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

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  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Hastings to Travel to Russia, Finland and Vienna

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will travel on an official CODEL to St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Vienna, Austria from May 23-31, 2008. While in St. Petersburg, Chairman Hastings will participate in a meeting with officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Inter-parliamentary Assembly. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss election monitoring and ways to seek engagement from all OSCE participating States. In January, Chairman Hastings led the international election observation mission for the presidential elections in the Republic of Georgia, where he concluded that the Georgian election largely met most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards. Chairman Hastings noted, “Even for an established democracy such as ours, the test cannot only be a ‘perfect’ election. Clearly, no democratic process is perfect; and, in spite of problems in certain districts or regions, we live in a country where we are able to express ourselves freely. I look forward to discussing the critically important issues surrounding election monitoring and how to strengthen and protect the electoral process.” In Helsinki, Chairman Hastings will meet with Finnish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office (CiO) Alexander Stubb to brief him on the conclusions of the meeting in St. Petersburg and to discuss other issues of concern. Chairman Hastings will be joined by OSCE PA President Goran Lenmarker of Sweden, Vice President Joao Soares of Portugal, and Secretary General Spencer Oliver. Lastly, Chairman Hastings will travel to Vienna and attend an OSCE conference entitled, “The Role of National Institutions against Discrimination in Combating Racism and Xenophobia.” The conference will examine ways for national minorities and migrants to overcome the challenges faced at the national and international level. Chairman Hastings will also give a speech at the conference on the role of government institutions and combating racism. “The U.S. has an important story to tell in terms of how it has worked to overcome the legacies of slavery, segregation, the virtual extermination of Native Americans and other historic injustices. While it is a continuing struggle, we have much to share with other countries who are only now just beginning to address issues of racism, discrimination, diversity, and related issues. Recently, the Commission held a series of hearings on racial minorities in Europe and found many similarities with experiences here. Because I was part of the struggle in the U.S., I understand what others are going through. This is personal as well,” said Hastings.  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Host Screening of the Academy Award-Winning Documentary Taxi to the Dark Side

    WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, will hold a public screening of the film, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” on Tuesday, June 3 at 4:30 p.m. in room HC-8 of the U.S. Capitol. The film, directed by Alex Gibney, 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 film has only been shown in a limited number of theaters and has not yet been aired on television or released for rent. WHO: U.S. Helsinki Commission (Co-Chairmen Rep. Hastings and Senator Cardin) WHAT: Film Screening of Taxi to the Dark Side WHEN: Tuesday, June 3 at 4:30 p.m. WHERE: HC-8 of the Capitol  

  • Hastings and Cardin Welcome Appointment of Janez Lenarcic as Head of OSCE’s Human Rights Body

    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 welcoming the appointment of Ambassador Janez Lenarcic of Slovenia as the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) human rights body. Ambassador Lenarcic was appointed by the OSCE Ministerial Council to be the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), where he will assume the position on July 1 for a three-year term: “We welcome the appointment of Ambassador Lenarcic as the Director of ODIHR. Ambassador Lenarcic’s leadership of the Permanent Council on behalf of the Slovenian Chairmanship and his ability demonstrated in bridging gaps and forging consensus was no doubt key in the decision of participating States to entrust him with this important position. “The Helsinki Commission has a long tradition of working closely with the ODIHR, and we look forward to continuing this tradition. Most recently, the Commission was a strong supporter of developing OSCE’s work on Tolerance issues, including the establishment of ODIHR’s Tolerance Unit and programs on combating anti-Semitism. We laud the work being done in this area and will continue to support its programs and goals,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin.

  • Chairman Hastings Concerned Over the Shutdown of RFE/RL’s Newsline Publication

    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 Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The letter outlines Chairman Hastings’ concern over the shutdown of the research and analysis division of RFE/RL. In particular, the letter notes the May 9 demise of RFE/RL’s flagship publication, “Newsline.” In February, Chairman Hastings visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. Chairman Hastings plans to consult with colleagues in Congress to get the decision reversed. (Please find below a copy of the letter) May 20, 2008 Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin President Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036 Dear Dr. Gedmin: I was dismayed to learn that you have decided to shut down the research and analysis division of RFE/RL. May 9 marked the demise of RFE/RL’s flagship publication, “Newsline.” Obviously, broadcasting is a critical priority of the radios, but for the Washington policymaking community, “Newsline” and other analytical products of RFE/RL are no less essential. For many Members of Congress and their staff, “Newsline” is the best way to remain informed about events and trends in the former Soviet bloc. I need hardly remind you, with rumors of possible military action between Russia and Georgia and the recent passage in the House of Representatives of a resolution expressing support for Georgia, how unpredictable that part of the world remains. The loss of “Newsline” and its sister publications would considerably complicate our task of keeping up to date with fast-changing developments there and responding legislatively. Considering that Senator Cardin and I were so recently in Prague to see the RFE/RL operation, we should certainly have received advance notice of your intention. I am very disappointed that you saw fit to eliminate the RFE/RL products most familiar and important to Congress, which funds the entire RFE/RL operation. I urge you to reverse this decision. For my part, I intend to consult with my colleagues about the closure of RFE/RL’s research and analysis division. You should expect to hear from me in the near future. Sincerely, Alcee L. Hastings, M.C. Chairman

  • Reps. Hastings and Dingell Laud Funding for Iraqi Refugees in Emergency Supplemental

