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

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  • Cardin, Wicker Lead Colleagues in Urging Action to Free OSCE Observers Held in Ukraine

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Chairman and Senate Ranking Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), and Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), have written to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to take action to secure the release of observers being held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The senators also seek action to stem the tide of “other flagrant violations of human rights by pro-Russian militants” in the region. “In addition to the OSCE observers, several dozen people — journalists, activists, police officers, politicians — are reportedly being held captive in makeshift jails in Slovyansk … we continue to be deeply dismayed at the other flagrant violations of human rights by pro-Russian militants in eastern and southern Ukraine,” the senators wrote. “These attacks and threats underscore the importance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE institutions in Ukraine in assessing the situation on the ground and helping to de-escalate tensions. … “To be sure, the actions against pro-Ukrainian activists and minorities are the direct result of Russia’s unfounded and illegal aggression towards Ukraine – first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. … we commit to working with you so that the United States and its international partners can significantly increase the diplomatic pressure on Russia, especially through economic sanctions … Violations of human rights, particularly the rights of minorities, as well as gross violations of another nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must not be tolerated.” The text of the letter follows. April 30, 2014 The Honorable John Kerry Secretary of State United States Department of State 2201 C Street Northwest Washington, D.C.  20520 Dear Secretary Kerry: We write to you to express our alarm at the detention of members of a military observer mission operating under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  They are being held hostage by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk. We urge you to do everything in your power to help secure their release. In addition to the OSCE observers, several dozen people — journalists, activists, police officers, politicians — are reportedly being held captive in makeshift jails in Slovyansk. Furthermore, we continue to be deeply dismayed at the other flagrant violations of human rights by pro-Russian militants in eastern and southern Ukraine.  These include attacks and threats against minority groups, particularly Jews and Roma as well as Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea.  Supporters of a united Ukraine have been targeted as well, including a local politician and a university student whose tortured bodies were found dumped in a river near Slovyansk. The Joint Statement on Ukraine signed on April 17 by the EU, the United States, Russia and Ukraine calls on all sides to refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions and condemns and rejects all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism. We fear both the spirit and the letter of this agreement have been breached. In recent days, we have seen troubling manifestations against ethnic and religious minority communities.  The distribution of flyers in Donetsk calling for Jews to register their religion and property is a chilling reminder of an especially dark period in European history and we welcome your unequivocal remarks of condemnation. While the perpetrators of this onerous action have not been determined, one thing is clear:  Moscow, which controls the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, is using anti-Semitism as an ingredient in its anti-Ukrainian campaign, utilizing its media as a vehicle.  Perhaps more insidiously, among the various Russian special forces, operatives and agitators in Ukraine are members of neo-Nazi groups and the Black Hundreds, a reincarnation of the notorious Russian anti-Semitic organization that existed more than a century ago. Jewish communities in parts of eastern Ukraine are not the only ones with reasons to be worried.  In Slovyansk, armed separatists have invaded Romani houses, beating and robbing men, women and children. Even Ukrainian-speakers, including Ukrainian-speaking journalists, have reportedly experienced intimidation in the largely Russian-speaking Donetsk oblast. At the same time, in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, Crimean Tatars continue to be threatened with deportation and attacked for speaking their own language in their ancestral homeland. Moreover, the most visible long-time leader of the Crimean Tatar community and former Soviet political prisoner Mustafa Dzhemilev, has reportedly been banned from returning to Crimea.  Additionally, the separatist Crimean authorities announced that Ukrainian literature and history will no longer be offered in Crimean schools. We commend the Ukrainian government for its denunciation of attacks and threats against minorities and its pledge to find those responsible and bring them to justice. It is imperative that the Russian-controlled separatist groups cease their de-stabilizing, violent activity, which has left all minorities vulnerable. These attacks and threats underscore the importance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE institutions in Ukraine in assessing the situation on the ground and helping to de-escalate tensions. They need to be permitted to operate unhindered in eastern Ukraine and to be allowed access into Crimea, which Russia has thus far blocked.  We urge you to continue to do everything possible to facilitate their unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine, including the provision of adequate resources. To be sure, the actions against pro-Ukrainian activists and minorities are the direct result of Russia’s unfounded and illegal aggression towards Ukraine – first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin needs to keep the Geneva promises and immediately rein in the militants and get Russian soldiers and other assorted operatives out of Ukraine.  If not, we commit to working with you so that the United States and its international partners can significantly increase the diplomatic pressure on Russia, especially through economic sanctions. Violations of human rights, particularly the rights of minorities, as well as gross violations of another nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must not be tolerated. Sincerely, Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S. Roger F. Wicker, U.S.S. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S.S. Richard Blumenthal, U.S.S. Barbara A. Mikulski, U.S.S. Brian Schatz, U.S.S. Michael F. Bennet, U.S.S. Christopher Murphy, U.S.S.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Moldova

    WASHINGTON—Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe announced the following briefing: Georgia 2008, Ukraine 2014:  Is Moldova Next? Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:00 p.m. Capitol Visitor Center, Room 268 North Congressional Meeting Room Russia’s annexation of Crimea has raised concerns that a scenario whereby Russia annexes Transnistria, Moldova’s secessionist region, is a very realistic possibility. Similar to Russia’s de facto annexation of Georgia’s two secessionist regions and Ukraine’s Crimea, Russia’s aggression against Moldova would be occurring as citizens of Moldova are considering accession to the major Euro-Atlantic institutions. The Transnistria “Parliament” has called for Russia to annex Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. The briefing offers a timely opportunity to examine Russia’s intentions with regard to Transnistria and Moldova given President Putin’s recent assertion to President Obama that Transnistria remains under an economic blockade and that the residents of the region suffer severe hardships as a result. This was the principal justification advanced by Russia at the OSCE during 2008, shortly before Russia provoked Georgia into military action.  The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Mr. Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Mr. Eugen Carpov, Deputy Prime Minister of Moldova, Minister for Reintegration Mr. Paul Goble, Specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia; Editor of “Window on Eurasia” Dr. Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council, formerly, Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College

