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

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  • 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

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON OSCE’S OFFICE FOR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

    WASHINGTON -The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: Accomplishments and Challenges Tuesday, May 21, 2013  2:30 p.m. Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 210/212 (Senate Side) Scheduled to testify: Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) For over two decades, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has been at the forefront of efforts to promote human rights and democracy throughout the OSCE region, now comprising 57 countries. Although probably best known for its election observation work, ODIHR conducts many other activities including reviewing countries’ legislation to ensure it is in accordance with international standards, strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders, assisting governments in combating hate crimes, working to strengthen independent judicial systems, and developing guidelines to support protection of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. The hearing will examine the unique role played by ODIHR, its contribution to strengthening human rights, and the challenges it faces. Among the issues expected to be discussed include: crackdowns on civil society in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union; anti-Semitism and discrimination in the OSCE region; challenges faced by Roma in various countries; recent and upcoming election observations; and protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism.  This event is open to the public. Room SVC 210-212 is located on the Senate side of the Capitol Visitor Center, the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol.  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 CALLS FOR END TO VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS ON WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

    WASHINGTON - On World Press Freedom Day, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) called for an end to violence against journalists, highlighting four murders from the 57-country OSCE region: “A free and independent media is one of the cornerstones of the commitments adopted by the 57 participating States in the OSCE. But in too many places, journalists continue to face harassment, threats, intimidation, and violence. In the worst places, journalists have been murdered and their attackers go without punishment. The risks are especially great for investigative reporters who seek to expose corruption and human rights abuses. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the April 1999 murder of prominent Serbian journalist and editor Slavko Curuvija, who testified before the Helsinki Commission on the abuses of the Milosevic regime just months before his death. In February, the government in Belgrade established a commission to investigate the deaths of Curuvija and other journalists.  I hope that this initiative will result in a long over-due measure of accountability. It has been six years since the murder of 26-year old Alisher Saipov, a Kyrgyzstani journalist who had started an Uzbek-language newspaper and contributed to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty before being gunned down in Osh.  Last year, Kyrgyzstan’s highest court ordered a new investigation in the case. I also urge Ukrainian authorities to ensure that there is a thorough investigation into the murder of Vladimir Goncharenko, editor of the environmental security newspaper EKO Bezpeka.   Goncharenko was beaten to death in July 2012 but his assailants have not yet been brought to justice. Russia remains, by any accounting, the deadliest place for journalists in the OSCE region.  On April 8, journalist Mikhail Beketov died of complications stemming from a 2008 beating that left him a multiple amputee, in a wheelchair, and unable to speak. A community organizer and editor of a small newspaper in Russia, Beketov challenged local authorities and the corruption surrounding a controversial plan to construct a highway through the popular old-growth forest on the outskirts of Moscow in the city of Khimki. In 2007, shortly after calling for the resignation of the Khimki administration, his dog was killed and his car set on fire. Undaunted, Beketov continued reporting until his voice was silenced forever by assailants with baseball bats. Adding insult to grave injury, Vladimir Strelchenko, mayor of Khimki and a suspect in the beating, won a defamation case in 2010 against Beketov. And even in death, Khimki authorities sought to thwart Beketov’s desire to be buried in the town he loved. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this heartbreaking crime against Mikhail Beketov and the people he sought to inform. Finally, I commend the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, for her sharp focus, timely reporting and efforts to protect a free and independent press.  Her frank periodic assessments to the participating States will help ensure that these cases are not forgotten.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on OSCE with Ukraine's Foreign Minister

    The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: Ukraine’s Leadership of the OSCE Wednesday, May 8, 2013  2:00 pm Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562 Scheduled to testify: His Excellency Leonid Kozhara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Chair-in-Office of the OSCE Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara, will testify before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in his capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The hearing takes place one-third of the way through Ukraine’s 2013 chairmanship of the 57-country OSCE, an organization based in Vienna Austria, and best known for its work in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Minister Kozhara is expected to discuss the Chairmanship’s priorities and provide insights regarding the ongoing work of the OSCE. Ukraine’s Chairmanship faces formidable tasks in leading an organization that operates on the basis of consensus and includes countries ranging from democracies to dictatorships.  The Ukrainian Chairmanship’s priorities include finding new ways to address protracted regional conflicts, energy security, and human dimension issues such as human trafficking, media freedom, tolerance, democratic elections and efforts to improve implementation of commitments regarding fundamental human rights and freedoms.       

