in the broadcast and print media, he also suggested training journalists to improve their professional skills. Leonid Raihman focused on ill treatment of Roma by the police, access to justice, and problems associated with the lack of personal documents, including passports.  Endemic corruption among the poorly paid and poorly trained police in Russia has fostered an environment in which Roma are the routine victims of extortion by the police.  This extortion, in turn, contributes to the economic marginalization of Roma. Raihman also described the serious and complex problem of personal documents for the Roma.  He said the absence of personal documents, as well as the rigid nature of the personal documents system in Russia, represents an aspect of the problem.  However, he felt that ethnicity was the primary reason for problems in obtaining a passport.  “Administration officials,” he stated, “especially in housing and immigration departments abuse the discretionary decision-making power accorded to them by the passport system to discriminate against Roma and members of the vulnerable groups.” Mr. Raihman urged the U.S. Government to use its power “to persuade the Russian Government to place the human rights problems which the Roma face high on their agenda.”  He stated that it is time for the Russian Government, as well as the rest of the world, to acknowledge and deal with the problems faced by the Roma in Russia. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords.  The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. United States Helsinki Commission Intern Judy Abel contributed to this article.

  • OSCE Conference Focuses on Racism, Xenophobia, and Discrimination

    By H. Knox Thames CSCE Counsel The second Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination convened in Brussels, Belgium, September 13-14, 2004.  Along with the first conference held last fall in Vienna, the two meetings were part of broad efforts by OSCE participating States to address concerns about intolerance and anti-Semitism. Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, led the United States Delegation.  Other U.S. delegates included Dr. Maha Hadi Hussain, University of Michigan; Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute; William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore; Larry Thompson, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General; Robert L. Woodson, President of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise; and Stephan M. Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE. Conference participants included 47 OSCE participating States, five Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, and many non-governmental organizations representing a range of interests.  His Royal Highness Prince Filip of Belgium, His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan, and His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I addressed the opening session of the conference.  United States Helsinki Commission Member Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) also spoke at the opening session in his capacity as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The Brussels Conference consisted of four plenary sessions and four workshops.  Considering the broad themes of the conference, the plenary sessions focused on a variety of issues related to intolerance: governmental actions in law enforcement and promoting tolerance; efforts to combat discrimination against legal migrant workers; and efforts to promote tolerance through education and the media.  The workshop topics were equally diverse, addressing discriminatory government policies affecting religious freedoms, promotion of tolerance toward Muslims, and combating discrimination based on color. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights also reported on its strategy and activities relating to tolerance.        Members of the U.S. Delegation participated fully in all aspects of the conference, giving introductory statements at plenary sessions and actively engaging in discussions regarding various forms of discrimination. In the first session, “Legislative and Institutional Mechanisms and Governmental Action, including Law Enforcement,” U.S. Head of Delegation, Secretary Jackson noted that “abuses prompted by disregard for the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination occur in countries across the globe.  Some come in the form of individual acts of racism that harm only small numbers of people at a time.  Others come in the form of national policies that discriminate against certain segments of society.  All pose a challenge that all countries must confront directly in order to guarantee the freedom, democracy, and prosperity that we hold dear.” During the workshop entitled “Facilitating Freedom of Religion and Belief through Transparent and Non-Discriminatory Laws, Regulations, Policies and Procedures,” Cardinal Keeler stressed that participating States must “work to implement non-discriminatory laws, avoiding those that limit the ability of groups to operate equally. Registration systems should not create unfair tiered systems offering unique benefits and privileges to some and lesser legal status to others, or establish numerical thresholds almost impossible to meet.” Dr. Hussain’s contribution to the workshop on “Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination toward Muslims” addressed a number of issues, also singling out specific examples of governmental discrimination against Muslims.  “While the threat of terrorism is real and it can never be condoned, the negative attention stigmatizes communities and fosters xenophobia against minorities—be they Muslims, Arabs or others,” said Hussain.  “It also can result in violation of individual privacy and abuse of police powers.  It is hard to justify these actions, particularly in democratic states where human and minority rights are meant to be protected.” In the closing session, Secretary Jackson urged OSCE participating States and conference participants to combat all forms of discrimination, especially those based on skin color.  He spoke from his own experiences growing up in the southern United States in the 1960s during the  Civil Rights Movement.  Jackson noted how far the United States has traveled toward tolerance.  He observed, however, that work within the United States is not finished.  “That is why we gathered here this week to share our experiences and learn all we can from one another … to discuss the successes we have achieved in our respective countries … and to recommit ourselves to resolving the challenges that remain,” Secretary Jackson said.  “We know there is much work ahead of us, but as nations committed to promoting tolerance and diversity, we must focus the combined and concerted efforts of government, civil society, and individuals in the pursuit of positive change.”  The U.S. Delegation proposed 13 recommendations for consideration in future efforts to address issues of discrimination and intolerance, which included: Leaders of participating States should speak out and take resolute action against attacks and crimes directed at individuals based on race, color, religion, political or other opinion, sex, language, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Participating States without anti-discrimination laws should enact such legislation at the earliest opportunity.  Those states with anti-discrimination laws should make strengthening such legislation a top priority.  All states may consult ODIHR on best practices. Participating States should reach out to minority communities and establish procedures for the reporting of possible bias-motivated crimes and violations of anti-discrimination laws.  Authorities should ensure the rapid and effective investigation and prosecution of such crimes. Participating States, OSCE Institutions, and NGOs should cooperate in developing training programs for law enforcement and justice officials on legislation relating to hate crimes and its enforcement. Participating States should affirmatively declare that institutionalized discrimination against religious communities is unacceptable and ensure that their legal systems foster equality, not subordination, of religious groups.  Registration laws, policies, and procedures should be non-discriminatory, neutral and transparent and should not use overly burdensome numerical or temporal thresholds. The OSCE should consider meetings on the promotion of tolerance and nondiscrimination toward Muslims. The conference concluded in similar fashion to the Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism, with the reading of a declaration by OSCE Chair-in-Office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.  The “Brussels Declaration” condemned “without reserve all forms of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and other acts of intolerance and discrimination, including against Muslims” and organizations and individuals that promote “hatred or acts of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, or related intolerance, including against Muslims, and anti-Semitism.”  In parallel to the Berlin Declaration, the Brussels Declaration also declared “unambiguously that international developments or political issues never justify racism, xenophobia or discrimination,” while also rejecting the “identification of terrorism and extremism with any religion, culture, ethnic group, nationality or race.”  Following the Berlin precedent, the Brussels Declaration incorporated a previously agreed Permanent Council decision setting forth actions participating States and ODIHR should undertake.  Reinforcing the PC decision for Berlin, participating States again agreed to “collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about hate crimes” and to forward that information to ODIHR periodically, and directed ODIHR to work with international organizations in this endeavor and to report their findings to the Permanent Council.  States decided to “take steps to combat acts of discrimination and violence” against Muslims, migrants and migrant workers, and to consider “undertaking activities to raise public awareness of the enriching contribution of migrants and migrant workers to society.”  In addition, governments committed to “consider establishing training programmes for law enforcement and judicial officials on legislation and enforcement of legislation relating to hate crimes.”  The Brussels Declaration and statements given at the conference are available at http://www.osce.org/events/conferences/tolerance2004.  The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords.  The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.     United States Helsinki Commission Intern Judy Abel contributed to this article.