  • Cardin Condemns Attacks, Threats against Minorities in Ukraine

    WASHINGTON - In response to incidents in Ukraine targeting minority communities, Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, made the following statement: “I am deeply disturbed by the recent attacks and threats against minority groups in eastern Ukraine, including Jews, Roma and Crimean Tatars. The Joint Statement on Ukraine signed on April 17 by the EU, the United States, Russia and Ukraine calls on all sides to refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions and condemns and rejects all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism. “In recent days, we have seen troubling manifestations against ethnic and religious minority communities. In Donetsk, leaflets have been distributed calling for Jews to register their religion and list property, and Molotov cocktails have been thrown at a synagogue in Mykolaiv. In Sloviansk, armed separatists have reportedly invaded Romani houses, beating and robbing inhabitants. In largely Russian-speaking Donetsk oblast, even Ukrainian-speakers, such as Ukrainian-language media, have reportedly experienced intimidation. At the same time, in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, Crimean Tatars continue to be threatened with deportation and assaulted for speaking their own language. “These attacks underscore the importance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE institutions in Ukraine in assessing the situation on the ground and helping to de-escalate tensions. They need to be permitted to operate unhindered in eastern Ukraine and need to be allowed access into Crimea, which Russia has thus far blocked. “The actions against minorities are the direct result of Russia’s unfounded and illegal aggression towards Ukraine – first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin needs to keep the Geneva promises and immediately rein in the militants. “I commend the Ukrainian government for its denunciation of attacks and threats against minorities and its pledge to find those responsible and bring them to justice.  It is imperative that the Russian-controlled separatist groups cease their de-stabilizing and violent activity.”

  • Cardin, Colleagues Ask Kerry To Urge NATO, OSCE To End All Defense Contracts With Russia

    WASHINGTON– In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, – joined by 10 of his colleagues – asked the State Department to urge NATO member countries and participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to end all defense contracts with Russia in response to the country’s illegal annexation of Crimea and violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Cardin was joined by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and U.S. Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Michael Burgess (R-Texas). “We believe the United States must show leadership by terminating all defense contracts with Russia and ask that you strongly encourage our NATO allies and OSCE participating states to take similar actions,” the members of Congress wrote. “We urge you to lead the coordination among NATO and OSCE to halt trade involving military equipment with Russia immediately. We believe this is a crucial step in reestablishing a deterrent against further Russian aggression and strengthening the impact of our targeted economic sanctions against Russia.” Text of the letter is  below.   April 14, 2014 The Honorable John Kerry Secretary of State United States Department of State 2201 C Street Northwest Washington, D.C. 20520 Dear Secretary Kerry: We write to express our support for NATO’s decision to suspend military and civilian cooperation with Russia. We also ask that you further urge both NATO member countries and participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to work cooperatively to cease all trade involving military equipment with Russia in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. This would be a forceful next step by both international organizations (of which the United States is a member) to affirm that there is no more business as usual when it comes to bilateral trade of military equipment given Russia’s hostile actions. As you are aware, two decades ago the Partnership for Peace program was implemented to foster trust between NATO member countries and the member states of the former Soviet Union, and to acknowledge a shared political commitment to creating lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area. This integration with the member states of the former Soviet Union was predicated on shared values and common obligations to uphold international law. Likewise, the Helsinki Final Act, which has been signed by 57 OSCE nations, including the United States, affirmed our collective commitment to sovereign equality, respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms. Russia violated these shared principles by disregarding its treaty obligations under the bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.  We should immediately halt the trade in military equipment now that Russia has reneged on its commitment to abide by international law. Russia has clearly violated the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, and its actions are antithetical to the principles that NATO member countries like the United States seek to uphold. Nonetheless, significant bilateral trade in military equipment continues. The United Kingdom announced the Military Technical Cooperation Agreement with Russia in January 2014, which would provide a framework for Russian and UK defense companies to cooperate at an unclassified level and enable British and Russian arms producers to exchange defense components and technical data. France has continued an existing contract to sell two high-tech Mistral warships to Russia, and the Hungarian Ministry of Defense recently acquired three Mil Mi-8 transport helicopters produced by Rosoboronexport. Unfortunately and inexplicably, the United States is, at the time of writing, continuing with plans to receive 22 more Mi-17 helicopters from Russia as part of our ongoing assistance to Afghanistan. We believe the United States must show leadership by terminating all defense contracts with Russia and ask that you strongly encourage our NATO allies and OSCE participating states to take similar actions. We urge you to lead the coordination among NATO and OSCE to halt trade involving military equipment with Russia immediately. We believe this is a crucial step in reestablishing a deterrent against further Russian aggression and strengthening the impact of our targeted economic sanctions against Russia. We thank you for your attention to this matter. Sincerely, BENJAMIN L. CARDIN United States Senate   RICHARD BLUMENTHAL                                                   United States Senate   JOHN CORNYN                             United States Senate   ROGER F. WICKER                                 United States Senate                              DANIEL COATS                             United States Senate   CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY                             United States Senate   DAVID VITTER United States Senate   KELLY AYOTTE United States Senate   LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER Member of Congress   JOE PITTS Member of Congress   MICHAEL C. BURGESS Member of Congress

  • Cardin Assures Maryland’s Ukrainian Community that Putin will Pay for Aggression in Ukraine

    BALTIMORE, Md.–U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), convened members of Maryland’s Ukrainian community for a roundtable discussion to share the latest information on the U.S. and international response to the crisis in Ukraine, including the continued hostility by Russia. “Ukraine is an incredibly important country and Ukrainian Americans are rightly concerned for their family and friends about Russia’s actions in Crimea and what Russia might do next. The U.S. and the international community will ensure that Russia is held accountable for its blatant violations of international agreements and unlawful violation of Crimea’s sovereign borders. The sanctions leveled against Russia are directed at Mr. Putin and his inner circle that are responsible for this ongoing aggression, not the people of Russia. We will ensure that Mr. Putin pays a heavy price for his inability to conform to international norms, and honor Russia’s agreements. The government in Kyiv has the full support of United States and we will use all available diplomatic and economic tools to return stability to Ukraine,” said Senator Cardin. “Through our economic policies, particularly energy, we need to help Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and the new leadership in Kyiv succeed without being beholden to Russia. The message clearly received from Maryland’s Ukrainian American clergy, local Ukrainian leaders and advocacy organizations is one of worry for their family in Ukraine. They are united in a strong determination that the U.S. and international partners keep the pressure on Russia for what they have done in Crimea, and so additional regions are not put at greater risk.”