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON ALBANIA

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today announced the following hearing: Democracy in Albania: the Pace of Progress Monday, May 6, 2013 3:00 p.m. Capitol Visitor Center, Senate Room 210-212 Prior to 1991, Albania was ruled by one of the communist world’s most repressive regimes and was the only country in Europe refusing to participate in the Helsinki process.  In the two decades since, the country made enormous strides to become a democratic state where human rights are respected and to become an active participant in European affairs, including as a member of the NATO Alliance since 2009. Despite this progress, Albania continues to struggle in building its democratic institutions and practices, including respect for the rule of law.  As Albania prepares for parliamentary elections in June, this hearing hopes to assess the degree to which progress has begun to fall short of expectations at home and abroad, and what can be done to accelerate the pace of further reforms related to good governance. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State Gilbert Galanxhi, Ambassador of Albania to the United States of America Elez Biberaj, Director, Eurasia Division, Voice of America Besa Shahini, Senior Analyst, European Stability Initiative This event is open to the public. Room SVC 210-212 is located on the Senate side of the Capitol Visitor Center, the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol.  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 ON INTERNATIONAL ROMA DAY

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) released the following statement today: “I welcome the observation of International Roma Day as a time to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and contributions of Romani people around the globe. Here in the United States, celebrations, seminars, and events will be held from San Francisco, California, to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here in Washington, I look forward to meeting with Romani Americans later this week to hear their views. “Unfortunately, April 8th also puts a spotlight on the continuing struggles of Romani people, who are Europe's largest ethnic minority. Throughout the OSCE region, Roma continue to face pernicious discrimination in education, employment, and housing.  In some countries, these conditions are combined with escalating extremism, resulting in potentially combustible environments. I am particularly concerned by threats of mob violence that have plagued some Romani communities – a dangerous situation that was the focus of a Helsinki Commission hearing last year. “As noted in World Bank studies, some European countries are losing hundreds of millions of Euros annually in lost productivity and fiscal contributions to governments as a result of the extreme economic and social marginalization of Roma. I welcome the efforts undertaken by the OSCE to protect and promote the basic human rights of the Romani people which must be an essential part of any effort to reverse the devastating costs of non-inclusion.” Background: International Roma Day is held annually to celebrate Romani culture, foster  discussion of the situation of Roma, and raise awareness regarding human right abuses against the Romani people. April 8th was first celebrated as “International Roma Day” in 1990 to mark the anniversary of the historic World Romani Congress held near London in 1971. 

  • CHAIRMAN CARDIN’S STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

    WASHINGTON - Today, the Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: “As incidents of racial discrimination continue to plague the OSCE region, I call on world leaders to come together to do more. Last year the OSCE was poised to adopt a Ministerial Decision to strengthen efforts to combat racism and xenophobia that would have furthered North American and European efforts to address the problem. Not only is a revival of that agreement needed, but also a global effort that capacitates governments, the civil society, and private sector to address racism, prejudice, and discrimination. As our countries become more diverse, the stabilities of our democracies, economies, and security will likewise become dependent on strengthening policies that support inclusion and capitalize on diversity alongside anti-discrimination policies.”   “With the focus of this year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Racism in Sport, I am reminded that a focus on anti-discrimination and diversity issues in the management of sports has been instrumental in curbing ethnic and gender biases not only in the sports arena, but also wider society in my own country. Additionally, a 2011 OSCE meeting on the topic revealed heightened incidents of discrimination experienced by persons of African descent in sport, including monkey chants in soccer stadiums, stereotypes of enhanced athletic ability, exclusion from leadership opportunities, and being targets of violent hate crimes around sporting events. This issue in addition to continuing manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia displayed at soccer and other sporting events must be addressed.”   “Continuing discrimination against Roma, the rise of xenophobic political platforms, and almost daily racist incidents in sport, are a constant reminder that the global community has more work to do in this area. As we commemorate this year's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I echo the words of the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in supporting the creation of a global fund to fight intolerance and foster inclusion. Providing the necessary funding is a way the global community can effectively move beyond words to actions to eradicate this problem be it in sports or other sectors of our societies.”     The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21, following the UN General Assembly’s 1966 recognition of the deaths of 69 demonstrators protesting apartheid in South Africa killed by police on March 21, 1960.