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, and Congressman John D. Dingell, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, lauded the passage of the FY 2008 Emergency Supplemental Bill. The bill provides for $675 million in funding – $454 million above the President's request – to address the refugee crisis in Iraq and elsewhere. In particular, $300 million has been allocated for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account and $25 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account in the FY 2008 Supplemental as well as $350 million for the MRA in FY 2009. In addition, the bill provides $150,000 in bilateral aid to Jordan to specifically address the refugee crisis. Hastings and Dingell will continue to urge Congress to increase funding in the future to address the plight of Iraqi refugees and IDPs. “The passage of the Emergency Supplemental is a significant step forward in addressing this deepening crisis. However, more must be done. As we face a global food shortage coupled with diminishing resources available to meet the daily needs of Iraqi refugees and IDPs, urgent support is needed to handle this situation. We must put ourselves in the shoes of Iraqis who have traveled a long and difficult road. Whose lives have been turned upside down and who may never get the life they once lived back. Irrespective of one’s views on the war, Congress must work with the Administration to appropriately address the calamity unfolding in the region. The U.S. has a moral obligation to lead, but can’t go it alone. I am committed to working with Congress and the Administration to implement feasible solutions. I am pleased by the passage of this bill and I thank Chairman Obey for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him in the future,” said Chairman Hastings. “I am very pleased that the Democratic Congress will be dedicating funds to assist Iraqis displaced because of the war and the ongoing ethnic and sectarian conflict in Iraq. This action shows a real commitment on the part of the United States to address what is the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis. We have a lot of work to do to repair the damage to Iraq and the lives of its citizens, as well as our reputation around the world. By providing increased humanitarian aid and bilateral assistance to our allies in the region, we are taking an important step in that direction. I look forward to continuing to work for increased funding for Iraqi refugees in the Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations bills, and continuing to pressure the Bush Administration to address this problem in way that reflects the compassion and decency that makes up the true nature of America’s character,” said Dingell. Chairman Hastings has introduced comprehensive legislation to address this humanitarian and potential security crisis. In January, Chairman Hastings and Dingell wrote to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion in funding in the FY 2009 budget, and also called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to layout a long-term plan to address the plight of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDPs). In April, Chairman Hastings joined with Congressman Bill Delahunt and nine of his Congressional colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urging the government of Iraq to use $1 billion (4 percent) of its expected $25 billion budget surplus to assist Iraqi refugees and IDPs.  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Cardin Comments on Hate Crimes and Hate Propaganda On the Internet

    WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) made the following statement at a Commission briefing entitled, “Hate in the Information Age.” The briefing focused on how best to combat hate crimes and hate propaganda with a focus on the role of the Internet and other technologies in the training, recruiting, and funding of hate groups: “This year is certainly a time of recognition and remembrance for some of the world’s most prominent struggles. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the 60th anniversaries of both Israel and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 40th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite the many achievements associated with these struggles, we are still grappling with the very real problems of bigotry and discrimination in North America and Europe, sometimes manifested in violence, other crimes, or violations of civil rights. “In the United States, we have seen the resurgence of the noose and swastika, the unfair equation of all Muslims and other migrants with terrorism, and violent attacks on gays. Across the OSCE region, support has grown for extremist political parties that openly espouse xenophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic views under the guise of preserving national identity and security. Two weeks ago, British journalist for the Guardian newspaper, Gary Younge testified before our Commission that in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy, hard-right nationalist and anti-immigrant parties regularly receive more than 10 percent of the vote and 20-30 percent of the vote in Norway and Switzerland. “And these trends are not limited to political rhetoric. Our own government cited in its most recent report an 8 percent increase in hate crimes. The European Union Federal Rights Agency reported more than 80,000 racist incidents and over 17,000 crimes linked to hate groups in the European Union last year. Hate crimes have also been on the rise in Russia and Ukraine. Discrimination in other sectors is also being reported. “Letting the perpetrators of hate know that their actions are neither condoned, nor will go unpunished is a must if we are to win this fight. It is for this reason that I introduced legislation in the Senate calling for the full investigation and criminal prosecution of the hanging of nooses in this country. “Winning also includes finding ways to fight old hatreds expressed in new ways. Cyberspace is increasingly becoming a new platform for the purveyors of hate to swell their ranks and plan their assaults on the innocent. Let me cite just a few examples of how the internet has been used to propagate intolerance: last year, a Russian website posted the putative beheading of two men under a Nazi flag; in the United States, white supremacists posted the names and addresses of individuals, along with an exhortation to harass them; Dutch politician Geert Wilder’s anti-Muslim film eventually found a home on the web, even after several sites rejected it; and in Hungary just last month, extremists used a blogsite to organize rallies by neo-Nazis.”  

  • Solis Examines Regional Impacts and Opportunities of Migration in Los Angeles

    WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), Special Representative on Migration for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and a member of the United States Helsinki Commission, made the following statement at a Commission field hearing on migration held at California State – Los Angeles. Testimony was given by the Reverend Richard Estrada, Associate Pastor at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church (“La Placita”) in Los Angeles and Founder/Executive Director of Jovenes, Inc.; Mr. Kerry Doi, President/CEO, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE); Ms. Eun Sook Lee, Executive Director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); Ms. Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA); l Hinojosa-Ojeda, Associate?Dr. Rau vez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies;??sar E. Cha?Professor, UCLA Ce and Ms. Lucy Ito, Senior Vice President, California Credit Union League. The hearing entitled, “Los Angeles: The Regional Impacts and Opportunities of Migration,” focused on the transitional experiences and accomplishments of migrant communities in Los Angeles. In particular, the hearing examined Los Angeles as a case study within the international context of global migration. Joining Congresswoman Solis at the hearing was Helsinki Commission Chairman, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA). The hearing is the first domestic field hearing held by the Helsinki Commission outside of the D.C. Metropolitan area in more than 15 years. Congresswoman Solis will present a full report of the hearing at the OSCE PA annual meeting this June in Astana, Kazakhstan: “Good morning and welcome to today’s field hearing titled “Los Angeles: The Regional Impacts and Opportunities Migration.” As the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Migration, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to bring the important work of the Commission to my district in Los Angeles. “I want to thank Chairman Hastings and our witnesses for joining us here today to provide the Commission with their insight on migration in Los Angeles. Today, we will examine the regional impacts and opportunities of migration in Los Angeles within a global context. “In the United States, our political climate has made immigration a wedge issue that does not reflect the realities of the American migration experience. This hearing is absolutely vital in humanizing the migration experience and generating a productive dialogue. “Part of my mandate as OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Migration is to provide the OSCE and Member Delegations to the OSCE PA with policy recommendations to address migration issues.I have seen no other city in my experience that is more fitting to start that dialogue than Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a gateway for millions of new immigrants to the U.S. It is a multicultural city that is recognized for its accomplishments and initiatives to support migrant communities. “The migrant communities in Los Angeles are very diverse. For example, in 2006, migrants from Mexico accounted for nearly 43% of the foreign born in Los Angeles. This is followed by migrants from El Salvador (8%), China (6.3%), the Philippines (6.1%), Guatemala (4.6%) and Korea (4.4%). It is also home to large Armenian and Iranian communities as well. In Los Angeles, approximately 46% of the workforce is foreign born. This is 3 times higher than the U.S. as a whole. In Los Angeles, immigrant workers are largely represented in occupations such as construction trades (63%), health care support (48%), and farming, fishing and forestry (70%). These job sectors are crucial to the state of California and Los Angeles. “Migrants also contribute significantly to the economy through purchasing power and business development. In 2004, the Asian-American and Latino consumer markets accounted for $1.05 trillion dollars in purchasing power. In 2005, companies founded by first-generation immigrants employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in sales. 80% of these companies provide jobs in software and innovation/manufacturing-related services. “In addition, migrants provide revenues to their home countries in the form of remittances, providing over $232 billion per year to developing countries, an amount far greater than official development assistance. Many of the OSCE participating States rely on remittances for a significant portion of their GDP. For example, remittances make up 31% of Moldova’s GDP. These remittances can play a key role in supplementing incomes of migrants’ families, offering means to pay for education, and afford better health care. “Los Angeles is viewed by many as the leading edge in providing services and infrastructure to optimize the potential of its’ migrant communities. The various advocacy and service organizations in Los Angeles seek to address the needs of the diverse migrant communities. These groups are responsible for providing critical outreach and services to migrant communities. They also seek to educate migrant communities about the importance of civic participation and increase economic development. For example, the Multi-Ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network (MIWON), a network of worker centers in Los Angeles, organized a march on Thursday, May 1st to the attention the issue of workers rights and justice in immigrant communities. “Between 1990 and 2006, the proportion of foreign born immigrants who became naturalized citizens nearly doubled from 9% to 16%. The rise in the naturalized population and the growth of the second generation population in Los Angeles all point to new opportunities to engage in increased civic participation. “The work these organizations and coalitions perform on the local, state, and national level has been critical to increasing civic participation and economic growth and should serve as a model for the OSCE and Partner States throughout the world. “The discussions in Congress about immigration reform have mobilized migrant communities and just as nations around the globe are working to successfully integrate immigrants, I am hopeful that today’s testimony will contribute to a better understanding of the benefits of migration and pitfalls of enforcement only policies. “I look forward to hearing their thoughts and insight on best practices for social, civic, and economic integration of migrant communities.”  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Human Rights in Uzbekistan Three Years After Andijan Events