  • Statement on Russian NGO ADC Memorial

    WASHINGTON—In response to this week’s Russian court decision against Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial’s (ADC Memorial) challenge to the requirement to register as a foreign agent, Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) made the following statement: “Often an organization closes its doors because they've accomplished a goal or outlived their usefulness to society or the market. But Russia's decision to force ADC Memorial in St. Petersburg to close if it does not register as a foreign agent is proof-positive that this NGO’s work is needed and their message is powerful. The affiliated Memorial in Moscow was founded during the Soviet period of perestroika to address a totalitarian past. Now, as the darkness of lies and propaganda appear again on the Russian horizon, we will not waiver in our support for groups like Memorial that are dedicated to telling the truth about the past and the present no matter the cost.” ADC Memorial is one of many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia forced to fight for their right to operate in the wake of tremendous government pressure against them. Russian president Vladimir Putin has conducted a systematic campaign to shrink the space for independent voices in Russia. The “foreign agents law” enacted by Russia in 2012 requires all NGOs that accept foreign funds to register as foreign agents. Many groups such as ADC Memorial have decided to cease operations rather than submit to the onerous labeling and reporting requirements that are clearly meant to smear them as traitors and force them to close.

  • Cardin, Wicker Name Ambassador David Killion to Lead U.S. Helsinki Commission Staff

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have announced the joint appointment of David T. Killion as the Senate Staff Director for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission). A diplomat familiar with navigating multilateral international organizations, Killion is the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He previously served as a Senior Professional Staff Member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where he was the foremost expert on international organizations. Killion first joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff as a key advisor to then Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and he was a leader on human rights work. Ambassador Killion will replace Fred Turner, who recently became chief of staff to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ). “The U.S. Helsinki Commission has a long-standing tradition of operating above partisan politics as it works to advance our country’s international leadership on democracy, human rights and economic issues. Along with Senator Wicker, I am proud to welcome Ambassador David Killion as Staff Director, extending this bipartisan precedent with an individual steeped in experience who has represented the United States of America at the highest levels overseas but also understands the deep origins and appropriate uses our Nation’s foreign policy tools,” said Senator Cardin.    “Ambassador Killion’s extensive professional experience in diplomacy and international affairs uniquely qualifies him to serve in this important role,” Senator Wicker said.  “He has proven his ability to promote America’s best interests on the global stage, earning the respect of members from both political parties.  I look forward to working with him on the Helsinki Commission, which continues to be a force for the advancement of democracy and security around the world.” Ambassador Killion will serve as an advisor to Senators Cardin and Wicker, Chairman and Senate Ranking Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission respectively.  He will manage a professional staff charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through the promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in the 57 countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The CSCE/U.S. Helsinki Commission is a bipartisan, bicameral, dual-branch organization that consists of nine members each from the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce. Most recently, the OSCE has played an integral role in monitoring events in Ukraine as Russia disregards its commitments to Ukraine’s territorial integrity under the Helsinki Final Act and specifically the Budapest Memorandum. The OSCE has provided many of the non-military tools at the disposal of the Administration and Europe and continues to address how to best assist Ukraine and deter further Russian aggression.  "At a time when conflict is flaring in the OSCE region, I am honored that Senators Cardin and Wicker have placed their faith in me to lead the professional staff of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.  The Commission is a hidden gem in the Congress that still reflects the goal that partisanship stops at our Nation's shores,” Ambassador Killion said. “The Commission has never been more relevant than it is today.  I hope to assist Senators Wicker and Cardin and all the Commissioners to as we seek to hold Russia accountable to its commitments under the Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest memorandum and more broadly as we strengthen America's leadership in human rights and democratic development." Killion served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO from 2009-2013. In this role, he administered a multi-agency, multi-million dollar U.S. Mission, worked to better align UNESCO programs and activities with U.S. strategic interests, managed complex political and diplomatic challenges, and fostered public-private partnerships with key American corporations and foundations. As a Senior Professional Staff member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Killion managed the drafting of the State Department Authorization Act on behalf of Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.). He has also coordinated Committee initiatives to improve management at the United Nations and reforms to UN human rights mechanisms. Prior to serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Killion served in the Department of State’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs (1996-2001) and as a legislative assistant to Congressman David Skaggs (D-Colo.) (1994-1996).  Ambassador Killion holds a BA from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and an MA from the University of California at Los Angeles.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Ukraine

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: Ukraine: Confronting Internal Challenges and External Threats Wednesday, April 9, 2014 10:00 am Room 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building Following the February 22 removal of the corrupt Yanukovych regime, the new interim government has been working to address numerous internal challenges, including badly needed economic and political reforms. This includes preparations for the May 25th presidential elections. At the same time, Russia continues to threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with further military intervention and attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the new government. The hearing will offer an assessment of the current situation in Ukraine as it addresses difficult internal challenges exacerbated by Russia’s seizure of Crimea as well as an assessment of ongoing threats and challenges to other countries in the region. The hearing will address current U.S. policy, and how the United States, together with the international community, including the EU and the OSCE, can best continue to assist Ukraine and deter further Russian aggression.  Scheduled to testify:  The Honorable Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State

  • Cardin, Rubio Introduce Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have introduced the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014, legislation establishing a Syria-specific standard of reporting and accountability for crimes against humanity. The bill would require the U.S. State Department to report to relevant congressional committees on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. This would include an account of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and violent extremist groups and other combatants involved in the conflict. The report also requires a description of U.S. government efforts to ensure accountability for human rights violations in Syria. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is an original cosponsor of the legislation. “The war tactics employed in Syria by both government and opposition forces fly in the face of the rules of war. The United States cannot stand idly by and allow the gross violation of human rights in Syria to go unchallenged,” said Senator Cardin, “This legislation sends a strong message to the international community that the United States remains firmly committed to bringing all perpetrators of international crimes in Syria to justice. Shedding light on the atrocities in Syria is critical to bringing human rights abusers to justice.” “For far too long the Assad regime and violent extremists in Syria have committed horrific human rights violations at the expense of millions of innocent Syrians,” said Senator Rubio. “These brutal crimes against civilians are appalling. The perpetrators deserve to be brought to justice, and this bill is a first step towards ensuring those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable.” After 3 years, the violence in Syria continues unabated and according to the most recent report of the United Nation's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab republic, the conflict “has reached new levels of brutality.” UNICEF has reported that Syria is among the most dangerous places on Earth to be a child, pointing to high child casualty rates, brutalizing and traumatic violence, deteriorated access to education, and health concerns. The number of children suffering in Syria more than doubled in the third year of the conflict. The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2014 requires the Department of State to report on State and USAID efforts to ensure accountability for violations of internationally recognized human rights and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the people of Syria during the conflict.  Specifically, the legislation: Condemns the ongoing violence  and  human rights abuses by the Syrian regime, as well as  violent extremist groups and other combatants involved in the Syrian civil war. Expresses support for the people of Syria seeking democratic change. Urges all parties to the conflict to immediately halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Calls on the President to support Syrian and International Community efforts to ensure accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict. Calls for a UN Security Council investigation into those crimes. Requires the Secretary of State to produce a report which: Describes the violations of internationally recognized human rights and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the civil war in Syria, as well as the weapons used for those crimes, and—where possible—the origins of  those weapons. Describes efforts by the State Department and USAID to ensure accountability for those crimes, including training activities, a strategy and implementation efforts.

