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  • Helsinki Commission: U.S. Will Not Recognize Russia’s Dismemberment of Georgia

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), held a hearing on Russia’s armed intervention into the Republic of Georgia. The hearing entitled, “Russia, Georgia, and the Return of Power Politics,” examined the implications for U.S-Russian relations and the European security infrastructure. Chairman Hastings commented during the hearing, “We today inhabit a world much changed since August 7. Until now, Russia has been seen as a status quo power. With its actions in Georgia, which aim not merely to protect its client breakaway regions but to disarm Georgia, damage its economy and, if possible, effect regime change, Russia has become a revisionist state. The post-Cold War settlement is in question and may be definitively over.” Co-Chairman Cardin noted, “Since 2000, the Russian state has relentlessly whittled away Georgian society’s freedom of expression and ability to maneuver politically. We now see aggressiveness abroad accompanying repression at home. It also is a real possibility that Moscow’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will stimulate other non-Russian peoples inside the Federation to campaign for independence, causing Moscow to possibly resort to a harder line. This could further erode chances for Russia’s democratization, in which we all have a powerful stake.” Expert testimony was received from Mr. Matthew J. Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Department of State; The Honorable David Bakradze, Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia and Former Foreign Minister; Mr. Paul Saunders, Executive Director, the Nixon Center; and Mr. Paul A. Goble, Director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku and a former USG official. On September 9, Chairman Hastings introduced the “Republic of Georgia Enhanced Trade Assistance, Economic Recovery, and Reconstruction Act of 2008,” (H.R. 6851), which authorizes an expansion of trade, business and economic opportunities and assistance for reconstruction efforts and economic recovery. The legislation was introduced in response to the August 2008 war between Georgia and the Russian Federation, in which Russia destroyed critical infrastructure, disrupted domestic and regional commerce and devastated homes in villages and towns, causing the internal displacement of tens of thousands of people. Chairman Hastings’ opening statement: “In Russia’s August 2008 invasion of Georgia, we have witnessed a war between two OSCE states – the very contingency the Helsinki Process was designed to prevent, by basing relations among states on principles that preclude the use of force to resolve disputes. “The human cost of this war has been terrible. Hundreds of people on both sides were killed. I extend my condolences to families of all the victims. “For Georgia, this war has been a disaster. The country already had hundreds of thousands of displaced people from conflicts in the early 1990s. Now there are scores of thousands more to care for – not to mention the consequences of military defeat, Russia’s destruction of Georgian military and economic infrastructure and the stationing of troops around so-called security zones and strategic points, like the port of Poti. Most ominously, Russia’s victory on the battlefield has allowed it to dismember Georgia. “In looking at the origins of this conflict, it seems to me that Russia’s leaders set an ingenious trap into which Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili fell. But however you assign responsibility, it is clear from Russian actions that Moscow turned what it characterized as a “protective operation” into a punitive war against a small country that appeared to be integrating itself into Western institutions and hoped to join NATO. “The implications extend far beyond Georgia or the Caucasus. On August 26th, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. With this fateful step Moscow rejected Georgia’s territorial integrity, which Russia had hitherto acknowledged, thereby threatening to upend the entire international system. “Russia’s actions have won hurrahs from the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah but very few credible international actors. Obviously, the United States and European Union refused to follow Moscow’s lead. But more telling has been Moscow’s failure to round up support even among its neighbors and ostensible allies. Their nuanced statements and especially support for the principle of territorial integrity are sober testament to the danger they feel personally – and their grim understanding that the ground under their feet has shifted. “Indeed, we today inhabit a world much changed since August 1. Until now, Russia has been seen as a status quo power. With its actions in Georgia, which aim not merely to protect its client breakaway regions but to disarm Georgia, damage its economy and, if possible, effect regime change, Russia has become a revisionist state. The post-Cold War settlement is in question and may be definitively over. “To drive the point home, last week President Medvedev declared that Russia will defend its citizens abroad and claimed regions of privileged interests in neighboring states with which Moscow has historically had special relations. In effect, ladies and gentlemen, the Kremlin is openly proclaiming its right to spheres of influence on the territory of former Soviet Republics – and who knows where else? I am struck by the brazen bellicosity of this policy: Russia thinks it has the right to exert influence over its neighbors not by the attraction of ideas, the lure of capital or the power of positive example but the domination of sheer force. “This is the law of the jungle, not the rule of law. It goes without saying that the United States rejects this flagrant power grab. We will not recognize Russia’s dismemberment of Georgia or its trampling on the fundamental proposition that States must retain the right to freely choose their own alliances. The Bush Administration has already announced plans to provide $1 billion in emergency assistance to Georgia. Along with my fellow lawmakers, I will work to speed the passage of legislation to supplement this assistance.” Co-Chairman Cardin’s opening statement: “If much remains unclear about the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, we can already conclude that it marks a major concern in East-West relations and relations between Russia and her neighbors. “Most of the world has rightly condemned Moscow’s policies. But they appear to have brought political dividends at home, where Russia’s military victory has been greeted by public approval, accentuated by outbursts of xenophobic bluster. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of state control of the media, which the Kremlin has inexorably implemented since 2000. “In that connection, let me note one implication of this war which has received too little attention. Since 2000, the Russian state has relentlessly whittled away Georgian society’s freedom of expression and ability to maneuver politically. We now see aggressiveness abroad accompanying repression at home. It also is a real possibility that Moscow’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will stimulate other non-Russian peoples inside the Federation to campaign for independence, causing Moscow to possibly resort to a harder line. This could further erode chances for Russia’s democratization, in which we all have a powerful stake. “President Medvedev says Moscow is not afraid of anything, including a new Cold War. I sincerely hope that is not where we are heading. But the next U.S. president, whoever he is, will certainly face a much more truculent Russia than his two predecessors. “This hearing offers us the opportunity to look at ways that we can constructively engage Russia making it clear that its military actions cannot be condoned.”  

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing on the Regional Implications for a Mediterranean Union

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), will hold a hearing entitled, “Regional Implications of a Mediterranean Union: OSCE Mediterranean Partners Perspectives,” on Monday, September 15 at 2:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will focus on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal for a Mediterranean Union, formally known as The Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean. The proposal, introduced on July 13 at a summit of European Union (EU) and Mediterranean leaders in Paris, would reinvigorate the 1995 Barcelona Process and establish a more structured European-Mediterranean partnership. Witnesses will examine the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mediterranean Partner perspective on the Union for the Mediterranean, the Paris Summit, as well as regional implications of the proposed mechanism within the context of OSCE commitments. OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation include: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

  • Hastings Introduces Legislation to Aid the Republic of Georgia

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), introduced the “Republic of Georgia Enhanced Trade Assistance, Economic Recovery, and Reconstruction Act of 2008.” The legislation is in response to the August 2008 war between Georgia and the Russian Federation, in which Russia destroyed critical infrastructure, disrupted domestic and regional commerce and devastated homes in villages and towns, causing the internal displacement of tens of thousands of people. Chairman Hastings’ legislation authorizes an expansion of trade, business and economic opportunities and assistance for reconstruction efforts and economic recovery. “I condemn Russia’s armed intervention into Georgia and the subsequent destruction of critical infrastructure. It is clear that Russia has defied virtually every principle of the Helsinki Final Act, from respect for sovereignty, refraining from the threat or use of force and inviolability of frontiers to territorial integrity of States, peaceful settlement of disputes and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Chairman Hastings. “I will work with my colleagues in Congress toward a speedy passage of legislation to fund Georgia’s economic recovery. Georgia is a key strategic partner of the United States and therefore we must assist the Georgian people in their time of need.”

  • Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Upcoming Elections in Belarus

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), will hold a hearing entitled, “Business as Usual? Belarus on the Eve of Elections,” on Tuesday, September 16 at 2:30 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine the state of democracy and human rights in Belarus and how the Belarusian authorities are complying with their election commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in advance of the September 28 parliamentary elections. Last month, authorities released Belarus’ most prominent political prisoner, Alexander Kozulin, and two others, fulfilling a key demand of the United States and European Union. This, together with Belarusian leader Lukashenka’s unenthusiastic response to Russia’s aggression in Georgia also has raised a glimmer of possibility for an improvement in Belarus’ ties with the United States and European Union. Nevertheless, to date, there has been no appreciable progress in human rights and democracy in the run up to the elections. WITNESSES The Honorable David J. Kramer, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Mr. Stephen B. Nix, Regional Program Director, Eurasia, International Republican Institute Ms. Laura Jewett, Regional Director, Eurasia, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs Mr. Rodger Potocki, Director, Europe and Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy

  • Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Russia’s Armed Intervention into Georgia

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), will hold a hearing entitled, “Russia, Georgia, and the Return of Power Politics,” on Wednesday, September 10 at 1:30 p.m. in room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine Russia’s recent armed intervention into Georgia, the implications for U.S.-Russian relations, and for the European security infrastructure. Last month, Russia invaded Georgia after the Georgian government tried to reassert control of separatist South Ossetia. Russia’s large-scale assault on Georgia and subsequent unilateral recognition of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has drawn deep condemnation from the West and broader international community. WITNESSES Mr. Matthew J. Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Department of State The Honorable David Bakradze, Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia and Former Foreign Minister Mr. Paul A. Goble, Director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku Mr. Paul Saunders, Executive Director, the Nixon Center

  • OSCE 101: Briefing for Civil Society

    Please join the U.S. Helsinki Commission for OSCE 101: BRIEFING FOR CIVIL SOCIETY Thursday, September 4, 2008  10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  Rayburn House Office Building  B318 For those in need of a refresher course and those interested in becoming involved. Learn about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Role of Civil Society For those planning to travel to Warsaw, Poland, remember to register to participate in the OSCE’s Annual Human Rights Meeting: What: Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) When: September 29 – October 10, 2008 Where: Warsaw, Poland Why: Annual 2-week human rights conference What is the HDIM? The term "human dimension" describes the set of norms and activities related to human rights, the rule of law, and democracy that are regarded within the OSCE as one of the three pillars of its comprehensive security concept, along with the politico-military and the economic and environmental dimensions. Every year in Warsaw, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) organizes a two-week conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The HDIM is a forum where OSCE participating States discuss the implementation of human dimension commitments that were adopted by consensus at prior OSCE Summits or Ministerial Meetings. These commitments are not legally binding norms; instead, they are politically binding - a political promise to comply with the standards elaborated in OSCE documents. Follow-up meetings to review the implementation of the commitments are based on the principle that the commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the state concerned. A comprehensive, 2-volume compilation of the OSCE human dimension commitments (available in English and in Russian) can be ordered free of charge through the ODIHR website: Volume 1: Thematic Compilation and Volume 2: Chronological Compilation.

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Condemn Russian Assault on Georgia

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement on Russia’s assault on the Republic of Georgia: “Russia’s intervention into Georgia is a clear violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and Principle Four of the Helsinki Final Act,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. “We urge Moscow to cease its military operations immediately.” Chairman Hastings noted, “The Russian Federation has departed from its commitment to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) guiding principles of refraining from the threat of or use of force in the settlement of disputes; respect for the inviolability of borders and the territorial integrity of states; and the peaceful settlement of disputes.” Co-Chairman Cardin commented, “Georgia and Russia have accused each other of responsibility for this military confrontation. But Moscow’s rejection of arbitration by the international community clearly demonstrates its indifference to cooperation and ending the hostilities, which have been building.” Said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin “We are very troubled by media reports of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s statement to Secretary of State Rice that President Mikheil Saakashvili ‘must go.’ Only the voters of Georgia can make that decision. Removing a democratically elected president through military action is unacceptable to the United States and the broader international community.” Chairman Hastings concluded, “Last month, during the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Astana, I introduced a resolution expressing concern of many Participating States about the alarming sequence of events that have long escalated tensions in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia, and raised the prospect of armed conflict in the area. I deeply regret that my apprehensions have now come to fruition.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Mongolia’s Political Situation

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a briefing entitled, “Mongolia After the State of Emergency,” on Thursday, July 31 at 10:00 a.m. in room 1302 of the Longworth House Office Building. The June 29th parliamentary elections in Mongolia led to riots and unrest in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. Although international election observers deemed the elections credible, a state of emergency was imposed due to the unrest and not lifted until July 6. The briefing will examine what led to the political crisis and where Mongolia goes from here. The panelists will also discuss Mongolia’s role as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Asian Partner for Cooperation as well as how their increased role on the international stage plays out domestically. PANELISTS His Excellency Bekhbat Khasbazar, Ambassador of Mongolia Ms. Erdenejargal Perenlei, Executive Director, Open Society Forum (via video conference from Ulaanbaatar) Ms. Badamragchaa Purevdorj, Program Manager, Legal and Human Rights Programs Open Society Forum (via video conference from Ulaanbaatar) Mr. John J. Tkacik, Jr., Senior Research Fellow in Asian Studies, The Heritage Foundation

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Human Rights and Democratization in Azerbaijan

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “Human Rights and Democratization in Azerbaijan.” The hearing will be held on Tuesday, July 29 at 3:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Azerbaijan has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and plays a pivotal role in diversifying sources of energy. A moderate Muslim country, Azerbaijan enjoys good relations with the United States. On human rights, however, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe have numerous concerns, including freedom of the media, political prisoners and the conduct of elections. With an upcoming presidential contest in October, Azerbaijan has an opportunity to hold an election that meets OSCE commitments, as well as implement other reforms. The hearing will examine the state of human rights and democratization in Azerbaijan and discuss how U.S. – Azerbaijan cooperation could help promote advances. WITNESSES The Honorable David Kramer, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor His Excellency Yashar Aliyev, Ambassador, Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Christopher Walker, Director of Studies, Freedom House

  • Hastings Chides Administration Over Medical Evidence of Torture by U.S. Personnel

    Washington- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), held a briefing with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), regarding the medical evidence of torture of detainees by U.S. personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Representatives of PHR presented their recently released report entitled, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” in which they documented individual cases of torture, the impact on detainees and made recommendations based on the findings of their investigation. During the briefing Chairman Hastings made the following remarks: “As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I know that raising human rights issues is a two-way street. As Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once observed, the Helsinki Final Act only has meaning if it is observed fully by all parties: He said, ‘No country should evade a discussion of its own domestic problems, nor should a country ignore violations in other participating states.’ The point of the Helsinki Final Act is mutual observation, not mutual evasion. “When we raise issues with other countries, we’d like to believe our concerns are being taken seriously. Conversely, I believe we need to look seriously at the concerns raised with us. “In recent years, there is nothing that has drawn more attention and criticism in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly than our treatment of detainees. And our detention policies have been pretty hard to explain or defend. “The fact is, it is not always easy or pleasant to hold a mirror up and look at one’s own practices. “A few weeks ago, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a report entitled “Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” In it, they document the medical evidence of torture by U.S. personnel. “I would like to note briefly that there is a different kind of impact on display this week. “As many people may know, this week, in Guantánamo Bay, the United States opened its first war crimes trial since World War II. In the trial of a man alleged to be Osama bin Laden’s driver, the military judge overseeing the case found it necessary to exclude from evidence several statements of the defendant because they were obtained under what the judge deemed ‘highly coercive’ conditions. Another one of the government’s efforts to bring a defendant before a military tribunal has been put indefinitely on hold, reportedly because the evidence in the case cannot be disentangled from the impermissible methods that were used to extract it,” said Chairman Hastings. The panelists for the briefing included, Leonard Rubenstein, J.D., President, Physicians for Human Rights; Allen Keller, M.D., Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights and Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; and Scott Allen, M.D., Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights.