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will hold a briefing examining the human rights situation and state of civil society in Uzbekistan three years after Andijan. The briefing will take place on Tuesday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. in room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building. On May 13, 2005, Uzbek security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Andijan. Hundreds were killed, and in the subsequent crackdown, restrictions were imposed to further stifle dissent. Despite sanctions by the European Union and the United States, Tashkent has refused to allow any independent investigations of the tragedy. While the human rights situation remains dire, the Government of Uzbekistan continues to pursue engagement with the EU and U.S., positioning itself as a key strategic ally in regional energy and security concerns. Panelists will explore prospects for democratization in Uzbekistan and the possibilities of improving U.S.-Uzbek relations. Additionally, they will discuss the need for reforms in cotton production, Uzbekistan's largest source of income. WHAT: U.S. Helsinki Commission Briefing on Human Rights in Uzbekistan Three Years After Andijan Events WHEN: Tuesday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. WHERE: B-318 Rayburn House Office Building  Panelists include: Ms. Shahida Tulaganova, documentary film maker who launched the Uzbek-language newspaper "Siyosat" Ms. Masha Lisitsyna, Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division Ms. Juliette Williams, founding director of the Environmental Justice Foundation Dr. Eric McGlinchey, Assistant Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University  

  • **ROOM CHANGE** U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Russia’s Future Under a Medvedev Administration

    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, “U.S.-Russia Relations: Looking Ahead to the Medvedev Administration,” on Thursday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. in room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing will examine U.S. policy toward Russia with the approach of the Administration of Dmitry Medvedev. On March 2, Medvedev was elected President of the Russian Federation with over 70 percent of the vote against limited opposition. He will take office on May 7, 2008. WHAT: U.S. Helsinki Commission on Russia WHEN: Thursday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. WHERE: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building WITNESSES: The Honorable Daniel Fried, Acting Undersecretary of State, U.S. Department of State Dr. Stephen Blank, MacArthur Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, Visiting Associate Professor, Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Georgetown University Dr. David Foglesong, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on Hate Crimes and Hate Propaganda on the Internet

    WASHINGTON - The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will hold a briefing entitled, “Hate in the Information Age,” on Thursday, May 15 at 3:00 p.m. in room 432 of the Russell Senate Office Building. The briefing will focus on hate crimes and hate propaganda in the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) region, examining the challenges posed by the Internet and other technology. The briefing will address how best to combat hate crimes and hate propaganda with a focus on the role of the Internet and other technologies in the training, recruiting, and funding of hate groups. Issues of Internet governance (e.g., liability of Internet providers, free speech concerns, and content control responsibility) will also be discussed. WHAT: Helsinki Commission Briefing on Hates Crimes and Propaganda on the Internet WHEN: Thursday, May 15 at 3:00 p.m. WHERE: 432 Russell Senate Office Building Invited Panelists include: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center Dr. Maura Conway, Dublin City University, Ireland Mr. Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center Mr. Tad Stahnke, Human Rights First Mr. Chris Wolf, Internet Hate Coalition/ADL  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Russia’s Future Under a Medvedev Administration

    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, “U.S.-Russia Relations: Looking Ahead to the Medvedev Administration,” on Thursday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. in 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing will examine U.S. policy toward Russia with the approach of the Administration of Dmitry Medvedev. On March 2, Medvedev was elected President of the Russian Federation with over 70 percent of the vote against limited opposition. He will take office on May 7, 2008. WHAT: U.S. Helsinki Commission on Russia WHEN: Thursday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. WHERE: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building WITNESSES: The Honorable Daniel Fried, Acting Undersecretary of State, U.S. Department of State Dr. Stephen Blank, MacArthur Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, Visiting Associate Professor, Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, Georgetown University Dr. David Foglesong, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Urges Greater Protection of Freedom of Expression

    WASHINGTON - Ahead of tomorrow’s World Press Freedom Day, 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), issued the following statement: “As we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, we recognize the critical role freedom speech and freedom of the media play in safeguarding democracy and we are reminded of the grave challenges many journalists face while reporting, such as acts of intimidation, abduction, beatings, threats or even murder,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. “The assassinations of Russian investigative journalists including Anna Politikovskaya and the recent attacks on journalists in Serbia and Dagestan, Russia, illustrate just how dangerous this profession can be. We commend all in the media who put their lives on the line every single day to report the news. Furthermore, we laud Mr. Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media for his detailed, thoughtful and constructive work in this field and his commitment to protecting the right of all individuals to express themselves freely.” Chairman Hastings further noted, “As Miklos Haraszti has observed, the ongoing media crackdown in Azerbaijan is a source of particular concern. The recent knifing of Azadlig correspondent Agil Khalil is just the latest in a series of attacks against journalists. This attack ought to be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable for their actions. Despite the December amnesty that released five journalists, other journalists remain imprisoned for their work. I urge the leaders of Azerbaijan to repeal their criminal defamation and insult laws and release their jailed journalists.” Co-Chairman Cardin commented, “The recent law passed by the Russian Duma placing greater restrictions on the media clearly underscores state efforts to turn back the clock to a post-Soviet era. It is unfortunate that the Russian Federation created legislative penalties for anyone who fails to shape the news to their liking. I urge President-elect Medvedev to lift the restraints on journalists and allow for a greater freedom of expression by the media and to put stronger measures in place to protect the rights of journalists.” Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin added, “We remain extremely troubled over broadcast monopolies controlled by the state in such countries as Belarus, whose tight control of the media limits access of information to its people. Alexander Lukashenka’s regime forces its people to struggle daily for freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. Until this dictator is out of power, the media will remain under constant attack.” About: World Press Freedom Day was established in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and to remind all governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right of freedom of expression in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Hastings Comments on Iraqi Refugee Crisis Before Foreign Affairs Subcommittees