  • Cardin Praises Bipartisan Unity in Support of Ukraine, Sanctions Against Russia

    WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission (CSCE), praised the full Senate passage of a package of loan guarantees for the new Ukraine government and economic sanctions on those responsible for the invasion of Crimea. “With today’s vote the Senate sent a clear message of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and indignation for those responsible for the invasion of the Crimea. Russia must be held accountable for its blatant violations of international agreements. The sanctions leveled by Congress are intended to show that Mr. Putin’s inability to conform to international norms, and honor Russia’s agreements, will come at a heavy price. The government in Kyiv has the full support of United States and we will use all available diplomatic and economic tools to return stability to Ukraine,” said Senator Cardin. “I am disappointed that H.R 4152 does not include essential reforms that would strengthen the International Monetary Fund. Despite the omission this bill is a firm and confident step towards returning the region to normalcy. ”

  • Co-Chairman Smith Responds to Turkish Government Move to Block Twitter

    WASHINGTON - Responding to the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s action in blocking access to Twitter in Turkey, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, released the following statement: “I urge the Prime Minister to answer his critics directly rather than try to silence them. This would show respect for the Turkish people and for his responsibilities as an elected official. In recent years the Turkish government has shown a troubling propensity to target journalists as well as Web sites and social media, as has been amply documented by the United States government and independent human rights monitors. Blocking Twitter violates Turkey’s commitments in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to free expression and freedom of the media.” According to reports, Prime Minister Erdogan used court orders to block Twitter in Turkey on Thursday, March 21. The Prime Minister himself has a Twitter account, however, as does the President, who tweeted his hope that the ban would be short-lived. The U.S. Department of State reports comprehensively on human rights in Turkey in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Co-Chairman Smith is also the Chairman of the House panel that oversees human rights worldwide and the author of the Global Online Freedom Act, H.R. 491, human rights legislation that would promote Internet freedom around the world.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on U.S.-Russia Relations

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following briefing: The Dog Barks, but the Caravan Moves On: Highs and Lows in U.S.-Russia Relations Thursday, March 27, 2014 1:00 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2103 Russia’s flag flies over Crimea, Spaso House is vacant, and there’s talk of a new Cold War. The framework for U.S.-Russia relations appears to be in shambles. And Kremlinology may yet be fetched from the proverbial ash heap of history and pressed into the service of a new policy of containment. Is this chill in relations deja vu all over again or a new and different break? Are bilateral relations doomed to perpetual confrontation? What are reasonable expectations for the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship? The United States and Russia share a long, complex history replete with burden and angst, but also grounds for hope. Arguably, no strategic relationship is as vital to security and cooperation in Europe—a key national interest. Come for the context essential to understanding the current crisis, stay for a timely discussion on what is to be done. Lead Discussant: Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute Panelist: James W. Warhola, Chairman, University of Maine’s Department of Political Science Moderator: Kyle Parker, Policy Advisor for the U.S. Helsinki Commission

  • Cardin Welcomes Strong U.S. Action To Support Ukraine And Hold Accountable Those Who Have Victimized Its People

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission (CSCE), lauded approval Wednesday of a package of loan guarantees for the new Ukraine government and economic sanctions on those responsible for the invasion of Crimea and massive corruption in Ukraine. Shortly after the SFRC vote, Senator Cardin joined other members of the Committee for a meeting with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. “Ukraine is an incredibly important country.  It is a priority to move swiftly on a bill that would support the new government in Kyiv, hold those who committed atrocities against the people of Ukraine accountable, and increase the effectiveness of the International Monetary Fund, which is the main vehicle for economic assistance to Ukraine,” said Senator Cardin. “The recent events are tragic, and they illustrate the consequences of pervasive government corruption. It is imperative that the United States and the international community stand united and mobilize to support Ukraine during this period of transition and instability. We need to help Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and the new leadership in Kyiv succeed without being beholden to Russia. We must also ensure that Russia understands that their attempt to take Crimea through brute force will have consequences. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the most serious breaches of OSCE principles since the signing of Helsinki Final Act in 1975. These principles include the territorial integrity of states, inviolability of borders, and refraining from the threat or use of force. “Once again, Russia has proved the necessity of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, and the situation in Ukraine illustrates the value of expanding the bill to apply globally before another crisis arises. I look forward to working with Chairman Menendez and the full committee as we consider the Global Human Rights Accountability Act in the near future. In addition to the national security benefits, when enacted, this law will provide a consistent process for economic and travel sanctions that will be a deterrent to those individuals would consider committing gross violations of human rights in the future. Passage will make it clear to all countries that they must hold accountable those who would violate universal human rights.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Developments in the Western Balkans and Policy Responses

    WASHINGTON–The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: Developments in the Western Balkans and Policy Responses Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:00 am Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 106 Scheduled to testify: Hoyt Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State Tanja Fajon, Member (Slovenia), European Parliament Kurt Volker, Executive Director, the McCain Institute for International Leadership The countries of the Western Balkan region of Europe – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – have started 2014 with a mix of challenges and expectations. Elections, dialogue and ongoing reform will be shaped by the hope of taking the next steps toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration, with each country at a different stage of achievement or preparedness but all of them sharing an interest in progress, advancement and stability across the entire region. The hearing will feature the official views and policy approaches of the United States toward the countries of the Western Balkans, supplemented by the insights and analysis of experts from both sides of the Atlantic.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on OSCE with the Swiss President and Foreign Minister

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: Switzerland’s Leadership of the OSCE Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:00 a.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562 Scheduled to testify: His Excellency Didier Burkhalter, President of the Swiss Confederation, Foreign Minister and Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE President of the Swiss Confederation and Foreign Minister, His Excellency Didier Burkhalter, will testify before the Helsinki Commission in his capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The hearing takes place at the beginning of Switzerland’s 2014 chairmanship of the 57-country OSCE, which is based in Vienna, Austria and best known for its work in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. President Burkhalter is expected to discuss the Chairmanship-in-Office’s priorities and provide insights regarding the ongoing work of the OSCE.  Switzerland’s chairmanship comes at an important time in the development of an organization that operates on the basis of consensus and includes countries ranging from democracies to dictatorships. The OSCE region is facing challenges ranging from backsliding on human rights in some countries to the political crisis and recent violence in Ukraine.