  • OSCE Conference Focuses on Racism, Xenophobia, and Discrimination

    By H. Knox Thames CSCE Counsel The second Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination convened in Brussels, Belgium, September 13-14, 2004.  Along with the first conference held last fall in Vienna, the two meetings were part of broad efforts by OSCE participating States to address concerns about intolerance and anti-Semitism. Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, led the United States Delegation.  Other U.S. delegates included Dr. Maha Hadi Hussain, University of Michigan; Tamar Jacoby, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute; William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore; Larry Thompson, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General; Robert L. Woodson, President of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise; and Stephan M. Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE. Conference participants included 47 OSCE participating States, five Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, and many non-governmental organizations representing a range of interests.  His Royal Highness Prince Filip of Belgium, His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan, and His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I addressed the opening session of the conference.  United States Helsinki Commission Member Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) also spoke at the opening session in his capacity as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The Brussels Conference consisted of four plenary sessions and four workshops.  Considering the broad themes of the conference, the plenary sessions focused on a variety of issues related to intolerance: governmental actions in law enforcement and promoting tolerance; efforts to combat discrimination against legal migrant workers; and efforts to promote tolerance through education and the media.  The workshop topics were equally diverse, addressing discriminatory government policies affecting religious freedoms, promotion of tolerance toward Muslims, and combating discrimination based on color. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights also reported on its strategy and activities relating to tolerance.       Members of the U.S. Delegation participated fully in all aspects of the conference, giving introductory statements at plenary sessions and actively engaging in discussions regarding various forms of discrimination. In the first session, “Legislative and Institutional Mechanisms and Governmental Action, including Law Enforcement,” U.S. Head of Delegation, Secretary Jackson noted that “abuses prompted by disregard for the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination occur in countries across the globe.  Some come in the form of individual acts of racism that harm only small numbers of people at a time.  Others come in the form of national policies that discriminate against certain segments of society.  All pose a challenge that all countries must confront directly in order to guarantee the freedom, democracy, and prosperity that we hold dear.” During the workshop entitled “Facilitating Freedom of Religion and Belief through Transparent and Non-Discriminatory Laws, Regulations, Policies and Procedures,” Cardinal Keeler stressed that participating States must “work to implement non-discriminatory laws, avoiding those that limit the ability of groups to operate equally. Registration systems should not create unfair tiered systems offering unique benefits and privileges to some and lesser legal status to others, or establish numerical thresholds almost impossible to meet.” Dr. Hussain’s contribution to the workshop on “Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination toward Muslims” addressed a number of issues, also singling out specific examples of governmental discrimination against Muslims.  “While the threat of terrorism is real and it can never be condoned, the negative attention stigmatizes communities and fosters xenophobia against minorities—be they Muslims, Arabs or others,” said Hussain.  “It also can result in violation of individual privacy and abuse of police powers.  It is hard to justify these actions, particularly in democratic states where human and minority rights are meant to be protected.” In the closing session, Secretary Jackson urged OSCE participating States and conference participants to combat all forms of discrimination, especially those based on skin color.  He spoke from his own experiences growing up in the southern United States in the 1960s during the  Civil Rights Movement.  Jackson noted how far the United States has traveled toward tolerance.  He observed, however, that work within the United States is not finished. “That is why we gathered here this week to share our experiences and learn all we can from one another … to discuss the successes we have achieved in our respective countries … and to recommit ourselves to resolving the challenges that remain,” Secretary Jackson said.  “We know there is much work ahead of us, but as nations committed to promoting tolerance and diversity, we must focus the combined and concerted efforts of government, civil society, and individuals in the pursuit of positive change.” The U.S. Delegation proposed 13 recommendations for consideration in future efforts to address issues of discrimination and intolerance, which included: Leaders of participating States should speak out and take resolute action against attacks and crimes directed at individuals based on race, color, religion, political or other opinion, sex, language, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Participating States without anti-discrimination laws should enact such legislation at the earliest opportunity.  Those states with anti-discrimination laws should make strengthening such legislation a top priority.  All states may consult ODIHR on best practices. Participating States should reach out to minority communities and establish procedures for the reporting of possible bias-motivated crimes and violations of anti-discrimination laws.  Authorities should ensure the rapid and effective investigation and prosecution of such crimes. Participating States, OSCE Institutions, and NGOs should cooperate in developing training programs for law enforcement and justice officials on legislation relating to hate crimes and its enforcement. Participating States should affirmatively declare that institutionalized discrimination against religious communities is unacceptable and ensure that their legal systems foster equality, not subordination, of religious groups.  Registration laws, policies, and procedures should be non-discriminatory, neutral and transparent and should not use overly burdensome numerical or temporal thresholds. The OSCE should consider meetings on the promotion of tolerance and nondiscrimination toward Muslims. The conference concluded in similar fashion to the Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism, with the reading of a declaration by OSCE Chair-in-Office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.  The “Brussels Declaration” condemned “without reserve all forms of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and other acts of intolerance and discrimination, including against Muslims” and organizations and individuals that promote “hatred or acts of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, or related intolerance, including against Muslims, and anti-Semitism.”  In parallel to the Berlin Declaration, the Brussels Declaration also declared “unambiguously that international developments or political issues never justify racism, xenophobia or discrimination,” while also rejecting the “identification of terrorism and extremism with any religion, culture, ethnic group, nationality or race.” Following the Berlin precedent, the Brussels Declaration incorporated a previously agreed Permanent Council decision setting forth actions participating States and ODIHR should undertake.  Reinforcing the PC decision for Berlin, participating States again agreed to “collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about hate crimes” and to forward that information to ODIHR periodically, and directed ODIHR to work with international organizations in this endeavor and to report their findings to the Permanent Council.  States decided to “take steps to combat acts of discrimination and violence” against Muslims, migrants and migrant workers, and to consider “undertaking activities to raise public awareness of the enriching contribution of migrants and migrant workers to society.”  In addition, governments committed to “consider establishing training programmes for law enforcement and judicial officials on legislation and enforcement of legislation relating to hate crimes.” The Brussels Declaration and statements given at the conference are available at http://www.osce.org/events/conferences/tolerance2004. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords.  The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.  United States Helsinki Commission Intern Judy Abel contributed to this article.

  • Greater Regulation of Religion in Kazakhstan?

    Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission I am concerned about Kazakhstan’s draft law on combating extremist activity, as the legislation could violate Kazakhstan’s OSCE commitments on religious freedom and damage the country’s positive reputation on religious tolerance and liberty. In President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s address to the parliament on September 1, he urged deputies to pass the bill while dismissing concerns about the further regulation of religion. Nevertheless, the text is problematic in several respects and would benefit from further refinement. Considering that Kazakhstan wishes to be the OSCE Chair-in-Office in 2009, I urge Kazakhstan to seek the advice of the OSCE Panel of Experts on Religious Freedom or Belief, as President Nazarbaev wisely did two years ago regarding a proposed draft law on religion. Intended to combat terrorism, the draft law would criminalize membership in certain groups or the holding of certain beliefs, rather than combating actual criminal deeds. A critical portion of the law is also vague, as the text fails to define clearly the term “extremism.” The omission is glaring and will very likely lead to its misapplication. In addition, the draft uses the word “religious” ten times and links religion with an ill-defined understanding of “extremism.” In the context of an anti-terrorism law, such a connection gives rise to concern, as these types of statutes can easily be misused against unpopular religious communities. The draft law would strengthen state control over religious activity by giving the State Agency for Work with Religious Associations the ability to monitor groups. From its observations, the State Agency can recommend the banning of a group for “extremist activity,” but again the text does not spell out what activities would qualify. Another problematic provision included in the draft concerns the foreign classification of a group as “extremist,” as the law will honor the classification by another country and ban their activity in Kazakhstan. This clause would in effect allow the long arm of a repressive government to outlaw a group in Kazakhstan, as well. I remember when a Moscow court labeled the Salvation Army as a “paramilitary” organization; under this draft bill, Kazakhstan could follow this erroneous assertion and ban this well-respected humanitarian organization. Existing Kazakh law fully provides for the prosecution of criminal acts, so these new provisions are not only unnecessary but harmful. In fact, some articles of current law are too restrictive. For example, Article 375 of the Administrative Code, which requires the registration of religious groups, should be removed. I have received consistent reports since the promulgation of Article 375 of unregistered groups being penalized for legitimate activities and their facing civil and criminal sanctions. Considering the recurring misuse of civil regulations, I fear further abuse under the draft law. I understand that President Nazarbaev is concerned about the spread of extremism in his country, especially from “radical” Islamic groups. The President may be tempted to follow the actions of his neighbors, especially Uzbekistan, but I would advise him otherwise. The Uzbek Government has for years ruthlessly clamped down on pious Muslims suspected of being associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir. This reactionary and heavy-handed policy has proven counterproductive, antagonizing the devout Muslim population and leaving it receptive to other, radical voices. Instead of defeating terrorists, demanding legal requirements for religious practice and Uzbekistan’s harsh responses have restricted the religious freedoms of the many peaceful Muslims and Christians wanting to practice their faith. Obviously, individuals involved in criminal activity in Kazakhstan should be punished. But, by banning entire groups, particularly independent mosques outside the control of the state-backed Muslim Spiritual Association, entire communities will be penalized. The result will be the inappropriate limiting of a fundamental freedom, while doing little to prevent criminal acts. In closing, the Congress of World and Traditional Religions convened by President Nazarbaev himself was successful in bringing together Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu leaders to discuss tolerance and understanding. I fear that the draft law on extremism, if not amended, will sully Kazakhstan’s reputation on religious tolerance by unduly limiting religious freedoms through the criminalization of certain memberships and beliefs as opposed to addressing real criminal activity.

  • Expressing the Sense of Congress in Support of the Ongoing Work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