    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 during a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. The hearing entitled, “No Direction Home: An NGO Perspective on Iraqi Refugees and IDPs,” focused on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons: “Thank you, Chairman Ackerman and Chairman Delahunt for holding this extremely important hearing today. I am honored to be here. “A major stumbling block of the Iraqi refugee crisis is that not enough attention has been focused on the humanitarian calamity unfolding in the region. While there is plenty of fiery partisan rhetoric by Congress, the Administration and Presidential candidates over the war, the conditions of Iraqi refugees and IDPs continues to deteriorate. This increased deterioration is becoming a recipe for disaster. “If Congress and the Administration fail to broaden their focus on Iraq, the security implications could potentially further destabilize the region. Militia groups within Iraq are providing substantial assistance to displaced Iraqis. And host countries such as Jordan and Syria are dealing with an increasingly desperate refugee population. “This increased desperation, combined with resentment among host country populations could just be the calm before the storm. “We must look beyond partisan politics and focus on the real problem at hand – a burgeoning humanitarian crisis. I have introduced comprehensive legislation; written to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion in funding to the FY 2009 budget as well as to Secretary Rice calling on her to layout a long-term plan to address this crisis. This alone will not solve the problem. “Before this situation further implodes, Congress and the Administration must work together to implement feasible solutions, including garnering support from Europe and Gulf States. The U.S. has a moral obligation to lead, but can’t go it alone. “In closing, I would just like to recognize all the NGOs working with Iraqi refugees and IDPs, who are truly the lifeline to those men, women and children that are suffering. I want to thank you for your service to your organization and your commitment to making this a better world.”

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Energy Security and the Environment

    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 focusing on energy security and the environment in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region on Tuesday, May 6 at 3:00 p.m. in room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building. WHAT: U.S. Helsinki Commission Hearing on Energy Security and the Environment WHEN: Tuesday, May 6 at 3:00 p.m. WHERE: B-318 Rayburn House Office Building Oil prices and food prices are both reaching record highs—is there a link between the two? At the same time we are facing competing demands to feed the world, protect the environment, and keep economies around the world growing. This hearing entitled, “Clearing the Air, Feeding the Fuel Tank: Understanding the Link between Energy and Environmental Security,” will seek solutions to these questions by examining the environmental aspects of energy security, specifically looking at the role that environmental technologies can play in increasing energy security and combating climate change by reducing demand on hydrocarbon resources. Witnesses will discuss the role of alternative energy sources, including biofuels, and what policies are needed to ensure that alternative energy sources do not create secondary problems such as other types of pollution or food shortages. The hearing will also examine the prospects for developing countries in the OSCE region, and whether or not they can incorporate sustainable energy policies without harming their economic development. This hearing reflects the culmination of a series of hearings on energy security held by the Commission, including “Pipeline Politics: Achieving Energy Security in the OSCE Region,” in June 2007 and “Energy and Democracy: Oil and Water?” in July 2007. Witnesses: Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Director, Climate, Energy and Pollution Program, World Resources Institute Dr. Richard Bradley, Head, Energy Efficiency and Environment Division, International Energy Agency Ms. Jetta Wong, Senior Policy Associate, Agriculture & Energy Program at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute Mr. Justin M. Lee, CEO, Nexsun Energy, Inc. Dr. Alex Marker, Director for Research and Development, SCHOTT North America

  • Rep. Hilda Solis to Hold Congressional Field Hearing on Migration in Los Angeles

    WASHINGTON- Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), Special Representative on Migration for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and a member of the United States Helsinki Commission will hold a field hearing on migration at California State University - Los Angeles in the Golden Eagle (Ballroom 1) on Friday, May 9 at 11:00 a.m. The hearing entitled, “Los Angeles: The Regional Impacts and Opportunities of Migration,” will focus on the transitional experiences and accomplishments of migrant communities in Los Angeles. In particular, the hearing will examine Los Angeles as a case study within the international context of global migration. Joining Congresswoman Solis at the hearing will be Helsinki Commission Chairman, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA), and other Members of Congress. Following the hearing, Congresswoman Solis will lead the delegation on a tour of Olvera Street – the birthplace of the city of Los Angeles and El Pueblo Historic Monument. The tour of Olvera Street (845 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles) will take place at 2:15 p.m. The delegation will then visit Chinatown Service Center, which is the largest community-based Chinese American health and human service organization in Southern California. The tour of the Chinatown Service Center (767 N. Hill Street, Los Angeles) will take place at 3:45 p.m. On April 24, Congresswoman Solis participated in a Helsinki Commission hearing on women and migration that focused on the impact of migration on family and society, the special concerns of migrant women of color, and the economic contributions of women migrants to their home country through remittances. Invited witnesses include: Reverend Richard Estrada, Associate Pastor at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church (“La Placita”) in Los Angeles and Founder/Executive Director of Jovenes, Inc. Mr. Kerry Doi, President/CEO, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE) Dr. David Hayes Bautista, Director, Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture Ms. Eun Sook Lee, Executive Director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) Ms. Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, Associate Professor, UCLA Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies Ms. Lucy Ito, Senior Vice President, California Credit Union League

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Launches New Website

    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), launched a new Commission website. The official website can be found at www.csce.gov. It will provide the public, Members of Congress, Executive Branch, and congressional staff with a new user-friendly format of information and helpful resources regarding the work of the Commission. This new site will maximize outreach to interested parties by providing up-to-date information on Commission hearings, briefings, statements, and reports as well as audio and video links of Commission events. Additionally, Chairman Hastings will post a weekly blog on Commission activities and respond to current events in the news.  