  • Hastings and Cardin Welcome Arrest of Bosnian Serb War Crimes Fugitive Radovan Karadzic

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), welcomed the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who was indicted in 1995 for genocide and numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity and has been on the run ever since. Mr. Karadzic is considered the mastermind of mass killings that, according to the UN tribunal for war crimes and genocide, were described as “scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.” They include the 1995 massacre of approximately 8,000 men and boys in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica. “This arrest marks a very important step for the both Serbia and Bosnia. It is my sincere hope that the apprehension of Radovan Karadzic and what I expect to be his prompt transfer to The Hague indicates a clear determination by Serbia to rid itself of the nationalist legacy of the 1990s. And I know there are thousands of surviving victims of Radovan Karadizc and his villainous acts that have waited for over a decade to see justice, and they will hopefully find closure from Karadzic’s arrest and subsequent trial. The capture and transfer to The Hague of Karadzic's military counterpart, Ratko Mladic, a needed next step, would make me not just hopeful but certain that both countries can quickly move forward in their respective post-conflict recoveries, which have been stalled by this issue, and focus fully on joining the Europe to which they both rightly belong,” said Chairman Hastings. “This is terrific news for everyone in the world who supports human rights and justice. For too long Radovan Karadzic has thumbed his nose and eluded the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It is my hope the arrest, conviction and sentencing of Karadzic will eventually bring some degree of closure for the families of those killed in the Srebrenica massacre,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. “I applaud the coordinated efforts of the Republic of Serbia, the Serbian Security Service and the various international security agencies for apprehending this war criminal.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Kazakhstan’s Commitment to Human Rights and Democratization Reform

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “Promises to Keep: Kazakhstan’s 2010 OSCE Chairmanship,” on Tuesday, July 22 at 3:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. This is the second in a series of hearings that will be held on Kazakhstan as the country is preparing for the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. Kazakhstan’s bid to lead the organization was controversial because of its record on human rights and democratic reforms. Last November, at the OSCE Summit in Madrid, Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin pledged to implement a number of key reforms. The purpose of the hearing will be to assess the progress that has been made since then and to discuss how Washington can help Kazakhstan come into compliance with its commitments. Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin recently led a bipartisan delegation to Kazakhstan, where they attended the 17th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The delegation also met with leading Kazakh officials including, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Karim Masimov, and Secretary of State Kanat Saudabayev as well as with prominent human rights activists and opposition leaders. WITNESSES The Honorable Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Department of State The Honorable Askar Tazhiev, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of Kazakhstan Dr. Martha Olcott, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Dr. Andrea Berg, Researcher on Central Asia, Human Rights Watch

  • Hastings and Dingell Laud Support of NGOs and Religious Groups on Iraqi Refugee Legislation

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, lauded prominent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious groups for their support of the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act (H.R. 6496). The following organizations have endorsed this legislation: The Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict (CIVIC), Church World Service, Congregation of Divine Providence of San Antonio, Education for Peace in Iraq (EPIC), International Rescue Committee, the Iraq Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Women Religious, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Mercy Center, Mercy Corps, NETWORK, Open Society Policy Center, Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Refugees International, Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sisters of St. Joseph NW PA, and Save the Children. Last night, Hastings and Dingell reintroduced H.R.6496, which addresses the impending humanitarian crisis and potential security break-down as a result of the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries, and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq, by increasing directed accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries as well as facilitating the resettlement of Iraqis at risk. Original co-sponsors of H.R.6496 include, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Christopher Shays (R-CT), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Steve Israel (D-NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), John Olver (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Peter Welch (D-VT). “The plight of Iraqi refugees and IDPs is worsening by the day. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of families who fled for their safety, are now unable to work and have subsequently depleted their savings in order to survive,” noted Chairman Hastings. “Irrespective of one’s view on the Iraq war, I believe that the United States has a moral obligation to address this humanitarian crisis. “I want to thank all the organizations who have endorsed my legislation and who every single day work tirelessly to make this world a better place. Without their commitment to helping the people devastated by this crisis, the situation in the region would be even worse. “Additionally, I would like to thank Congressman Dingell for his continued leadership in the House of Representatives on this issue and for his help in drafting this legislation as well as the other original co-sponsors supporting this bill. As I have said on many occasions, this must not be a partisan issue, but rather Congress and the Administration have an obligation to work together before the Iraqi refugee crisis further destabilizes the region,” said Chairman Hastings. Chairman Dingell stated, “As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Congressman Hastings has done an outstanding job of investigating the plight of Iraqi refugees, and educating our colleagues in the Congress about the dire nature of this crisis. The world is looking to the United States for leadership in this area, and this legislation is an important step in the right direction. Many of the organizations supporting this bill are working directly with these refugees, and their input and guidance has been invaluable. Their support is a true statement about this bill and how it will make a difference in the live of countless vulnerable men, women and children.”

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin Seek Solutions for Closing Guantanamo