    Madam President, I applaud the leadership for taking up S. Con. Res. 110, a resolution expressing the sense of Congress in support of the ongoing work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, in combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, and related violence. The Helsinki Commission, which I co-chair, has been on the forefront of efforts to combat anti-Semitism throughout the 55 participating States that comprise the OSCE. Commission initiatives have been aimed at urging all OSCE countries to take real action, to ensure that the issue of anti-Semitism is not swept under the rug or disguised in misleading euphemisms like "hooliganism." The latent, yet persistent, problem of anti-Semitism is one that cannot be ignored, but rather must be met head on, with the full force and weight of elected leaders and Government officials publicly denouncing acts of anti-Semitism and related violence. For this reason, I am pleased the U.S. Senate today will be on record in our fight against anti-Semitism and speak to this pernicious problem. I want to highlight one portion of the resolution that calls for the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office and the incoming Slovenian CiO to "consider appointing" an individual to the post of a "personal envoy." This high profile position would help ensure "sustained attention with respect to fulfilling OSCE commitments on the reporting of anti-Semitic crimes." The need for this position was made clear in a recent report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. At the end of June the OSCE'S Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Right's ODIHR reported that only 20 of 55 participating States had responded to the four requests for submissions issued by ODIHR between January 28 and May 28. Canada and Slovakia have since made submissions. Each participating State has been asked to forward to ODIHR information concerning legislation and statistics about anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as agreed to under the Maastricht Ministerial Council Decision and the Permanent Council Decision highlighted in the Berlin Declaration. Mr. President I ask unanimous consent that a summary of the responses from participating States, dated June 21, 2004 be printed in the Record following this statement:   As actions speak louder than words, the poor compliance indicates a lack the political will by some to make fighting anti-Semitism and intolerance a high priority. Therefore, a personal envoy could work to encourage participating States to honor their commitments and to forward the information to ODIHR for compilation, raising these concerns at the highest level. I consequently urge Bulgaria and Slovenia, along with all other participating States, to support efforts to create a personal envoy of the OSCE Chairman in Office on anti-Semitism. I note that the current OSCE Chair, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy is in Washington this week for consultations and I urge him to appoint such a representative before the end of Bulgaria's chairmanship. As Secretary of State Powell stated at the Berlin Conference, "We must send the clear message far and wide that anti-Semitism is always wrong and it is always dangerous. We must send the clear message that anti-Semitic hate crimes are exactly that: crimes, and that these crimes will be aggressively prosecuted." Senate passage of S. Con. Res. 110 will bolster the ongoing work of the OSCE in confronting and combating anti-Semitism.   Exhibit 1  PARTICIPATING STATE RESPONSES TO NOTE VERBALE  [As of 21st June 2004]  Participating State Responded to NV Statistics Legislation National initiatives Nomination of authority responsible for collection and provision of info             Albania Yes X Yes X X Andorra X X X X X Armenia X X X X X Austria Yes Yes Yes Yes X Azerbaijan X X X X X Belarus Yes Yes Yes Yes X Belgium X X X X X Bosnia and Herzegovina X X X X X Bulgaria Yes X Yes Yes X Canada X X X X X Croatia Yes Yes Yes Yes X Cyprus X X X X X Czech Republic X X X X X Denmark Yes Yes Yes Yes X Estonia X X X X X Finland Yes Yes Yes Yes X France X X X X X Georgia X X X X X Germany Yes Yes Yes Yes X Greece X X X X X Holy See Yes X X Yes Yes Hungary X X X X X Iceland X X X X X Ireland X X X X X Italy X X X X X Kazakhstan X X X X X Kyrgyzstan X X X X X Latvia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Liechtenstein Yes X Yes Yes X Lithuania Yes Yes Yes Yes X Luxembourg Yes X Yes Yes X Malta Yes X Yes X X Moldova Yes Yes Yes X X Monaco X X X X X Netherlands X X X X X Norway X X X X X Poland Yes Yes Yes Yes X Portugal X X X X X Romania Yes X Yes Yes X Russian Federation X X X X X San Marino X X X X X Serbia and Montenegro X X X X X Slovak Republic X X X X X Slovenia X X X X X Spain X X X X X Sweden Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Switzerland Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Tajikistan X X X X X Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia X X X X X Turkey X X X X X Turkmenistan X X X X X Ukraine X X X X X United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland X X X X X United States of America Yes Yes Yes Yes X Uzbekistan X X X X X S.Con.Res. 110 Expressing the sense of Congress in support of the ongoing work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, and related violence. Whereas anti-Semitism is a unique evil and an affront to human rights that must be unequivocally condemned, and a phenomenon that, when left unchecked, has led to violence against members of the Jewish community and Jewish institutions; Whereas racism, xenophobia, and discrimination are also pernicious ills that erode the dignity of the individual and undermine the achievement and preservation of stable democratic societies; Whereas to be effective in combating these phenomena, governments must respond to related violence while seeking to address the underlying sources of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, and related violence through public denouncements by elected leaders, vigorous law enforcement, and education; Whereas all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states must confront acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and must deal effectively with acts of violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites, as well as against ethnic and religious minority groups, in keeping with their OSCE commitments; Whereas education is critical in overcoming intolerance and it is essential that those responsible for formulating education policy recognize the importance of teaching about the Holocaust and intolerance as a tool to fight anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination among young people; Whereas ensuring proper training of law enforcement officers and military forces is vital in keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and to the importance of understanding and responding to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance; Whereas OSCE participating states have repeatedly committed to condemn anti-Semitism and intolerance, foremost in the historic 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document that, for the first time, declared "participating [s]tates clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone," and stated their intent to "take effective measures . . . to provide protection against any acts that constitute incitement to violence against persons or groups based on national, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, hostility or hatred, including anti-Semitism;" Whereas the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has demonstrated leadership by unanimously passing resolutions at its annual sessions in 2002 and 2003 that condemn anti-Semitism, racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination and call upon participating states to speak out against these acts and to ensure aggressive law enforcement by local and national authorities; Whereas the 2002 Porto OSCE Ministerial Council Decision committed participating states to "take strong public positions against hate speech and other manifestations of aggressive nationalism, racism, chauvinism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and violent extremism," specifically condemned the "recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom," and urged for the "convening of separately designated human dimension events on issues addressed in this decision, including on the topics of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism and xenophobia;" Whereas the 2003 OSCE Vienna conferences on anti-Semitism and racism, xenophobia, and discrimination were groundbreaking, as the OSCE and its participating states met to discuss ways to combat these destructive forces; Whereas the 2003 Maastricht Ministerial Council approved follow-up OSCE conferences on anti-Semitism and on racism, xenophobia and discrimination, and encouraged "all participating [s]tates to collect and keep records on reliable information and statistics on hate crimes, including on forms of violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and anti-Semitism," as well as to inform the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) "about existing legislation regarding crimes fueled by intolerance and discrimination"; Whereas at the 2004 OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, hosted in the German capital, the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office issued the "Berlin Declaration" which stated unambiguously that "international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism"; Whereas the Berlin Declaration advances the process of monitoring of anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as all OSCE participating states committed to "collect and maintain" statistics about these incidents and to forward that information to the ODIHR for compilation; Whereas during the closing conference plenary, the German Foreign Minister and others highlighted the need to ensure all participating states follow through with their commitments and initiate efforts to track anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes; and Whereas the Government of Spain announced its willingness to organize and hold the next OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism in Cordoba, Spain, in the event the OSCE Ministerial Council decides to hold another conference on anti-Semitism: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that-- (1) the United States Government and Congress should unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance whenever and wherever they occur; (2) officials and elected leaders of all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states, including all OSCE Mediterranean Partner for Cooperation countries, should also unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination whenever and wherever they occur; (3) the participating states of the OSCE should be commended for supporting the Berlin Declaration and for working to bring increased attention to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance in the OSCE region; (4) the United States Government, including Members of Congress, recognizing that the fundamental job of combating anti-Semitism and intolerance falls to governments, should work with other OSCE participating states and their parliaments to encourage the full compliance with OSCE commitments and, if necessary, urge the creation of legal mechanisms to combat and track acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance; (5) all participating states, including the United States, should forward their respective laws and data on incidents of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for compilation and provide adequate resources for the completion of its duties; (6) the United States should encourage the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office, in consultation with the incoming Slovenian Chairman-in-Office, to consider appointing a high level "personal envoy" to ensure sustained attention with respect to fulfilling OSCE commitments on the reporting of anti-Semitic crimes; (7) the United States should urge OSCE participating states to support the January 2000 Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and the work of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, in developing effective methodologies to teach the lessons of the Holocaust; and (8) all OSCE participating states should renew and revitalize efforts to implement their existing commitments to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance, and keep sharp focus on these issues as part of the usual work of the OSCE Permanent Council, the Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting, the Ministerial Council and summits.  

  • The Romani Minority in Russia

    The Helsinki Commission examined the situation of the Romani minority in Russia, with a focus on hate crimes, police abuse, and discrimination in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Beslan, during which Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to the potential for many ethnic-confessional conflicts in the Federation. Reports by Roma of racially motivated attacks by law enforcement agents were also points of discussion. Panelists – including Dr. Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the European Roma Rights Center; Alexander Torokhov, Director of Roma Ural; and Leonid Raihman, Consultant for Open Society – provided background information on Russia’s Romani minority, setting their discussion in the current context of the current political, economic and security climate in Russia.

  • Advancing U.S. Interests through the OSCE

    The OSCE has been a pioneer in defining an integrated approach to security, one in which human rights and economic well-being are as key to a nation’s stability as are traditional military forces.  It remains not only the largest trans-Atlantic organization, but the one with the broadest definition of security.  The OSCE has also created the most innovative habits of dialogue and collective action of any multilateral organization in the world.  The focus of the hearing will be how the OSCE can be used most effectively to highlight and advance the interests of the United States.  Among the subjects to be covered will be objectives for the December (2004) meeting of Foreign Ministers in Sofia; recent high-impact security initiatives; expectations for the upcoming Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw; and refining and strengthening the OSCE.

  • Religious Freedom in the Caucasus

    Helsinki Commission Chairman Hon. Chris Smith and Commission Staff Advisors Elizabeth Pryor and Knox Thames evaluated issues regarding religious freedom in the Caucasus states. In Azerbaijan, unregistered religious communities experienced harassment from authorities; in Armenia, government policy regarding registration restriction for religious groups conflicted with the government’s commitment to human rights; and Georgian authorities needed to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of violent assaults against religious minorities. Witnesses testifying at the hearing – including Eric Rassbach, Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Andre Carbonneau, Attorney for Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Dr. Paul Crego, Senior Cataloging Specialist for the Library of Congress – focused on the violations of religious freedom perpetrated by the governments of each of these three states and emphasized the potential role of the international community, and specifically the United States government, in resolving these violations.