  • Chairman Cardin Statement on Harassment of RFE/RL Journalist in Azerbaijan

    WASHINGTON - Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) made the following statement today in response to the continued harassment of RFE/RL journalist Ms. Khadija Ismayilova: “I am concerned for the safety and liberty of RFE/RL journalist Ms. Khadija Ismayilova. Ms. Ismayilova has been the target of consistent and sordid attacks by the government because of her investigative journalism. The current charges against her include espionage on behalf of the United States. These charges are clearly fabricated and punitive in nature. The Helsinki Commission calls on the Government of Azerbaijan to stop its harassment of all journalists and to respect freedom of the media, a commitment it has undertaken as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). “Ms. Ismayilova’s harassment and detention are part of an unfortunate string of politically-motivated arrests of Azerbaijani’s who are exercising their rights to free speech. The list of those jailed on criminal charges in the period prior to the 2013 presidential election, including presidential hopeful Mr. Ilgar Mammadov, is troubling. Even election monitors such as Mr. Anar Mammadi, have not been spared. Mr. Mammadi has been in pre-trial detention for two months. As the Government of Azerbaijan prepares to host the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in July of this year, we call on the government to respect the rule of law and other fundamental freedoms that are essential to comprehensive security.”

  • Chairman Cardin, Co-Chairman Smith Call for Immediate Imposition of Targeted Sanctions on Ukraine

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today issued the following statement: “We’ve all been shocked by the images and news from Kyiv. This violence is the result of a regime which has repeatedly displayed contempt for its people, who want nothing more than to be afforded the dignity which is their right as citizens. We unequivocally deplore the renewal of violence in Kyiv. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their struggle for justice. “The time has come to immediately impose personal sanctions, including visa bans, asset freezes and other measures, against the organizers and perpetrators of the violence and other egregious human rights abuses. Rather than blaming opposition leaders, Yanukovych needs to engage in serious dialogue with them in order to achieve a meaningful political solution that would get Ukraine back on the road to peace, prosperity and democracy. The U.S. and EU should use the available tools at their disposal to contribute to a peaceful resolution of this crisis. The OSCE in particular should employ its resources and mechanisms to monitor and mitigate the serious human rights concerns.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Human Rights in Turkmenistan

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following briefing: Disappeared in Turkmenistan’s Prisons: Are They Still Alive?  Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:00 p.m. Cannon House Office Building Room 122 Ten years ago, the Organization for Cooperation in Europe’s Moscow Mechanism was invoked against Turkmenistan after hundreds were arrested in the wake of an alleged coup attempt. The resulting report detailed the lack of rule of law during the arrest process and subsequent trials, as well as the absence of information about the health and whereabouts of those imprisoned. And despite years of inquiries and a change in regime in Turkmenistan, the fate of many of those who have disappeared into Turkmenistan’s prisons over the past ten years remains unknown. Their families deserve answers, and this briefing will take a new look at these cases. Turkmenistan has been characterized as one of the world’s most repressive countries, with virtually no freedom of expression, association, or assembly. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom again recommended in 2013 that the Secretary of State designate Turkmenistan a “country of particular concern,” and the State Department placed Turkmenistan on its “Tier 2 Watch List” for trafficking in persons - the second lowest category. Imprisonment has been used as a tool for political retaliation against those who do speak out, and Turkmenistan’s prisons – closed to outside monitoring - are notorious for torture, poor conditions, and disease. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Rachel Denber, Deputy Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch Catherine Fitzpatrick, Independent Expert on Eurasia Peter Zalmayev, Director, Eurasia Democracy Initiative Kate Watters, Executive Director, Crude Accountability Boris Shikmuradov, Editor, Gundogar.org

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Welcomes Step Toward Justice in Serbia

    WASHINGTON—Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Representative Christopher H. Smith (NJ-4), Co-Chairman, today issued statements welcoming arrests in Serbia relating to the murder of Dnevni Telegraf editor-in-chief Slavko Curuvija on April 11, 1999. “Slavko Cutuvija was a courageous journalist who was murdered for challenging the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia,” noted Chairman Cardin. “On several occasions, I have publicly called for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice. I commend the Serbian authorities for arresting former security officers for their alleged responsibility, a demonstration of political will to confront a dark period in Serbia’s history. Serbia’s judicial system will hopefully proceed with the next steps in this case and take similarly concrete actions in regard to other outstanding cases from that period, including the murders of the American-citizen Bytyqi brothers in July 1999. Serbia has my full support in that regard.” “Slavko Curuvija testified at a hearing of the Helsinki Commission I chaired just months before he was gunned down outside his apartment in Belgrade,” added Co-Chairman Smith. “His testimony showed that he fully understood the threat he faced.  He said at the hearing: ‘By making an example of me, the regime sends a message to all those who would oppose it... After all his other wars, Slobodan Milosevic appears to be preparing a war against his own people…’ I hope that today’s news of arrests brings comfort, at long last, to the family and friends of Slavko Curuvija.”

  • CARDIN STATEMENT ON THE RELEASE OF MIKHAIL KHORDORKOVSKY

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, released the following statement: "Freeing political prisoners is always a good thing and necessary step. Releasing Mikhail Khodorkovsky and others brings Russia closer to where it should be as a modern European state. It is too early to tell if this could lead to broader reform. For now, I share the joyful anticipation of those who may get to greet 2014 in freedom and the company of loved ones." 