    Washington- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), held a hearing on detainee-related policy issues in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush that foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have the right under the Constitution to challenge their detention in a U.S. civilian court. The hearing entitled, “Guantanamo Detainees after Boumediene: Now What?” examined issues surrounding the United States’ detainee policies, particularly focusing on detainees at the Guantanamo Bay facility. Additionally, the hearing considered how European countries are dealing with terror suspects. Unfortunately, 3 ½ years after Brig. Gen. Jay Hood stated ‘sometimes we just didn’t get the right folks’ – and six years after the Guantanamo camp was opened – there seems to be little progress made in addressing the fundamental problems that plague that detention facility,” said Chairman Hastings. “The fact that Guantanamo remains open speaks to the lack of political leadership in fixing the problems there. We continue to imprison some people, like Huzaifa Parhat, even though he has been determined not to be a threat to the United States. Meanwhile, there has not been a single successfully completed trial of those suspected of the most serious crimes against the United States. In light of the vital implications of this subject for our country, I sorely regret the absence of administration witnesses for this discussion.” Co-Chairman Cardin noted, “The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay serves as a lightning rod for international human rights criticism of the United States. I am happy to defend the United States when we’re right – even if we’re alone – but in this case, I’d don’t think we are right. I think the detention facility there should be closed.” He further commented, “In light of the latest defeat for the administration’s detention policies at the hands of the Supreme Court, as well as several unfavorable lower court rulings, I think it is high time to stop tinkering with a failed system and re-open entirely the question of how we handle terrorism suspects.” Witnesses from the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Justice were invited to testify, but declined to participate. Expert testimony was received from Mr. Matthew Waxman, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; Mr. Gabor Rona, International Legal Director, Human Rights First; and Mr. Jeremy Shapiro, Research Director of the Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution. Copies of all the statements and an unofficial transcript will be posted on the Commission’s website (www.csce.gov). Chairman Hastings’ Full Statement: “In January 2005 – 3 ½ years ago – Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, at that time the U.S. commander in charge of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he acknowledged, “sometimes we just didn’t get the right folks.” Sometimes we just didn’t get the right folks. “The Wall Street Journal article continued: “[i]n theory, once a detainee is thought no longer to present a threat to the U.S. or possess any valuable intelligence, he should be sent home. [ . . . ] In practice, the system is stuck. Releasing a prisoner requires the approval of the Defense Department headquarters, as well as the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI.” General Hood further observed, “nobody wants to be the one who signs the release papers . . . there’s no muscle in the system.” [WSJ, January 26, 2005] “Unfortunately, 3 ½ years after General Hood made those comments – and six years after the Guantanamo camp was opened – there seems to be little progress made in addressing the fundamental problems that plague that detention facility. “In fact, the shortcomings of the Guantanamo system are perhaps best illustrated by the fate of the extremes among those detained there. “Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered that one of 17 Chinese Uighurs be released or given a new military hearing. The United States had previously cleared this man, Huzaifa Parhat, of the charge of being an enemy combatant, but none the less has kept him imprisoned at GTMO. He’s not an enemy of the United States, but our country keeps him imprisoned. “At the other end of spectrum, there has not been a single completed trial of those suspected of the most serious crimes committed against our country, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is believed to be responsible for helping to plan the 9/11 attacks. The case against alleged “20th hijacker” Mohammed al Qahtani has been dismissed without prejudice, for reasons that were not announced. In his case, it is speculated that there is insufficient evidence against him that is not completely tainted by the means used to extract it, or that the methods of interrogation used against him have rendered him incapable of participating in his trial. “The fact that GTMO is still open is testament to the genuine challenges we face in relocating its residents, and we discussed those challenges at the hearing the Commission held last year, but it also speaks to a lack of political leadership in fixing the problems there. “Today, in light of last month’s Supreme Court’s decision in the Boumediene case upholding the right of Guantanamo detainees to habeas corpus, I believe it is timely and appropriate to revisit the policy questions related to our detention policies. “For that purpose, we have invited Matthew Waxman and Gabor Rona to join us and share their considerable insights. Gabor Rona testified at our Guantanamo hearing last year, and has just returned from visiting Guantanamo. “In addition, we are joined by Jeremy Shapiro, who will discuss the question of what Europe is doing with its terror suspects – the United States is not the first country to struggle with terrorism, and perhaps there is something we can learn from European experiences. “Clearly, no European country has thrown the prohibition against torture out the window, or tried to defend waterboarding as a “professional interrogation technique.” But at the same time, if we look carefully at the civilian criminal procedures used in Europe, they seem to present their own set of challenges. At a minimum, we can say that many European countries are struggling with some of the same issues we are, and I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Shapiro. “Finally, I would like to note that we did invite witnesses from the administration to join us here today – we asked people from the Department of Defense and the Department of State, and the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, they are apparently unprepared to discuss this issue at this time, and, in light of the vital implications of this subject for our country, I sorely regret the absence of administration witnesses.” Co-Chairman Cardin’s Full Statement: “Mr. Chairman, as you and I know from our work in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay serves as a lightning rod for international human rights criticism of the United States. As I’ve said before, I am happy to defend the United States when we’re right – even if we’re alone – but in this case, I’d don’t think we are right. I think the detention facility there should be closed. “I therefore welcome your convening this hearing so we can revisit some of the issues we addressed at last year’s hearing on Guantanamo, now taking into consideration the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Boumediene. “In fact, in light of the latest defeat for the administration’s detention policies at the hands of the Supreme Court, as well as several unfavorable lower court rulings, I think it is high time to stop tinkering with a failed system and re-open entirely the question of how we handle terrorism suspects. “In that regard, the United States has an opportunity to act on one of the unimplemented recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which is “to engage its friends and allies to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and trial of captured terrorists, including drawing on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict.” “I’m not sure that the various national systems in Europe for handing terror suspects provide a model that can be transposed to the United States – many European countries have restrictions on religious clothing, permit broad surveillance in public places including of demonstrations, criminalize mere membership in organizations, criminalize speech based on content alone, and have other substantive law provisions that I think many Americans would find unacceptable. “But so far, there has been precious little discussion in this town of what other countries do, and I think we need to broaden our examination of these issues to at least consider what European countries are doing with their terror suspects. And I certainly believe that whatever detainee policies are developed by the next administration must have more support from countries that we look to for critical counter-terrorism cooperation. “I would also note for the record that the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, is holding a hearing tomorrow on how the Administration’s failed detainee policies have hurt the fight against terrorism. The Committee will examine how to put the fight against terrorism on sound legal foundations.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Racism in the 21st Century

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “Racism in the 21st Century: Understanding Global Challenges and Implementing Solutions” on Wednesday, July 16 at 11:00 a.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will focus on the continuing challenge of addressing non-violent and violent forms of racial and ethnic discrimination in the 56 North American and European countries that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region, including racist and xenophobic political platforms, increases in hate crimes, and inequalities in housing, education, employment, and the justice system. Additionally, the hearing will examine lessons learned and the way forward in combating racism and xenophobia with the goal of determining what the international community can and should be doing to address the problem. WITNESSES Ms. Anastasia Crickley, OSCE Chair-in-Office, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions Ms. Gay McDougall, United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues Mr. John Payton, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Guantanamo Detainees After Boumediene: Now What?

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled “Guantanamo Detainees after Boumediene: Now What?,” on Tuesday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m. in room 2200 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will review the detainee-related policy issues – particularly for Guantanamo detainees -- that remain in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Boumediene. Witnesses will also have the opportunity to discuss a related question: what does Europe do with its terror suspects, and are there any lessons for the United States from the European experience? The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Boumediene v. Bush that foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have the right under the Constitution to challenge their detention in a U.S. civilian court. WITNESSES Mr. Matthew Waxman, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School Mr. Gabor Rona, International Legal Director, Human Rights First Mr. Jeremy Shapiro, Research Director of the Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution

  • Helsinki Commissioner Hilda L. Solis Elected to Human Rights Leadership Position in International Organization

    Washington- Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) released the following statement regarding her recent election as Chairwoman of the Third General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly (PA). Congresswoman Solis was part of a Congressional delegation attending the 17th Annual Session of the OSCE PA in Astana, Kazakhstan, led by Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission). “I am honored to serve as Chair of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions for the OSCE PA. In the U.S. Congress, I have been an outspoken advocate for issues of importance to women and families,” said Congresswoman Solis. “In my new post, I will continue to support initiatives that protect vulnerable populations such as migrants, women, and children. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the OSCE PA to protect and improve human rights throughout the OSCE region.” The OSCE PA is the parliamentary dimension of the OSCE. The primary task of the 320 member Assembly, comprised of elected officials from the 55 OSCE participating States, is to facilitate inter-parliamentary dialogue in an effort to meet the overall challenges of democracy throughout the OSCE region. The General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions is responsible for addressing humanitarian and human rights-related threats to security and serves as a forum for examining the potential for cooperation on these issues within the OSCE region. Solis also serves as the Special Representative on Migration. Congresswoman Solis is the first female in Congress to hold a leadership position in the OSCE PA and follows in the footsteps of Congressman Hastings, a former President of the OSCE PA, Senator Cardin who serves as a Vice President of the Assembly, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a former Vice President of the Assembly.