  • Commission Hearing Surveys Human Rights in Putin's Russia

    By John Finerty Staff Advisor The United States Helsinki Commission held a hearing on May 20, 2004 to review governance practices and human rights in the Russian Federation under President Vladimir Putin.  Witnesses focused on media independence, religious freedom, judicial procedures, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and the war in Chechnya. Opening the hearing, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) expressed apprehension that President Putin was leading Russia in an authoritarian direction, increasingly reliant on Russia’s security apparatus and intelligence agencies to govern the country.  Commission Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) also voiced his concerns, focusing on corruption in the Russian Government and abuses in the war in Chechnya. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Steven Pifer stated that Russians enjoy freedom of travel and emigration, and an independent print media that engages in robust political debates; religious association and expression is generally free, and Russians have incorporated voting into their political practices. However, Pifer voiced concern with the Putin administration’s undue influence on judicial proceedings, state control or sway over the broadcast media, the pressuring of non-governmental organizations, anti-Semitism, abuses in the war in Chechnya, and the lack of a level electoral playing field for the political opposition. Ambassador Pifer cited the U.S. record of advocating democratization and human rights to the Russian leadership, while pursuing cooperation on mutual security interests such as the war on terrorism, arms control, counter-proliferation, and the resolution of regional conflicts. Gary Kasparov, former world chess champion and chairman of Committee 2008: Free Choice, presented a critical view of the Putin administration, lamenting the slide of the Russian Government into authoritarianism.  He described a variety of policies undertaken by the Putin administration that he viewed as backtracking from the democratic progress of the 1990s, including the curtailment of civil liberties and the flagrant abuse of human rights. Specifically, Kasparov described government influence over the broadcast media and manipulation of elections. The war in Chechnya had been sidelined as a topic of news discussion, he asserted, thus facilitating the concealment of wartime human rights abuses.  He also faulted the media for disregarding the ineptness of government responses to terrorist attacks. On elections, Kasparov characterized the December 2003 parliamentary polls as unfair, and predicted that President Putin would use parliamentary maneuvers to change the constitution and extend his term, perhaps indefinitely. Mr. Kasparov condemned Russian activities in the Chechen war and described how “hundreds of Chechens, if not thousands, are being interrogated, tortured and killed” by Russian soldiers. He called for the deployment of independent observers to monitor Russian behavior and promote observance of human rights.  As a final critique, Kasparov charged that Putin had stripped the judicial system of its independence and was using it to silence political opponents and critics, such as Mikhail Khordorkovsky and Igor Sutyagin. As for solutions, Kasparov highlighted his efforts to expose the corruption of the December 2003 elections through a lawsuit and public advocacy. He also urged the United States to use diplomatic means to leverage the Russian Government into democratic and civil liberties concessions. Edward Lozansky, president of Russia House and the American University in Moscow, offered a contrasting opinion, pointing to the successes of the Putin administration in taming the “oligarchs” and encouraging economic growth. He viewed state control of the broadcast media as less of a crisis, contending that free alternatives, such as print, electronic, and foreign media, provide the people with a variety of viewpoints. Ultimately, Dr. Lozansky argued, “President Putin enjoys overwhelming support of the Russian people” and that the Russian people “can freely express their opinions.” In closing, Lozansky suggested the United States should not undermine its relationship with Russia through unnecessary criticism, since bilateral cooperation between the nations remains essential in the war on terrorism, space exploration, energy, and the environment.  Engagement and dialogue, rather than condemnation, is paramount, he suggested. Reverend Igor Nikitin, president of the Association of Christian Churches in Russia, offered a mixed assessment of the status of religious liberty in Russia.  In northwest Russia and St. Petersburg particularly, religious tolerance is the norm.  In other regions, however, Protestant churches and other non-Orthodox denominations have experienced discrimination and bureaucratic malfeasance.  For instance, an unconstitutional requirement for churches to register their members – as opposed to merely the institution – is frequently enforced by local authorities, and a Moscow court has ordered the “liquidation” of the city’s community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Nikitin urged measures to educate Russian officials on the importance of religious freedom as a civil liberty. Nickolai Butkevich, Research and Advocacy Director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, discussed the situation regarding xenophobia and the treatment of minorities in Russia. Mr. Butkevich noted that President Putin has made efforts at the national level to combat xenophobia, but that implementation of relevant directives is uneven at the local level. Some regions and cities have combated xenophobia and anti-Semitism, while other authorities have actively encouraged it. Mr. Butkevich described cases in Vladivostok, Voronezh, and other cities where individuals had been subject to abuse and local authorities reacted uncaringly or in collusion with perpetrators. In answer to a question posed by Chairman Smith on the disparity between the Russian Government’s public and international pronouncements that it will combat anti-Semitism and its failed implementation of such policies domestically, Butkevich blamed the disparity on a lack of prioritization by the central government.  Mr. Kasparov contended though that President Putin has done nothing to address anti-Semitism or quell xenophobia. Answering other questions on the attitudes of the United States and the West toward the Chechen situation, governmental corruption, and the judiciary, Dr. Lozansky replied that Russia is stabilizing under the pragmatic policies of President Putin and that the international community must engage the country on matters of mutual interest. The witnesses responded with divergent views as to whether Russia was moving toward autocracy.  While Kasparov made his case strongly that Russia was, Lozansky again insisted that it was not.  Mr. Butkevich suggested that Russia was “backsliding toward authoritarianism,” but that President Putin certainly retains popular support. Reverend Nikitin stressed that the next few years will determine whether Russia evolves toward civil and religious liberty or tsarist, oppressive governance reemerges. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives, and one official from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. United States Helsinki Commission Intern Colby Daughtry contributed to this article.

  • OSCE Meeting Examines Hate Crimes and Racist, Xenophobic, and Anti-Semitic Internet Propaganda