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON HUNGARY

    WASHINGTON - Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following hearing: The Trajectory of Democracy – Why Hungary Matters Tuesday, March 19, 2013 3:00 p.m.   Capitol Visitor Center, Room SVC 210 (Senate side) Over the past two years, Hungary has instituted sweeping and controversial changes, prompting the European Commission and Council of Europe jointly to express concern regarding the rule of law in Hungary. Concerns about the erosion of democratic safeguards in Hungary have coincided with a rise in extremism. This hearing will examine Hungary’s constitutional changes with a particular view to the independence of the judiciary, present-day Hungary’s relationship to its Holocaust-era past, and the implications of Hungary’s sweeping legal changes for civil society, including an independent media and religious organizations. Scheduled to testify: **Mr. Brent Hartley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State **The Honorable Jozsef Szajer, Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union Dr. Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton University Ms. Sylvana Habdank-Kolaczkowska, Freedom House Dr. Paul A. Shapiro, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • CHAIRMAN CARDIN MOURNS THE PASSING OF AMBASSADOR MAX M. KAMPELMAN

    WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement today: It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Ambassador Max Kampelman, long-time friend of the Helsinki Commission and a champion of human rights and democracy.  Ambassador Kampelman had a long and storied career spanning more than half a century, and the Helsinki Commission was fortunate to have worked with him as a partner during many of those years. Max Kampelman led U.S. negotiating teams during some of the most difficult periods of U.S.-Soviet relations.  Whether he was working for the release of Soviet refuseniks or imprisoned Solidarity trade unionists in Poland, his calm and understated demeanor covered a resolve of steel and set of principles that never wavered from true north. His contributions to the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals were considerable, but he is owed a special debt of gratitude for his stewardship of the U.S. team in 1990 in Copenhagen.  As head of the delegation to that historic human rights meeting, he played a pivotal role in securing agreement on the first international instrument to recognize the specific problem of anti-Semitism and the human rights problems faced by Roma.  Moreover, at a moment when Europe stood at a crossroads, Max Kampelman negotiated standards on democracy and the rule of law that remain unmatched. It was a privilege for me and so many of my colleagues to work with a great and good man, whose example reminded us every day:  this is what leadership looks like.

  • HELSINKI COMMISSION BRIEFING: THE STATE-SANCTIONED MARGINALIZATION OF CHRISTIANS IN WESTERN EUROPE

    WASHINGTON —The Helsinki Commission hosted a briefing in Washington, D.C. on “The State-Sanctioned Marginalization of Christians in Western Europe” in order to look more closely at recent reports and studies showing an alarming rise in social and governmental hostility toward religion in general—and Christianity in particular—in Western Europe. This briefing follows seminars on the same topic held in the European Parliament and by the OSCE in Vienna and Rome. The Helsinki Commission was briefed by Professor Tom Farr, Dr. Roger Trigg, and Roger Kiska. Professor Tom Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, noted a three-year Pew Forum study that shows “of all the regions of the world, social hostilities toward religion are rising most rapidly, not in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, but in Europe.” The study ranks the United Kingdom 17th out of 200 countries in social hostilities toward religion. Germany was ranked 23rd and France 25th. Professor Farr explained that these countries also showed significant increases in government restrictions on religion: “Between 2007 and 2010 government restrictions in the UK increased by 63%, in France by 20%, and in Germany by 23%.” Professor Farr underscored how the current state of affairs is in tension with Europe’s history as the intellectual birthplace of religious freedom, as well as with its commitment to democracy. Dr. Roger Trigg, Academic Director, Kellogg Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Oxford University and Associate Scholar of Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University noted with concern the growing European trend to pit human rights against religious freedom. He observed that the English courts are now, through the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the Equality Act of 2010, placing “more importance on ‘equality,’ and tend to enforce non-discrimination on grounds of race, sex, and sexual orientation, rather than because of religion.” Dr. Trigg emphasized that, historically, Britain and the United States did not “see religion on the one hand, human rights on the other,” but rather “rights as growing out of religion”—particularly the right to equality. “We are equal because we are equal in the sight of God. We are free because God has given us free will,” Dr. Trigg explained.    Roger Kiska, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has intervened in four religious freedom cases from the UK currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights, noted that in all four cases, “the applicants…were fired or pushed out of their jobs because they sought reasonable accommodations for their religious beliefs where such accommodations were fairly de minimus and absolutely no business hardship would have occurred.”  Kiska also noted the censorship of the cross and other religious symbols from the public square, growing restrictions on parental rights in the area of the education of their children, and limitation on free expression—including religious expression—through “hate speech” laws.             The full transcript of the briefing can be found on the Helsinki Commission Web site. 