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Express Alarm Over Fingerprinting of Roma by Italian Authorities

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), expressed alarm over reports that Italian authorities are targeting members of the Romani minority for fingerprinting. The program, an initiative spearheaded by the Minister of Interior, extends to Romani individuals living in 700 camps throughout Italy. The government is targeting Italian citizens, non-Italian citizens from European Union countries as well as children. “We remain concerned about the escalation of anti-Roma and anti-migrant manifestations in Italy. Just last month we wrote to Foreign Minster Frattini, conveying our concern about pogroms carried out in Naples and other cities against Roma” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. “The blatant racial profiling of Roma by the Italian government sets a very dangerous precedent and turns back the clock to one of Europe’s darkest times. The government’s actions may only exacerbate acts of intolerance by the general public. I urge the government to immediately cease this program of fingerprinting Roma,” said Chairman Hastings. Co-Chairman Cardin noted, “Singling out Roma for fingerprinting is nothing more than an exercise in racism. It was not that long ago when measures like this were a prelude to deportation, imprisonment, torture and death. I remain troubled by the increased violence against minorities in Italy. I urge the Italian government to disband the fingerprinting program and concentrate its efforts on investigating and prosecuting the attacks against Roma and migrants that have already occurred.”

  • Cardin Leads Congressional Delegation to Pakistan

    Astana, Kazakhstan- Today, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), led a bi-partisan Congressional delegation to Islamabad, Pakistan. The Members of the delegation included, Helsinki Commissioners Representatives Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Robert Aderholt (R-AL) as well as Representatives Zach Wamp (R-TN) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). The delegation met with President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson. During the meetings, the delegation focused on U.S.-Pakistan relations, regional security, as well as human rights and democratic development. “Our delegation held candid discussions with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Gillani earlier today. Pakistan is an important ally and strategic partner in confronting Al-Qaeda. The government of Pakistan remains concerned over security and the need to directly confront this terrorist threat not only within Pakistan, but also along the border with Afghanistan,” Co-Chairman Cardin noted in Islamabad. “In our meetings, we were encouraged by the unity among Pakistani leaders to confront terrorists and make the necessary economic reforms for the people of Pakistan, consistent with the Helsinki principles. “As Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I was pleased to get reassurances from the government that they are committed to the values and ideals the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe embraces,” said Co-Chairman Cardin.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin to Hold Press Conference in Astana

    Washington- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), who are leading a bipartisan Congressional delegation in Kazakhstan, will hold a press conference with U.S. Ambassador John M. Ordway on Tuesday, July 1 at 10:30 a.m. at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Astana. The Members of Congress that are traveling with the delegation are U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Representatives Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Hilda Solis (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) as well as Representatives Zach Wamp (R-TN), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), and Gwen Moore (D-WI). This is the largest U.S. Congressional delegation to ever visit Kazakhstan, which will be Chairman-in-Office (CiO) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. During the press conference, the delegation is expected to discuss U.S.-Kazakh relations, Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010, energy security, human rights issues and regional issues of concern to the OSCE community.

  • Helsinki Commission Commemorates International Day for the Victims of Torture

    Washington- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement marking the 11th Anniversary of the United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. The day was declared by the UN General Assembly on December 12, 1997 to be observed on 26 June every year: “In the United Nations Convention against Torture, signed by President Ronald Reagan, the United States agreed that ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture,’” said Chairman Hastings. “There were no loopholes, no exceptions. It is time for the United States to stand by that treaty commitment and to stop trying to redefine ‘torture’ as ‘not torture.’ We must also ensure that evidence obtained through torture or other forms of prohibited abuse is not used in trials of any kind.” “I have seen the pernicious effects of torture in many places around the world. Torture breaks the human spirit and robs men, women and children of their human dignity,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. “Regrettably, over the past seven years, this administration has fostered the insidious myth that torture is an effective means of gathering reliable information from detainees. It is not,” Cardin continued. “As one who has advocated for human rights for decades, I know the damage that has been done to the moral leadership of the United States. I look forward to working with a new administration that will strive to undo that damage, and I will do everything I can to ensure that torture is prohibited in law and in practice, in word and in deed. The fight against global terrorism is a battle we will be waging for a long time – and we have to get it right.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin to Lead Congressional Delegation to Kazakhstan

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), will lead a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Kazakhstan from June 26 to July 3, 2008. The Members of Congress that will be traveling with the delegation are U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Representatives Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Hilda Solis (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) as well as Representatives Zach Wamp (R-TN), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), and Gwen Moore (D-WI). This will be the largest U.S. Congressional delegation to ever visit Kazakhstan, which will be Chairman-in-Office (CiO) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010. While in Astana, the delegation will attend the 17th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. This is the first meeting to be held in Central Asia for the Annual Session, which will focus on the theme of ‘Transparency in the OSCE.’ The session will focus on such issues as energy security, trade, combating sexual exploitation of children, violence against women, cyber security, and migration. A series of regional issues will also be discussed, including Afghanistan, Georgia, and Chernobyl. Additionally, election observation and human rights issues affecting the OSCE, such as human trafficking, will be a focus of the meeting. The Annual Session will adopt a final document, called the Astana Declaration, which will include recommendations on these and related issues. The delegation plans to hold bilateral meetings with parliamentarians attending the OSCE PA Annual Session. Additionally, the delegation intends to meet with leading Kazakh officials including, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Karim Masimov, Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin and Secretary of State Kanat Saudabayev as well as with prominent human rights activists and opposition leaders. On Tuesday, July 1 at 10:30 a.m. the delegation will hold a press conference with the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan John M. Ordway, at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Astana. During the press conference, the delegation is expected to discuss U.S.-Kazakh relations, Kazakhstan’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010, energy security, human rights issues and regional issues of concern to the OSCE community.

  • World Refugee Day: Congressional Leaders Question President Over Iraqi Allies Failed by the U.S.