  • Reps. Hastings, Waters, Woolsey, and Lee to Hold Photo Exhibit Highlighting Iraqi Refugee Crisis

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will hold a photo exhibit highlighting the Iraqi refugee crisis on Wednesday, April 30 from 5:00-6:30 p.m. in room 2220 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Chairman Hastings is co-hosting the event with Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) as well as Ken Bacon, President of Refugees International. Ms. Gabriela Bulisova, a documentary film photographer and professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design recently returned from Iraq and Syria, where she captured images of Iraqi refugees. Her photo exhibit places a human face on this humanitarian crisis in an effort to bring greater attention to the plight of Iraqi refugees on Capitol Hill. Additionally, Ms. Aseel Albanna, an Iraqi-American who was born and raised in Baghdad will participate in the event. She is the Co-Founder and Coordinator of Iraqi Voices for Peace, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping meet the basic human needs of Iraqi refugees and displaced persons in an effort to help them safely and securely return to Iraq at the earliest possible date. DETAILS: WHO: Reps. Hastings, Waters, Woolsey, Lee, Gabriela Bulisovak, Ken Bacon, President of Refugees International and Aseel Albanna WHAT: Photo Exhibit Highlighting Iraqi Refugee Crisis WHEN: Wednesday, April 30 from 5:00-6:30 p.m. (NOTE: Speaking program will be from 5:30-6:00 p.m.) WHERE: 2220 Rayburn House Office Building  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Calls for Greater Attention to the Plight of Migrant Women

    WASHINGTON- Earlier today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) held a hearing with Helsinki Commissioner Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), entitled “Crossing Borders, Keeping Connected: Women, Migration and Development in the OSCE Region.” The hearing focused on the impact of women migrants on family and society and the economic contributions to their home countries through remittances. Participating in the hearing was Commissioner Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Congresswomen Gwen Moore (D-WI), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Diane Watson (D-CA). All the Members agreed that Congress must do more to shed light on the challenges as well as the benefits of women migrants. Expert testimony was received from Dr. Susan Martin, Director of the Institute for Study of International Migration at Georgetown University and Dr. Manuel Orozco with the Remittances and Development program at Inter-American Dialogue. Chairman Hastings noted during the hearing, “The plight of women migrants is a hometown issue for most of us. In my home state of Florida, we have some of the highest concentrations of farm workers. More than one-quarter of all farm workers in the United States are women, yet their salaries are only two-thirds that of their male counterparts even while they are exposed to some of the most dangerous working conditions and are regularly subjected to sexual harassment, assault, and rape.” Congresswoman Solis, who is also Special Representative on Migration of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly stressed that, “Migrant workers provide critical funds for family members in their home country through remittances. The social remittances of migrant women, such as ideas, skills, and attitudes, can also boost socio-economic development and promote human rights and gender equality. Financial remittances could have an even greater role in poverty reduction and development if women did not face wage, employment, credit and property discrimination.” On May 9, Congresswoman Solis will chair a hearing in her district entitled, “Los Angeles: The Regional Impacts and Opportunities of Migration.” The hearing will focus on the transitional experiences and accomplishments of migrant communities in Los Angeles. In particular, it will examine Los Angeles as a case study within the international context of global migration. Chairman Hastings and other members of Congress will join Congresswoman Solis at the hearing in Los Angeles.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on the State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights & Politics

    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: “The State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights, & Politics" Tuesday, April 29 at 10:00 a.m.  B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building The hearing will focus on the challenges and opportunities experienced by the more than 5 million members of Europe’s Black population amidst reported increase in hate crimes and discrimination, anti-immigration and national identity debates, and growing security concerns. Additionally, the hearing will also examine the impact of anti-discrimination measures as well as diversity initiatives aimed at ensuring and protecting equal rights for a population many do not know exists. Invited Witnesses include: Mr. Boris Kodjoe, Afro-German Actor Mr. Joe Frans, Vice Chair, United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent; former Swedish Parliamentarian Mr. Gary Younge, British columnist, The Guardian Newspaper Dr. Allison Blakely, Author and Historian, Boston University Dr. Philomena Essed, Antioch University; The Netherlands, Equal Treatment Commission Dr. Clarence Lusane, International Race Politics Author, American University  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Troubled by Russia's Move to Strengthen Ties with Separatists Regions of Georgia

    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), expressed deep concern over the Russian Federation’s decision to strengthen ties with Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to a decree issued earlier this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow intends to deepen its ties in such areas as trade, agriculture, education, and diplomacy, while not extending full diplomatic recognition. “Moscow’s latest move clearly undermines Georgia’s sovereignty,” said Chairman Hastings. “Although Moscow claims to still recognize Georgia’s sovereignty, such actions raise serious doubts about these facile declarations. I urge Moscow to disavow its decision and cease its bullying behavior in the Caucasus.” Co-Chairman Cardin noted, “I am extremely troubled by Moscow’s decision to strengthen ties in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This move is clearly intended to punish Georgia for its desire to join NATO. Whatever one may think of that prospect, I can certainly understand Georgia’s desire to deepen its relations with the West, especially if its neighbor to the north is determined to further exacerbate an already tense situation.” The Foreign Minister of Georgia has called Russia’s policy one of “creeping annexation,” and announced his government will seek a special session of the United Nations to deal with the issue.  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on Women and Migration

    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, “Crossing Borders, Keeping Connected: Women, Migration and Development in the OSCE Region.” U.S. Helsinki Commission Hearing on Women and Migration Thursday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building The hearing will focus on the impact of migration on family and society, the special concerns of migrant women of color, and the economic contributions of women migrants to their home country through remittances. According to the United Nations, women are increasingly migrating on their own as main economic providers and heads of households. While the number of women migrants is on the rise, little is known about the economic and social impact of this migration on their home country. Witnesses will include: Dr. Manuel Orozco, Remittances and Development Program, Inter-American Dialogue Dr. Susan Martin, Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Joins with European Parliamentarians to Express Support for Tibetan People