  • OSCE ADOPTS NEW GOALS FOR THE FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    WASHINGTON – Last week in Kyiv the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) adopted an update to its plan to combat trafficking in human beings. It incorporates key elements from proposals launched by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith. “The Addendum updates the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings with the best practices developed in the United States and other OSCE participating States,” said Smith, Co-Chairman of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe,  as well as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues. “The Addendum sets before each OSCE participating State and OSCE institutions themselves a challenging, but achievable way forward in the fight against human trafficking.” Adopted at the 20th OSCE Ministerial Council in Kyiv, the eight-page document builds on the original Action Plan, last updated in 2005, and takes into account lessons learned as well as developments in human trafficking trends over the last eight years. Co-Chairman Smith welcomed in particular the sections of the Addendum that call for anti-trafficking training in the commercial transportation industry, such as airline attendants, train operators, and bus drivers. This and other elements of the new Action Plan were initially promoted within the OSCE by Rep. Smith, who presented them as supplementary items at the annual meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in 2011, 2012, and 2013. “Flight attendants and other commercial transportation employees are well-placed to identify the 600,000 to 800,000 trafficking victims who are moved across international borders and the millions who are moved internally each year, and yet we have failed to train them—until now,” Smith said. “The new Addendum to the Action Plan calls on participating States to fill the training gap and to ensure coordination with law enforcement so that we will not fail to rescue victims who are trafficked in plain sight.” After a 2010 Capitol Hill summit convened by Co-Chairman Smith regarding trafficking on airlines, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security developed and recently released the “Blue Lightning” training to equip U.S. airlines in the fight against human trafficking. Delta Airlines and JetBlue have become the first to implement the program. Airline Ambassadors, a humanitarian non-governmental organization, continues to offer similar training for airlines based in other OSCE participating States. Co-Chairman Smith also welcomed provisions calling on participating States to ensure anti-trafficking training for personnel working in the tourism and hospitality industry. “Hotel personnel are on the front lines to notice something suspicious, such as a young girl alone in a hotel room being visited by men twice her age, or a middle-aged man with the impoverished local child that is not his own.  With proper employee training and law enforcement coordination we can stop traffickers and ‘sex tourists’ from exploiting women and children in hotels and motels,” said Smith. “In addition, participating States can privately warn law enforcement at the destination when known child sex offenders are traveling, potentially for sex tourism,” said Smith, referring to a new provision in the Addendum.  Co-Chairman Smith’s 2013 OSCE PA resolution on the topics can be found here. Smith is the author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-386), the landmark U.S. anti-trafficking law which established the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report (2013 TIP Report), and two subsequent trafficking laws. He is also the co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, and frequently chairs congressional hearings on human trafficking.

  • CARDIN URGES IMMEDIATE ACTION BY UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement: “I am deeply dismayed by yesterday’s decision by Ukrainian authorities to use Interior Ministry troops against peaceful protests in central Kyiv, coming after the already brutal dispersal of protestors last week.   There is no justification for these actions, which, along with other human rights violations, are grossly at odds with Ukraine’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) commitments and a serious blot on Ukraine’s OSCE Chairmanship. I call upon the Ukrainian authorities to take immediate, resolute steps to ensure that freedom of assembly and expression are respected.  “These recent events come against the backdrop of the overall deterioration of human rights and democracy in Ukraine in the last few years.  The U.S., Canada and the EU have spoken out forcefully on these assaults on basic freedoms.  Unless the Ukrainian authorities take concrete actions to improve the situation, the international community should seriously consider undertaking additional measures such as the imposition of targeted sanctions against Ukrainian officials responsible for human rights abuses, including the suppression of peaceful protests.   “I continue to stand with the people of Ukraine in their aspirations for a more democratic future, in which the rule of law and respect for human rights prevail.”

  • Commission Hearing: A Helsinki Process for Northeast Asia

    WASHINGTON - Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following hearing:   "Resolving Crises in East Asia through a New System of Collective Security: the Helsinki Process as a Model" December 11, 2013 2:00 p.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 106 Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, U.S. relations with North Korea have been fraught with insecurity and instability. The threat of nuclear war and persistent reports of nuclear proliferation have often overshadowed the international community’s concerns about the domestic situation in North Korea during multiple famines and horrific reports of pervasive human rights violations. With a new leader in North Korea and no prospects for reviving the long-stalled Six-Party Talks, the international community has few options for effective engagement with North Korea. The Helsinki Process, a multilateral approach to political, economic and human rights issues in Europe since the 1970s, has been credited with enhancing stability during the Cold War and helping to bring about dramatic political, social and economic change in Europe and Eurasia in the decades since. This comprehensive approach to security is often cited as a blueprint for effective engagement that can lead to increased security and a greater respect for human rights elsewhere around the globe. This hearing will examine the situation in East Asia, and the North Korean peninsula in particular, and discuss how a Helsinki-type process might help defuse tensions and promote greater cooperation in Northeast Asia. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Mr. Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy Ms. Karin Lee, Executive Director, The National Committee on North Korea Mr. Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director, Amnesty International        

  • Cardin Urges Ukraine, OSCE Ministers to Act

    WASHINGTON - On the eve of the December 5-6 OSCE Ministerial Council taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement: “As a long-time supporter of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, I am deeply distressed by the recent violence on the streets of Kyiv. The brutal dispersal of peaceful protests and beatings of dozens of journalists constitute serious violations of Ukraine's OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. I am particularly concerned by reports that the whereabouts of more than a dozen protesters cannot be determined. In light of these developments, this is not the time to mince words or engage in obfuscation.  Ministers should take advantage of this opportunity to act in support of Ukrainian democracy. I urge the representatives of the participating States meeting in Kyiv to address these human rights issues in a clear and unequivocal manner.  I commend the representatives of civil society who have met in advance of the Ministerial.  Their voices are critically important for the protection and promotion of human rights and deserve to be heard as part of this meeting. Ukraine should take immediate steps to fulfill the human rights commitments that all the participating States have freely undertaken by investigating reports of excessive use of force by police and thugs and ensuring that freedom of assembly and association are respected. Ukraine should also implement the standards on the protection of journalists embodied in the draft Ministerial Decision that has been shepherded by the Ukrainian chairmanship. Finally, I urge the Ukrainian Government to act on the Civil Society Parallel Conference Appeal to establish an international group of experts on these issues and to follow up in the OSCE under next year’s Chair-in-Office, Switzerland. This would be a singular act of leadership in Ukraine’s final days as Chair of the OSCE. It would also be a meaningful step towards addressing the damage to Ukraine’s reputation and restoring confidence in Ukraine’s long-term commitment to human rights and democracy.”