    WASHINGTON- On World Refugee Day, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, along with 14 Members of the House and Senate, sent the following letter to President Bush. The letter questions the Administration over delays in the processing of Iraqi refugees who have worked for the United States government and American organizations in Iraq -- and whose lives have been placed in danger for that service. In particular, the letter urges President Bush to allow the Department of Defense to airlift Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants for expedited processing to a central processing center outside of Iraq. The Members of Congress who signed the letter include, Senators Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Representatives John W. Olver (D-MA), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Diane Watson (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Ike Skelton (D-MO). June 20, 2008 President George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: As you know, the Iraq War and subsequent ethnic and sectarian conflict has caused the displacement of millions of Iraqis. While we have great concerns about the United States response to this humanitarian crisis, we write to you about a specific population of especially vulnerable Iraqis: those who have worked for our government and American organizations in Iraq and whose lives have been placed in grave danger because of that service. Recent statistics and reports have indicated that the current system of identifying and resettling our Iraqi allies has structural complications and procedural inefficiencies. Since March 2003, the United States has admitted fewer than 8,000 Iraqi refugees in total. Your Administration’s goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees during this fiscal year seems an unlikely goal, given that less than 6,000 have been resettled to date. At a recent Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) briefing, one panelist, an attorney providing pro bono legal services to help resettle Iraqi refugees noted, “unresponsiveness and protracted delays in interviews and processing have themselves contributed to…individual emergencies…The cost in human lives and suffering due to institutional breakdowns in such aberrational instances speaks to the pressing need to ensure that our system is better equipped to respond to these challenges.” The role our own government has played in prolonging the suffering of our courageous Iraqi allies who risked their lives to assist our country is troubling and simply unacceptable. To better understand why the Administration continues to delay processing our Iraqi allies for resettlement, we respectfully request that you provide us with the necessary information in response to the following: • While we are pleased that the United States has opened a processing center in Baghdad to assist Iraqis at risk in applying for resettlement to the United States, we remain concerned by reports that the office lacks the necessary personnel and resources at this time to quickly and efficiently process those Iraqis who are in imminent danger. It is most troubling that only Iraqis with sufficient connections to enter the Green Zone are able to receive help. What is the Administration’s immediate and long-term strategy to improve and increase the efficiency of the current processing system? • At the Baghdad center, in particular, significant problems inhibit expeditious and efficient processing of our Iraqi allies. For example, logistical and security issues prevent access to the Green Zone for many applicants and contribute to complications with assisting applicants with medical conditions. In light of the inherent difficulties of in-country processing, what is the current status of a proposal by State Department officials to allow the Department of Defense to airlift Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants for expedited processing to a central processing center at the United States Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait? As you know, this past April, England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered an airlift of British-affiliated Iraqis to a military airfield in Oxfordshire, England in order to expeditiously and safely process them there. Denmark also evacuated and resettled 370 Iraqi interpreters and other Iraqis who worked for Danish troops prior to the Danish contingent's departure from Iraq last year. We strongly urge your consideration of a proposal similar to those that are now being successfully implemented by our Coalition partners. • The appointment of Ambassador James Foley at the State Department and Lori Scialabba at the Department of Homeland Security as senior coordinators within those agencies with respect to Iraqi refugee issues was an important and useful step. However, it appears as if there are still problems with respect to interagency cooperation. One particular problem that has been identified is that FBI background checks, even for those Iraqis who have been working directly with the United States military in Iraq, are subject to inordinately lengthy delays. To address this ongoing issue, we strongly urge you to appoint a Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues in the White House. • When will the Department of Homeland Security issue its policy directive to implement the provisions of Sections 1241-1249 of Public Law 110-181, the "Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act," for which it is responsible? • What is your Administration’s policy regarding medical parole for those Iraqis whose cases are of high priority due to serious medical conditions? Our government has a moral responsibility to provide aid and protection to those courageous Iraqi allies who have risked their lives and the lives of their families to assist American efforts to build a democratic and stable Iraq. We are deeply concerned that, to date, you have not acknowledged their sacrifice or effectively marshaled the assets of our government to help them. We urge you to speak out about the service of our brave Iraqi allies and direct the appropriate agencies in your Administration to take immediate steps to provide them with the attention and resources they desperately need and deserve. Each day, more Iraqi allies face increased danger or even murder for their service to the United States. To ensure that more do not suffer because they chose to help us, a prompt response to these concerns is appreciated and we believe appropriate. Sincerely, Alcee L. Hastings, M.C. Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S. John D. Dingell, M.C. Russell D. Feingold, U.S.S. Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S.S. Robert P. Casey, Jr., U.S.S. John W. Olver, M.C. Janice D. Schakowsky, M.C. G.K. Butterfield, M.C. James P. McGovern, M.C. Timothy H. Bishop, M.C. Joseph Crowley, M.C. Diane E. Watson, M.C. Earl Blumenauer, M.C. Peter Welch, M.C. Hilda L. Solis, M.C. Ike Skelton, M.C.

  • Hastings and Cardin Laud U.S. Commission for Refugees and Immigrants’ 2008 World Refugee Survey

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement on the U.S. Commission for Refugees and Immigrants release of their 2008 World Refugee Survey: “The refugee crisis has unfortunately continued to spiral out of control, where we are seeing the number of refugees worldwide reach over 14 million – the highest level since 2001. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportion. I commend the U.S. Commission for Refugees and Immigrants for releasing their 2008 World Refugee Survey. The survey uncovers some of the world’s worst violators of refugees’ rights, where refugees are raped, abused or even deported back to their persecuting countries – a fact that I find to be utterly deplorable, said Chairman Hastings. “The United States has a moral obligation and a security interest in trying to alleviate the suffering of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, particularly those who risked so much over the past few years to help our military and diplomatic efforts in their country,” said Senator Cardin. “The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ survey released today is truly eye-opening. It shows the United States still has far to go to support the rights of refugees worldwide.”

  • Helsinki Commission Questions DHS Over Drugging of Immigrants Without Medical Reason

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), sent the following letter to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Helsinki Commissioners that also signed the letter include, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Senator John Kerry, Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis and Congressman G.K. Butterfield. The letter expresses concern over a report that appeared in the Washington Post, “Some Detainees Are Drugged for Deportation,” (May 14, 2008), where over 250 cases of immigrant deportees have been given psychiatric drugs without medical reason or consent since 2003. In particular, the letter urges DHS to cooperate fully with investigations of these allegations undertaken by Congress. June 12, 2008 The Honorable Michael Chertoff Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528 Dear Secretary Chertoff: We write regarding the recent report in the Washington Post, “Some Detainees Are Drugged for Deportation” (by Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest, May 14, 2008). According to this article, the Washington Post has identified more than 250 cases since 2003 in which the government has, without medical reason and without consent, given psychiatric drugs to immigrant deportees. The forced medication of detainees may violate both domestic and international law; moreover, these reports further tarnish the already badly damaged reputation of the United States. We urge the Department of Homeland Security to cooperate fully with investigations of these allegations undertaken by Congress. As members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), we were particularly alarmed to read that in 2007, of the 53 deportees drugged without their consent, 50 of them were administered Haldol, a medication designed to treat schizophrenia and acute psychotic states. Due to its abuse by Soviet psychiatric prisons, Haldol has a particularly noxious reputation. The Helsinki Commission has long voiced its concern about medical treatment that may violate international norms, from Russia to Slovakia, and we urge your department to respond seriously and credibly to the issues raised by the Post article. This includes examination of the threat to detainees’ health; possible violation of medical ethics by persons employed by DHS; and the policy-making process which resulted in practices that may have been both dangerous and illegal. Sincerely, Alcee L. Hastings, M.C. Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S. Hilda L. Solis, M.C. G.K. Butterfield, M.C. John F. Kerry, U.S.S. Christopher J. Dodd, U.S.S.