    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), and Ranking Minority Members Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), along with Helsinki Commissioners Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Hilda Solis (D-CA), joined with members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly in signing a statement of solidarity with the people of Tibet. The statement expresses support for the basic human freedoms and dignity of the Tibetan people and pledges continued attention to all individuals and communities worldwide who seek to exercise their basic inalienable rights. After the Members of Congress signed the statement in Washington last week, the statement was signed on Monday, April 14 in Copenhagen, Denmark by the following Members of Parliament: the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Goran Lennmarker (Sweden); Ms. Walburga Habsburg-Douglas (Sweden); Mr. Wolfgang Grossruck (Austria); Senator Consiglio Di Nino (Canada); Ms. Tone Tingsgaard (Sweden); Mr. Jean-Charles Gardetto (Monaco); Ms. Pia Christmas-Møller (Denmark); Senator Anne-Marie Lizin (Belgium); and Mr. Joao Soares (Portugal). Copies of the statement have been sent to President Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge. “We express our strong support for the basic human freedoms and dignity of the Tibetan people and their yearning for autonomy and cultural respect. We view the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing as an opportunity to reaffirm the principle that respect for human rights is essential to stability and security. We believe that the fundamental human freedoms expressed in the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the Fundamental Principles of Olympism are universal and must be respected, and promoted by all nations. Our hope is that through dialogue and mutual respect, peace and freedom will ultimately prevail in Tibet, and throughout China, and indeed throughout the world. We pledge our continuing attention and support to all individuals and communities throughout the world seeking to exercise their basic and inalienable rights.”  

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

    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, “Armenia after the Election,” on Thursday, April 17 at 2:00 p.m. in room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Since the February 19 presidential election, Armenia has experienced its most serious political crisis in over a decade. The March 1 confrontation between the authorities and supporters of the opposition resulted in at least eight fatalities and the imposition of a state of emergency, causing serious damage to Armenia’s reputation. Although Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian has been elected President, some opposition leaders refuse to recognize the outcome and government opposition relations remain tense. The state of emergency has been lifted but restrictions on freedom of assembly continue in effect. The hearing will focus on the ramifications of these developments for Armenia and the United States, especially the ongoing Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia s qualifications for assistance from the Millennium Challenge Account. Testifying before the Commission will be: Mr. Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mr. Vigen Sargsian, Assistant to the President of the Republic of Armenia Mr. Arman Grigorian, Spokesman for former President Levon Ter-Petrossian

  • Hastings-Delahunt to Hold Press Conference Urging Iraqi Government to Aid Refugees

    WASHINGTON- Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) will hold a press conference with Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, TODAY at 1:30 p.m. in the House Radio/TV Gallery (H-321). Hastings and Delahunt will urge Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to use a small portion of Iraq’s expected surplus to address the Iraqi refugee crisis. Press Conference to announce letter to al-Maliki on Iraqi Refugee Crisis Thursday, April 10  1:30 p.m. H-321, House Radio/TV Gallery With the increase in the price of oil, the Iraqi Government is expected to end the year with a budgetary surplus of $25 billion. This week, Delahunt joined with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), to invite other Members to co-sponsor a letter to Prime Minister al-Maliki asking that Iraq provide $1 billion of this surplus to help the displaced. In addition, Mr. Hastings, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Frank Wolff (R-VA), Chris Shays (R-CT), and Bob Inglis (R-SC) have also signed on. At 2:30 p.m. today, Chairman Hastings, along with Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), will hold a hearing in room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building on the Iraqi refugee crisis. The hearing will focus on the impact of the massive displacement of Iraqi citizens on Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Turkey as well as other countries in the region; the security implications of this humanitarian crisis; and efforts by the United States and others to address the plight of Iraqi refugees, including humanitarian relief, resettlement of Iraqi refugees, host country commitments, European cooperation as well as a long-term plan to address this crisis.    

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Urges Respect for Human Rights of Roma

    WASHINGTON- Ahead of tomorrow’s International Roma Day, 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), issued the following statement: “As Co-Chairmen of the Helsinki Commission, we commemorate International Roma Day and stand committed to the protection of human rights for all Roma,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. “Being a member of a minority group in Congress and, in fact, the first African American to chair the Helsinki Commission, the protection of human rights and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination are especially important goals for me. I am particularly concerned about Roma in the OSCE region who are the victims of racial attacks and widespread discrimination,” Chairman Hastings commented. Co-Chairman Cardin remarked, “Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in Europe, and Chairman Hastings and I have made it a point to meet with Romani activists in Kosovo, Bucharest, Prague and Bratislava to learn about their conditions first hand. We commend Finland, serving as the OSCE’s Chair-in-Office, for making Romani human rights issues the focus of one of this year’s three specialized human rights meetings.” Chairman Hastings observed that it was regrettable that Slovakia has not yet acknowledged the sterilization without informed consent of Romani women. “I met with Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Dusan Caplovic in February, and urged him to address this painful chapter of Slovakia’s history. In addition, it is critical that Slovakia ensure that women have full and complete access to their own medical records.” Co-Chairman Cardin noted that he and other Commissioners wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Erdo?an just last week about the destruction of the historic Romani district in Sulukule, Istanbul. “I am especially concerned about the explosive housing conditions faced by Roma in many countries,” said Cardin. “In many places, long-settled Roma risk being uprooted from their communities, with predictable and disastrous consequences for families, including the ability of children to receive education.” “We urge all OSCE participating States to honor the commitments adopted at the 1999 Istanbul Summit and in other OSCE documents to ensure Roma are treated with dignity and respect,” concluded Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. On April 4, Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin, along with Helsinki Commissioners Congressmen Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdo?an, regarding the Sulukule urban transformation project. The letter expresses concern about the demolition of this historic community, which dates back to 1054, and whose residents will be forced to relocate to a town 40 kilometers outside of the city. Many residents cannot afford to relocate and will be forced onto the streets of Istanbul. International Roma Day was established in 1990 in Warsaw, Poland, during the fourth World Romani Congress, in honor of the first major international meeting of Roma representatives. The day celebrates Roma culture and raises awareness of the issues facing Romani people. The OSCE participating States will hold a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Romani issues in Vienna, July 10 and 11.  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Troubled by Treatment of Sulukule Roma in Istanbul