      “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire By Erika Schlager CSCE Counsel on International Law On June 16 and 17, 2004, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s participating States met in Paris for a meeting on “the Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes.”  The meeting was part of an OSCE focus this year on racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and anti-Semitism and, like two other special human dimension meetings scheduled for this year, was mandated by the OSCE Ministerial Meeting held Maastricht last December. Conferences on anti-Semitism (held in Berlin, April 28-29) and racism, discrimination and xenophobia (to be held in Brussels, September 13-14) are intended to build on high-level meetings already held last year in Vienna on those same subjects. The Paris meeting focused on a specific issue – the Internet - related to the overall topic.   The convocation of a special meeting on the relationship between racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and hate crimes was the product of advocacy by non-governmental organizations such as IN@CH, the International Network Against Cyber Hate, and the leadership of the Government of France.  IN@CH had previously raised awareness of the problem of hate mongering on the Internet at the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in 2002 and, at the 2003 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, hosted a side-event on the subject.  Historically, the OSCE has been most effective when governments gain a sense of ownership of an issue and exercise leadership in moving it forward.  Non-governmental organizations typically play a critical role in identifying concrete human rights problems and bringing them to the attention of governments. The U.S. Delegation to the Paris meeting was jointly led by Ambassador Stephan M. Minikes, head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE; R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; and Dan Bryant, Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy.  Markham Erickson, General Counsel from Net Coalition; Brian Marcus, Director of Internet Monitoring; Anti-Defamation League, and Ronald Rychlak, Professor of Law and Associate Dean, University of Mississippi Law School, joined the delegation as Public Members.  Other members of the delegation came from the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the Helsinki Commission.  The United States Delegation engaged fully in the 2-day meeting, making presentations in all formal sessions and side events, holding bilateral meetings, and conducting consultations with non-governmental organizations.  Assistant Attorney General Dan Bryant was a keynote speaker. Although the meeting was mandated to examine the relationship between hate propaganda on the Internet and hate crimes, few participants actually discussed the nexus between these two phenomena.  For many participants, the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship was simply an article of faith or intuition, and did not lead to an exploration of the nature of that relationship.  As a consequence, the meeting made only a marginal contribution to an understanding of which populations might be most vulnerable to the influence of hate propaganda, whether hate propaganda on the Internet fosters some particular kinds of hate crimes more than others, or whether the effect of hate propaganda on the Internet plays a different role in fostering violent crimes than, for example, weak law enforcement or public officials who make or refuse to condemn racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic remarks.  It is not clear whether web-based hate propaganda is related to spikes in hate crimes that have occurred in some countries in recent years, or why, as seems to be the case, some places with unfettered Internet access have relatively lower levels of hate crimes than other places with similarly unfettered Internet access. Nevertheless, participants did address a broad range of subjects related to hate propaganda, hate crimes and the Internet over the course of the two days.  Formal sessions focused on “Legislative Framework, Including Domestic and International Legislation Regarding Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes,” “The Nature and Extent of the Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes,” “Public and Private Partnerships in the Fight Against Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism on the Internet – Best Practices,” and “Promoting Tolerance on and through the Internet – Best Practices to Educate Users and Heighten Public Awareness.”   Side events were held on “Guaranteeing Media Freedom on the Internet,” “‘The IN@CH Network’ - Dealing with Cyber Hate on a Daily Basis,” “Identifying Examples of Hate Speech: A BBC Monitoring Project,” “Filtering: Princip, the Solution that goes beyond Key Words,” “Satellite Television and Anti-Semitism: How to Combat the Dissemination in Europe of Racist and Anti-Semitic Propaganda through Satellite Television?” and “Promoting Awareness of Anti-Semitism in the European Classroom: Teacher Training, Curricula, and the Internet.” A number of speakers, including U.S. Government representatives, discussed the legal mechanisms for action that might be taken when hate propaganda rises to the level of a crime in and of itself, such as when the hate propaganda constitutes a threat or incitement to a criminal action.  Many speakers discussed the role of non-governmental organizations in monitoring and facilitating the removal of hate sites from the web when they violate the terms of agreements with their Internet service providers (ISPs).  Some participants described ways in which the pernicious effects of hate speech can be mitigated or countered.  For example, a Canadian non-governmental organization, Media Awareness Network, made a presentation on programs in Canadian schools designed to teach children to distinguish between hate propaganda sites and legitimate information sources.  Vividly illustrating the challenges and risks for those organizations which monitor and report on the activities of extremist hate groups, the offices of People Against Racism, a Slovak non-governmental organization that participated in Paris meeting, were burned out only weeks before the meeting opened. Although there was broad agreement on the goal of combating hate propaganda, some participants flagged concerns about the methods that might be used to that end.  For example, industry representatives provided some insight regarding difficulties faced due to the technological challenges of tracking, filtering, or blocking hate propaganda transmitted through the Internet, emails, or text messaging.  Some concepts of regulation, they argued, could not be effectively implemented given the state of current technology.  Asking ISPs to be responsible for screening all content on the web is not feasible, anymore than making telephone companies responsible for everything that gets said over the telephone. A few participants drew attention to factors other than hate propaganda on the Internet that may contribute to hate crimes.  A Russian non-governmental representative, for example, remarked that there was more anti-Semitism in the Russian State Duma than on Russian-language web sites.  And, illustrating the complexities of deciding exactly what constitutes hate propaganda, one non-governmental representative argued that evangelical Christian sites that reach out to Jews should be considered anti-Semitic.  Similarly, the Russian delegation identified the web sites of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hare Krishnas as “promoting hate doctrines.” Other concerns were voiced as well.  Some non-governmental groups suggested that ISPs were ill-suited to determine whether web sites constituted hate propaganda or not.  One described an ISP that removed an innocuous site devoted to English philosopher John Stuart Mill after that non-governmental organization – testing the bases upon which ISPs would act – urged the ISP to take down the allegedly racist site. Regulation of hate propaganda by ISPs, they concluded, lacked transparency and accountability. Some speakers warned that combating hate propaganda could be used as a pretense for sanctioning views disfavored by the regime.  The International League for Human Rights suggested that states with “weak democratic institutions and traditions” should not be entrusted with additional powers of control beyond those that already exist.  Indeed, some speakers argued there have already been instances where laws against incitement to racial hatred (or similar laws) have been misapplied for political or other purposes.  The ongoing fight against terrorism, they suggested, increases that danger.  In fact, only days after the Paris meeting concluded [June 22], the Paris-based watchdog Reporters without Borders released a report entitled “Internet Under Surveillance,” documenting repression of the Internet around the globe.  One of the U.S. recommendations made during the meeting was that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media should examine whether hate speech laws are being enforced in a discriminatory or selective manner or misused to suppress political dissent.  The full texts of statements circulated at the Paris meeting by the United States and other participants are available through the OSCE’s Internet web site at http://www.osce.org/events/conferences/anti-racism. One of the sub-texts of the meeting was the putative “Atlantic Divide.” In the context of discussions of “cyber hate” and hate crimes, this phrase was used to describe the perceived gulf between the United States’ and Europe’s approaches to hate propaganda.  According to the adherents of the “Atlantic divide” theory, the United States is a free-speech Wild West, where speech has no limitations or legal consequences.  “Europe,” in contrast, is portrayed as a unified region speaking with one voice, populated by those who have wisely learned from the horrors of World War II that dangerous speech can and must be sanctioned and that governments are easily capable of performing this task and do so as a matter of course.  The “Atlantic Divide” perception was fostered by Robert Badinter, former French Minister of Justice and current president of the OSCE Court of Arbitration and Conciliation, who, in a keynote address, dramatically appealed to the United States to “stop hiding behind the first amendment.” Others, however, implicitly or explicitly rejected this overly simplistic image.  In the United States, a long chain of legal authority recognizes that the right to free speech and freedom of expression is not absolute.  As U.S. Public Member Robert Rychlak noted, “When speech crosses the line and becomes more than speech – when it presents a clear and present danger – the authorities must be prepared to step in and take legal action.  At that time, the speech may constitute an actual threat, true harassment, or be an incitement to imminent lawlessness.”  Department of Justice officials separately gave examples of numerous recent cases where individuals were prosecuted for sending email messages that rose to the level racially motivated threats.  While it is important not to over-read these or related cases – criminal sanctions based purely on one’s opinion remain prohibited – they should dispel the misimpression that there are no limitations whatsoever on speech or the consequences of speech in the United States. Conversely, the context of the meeting also provided an opportunity to reflect on the image of Europe as a continent uniformly bound in a single regulatory approach to hate speech.  In reality, the national laws relating to hate speech of individual European countries vary considerably; what constitutes prohibited speech in one country may be permitted in the next.  Moreover, both national courts and the European Court of Human Rights apply balancing tests to speech restrictions that, while not identical to balancing tests applied by U.S. courts, are not entirely dissimilar.  The Hungarian Constitutional Court, for example, in May 2004 held that a proposed hate speech law would violate the free speech provisions of the Hungarian Constitution.  Just before the opening of the Paris meeting, on June 13, the French Constitutional Council struck down parts of a new law governing communication over the Internet (adopted to implement a June 8, 2000, European Union directive on electronic commerce). The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords.  The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing Sheds Light on Russia's Human Rights Situation

    By John Finerty CSCE Staff Advisor On June 7, 2004, the United States Helsinki Commission held a briefing with four prominent Russian human rights activists to examine the state of human rights and civil liberties in the Russian Federation.  Entitled “Russia: Are Rights in Retreat?,” the briefing covered such topics as elections, Chechnya, religious liberty, media freedom and the overall functioning of the legislative and judicial branches. The briefing was a follow up to the Commission’s May 20th hearing on “Human Rights in Putin’s Russia.” The briefing panel included Ludmilla Alexeeva, Chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group and President of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.  Other participants were Arseni Roginsky, Chairman of the International Memorial Society; Alexei Simonov, Head of the Glasnost Defense Fund; and Mara Polyakova, Director of the Independent Council for Legal Expertise. Commission Deputy Chief of Staff Ronald J. McNamara began the briefing with a moment of silence to honor the passing of President Ronald Reagan, a “stalwart supporter of freedom and human rights.” McNamara noted the timeliness of the briefing given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s U.S. visit to Sea Island, Georgia, for the G-8 Summit.  He stated that despite Putin’s claim that “nothing will stop Russia” in its quest for economic and democratic freedom, some of Putin’s comments in his State of the Federation address had raised concerns over the Kremlin’s commitment to promote civil society in Russia.  Putin’s accusations of NGOs seeking outside funding and not addressing serious issues were particularly troubling insofar as they may signal the beginning of a crackdown against NGOs in Russia.  Mr. McNamara also referenced the growing problem of “spy mania,” with potentially chilling implications for Russia’s academics and scientific community. Arseni Roginsky began his remarks by stating that the trend in Russia over the past few years has been marked by “the efforts of the powers-that-be to destroy the isolated islands of independence and democracy that still continue to exist in Russia.”  Specifically, Roginsky pointed to the new Russian law limiting public demonstrations and a new law on referenda.  In sentiments echoed by other panelists, he decried the emergence of “made-to-order” elections controlled almost exclusively by the Putin administration and moneyed interests. Ms. Alexeeva later reiterated the concern about the changes on referenda, noting that even if the requisite two million signatures can be garnered, under the new law she believes mid-level Russian bureaucrats will be able to stop indefinitely the progress of a referendum. While the Putin administration has been quick to point to the Russian Constitution and its promise of free speech, Roginsky and panelist Alexei Simonov both claimed that this de jure right does not exist in reality.  According to Simonov, while Russians may be legally entitled to say or print controversial statements, these sentiments are ignored by the powers-that-be. He contended that “[freedom of speech] means not only to shout out but to be heard.”  According to Simonov, there are only four independent-minded Russian magazines with a combined circulation of around 500,000. Smaller such newspapers exist as well, but the costs of protecting against defamation suits, which number more than 50 per month according to Simonov, make it increasingly hard for them to stay in business.  He also stated that most editorials in newspapers are written by what amount to essentially local bureaucrats; most newspapers rely on government or private funding, making them hardly free and independent.  Simonov estimates that only 10 to 15 percent of newspapers are self-sustaining. “Most of them take money from somewhere, and each has this special somewhere, but nobody wants to speak of these ‘somewheres,’” he concluded. Related to this issue is more direct government control over radio and television broadcasts which are the main source of information for most Russians. Ms. Alexeeva and other panelists asserted that “government-controlled media reported those campaigns [in 2003/2004] in an utterly biased way,” denying access to opposition candidates and giving the United Russia Party extensive coverage. Another common theme throughout the briefing was the lack of judicial independence or reform. Mr. Roginsky prefaced the topic by noting that “…the court system is under great influence of the nationalistic, patriotic ideology that is flourishing in Russia at this time.” He specifically spoke of a recent case involving four Russian soldiers who admitted to killing six Chechen civilians by mistake and then attempting to cover it up.  In Mr. Roginsky’s words, “The jury and the courts did state that indeed the murder had taken place; the people were killed. The people who were being tried were those who perpetrated the killing; however, they were not [found] guilty.” Mara Polyakova spoke extensively about judicial reform.  She admitted that new democratic laws are being passed which reflect democratic principles, but the mechanisms needed to implement these principles are often lacking or are thwarted.  She also stated that prisoners in Russia are tortured and that court records are still falsified.  “The judges are still dependent in spite of the fact that their independence was loudly proclaimed in the constitution and other laws, because the real power remains in the hands of the chairmen of the courts who are part of or prone to influence by the executive,” Polyakova said. Speaking specifically on the war in Chechnya, Roginsky described the large number of Chechen civilians abducted or kidnapped monthly, and the one-sided propaganda about the conflict emanating from the state-controlled media. However, Mr. Roginsky denied that the term “genocide” applies to the current Chechen situation (as opposed to the 1944 deportations), calling it instead state-sponsored terror.  In response to a question regarding cutbacks in U.S. assistance for democracy programs in Russia, Simonov said, “Americans do not quite correctly understand what is happening in Russia.  They seem to like the democratic record of the current Russian Government, and they seem to be taking this rhetoric as the truth.”  On a similar note, he later recommended that U.S. officials and international organizations should “never take at face value anything said by officials in Russia.” Mr. McNamara raised the religious freedom issue, specifically the labeling of non-Russian Orthodox groups as “non-traditional religions” and the court-ordered “liquidation” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Moscow, despite federal recognition.  Ms. Alexeeva responded by saying that it would appear the Russian Orthodox Church is striving to become a state religion as it once was.  The panelists were pessimistic about the chances of a successful appeal of the recent Moscow court decision against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although Simonov suggested that any pressure from President Bush during the G-8 Summit might have an impact. Despite the comments of the panelists painting a fairly bleak picture of the state of civil and human rights in Russia, Ms. Alexeeva did caution that “if you look from the outside in, everything seems to be more frightening than when you are on the inside of that state. I don’t think the fascist system is being created in our country, and even less that it has already been created.” In closing the briefing, Mr. McNamara sought to put events in perspective by recalling that in November 1986 there were 700 known Soviet political prisoners and prisoners of conscience as well as tens of thousands of divided families in the U.S.S.R.  He noted that all of those prisoners had been released and many of those emigration cases resolved by January 19, 1989, President Reagan’s final day in office. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. United States Helsinki Commission Intern Nicholas Adams contributed to this article.