  • Hastings Concerned by the Lack of Resources Allocated to Baghdad Processing Center for Iraqi Refugees

    Washington - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), sent the following letter to Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The letter expresses concern over the lack of resources that have been committed to the new processing center in Baghdad for Iraqi refugees and requests a response on the implementation of the DHS policy directive required to implement the provisions of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 (Sections 1241-1249 of Public Law 110-181).Please find below a copy of the letter: June 12, 2008 The Honorable Michael Chertoff Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528 Dear Secretary Chertoff: I write regarding the resettlement to the United States of our Iraqi allies – those Iraqis who have worked for our government and American organizations in Iraq, and whose lives have been placed in grave danger because of that service. As you know, the thousands of Iraqis who have worked, and are still working for, our government, corporations, media and U.S.-based NGOs and other organizations in Iraq, are branded as “collaborators” by their countrymen and are targeted for assassination. Many have been brutally murdered for their service to the United States. A fact that is utterly deplorable. The United States has a moral obligation to help those Iraqis who have helped us. While I am pleased that the United States has opened a processing center in Baghdad to assist Iraqis at risk in applying for resettlement to the United States – something I had recommended a year ago -- I am advised that the office lacks the necessary personnel and resources to quickly and efficiently process the hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis who are in imminent danger. Additionally, I have been advised that Iraqis seeking assistance still face many hurdles in getting access to this processing office. I also understand that the Department of Homeland Security has yet to produce its policy directive to implement the provisions of Sections 1241 – 1249 of Public Law 110-181, the “Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007,” for which it is responsible. Please advise me on when this directive will be issued and the number of personnel and other resources your agency will provide for resettlement of Iraqis at risk in the Baghdad center as well as other locations. Every single day more Iraqi allies face increased danger for their service to the United States, therefore a prompt response is appreciated. Sincerely, Alcee L. Hastings, M.C. Chairman

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Ingushetia: The New Hot Spot in Russia’s North Caucasus

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a briefing on the increasing destabilization in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The briefing entitled, “Ingushetia: The New Hot Spot in Russia’s North Caucasus,” will be held onThursday, June 19 at 1:00 p.m. in B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. After the conclusion of the second Chechen war, the North Caucasus region is once again experiencing an increase in violence. Although the entire region is fraught with instability, Ingushetia has attracted particular attention, having undergone a rise in terrorist and counter-terrorist operations, illegal detentions, kidnappings and extra judicial executions over the past year. The level of unrest has sparked concern about the potential for another war in the North Caucasus. Panelists Magomed Mutsolgov, Director of the Ingush Human Rights Organization “MASHR” Gregory Shvedov, Editor-in-Chief of the Web Publication “Caucasian Knot” Eliza Musaeva, Former Director of “Memorial’s” Chechnya office

  • Hastings and Cardin Laud Supreme Court’s Ruling on Guantanamo Detainees

    Washington - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush. The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have the right under the Constitution to challenge their detention in a U.S. civilian court. “Today, the rule of law won. The Supreme Court’s decision undoubtedly rebuked the Administration’s failed policy on Guantanamo. Since the detention facility opened in 2002, the United States’ human rights record has been tarnished around the world. It is time to for U.S. courts to be open for business and either charge those who are guilty or release those against whom charges cannot be brought. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I engage continually with officials of other countries focusing particularly on human rights. No issue has been raised more vigorously by representatives of other countries than the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. I welcome today’s decision and believe that every person accused of a crime deserves his day in court,” said Chairman Hastings. “I commend the majority of the Supreme Court that voted 5-4 to reject, once again, the Bush Administration’s unsound detention policies, which hold accused terrorists without trial or charge indefinitely for years. Part of America’s strength as a nation is our respect for the rule of law and the understanding that laws cannot be pushed aside easily,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. “I agree with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion that ‘the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.’ The Supreme Court has inserted an important check and balance on the Bush Administration’s war on terrorism policies. I hope that the Administration will now work cooperatively with Congress, the courts, and our international allies to reexamine our current trial procedures in Guantanamo Bay.” In July, the Helsinki Commission will hold a hearing to review the Boumediene decision and examine how other countries have successfully tried and convicted accused terrorists. The Commission will once again examine one of the unimplemented recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which is to engage its friends and allies to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and trial of captured terrorists, including drawing on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Hastings: U.S. Must Do More to Help Iraqi Allies

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement at a Commission briefing. The briefing entitled, “The Forgotten: Iraqi Allies Failed by the U.S.,” focused onThe List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, a non-profit organization that helps resettle Iraqis who are at particular risk for having worked for the United States government and American organizations. It also examined the need for the United States to significantly increase its efforts to resettle these vulnerable Iraqi allies. The panel included Mr. Kirk Johnson, founder and executive director of The List Project; Mr. Christopher Nugent of Holland & Knight, LLP; and an Iraqi whom Mr. Nugent and Mr. Johnson helped to resettle in the United States. Also participating in the briefing was Helsinki Commissioners Congressmen Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) as well as Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). “I would like to welcome all of you to this Commission briefing about the plight of Iraqi refugees who have worked for the United States in Iraq -- and whose lives have been placed in danger for that service -- and the work of an incredible organization, The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, that was created to help them. “While it is heartening to learn about this effort and the many Iraqis The List Project has assisted, it is at the same time distressing that such an undertaking is even necessary. It is because of the failure of our government to do what it has a moral obligation to do -- help those who have helped us. In May, the U.S. opened its first processing office in the Green Zone in Baghdad for Iraqi allies – something that I had recommended a year ago to Administration officials. “The founder and driving force behind The List Project is Mr. Kirk Johnson who worked in Baghdad and Fallujah in 2005 as the coordinator of reconstruction for USAID. During his time in Iraq, Mr. Johnson tried to help one of his friends who had been identified as working for Americans and had gotten death threats. The U.S government did not do anything to help the Iraqi, so Mr. Johnson stepped in and tried to find a way to save his friend. In the process, more and more Iraqis found out about Mr. Johnson’s efforts and sought his assistance, and The List Project was born – officially on June 20, 2007, World Refugee Day. “Since March 2003, the United States has admitted fewer than 8,000 Iraqi refugees. Sweden, by comparison has accepted 40,000 Iraqi refugees in the same time period. The Administration has set a goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of this fiscal year. However, it is questionable as to whether they will be able to meet that goal. Ambassador Foley recently stated, “On paper, we feel pretty good that we can reach our goal.” He further noted that any number of hitches could prohibit resettlement to the United States. “To put this in historical perspective, after the fall of Saigon in the spring of 1975, more than 110,000 Vietnamese allies of the United States were airlifted to Guam where they were processed for resettlement to the U.S. in a matter of months. “Three individuals are with us today to describe their experiences and their work, Mr. Kirk Johnson, the founder of The List Project, Mr. Christopher Nugent of the law firm of Holland & Knight who is providing pro bono legal services for those Iraqis on The List, and an Iraqi whom Mr. Johnson and Mr. Nugent helped to resettle in the United States. Our third panelist will remain anonymous in order to protect members of his family who remain in Iraq. Thank you.”  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children: Strengthening International Law Enforcement Cooperation.” The hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 17 at 3:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine current practices for sharing information among law enforcement authorities internationally and what concrete steps can be taken to strengthen that cooperation to more effectively investigate cases of sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography on the Internet. Despite current efforts, sexual exploitation of children is increasing globally. The use of the Internet has made it easier for pedophiles and sexual predators to have access to child pornography and potential victims. In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2008 (S.1738), which will allocate over one billion dollars over the next eight years to provide Federal, state, and local law enforcement with the resources and structure to find, arrest, and prosecute those who prey on our children. INVITED WITNESSES Timothy Williams, Deputy Director, Interpol - U.S. National Central Bureau Shawn Bray, Unit Chief, ICE Cyber Crimes Center, Department of Homeland Security Tim Cranton, Associate General Counsel, Worldwide Internet Safety Programs, Microsoft Corporation Ernie Allen, President and CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