    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), along with Helsinki Commissioners Congressmen Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA), and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), sent the following letter to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan, regarding the Sulukule urban transformation project. The letter expresses concern about the demolition of this historic community, which dates back to 1054, and whose residents will be forced to relocate to a town 40 kilometers outside of the city. Many residents cannot afford to relocate and will be forced onto the streets of Istanbul. (Please find below a copy of the letter) April 4, 2008 His Excellency Recep Tayip Erdogan The Prime Minister T.C. Basbakanlik 06100 Bakanliklar / ANKARA TURKEY Dear Prime Minister Erdogan: We write to express our concern about the Sulukule urban transformation project developed by the Fatih and Greater Istanbul municipalities. It is our understanding that six districts in Istanbul including Sulukule, have been chosen to undergo urban transformation as part of the 2010 European Capitol of Culture. While we understand the need to preserve many historical landmarks in Istanbul, we are deeply troubled that Sulukule, home to a Roma community since 1054 and one of the oldest Romani settlements in Europe, is on the brink of total demolition and will be replaced with new villa style homes. The unfortunate outcome of this urban renewal project will not only destroy this historic neighborhood, but will force 3,500 Sulukule residents 40 kilometers outside of the city to the district of Tasoluk or onto the streets. Roma are currently one of the largest, poorest, and fastest growing minority populations in Europe, and remain the target of pervasive racial attacks and discrimination. At the OSCE’s 1999 Istanbul Summit, Turkey and all other OSCE participating States agreed: “We recognize the particular difficulties faced by Roma and Sinti and the need to undertake effective measures in order to achieve full equality of opportunity, consistent with OSCE commitments, for persons belonging to Roma and Sinti. We will reinforce our efforts to ensure that Roma and Sinti are able to play a full and equal part in our societies, and to eradicate discrimination against them.” The protection of human rights and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination required by the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent documents of the OSCE remain critically important to the United States Helsinki Commission, and therefore we are particularly concerned about the eroding conditions for the Romani community in Sulukule. The Roma community in Sulukule is living on the fringes of society and continues to be treated unfairly. Instead of implementing an urban renewal project that would preserve this centuries-old neighborhood and allow the Roma there to remain together as a community, they will be dispersed and forced to migrate elsewhere. The Romani residents of Sulukule have essentially been unable to work since 1992, when the municipality closed down the music and entertainment venues that had been the lifeblood of the community and a major tourist attraction. With this source of income gone, the Roma of Sulukule have found it increasingly difficult to earn a living. We understand that the residents of Sulukule have been offered the opportunity to purchase the new homes that will be built as part of the project. However, we are advised that the homes are quite expensive and, given the Romani community’s lack of employment and income, this is an empty gesture. We also understand that the offer of housing in Tasoluk, some 40 kilometers outside of Istanbul, is also well beyond the means of the current residents of Sulukule, making it all the more likely that the majority of them will be forced to live on the streets. Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you to work to find a common solution that will ensure that the residents of Sulukule are treated with dignity and respect, that their culture and contribution to the history of Istanbul are preserved and that they are given the opportunity to work, provide shelter and education to their families and contribute fully to Turkish society. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response. Sincerely, Alcee L. Hastings, M.C., Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S. , Co-Chairman Joseph R. Pitts , M.C., Commissioner G.K. Butterfield, M.C., Commissioner  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

    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 “OSCE Partner States and Neighbors Overwhelmed by Iraqi Refugees: Band-aid Solutions to Implosion in the Middle East?” U.S. Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis Thursday, April 10, 2008 2 2:30 p.m.  Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. The hearing will focus on the impact of the massive displacement of Iraqi citizens on Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Turkey as well as other countries in the region; the security implications of this humanitarian crisis; and efforts by the United States and others to address the plight of Iraqi refugees, including humanitarian relief, resettlement of Iraqi refugees, host country commitments, European cooperation as well as a long-term plan to address this crisis. The hearing comes on the heels of General David Petraeus’ and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker’s testimony before Congress about the Iraq war. Chairman Hastings, who is Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, has introduced comprehensive legislation to address this humanitarian and security crisis. In January, Chairman Hastings and Congressman John Dingell wrote to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion in funding for assistance to Iraqi refugees in the FY 2009 budget. They also wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in February, calling on her to develop a long-term plan to address the plight of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDPs). Testifying before the Commission will be: Panel I – Ambassador James Foley, Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees, U.S. Department of State Ms. Lori Scialabba, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security for Iraqi Refugees, Department of Homeland Security Panel II – Mr. Michel Gabaudan, Washington Director, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mr. Anders Lago, Mayor of Sodertalje, Sweden – The city of Sodertalje has a population of 83, 000 and has taken in more than 5,000 Iraqi refugees. Mr. Noel Saleh, Member, Board of Directors, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) – Created in 1971 by a group of volunteers in Dearborn, Michigan, ACCESS assists the Arab immigrant population adapt to life in America and has been integral in assisting Iraqi refugees who have resettled in the United States.  

  • Helsinki Commission to Hold Briefing on the Future of Democracy in Serbia

    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: The Future of Democracy in Serbia Thursday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m. 2220 Rayburn House Office Building The briefing will look at the political situation in Serbia at this critical time in the country’s history as well as the long-term prospects for the country’s democratic institutions, including civic society. Panelists will report on their recent visits to the region and the results of recently conducted public opinion polls indicating attitudes in Serbia regarding their political leaders and their country's future direction. Concern has been expressed about the direction Serbia is taking, especially since Kosovo's February 17 declaration of independence that has been recognized by the United States and many other countries.  In addition to the well-publicized, violent demonstrations in front of the U.S. and other foreign embassies in Belgrade on February 21, representatives of Serbia's independent media, non-governmental organizations and western-oriented political parties have also faced harassment or intimidation.  Meanwhile, Serbia's ruling coalition collapsed in early March, and new parliamentary elections will be held on May 11 and will give the people of Serbia a choice between those political leaders advocating nationalism and isolation and those advocating democracy and integration. Participants in the briefing will include:   Ivana Howard, Program Officer, Central and Eastern Europe, National Endowment for Democracy   Robert Benjamin, Regional Director, Central and Eastern Europe Programs, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs   Lindsay Lloyd, Regional Program Director, Europe, International Republican Institute    

  • Hastings Commemorates Day Against Discrimination

    WASHINGTON- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), issued the following statement commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: “Whether we are speaking of the Roma in Europe, African-Americans in the United States, or others, on this day, we must not only acknowledge the continuing problem of racial discrimination, but also solutions. I have called on my government to implement recent recommendations from the UN Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD). Likewise, European Union members should fully and correctly implement the race directive, and eastern European countries must implement similar initiatives. Ultimately more must be done here and abroad to implement anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws, support racial diversity initiatives, combat racism, and ensure human rights for all,” said Hastings. 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 demonstrators protesting apartheid in South Africa killed by police on March 21, 1960.  

  • Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin Welcome State Department’s Report on Global Anti-Semitism

    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), issued the following statement welcoming the State Department’s report on global anti-Semitism. The report stems from the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, which requires the State Department to document and combat acts of anti-Semitism globally. “I welcome the State Department’s report on global anti-Semitism, which highlights the unfortunate fact that anti-Semitism is still taking place across the globe. Vigilance and action are necessary to prevent the resurgence of anti-Semitism and related violence in Europe and beyond, including in our own country. The Helsinki Commission has responded over the years by mobilizing Commissioners and others in partnership with the NGO community, to translate common concerns into action through hearings and even the legislation that created this report. In this regard, I note the strong leadership provided by my Congressional colleagues, who sponsored the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 and have helped to make this report a reality,” said Chairman Hastings. “I, too, welcome this report. Unfortunately, our best efforts have not yet significantly decreased the record levels of violence and negative sentiments towards members of the Jewish community recorded at the beginning of this century. The Helsinki Commission has a long history of engagement in addressing the rise of anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance within the OSCE region. This report publically sheds light on these tragic incidents and hopefully will allow for better monitoring of these events,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin noted, “While we welcome this report, we are concerned by the State Department’s commitment to adequately fund efforts by the OSCE to combat anti-Semitism globally. It is our hope this report will underscore the importance for the need of the U.S. to be a leader financially on this issue.” On February 15, Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing concern over decreased funding by the United States to the OSCE. In particular, the letter pointed to the lack of funding to combat anti-Semitism by the United States, which could lead to an erosion of support by other nations for maintaining a unique focus on the plague of anti-Semitism in the OSCE region.

  • Hastings and Cardin Welcome Appointment of State Department’s David Kramer to U.S. Helsinki Commission

    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), issued the following statement welcoming the confirmation of Mr. David J. Kramer to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and his appointment to the Commission. Kramer was confirmed by the United States Senate on Friday, March 14: “We warmly welcome the confirmation of David Kramer as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and his appointment to serve on the Helsinki Commission. Secretary Kramer’s extensive knowledge and experience in the OSCE region will no doubt be of great benefit to our work here at the Commission. We appreciate the close working relationship that has developed over the years between the Commission and the State Department arising from our common concerns over violations of fundamental freedoms, democratic principles, and the rule of law. “This year promises to be extremely busy for the Commission with a plethora of issues from unfolding events in Kosovo and the Balkans to the transfer of power to a new president in the Russian Federation and ongoing repression in Belarus. These and many other developments provide new opportunities and challenges for our work at the Helsinki Commission. We look forward to Secretary Kramer playing an active role as a fellow Commissioner,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin.  

  • Hastings and Wexler Laud Passage of Holocaust Archives Legislation

    WASHINGTON- Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, lauded the passage of H.Res.854. The resolution expresses gratitude to all of the member states of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS) for ratifying the May 2006 Agreement to amend the 1955 Bonn Accords granting open access to vast Holocaust and other World War II related archives located in Bad Arolsen, Germany. In December, Chairman Hastings introduced H.Res.854 with Representatives Robert Wexler, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Mark S. Kirk (R-IL). “The passage of this legislation and the opening of the Holocaust archives is an historic occasion that I hope will help to provide closure on one of the darkest times in history. Opening these archives has been an issue of enormous importance to me and while I am pleased with the outcome, it is unfortunate that it has taken over 62 years to achieve,” said Chairman Hastings. “I thank my colleagues for their support on such an important resolution, which will allow Holocaust survivors and the public at large access to these critically important documents. In our world today, filled with growing international intolerance including anti-Semitism, it could not be more critical for these Holocaust archives to be opened.” “Many Holocaust survivors have died without knowing the details of a family member’s deportation, incarceration, or death,” said Congressman Wexler. “The opening of the Bad Arolsen archives now allows survivors and their heirs to gain access to vital information about their family history. The ability for survivors and their families to access over 50 million documents chronicling the fate of over 17 million Holocaust victims is an important step in bringing closure to this painful chapter of history.”   

  • Helsinki Co-Chairs Hastings and Cardin Call for US to Step Up Efforts to End Racial Discrimination

    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), responded to a decision released by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Commission says the United States must do more to eradicate racial discrimination and address racial disparities. “The civil rights struggle and the resulting changes in this country have often served as a model for other nations. At a time when hate crimes and discrimination are on the rise, we are making a mockery of the gains of the civil rights movement by backtracking on initiatives that address racial disparities. This is a global struggle, and the U.S. must do more and set a better example abroad,” said Chairman Hastings. CERD is charged with periodically reviewing the performance of the 173 countries that have signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. 18 independent experts make up CERD, including a U.S. representative. The U.S. appeared before the body on February 22 and 23. CERD’s decision on the United States was released earlier today. “It is incredibly important that the United States appeared before the UN in line with our treaty obligations, but our commitment cannot stop there. We must continue to take actions that correct the historical injustices that have unfairly disadvantaged minorities in this country and address new challenges that arise today in our growing population,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. CERD called on the U.S. government to increase efforts to address discrimination and disparities in housing, education, health, and the criminal justice system impacting racial minorities. It also called for the U.S. to improve efforts to return Katrina victims to their homes and support existing laws and programs aimed at redressing past injustices.  

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Urges Serbian President to Protect Belgrade-based Broadcaster B92

    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), issued the following statement in light of recent events surrounding Belgrade-based independent broadcaster B92. “I am extremely concerned about the instances of violence in Serbia perpetrated against B92 and its journalists in connection with their professional responsibilities,” said Chairman Hastings. In the wake of Kosovo’s decision to declare its independence, B92 has been under constant attack, where the station was seiged by angry protestors, death threats continue against the station and its founder as well as threats against its journalists. “No matter the editorial views of B92, Serbian authorities have an obligation to ensure the protection of all journalists,” noted Co-Chairman Cardin. “We are troubled by reports coming out of Belgrade surrounding B92 and are baffled as to why nothing has been done. It is incumbent that the safety of B92 and its employees is ensured and that the authorities seek to find and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. A free media provides a forum for the public to express their opinions and exchange alternative points of view, B92 must be protected under the law and allowed to express their point of view to the public,” said Co-Chairmen Hastings and Cardin. “The same need for protection applies to ethnic Albanian citizens of Serbia, and the prosecution of those who have targeted them for harassment and property damage since Kosovo's declared independence, just as it applies to the U.S. and other embassies that were attacked two weeks ago.”

  • Helsinki Commission to Hold Hearing on the Museum of the History of Polish Jews

    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: Helsinki Commission Hearing on the Museum of the History of Polish Jews Thursday, March 13 at 2:30 p.m. B-318 Rayburn House Office Building  During the hearing, the witnesses will address the vision that led to the decision to establish the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, its mission, and what it means for Poland – a country that was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. Testifying before the Commission will be: Sigmund Rolat, Chairman of the Board of Directors, North American Council, Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Polish-born survivor of the Holocaust Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Undersecretary of State, Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland Ewa Wierzycka, Deputy Director, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw  

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