  • CHAIRMAN SMITH RESPONDS TO BRITISH GOVERNMENT RELEASE OF FINUCANE REPORT

    WASHINGTON —In response to the release today of Sir Desmond de Silva’s report on his review of papers relating to the 1989 murder in Northern Ireland of human rights attorney Patrick Finucane, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), released the following statement: The release of this report in no way fulfills the British government’s promise, which it freely undertook in the 2001 Weston Park Agreement, to conduct a public inquiry regarding collusion in the Finucane murder if so recommended by former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory.  Justice Cory formally recommended such an inquiry in 2004. Since that time the British government has delayed. It has changed its law on public inquiries, so as to give it political control over what in 2001 was a judicial process. It has insulted the Finucane family by calling to London, for a meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, the widow of the man in whose death it admits shocking collusion, only to tell her it will not fulfill its promise. To his credit, the Prime Minister has apologized. But to acknowledge such a serious official crime, yet to say that there will not be an independent judicial investigation nor will those ultimately responsible for this crime be punished, is a grotesque injustice. The British government is a respected friend and ally, yet Sir Desmond de Silva’s document review is in no sense the equivalent of, or substitute for, the public inquiry that was promised in 2001. A public judicial inquiry is owed to the Finucane family and to the people of Northern Ireland. It is a solemn promise, and remains critical to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Time is important in bringing closure to all, and the net effect of the review of papers has been a year’s further delay. Once again I urge Prime Minister Cameron to call a public inquiry now as a demonstration of his personal commitment to justice.  Rep. Smith has chaired 13 congressional hearings on the Northern Ireland justice and peace process, many of them focusing on issues of police reform and government collusion in the crimes of paramilitary organizations. Four of Rep. Smith’s bills and resolutions have been passed addressing the British government’s role in the murder of Pat Finucane, most recently H. Con. Res. 20 (110th Congress).

  • GOOD GOVERNANCE DECLARATION STRENGTHENS OSCE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION AND TERRORISM

    WASHINGTON —At the Dublin Ministerial Council meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on December 7, the 57 participating States of the organization agreed to pursue greater cooperation in combating corruption and fighting terrorism in the OSCE region. “This declaration is a step toward more effective good governance programs, which will promote greater security and rule of law throughout the OSCE region. Particularly worthwhile is the declaration’s emphasis on preventing criminals from transferring money and on freedom of information in public procurement transactions,” said Representative Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission). “It is only unfortunate that, for the second year in a row, the organization wasn’t able to achieve necessary consensus for a declaration pertaining to human rights, such as media freedom.” “This declaration is important to the work of the OSCE because for the first time we have a comprehensive document that provides a framework for the OSCE’s work in combating corruption,” said Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission, “and I am particularly pleased that in this declaration the participating States have acknowledged the importance of transparency in combating corruption and specifically called out the work of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). I also want to thank fellow Commissioner and Commerce Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez, who played an integral role in developing and advancing this declaration across the finish line.” “Reinforcing the OSCE’s commitment to good governance and the fight against corruption is essential to attracting investment, driving economic growth, and promoting trade in the OSCE region,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael Camuñez, who concurrently serves as an Executive Branch Commissioner on the U.S. Helsinki Commission. Camuñez, who has helped elevate the Commission’s engagement on the Economic and Environmental Dimension of the OSCE, said “This declaration will also empower the OSCE field missions to assist participating States in their good governance commitments to help promote greater transparency and the rule of law in the region.”  The declaration, formally titled, “Ministerial Council declaration on Strengthening Good Governance and Combating Corruption, Money-Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism,” is one of five declarations agreed to by consensus of the participating States in Dublin. The declaration recognizes the role that good governance plays in furthering “economic growth, political stability, and security,” and calls on the OSCE to play a greater role in fostering good governance through increased efforts in combating corruption and money laundering. Achieving the declaration has been a priority for the Commission and benefited from the active participation of Commissioner Camuñez in pushing forward the concept of good governance within the OSCE.