  • Cardin, Hastings Comment on Elections in Lebanon

    WASHINGTON—Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings released the following statements today following the June 7 parliamentary elections in Lebanon. “I congratulate the people of Lebanon for their continued commitment to democracy. In Lebanon, politics too often merges with violence. I was pleased to see Lebanese parliamentary elections were mostly peaceful, allowing the Lebanese people to cast their ballots without fear or intimidation,” Chairman Cardin said. “At the ballot box yesterday, the people of Lebanon were confronted with two starkly different visions for their country. I am encouraged to see the majority of voters have rejected the vision of Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization and Iranian proxy. Lebanon has a vital role in the Middle East, and the Lebanese people deserve a government that respects human rights, promotes tolerance, and seeks peace with its neighbors. I look forward to strengthening America’s relationship with the people of Lebanon and their newly elected government.”  Co-Chairman Hastings said: “The peaceful elections in Lebanon demonstrate a commitment to the democratic process and international standards. Having traveled extensively in the Middle East, including to Lebanon, in the past several years, I look forward to continuing dialogue with Lebanon and their future engagement with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on issues of fair elections, human rights and security across the Middle East. As Special Representative for Mediterranean Affairs for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I know other countries in the region share an interest in Lebanon rejoining the OSCE as a Mediterranean Partner. Sunday’s elections in Lebanon further demonstrate the country would be a positive addition to the Helsinki Process, helping to uphold international standards and shape the future of this vital regional partnership.” 

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on The Forgotten: Iraqi Allies Failed by the U.S.

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a briefing entitled, “The Forgotten: Iraqi Allies Failed by the U.S.,” on Wednesday, June 11 at 10:00 a.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The briefing will focus on The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, a non-profit organization that helps resettle Iraqis who are at particular risk for having worked for the United States government and American organizations. It will also examine the need for the United States to significantly increase its efforts to resettle these vulnerable Iraqi allies. The panel will include Mr. Kirk Johnson, founder and executive director of The List Project; Mr. Christopher Nugent of Holland & Knight, LLP; and an Iraqi whom Mr. Nugent and Mr. Johnson helped to resettle in the United States. Mr. Johnson worked in Baghdad and Fallujah in 2005 as the coordinator of reconstruction for USAID. During his time in Iraq, he tried to help one of his friends who had been identified as working for Americans and had gotten death threats. The U.S. government did not do anything to help the Iraqi so Mr. Johnson stepped in and tried to find a way to save his friend. In the process more and more Iraqis found out about Mr. Johnson's efforts and sought his assistance. Their appeals for help produced The List Project. Mr. Nugent is an attorney currently providing pro bono legal services for those Iraqis on The List. PANELISTS Mr. Kirk Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies Mr. Christopher Nugent, Attorney, Holland & Knight, LLP An Iraqi, resettled in the U.S. by The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies WHO: U.S. Helsinki Commission (Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin) WHAT: Briefing - The Forgotten: Iraqi Allies Failed by the U.S. WHEN: Wednesday, June 11 at 10:00 a.m. WHERE: B-318 Rayburn House Office Building

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Comment on the Challenges Faced by Minority Communities in Kosovo

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), commented at a Commission hearing on the challenges minority communities face in Kosovo. Testifying before the Commission was Ambassador Knut Vollebaek of Norway, High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The hearing entitled, “The Challenges to Minority Communities in Kosovo,” examined Ambassador Vollebaek’s work regarding Kosovo and his recommendations for action by the Kosovar authorities as well as by Serbia, other OSCE States and the OSCE itself. “It has been one year to the day since I first visited Kosovo,” Chairman Hastings noted. “I did so in order to decide for myself whether or not to support the Ahtisaari plan. I met with the Prime Minister at the time and many other prominent Kosovo leaders, but I also traveled to Serb communities in the south and to Mitrovica in the north. I also visited one of the UN-operated camps for displaced Roma in the north, which had essentially been condemned as a health hazard, as well as a temporary camp for the Roma and their rebuilt neighborhood in south Mitrovica. I came away with the view that the Ahtisaari plan not only reflected the will of the majority in Kosovo, but also provided the best possible deal for the minorities. While the visit gave me reason for hope, it also gave me reason for concern.” Co-Chairman Cardin added that, “in the last year, from the unveiling of the Ahtisaari plan through Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February, we were compelled to focus on status...It is my hope, however, that with this hearing we can return to our focus on standards, and specifically the rights and privileges for minority communities in Kosovo. Even for those of us who have supported the recognition of Kosovo’s independence, implementation of the Ahtisaari provisions regarding minorities was part of the package.”  

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Hastings Comments on U.S. Policy on Torture and Interrogation

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement about the filmTaxi to the Dark Side. The film, which has only been shown in a limited number of theaters and has not yet been aired on television or been released for rent was shown at an event sponsored by the Helsinki Commission. Directed by Alex Gibney, the film won the 2008 Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature.” Taxi to the Dark Side is the profoundly disturbing and tragic story of Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and father of two, who was falsely accused of a rocket attack against U.S. forces in 2002, detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, tortured, and ultimately murdered. Dilawar died alone and humiliated, shackled by his wrists to the ceiling of his cell: “The U.S. Helsinki Commission is very grateful to Mr. Gibney and to his film company, THINKfilm, for allowing us to present this movie on Capitol Hill. “Mr. Gibney’s late-father gave him the encouragement to work on this film. His father had been a naval interrogator during World War II and, in that capacity, interrogated captured kamikaze pilots. In other words, this was a man who knew something about suicide bombers. “The film is about the gripping telling of one man’s life and death: Dilawar, an innocent taxi driver, in the wrong place at the wrong time; captured by American forces, held at Bagram Air Force Base, and ultimately tortured to death. More than that, Dilawar’s story reveals what really happened when this administration decided to “take off the gloves.” “In fact, as Human Rights First reported in 2006, nearly 100 persons held as security detainees have died in U.S. custody since August 2002. At least 34 are confirmed or suspected homicides. At least 8 were tortured to death. “The tragic and senseless murder of Dilawar, and other cases like his, leaves us with several lessons. “First, we must ensure that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the security detainees we hold. That access helps protect detainees from mistreatment – and sets a standard we want respected for our own troops. “Second, mistakes can be and were made. In Dilawar’s case, an innocent man was detained and interrogated – and ultimately murdered. That’s why we need to restore habeas corpus for the detainees we are currently holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and ensure a fair and meaningful trial process for those we seek to charge with terrorism, war crimes, or other serious offenses. “Third, evidence obtained through torture or abuse must be fully excluded from any trials we hold. “Finally, immunity is a cancer that leads to impunity. The provisions of the Military Commissions Act, which protect those who have committed abuse are a disgrace to this country and should be repealed. “With that, I will let the film speak for itself.”  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on the Challenges to Minority Communities in Kosovo

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing entitled, “The Challenges to Minority Communities in Kosovo,” on Tuesday, June 3 at 3:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Testifying before the Commission will be Ambassador Knut Vollebaek of Norway, High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The hearing will focus on the protection and promotion of the rights of Serb, Romani and other minority communities in Kosovo, in light of its February 17 declared independence which Serbia does not recognize. In particular, the hearing will examine Ambassador Vollebaek’s work regarding Kosovo and his recommendations for action by the Kosovar authorities as well as by Serbia, other OSCE States and the OSCE itself. WHO: U.S. Helsinki Commission WHAT: Hearing on Challenges to Minority Communities in Kosovo WHEN: Tuesday, June 3 at 3:00 p.m. WHERE: B-318 Rayburn House Office Building WITNESS His Excellency Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities  

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