  • BRIEFING ON EUROPEANS OF AFRICAN DESCENT

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will hold the following briefing today: Europeans of African Descent ‘Black Europeans’: Race, Rights, and Politics Tuesday, November 19 11:00 a.m. Dirksen Senate Office Building Room SDG-50 Throwing bananas and other racist acts targeting Black cabinet-level officials in Italy and France have put a spotlight on the experiences of the 7-10 million people of African Descent in Europe / Black Europeans. A visible minority in Europe often unacknowledged despite a centuries’ long presence in Europe, Black Europeans have increasingly become the targets of discrimination, pernicious racial profiling, and violent hate crimes impacting equal access to housing, employment, education, and justice. Europe today grapples with the complex intersection of national identity, decreasing birth rates, increasing immigration, security concerns, and a rise in extremist political parties and vigilantism. In this context, the experiences of Black Europeans increasingly serve as a measure of the strength of European democracies and commitments to human rights. The briefing will discuss the work of Black European rights organizations and the efforts of the international community to address issues of inequality, discrimination, and inclusion for Black Europeans, in addition to discussing similarities and work with African-American civil rights organizations. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: King C. Asante-Yeboa, President, Africa Center, Ukraine Hedwig Bvumburah, Director, Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF), Malta Salome Mbugua, CEO, AkiDwA, Migrant Women’s Network, Ireland Jallow Momodou, Vice-Chair for European Network Against Racism; Chair, Pan-African Movement for Justice, Sweden Larry Olomoofe, Racism and Xenophobia Advisor, OSCE/ODIHR, Poland Please click here to watch the BET interview with the 10 nation delegation of Black Europeans. Please click here to read the press release introducing Congressman Hasting's Resolution recognizing People of African Descent and Black European Leaders.

  • Cardin Statement on Presidential Election in Azerbaijan

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement in response to the election results announced in Azerbaijan today: “The conduct of the presidential election, as monitored and reported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was deemed to fall far short of its internationally-recognized election standards. The problems stem not only from the ballot stuffing and counting irregularities on election day itself, but also were apparent over the past year as the opposition was continually harassed and detained, and independent media faced severe restrictions on reporting. The Government of Azerbaijan made it clear that it was only interested in going through the motions of a democratic election and not holding a true electoral contest. It’s disappointing to see Azerbaijan waste another opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing democratic progress.”

  • CARDIN STATEMENT ON EXTENSION OF THE IRAQI SIV PROGRAM

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) released the following statement on final passage of legislation to extend the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program: “I am pleased that members of the United States Congress have come together to save our Iraqi allies by enacting an extension of the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program which expired at midnight on Monday. The bill extends the program through the end of December 2013 in order to allow the continued processing of the thousands of pending SIV applications, most of which have been in the pipeline for more than two years. This backlog must be resolved. The legislation also provides for an additional 2,000 visas. “While I am grateful for this extension, I am extremely concerned about our government’s ability to finish processing the pending applications in three months. Since 2003, thousands of brave Iraqis have risked their lives to serve as interpreters for our soldiers, aides to our diplomats and in support of U.S.-led efforts to rebuild their country. Since its inception in 2008, the program has only resulted in approval of approximately 6,000 of its 25,000 allocated visas, and our Iraqi allies have waited an average of two to three years to receive their SIVs – many of them in hiding or on the run. Others have made the ultimate sacrifice for their service.  “I urge the State Department and its partner agencies to take advantage of this extension and redouble their efforts to ensure that all of our Iraqi allies receive safe passage to the United States as they have been promised.”

  • CHAIRMAN CARDIN ON OPENING OF EUROPE’S LARGEST HUMAN RIGHTS MEETING

    WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) released the following statement in advance of meetings in Warsaw, Poland, of the participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). From September 23-October 4, representatives will gather for a Human Dimension Implementation Meeting to discuss the participating States’ compliance with the full range of their OSCE human dimension commitments. There will be a special focus on freedom of religion or belief, elections, and freedoms of assembly and association. "I am pleased that representatives of the 57 OSCE participating States are meeting in Warsaw to discuss the human rights commitments all of our countries have freely adopted by consensus. Most importantly, this meeting stands out for the opportunity it affords civil society to be heard. At a time when independent nongovernmental organizations are under threat in so many OSCE countries, it is critical that this human rights meeting preserves the opportunity for NGOs to participate fully,” Senator Cardin said. “I am encouraged that the United States is bringing a robust delegation to this meeting, headed by Ambassador Robert Bradtke and joined by the newly confirmed U.S. Head of Mission to the OSCE Ambassador Daniel Baer. I hope the U.S. delegation will encourage Ukraine to enhance its credentials as OSCE Chair-in-Office by releasing imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and undertaking other measures to reverse selective justice and strengthen the rule of law.” The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: OSCE Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking: Outlook and Opportunities Tuesday, September 17, 2013 10:00 am Dirksen Senate Office Building, SD-106 The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has emerged as the premier regional organization in the Northern Hemisphere coordinating institutional responses to human trafficking.  This work has touched all corners of the OSCE region, now comprising 57 participating States and 11 Partner States in the Mediterranean and Asia.  OSCE leadership has been accomplished through the cutting-edge research, policy recommendations, country visits, and expert training led by the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (SR/CTHB) Dr. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro.  The Office of the SR/CTHB has been instrumental in the implementation of projects and field activities in coordination with thematic units of the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna, Austria, as well as the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw, Poland.  Additionally, the SR/CTHB’s prominence in this field stems from leadership of the “Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons,” a vast coordinating body for major international organizations, civil society, and the intergovernmental entities united in fighting human trafficking.  The hearing will examine the role and mandate of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Trafficking in Human Beings and her leadership of efforts to combat modern day slavery in the OSCE region. Dr. Giammarinaro will review the accomplishments of her tenure as SR/CTHB and identify future challenges and perspectives for OSCE action, including the outlook for an update of the OSCE Action Plan on Trafficking in Human Beings and subsequent OSCE commitments.               Scheduled to testify: Dr. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking and Human Beings

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD BRIEFING ON THE NEW SILK ROAD