  • Uzbekistan: Stifled Democracy, Human Rights in Decline

    The hearing will examine democratization and human rights in Uzbekistan in light of the impending decision by the Department of State whether to certify Uzbekistan to continue receiving U.S. assistance. Uzbekistan, an OSCE participating State since 1992, has been closely cooperating with the United States in the campaign against international terrorism.  There is a U.S. military base in Uzbekistan and Washington has stepped up assistance significantly since 2001.  The agreement on Strategic Partnership and Cooperation was signed by President Bush and President Karimov in March 2002. However, Uzbekistan’s human rights record has remained poor, impeding the further development of U.S.-Uzbek relations.  Late last year, the State Department decertified Uzbekistan for aid under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program because it had not made progress toward ending police torture and other abuses.

  • Government Actions to combat anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region

    The Berlin Declaration, issued at the conference, highlights commitments made by the 55 OSCE States and declares that “international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.”  The action-oriented declaration also highlighted the commitment to monitor anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, including through collection and maintenance of statistics about such incidents. Helsinki Commission Members have spearheaded efforts to draw attention to anti-Semitism and related violence.  These efforts helped create the momentum that moved the OSCE to convene this historic and high-level conference on anti-Semitism, attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

  • How Government Can Combat Anti-Semitism Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

    The Helsinki Commission will hold a public hearing to assess the results of the historic April 2003 Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism, organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and consider appropriate concrete steps to follow up to the conference. “Government Actions to Combat Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region” Wednesday, June 16, 2004 10:00 AM 334 Cannon House Office Building Testifying before the Commission: Panel I: Rep. Tom Lantos, Ranking Member, House International Relations Committee Panel II: His Excellency Natan Sharansky, Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs and Head of the Israeli Delegation to the Berlin OSCE Conference on Anti Semitism Panel III: Betty Ehrenberg, Director, Institute for Public Affairs, Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations Paul Goldenberg, National Security Consultant, American Jewish Committee Jay Lefkowitz, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP Fred Zeidman, Chairman, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Panel IV: Stacy Burdett, Associate Director, Government & National Affairs, Anti-Defamation League Shai A. Franklin, Director of Governmental Relations, NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, & Eurasia Dan Mariaschin, Executive Vice President, B’nai B’rith International Israel Singer, Chairman, World Jewish Congress James S. Tisch, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Mark Weitzman, Director, Task Force Against Hate, Simon Wiesenthal Center The Berlin Declaration, issued at the conference, highlights commitments made by the 55 OSCE States and declares that “international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.”  The action-oriented declaration also highlighted the commitment to monitor anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, including through collection and maintenance of statistics about such incidents. Helsinki Commission Members have spearheaded efforts to draw attention to anti-Semitism and related violence.  These efforts helped create the momentum that moved the OSCE to convene this historic and high-level conference on anti-Semitism, attended by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Commission leaders recently introduced resolutions in the House and Senate encouraging the “ongoing work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)” in combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance, urging the 55 OSCE countries to do more. An un-official transcript will be available on the Helsinki Commission’s Internet web site at www.csce.gov within 24 hours of the hearing. The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

  • Confronting Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region

    Mr. President, I rise today to submit a resolution supporting the ongoing important work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance and related violence. As Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I remain concerned over manifestations of anti-Semitism that prompted me to introduce S. Con. Res. 7, a bipartisan initiative that unanimously passed the Senate last May. That measure provided impetus to efforts to confront and combat anti-Semitic violence in the OSCE region, the subject of a May 2002 Helsinki Commission hearing.   The resolution I submit today is aimed at building upon these efforts. The OSCE and its participating States have done much to confront and combat the disease of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and I urge our government and all other OSCE countries to continue their efforts with vigor and determination. Much of what has been accomplished can be attributed to U.S. leadership, especially to the work of U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Stephan M. Minikes, and his team in Vienna.   Last month the OSCE convened an historic conference in Berlin focused on anti-Semitism and violence against Jews and Jewish institutions and tools to combat this age old problem. The U.S. delegation was represented at the highest level with the participation of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. The conference brought together elected officials and NGOs from around the globe in common support of efforts to fight anti-Semitism.   The resolution I am submitting today follows up on several of the initiatives from Berlin. The conference was punctuated with the ``Berlin Declaration,'' a statement given by the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, during the closing plenary session. In addition to declaring that ``international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism,'' the Declaration advanced efforts to monitor anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as all OSCE participating States committed to ``collect and maintain'' statistics about these incidents and to forward that information to the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for compilation. The resolution urges all participating States to ensure these promises are fulfilled, and calls upon the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office to designate a ``personal envoy'' to monitor compliance with these commitments.   The resolution also speaks to the importance of confronting instances of racism, discrimination and xenophobia wherever it occurs. It is important to note that in September, the OSCE will convene a meeting on these matters, the Brussels Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. This meeting is very important, as no OSCE participating State is immune from these evils.   As Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I have been impressed by the efforts of the OSCE and its participating States to address issues of anti-Semitism and intolerance. However, the time for words has passed, and I urge all OSCE countries, including the United States, to take real action. This resolution highlights several areas where steps can and should be taken. I urge bipartisan support and speedy passage of this measure.   S. Con. Res. 110   Whereas anti-Semitism is a unique evil and an affront to human rights that must be unequivocally condemned, and a phenomenon that, when left unchecked, has led to violence against members of the Jewish community and Jewish institutions;   Whereas racism, xenophobia, and discrimination are also pernicious ills that erode the dignity of the individual and such intolerance undermines the achievement and preservation of stable democratic societies;   Whereas to be effective in combating these phenomena, governments must respond to related violence while seeking to address the underlying sources of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, intolerance, and related violence through public denouncements by elected leaders, vigorous law enforcement, and education;   Whereas all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states must confront acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and must deal effectively with acts of violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites, as well as against ethnic and religious minority groups, in keeping with their OSCE commitments;   Whereas education is critical in overcoming intolerance and it is essential that those responsible for formulating education policy recognize the importance of teaching about the Holocaust and intolerance as a tool to fight anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination among young people;   Whereas ensuring proper training of law enforcement officers and military forces is vital in keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and to the importance of understanding and responding to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance;   Whereas OSCE participating states have repeatedly committed to condemn anti-Semitism and intolerance, foremost in the historic 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document that, for the first time, declared ``participating [s]tates clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone,'' and stated their intent to ``take effective measures . . . to provide protection against any acts that constitute incitement to violence against persons or groups based on national, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, hostility or hatred, including anti-Semitism'';   Whereas the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has demonstrated leadership by unanimously passing resolutions at its annual sessions in 2002 and 2003 that condemn anti-Semitism, racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination and call upon participating states to speak out against these acts and to ensure aggressive law enforcement by local and national authorities;   Whereas the 2002 Porto OSCE Ministerial Council Decision committed participating states to ``take strong public positions against . . . manifestations of aggressive nationalism, racism, chauvinism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and violent extremism,'' specifically condemned the ``recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom,'' and urged for the ``convening of separately designated human dimension events on issues addressed in this decision, including on the topics of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism and xenophobia'';   Whereas the 2003 OSCE Vienna conferences on anti-Semitism and racism, xenophobia, and discrimination were groundbreaking, as the OSCE and its participating states met to discuss ways to combat these destructive forces;   Whereas the 2003 Maastricht Ministerial Council approved follow-up OSCE conferences on anti-Semitism and on racism, xenophobia and discrimination, and encouraged ``all participating [s ]tates to collect and keep records on reliable information and statistics on hate crimes, including on forms of violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and anti-Semitism,'' as well as to inform the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) ``about existing legislation regarding crimes fueled by intolerance and discrimination'';   Whereas at the 2004 OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, hosted in the German capital, the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office issued the ``Berlin Declaration'' which stated unambiguously that ``international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism'';   Whereas the Berlin Declaration advances the process of monitoring of anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes, as all OSCE participating states committed to ``collect and maintain'' statistics about these incidents and to forward that information to the ODIHR for compilation;   Whereas during the closing conference plenary, the German Foreign Minister and others highlighted the need to ensure all participating states follow through with their commitments and initiate efforts to track anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes; and   Whereas the Government of Spain offered to hold a follow-up meeting in Cordoba in 2005 to review whether OSCE participating states are making every effort to fulfill their OSCE commitments regarding data collection on anti-Semitic crimes and hate crimes: Now, therefore, be it   Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--   (1) the United States Government and Congress should unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance whenever and wherever they occur;   (2) officials and elected leaders of all Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating states, including all OSCE Mediterranean Partner for Cooperation countries, should also unequivocally condemn acts of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination whenever and wherever they occur;   (3) the participating states of the OSCE should be commended for supporting the Berlin Declaration and for working to bring increased attention to incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance in the OSCE region;   (4) the United States Government, including Members of Congress, recognizing that the fundamental job of combating anti-Semitism and intolerance falls to governments, should work with other OSCE participating states and their parliaments to encourage the full compliance with OSCE commitments and, if necessary, urge the creation of legal mechanisms to combat and track acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance;   (5) all participating states, including the United States, should forward their respective laws and data on incidents of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for compilation and provide adequate resources for the completion of its duties;   (6) the United States should encourage the Bulgarian Chairman-in-Office, in consultation with the incoming Slovenian Chairman-in-Office, to consider appointing a high level ``personal envoy'' to ensure sustained attention with respect to fulfilling OSCE commitments on the reporting of anti-Semitic crimes;   (7) the United States should urge OSCE participating states that have not already done so to join the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research; and   (8) all OSCE participating states should renew and revitalize efforts to implement their existing commitments to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance, and keep sharp focus on these issues as part of the usual work of the OSCE Permanent Council, the Human Dimension Implementation Review Meeting, the Ministerial Council and summits.