  • U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD BRIEFING ON STATE-SANCTIONED MARGINALIZATION OF CHRISTIANS IN WESTERN EUROPE

    WASHINGTON –The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following briefing: The State-Sanctioned Marginalization of Christians in Western Europe Monday, December 10, 2012 2:00 pm Room B318 Rayburn House Office Building Reports from Western Europe raise the question whether it has become an increasingly hostile place for Christian religious practice or presence outside the four walls of a church – and whether  governments are involved in or support the marginalization of Christians.  Most prominent was the 2004 case in which the European Union openly denied Italian Minister for European Politics Rocco Buttiglione a position as European Commissioner due to his adherence to Catholic moral teaching.  Reports also indicate that the marginalization of Christians occurs through subtle changes in law and policy that drive Christian expression off the public square or signal that Christians are not welcome on the square. In recent months four British Christians filed petitions with the European Court of Human Rights after they were denied reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace first by their respective employers, and then by the UK courts.  This briefing will examine reports of the Western European movement toward state-sanctioned marginalization of Christians. It will further analyze the origins, methods, and implications of such a movement and its relation to religious freedom rights as they are protected in major international human rights agreements. The Following Witnesses are scheduled to Present: Roger Kiska, Legal Counsel, Aliance Defending Freedom (Vienna, Austria) Professor Tom Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University Dr. Roger Trigg, Academic Director, Kellogg Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Oxford University and Associate Scholar, Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University

  • CHAIRMAN SMITH WELCOMES MONGOLIA INTO THE OSCE

    WASHINGTON — Welcoming Mongolia’s successful application to join the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a participating State, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation (U.S. Helsinki Commission), said, “Mongolia has been an active partner with the OSCE as an Asian Partner for Cooperation since 2004 and by establishing a framework for cooperation with like-minded countries such as Mongolia, the OSCE is able to further its mandate particularly in addressing security threats and conflict prevention. We congratulate Mongolia for not only its accomplishments to date, including joining the OSCE, but also for its aspirations of strengthening its democratic development.” Mongolia became the OSCE’s 57th participating State on November 21. The OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization, working to ensure peace, democracy and stability for more than a billion people in Europe, Asia and North America. The decision to welcome Mongolia into the Organization was taken by consensus among the other participating States.

  • HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD BRIEFING ON UKRAINE

    WASHINGTON —Today the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) announced the following briefing: Assessing Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections Friday, November 16, 2012 10 am – 11:30 am Room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building The OSCE and United States assessed Ukraine’s October 28 parliamentary elections as representing a step backwards compared with recent national elections and lacking a level playing field. Voters had a choice between distinct parties and the voting and counting were largely positively assessed, but the counts and tabulation in some closely contested single-mandate districts were problematic. While the ruling party along with Communist allies retains a majority, opposition parties displayed a strong showing, winning the party-list vote in Ukraine’s hybrid system. Experts from three key organizations working on the ground will examine the conduct and results of the election and their implications for Ukraine’s democratic future.  The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Olha Ajvazovska, Board Chair, Ukrainian citizen network OPORA Katie Fox, Deputy Director-Eurasia, National Democratic Institute (NDI) Stephen Nix, Regional Director, Eurasia, International Republican Institute (IRI)

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