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following briefing: The New Silk Road Strategy: Implications for Economic Development in Central Asia Wednesday, July 31, 2013 2:00 p.m. Cannon House Office Building, Room 340 As the United States prepares to leave Afghanistan, questions remain about what the impact will be, not only in Afghanistan, but also in its neighboring countries. To assist Afghanistan’s economic development, the U.S. Government has accelerated efforts to integrate Afghanistan with the economies of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and has built a framework for sustainable economic growth in the region modeled after the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.  There are many questions, however, about the ability of these governments to create the necessary conditions for more trade and exchange, including infrastructure development, efficient customs regimes and reliable transportation networks. The deep political divisions in this region that prevent collaboration on basic necessities such as water and electricity are also hindrances to building greater economic cooperation. To address these and related issues, we have invited a panel of experts to discuss the current situation and the future outlook for economic development along the New Silk Road. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Craig Steffenson, North America Representative, Asian Development Bank Danica Starks, Senior Desk Officer for Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia, U.S. Department of Commerce Eric Stewart, Executive Director, U.S.-Turkmen Business Council Joshua Kucera, Freelance journalist and analyst

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO SCREEN AWARD-WINNING FILM AGE OF DELIRIUM

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following screening and discussion: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 2:30 p.m. Cannon House Office Building, Room 210 Age of Delirium, produced by Russia scholar and former Moscow correspondent David Satter, chronicles the fall of the Soviet Union through the personal stories of those who lived this momentous transformation. The film is based on Satter's book, Age of Delirium: the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union acclaimed by the Virginia Quarterly Review as, "the finest or one of the finest psychological portraits of Russia in the 1970s and 1980s.” Delirium received the prestigious 2013 Van Gogh Grand Jury Award at the Amsterdam Film Festival and has been screened in Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand. Participants: David Satter, Russia scholar and former Moscow correspondent Kevin Klose, President and CEO, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD BRIEFING ON AZERBAIJAN

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following briefing: Troubled Partner: Growing Authoritarianism in Azerbaijan Tuesday, July 16, 2013 2:00 p.m. Capitol Visitor Center, Senate Room 201-00 The United States and Azerbaijan have many shared interests and cooperate on many issues, including energy and regional security.  There is growing concern, however, about the current political situation in Azerbaijan.  Trends include reported intimidation, arrests, and use of force against journalists and human rights activists; tough new NGO registration requirements; legal restrictions on the Internet, including criminalizing online “libel” and “abuse”; restrictions on freedom of assembly, forceful dispersion of unsanctioned protests, detention of demonstrators; and unfair administration of justice, including arbitrary arrest and detention, politically motivated imprisonment, lack of due process, lengthy pre-trial detention, and executive interference in the judiciary. Azerbaijan will hold a presidential election in October of this year.  This briefing is an opportunity to discuss current events in Azerbaijan and the prospects for a free and fair election. The following witnesses are scheduled to participate: Mr. Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State Mr. Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Dr. Samad Seyidov, Chairman of the International and Inter-Parliamentary Relations Committee, National Assembly of Azerbaijan Mr. Eldar Namavoz, Leader of the "EL" Movement, Head of the Executive Office of the National Council of Democratic Forces of Azerbaijan Mr. Erkin Gadirli, Chairman of the Assembly, Republican Alternative (ReAl) Dr. Miriam Lanskoy, Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy This event is open to the public. Room SVC 201-00 is located on the Senate side of the Capitol Visitor Center. You may enter on the north side, below the East Plaza of the Capitol between Constitution and Independence Avenues (across the street from the Supreme Court). The closest metro stop is Capitol South (orange or blue line). Please allow adequate time to clear through the security check. On the lower level, visitors will need to show a picture ID at the Senate appointment desk before proceeding to the Senate rooms. Map of the Capitol: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/visit/us_capitol_map/index.html Map of the Visitor Center: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/visit/visitor_center_map/index.html

  • CARDIN, MCCAIN LAUD ADMINISTRATION’S HUMAN RIGHTS NOMINATION

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (MD) and John McCain (AZ) released the following statement today on President Obama’s nomination of Human Rights Watch’s Tom Malinowski to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: “We applaud President Obama’s nomination of Tom Malinowski to become the next Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Tom is widely respected for the indispensable role he has played in defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms, from ending torture to advancing democracy and the rule of law. Tom is the right choice to help lead America’s support of its values, and we hope the Senate will move forward to confirm him as soon as possible. We look forward to working with him as the newest member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission." Senators Cardin and McCain are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

  • CHAIRMAN CARDIN ON SENATE INTELLIGENCE REPORT, INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) released the following statement today: “June 26 is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, commemorating the date in 1987 when the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force. On this occasion, I commend the organizations devoted to the care and healing of torture survivors, in the United States and around the globe. In my work with the Helsinki Commission, I have felt it is important to stand up for the prohibition against torture enshrined in the UN convention, and I have chaired and participated in multiple hearings examining the status and treatment of detainees. I welcome the measures undertaken by President Obama immediately after his election to ensure that abusive practices were ended. But there is another step I believe the United States must now take: the release of the Senate intelligence report on detention and interrogation practices. That report has been sent to various government agencies for comment as part of a process that I hope will ultimately lead to the release of a declassified version.  I urge the White House to play a leadership role in this process and provide the American people with a full and transparent record of practices that were undertaken in their name. This action will strengthen the ability of the United States to play a leadership role as a worldwide advocate for human rights.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Syrian Refugees

    WASHINGTON - Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following hearing: Fleeing to Live: Syrian Refugees in the OSCE Region Thursday, June 13, 2013 2:00 p.m. 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building This hearing will focus on the more than 1.6 million Syrian civilians who have fled the ongoing violence in their country, their impact on the countries that are hosting them, and international efforts to support these refugees as well as the more than 5 million Syrians who are displaced in their own country. The countries that have opened their borders, and in many cases their homes, to the Syrian refugees include Turkey, an OSCE participating State; Jordan, an OSCE Mediterranean Partner Country; and Lebanon, a country that has been historically engaged in the OSCE process. OSCE Partner Egypt and Iraq have been impacted by this crisis as well.  The United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that by the end of 2013 there will be one million refugees each in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.  After more than two years, a resolution to the conflict remains elusive and the suffering of the Syrian people continues unabated. The hearing will examine the U.S. and international response to this unprecedented and expanding humanitarian crisis that threatens to destabilize the entire region.   The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of State Michel Gabaudan, President, Refugees International Jana Mason, Senior Advisor for Government Relations, UNHCR Washington Regional Office Yassar Bittar, Government Relations and Advocacy Associate, Coalition for a Democratic Syria

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