  • Religious Freedom in Turkmenistan

    Deputy Chief of Staff of the Helsinki Commission Ronald J. McNamara, in cooperation with the U.S. Commission on International Religious freedom, assessed the prospects for religious freedom in Turkmenistan in light of a strong critique of the repressive practices of Saparmurat Niyazov’s regime in the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Witnesses testifying at the hearing – including Joseph R. Crapa, Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Najia Badykova, Research Associate for the George Washington University Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies; Lawrence Uzzell, President of the International Religious Freedom Watch; and Felix Corley, Editor of Forum 18 News Service – presented testimonies regarding the implementation of “legislative improvements” that only further restricted freedom of religion. These testimonies provided a basis on which to assess developments in Turkmenistan as the State Department considered designating Turkmenistan as a “Country of Particular Concern” for its ongoing, systematic violations of religious freedom.

  • OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism: Introductory Remarks For Session I

    OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism Introductory Remarks, Session I As prepared for delivery Thank you, Madame Moderator. Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends, It is my great honor and privilege to address this distinguished body of individuals. Today, here in Berlin, once the epicenter of an obscene policy to eliminate European Jewry, we have gathered together to confront and, to the best of our abilities, vanquish a highly disturbing resurgence of anti-Semitism. I want to thank our German hosts for offering this historic opportunity. We gather against the backdrop of a spike of anti-Semitic violence that has swept through much of the OSCE region, particularly in Western Europe. Unparalleled since the dark days of the Second World War, Jewish communities throughout Europe and North America again are facing violent attacks against synagogues, Jewish cultural sites, cemeteries and individuals. It is an ugly reality that won’t go away by ignoring or by wishing it away. It must be defeated. Even in the eastern portions of the OSCE region, anti-Semitic acts occur in places long devoid of a Jewish presence. This increase in violence is a chilling reminder that our societies still harbor a dangerous collection of bigots and racists who hate Jews. Because of this grim reality, we gather to enlighten and motivate with particular emphasis on what practical steps we must take not just to mitigate this centuries-old obsession, but to crush this pernicious form of hate. At the recent UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the representative of the Holy See said anti-Semitism is a “distinct form of intolerance with religious and racial characteristics” and is the “oldest and most continuous form of religious intolerance ever known.” George Washington’s 1790 letter to Touro Synagogue stated clearly that America was to be a place of tolerance for all, and said America “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” One year later, France became the first European country to emancipate its Jewish population and offer equal citizenship. More recently, during the horrors of World War II, Chairman-in-Office Passy’s Bulgaria chose not to abandon its Jewish citizens. In the OSCE context, the 1990 Copenhagen Concluding document represented the first time an international body spoke specifically to the crime of anti-Semitism. We hope the results of this Conference will serve as a blueprint for serious and hopefully bold action. Our words here in Berlin, however, must be repeated at home, with frequency, passion and tenacity and matched – and even exceeded – by deeds. If our fight is to succeed, we need government officials at all levels to denounce, without hesitation or delay, anti-Semitic acts wherever and whenever they occur. No exceptions. The purveyors of hate never take a holiday or grow weary, nor should we. Holocaust remembrance and tolerance education must dramatically expand, and we need to ensure that our respective laws punish those who hate and incite violence against Jews. The 18th century British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke prophetically said “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” When national leaders fail to denounce anti-Semitic violence and slurs, the void is not only demoralizing to the victims but silence actually enables the wrongdoing. Silence by elected officials in particular conveys approval – or at least acquiescence - and can contribute to a climate of fear and a sense of vulnerability. For the last two years, President Bush and Members of Congress from both parties have spoken out repeatedly and forcefully. We have tried to do our “due diligence” to know the truth and to decipher trends. At one of our hearings in 2002, for example, the Simon Wiesenthal Center offered compelling evidence that showed that anti-Semitic incidents were increasing significantly in Western Europe, and the Anti-Defamation League reported that more than 1,500 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the United States in both 2002 and 2003. We decided that more needed to be done. Last summer I, along with my friend and colleague Ben Cardin, sponsored a bipartisan congressional resolution denouncing anti-Semitism. The measure passed (412-0). When I return to Washington later this week, we will introduce another resolution to highlight what we are attempting to do here in Berlin. Furthermore, we partnered with Gert Weisskirchen and members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to address the unprecedented rise of anti-Semitic violence at our Annual Session in 2002. Together, our delegations have organized forums – in Berlin, Washington and Vienna – on anti-Semitism. In both 2002 and 2003, the OSCE PA unanimously approved resolutions condemning anti-Semitism. So, clearly, our words this week are extremely important. I respectfully submit that they must be matched with deeds. Paper promises must be followed with concrete actions. To that end, there is no excuse for not putting in place an aggressive, sustainable monitoring program. Last year’s Maastricht Ministerial Council decision and last week’s Permanent Council decision committed all participating States to collect and keep records on reliable information and statistics on hate crimes, including anti-Semitism. According to a report on “Official Indifference” written by Human Rights First, of fourteen OSCE countries reviewed, nine had no systematic monitoring. A surgeon can’t remove a cancer or prescribe a course of treatment, without documenting the nature, scope, and extent of the disease. We must find out what’s going on! For its part, the United States has been collecting hate crime information for almost 15 years. Many of the 50 states in the U.S. have enacted their own laws addressing hate crimes. Congress passed the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990, which requires the Attorney General to collect data each year about crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice.” The most recent report available, the 2002 Hate Crimes Statistics Report, documented that religious bias motivated 19.1% of all hate crime incidents in the U.S. Of this total, a whopping 65.3% were anti-Semitic in nature. One positive by-product of reporting is the impact it has on police. When solid reporting is coupled with police training fewer acts of anti-Semitic violence are likely to occur. The public sharing of this information at home and with the OSCE enhances accountability and allows interested communities and NGOs to craft and implement strategies. I therefore urge each of us to enhance our monitoring mechanisms and to promptly forward these findings to ODIHR. A top to bottom review of laws, the enforcement of existing laws, and the enactment of new laws will help enormously. When France experienced a particularly high rate of anti-Semitic attacks in 2002, the French enacted a new statute. Mr. Pierre Lellouche, with us here today, was the champion behind these vital reforms. It is hoped that in each of our countries penalties that are commensurate with crimes motivated by anti-Semitic bias will have a chilling effect on those contemplating acts of hate, and surety of punishment for those who do. Finally, if we are to protect our children from the dark evil of anti-Semitism, we must reeducate ourselves and systematically educate our children. While that starts in our homes, the classroom must be the incubator of tolerance. It seems to me that only the most hardened racist can remain unmoved by Holocaust education and remembrance. Only the most crass, evil, and prejudiced among us can study the horrors of the Holocaust and not cry out: Never again! I urge you to consider making your nation a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research. Of the 16 current Task Force members, fourteen are OSCE participating States. Open to all countries willing to meet certain criteria, applicant countries must commit to open all public and private archives, establish some form of Holocaust remembrance, usually a national day of remembrance, and create or improve Holocaust education curricula. In 1991, my home state of New Jersey established the Commission on Holocaust Education to promote Holocaust and genocide education standards throughout my state. The Commission is unique, and perhaps a model for others, as it regularly surveys the status of Holocaust education and the design of curricula to ensure that all schools are teaching about the Holocaust and genocide. The Commission has developed more than 2,000 pages of material to aid New Jersey educators in teaching children about this painful, but important, topic. The New Jersey Commission is an innovative model for other OSCE participating States and local governments to emulate. The Anti-Defamation League’s “A World of Difference” Institute has delivered programs to more than 450,000 American teachers about the Holocaust and intolerance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, partners with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Anti-Defamation League teach new FBI trainees about law enforcement’s role in the 1930s and 40s in abetting the Holocaust. Conducted at the Holocaust Museum, these sessions leave an indelible impression and lead to greater sensitivity and understanding. Abraham Lincoln once said concerning slavery: “To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of men.” Silence my friends is not an option. Nor is inaction. Thank you. 

  • OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism: Intervention for Session 1

    OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism Intervention: Session 1 As prepared for delivery Having just come from Auschwitz, I understand the importance of this Conference and the opportunity today that I have to speak about the urgency of ensuring proper responses by national leaders and government officials to anti-Semitism. Seeing the remains of that factory of intolerance, hate and death, I believe we cannot be reminded enough of the real consequences of not protecting universal human rights in the OSCE region. We must tirelessly work to build understanding between different communities to prevent future acts of prejudice and injustice. I believe the first responsibility in this regard rests with governments and officials, as they can greatly influence the domestic climate for tolerance and respect. This can occur through a variety of ways, foremost when elected and governmental leaders visibly speak out against acts of intolerance. Leaders must make it clear that anti-Semitism is a threat to democracy. Elected leaders like myself are naturally attuned to the will of their constituents. We like to get re-elected. Yet there is a danger of being too differential to populist concerns, what can, in worst-case scenarios, lead to harassment, intimidation and even physical violence. We must therefore provide leadership on issues like anti-Semitism and intolerance and clearly state our beliefs that these sentiments are unacceptable. Collectively, we must raise our expectations for our leaders to be involved. It is a risk worth taking. If we lead with resolve, we can impact the overall health of our societies. In short, we must act courageously and speak out boldly. I am reminded of the actions of Turkish leaders after the horrible Istanbul bombings last November. Not only did Prime Minister Erdogan publicly denounce the two synagogue bombings, but he also met with Jewish leaders, reportedly a first in the history of the Republic. Seeing pictures from the funeral on that rain-drenched day, the caskets were draped with the Turkish flag, an honor normally reserved for soldiers or civilians who paid the ultimate price for their country. The message was unmistakable: despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Turkish leaders made clear this was not an attack on Jews, but rather an attack on Turks who happened to be Jewish, who were victimized because of their religion. Turkey has set an example for us all, and with its bold moves for EU accession and continued to progress toward the improving the treatment of its religious and ethnic minorities, it is working to create government policies that promote tolerance and non-discrimination. I salute the Turkish Government for unequivocally condemning the hateful acts perpetrated against the Jewish community in that country. National and local community leaders clearly have a role to play in speaking out. In the United States, after 9/11, President Bush visited a mosque in Washington, DC, and made clear that those evil acts did not represent Islam. Locally, I similarly met with Muslim leaders in my district in Baltimore, Maryland, after September 11th to show my support for their community. In addition to speaking out against incidents when they occur, we must all ensure our domestic laws can properly deal with these criminal acts. We must ensure law enforcement is doing everything possible to prosecute the perpetrators of these hateful acts. In the OSCE context, many participating States responded to the spike of anti-Semitic violence, recognizing the unacceptability of the trend. The French National Assembly passed laws enhancing penalties for crimes motivated by anti-Semitism. The new laws doubled prison sentences for crimes of a “racist, anti-Semitic, or xenophobic” nature, as well as created special training programs for judges. France backed up its statements with funding, which demonstrates its real commitment, and budgeted serious amounts to improve the security of Jewish community establishments. Other countries are acting as well. The German Bundestag recently issued a resolution denouncing anti-Semitic violence, and in Canada a similar resolution has been introduced. The U.S. Congress has recently funded an ethics center at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is in the district I represent. In another U.S. military initiative, a new generation of military leaders will now visit concentration camps, like Auschwitz, and be inspired to never again allow injustices of this magnitude to occur. Yet even under the most favourable conditions, instances of bigotry can manifest themselves. The question is how can we measure levels of intolerance in our societies? Opinion polls and community surveys can discern inclinations and prejudices, but when dislike transforms into actions of hate and crosses the threshold of criminal acts, we must have mechanisms in place to track these occurrences. I am proud to say that the United States has been monitoring hate crimes and compiling the information into a yearly report since 1990. This enables policymakers to track trends and then develop strategies to address these findings. Without a monitoring mechanism, how can officials intelligently move forward? Without the capability to recognize when communities are being targeted, how can governments provide a credible level of protection for likely victims? I am proud to note that in the OSCE region efforts are underway to increase the tracking of manifestations of anti-Semitism and intolerance in all participating States, and to forward these statistics to ODIHR for compilation and publication. The OSCE Permanent Council just last week came to a consensus decision that all participating States will gather information on crimes related to anti-Semitism or intolerance. I urge all countries to genuinely fulfil this commitment, while also working with NGOs, so that the most complete picture can be obtained. Let us not forget that the burden to monitor and track incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance rests first with participating States. I therefore trust ODIHR will receive robust support from all OSCE countries, so it can fully execute this task while not sacrificing its good programming in other areas. We should also support collectively strengthening OSCE’s capacity to gather information from each of our participating States, share best practices, and offer help to States in developing effective strategies to fight anti-Semitism. Participating States should strive to implement these commitments as soon as possible, so we can begin to understand the nature of the problem and craft practical solutions. However, collecting data is only a starting point, creating the basis for future action. We must not confuse our efforts here today to be the victory against anti-Semitism. Today’s meeting is historic and a tremendous statement of our resolve to fight this evil, but we will be judged by how we follow up on these discussions and debates. Each of our States must be committed to develop an action strategy to combat anti-Semitism. That strategy should be open to review with regular oversight by parliament. The NGO community must be a resource used by each State. The OSCE’s capacity to assist States in this effort needs to be focused and strengthened. In closing, Mr. Moderator, the first way to promote tolerance is to fight intolerance. By speaking-out forcefully when instances of bigotry and hate arise at home, we can make certain that acts of intolerance will not be entertained or sanctioned. Remembering the horrors of Auschwitz and other grotesque examples of hatred, I genuinely hope States will leave today fully committed to combat intolerance and discrimination. Thank you.

  • OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism: The Role of Government in Combating anti-Semitism in the Media a

    OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism The Role of Government in Combating anti-Semitism in the Media As prepared for delivery As a Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I know firsthand that the OSCE plays a unique leadership role in promoting tolerance and respect towards Jews, as it was the first international organization to publicly condemn anti-Semitism. This year’s Conference further reflects the OSCE’s commitment to confronting and combating the seemingly never-ending cycle of hate, violence, and ignorance toward Jews throughout the world. The same ignorance that is passed along from generation to generation in families is running rampant in everyday media today. Whether appearing in a government owned or regulated market, or privately funded media, anti-Semitic comments, cartoons, and articles continue to flourish despite mainstream society’s rejection of anti-Semitism. In embarking on the critical task of curbing anti-Semitism, we must establish realistic and specific goals with real timetables and tools of measurement. Most importantly, we must also be frank with ourselves. Jews and other minorities in Europe and in the Middle East are facing multiple threats coming from various flanks. Old attitudes toward Jews last seen during the Holocaust-era are meshing with a much broader coalition of hate made up of a new breed of persons. Realistically, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not on the immediate horizon. Likewise, there are no current plans for the U.S. and allied forces to disengage from Iraq, and pressure will rightly continue to mount on Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, to crack down on terrorism and radicalism within their own borders. If we are to accept that these international predicaments serve as systemic catalysts to increased anti-Semitism, then our solutions should be critical of those governments and societies which allow such hate mongers to manifest themselves through the media and mainstream society. Governments can legislate all they want. We can meet as much as we want. But until it becomes unfashionable in mainstream and specific societies to preach anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudicial discrimination, we will find ourselves in a never-ending cycle of intolerance. As citizens of the world we have come to this place to teach and learn. The challenges are obvious and many. And we have a responsibility to meet them all. I heard here the word “hate” very often. I did not hear the word “love” once. I am not naive enough to believe that we can combat anti-Semitism with love alone. But, talking about and practicing loving our fellow human beings may help us to understand each other.

Pages